THE MORE THINGS CHANGE . . .
THE MORE THINGS CHANGE . . .
Here I was, dropping my son off for his bar mitzvah tutor, when I heard on the radio that the Royals had just won their division and were headed back to the playoffs. If this had been a movie, everything around me suddenly would have been blurry and wavy, and the next thing I knew I would have been sitting in my mom’s Chrysler New Yorker, wearing brown corduroy OP jeans, and two Lacoste shirts (one inside the other for that ultra-cool double collar look). My K-Swiss sneakers would have been tooth pasted to their finest white hue.
What the hell just happened? Did I hitch a ride in Marty’s DeLorean? (Apropos of this post, you get bonus points if you can recall the date Marty climbs into that time machine. Answer below.) The Royals winning the division, bar mitzvahs every weekend, a new Rocky movie about to hit theaters. Is it 1985 all over again?!?
A few weeks ago I had my 25-year high school reunion. As those things go, it was a really good time. It’s always nice to see familiar (if slightly more aged) faces, and reminisce about times of yore. In some ways, that never gets old – even if we do. Fitting, I guess, that Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days” became a huge song and video (remember music videos?) in 1985.
My reunion, combined with having two kids in middle school, combined with the news that the Royals won their division, has made me somewhat nostalgic. Is history repeating itself? Am I doomed to relive my awkward early teens again. Will I need 1.21 gigawatts to get back to normal? Do those days really “pass you by”?
There is a little game a I like to play, either to put things in context or just to make me feel very old. Here goes: we are as far today from 1985 as 1985 was from Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on a mid-town bus in Montgomery. For some, flannel suits, fedoras, and fire hoses were as good as it gets. But 30 years hence, a great deal had changed; and the 30 years after that, even more has changed – just not as much as you might think (just ask the good folks at the Today show, which has been on the air and seen it all (since 1952)).
- In 1985, I was walking the halls trying to figure out if this or that girl liked me or was willing to “go” with me;
- Today, I think/hope/fear that my boys walk the halls of their respective schools wondering what that sideways glance from this or that girl means.
- Ronald Reagan was trusting but verifying at the beginning of his second term (Gorbachev became the leader of the Soviet Union in 1985);
- In the current race for the White House, every politician worth his or her salt continues to throw around Reagan’s name as if they even remotely understand or represent his legacy.
- Phil Collins played Live Aid in Philadelphia and London on the same July day;
- In 2015 we are reduced to EDM shows and a bevy of I Heart Radio events all over the country.
- For reasons still unexplained, New Coke was released in 1985;
- Coke, trying to be healthy, recently introduced Coca-Cola Life, which is supposed to have less sugar and be made with more natural ingredients. Let’s see how long that lasts.
- “We Are the World” was recorded in 1985 (whatever happened to Kim Carnes?);
- And yet, in 2015, people are still dying of hunger and disease in Africa.
- If you walked into a restaurant in 1985, you heard this for the very first time: “smoking or non”;
- I was just in the South, and it was shocking to be in any establishment that still allows smoking (note: they do exist).
- Letterman presented his first Top Ten list in 1985;
- Letterman presented his final Top Ten list a few months ago.
- In 1985, we had one of the worst cases of police brutality in U.S. history: an aerial assault dropped by the Philadelphia PD on a house occupied by a black liberation group – killing 16 people including 5 children (anyone ever know about this? I didn’t);
- 30 years later (and 60 years after the Birmingham Bus Boycott), there have been more than 1,000 Black Lives Matter demonstrations held worldwide.
- Shockingly, 1985 was the only year in the past 35 without a mass shooting in the United States;
- We have had 45 this year alone (two on Thursday). (Another topic for another time.)
- We listened to “Like a Virgin” (and some of us thought that might be forever);
- Madonna begot a whole industry of pop stars who writhe on stage and on YouTube (if you can name five or more, you have a preteen daughter).
- At the theaters we watched The Breakfast Club and Rocky IV; and at home we rented our first movie from Blockbuster (“be kind and rewind” . . . or get charged);
- Some our children have no idea what a “Blockbuster” is; hell, they don’t even know what a red Netflix envelope looks like. But they certainly understand the concept of renting movies.
- The name Rocky Dennis meant something to us in the mid-eighties;
- Now the name Malala Yousafzai means something to us.
- Scientists in 1985 discovered that Aqua Net was putting a hole in the ozone layer;
- In 2015 it was reported that the hole in the ozone layer is finally closing up. And the good news is that it looks to be completely shut by 2100! Shares in Aqua Net sore.
- Christa McAuliffe was selected to be the first civilian in space (she died with six other astronauts on January 28, 1986);
- In March, Scott Kelly went to live on the Space Station for 6 months while his twin brother Mark stayed back on Earth to test the effects of space travel.
- In 1985, kids the country over got their first taste for free (not crack, you sickos); Nintendo was introduced;
- This year Oculus Rift was introduced so that our kids could give up their own reality and live in virtual reality.
- And in 1985 adults got their own first fix (not coke, you deviants, that happened much earlier); Windows 1.0 was released;
- In 2015, iOs 9.0 was introduced. As my kids might ask, “what are Windows?”
- In sports, we had “Da Bears” and a continuation of the Lakers/Celtics rivalry.
- And today we have “Deflategate”, but neither the Lakers nor the Celtics are any good.
- In 1985, Hulk Hogan, Mr. T., and Jimmy Snuka took on Roddy Piper, Paul Orndorff, and Bob Orton in WrestleMania 1 (Muhammad Ali was the special guest referee).
- Roddy Piper, Dusty Rhodes, and 13 other WWF WWE wrestlers all died in 2015. Since 1985, 62 current/former wrestlers died before their 50th birthday (27 before their 40th birthday). And Ali is on a special cover of SI this week honoring his life.
- Further to that thought, the first scene in Rocky V is a flashback to Rocky IV, wherein we find the Southpaw shaking uncontrollably in the locker room after beating Drago.
- The end of 2015 will give us Concussion. Have we had our addled heads in the sand for more than 30 years?
- Side note related to Da Bears and Rocky and Concussion, have you seen 2015 Jim McMahon? If not, don’t – just hold tight to your memory of 1985 Jim McMahon.
But the more things change, the more they stay the same . . . on the diamond.
Can you guess what year we had the following division winners?
Royals — Blue Jays — Cardinals — Dodgers
If you guessed 1985 and 2015, you would be correct.
Can you guess what year the following happened in baseball?
- The Mets exceeded all expectations behind a young, stud, fireball-throwing right-hander.
- The Dodgers won behind two pitchers who will finish in the Top 5 for the Cy Young Award.
- The Blue Jays won with a team full of mashers.
- The Royals won – for the second year in a row – with a combination of middling hitting, middling starting pitching, speed, defense, and an awesome bullpen.
Again, if you guessed 1985 and 2015, you would be correct.
Here are a few other similarities that make you wonder if you flipped to the wrong page on the calendar:
- Don Mattingly is front and center. In 1985, he was the AL MVP; in 2015, he managed a division winner and will be fired unless he wins the World Series (very Steinbrenner-esque, don’t you think?).
- Pete Rose is in the news. In 1985 he became the all-time hit leader. In 2015, he sought reinstatement to the game from which we was banned.
- A Van Slyke will be in the outfield in the playoffs (Andy begot Scott).
- We may be looking at a Royals-Blue Jays ALCS.
- We may be looking at a Cardinals-Dodgers NLCS.
- We may be looking at an I-70 World Series – much to the chagrin of Fox executives.
- Is that Jesse Barfield wearing #29 or Jose Bautista wearing #19; Lloyd Moseby (#15) or Edwin Encarnacion (#10); George Bell or Kevin Pillar (both #11)? Sometimes it’s hard to tell.
- Does the outfield of Lonnie Smith-Willie Wilson-Darryl Motley remind anyone of the outfield of Gordon-Cain-Rios?
- Oh, and one last thing that hasn’t changed in 30 years: Vin Scully’s voice still makes everything okay. (Appreciate him folks, it sounds like last year may be his last!)
Near the end of the 2015 season, we had a childish brawl in the Nationals dugout. Near the end of the ‘85 season, we had what I believe to be the most childish – yet understandable – act I have ever seen on a professional baseball field. In case you forgot, check out the 0:45 mark of this video:
As we turn the calendar from September to October, we enter my favorite month of the year.
Some may take April, with Opening Day, the Boston Marathon, and the end of the cold winter. Others may take June and the beginning of long, warm days filled with BBQs and the beach. You can have your November and your Thanksgiving feast. I will give you December and your holiday cheer.
But for me, I will take October. The weather starts to cool; shorts are put in drawers and sweaters are pulled off shelves; the sun may rise later and set earlier, but that just means cooler morning runs. Besides my birthday and Halloween, October represents the crescendo. We have all kept a keen eye (but maybe only a single eye) on baseball for the past six months; but now we focus our attention. Starting next Tuesday, we will have meaningful baseball every night for two fortnights, with the lone exception being the answer to the above trivia question. The playoffs are so close, I feel like Wolfman in “Top Gun”.
Trivia Answer: October 26, 1985/2015 (the former also being the date of my bar mitzvah; the latter being the only day in October this year without baseball).
p.s. In 1985, I spent nearly as much time at my friend Josh’s house as I did my own. Thus, I spent a great deal of time with Allan Sheinin, who died this week. My thoughts and prayers are with the entire Sheinin/Smaler clan. Rest in peace, Allan. Now you can skip the Pritikin and have a whole new set of potential Amway customers!!