When Grantland folded last year, tons of great writers were left in the lurch. Some wrote books, but others, like Shea Serrano, started email newsletters as outlets for their sports and pop-culture-related witticisms. And deliver Serrano does in the latest edition of Basketball (And Other Things), in which he goes in-depth on State Farm’s series of commercials about The Hoopers, a fake family made up of costumed and weirdly CGI-ed basketball stars. If you’ve watched the NBA playoffs for any length of time this year, you’ve seen these commercials hundreds of times, and surely, like Serrano, you’ve come away with some questions.
In Serrano’s analysis, he doesn’t pick apart the commercials as marketing, but rather as a hidden portrait of a broken family. In the piece, Serrano casts doubt on Kevin Hooper’s (Kevin Love) lineage, since, as Serrano puts it, “it is highly, highly, highly suspect that Mr. Hooper and Mrs. Hooper, through sexual congress, created Kevin Hooper. And it is also highly, highly, highly suspect that The State Farm Agent and Kevin Hooper are not somehow tied together, given that they look so much alike.” Though Serrano presents a number of theories for young Kevin’s outlier looks, including a dead parent theory and some sci-fi “back in time” shit, the one he really lands on is one of infidelity: The commercial’s friendly State Farm agent actually fathered Kevin with Mrs. Hooper (DeAndre Jordan), thus bringing shame to Mr. Hooper (Chris Paul).
Granted, Serrano’s theory is insane, but that’s sort of the point. He takes a dumb group of commercials and adds additionally inane layers on top, questioning Mrs. Hooper’s lack of a wedding ring and diving deep into bonus Hoopers-related content online in order to support his hypothesis. He also puts a lot of stock in Mrs. Hooper and the agent’s frequent proximity to red clothing, paint, and accessories, likening it to a scarlet letter and ignoring—on purpose, we’re sure—that red is, in fact, State Farm’s official color. In Serrano’s defense, though, who cares? It’s funny. Take this bit about the commercial about “the hawks and the hornets,” for instance:
This is the commercial where Mr. Hooper tries to give Kevin the sex talk. Kevin initially shoots him down, but eventually agrees to it once Mr. Hooper dangles the prospect of adding Kevin to the insurance so he can drive. This one is used to establish that Kevin already suspects that something strange is going on and that maybe his dad ain’t really his dad after all. Four things to point out here.
(1) Kevin’s Laptop: As soon as Mr. Hooper walks into the room Kevin closes his laptop. An easy joke to make here is that he was looking at porn. But look at Kevin’s face. That’s not an I Nearly Caught Looking At Porn face. He doesn’t look afraid or embarrassed. He looks nervous and worried and slightly enlightened. I suspect he was looking at either The State Farm Agent’s Facebook page because he’s begun to suspect that something isn’t right, or he was looking at Amazon trying to find some sort of made-for-home DNA test so he could sort everything out on his own. Either way, he didn’t want Mr. Hooper to see his screen because that wasn’t a conversation he was prepared to have just yet.
(2) Kevin’s Statement: “Dad, I’m not gonna talk about that with you.” That’s what he says when Mr. Hooper expresses interest in talking to him about sex. I’d initially thought he was bucking back because that’s just what teenagers do when their parents try to talk to them about anything serious, but there’s just too much emphasis placed on the word “you” when Kevin says it. He says it like maybe there’s someone else he’d rather have the sex talk with. Like his real father.
(3) The Ring: Mr. Hooper is very clearly wearing his wedding ring in this picture. I’m mostly just pointing this out because I said he was wearing a ring in that family portrait earlier and I’m trying to prevent a whole bunch of “How could you even see Mr. Hooper’s ring???” emails and tweets and whatnot. Sometimes people are not very chill
(4) The Knights: Look at the poster on the door and also the one directly above Kevin’s head. They’re both of a red knight battling a blue knight. I think it’s pretty clear at this point that the red knight represents The State Farm Agent and the blue knight represents Mr. Hooper. That’s the only reason those pictures are there. It has to be. I’m saying, when’s the last time you asked a boy what he wanted as a birthday present or whatever and he was like, “I’m really into knights right now. Anything knight-related would be great.” Never. Kids don’t like that shit. And yet, there they are in the room. Nothing is an accident.