George Owens: Hiya, champ, how's it going?
Danny: Well I got AIDS, but other than that, I'm doing pretty good.
-Mr. Belvedere, "Wesley's Friend"
Monroe: The big one said if I knew what was good for me, I'd better cooperate. And I cooperated. In fact, I cooperated all night.
-Too Close For Comfort, "For Every Man There's Two Women"
Mr. Horton: What's the old saying... you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours?
Arnold: You keep coming up with these presents, you can scratch me all over.
-Diff'rent Strokes, "The Bicycle Man"
In the 80s, family sitcoms felt the need to stare into the gaping maw of existence from time to time, and scare the ever-loving crap out of our parents with "A Very Special Episode." In a sense, these shows attempted to raise awareness of the issues of our time and, hopefully, promote tolerance towards those who were different and shine a light on some of the dangers of childhood that weren't exactly talked about at that time. In practice, it worked... sort of. You'll never catch me playing hide and seek in a 50s era refrigerator, confronting a visibly intoxicated Tom Hanks after he'd drank a bottle of vanilla extract, and it'll be a cold day in hell before I enter a bicycle shop.
These episodes were always manifestly more serious - with the possible exception of the Too Close For Comfort episode in which Monroe (played by Jim J. Bullock type-cast in the Paul Lynde "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" role of a "confirmed bachelor") gets kidnapped and raped by two women - and often opened with a warning to parents by one of the actors that what was to come would be unsettling, and closed with the 1-800 number to a hotline for the societal problem-du-jour.
If this all sounds culturally traumatic, that's only because it totally was - and the laugh track made it worse. But worse yet, the affect these episodes had was worlds stronger on parents than their children. There's a home movie of a two-year-old me, my mother behind the camera, and "A Very Special Question" being asked:
Mom: Andrew, if a man says to come to his van for some candy, what do you do?
Me (in a snowsuit, eating snow): Go with him.
Mom (audibly flustered): No! No!!! You run to me right away!
Me: Then how will I get the candy?
Dad (off camera): [laugh track]
By the time these types of episodes had become rare - the early 90s - a strange thing had happened to our country... you stopped seeing kids playing outside. The horrible things that happen to children weren't on the rise, but with the rise of cable news, it sure as hell seemed that way. People walled themselves in, "play-dates" were arranged, you started to see kids (some pushing 8 years old) on shopping-mall leashes, the only games were "organized," and adult supervision was always required. We became, and in many ways still are, a culture of fear.
Two-year-old me was fearless. He would have scoffed at SC's two College World Series Titles in this decade. He would have said, "Ray Tanner's not there anymore." He would have laughed in the face of Grayson Greiner (.344 BA, 8 HR, 49 RBI), Kyle Martin (.324 BA, 4 HR, 30 RBI), and Joey Pankake (.305 BA, 4 HR, 25 RBI). He would have asked his mom for pancakes, and when she gave him Cream of Wheat, instead, he'd have dumped that damned bowl right over his head and worn it like a hat. He would have smiled for the camera and then immediately gummed up those Polaroids with his sticky fingers. Like a god damned man.
Here are your pitching match-ups:
Thursday (6:30pm CT): RHP Tyler Beede (7-5, 3.43 ERA) v. LHP Jordan Montgomery (7-4, 3.21 ERA)
Friday (6:30pm CT): RHP Carson Fulmer (4-1, 0.98 ERA) v. LHP Jack Wynkoop (7-3, 2.16 ERA)
Saturday (2:00pm CT): RHP Tyler Ferguson (7-3, 2.66 ERA) v. RHP Wil "Dewey" Crowe (6-3, 2.97 ERA)
Tonight, we play the South Cackalacky Game Penises, and if we want to lock down hosting a regional (and the #2 seed out of the East in the SEC tourney), we've got to take two out of three. If we want a national seed, we'd damn well better sweep them. Zander Wiel and his rediscovered power bat knows this. Vince "SEC Player of the Week" Conde knows this. The Aluminum Foil knows this. Dansby the Mansby knows this. And you're god damned right Carson Fulmer knows this. What we can't have is fear. We can't be tentative. We can't worry what others say about how we've fared against crafty lefties. We've got to barge right into that bike shop and steal that old pedophile's bike! [laugh track]
This metaphor might have gotten away from me. Whatever. The writer invites you to call 1-800-Confused Metaphor and bother them about it.
What to drink: Bourbon. Right out of the god damned bottle.
*Author's note: "Baseball, Bourbon, and Bad Decisions" will be a weekly column throughout the 2014 baseball season. Andrew VU '04 is a writer, educator, and ne-er-do-well living in the whirlpool of despair (Baton Rouge, LA) and is writing this column based largely on the fact that VandyTigerPhD is a large Italian man threatening his life if he doesn't hold up his end of the bargain. Throughout the season, the writer will use no advanced statistics, whatsoever, and will go purely on what he sees, instinct, and bourbon-fueled bluster. On occasion, he will remind you of the whack-nuts craziness that were family sitcoms in the 80s. He'll advise you to drink those memories away right quick.