What connects us

Last winter, I was putting together a lesson plan in my office when a familiar melody suddenly floated in from the living room, where Ron was watching football on TV.

For the next 60 seconds, Ron and I saw the same series of Victorian drawings flash through our thoughts, in the same order, and while the music was playing in the middle of a 2012 afternoon, for us — and probably for every other American between the ages of 35 and 65 — it was 8 p.m. on a Thursday sometime in 1982.


State Farm was using the Cheers theme song in what may be the most arresting television commercial I have ever seen.

Ron sent me the link to a GQ article about Cheers tonight, and while I was reading it, he got on YouTube and pulled up that commercial.

Here is the power of pop culture: It connects us. It creates commonalities that tie members of a generation together, and in some cases, those commonalities tie one generation to the next.

You and I may think we have nothing in common, but if you were old enough to watch television between 1982 and 1993, you see the same series of images and remember (probably fondly) the same characters I do when you hear that first distinctive chord from the Cheers theme song. And if you remember Cheers, you and I probably have some other things in common, too. When we see a St. Louis Cardinals logo, the first thing we think of is probably a young shortstop doing an exuberant backflip onto the field at Busch Stadium, and when we sing the seventh-inning stretch at a baseball game, we probably hear Harry Caray’s voice. For us, Christopher Reeve will always be Superman, Soleil Moon-Frye will always be a precocious 7-year-old, and we will always remember where we were when the Challenger blew up.

For whatever reason, you and I were chosen to walk through this period in history together. Our paths may diverge wildly, but no matter where we go or what we do, we will be forever connected by our Pavlovian responses to little things like the Cheers theme song or the sound of a Speak ‘n’ Spell being turned on. (You heard it as soon as I said it, didn’t you?)

I find that fascinating … and oddly comforting.