Things are never what they used to be. Take a moment, if you would, and think back on your own childhood. Saturday mornings teemed with cartoons. You would go off and play and your parents would have no idea where you were for hours, sometimes weeks. Cereal had toys in it. Trick-or-treating took place in actual neighborhoods instead of malls and parking lots. The summer movie season was full of films being made for the first time.
Given these facts, as well as the human tendency to selectively remember only the positive things about the past, it’s difficult not to read into every new piece of news as the next step in the inevitable decay of society. Change is lame, we must admit, but not all change is loss; there are things we don’t remember, or never knew, about our idyllic histories that needed to change for the better. We must struggle to see the inequalities in our society, to envision the entire equation, and not merely rage against our own minute sense of loss as time passes.
One knows this. One trains for this. One keeps it lodged near his heart, lets it hurt him once in a while to remind him that it is there. And then one finds this.
I found this object in a box yesterday. It was during one of those changes, this time cleaning out my office to convert it into a nursery. Change, and loss, and gain. But this: this waxy ruin of a once-great civilization. This perforated two-dimensional hate mail, this Orwellian doublespeak of a “Special Edition”. This is all that remains of the Cracker Jack prize of yore.
I can only imagine the collective excitement of boys and girls, tearing off the edges of the familiar red diagonal stripes. Kids don’t ask for much: a bit of flimsy cardboard and some ink has kept them happy for generations. Would they get a picture of Derek Jeter, or Clayton Kershaw? Would they get a logo of their favorite team?
No. No, they would not.
Major League Baseball asks: do you want prizes, boys and girls? This is what the real prizes of the world are now. This is where expectations and dreams lead. You thought you might celebrate your fandom, but instead you are going to affix our logo to an object you possess and you are going to advertise for us. Oh, while we have your attention, would you find going to mlb.com to get team stats and the latest information? And by information, we mean other advertisements.
It was always like this, you remind yourself. Stan Musial hocked beer and DiMaggio and Robinson sold cigarettes. But knowing this doesn’t improve things; it just makes both today and yesterday seem worse.
Maybe, despite all my forced optimism, I’m just bitter. Luckily, bitterness can still be complemented with the sweet, molasses taste of Cracker Jacks.