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Faux Outrage

Literally the most important blog in the universe since 2010.

Monthly Archives: January 2012

Today, the fictionary grows one word larger.

This is the thirteenth FWOTD.

fanatischism (fa-nat-i-skiz-uhm)
noun

a remarkable but completely avoidable cocktail of sadness and anger invariably stemming from one’s choosing to base a portion of his/her mood on the success and failures of a particular sports team or professional athlete

For example: “I am the biggest New York Mets fan in the world and can’t stand it when they lose!”

The ‘fanatischism’ explained visually in 10 seconds.

There is a great divide — a “schism” if you will — between the relationship that a fanatical sports fan believes he has with his most favorite team and the objective analysis of the relationship’s actual impact.  While the fan will claim to extract a great deal of happiness and will unquestionably justify the amount of time, energy, and money he puts into his favorite club, the reality is that far (far!) more often than not, his team will end up not winning a championship and he will be filled with pain and sadness.

And anger.

And he will transfer this anger — sometimes quietly and sometimes loudly — to his friends and loved ones.

And then those people will be sad and angry.

It is the circle of strife.

Statistically, if there are are 30 teams in a league and you are a “big fan” for 60 years, you will see your team win a championship twice.  You will see your team not win a championship 58 times.  Statistically.  And even in rare instances (roughly 3% of the time) where the favorite team does end up winning a championship, the joy is fleeting because another season is just around the corner.

It seems appropriate, then, to ask whether we are being fair to ourselves when we invest a huge amount of our emotional energy to root for people who do not care about us to do arbitrary things in order to win an particular set of games influenced by officials prone to human error in an league environment that — in an ideal universe — should lead to a small, fleeting window of euphoria in 3% of the years we spend invested?

Packers fans one short season after a SuperBowl victory

I suppose this analysis isn’t very interesting, except for the fact that we sports fans do this to ourselves for reasons that are not entirely clear.  There are very few rational reasons to root for a particular sports team/athlete, especially in the today’s completely demystified corporate sports environment.

Each season we witness our favorite athletes speak calmly and clearly into microphones around the world: This is a business.  You have to understand this is a business.  College athletes don’t make this point particular because they themselves do not get paid, but they probably should since it’s probably not an enormous coincidence that the NCAA brought in over $840 million in 2010-2011.

We know it is a business.

It is patently obvious that our professed love and unapologetic irrationality is being leveraged against us for economic gain, and we don’t seem to mind.

But maybe we should.

Let’s hash out the two sides of the sports fan relationship:

Fan’s View of Relationship With Team

  1. Chooses team usually based on proximity and/or tradition
  2. Cares deeply about outcome of games/seasons
  3. Spends money to show support for team
  4. Spends time monitoring progress of team
  5. Professes love and adoration for team employees

Team’s View of Relationship With Fan

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In the end, we are choosing to make enormous emotional, temporal, and financial commitments to people and entities who couldn’t care less about us and are engaging in a behaviors that have no meaningful impact on the real world.  

Unless, of course, your team wins — or loses! — a championship.

Fanatics after their team wins championship!

Fanatics after their team loses championship!

Warning! This is another grocery store post.

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A lot of folks are upset about this Dr. Pepper 10 commercial because the product is being advertised to men in a gender-negative way that is at best alienating and at worst insulting to women.  I’m annoyed by Dr. Pepper 10, too, but my frustration stems not from the question of whether it is socially acceptable to market a product to 49% of the world’s population by cinematically flicking off the other 51%.

Quite frankly, I’m not concerned about how Dr. Pepper 10 is being marketed.

I resent that it exists at all.

There are any number of cliched reasons to be anti-soda/pop/coke.

Most of us agree that, as a rule, these carbonated comfort drinks contain zero nutrition, unapologetically destroy our teeth (with fun bubbles!), and are so inexpensive that there is a serious economic incentive to fill our bodies — and our children’s bodies — with fizzy stuff instead of any liquid that resembles actual food intended for human consumption (like juice)!

And yet, none of these reasons are the root of why I believe we — men and women! — should know better than to purchase Dr. Pepper 10.

Put simply, Dr. Pepper 10 is barely a unique product.

Here are the other products in the non-“flavored” Dr. Pepper family:

  1. Dr. Pepper / 100 calories, caffeine
  2. Dr. Pepper (Diet) / 0 calories, caffeine
  3. Dr. Pepper (Caffeine Free) / 100 calories, 0 caffeine
  4. Dr. Pepper (Diet, Caffeine Free) / 0 calories, 0 caffeine

So far as I can tell, those four products match the four “desire states” that lead to purchasing Dr. Pepper-based liquid.

  1. I like the flavor (Dr. Pepper)
  2. I like the flavor, but not the calories (Dr. Pepper-Diet)
  3. I like the flavor, but not the caffeine (Dr. Pepper-Caffeine Free)
  4. I like the flavor, but not the calories nor caffeine (Dr. Pepper-Diet, Caffeine Free)

This “new” product is merely a 10 calorie version of Dr. Pepper.  In other words, Dr. Pepper 10 is Diet Dr. Pepper plus ten calories.

Ten.

Of course it’s true that 10 calories is infinitely larger than zero calories, but it’s still fair to ask: What brand of consumer is turned off by a zero calorie version of Dr. Pepper (Diet Dr. Pepper) but would instead be compelled to purchase a ten calorie drink (Dr. Pepper 10) who is not purchasing Dr. Pepper?  The commercials plainly state that Dr. Pepper 10 is being marketed towards men, but “men” is not the group that buys it.

So which consumer group is it?

The Indecisive, of course.

Yes, the Indecisive!  You know, the folks who buy 1% milk instead of 2% or skim, neapolitan ice cream instead of a real flavor, and prefer “low fat” to “no fat.”  They buy paper plates made from recycled materials and prefer their ranch dressing “on the side.”  They like medium “hot” sauce, don’t eat meat (except chicken), and just want a couple bites of your dessert.

And of course, they invented the spork.

Dr. Pepper 10 gives these indecisive consumers an opportunity to “choose” between products that are barely discernible (Diet Dr. Pepper and Dr. Pepper 10).  Grocery patrons that specialize in baby-splitting can show their off their (non-)decision-making prowess by grabbing the thing in the “middle” (10 calories vs. 0 or 100 calories).

And though doing so feels like a choice, the reality is that when you buy Dr. Pepper 10, what you’re buying is not an exciting new product — and barely a new product at all — but a tangible representation of your inability to show any kind of commitment or decision-making skills.

So while it’s true that Dr. Pepper 10 commercials exclusively directed at men are insulting to one of the genders, it might not be the one that you think.

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On July 20th, 1969, Two very important things happened as a result of the Apollo 11 mission:

  1. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to walk on the moon.
  2. Children began to reasonably expect that by the time they became adults, they would own rocketpacks.

I can’t help but feel a deep, nerdy empathy for the 10-year-old who, with tears welling, watched Armstrong and Co. touch-down and romp around in the Sea of Tranquility.  That child had fantastic expectations about his future that made perfect sense at the time, but that we know today to have been completely misguided.

Though our instincts might be to partially place blame on an overly optimistic star-gazing youth, it is impossible to ignore the incredible amount of rocketry-related technological progress that had taken place during his sentient lifetime.

Yet from the perspective of that 10-year-old at the time, it wasn’t incredible at all.  In 1966, just three years before the manned mission, the United States had sent its first unmanned missions to the moon’s surface.  Only 4 years before that was the United State’s first spacecraft to reach another celestial body.  The pace was incredible, and no scientifically-inclined individual in those days — child or otherwise — had justifiable reason for pessimism.

It was just life.

Of course we are shooting rockets into space.

Of course there are people standing on the moon.

Of course I’m going to have a rocketpack.

What were the reasons to believe otherwise?

To be sure, my generation dabbled in the promise of rocketpackery, but oddly, though I was born more than a decade after the moon landing, I never felt that I was destined to carry a rocketpack. My friends and I more closely associated the technology with science fiction than the obvious end-result of our current scientific pace.  We never lived in a time — like those kids who watched the moon landing — when strapping a jet engine to our back seemed plausible, let alone the logical conclusion of the direction we were headed as a society.

At least I had video games.

Let me be clear: It’s not unusual or remotely interesting that a 10-year-old in 1969 has a vastly different impression of how the world was going to progress by the time he became a grownup compared to the impressions a 10-year-old in 1992, but the promise of a rocketpack is an interesting case.  Usually, a modern child would have a more optimistic sense of what is possible given the advances that had occurred in his lifetime on top of whatever the child from a previous generation knew/understood.

Not so in the case of the rocketpack!

As time went on, while the desire to fly around via one’s own personal rocket remained constant, the reasonable expectation that it would happen in our lifetime diminished with gradual-to-great speed.

Ironically, full-scale globalization and unrelenting world-wide media is what distracted wide-eyed kids like myself from the planet earth.  By the time I was cognizant, national attention had shifted from space travel and exploration to military technology.  Growing up, I was far more likely to hear reports of the Patriot missiles and “bunker-busters” of the (First) Gulf War than anything resembling the optimism inherent in the Apollo missions.  I feel this is true despite fond, specific memories of watching the sun rise one morning in Florida in hopes that we would see (what turned out to be an aborted) Endeavor launch.

So here we are, even further from July 20, 1969.  Do any of us still feel as though rocketpacks are in our future?  Do kids today have any optimism whatsoever about rocketpacks?  I know there are a bunch of prototypes floating (!) around, and I know that investors are always “working on a new fuel source,” but we landed on the moon over 40 years ago and the best we have to show for it are jetpacks that hover for around a half minute.

I’ve had sneezing fits that lasted longer.

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Color me unimpressed.

In any event, my generation lucked out.  What we lack in rocketpackery we make up for with the Internet.  Sure, we don’t have any fancy astronaut heroes, but there are over a billion search results for “cat videos” on Google.  Yeah, it’s true that we never really experienced what it was like to root for our country in a purely scientific, progressive context (as opposed to military and athletic prowess), but now we can order a pizza without picking up the telephone!  And our telephones don’t even have cords anymore!  No, we won’t get to watch US citizens walk on the surface of Mars anytime soon, but hey, did I mention the cat videos?

I’m turning 30 in a few months and I’m starting to believe/fear that I’ll never own a rocketpack of my own.  Maybe it’s for the best, though.  A rocketpack would seriously cut into my Internet time.

Much has been made of the Mayan prediction that the world is going to end this year, in 2012.  So far, four days down, 362 (leap year!) to go.

Are any of us prepared?

Though nowadays we politely chuckle at the notion that scientifically-inclined folks once believed the sun revolved around the earth, there’s not much going on these days to suggest that we’ve ever truly shaken that particular mentality.  Despite the fact that we have mastered the science of heliocentrism, humans continue to fundamentally believe that we — in all of our glory! — are the very real center of the universe.

There are a number of reasons to be skeptical of the Mayan 2012 prediction, not the least of which is the fact the geniuses who put together the calendar in question are the same ones who relied on human sacrifice and were not able to predict their own demise.  In essence, the Mayans are not a civilization known for their ability to plan ahead of time.

Further, just like we’ve always known about the advice of Miss Cleo, the credibility of any professional prognosticator collapses upon realizing that the predictor is frantically exploring methods of fiscal solvency.  Those who could accurately predict the future would certainly not need to rely on my $2.99/minute nor have a business model based almost entirely on the viability of off-peak ad buys on basic cable.  The Mayans, of course, were not selling their calendar for profit, but I’m sure they had a vested interest in maintaining its authority.

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You probably wouldn’t take too seriously the advice of a sopping-wet weatherman running through a parking lot in the rain with a newspaper over his head yelling, “Weather predictions!  Get your weather predictions!  Only $5 a piece!” and yet, here we are, giving tongue-and-cheek credence to a civilization composed of peoples who weren’t even around long enough to see hampsterdance.com.

Generally, when we refer to the Mayan 2012 warning, we take it to mean that “the world is going to end in 2012.”  But unless you think the sun is going to explode, or the entire universe is going to implode, or the large hadron collider is going to create an event that somehow sucks our big blue planet into a literal oblivion, the planet earth is going to be just fine.

To reiterate, here is a list of horrible things that would not actually be the end the world:

  1. Nuclear war leading to the end of all biological life
  2. Biblical flood leading to the end of all life
  3. Natural disasters leading to the end of all life
  4. Hyper-contagious biological virus leading to the end of all life
  5. The Rapture (as I understand it)

If any of those things were to happen, the world would still be here.

The world would be fine.

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We are not exactly keen on the Mayan people’s fondness for attempting to shape the future predicated on a steady diet of blood letting and human sacrifice, so it’s a little suspicious and weird that we consider any of their predictions at all.  And yet, when you think about it, it’s actually not too surprising that we are laser-focused on their end-of-the-world declaration when you consider our collective self-obsession.  That it comes as no surprise to any us that we are alive during the end point in the history of a planet that is around 4.5 billion years old should come as no surprise.

No surprise at all.

So how shocking is it, really, that we once believed the sun revolved around us?

Let’s say the Mayans were (are?) right.  Let’s even go as far as to say that their calendar exists for the sole purpose of sending a message to future inhabitants of the earth that the End of Days is coming, eventually.  If that is the case, we are making the wrong kinds of preparations (not to mention the wrong kinds of movies).  We are focused on nuclear war, religious war, and environmental catastrophe when the reality is that none of these things would literally lead to the end of the world.

And so here we are, in what could be — but is, for the record, totally not — the pivotal moment in the world’s history and we are too self-absorbed to even digest the dire warning correctly.  When we think of the world or universe ending, the absolute worst thing that we can imagine — in the deepest, darkest, scariest portion of our highly-developed brains —  is that we and our human companions are no longer kicking soil around on the earth’s crust.  But just as you do not cease to exist when an army of red ants is maliciously swiped from your leg, the world will be just fine without us stomping around on an insignificant portion of its surface area.

If the world were to end as we presume, via hellfire from the sky, or from a Great Flood, or as the result of continents-wide earthquakes or a supervirus, we would just be another notch on nature’s bedpost, just like the dinosaurs who romped around for a time before us.

I bet the tallest brontosaurus, in his tiny walnut-sized brain, as asteroids began to rain unapologetically from the sky, thought to himself, “The world is ending (and I never even figured out why my arms are so hilariously short)!”

Since we humans are proof that the world did not end ex post dinosaurus, we should also recognize that the same will true if (when?) we are systematically wiped from the planet in the next 12 months.

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