Piling On, or, In Defense Of “The Super Bowl Shuffle”

GateHouse — It was probably a good two, maybe three years after January of 1986 that I realized “The Super Bowl Shuffle” was not, nor had it even been, cool.

Being an apple-cheeked lad at the time, this was a brutal, innocence-throttling revelation, on the order of learning about Santa Claus, the Billy Goat Curse or that presidents will let Americans live on the roofs of their homes without food for days. I don’t remember exactly how I learned that the “Shuffle” was regarded as cockamamie weirdness in most parts of the country, but I imagine it involved my mentioning it offhandedly in a positive manner, and garnering a dismissive grunt from someone who was older and wiser and into much more hipster-approved music of the time, such as “Funky Cold Medina” or possibly something by Taylor Dayne.

Part of me died that day.

The rest of me died when I watched the “Shuffle” this past week, as part of one of the great things you can do with the Internet: Check out things you thought were cool when you were 10. In this case, I discovered that the “Shuffle” was, in fact, only cool when you were 10.

But in my defense, I should point out that when I was 10, it was really, really cool. Something like “The Super Bowl Shuffle” represents peak physical coolness at that blind, wide-open age, a grand unification of sports and music and low-budget, extremely fake saxophone playing.

When you are 10, you actually watch the video. You don’t realize that Steve Fuller is so horrified by the entire endeavor that he can’t bring himself to look at the camera. When you are 10, you don’t stare in wide-eyed horror at lines like, “Now I’m as smooth as a chocolate swirl,” delivered by Willie Gault with a finger-twirling motion, so as to really drive home the swirl point. When you are 10, you don’t notice that the Fridge looks a whole really lot like Biz Markie, and that he doesn’t really dance so much as shift his weight back and forth, creating what I can imagine was a very pleasing sloshing sound in his belly. When you are 10, you don’t realize that a video starring your favorite team has been made for $39.50, and that if that team hadn’t made it to the Super Bowl, said video would stand defiantly atop a list of Chicago’s most dazzling sports-related embarrassments, and I think we can all agree that’s a piping hot humdinger of a list.

No, you think, “This is the greatest thing I have ever seen,” because you are 10, and you have not seen very much. And so you memorize it, emulate it and play it over and over again, until the rest of your family actually starts to wish for the Bears to lose a little.

If nothing else, and now that I think about it there is nothing else, “The Super Bowl Shuffle” stands as a weird, freakish time capsule, because God knows nothing like it will ever be attempted henceforth in the history of world culture, unless there are some Japanese baseballers with music aspirations I’m not aware of.

But when you are 10, you are not thinking in these kinds of terms, you are not thinking that your Super Bowl experience would, bruisingly, be a one-time only deal, you are not thinking of salary caps and naming rights and reasons why, hypothetically, someone would need to keep 500 rounds of ammunition safely tucked away in his mansion. You’re thinking, “Hey, ‘The Super Bowl Shuffle’ is pretty great.” And it was, for a minute. Now let us never speak of it again.

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About Jeff Vrabel

My writing has appeared in GQ, Men’s Health, Success, the Washington Post, the official BruceSpringsteen.net, Indianapolis Monthly, Billboard, Modern Bride and more. View all posts by Jeff Vrabel

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