Uncle Bill's Playboys and Why I'm Psyched for the 'New' Super Bowl Shuffle

Erik Linask : Sports Technology
Erik Linask

Uncle Bill's Playboys and Why I'm Psyched for the 'New' Super Bowl Shuffle

superbowl shuffle.pngRemember 1985?
 That summer, Butch Wynegar caught 102 games for the New York Yankees, backed up by Ron Hassey and Juan Espino.
The 1985 Topps baseball card set featured a baby fat-faced Mark McGwire on a special "USA Team" Olympics sub-set that also included Shane Mack and Oddibe McDowell.
In 1985, my sister Rachel and I used to watch "Family Ties" and we had no idea that the mom would come out of the closet a quarter-century later (the actress who played her, that is, though I never sensed a real closeness between Elyse Keaton and her wimpy husband Michael).
Back in 1985, Aunt Karen and Uncle Bill were still married and my brother and I looked forward to our family outings to their country home in Bangor, Maine, because it meant we would visit our cool cousins, Kit (who would become a big "Knight Rider" fan - shocker) and Morgan (now a snowboarding instructor).
It also meant that we'd have access to uncle Bill's considerable "Playboy" magazine collection.
There were other fun things to do in the Bangor. In the early years at the house, there was a beautiful golden retriever named K.B. (Karen/Bill). Our grandparents (Aunt Karen is mom's sister) lived up there toward the very ends of their lives - and Pop-Pop, for a short while, had a handsome German shepherd dog called "Champ" who scared the life out of me. During visits to town, we always walked past Stephen King's Bangor home with its spider web fence. We also went roller skating at a place where each session ended with a roller-skating limbo contest that Morgan sometimes won. All of us would sneak into a local Howard Johnson's motel and swim in the little chlorinated pool in the courtyard, and we'd sit down afterwards for a family lunch at The Ground Round.
But as kids, at least for Terry and me, the fun really started and ended with the Playboys - especially those thick, anniversary issues that featured Marilyn Monroe and other starlets.
One time, after a week up there, as we prepared to go home, my brother tried to sneak a couple of Playboys back to New Canaan, Conn., but they fell out the back of his shirt as we were hugging everyone goodbye ...
* * *
For sports fans, 1985 was very much about one of the all-time great football teams. The Chicago Bears had a team that not only could play football - with Walter Payton on one side of the ball and Mike Singletary on the other - but the players on that team were celebrities. These guys were good (this was before we found out about Mike Ditka's erectile dysfunction). Quarterback Jim McMahon was a wacky self-promoter, with his funky headbands and long hair. Steve Grogan flea-flicker notwithstanding, the '85 Bears rolled to the Super Bowl championship and did it in style.
Part of that style came to life in a new "art" form - the music video. The so-called "Super Bowl Shuffle" was an embarrassment to the crafts of dancing and singing. The lyrics were uninspired, but the guys in the video clearly had a great time, and everyone I knew could sing bits of the catchy tune, in what passed for popular rap music.
Now, we're hearing from part of the Sprint Prepaid Group that a bunch of the guys from that video have made a "Super Bowl Shuffle" parody that's set to air for 30 seconds during the first quarter of the Feb. 7 Super Bowl XLIV (that's 44, for those of you who didn't grow up in ancient Rome).
Officials at BoostMobile say "The Boost Mobile Shuffle" will include original shufflers McMahon, Singletary, Richard Dent, Willie Gault, Otis Wilson, Steve Fuller and Maury Buford.
"The centerpiece of the ad is an off-beat re-creation of the 1985 music video using most of the players, the editing techniques and the same look as the iconic original," company officials say. "Legendary coach Mike Ditka also makes a special cameo appearance in the spot."
According to Bob Stohrer, vice president of marketing at the Sprint Prepaid Group, fans of the original video "will be particularly delighted to see Boost Mobile bringing some of their favorite moments back to life."
Truth be told, I'm kind of looking forward to it. By that time, I imagine, the New York Jets will be at least one touchdown, if not 10 points, up on the Minnesota Vikings, having picked off at least two Brett Favre prayers.
Immediately after the commercial airs, officials say, Boost and Virgin Mobile customers will be able to exclusively download The Boost Mobile Shuffle ringtone directly from their wireless phones for $1.
The creative group behind the effort is 180LA. That company's executive creative director, William Gelner, promises that he's "bringing back all the thrusting, the bad rapping, the cowbell playing and the minute-long sax solo. But this time it's extra special since it's 25 years later."
Yes, it certainly is 25 years later.
Aunt Karen and Uncle Bill are divorced. K.B. is long buried, along with Champ and both my maternal grandparents. Meredith Baxter (nee Elyse Keaton) is out of the closet. Butch Wynegar is lost in a fog of Don Slaught, Bob Geren, Joel Skinner, Joe Girardi and Jorge Posada. Mark McGwire - well, let's just say the baby fat has burned off.
Some things stay the same though.
About seven years ago, my brother asked me to be his best man. I happily accepted.
I'm not a speech writer. I've always had more success being inspired by the moment and speaking my mind in front of crowds. But on Saturday, Oct. 18, 2003 - just two days after Brett Boone's home run off of Tim Wakefield, as the Yankees and Florida Marlins prepared to square off in the World Series - I probably could have used a cheat sheet.
My brother has a DVD somewhere of his wedding ceremony and reception, including what I am told was the worst best man speech in the history of matrimony (Steve Buscemi's performance in "The Wedding Singer" notwithstanding).
Terry threatens to bring out that DVD sometimes and show it to me, to show me how bad I was - but I can't bear it. I can't even stand to watch best man scenes in movies.
What happened was this: After the wedding, I didn't know I was supposed to stay at the church for pictures with the wedding party. I hopped in my car and drove one town over, from the church to a reception hall that had an open bar. I was very early, I came to find out, and very drunk by the time a short man with a microphone introduced me as the best man to a room full of hostile relatives and strangers.
The only part I do remember about my best man speech is that I thanked my new sister-in-law, Andrea, for marrying my brother, because he was headed down a lonely path of bachelorhood.
Something like: "Terry was just up there in his room all the time, living in Boston. Working a job he hated. Eating Kentucky Fried Chicken each night. Drinking Gatorade. Watching old movies. Stack of Playboys in the closet."
I also recall the audible cringe from everyone listening to me ... afterwards, my cousin Ashley assured me that it was the worst speech she had ever heard. Nobody congratulated me. They couldn't get the Yankees-Marlins game on the little TV inside the bar so I ended up listening to it on the radio of some relation from Andrea's side.
Not a great night for me, but it was the beginning of something beautiful for Terry and Andrea. Their two kids are healthy and happy, and my brother is pretty much the best dad I know.
Who knows but that those Playboys - and Uncle Bill's collection, from all those years ago - didn't help create that family in some strange way?

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1 Comment

Man, what a hilarious tale. To think that it's those kind of unexpected family twists and turns that can pull things together. Such a disparate source of influences on the eventual outcome!