November 5, 2007

Impossible Is Something

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Anyone who went through grade school in the United States left with a lasting sense of “anything is possible.” Equality of opportunity, nonexistence of impossibility, absence of any barriers whatsoever—these are the talking points of grade school teachers intent on instilling a sense of radical optimism in impressionable young students. Presently, after years of reality extracting my imbedded optimism, these bumper sticker principles seem more appetizing to a nine-year-old version of myself—a version who believed not only in an elfin pseudo-incubus that exchanged negligible amounts of money for deciduous teeth, but also believed that a bunny rabbit had the wherewithal to cleverly hide eggs and bring me boxes of duck-shape marshmallows in the name of Jesus’ resurrection. I thought that if you swallowed watermelon seeds then a watermelon would start to grow in your stomach because of an episode of the Rugrats for god’s sake, I was in no position to decide whether or not “impossible is nothing” was a sensible slogan for my entire life.

Fast forward to 2007 and my outlook is a bit different. I’m fairly certain that “impossible is nothing” is a completely ridiculous phrase. As a friend recently pointed out, “Impossible is me turning into a zebra.” Now, ten years removed from my watermelon-seed-threatened childhood, I’m confident that “impossible is nothing” shouldn’t be tattooed on my consciousness as my personal mantra (unless I happen to be either a hippie strung out on LSD, laying in a meadow, trying to imagine a blind person dreaming, or a corporate whore for Adidas, in which case I should get my life in order).

Adidas, the aforementioned pimps of the “impossible is nothing” whores, see things a bit differently however. In their current ad campaign, the retail giant revitalizes the comfy philosophy. They exploit the optimism of our infancy in order to get us to buy their products.

The problem with this campaign, beside the fact that slogan, “impossible is nothing” is a complete lie (turn your computer into a coconut right now, see how possible that is), is the examples Adidas gives to exemplify the slogan. I might be able to subscribe to the slogan if there was a tearful commercial featuring say, a peg-legged midget who led the NBA in rebounding, but a commercial about a freakishly athletic person who goes on to become a great athlete? Where is the impossibility in that?

The ad featuring Reggie Bush is by far the most ridiculous. We’re supposed to be blown away that a Heisman Trophy winner, who is widely regarded as one of the best college football players ever, scored a touchdown when he got to the NFL? Wait, Reggie Bush, the 2nd overall pick and one of the quickest players ever, scored a touchdown? Impossible! Despite not finding the end zone for the first six games of the season the running back for the New Orleans Saints scored a touchdown? This is impossible! Give me a break. I know Adidas couldn’t find an example of someone who did something truly impossible, as it is inherently impossible to find someone who did something impossible, but they really should have tried harder. Putting Reggie Bush in a commercial where he outlines the impossibility of his first career touchdown is like putting J.K. Rowling in a commercial where she outlines the impossibility of getting the final Harry Potter book published. There could be touching orchestral music and fun drawings and a voiceover where Rowling says, “After the first six books, people doubted me. But somehow I was able to find a publisher willing to take the risk of publishing what would undoubtedly become the highest grossing book ever.”

The other commercials follow a similar pattern—detailing not an impossible situation but an inevitable situation. In one commercial David Beckham tells us how he recovered from people not liking him after he received a red card in the 1998 World Cup. Hm? Maybe because he’s a great soccer player, good-looking, and joined up with a Spice Girl to become the most posh couple in Europe. Impossible! I never thought a good-looking mega celebrity who turns out to be a great soccer player could regain his fan base after what was a single mistake in a single soccer game.

Similarly, the commercial featuring Gilbert Arenas tells us that Gilbert became one of the best players in the NBA despite riding the bench for about half of his rookie season. Really? A player sparingly used as a rookie turned out to be an all star? Shocking. I never thought a young player in the NBA could turn into a great young player in the NBA.

I’m guessing Adidas wouldn’t sell any more mesh shorts by airing a commercial where Randy Moss sits in front of a black screen and says, “I’m 6’4”, I run a 4.2, I can jump freakishly high and I have freakishly good hands. That’s why I’m in the NFL. If you don’t have anything resembling these abilities, it’s impossible for you to make it to the NFL. Go into sales or something,” but it would be closer to the truth. Adidas trotting out athletes to impersonate examples of a delusional, fourth-grade outlook on life completely invalidates the phrase “impossible is nothing.” These athletes’ stories exemplify inevitability, not impossibility. Dare I say, impossible is something? Or shall I turn myself into the figurative zebra?