“a thing that happens, especially one of importance”
That is how the dictionary defines “event.” I suppose, as someone who minored in History (or at least thinks he did), I could assign that term to something very memorable, important, and that ultimate definition: one that keeps on giving.
In broad terms of course, World War I was an Event (as were the many key moments which became the war... the battle of the Somme – hardly a moment – the fight in Belleau Wood, the signing of the peace treaty in the rail road car.) The assassination of Lincoln was surely an event. And there are those amazing improvised ones, where total surprise and unlikely outcomes create a sense of drama and lingering excitation which are palpable. Bobby Thompson's Home Run in the 1951 Pennant race (if you are younger than 55 this will probably sound like Teddy Roosevelt racing up San Juan Hill, but trust me on this one, it's tear wrenching everytime you hear it. That was an event. You could mark the time, the second, the moment that ball cracked on the bat, and in the hearts and minds of millions of New Yorkers, and even people from Utah, as it turned out, their lives could be said to drive a tent stake into the ground of Time, something to forever mark it in their own memories.
We have no doubt lived in times which had Events, both positive and terribly negative in nature. They are the kind of things that can often be described in conversation as “where were You when....?” Kennedy was shot. The Marine Barracks in Beirut were bombed. Martin Luther King was shot. You first heard about the Tet Offensive. Nixon fired the Attorney General in the Saturday Night Massacre. The Chilean Generals killed Allende in a coup d'etat. 9/11: the Second plane, the one that confirmed it wasn't an accident. The first Cruise missiles launched (and which missed) to try and nail Saddam at the beginning of the war (you know which war, I'm sure.) Philippe Petit walking between the two World Trade Towers 30 years ago, on a tight rope. The naming of a Polish Pope (even in Brasil that was big news in '78.) These are Events. These are the linchpins of the history we live in. In the 1950s, CBS had a wonderful series on Sunday called You Are There, one of the first of the programs which took news footage and tried to make some 'current history' sense of it. Walter Cronkite hosted it, and led with “June 6th, 1944: What kind of a day was it? A Day like all days, filled with those events which alter and illuminate our time.. and YOU ARE THERE...”
So you'll pardon me if in this age of overly consuming consumers, and overly marketing marketeers, that I stand up for just a minute and say, “Give Us the Hell BACK our Events.”
Just in the last few days – while you might have thought the Events of import were the Primary in Pennsylvania, the Surge/nonSurge in Iraq, the Love Life of the newly wedded French President, the nearly dangerous landing of the Soyuz Spacecraft after undocking from the Space Station, the Capitols being eliminated from the NHL playoffs. Whew, there are actual Events, arent there. But here are a couple that you have probably been bombarded with the ones that are so starting to tick me off:
The Mercedes Benz Pre-Owned Event. Unlike the bombing of the Nairobi Embassy, this one lets you purchase a used Mercedes automobile and get up to 36 months warranty. Or the ongoing Fox Television Event, wherein some incredibly lousy movie (i.e of the “straight to DVD” quality) is billed as “a major television event.” I thought major television events were things like the Shuttle launch, the swearing in of a President, or maybe even a Congressional hearing with Ollie North. What an idiot I must be not to comprehend that real events are the kinds of things which lead to the sale of something important, like 'air time' or used cars.
Six years ago when Jordan's high school chorus went to Orlando for what was billed as a Choral Festival, we had one of those Event moments. (First of all, since our kids were seen only by one set of judges and at a time when no other visiting schools were around, it wasn't much of a festival. I'm just old hat enough to imagine that “festival” usually has something festive associated with it.) Our second night, we were all taken by bus to a horrible few hundred acres adjacent to the Disney parks (full disclosure, we own a few shares of Disney stock, but they don't actually care what we think about these things) called “Downtown Disney.” Filled with stores such as ESPN's sports bar, Emeril's Take Out, a few crummy t-shirt shops, the official program called for:
“6pm-9pm: Visit Downtown Disney and partake of Marketing Opportunities.”
I kid you not. Someone is selling the idea of 'Marketing Opportunities' to high school kids. Not that they need them. But it was for me one of those watershed moments, where I realized that Selling is all that matters anymore. Doesn't really matter to whom, or how; just Sell, please. It kind of creates its own nauseating sort of 'Event.' Not the kind I'd like to capture and replay on my iPod on the train to New York. I wish they'd just leave “Events” alone, and let the “Events” happen of their own accord. They can do all they want with Marketing Opportunities – somehow it fits both TV and used cars just right. We're just sayin'.... David