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Mad IRL: I hate that IBM Watson basketball commercial

In which we laugh at sentient AI before it kills us all.

IBM YouTube

There is only one sporting event with good commercials, and that’s the Super Bowl. The commercials are better than the game, and at the Goren Super Bowl Party, we have a family friend who is a creative director at a top-tier advertising agency. It makes for one hell of a time.

Every other major sporting event brings with it roughly three new commercials, all of which are offensively terrible, and all of which are played so many times that it burns itself into your retina so you can see its halo for the rest of your existence. March Madness brings those Spike Lee/Charles Barkley/Samuel L. Jackson commercials that are funny for the first 15 seconds and trash afterwards. For the NBA playoffs, it’s this stupid, unforgivable IBM Watson commercial.

The storyboard is simple. Two pro scouts go to watch the Next Big Thing and use the friendly computer Watson to bring together their folksy eye-test scouting report with the advanced stats provided by IBM’s dispassionate love of numbers.

It’s insufferable.

We can assume that since these people are labeled as pro scouts at the close, the players they’re evaluating are either professional players who are potentially ready for the next level, or, more likely, collegiate players.

I have seen a lot of college basketball over the past season. Even a lot of basketball that most neutral people would describe as “radioactive,” “toxic,” or “Extremely Bad” [ed note: this is what happens when you watch Bill Carmody on purpose]. I haven’t seen anything like this crap. This is the most poorly casted commercial I’ve ever seen and it makes me furious.

First of all, I’m pretty confident that these guys are old. Like, too old for a scout to be wasting their time scouting a pick up game, or a practice, or whatever the hell this is.

This guy is at least 25, which is at least 5 years too old to be on a scout’s radar. So what the hell.


This dude is too damn old to be on your scouting radar. Why do you care? “Oh, man, this 28-year old has a decent stroke and could develop into a plus defender by the time he’s...[shuffles notecards] 34.”

Who is in charge of this scouting department? Where can I direct my complaints? Vivek Ranadive is even confused by the modus operandi here. It’s a joke. It’s a travesty.

The mechanics of this commercial are just all messed up. I get why these people are wearing basic warmup jerseys. Licensing issues suck. BUT!

I love too be on the bench without an actual jersey.

A cursory look at the bench shows a crucial problem, and it’s not the lineup on the dude on the left. Is that wise and all-knowing coach (who inexplicably is wearing a polo and khakis on the sideline but has something tied around his neck so you know he’s official) standing next to people who aren’t on the team? Otherwise, what’s the excuse for these people wearing three very different tank tops? Like even if this is a pick-up game, there should at least be some continuity in terms of white/color. But no. This is a random mish-mosh of random ass people wearing random ass clothes. Sounds like a fertile scouting ground!

“My trade-off analytics indicate no one creates more space on offense. This allows him to nail a jumper from a densely-populated urban area,” says Watson, in a monotonous tone.

“What you’re trying to say is from way downtown,” corrects the scout.

And we’re supposed to chuckle.

Chuckle at this darkly twisted future in which these idiot scouts have been sent to a random pick-up basketball game in Missoula, Montana to scout a group of relatively in-shape 30-year-olds. Chuckle at this world in which artificial intelligence seeps into sports, our escape from the overbearing reality that we endure daily. In which a computer program is developing a handle on comedy and emotion. In which any and all jobs can be automated. In which this random dude is considered a pro.

Whose mans.

It makes me sick.