Someday, decades from now, a graying, stooped old man will think to himself: The Fathead is an idea so obvious and brilliant I should have had it myself. Those millions of dollars should have been mine.
But then he will remember that the Fathead is neither obvious nor brilliant. It is, instead, a giant, removable wall sticker of an athlete, or race car, or space shuttle; a product as cumbersome as it is unnecessary. A product, in other words, worthy of its owner, Dan Gilbert. (When Lebron James signed in Miami, Gilbert, who owns the Cavaliers, changed the price of LeBron Fatheads to from $99.99 to $17.41, or Benedict Arnold's birth year).
And yet, for more than five years now, Fathead, the company, has existed. I have never seen one in the wild, and can't even begin to imagine the kinds of people who would want to own one for non-ironic purposes (my twelve-year-old-self included), but Fatheads, like Oakland A's fans, must be out there somewhere. I know this because Fathead commercials have been a consistent part of television sports broadcasts throughout the company's existence. Every time I've seen one of the commercials, I've felt myself repulsed by the product. And the product is indeed terrible—it is a poster blown up, then stripped of all its potential for design and robbed of the sense of a moment that only the background of a photograph can provide; a cardboard cutout without the hilarious cumbersome charm; a basically artless decoration. But is the Fathead really terrible enough to be a running joke? I submit that it is not, and that 90 percent of what makes Fatheads hilarious is the hilariousness of Fathead Commercials.
In 2006, there was Kevin Harvick, and Fathead was "as close to real NASCAR racing as you can get."
In 2010, there were children leaping for joy in slow motion at the prospect of sleeping next to a giant Tony Romo:
But only now, in 2012, have Fathead's marketers reached the level of Creating Timeless Art. Witness Justin Verlander emerging from wall-decal form to fire a baseball at a Tiger fan's chest, thereby dislodging a chicken wing on which he was choking, catching said chicken wing, uttering an amazing bit of dialogue, then as easily as he throws complete games, returning to his previous inaminate wall-decal self:
The amazing thing about this commercial is not that Justin Verlander comes to life, rather it's what he does afterward. So intentionally cornball. So PG. And maybe that's what makes the Fathead discomforting: It is a product out of time. The Fathead exists in an era before fans got know athletes, and before fans decided they often didn't like athletes. It exists solely to glorify. With all that context stripped away, all your left with is a giant hero on your wall. But everybody knows that heroes aren't what they used to be.