Niners fans left in a daze after the team stalled out five yards from glory could be forgiven for thinking they'd hallucinated a Jell-O commercial at game's end in which a smarmy pitchman revealed that our tortured souls would be soothed via free samples of his ersatz dessert.
But, lo, this was no dream. "Nothing masks the bitter taste of defeat like the sweet taste of Jell-O pudding," announced Greg Gallagher, a senior brand manager for Kraft Foods in a subsequent press release for San Francisco's counterintuitively named Pudding Surprise. "There's nowhere else we'd rather be than San Francisco."
Since it follows that the Jell-O people's journey to our city was incumbent upon losing the Super Bowl, a great many fans could be excused for wishing Gallagher and his puddin' heads were anywhere but San Francisco. But Kraft was offering vast quantities of loser pudding to a wounded city in return for groveling testimonials to constitute a future commercial; our ignominy will someday return to us in primetime.
Efforts to unload free food, especially in San Francisco's grittier neighborhoods, went about how you'd think. A Jell-O commercial became an impromptu dispensary on Ninth and Market as men and women in worn hoodies and grimy jeans groped with both arms into the pudding vat. "You're supposed to just take one," snarled a pudding minion at a sunken-eyed woman smoking a cigarette down to the butt and loping off with a dozen cups. His heart wasn't in it, though: "I'd rather have a Vince Lombardi trophy too," he admitted.
Ronnie Lott hoisted four Lombardi trophies in a decade with the 49ers. But last week he was hoisting loser pudding, tossing cups of the junk to adoring fans. Lott was one of the greatest safeties to ever set foot on the gridiron — but even he couldn't defend his fridge from hungry freeloaders. A chubby, unshaven man toting a pink Chinatown plastic bag slipped behind him and began loading up. When Lott caught him in the act, the pudding hoarder smiled and let loose a demented cackle of the sort one would emit while auditioning for the part of Lennie Small in Of Mice and Men.
If anyone was demeaned or insulted by the condescending nature of Jell-O's campaign, it didn't show. Fans clamored for pudding cups — wholesale price: about 45 cents — and started up a soul-destroying chant of "We're No. 2! We're No. 2!"
The Super Bowl, mercifully, is in our rearview mirrors. But since "nothing masks the bitter taste of defeat like the sweet taste of Jell-O pudding," Senior Associate Brand Manager Kelly Condon assures us that the dessert is appropriate for San Franciscans fucking up their day-to-day lives as well. With Valentine's Day approaching, she notes, there are a plethora of sugar- or fat-free varieties available to soothe the sting of romantic defeat, too.