Friday, November 02, 2012
I Wanted To Go Waterskiing, But I Couldn't Find A Lake On A Hill
Before I was born, but I recognize the general outlines of the thing.
Only wealthy people went skiing when I was a kid. They played tennis and soccer, too. I'm not sure if everyone got wealthy in the eighties and started doing all those things, or poor people started going, but it all got awfully popular all of a sudden.
Like so many things, it was sweeter when it wasn't so popular. There is a trajectory for such pursuits. They are born in odd circumstances among a hardy few. Then they become more common. Eventually they are seen as trendy. Being trendy brings along the throngs who don't care about anything except making sure they're doing everything the cool kids are doing. Of course, the actual cool kids have long since moved on before the suburbanites ever show up, but perception is reality in such matters.
Real popularity merits an enormous expansion of the infrastructure needed to enjoy it. The activity begins to be larded down with all sorts of extraneous methods of parting the customers from their money. You used to pay a few dollars to sit on a metal bench and drink a sudsy beer and wave a pennant at a football game. The pennant costs more than the tickets used to now. There are 2.5 million dollars-worth of replica jerseys worn by the fans at one pro football game now. You could have purchased the league with that much money back when I was in grammar school.
Eventually everyone turns into Yogi Berra, and no one goes there because it's too crowded. People used to put up with privation to find fun. But the very ease that's brought to the problem of sliding down a hill becomes its own form of privation. It becomes too elaborate, and so, not fun. The whole thing collapses in a heap. In the fifties, when this charming video was made, the most popular spectator sports in America were probably horse racing and boxing. How are they doing fifty years later? They still exist, but they don't matter much.
Our relatives showed us pictures of their mass trip to Disneyworld. Though we did not say so, it looked like a trial by ordeal to my wife and me. Doesn't anyone remember how to have fun anymore?