55 Yard Line - CFL

Although video of them appears to have disappeared into the aether, many CFL fans will be quite familiar with the commercials for hardware chain RONA that ran during much of last year. They featured a guy referred to as "Our Man Carlo", who got congratulated over the public-address system at a CFL game for successfully installing a rainwater collector—all by himself. This news prompted an ovation from the cloud and Carlo basking in his glory. They were rather absurd, and so were frequently mocked on blogs, Twitter and live chats, but still managed to get plenty of notice, and were the top featured topic in the CFL's weekly "Water Cooler" recap last fall after they were finally pulled in favour of different ads. One man they made a particular impression on is John Hodge, a 20-year-old student from Winnipeg. Hodge was inspired to start a @OurManCarlo parody Twitter account at the start of this year's CFL season, and has proceeded to expound on the merits of rainwater collection systems in great style. Highlights of the feed can be seen at right below (interactive version available here). I spoke to Hodge earlier this week by e-mail about the commercial, his parody account and what inspired him. Here's our conversation.

Andrew Bucholtz: Tell me a little bit about your CFL background. When did you start following the league? What's your favourite team? What do you like about the league?

John Hodge: The CFL has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. My grandparents had season tickets when my mother was a child, and though the tickets have grown in numbers and moved around Canad Inns Stadium many times, we still have them to this day. All three of my siblings (13, 15 and 23), my brother's (soon-to-be) wife, my parents, my grandmother and I all have season tickets. My grandmother is 79 and has two artificial hips, but she still attends every game. In the summertime she even buys the beer. She'll kill me for telling you that, by the way [laughs].

As I referenced Canad Inns Stadium earlier, the Blue Bombers have always been my team. I've gone through four jerseys over the past 15 years (#9 Greg Frers in '96, #17 Khari Jones in '01, #1 Charles Roberts in '06 and #85 Milt Stegall in '09) and countless caps, bandanas, posters, temporary tattoos, etc., to go with it. One of these days I should just suck it up and get a permanent tattoo [laughs]. Great, I'm two paragraphs in and I've already got my grandmother AND my mother angry with me - my mom hates tattoos.

As for what I love about the league so much...hmm... I don't know where to start! I guess, first off, I'd have to say I love the Canadian content on the rosters of each CFL team. It's not often that a professional sports league would dictate how many players need to be from the league's home country on each roster, and I like that the CFL does that. Also, I love the accessibility of the league. Nobody likes snobby celebrities, so to be able to walk up to guys like Buck Pierce and Milt Stegall at local Winnipeg businesses, fundraisers, etc. and get an autograph and a photo is pretty incredible. I don't think Alex Rodriguez, Kobe Bryant or Ben Roethlisberger spend a whole lot of their time doing things for the fans the way a lot of CFL legends do.

How RONA’s “Our Man Carlo” commercial spawned a parodyA.B.: What were your first thoughts when seeing the Our Man Carlo commercials? Did they get on your nerves, did you find them funny or something else? Did that impression change over time?

J.H. The commercial did get a chuckle out of me the first time I saw it. But, as with a lot of the commercials that run on TSN during CFL games, it (unfortunately) ran roughly 15,000 times within the first 90 minutes of game coverage. Needless to say, the commercial got on my nerves very quickly.

A.B.: What inspired you to start the parody account this year?

J.H.: I can remember the first week of CFL coverage that took place shortly after Labour Day weekend where Our Man Carlo suddenly disappeared from the screen. I must admit, I was disappointed. It felt like a small part of TSN's Friday Night Football spectacle was missing. Close to the end of Our Man Carlo's run on TSN I had taken to calling out: "OOOUUURRR MMMAAANNN CCCAAARRRLLLOOO!!!" along with the commercial's stadium announcer just to annoy the rest of my family or my friends - whoever I was watching the game with. I ultimately did this as a means of lessening the irritating nature of the commercial for me and making it slightly worse for everyone else. I like to doing that kind of thing - it makes my life a lot more funny. Mind you, it's probably the reason I'm still single [laughs].

A.B.: What's your goal with the account?

J.H.: Honestly, I started it as an inside joke with my older brother who's also on twitter (@BlueandGoldWPG). We have many CFL inside jokes, my favorite possibly being the one that references the Kerry Joseph Future Shop commercial from a few years back. In the commercial (if you don't remember), a customer asks Joseph an electronics-related question and Joseph responds with: "How many interceptions I threw last week?" [he then makes a "0" with his hand] "That's right—it's ALL Joseph, baby!". We like to reference the commercial at random times. I could ask him: "Hey man, what's in this pasta sauce? It tastes really good," and he'd respond: "It's ALL Ragu, baby!" and hold his hand out to make a "0". Needless to say, we have a lot of good laughs and slightly bizarre senses of humor.

I guess my only goal with the account, really, is to make people laugh. I'm a huge fan of @CountBettman, a parody account of the NHL's commissioner Gary Bettman, and @OurManCarlo is very much in the same vein as the Count. Hopefully people who enjoy the CFL and having a good laugh will follow me and interact with me as much as possible. It's a ton of fun to interact with CFL "tweeps". And - to be clear - as much as I'm a diehard Bomber fan, I show no favoritism/irrational hatred toward any CFL team or player on my @OurManCarlo account. I tease all teams/players equally, and it's all in good fun. If you want to read more about my personal views on the CFL or other things, follow my personal account: @JohnDHodge.

A.B.: Are you disappointed to see the Our Man Carlo commercials not running these days?

J.H.: Simply, no. I miss the commercial, in a weird way, but Our Man Carlo will always live on in the minds of CFL fans across Canada who, like me, saw the commercial upwards of 200,000 times. He certainly deserves retirement - after all, it must have been a lot of work to install a rainwater collection system AND a composter all by himself.

A.B.: If you could design your own Rona commercial, what would it be?

J.H.: In today's day and age, where most television consumers have PVRs, marketing companies should strive to create commercials funny and/or interesting enough that people will proactively look for them online. Some examples of commercials that have attained this level of notoriety are Old Spice's "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" and Dos Equis's "The Most Interesting Man In The World". If it came down to me producing a CFL commercial, I'd try for something in that vein but utilizing a CFL legend as the lead actor. I'd die of laughter if I saw Ben Cahoon in a RONA commercial [cue epic operatic music and dramatic lighting]:

"They thought I was too small... They said I was too delicate... They thought I was a fool for even trying..." [cut the music, flash camera to his backyard] "but I built this deck with my own two hands, and all it took was some advice from the good people at RONA".

Something like that, anyway. I won't go into further detail unless Rona wants to steal my idea [laughs].

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