(this is not a post about football, so stick with me)
As some of you know, last Saturday the New England Patriots won their 16th and final game of the regular season, making them the first team to go undefeated in the regular season since the 1972 Miami Dolphins. The ’72 Dolphins were the first team to do it since the ’42 Bears.
This got me thinking: why is it that 2007 seems closer somehow to 1972 than 1942? That’s 35 vs. 30 years, and yet the 40s and 70s seem much more different on some level than the 70s and the 00s. Now, of course some of that is perceptual. As a friend pointed out last night, if you’d turned on the TV in 1972 you would have seen lots of stars from the 40s, and certainly older adults in the 1970s might still feel quite connected to the music or cinema of the 1940s. Perhaps it’s that some transitions in history — like the baby boom — seem to be a bigger deal culturally than others. Perhaps it’s an observation that however unfashionable ideas about postmodernism have become, there is something about the current age (David Harvey placed it in 1973, which is odd to think in such exact terms) that is less forward looking than other recent eras. And of course it depends upon what you’re talking about. Popular culture is one thing; yet a professor’s job at McGill or another “R1” university was probably more similar in 1972 to 1942 (or at least 1945) than it is to today. . . .
My hunch is that it’s partially (largely?) a byproduct of being alive during the more recent span of time. It’s easier to see the continuities between 1972 and 2007 if you lived through them than it is for a timespan when you were (mostly) not even a glimmer in your parents’ eyes. Would someone born in 1987 feel as strongly about the “closeness” of 1972 to the current moment?
PS — As long as we’re talking about time, your server’s clock seems to be an hour ahead of you. Which could also account for any aberrations in your personal perceptions of the passage of time.
Interesting that you mentioned TV in 1972. A couple of years earlier, you would have seen those 40s stars, but around 1970 or so, when the networks discovered demographics (I think this is about the right time), formerly popular shows were dumped in favor of programming for younger audiences. So in 1970-1, you could watch Ed Sullivan on Sunday nights and there would be something for everyone in the family, including mom and dad. By 1972-3, Sullivan was gone, along with many of the people who had come to TV from radio. By 1972, I’d guess the people of the 40s were starting to feel separated from their times, if the 60s hadn’t already done that to them.
Veeeerrrrryyyyy interesting about the TV Steven. I teach history of ratings in my intro course (to get them beyond the whole “it’s just like democracy” thing) but I hadn’t thought to apply it here.
And Gil, my clock is always untimely. I’ll have to test my students out on the “closeness” thing next fall.
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