Local Advertising and Concussions

Despite the national sports media members who loudly protest that they played through concussions and were just fine, concussions are serious. Of course players are going to try to go back into the game if given a choice, competitors are driven to compete and do not like being forced to watch, particularly once they reach a level where past performance validates their ability. That is why the coaches, the officials, and the support staff need to step in and protect the players from themselves. And, as Stephania Bell used to remind the hosts of ESPN’s fantasy focus podcast, it is a misnomer that there are “mild” concussions. Concussions are brain injuries that range in symptoms, but that are all serious and get worse with repeat occurrence.

Michigan football has a number of problems right now and while the fans are angry for any number of reasons, it was the procedure (or lack thereof) for a concussed quarterback, Shane Morris, who was allowed to go back into the football game when visibly in need of his teammates to stand upright after a vicious hit, that landed Michigan football on national TV morning shows. It was an NFL concussion lawsuit that saw a judge reject a 870 million dollar settlement because she believed the the settlement would not be able to cover all the damages (she approved it when they removed the cap on payouts). A new book, Boy on Ice, details the life of Derek Boogaard, an enforcer in the NHL, who suffered multiple concussions and then died of a drug overdose at 28; Boogaard’s family donated his brainstem to science because he underwent a personality shift in the last years of his life. Major league baseball has had issues with players hit in the head, colliding with walls and players, or getting kneed in the head while sliding into a base, which has derailed the career of a number of excellent players.

The list goes on, the point is just to illustrate that concussions are not an isolated issue and are hardly limited to contact sports. This is the context in which I am actually outraged at the radio ad run by one of the local car dealerships.

Fletcher Honda in Columbia, Mo, currently has on air a commercial imitating a football game. A player gets taken out in a vicious hit and the coach comes out to ask if he knows where he is. In a dim and woozy voice the player asks for a combo meal. The coach asks a second question and the player says he wants a super-sized combo meal. Then the coach asks if he knows where to get the best deal for his trade-in vehicle, to which the player more confidently replies that the answer is Fletcher Honda. Because the player gets the third question right, the coach proclaims he is good to go.

My problems here are that the ad is completely tone-deaf and that if I heard someone legitimately answer the first two questions I would diagnose him with a concussion over the radio, without needing any training or further confirmation. But then they imply that he is going to go right back into the game. Because he knows a bit of trivia that may or may not be true about a car dealership here. At least if anyone questions them about their message, they can say that their spokesman had a brain injury when he asserted it.

I am not in advertising and I am aware that local dealership ads are not easy and that this is their attempt at provide a humorous, catchy spot. And I have given some thought to how they might revamp this same concept in a way that relieves my concern, but I don’t see one. Making light of concussions is beyond tacky and I cringe whenever I hear it come on.

Some thoughts about Paris

Living in Botswana or being a Bonesman does not intrinsically grant anyone insight into the world, but both seem somehow more substantive than watching the world unfold on Twitter from a coffee shop in Columbia, MO. Then again, there is a case that the Lost Generation, watching the world unfold from a cafe in Paris created an artificial sense of nostalgia and culture that is replicable elsewhere. After all, their reputation was created only after their success, and A Moveable Feast is a retrospective. Given an artful commentator, a comparable situation could be created anywhere.

Yet, Paris is exotic. It has a rich history, amazing art, and a sense of gravitas that even Hitler could not pass up. Columbia is not Paris. But, then, in very real ways, Paris is not Paris. Parts of it are. Parts of it can be. But in Midnight in Paris, the background people are meticulously crafted to fit the type, and in A Moveable Feast, Hemingway simply leaves out those people who do not fit. So does Orwell in Down and Out in London and Paris. The invisible majority are the non-conformists, ironically. Merely by conforming to another paradigm they are condemned to obscurity as authors and filmmakers glorify and normalize the artificial construct that suits the Paris of the Lost Generation. That Emerald City brimming with culture.

How often does Hemingway go to the Louvre? How often to the Opera? How often to the tourist sites? The answer is rarely, if ever. Orwell’s account of Paris is even more deficient in that respect–he mostly accounts for poor neighborhoods and restaurants. Now, partly this is due to living there. Having lived in Boston, there is something in an atmosphere of a city and you need not do all those cultural events to take advantage of it. Columbia, where, in some ways, I have been coming of age, has its own vibe, but also too much thoughtless drunkenness and trashed streets. At the same time, Hemingway’s two major activities seem to be going to cafes and going to the races. Life is more mundane than the stories, even in Paris.

For a person who often daydreams about far-off places, this has been something I have struggled to reconcile, sometimes. Ultimately, everything is normalized based on what you are used to. One of my favorite memories of Greece was sitting a town square in the countryside watching children entertaining themselves, some on bicycles, some on foot. I know that there were some other tourists in the town (a French couple I had met and walked around with earlier that day made this clear), but there were not hordes of tourists the way there were in Delphi or Istanbul. And yet the town was set beneath the soaring rock spires of Meteora, which was rather exotic. The same way that to urban and suburban people the forests of Vermont are exotic. Perhaps the advantage that Paris holds for the creation of nostalgia and some sort of cultural movement is that it is a location that lends itself to this type of memorialization and thereby eases the job of a commentator (at this point in time, I would also venture that the Lost Generation aids and abets in this mystique), but though it might be more difficult elsewhere, it is not impossible.

Just as there is with the Lost Generation in Paris, there is an allure about those people who were members of Skull and Bones or Scroll and Key at Yale (starting with the fact that they went to Yale), or those people who attend any number of other prestigious universities, or who worked with the Peace Corps, or went on their own to remote corners of the world. The obvious idea of the allure is the experience they had while participating in that activity. A better way of putting it, I think, is that they are the type of people who merited joining a secret society or a great university, or would travel the world for the sake of traveling, or would donate their time. The experience helps, but it is not the experience alone that marks that person, just as it is not the fact that they lived in Paris alone that marks the Lost Generation. Too often the mystique of these organizations or activities causes people to overlook the actual individual, in much the same way that the negative aura of certain activities, experiences, or professions can cause people to overlook those individuals as well.