- The Washington Times - Friday, January 24, 2003

The ultimate mano-a-mano matchup is here. Super Sunday. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. The Oakland Raiders. But wait, there's a third reason to watch this Spartan spectacle besides the game.
Every year, according to a poll taken by Eisner Communications, more and more TV viewers tune in and watch The Super Bowl, only to see the ads, rather than to watch the game.
How's a Nielsen family to vote, when the reason to click on and tune in is not to watch the intended program the networks wanted you to watch, but rather the pesky interrupters everyone's supposed to Tivo pastthe ads?
For a network know-it-all, noodling the numbers was never this difficult. I say to those not-so-jockish guys like me, who don't know their emblematic ornithology well enough to distinguish an Eagle from a Raven, never mind the twosome match-up and pick the third and ultimate winner the best ad.
That's right sports fans, an interloper has arrived on the screen. A third team vying for attention. No twosome here, we're in for a menage a trois.
If it's any comfort, think of it more like baseball with three bases, three strikes and three outs.
They say things come in threes anyway. There were three bears and three little pigs. Comedy has the setup and then the one-two punch or Ba-Dum-Bum.
There were even three Marx Brothers. Yeah, I know about Zeppo, but c'mon, he wasn't funny and if anyone is counting there were really five.
For you politico-junkies, it's kinda like our government. The Founding Fathers must have picked up on the numerically, tri-odd idea. Harder to maneuver in a threesome. Like a three-legged race, checks and balances are made much harder when two of those legs are bound.
So it is too with our two-party system. When a third wheel is thrown into the mix, the fork in the road to Election Day suddenly sprouts a new, barely worn path. It's usually a thorny, untried passage too.
Ralph Nader and the Green Party began to create that new path in the 2000 election. Before that, Ross Perot etched his mark in '92 and '96. It then became the Reform Party but was intercepted by the Go Pat Go Buchananites.
Anyone hear from Ross lately? He seems to have gotten lost in the end zone.
Many others over the years have tried as well. John Anderson as an Independent ran in 1980 and George Wallace took a road to the right, as Eugene McCarthy swerved to the left in '68.
The ultimate thespian trifecta was personified (dramatis personae-wise), when the see-saw was tossed out of kilter in Edward Albee's drawing room drama, "A Delicate Balance." Albee won the Pulitzer for it in 1966. In it, he portrays a long married couple and their boozing sister. The couple spiral deeper out of whack when the group dynamic goes from two-zees to three-zees turning a family into crazies. I don't have to tell you what Blanche did to Stanley and Stella.
And what about God? Did He set up Adam and Eve? I mean, He must have known about the tempting Serpent.
If breaks to the fridge on Super Sunday will be made harder to resist by the irresistible lure of Siren's singing advertising jingles, then I say give in to their tantalizing song.
Vote for the third party. Turn the table on Tivo and tune in to the ads and turn past the game.

Abe Novick is senior vice president of Eisner Communications in Baltimore.

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