The first Saturday of October this year was a close encounter with how thin the…
Super Bowl ad scores big with pro-life message
As the Super Bowl kicked off the first weekend in February — after the pregame analysis and the pregame concert and the pregame warmups — my middle son sat next to me on the couch, and my dad was perched in his recliner across the room, each tackling our own plateful of chicken wings. While we watched every snap, the game often faded into the background as we ate and chatted and laughed — three generations of Warden men sharing stories of fathers and sons.
Maybe I appreciated the sense of togetherness more because it had come so infrequently during this plague. We’d lost almost a full year of chatting together, laughing together, eating together. We all have — and some have lost so much more. But as I sat there watching football, with a smile and wing sauce on my face, I thought: What a wonderful gift I’ve been given to live this life.
Early in the game, somewhere around the dozen-wing mark, an advertisement came on with a message that none of us were expecting. It showed a woman in a red swimsuit lying on her back in emerald waters, kicking her legs in easy, repetitive motions to stay afloat. She’s missing both legs below her knees. A caption floats beside her, identifying her as Jessica Long, 13-time Paralympic gold medalist. She pulls on her reflective goggles and begins to swim. A phone rings, and a woman at a desk surrounded by the same deep-green water answers. “Mrs. Long?” asks the calm voice on the other end. “We’ve found a baby girl for your adoption, but there’s some things you need to know.”
As the voice continues, the swimmer paddles through what looks like an orphanage or hospital, her swim lane flanked by cribs on either side. “She’s in Siberia, and she was born with a rare condition. Her legs will need to be amputated.” An image shows a happy toddler with two prosthetic legs sloshing through the water with the help of two canes. “I know this is difficult to hear,” the voice says. “Her life, it won’t be easy.” The video shows her swimming the freestyle, growing older and more competent with each stroke. A crowd appears, and they cheer her on as the voice goes quiet.
As she touches the wall just ahead of the other competitors to earn the win, the video returns to the woman who answered the phone, now standing at a dining room table as her husband sits nearby. “Mrs. Long?” the voice says again, seeking an answer. The woman at the table speaks with eager anticipation: “It might not be easy,” she says, “but it’ll be amazing. I can’t wait to meet her.” Chest deep in the green pool after her victory, the swimmer looks on and smiles. A new voice says: “We believe there is hope and strength in all of us.” The ad was produced by Toyota, a sponsor of Team USA.
In 1993, Steve and Beth Long adopted 13-month-old Jessica and her 3-year-old brother, Joshua, who was born with a cleft lip and palate. Now 28, Jessica Long is one of the most decorated paralympic athletes in history. But her value doesn’t lie in the gold medals she’s won or the records she’s broken. Her value lies, as the ad says, because “there is hope and strength in all of us.”
“All of us” means those with a set of fully functional legs and those without; those who can swim fast and those who cannot; those who can see and hear clearly, and those who cannot; those who are born and those who never got the chance. Our abilities do not dictate our dignity, and it isn’t handed out by Olympic judges or measured by a stopwatch. It is given by God and God alone. How many Jessica Longs have been denied the life that God had in store for them?
The ad was a powerful — and unexpected — pro-life message, seen by more than 100 million people worldwide. Jessica long is a hero to many, and for good reason. How many will recognize that she isn’t the only hero in her story?
“Her life, it won’t be easy,” the voice said. And her mother responded, “It might not be easy, but it’ll be amazing.”
Scott Warden is managing editor of Our Sunday Visitor.