Wheaties’ Latest Champion Is a Trick-Shot Bowler From the ’40s

Campy spots air on ESPN's PBA telecasts

Wheaties is cementing its status as the breakfast of old people with a blustery new campaign featuring 1948 footage of bowling star Andy Varipapa, who died more than 30 years ago.

Six black-and-white spots, each 15 seconds long, show Varipapa rolling impressive bowling tricks, while a smug voiceover offers pointers on how much better it is to be a grandpa than some modern-day pansy.

They're charming in a grating sort of way—Varipapa's on-screen persona is great, hammy without being too cheesy. But then one of the spots has to come along and rant about $5 microwave turkey bacon egg-wrap frittata. (Whatever those are. Is that supposed to be a dig at Starbucks? Doesn't Wheaties know McDonald's is the breakfast villain du jour? Also, the whole no-allergies thing makes grandpa seem like some kind of proto-Scientologist).

The ads have been airing on ESPN as part of a sponsorship of a Professional Bowling Association tournament, so it's not much of a stretch that the audience might want to be like Varipapa (high-waisted, pleated pants and all). And he is a nice alternate to higher-profile champions like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods, even if the clips take throwback smarm to new heights (cheerful grandpas are, in general, pretty easy to love, even when rough around the edges).

Unfortunately, they make us want black coffee more than Wheaties.