The thought of “Mean” Joe Greene chugging a Coke still makes me cry, 30 years later. The idea of hardened cowboys winding yarn balls and herding cats still makes me laugh, though I have only the vaguest idea what product they were hawking.

And the image of Betty White getting tackled in the mud during a pickup football game gave me a new respect for the folks over at Snickers.

The three scenarios above seem incongruous, but they share a simple fact: They were all Super Bowl TV ads.

Today, an estimated 110 million people will tune in to the Super Bowl, football’s grand prize. Some folks will tell you a good portion of those will be tuning in expressly to see the commercials, which have become as much a part of the shared cultural experience of the Super Bowl as the game itself. (By the way, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers are playing.)

The Super Bowl has become to TV commercials what Paris or Milan is to fashion. It’s THE place people go to see what’s new, what’s buzz-worthy, what the trends will be. Advertising Age magazine reported that the Fox Network is charging between $2.8 million and $3 million for 30-second spots today. It’s unclear how many spots will be sold, but last year’s Super Bowl featured about 48 minutes of paid ads.

So as you prepare to take in this year’s crop of commercials, here are my picks for the 10 best Super Bowl commercials of all time: 

1. ELECTRONIC DATA SYSTEMS — “HERDING CATS” (2000): This documentary-style ad features dusty cowboys on horseback, herding hundreds of computer-generated cats. They hold fluffy kittens in their arms, look solemnly into the camera and talk about “living the dream” and about the scratches and other hardships they’ve endured on the trail. The tagline is that what EDS does is sort of like herding cats. I still don’t know what they do, but I applaud them.

Video: http://tinyurl.com/28jny7 

2. MCDONALD’S — “THE SHOWDOWN” (1993): Larry Bird and Michael Jordan, two of the greatest hoopsters ever, decide to play a game of HORSE to see who gets to eat a McDonald’s meal. But they’re really good, so their called shots get more complicated and more hilarious: “Off the expressway, over the river, through the window, off the wall, nothing but net.”

Video: http://tinyurl.com/66cr8mn 

3. COCA-COLA — “MEAN JOE GREENE” (1979): Steelers’ defensive lineman “Mean” Joe Greene is seen limping into the locker room as a young boy offers to help him, then offers him his Coke. Greene turns him down several times, before finally taking the bottle and chugging it. The child walks away, slowly, and is almost gone when Greene says ,”Hey kid” and tosses his game jersey to him — “Wow, thanks, Mean Joe.” There’s not a man over 40 who can watch that without crying.

Video: http://tinyurl.com/4vdq68g 

4. MONSTER.COM — “WHEN I GROW UP” (1999): An early commercial for the Monster.com job site. The ad features black-and-white images of grammar school-aged kids looking into a camera and saying things like “When I grow up, I want to file all day” or “I want to claw my way up to middle management” or “Be replaced on a whim.” It’s very funny — unless you file all day or have clawed your way to middle management.

Video: http://tinyurl.com/246ddx 

5. SNICKERS — “BETTY WHITE” (2010): Veteran TV actress Betty White — in her late 80s and about to embark on the Year of Betty White — was seen in this ad covered with mud and being pummeled to the ground in a pickup football game. When she comes back to the huddle, a co-player says, “Mike, you’re playing like Betty White,” to which she answers, “That’s not what your girlfriend said.” Then someone hands Betty a Snickers bar, and she turns into a 20-something guy. The tagline: “You’re not you when you’re hungry.”

Video: http://tinyurl.com/yzmlt77 

6. APPLE MACINTOSH — “1984” (1984): The first real “event” commercial in Super Bowl history, the one that made people go: “What the heck was that?” We see the drones we imagined from George Orwell’s “1984” watching a hypnotic demagogue spewing his ideology. Then a woman in jogging shorts comes running in, chased by storm troopers, and hurls a sledgehammer at the screen, shattering the demagogue’s hold on the masses. The commercial ends with a narrator telling us that once this new Macintosh computer hits stores, we’ll all see “why 1984 won’t be like ‘1984.’ “

Video: http://tinyurl.com/3xlwrh 

7. CAREERBUILDER.COM — “WORKING WITH MONKEYS” (2006): Another creative take on workplace humor/agony — a lone man in an office full of monkeys. The monkeys are jumping up and down, cheering, dancing and pointing to a chart. The man says, no, sales are not up, they’re down, and he turns the chart around. The monkeys become dour for a moment, then turn the chart back upside-down and resume their party.

Video: http://tinyurl.com/6rrvxl 

8: TIDE TO GO — “TALKING STAIN” (2008): A job seeker is trying to tell a prospective employer about himself, but his own words are being completely drowned out by the loud gibberish coming from a dark stain on his shirt, which appears to have a tiny mouth. So as the guy talks about being “organized,” we and the boss hear “Blee ver be abla, la la la, BEBELVEBELVLRRRR,” or something to that effect.

Video: http://tinyurl.com/2p2qnp 

9. BUD LIGHT — “SATIN SHEETS” (2002): We see a pretty young woman in her bedroom calling to a man downstairs on the couch. “I’ve got the black teddy on,” she says. “Yeah, OK,” he answers. She mentions satin sheets, and still gets a lukewarm response. But when she mentions Bud Light, the man rips off his shirt, runs up the stairs, dives onto the bed, and then slides across the sheets and through a glass window.

Video: http://tinyurl.com/5uv9aa9 

10. HULU.COM — “ALEC BALDWIN” (2009): The slick Alec Baldwin explains how the video hub Hulu.com works, and that it is indeed an “evil plot to destroy the world.” Best line: “They say TV will rot your brain. That’s absurd. TV only softens your brain, like a ripe banana. To take it all the way, we’ve created Hulu.”

Video: http://tinyurl.com/cml59v 

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]