Son, I’ve attempted to impart many lessons to you over the years, everything from the benefits of flossing to writing thank-you notes.
But I want to tell you something more important than any of that, here and now, before we enter the stadium: Don’t make any weird faces at this sporting event we’re about to attend, or you’ll probably become an internet meme.
Do you understand? Do you get what I’m saying? Nod if you’re on the same page as me. I need to see you nod, son.
OK. Good. That’s some vigorous nodding. Don’t nod like that in the stadium, though. It’s a bit too eager. People might notice. And then suddenly you’re Overly Nodding Guy.
Because once we’re inside that stadium, full of television cameras and photographers and fifteen-thousand smartphones, all bets are off. You may think that you’re simply watching the game and reacting to it, appropriately, but everybody will be hyperaware of each other. We are all on display. We are all targets. And if you shriek or cheer too much or frown or cackle or bare your teeth or leave your mouth open or stick your tongue out or look surprised or scared or angry or joyous… or if you cry or dance or yawn or squint or shudder or flap your arms or trip or fall over, your face could be everywhere, instantaneously, even before we exit the venue, whether you like it or not.
I won’t be able to stop it.
They will win before you know you’ve lost.
Who’s “they”? Everybody. How do they win? Through sheer volume. And hashtags. And animated GIFs.
The people on the internet will say it’s all in good fun, when they Photoshop a beak on your mouth, or put your head on a chihuahua, or they turn your weeping eyes into planets, or they create thousands of cloned images of your frightened face, plummeting from a raincloud.
See, taking you out of context and making you into a fixed image, oftentimes with a pithy slogan underneath, will become a shared experience for millions of willing participants sitting at home tonight and tomorrow and beyond. It happens so quickly! Just ask Crying Piccolo Girl. And Weeping Bernie Supporter. And Hipster Barista. And Overly Attached Girlfriend. And Sheltering Suburban Mom. And Lazy College Senior. And Intense Marching Band Student. And let’s not forget about Lightsaber Teen. And Alex from Target. And Evil Toddler. And Sad Keanu. And Scumbag Steve. And Angry Michael Phelps. These are all real things. Real memes. Look them up, son.
And while you’re at it, don’t forget what happened to Michael Jordan, who shed a few tears while giving an emotional speech, which was enough fuel for years worth of entertainment.
Crying Michael Jordan has become more famous than regular Michael Jordan.
These images last forever. I’m not kidding. And I don’t want you going off to college in a decade, only to be greeted by a chorus of, “Hey, look! It’s Shrieking Stadium Kid!” Or, “Isn’t that Fist-Pumping Cheeto-Lips?”… or whatever.
And that’s why you, my boy, need to remain neutral at all times. Say it with me: “I will remain neutral at all times.” Say it again: “I will remain neutral at all times.” Let that phrase continue to repeat on a loop in your head, let it sync up with the beating of your heart, inhale and exhale that phrase, son. Otherwise, there’ll be a digital mob after you, distorting your image, writing slogans on — or about — you, even if they never know your name. Your name doesn’t matter. You become a character. And that’s just the beginning.
Now, as soon as we head into that stadium over there, it’s time to appear nondescript, straight-faced, deadpan and hard-to-read. Don’t stick out. Never be extraordinary in any way. I don’t want to see a twitch out of you. There’s no more room for mistakes. I want you to be as middle-of-the-road as it gets. A five-out-of-ten. Blend in. Try not to move very often.
Hmm. Then again… don’t be too robotic, or people will create a GIF and call it Robot Boy and then it’ll ruin your life. You also don’t want to be Jaded Arena Kid or Bored Brian or Smug Little Jerk. Got it?
I don’t think it’s fair for your generation to always have to be on guard like this, son. You should be able to mess up and not have your mistakes turn into a permanent record. But it’s too late for that now. Everything is a permanent record! We’ve done this to ourselves. Once we leave the house, our identities belong to those who are watching, the unseen masses, huddled over their laptops, waiting to share and share and share us into unwanted fame and unnecessary ruin.
So all I can say is, please, please don’t make any weird faces tonight, son. And, for your sake, I promise I won’t, either. The last thing you need is to appear in a painfully embarrassing father-son meme.
Do you understand all of this? Nod if you do. Good. Stop nodding. Now, let’s go try to have a moderate amount of fun at this nightmare of an event in this insane world we’ve created.