Editor’s Note: While The Rant is on hiatus, we are reliving our most cherished pop culture moments in what we call the Wednesday Pop Culture Recall.
The Rio Olympics have been keeping us entertained, but they still don’t hold a candle to 1984. The spunky Mary Lou Retton? Nope. Hosted in L.A. in the U.S.A.? Yawn. Actually turned a profit with no dilapidated buildings in its wake? Please. Every Gen Xer knows 1984 was the Summer of Love. Bic Mac love.
L.A. Olympics impresario Peter Ueberroth had to fund the games without government support, so he invented sports sponsorship as we know it today.1 Everything and everyone had a sponsor. No company caught Olympic fever like McDonald’s. They had a simple promotion: receive a scratch-off game that revealed an Olympic event. If the U.S. won gold you received a Big Mac; silver earned you fries and bronze a soda. No sweat. In 1976 (we boycotted the 1980 Olympics in Russia) the U.S. won 94 medals, 34 of them gold. The steroid-fueled Soviet bloc nations kicked our butts in everything.
Then gloriously Russia and many of her allies pulled out of the games in retaliation for 1980. Suddenly the U.S. was favored in events we never knew existed. Rowing eights with coxswain? Bring on the Bic Macs! Never had I followed archery so intently. Our McDonald’s had a sign with the events and results posted so you knew how many free meals you could enjoy that week. My friends and I gorged ourselves all summer. Final tally: 83 Bic Macs, 61 fries, 30 sodas. God bless you Jimmy Carter’s failed foreign policy strategy.2
Now companies include so many caveats and exemptions to their promotions you drown in a sea of legalese with almost no chance of winning anything. We long for a simpler time, a land flowing with special sauce and sesame seeds from sea to shining sea.
- Ueberroth would be hired as the commissioner of baseball to work his magic on the rapidly declining national pastime. Not so much. He was succeeded by Paul Giamatti’s father, Bart, a Renaissance literature professor whose only qualification was the ability to talk pretentiously about baseball. His chief accomplishment was the banishment of Pete Rose to the seventh circle of baseball hell, signing memorabilia in Las Vegas
- Olympic boycotts used to be all the rage during the Cold War. Countries believed forbidding your long jumper to participate in the games would hasten world peace. Carter boycotted the ’80 Olympics over Russia invading Afghanistan. Which was doomed. But not as doomed as giving unlimited arms to Islamic radicals that included Osama Bin Laden when Reagan took office. Which would eventually lead us to invading Afghanistan. U.S.A.! U.S.A.!