There are about a billion example of things that middle-aged people could mention to today's kids that were at one time considered important in the world, but today barely register a blip in society.
Like boxing...and Miss America.
The sport of boxing and our nation's most well-known pageant crossed my mind the other day when I saw a TV commercial trying to convince me to fork over around 75 bucks to watch boxer Floyd Mayweather's latest bout on pay-per-view. I know who Mayweather is and I know he's supposedly one of the greatest boxers to ever enter a ring, but if he showed up outside my front door he'd have to introduce himself.
Many years ago, not being able to pick a boxing champion out of a lineup would have almost been considered sacrilege. This was back in the day when satellite dishes the size of small cars were necessary to watch a big-ticket fight, or you'd have to go to a centralized location to watch it via closed-cuircut TV.
Everyone knew the heavyweight champion was Muhammad Ali and that he was the "greatest of all time." Ali for a time was probably the most famous person on the planet. That status came with being the "heavyweight champion of the world." But Ali was no standard-bearer, he followed a generation in which boxing was king.
Many years later, you may have known heavyweight champ Mike Tyson as much for his antics outside of the ring as his period of domination inside the ropes, but at least you knew who he was and knew what sport he reigned over. When he bit off a chunk of Evander Holyfield's ear during one infamous bout, you probably at least cared enough to chime in with your thoughts during the ensuing discussion around the water cooler at the office.
Today, when it comes to boxing, there's Mayweather – or is it Meriweather? – and that's about it.
And our current Miss America? If you can name her, you score some nerd cred.
Yes, kids, lots of people used to watch the Miss America pageant on television. Most everyone knew who Miss America was. For a year or so, she was an icon.
Did you know the 2014 Miss America pageant was on TV Sunday evening, Sept. 15? Did you know that Miss Minnesota, Rebecca Yeh, made it to the final five before being named fourth runner-up?
The last Miss Minnesota to be crowned Miss America was Gretchen Carlson in 1989. She knocked 'em dead as a violinist during the talent competition and today, you can find her on – Gross! – Fox News Channel's "Fox & Friends," which she co-hosts.
Before Carlson, there was the Vanessa Williams scandal that made worldwide headlines. She was crowned Miss America and then had to give up her crown when nude photos of her and another woman were published in Penthouse magazine, part of a photo shoot Williams had done long before the pageant.
Page 2 of 2 - In recent years, the Miss America pageant had become a yawner. It was moved from its traditional Atlantic City, N.J. home to Las Vegas. TV ratings tanked, and it moved from network TV to cable. Yes, it moved this year back to Atlantic City and ABC even broadcast it, but it created about as much buzz as a tree falling in the woods with no one there to witness it.
Somehow, my family stumbled upon this year's pageant broadcast about one-third of the way through. When Minnesota's Yeh continued to advance, we kept watching. She was cute, and she sure could tickle the fiddle strings.
And then she blew it, during the "personal statement" portion of the pageant. Her topic picked out of a hat focused on today's political sex scandals. Yeh was asked if the wives of all these sleazy politicians were taking the "stand by your man" concept too far.
No, Yeh said, the wives are not. They need to support their husband because that's who they love and that's who they committed to spend their life with, Yeh answered. Then, apparently realizing at the last second that maybe she sounded too much like June Cleaver, she threw in a last second female-power rally cry about these cheating husbands needing to "get it together."
That sealed it. Given an opportunity to empower wronged wives everywhere, Miss Minnesota parlayed it into a fourth runner-up finish. That's four notches below Floyd Mayweather's current perch atop the boxing world. Years ago, who would have dreamed both would be looking up on the societal relevance scale at a long-bearded family who made a fortune in the duck-call business?