Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hail to the 1970's! (Or Not.)

Are you embarrassed by your own generation? I was, at the time: the mid-to-late 1970's. I still am, to an extent.

From the predictable, drunken calls for semiprofessional garage bands to faithfully reproduce "Freebird"; to my college classmate who squealed his tires in a trashy salute while pulling away from my grandparents' house; to sportscoats in patterns and colors not found in nature; it was not the best decade in terms of taste.

We started the decade with a power-mad, bombing-happy crook in office and ended it with a moralistic, tone-deaf technocrat. When President Carter phoned U.S. Olympic hockey coach Herb Brooks to congratulate him on the team's astounding Gold Medal victory, including the "Miracle on Ice" game against the Soviets, Carter explained that he didn't watch the games because he was working on the Afghanistan crisis. No complaint here about the man's priorities, but he could have worked on his audience identification.

Don't get me started about President Ford's "Whip Inflation Now" buttons.

When Reggie Jackson held up three boastful fingers to the camera upon hitting three home runs in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series, the social virtues of modesty and good sportsmanship flew out the window, forever lost to the ages. When you see T.O. autographing a football in the end zone, or Jim Edmonds turning a routine fly ball into a highlight-reel catch, think Reggie. Braggadocio is classic and human, but amplified bombast is what our culture produced in the 1970's.

A friend of mine calls us a Lost Generation. I say, it's all been downhill since the 1969 Mets and the moon landings.

Our next-door neighbor's dad had a theory about the previous decade: the reason that the 1960's kids were angry enough to protest was that their pants were all too tight. Disco notwithstanding, ours in the 1970's may have been too loose, culturally speaking. Thirty years on, it still shows.

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