Who Are These People?
As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m a proud graduate of SUNY Oswego, one of the top 10 state universities located on Lake Ontario. (All kidding aside, Harvard may have its “John F. Kennedy School of Government “, but Oswego can proudly point to its “Zeta Chi Zeta School of Hemp Research and Development,” a program “Barron’s Guide to Colleges and Universities, 2019 Edition” called “Not accredited!”) It was as a student at SUNY Oswego in the early to mid 1980s that it occurred to me, as well as my friends that we always seemed to see the same 100 to 200 people wherever we went. We would often ask each other, “How come we never see anybody else when we are out and about?” SUNY Oswego enrolls close to 8000 students, with over 4000 living in its dorms. Where was everybody? Every once in a while, either I, or one of my friends would look up from our collective syllabi that we were entranced in, and say, “Hey, who are these people we never see, and what are they doing if they’re never doing what we’re doing?”
Now I know what you’re thinking. “Oh Rob, so they didn’t hang out in the same bars as you, or live in your dorm, or hang out with your fraternity, maybe it’s you who only knew a few people.” Yeah maybe, but it’s not like I didn’t go to the Library, or belong to several clubs and groups on campus. I’m just saying that it only seemed like I only ran into the same clan of college scholars wherever I went. Where were all of the people, and more importantly, what were they doing? Look, yes on most weekends if I wasn’t hanging out in my fraternity house, I was probably sucking up oxygen in some bar. However, it wasn’t like there were 4000 people hanging out in these bars. So again I ask, “Where was everybody else, and what were they up to?”
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Amongst other things, Oswego was said to have the 2nd best sunset in the United States. Despite this mighty claim, I never went to a single one in my four years there as a student. Does this mean that I missed out on seeing thousands and thousands of SUNY Oswego students who would attend these so-called “sunsets,” night after night? I kind of doubt it. (Hoffman Collection)
The only thing that I or my friends could conjure up was the idea that the bulk of these mysterious SUNY inhabitants must be studying. It wasn’t like it was the 1960s and they were out protesting Vietnam or fighting for civil rights, or campaigning for Pat Paulsen on his improbable run for the presidency. No, this was the 1980s. They were listening to Ronald Reagan teach us about “winnable nuclear war.” Therefore the only thing that I can ascertain is that they were in their dorm rooms doing something quiet and sensible. This would appear to go against the grain of everything that SUNY Oswego was known for at that time. What kind of individual was inspired to go to SUNY Oswego and focus on academics?
While I neither condemn nor praise those who chose to avoid the bar scene at SUNY Oswego, it does occur to me that there are many out there who choose the path less traveled. In other words, there are those in our society who seem to take a certain amount of pride in going against the grain. Is it a calculated stance that these rebels take, or is it a certain kind of oblivion that they simply choose to wallow in, unmoved by what is popular or even critically acclaimed. What drives this particular behavior, and what is to be gained by choosing the off-ramp when it comes to embracing what is popular? Perhaps most importantly, what are they doing that’s so great that the rest of us appear to be missing out on?
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Everybody who graduated from SUNY Oswego claims to have enjoyed multiple meals at the legendary Rudy’s. However, it’s not possible that everybody went there, Why did some choose to ignore this most famous of hot dog and fish fry stands? Where did they go instead? Were they told about Rudy’s and said, “No thank you, it sounds too delightful.” What inspires these acts of heresy? (Hoffman Collection)
Of course, it’s one thing to avoid the bars and fraternities of an upstate SUNY institution. It’s quite another to avoid something that has a universal following and appeal. I speak of course of the event coming up this weekend that will dominate all aspects of popular culture, the spectacular known as the Lingerie Bowl. I’m kidding of course, the Super Bowl you fools. Are there people who won’t be watching? Of course, and incredibly they don’t bother to hide it. In fact, I liken them to the types of people I’ve spoken of in the past. You know the kind. Those who claim to not watch television or boast that they and/or their children don’t drink soda. But noooo, that’s not enough. They haven’t quite done enough to stake out their contrarian ideologies. Now they have to go to battle with the most popular public event in these United States.
Football is by far the number one televised sport in America, and it is a multi billion dollar industry. While most weekly fans of football are still statistically male, the playoffs, and in particular, the Super Bowl, is an event that brings in many more and varied viewers than the average regular season game. It is typically the number one watched event on television every year, even during this era of Netflix and Hulu. The demographic for the Super Bowl is enormous, and even brings in viewers who don’t normally watch football, or really any kind of televised sporting event. However, that doesn’t mean that everybody is sold.
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Even the first Super Bowl featuring the NFL’s reigning powerhouse the Green Bay Packers vs. the upstart AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs did pretty well in the ratings, scoring a 40 rating with a 79 share while being broadcast on two networks. Of course, there was only one other network to watch that day, and I’m guessing that ABC’s airing of That Darn Cat, or whatever, did well with children 1-11, but otherwise…(You Tube).
What can we ascertain about those who don’t partake in Super Bowl festivities, or at the very least, watching the game casually? I’m not talking about faux patriots who feign outrage because a player takes a knee during the National Anthem, and therefore looks to take a stand against the “modern athlete,” a.k.a. angry and outraged African-American athletes. No, I’m speaking of those who are barely aware there’s a game, and are avoiding it the way Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have avoided justice for all of their transgressions regarding honor and sportsmanship. I’m discussing those who enjoy making a calculated move to avoid the vox populi. Perhaps I am being too cynical. Maybe these individuals are simply blissfully unaware of the Super Bowl, and of football in general, and are simply treating Super Bowl Sunday as just another day.
There’s much to be learned by investigating those who live so deeply within their own bubble. These are Americans that simply have no interest in what everybody else is doing. This attitude runs counter to the very core of what makes up the American zeitgeist. We like to believe that we are the most connected people on this Earth. We see ourselves as the most aware, and “pop savvy” of all humanoid inhabitants of this planet when it comes to what’s hip. Yet despite this idea, or perhaps because of it, some people choose to tune out when it comes to arguably the biggest event in our nation every year for over 50 years.
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For many, even lifelong fans of the NFL, the site above is too much for them to take, and they can’t stand to look at it even one more time. For others, they wouldn’t be able to pick these too paragons of virtue out of a police lineup, which is most likely where both will eventually end up. (You Tube)
I wonder if the idea of ignoring all that is going on around you exists in other countries? People claim for example that the World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the world. If that’s true, are there people in these nations who simply avoid all of that commotion? When Spain for example was in the World Cup a few years ago, did every Spaniard and Castilian immerse themselves in all things soccer? Were there any holdouts? Are they considered pariahs on the Iberian Peninsula, shunned by their fellow Spanish brethren in their land for not imbibing in all of the celebrations regarding soccer and the World Cup? Why would somebody make the effort to avoid all of the celebratory behavior going on around them? To what end is this action directed?
I get the need for being contrarian. I hate the go along get along attitude that so many in this world walk around with. I’ve always felt that people can be quite sheep-like when it comes to many of their habits. I also dread the majorities need for making an example of those who upset the apple cart of society. A Salem witch hunt mentality that states that if you go against the grain, you must be up to some form of mischief can be quite destructive. Still, there seems to be an arrogance to those who stake out the position on the opposite end of the spectrum, and they appear to me anyway to be a little too enamoured with their decision, a decision that I believe is calculated, to ignore what everybody else is enjoying.
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No that isn’t a suffragette, that’s Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin, and she was the ultimate contrarian. In 1941, she was the only member of Congress to vote against the resolution put forward by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to declare war against Japan after the deadly and devastating Pearl Harbor attack. She was an uncompromising pacifist. Do you respect her for sticking to her beliefs in the most troubling of times? (Getty Images)
Whether you watch the Super Bowl or not, you have to admit that there are certain individuals who are only happy when they taking a position that leaves them at odds with the majority of those around them. Here’s a brief list of whom to be on the lookout for:
The person who is a vegan and shows up at a bar-b-que.
The guy who roots for the Dallas Cowboys and isn’t from Dallas.
The individual who goes into an IHOP, or International House of Pancakes for breakfast and doesn’t order pancakes. (Subsequently if you go into a Waffle House and don’t order waffles, you are also trying to make some inane point.
The person who rides his bike to work. “I have a car, I simply choose not to use it.” Goody for you, I hope that your gel-seat doesn’t press too firmly against your nut-sack, it might affect your performance as an “Importer/Exporter.”
The nimrod who says they don’t like The Beatles. “Oh my God, The Beatles are so overrated!” Yeah we know, now go back to listening to the greatest hits of Dexy’s Midnight Runners, that shouldn’t take too long. Heh, heh, heh.”
I suppose the key is to be an individual, maintain your integrity, but don’t make it seemed forced. I don’t really care if you watch the Super Bowl or not, but don’t try to come off as some sort of Mark Twain-esqe social critic. On the other hand, there’s nothing worse than bandwagon jumpers who embrace anything and everything as soon as it seems popular. Lord knows I’ve got no use for them. Worst of all of course are those troglodytes on social media. They think they were put here on Earth to tell us what to think. Some guy gets a blog or something, and tells everybody what they should think is either good or bad. I would avoid them like the plague.