The Nike Chain-Saw Massacre

Article excerpt

It was with great regret that I noted the death of the phrase "reality check" some weeks ago. It happened when I used it and everyone at the table stared at me and someone finally piped up with "God, I haven't heard that since the '80s." The shame. The recrimination. I'd been dealing with reality checks for an entire spare decade and nobody had set me straight. On the other hand, when I asked what the phrase had been replaced with, nobody could tell me, which is a sure sign that reality still needs checking and plenty of it.

Later that evening I was looking at coverage of the Sydney Olympics, which was delayed by so many hours that it might have been from the next Olympics. Lacking any sense of suspense, the show was dominated by its commercials, which were full of surprises. First there was what looked like a full-bore slasher movie--and this just days before Congress was to begin its finger-wagging over how movies are marketed to teenagers. A gorgeous teenage girl (actually runner Suzy Hamilton) is running from a madman in a hockey mask wielding a chain saw. Over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house they go, eventually stopping only when the psycho runs out of breath and has to sit down. The girl keeps going, and that's when we discover that what saved her life is that she's dressed in Nike.

Pretty good. A couple of desultory high jumps later, that John Hancock insurance commercial popped on--the one featuring a couple of women waiting anxiously at an airport gate for what turns out to be an Asian baby who's delivered into their loving arms. I suppose they could be a pair of Caucasian aunts, but my guess is, even your Caucasian aunt would figure that they are lesbians and their family is extending right before our eyes. Bravo, John Hancock! And so to bed.

The next morning the paper was full of ... those commercials. Go know. First of all, everybody was up in arms about Nike Girl and her narrow escape from the Colombian necklace. The imagery of the mad slasher sullying the Olympics! How could something so perverse be allowed to sell sneakers? …