×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Super Bowl: Fox Sports Addresses Political Division, Patriotism With ‘Ragged Old Flag’ Spot

Fox Sports acknowledged the elephant in the stadium — the depth of the nation’s political divide in the Trump era — with the “Ragged Old Flag” segment that led into the final half-hour before the Super Bowl kickoff.

The nearly five-minute short came together at the direction of Fox Sports president Eric Shanks, who was moved after attending the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack in December.

After returning from the event in Hawaii, Shanks heard the 1974 Johnny Cash song on radio as he drove home from the airport. The recording, more a recitation than a musical number, tells the story of one man’s pride in the tattered flag that flies above a small-town courthouse.

The assignment to translate Shanks’ inspiration into a short film for the Super Bowl broadcast fell to Jennifer Pransky, a Fox Sports producer who directed the “Ragged Old Flag” short. She took her cues from the Cash song but she wanted to adapt the story to make it more relatable to a wider variety of viewers.

While the Cash recording tells the story of the narrator coming across an old man on a bench outside a courthouse, Pransky’s film offers a parallel story of an African-American woman, Amitiyah Hyman, encountering former Army special forces officer Nate Boyer. “Ragged Old Flag” pays tribute to the sacrifices made by military personnel and others throughout American history. Also featured in the film is Kirstie Ennis, a former Marine who lost a leg in a helicopter accident.

“I wanted to make it seem like even though we are coming from a different place we all live in the same country,” Pransky told Variety. “The one thing that isn’t different among us is the history of our country.”

The short film includes one long take depicting heroic acts on the battlefield starting with the war of 1812 through the siege at the Alamo through the Civil War. That material was shot in a warehouse in Van Nuys. As Cash’s baritone tells the “Ragged Old Flag” story, the film also includes images of war memorials for World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Pransky is proud of small touches in the film including the use of a Maryland courthouse that ranks as one of the oldest sites of jurisprudence in continuous use in the country.

The “Ragged Old Flag” film opens with Harry Belafonte and Olympic gymnastics star Simone Biles discussing the importance of the Constitution and the American flag serving as “a symbol of our unity,” as Belafonte states. Pransky chose Belafonte for his proud legacy as a civil rights activist, and because she suspected that many viewers would have to “Google him.” Biles, meanwhile, was a natural choice to appeal to contemporary audiences after she won four gold medals last year at the Rio summer games. The selection of Biles reveals Pransky’s bias as a former gymnast herself.

“She is the most dominant gymnast I’ve ever seen and she represented our country so well,” Pransky said of Biles.

Hyman was cast in the role strictly as an actress, but Pransky soon found out that she was also a pastor who took part in Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic civil rights march on Washington in 1963 and in Selma, Ala., in 1965. “It just seemed like the perfect coincidence for this project,” Pransky said.

To secure the rights to Cash’s “Ragged Old Flag,” Fox had to receive approvals from Sony Music and the Cash estate. The Cash estate only gave its blessing after reviewing the storyboard for the film. “We had wait very patiently to hear back from them after we’d submitted the whole creative plan,” she said. The version of the song approved for use in the spot included the spontaneous applause of those who were in the studio when Cash first laid down the track in the Watergate era, Pransky noted.

Pransky credits Shanks and Fox Sports for devoting five minutes of precious Super Bowl pre-game airtime to a purely non-commercial production that aims to make a statement to the sizable audience gathered for the NFL’s big game.

“We’re not talking about something sexy like Tom Brady, or using this time for commercials,” she said.

 

More TV

  • Five Takes on Canal Plus, Federation’s

    Just Days Left to Catch Canal Plus’ ‘The Bureau’ on MyFFF

    The most lauded of titles on this year’s MyFrenchFilmFestival, UniFrance’s online showcase featured by over 50 OTT services around the world, may not be a film but a drama series. With four seasons aired, and a milestone in world sales on a French TV show, slow-boiling espionage series ‘Le Bureau des légendes’ (“The Bureau”) is [...]

  • Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith

    Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith Dies at 78

    Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith, the historian who spent 40 years cataloging and preserving the company’s legacy of entertainment and innovation, died Friday in Burbank, Calif. He was 78. Smith served as Disney’s chief archivist from 1970 to 2010. He was named a Disney Legend in 2007 and served as a consultant to the [...]

  • TV Writer Christopher Knopf, Former WGA

    TV Writer Christopher Knopf, Former WGA West President, Dies at 91

    Prolific Emmy-nominated television writer Christopher Edwin Knopf, former president of the Writers Guild of America West, died in his sleep of congestive heart failure on Feb. 13. He was 91. Knopf was born in New York and attended UCLA, leaving during his senior year to join the Air Force during World War II. He finished [...]

  • Jussie Smollett The Black AIDS Insitute

    Jussie Smollett Case: Two Suspects Released Without Charges as New Evidence Emerges

    After two days of questioning, the Chicago Police Department announced Friday evening that it has released two suspects in the Jussie Smollett case without filing charges. Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that detectives had developed new information in the case. Police no longer consider the men to be suspects. “Due to new evidence as a [...]

  • GOTHAM: L-R: Guest star Cameron Monaghan

    TV News Roundup: Fox Drops 'Gotham' Final Season Trailer (Watch)

    In today’s TV news roundup, Fox released a new trailer for an upcoming episode of “Gotham” and Disney has announced the cast for its upcoming “High School Musical” series.  FIRST LOOKS Showtime released a new trailer and the official poster for the upcoming fourth season of “Billions,” premiering March 17 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. In [...]

  • Chris Rock

    Chris Rock to Direct Kenan Thompson Comedy Pilot at NBC

    Chris Rock has come onboard to direct the NBC single-cam comedy pilot “Saving Kenan,” Variety has learned. Rock will also executive produce the pilot, which stars “SNL” mainstay Kenan Thompson. Thompson will play a newly widowed dad determined to be everything for his kids while begrudgingly letting his persistent father-in-law become more involved in their lives [...]

  • Peak TV Saturation TV Placeholder

    Apollo Global Management Buys Majority Stake in Cox TV Stations

    Private equity giant Apollo Global Management has cut a deal with Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises to buy a majority stake in Cox’s 13 TV stations as well as three newspapers and a handful of radio stations in Ohio. Apollo has been in the hunt for broadcast TV stations for some time. Cox’s station group, which includes [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content