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?


Leslie said...

I learned to water ski in an irrigation canal, pulled by a truck up on the bank. We do have lakes in Arizona, but, only the rich kids had boats. It was good, clean fun, until the sheriff showed up. Luckily, back then, he only gave us a stern talking to and sent us on our way. Now, well, we are all felons now...

Anonymous said...

Golf. Could any activity be more boring, more pretentious, more hoity-toity (whatever that means) than wearing a garish costume/shouting/and following a stupid ball around. Just the thing for social climbers of all stripes/abilities/and sensibilities.

Ah well. It does keep many out of my way.

Tom Francis said...

Snow is an abomination. Skis are an abomination. Combining the two is a blasphemous abomination.

The one and only time I used skis on snow was at Killington with my then girlfriend (who is now my long suffering spouse) - she was a skier of some skill. I took a lesson, went up the rope lift to a smallish hill, started down and promptly broke my left ankle. As in broke.

Never skied on snow again. Water? HAH! You know how hard water is at 35 mph? It's damn hard and the proof is the dislocated shoulder from my second attempt at water skiing.

Anonymous said...

Tom you should be a travel agent

RonF said...

I like to go on canoe trips in Canada, in Quetico Provincial Park. Once you get past the first couple of portages the number of people you will encounter upon further travel rapidly approaches 0. Having wet feet for a few hours and being willing to carry 50 or 60 pounds on your back for 1/2 a mile buys you a lot of solitude and scenery. Also some good fish to eat (fishing not so much of a thrill, eating fresh fish a wonderful thing) and my cell phone doesn't work out there.