For some time now I have experienced a sudden depression on Sunday nights just as 60 Minutes starts to "tick, tick, tick," signaling the end of six hours of football on TV. It's not that I'm sad the games are over or that my team has lost; six hours is enough, and my team usually does fine. It's not even that the 60 Minutes folks are about to chronicle the awfulness of the human condition. Rather, I get a horrible feeling that I don't dance enough. This is the chief symptom of what I think of as the every body-in-sports-commercials-is-having-more-fun-than-I syndrome.
When I wake up Sunday morning, everything's O.K. I have a nice husband, a good job, a station wagon and a solid little house in the capital of the free world. But by about halftime of the first game, I begin to sense that my life is lacking.
We don't dance enough. The Coors people dance. The Budweiser and Pontiac people dance, the Chevy people dance. They dance with a passion around their cars, even on top of their cars. I don't recall ever dancing around the old blue wagon.
These commercials, with their desperately hot music and pretty people, make me feel like I'm not leading an interesting life. At first I thought it was creeping middle age. Now I think it could be genetic. Never once did my mother, like the woman in the Cadillac commercial, dress up in a swingy ball gown and crawl over the roof of the car to kiss my father as he opened the door.
A friend of mine says I have " Pepsi generation malaise." There we boomers all were some years back, the "think young, think smart" people swilling colas. Now we have done everything right, but we see all these new people—who don't seem to be thinking at all—having a better time than we are. The men shave in bathrooms as big as my living room, and the women have bodies that support strapless dresses even when they're dancing madly. Sometimes a man opens his hands and slides, oh, say, $350,000 worth of diamonds over a woman's arm.
In football land, at seemingly every change of possession, the Wrangler jeans folks come on the screen having a ball. Sometimes they're just euphorically skipping past bright lights. Other times they appear to be walking away from a steel mill having fun. They do all this in slow motion. The message seems to be that they have done an honest day's work and now it's time to play hard.
Such commercials make me feel sorry for myself and my colleagues. In my office building I have yet to see a group of flannel-shirted, macho Americans jitterbugging toward a frosty cold one at the Duck Inn before tearing off in the pickup. It's more the kind of place where a stressed-out lawyer can be seen at 8 p.m., clutching a bag of soggy McNuggets. All he has to look forward to is later, maybe much later, creeping home in his Volvo.
Commercials tell me that even where I live is wrong. Just when I'm happy Ali Haji-Sheikh made the extra point for my beloved Redskins, the tube blinks and those gorgeous people out to "light up the night" are dancing around their cars over empty, steaming city streets. Where I live the streets only steam when the sewers back up, and the only people dancing around in the steam are communicating with aliens or asking for spare change.
To judge by commercials, almost everyone but me spends most of the time taking fast curves through Big Sur or sailing over the long hard blacktops of Texas or the Montana high country. These folks seem to be wheat farmers and the like. My father was a wheat farmer, but I don't recall him tearing off the road, popping airborne over hilltops and barreling through rivers in any vehicle.
I suppose I should be pleased that Mad Ave. sees us sports fans as good Americans who like to have fun. Certainly I would rather watch these fast-dancing, hard-driving folks unwind at a bar than cringe in front of those body orifice spots for denture glue and hemorrhoid remedies that appear on the evening news. But then just when I the sports fan am feeling smug that advertisers think I have money to give some high-profile investment firm, the Great Western Champagne couple, dressed in black tie, run across the front lawn of their mansion. Our row house's front yard is exactly 17 feet wide. Unless we run in tight circles, it hardly seems worth the effort.