What did people of the past think sports would look like in the 21st century? They imagined humans powerlifting an entire tonne, hurdles that pop up taller as you move along the track, and swimming relay races with “dolphin style” moves against wave machines. At least that was the idea in this 1996 TV ad for the Gatorade knock-off All Sport.
The advert, which was posted to YouTube by an account called Consumer Time Capsule, is obviously meant to be tongue-in-cheek. But so was the 1960s TV show “The Jetsons,” which left an indelible mark on the way that generations of kids looked at the future.
One fun thing to notice in the ad is that the futuristic announcer calls it “two-thousand twenty.” People are finally starting to say “twenty-nineteen” instead of “two-thousand and nineteen” for the year, and pretty soon you’ll hear people refer to the first decade of the 21st century in the same way. We all said “two-thousand two,” in 2002, but in a few years people will be calling it “twenty-oh-two,” in a similar way that people did during the first decade of the 20th century. You don’t say, “nineteen hundred and eight” for 1908 do you? No, you it as “nineteen-oh-eight.”
But the funniest thing about this advert to me is that I very distinctly remember seeing it on TV! And as a 13-year-old at the time, I’m sure it didn’t seem so absurd. We were talking about the year 2020, after all. That was light years into the future! Of course we’d have new sports that allowed people to show off new super-strength. Right?
It’s almost 2020, and I don’t know that I’m ready. The year 2020 was supposed to be magical and filled with space travel, flying cars, and jetpacks. Or, at the very least, some fun new sports like dolphin-swimming. What did we get instead? Social media companies that are collecting our data, ruining democratic institutions, and literally being complicit in genocide. Life expectancy is going in the wrong direction, and America has a president whom, most Americans say, is moving the country in the wrong direction.