It’s Drew Time! – Bonjour Breakers

Drew’s sports career was wrecked by the U.S. Olympic team in 1984, when they won almost everything and Drew ate everything on the Mickey D’s menu while break dancing with Mary Lou – who?

The Paris Summer Olympics kick off in a few months, and they are expected to attract as many viewers as Les Mis does on PBS during pledge drive week. Added bonus! The French terry cloth sweatshirt mementos on sale in Paris will be cheaper than the Les Mis sweatshirts you’ll receive for your charitable contribution to your local PBS station. (I know the husband of seven-time gold medal winner Simone Biles thinks he’s more famous than his wife, but he has remained tellingly silent on if he can sing like Alfie Boe who was descended from the heavens to sing “One Day More”.)

With the promise of the games, we are reminded of games past and the moments that transcended the banality of shared human experience and ended up on cereal boxes. Who can forget gymnast Kerri Strug overcoming an ankle injury on her final vault attempt to win team gold for the United States? Or Usain Bolt showing the world that Jamaica has more to offer than just a feel-good movie starring John Candy? Or Michael Phelps winning every swim event possible and then kicking back with a little blue smoke to take the edge off? And unlike former president Bill Clinton, Phelps did admit that he inhaled which somehow made him more relatable and more Olympian in taking part two of the Olympic motto—Citius, Altius, Fortius—to previously unrealized heights. (I took three years of Latin and still had to look up that Altius translates as “higher”. Sorry about that, Mr. Eames.)

The Paris games also mark the 40th anniversary of the greatest Olympics of all-time. Sure, Mary Lou Retton’s infectious smile sent our hearts aflutter that summer, but it was McDonald’s that gave those same hearts arrhythmia decades later when they introduced the most infamous failed promotion in the history of failed promotions. For every food item purchased at McDonald’s during the 1984 games, you would get a scratch off card that revealed an Olympic event, and if “The US Wins, You Win!” So if the US won a gold medal you would get a Big Mac, if the US won a silver medal you would get an order of fries, and if the US won a bronze medal you would get a Coke and a smile.

McDonald’s came up with the promotion before Russia and the Eastern bloc countries decided to boycott the games which meant that the U.S. should do exceptionally well, and they certainly did. I was only 14 at the time without the ability to drive legally, but with my brother and friends Craig and Robbie in tow, we all rode our bikes to McDonald’s nearly every day for lunch that summer. (We could never tell Robbie’s Mom where we were going because she didn’t like him riding near a highway even though her idea of a highway had a posted speed limit of 35.) We would purchase vanilla cones, the cheapest item on the menu, get our scratch off cards, and then eat like kings because without the Russians there were many events where the U.S. swept the podium. It was a magical summer with the U.S. winning 164 medals although I don’t know that any of us will ever forgive Hiroshi Yamamoto for getting bronze in men’s archery and denying us a tasty Coke to wash down our Big Mac and fries that day.

About the same time that McDonald’s was firing their entire sales and promotion department, breakdancing was making inroads into the mostly white suburbs of Reading, Pa, and therefore was on full display at Exeter Junior High School dances. Now, 40 years later, breakdancing or breaking (in the vernacular of the cognoscenti) gets its audition as an Olympic event in Paris. My hunch is that the Olympians will not be wearing Ocean Pacific corduroy shorts or Ocean Pacific hoodies.

Perhaps I should not be so quick to dismiss breaking as an Olympic sport, but I have long believed that anything Billy Fox attempted at a junior high dance should never be an Olympic event. Is asking Missy Forlini to dance to “Stairway to Heaven” going to debut in Los Angeles in 2028?

In an effort to see if my finger on the pulse of youth culture was misplaced (Hint: it is since I did not know breakdancing was now called breaking or b-boying or b-girling), I asked my 16-year-old daughter if she thought breakdancing should be an Olympic event. She responded: “Uh, no. I think Zach has even tried to do that.”

Zach is a great kid who lives in our neighborhood and misses the occasional baseball practice for rehearsals for the spring musical at Chancellor High School, but he would readily admit he is better suited for “Shrek: The Musical” than taking up housing in the Olympic Village. Of course, the ready argument there is that this is a false equivalency. Zach’s ability to attempt breakdancing does not equate to an ability to go to Paris and medal in something he has tried in his basement only after GFL Environmental failed to pick up the trash and recycling for a week, and Zach saw a flattened cardboard box blowing through the streets of Kingswood and thought it would allow him to break like Mr. Wiggles.

Those promoting breakdancing heading into the games are emphasizing that it is not simply about winning or losing, or athleticism, but also about inclusivity. Inclusivity is great, but I do recall that “inclusivus” was never part of the Olympics’ motto all thanks to three years of high school Latin.