Credit: Paul Kolnik

Here’s how you piss off an entire community of classically-trained citizens.

AT&T is feeling the wrath of the Broadway crowd after a misguided — and, worse, sponsored! — tweet seemingly encouraged service holders to watch sports during a theater performance.

“Don’t let life get between you and football,” said the tweet, accompanied by a photo of a flexible hand model watching The Big Game™ on his smartphone while waiting for a show to begin.

“Catch a winning play at the theater,” reads another line, with the vicious unspoken suggestion that nothing could be worse than being dragged to the highest art form in the country for two hours and missing the result of the team making the points against the other team.


Naturally, the ad has riled the theater community — a very powerful one, when rallied together — on social media, with prominent Broadway and stage professionals scolding AT&T for encouraging impolite behavior at the theater and arguably writing off their livelihood as an inconvenience for another.

AT&T has since pulled the tweet and a spokesperson for the company told NBC 4 New York, “Certainly it’s evident our ads take place in an alternate reality and are not meant to be taken literally. The broad concept of the campaign is that you see content just about anywhere.”

The irony in the statement is that the one piece of content you actually don’t — nay, can’t — see anywhere is a living, breathing, oh so delightfully of-the-moment live performance.

Now, one can argue that the hand model was always going to put down the phone before the show began, and in fact we can construct a narrative where the smartphone holder in question is both a rabid football fan and a respectable patron of the arts. They do exist, in high number! But theater etiquette frowns in general on cell phone use once you’re in the house (and, um, on the stage), and most modern audience members know the feeling of being slapped by the cruel backhand of an audience member’s backlit screen during a performance.

With obnoxious sound and video involved — and personal space at an all-time minimum these days — the result is an all-too-familiar situation where one man’s pre-show phone use is another’s nightmare dream ballet. Ticket prices for Broadway are worthy of a newsboy strike, and one can no longer pay $250 for orchestra seats to be stuck elbow-to-elbow with someone who can’t separate his Marshawn Lynch from his Millie Dillmount. Having consideration for your fellow theatergoers is a trait for the masses, not just the mezzes.

Now, one must wonder: is this ad made more offensive because of the nature of the video content offered by AT&T’s All in One plan? Does the presence of footballsport in the sacred church of St. Audra contribute to the offense? Or would the outrage here be as voluminous if the ad encouraged you to never miss an episode of Smash?

There’s perhaps no answer, nor can we be sure what sort of artistic endeavor the touchdown-happy offender was on the verge of interrupting. Was it a Broadway show? An ur-classy opera? Barbra Streisand’s twelfth farewell tour? Sigh. We’ll never know what show this streaming piece of Brigadoon was going to ruin.

WANT MORE EW? Subscribe now to keep up with the latest in movies, television and music.