Tuesday, December 27, 2011

the perfect storm: disney, soccer, christmas

Not a Disney fan.  No.  Not at all.  Yet, I spent yesterday morning and afternoon hurtling down 95 at nearly that many miles per hour, heading straight for the hell mecca that is Orlando, FL.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that in a previous life, I wrote a dissertation that made frequent reference to everyone’s favorite entertainment company.  The whole ridiculous 200+ page compilation focused primarily on childhood and innocence in American Literature, but the subject of Disney came up a lot because apparently, you haven’t truly lived your innocent American childhood until you’ve experienced a Disney product, or more specifically, visited a Disney park.  That, my friends, is a piece of marketing genius that would fill me with unbridled envy if I also aspired to exploit young children for their parents’ money. 

Corporations that prey on children rank low on my list of “best places to spend my money,” and Disney leads the pack. Every Disney product is an advertisement for another Disney product.  This is true of other companies too, but Disney invented and perfected the practice.  They changed the landscape of childhood from the generic to the branded, and I object.

Why then, did I end up sitting in an interminable line of traffic that unfurled before me like a ribbon of tinfoil, glittering in the South Carolina sun as I made my way past Savannah, GA to the holy land?

I’ll tell you.  Two words almost all the more appalling than the destination itself:

Soccer tournament.

I have long stood on the soccer sidelines with a disgruntled look on my face, spouting off in my ornery way about this or that excursion we could have undertaken had the soccer establishment not demanded our time. 

I admit, however, that while I stand by my conviction that kids’ sports take too much time, I’m a little sick of myself and my complaining.  Also, Gareth started high school this year and has set a goal to play soccer in college.  All I needed to hear was the word “college.” If it motivates him, I’m in.  The hope for the team is that our presence at this “showcase” tournament will garner some attention from the many college recruiters who will stalk the sidelines with their clipboards and cell phones. 

Personally, I think it’s too early to talk about recruiting, but that’s the complainer voice in me, and I’m supposed to be suppressing that.  I figure it’s high I time I muster some parental support instead.  I mean, what if he turns out to be a star?  What if we fast forward 8 or so years and find him scoring the winning goal in the world cup with a spectacular bicycle kick to the high corner of the far left post? 

The crowd rises to its hysterical feet, the announcer booms out, “goooooaaaaaal” with untempered and sonorous glee. After everyone strips their shirts off and dances around the field for a bit, the camera zooms in on Gareth’s doting parents, you know, the ones who followed him around the country to help make his dreams come true.   The ones who gave up everything to nurture his burgeoning talent.  The ones who never missed a game. 

How will I measure up under those kinds of expectations?  Hmmmm.  I love him, but I also wanted to go camping every once in a while, you know?  Maybe drop into a museum or take a family bike ride.  Will that play out well in the post-victory interview?  

At least now I have some fodder for the mill.  I will be able to tell them about how I gave up our family Christmas break and drove to Orlando and submitted my family to an onslaught of commercial messages and purchasing opportunities, breaking all my well-formulated ideas about popular culture, our power as consumers, family and holidays. 

I have to wonder: Is this a test?  How is it that my efforts to let go of my anger and resentment for the soccer establishment have led me into the perfect storm of cultural misery that is: soccer tournament, Disney theme park and Christmas vacation. Isn’t that too much to ask?

I will buck up.  I will.  We will avoid the park, visit my brother and his family, spend some quality time with family.   I will have a good attitude, and we will have a good time.  

Can I do it? 

We shall see…

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