College football season has begun, and TV viewers may have noticed that blue ribbons are on display. Like any loop of ribbon in America today, there’s a cause attached.
Apparently, the big business of college football is uniting against the molestation of little boys by defensive coordinators. A noble cause to be sure, though I’m sure that as far as certain former little boys are concerned, it’s a case of far too little, way too late. I’m pretty sure I was not molested as a child, but I’m no slouch at repressing memories. If I was molested, I’m not convinced that seeing a bunch of blue ribbons would make me feel a whole lot better about it.
In my recollection of popular culture, the start of the whole ribbons-as-metaphors-for-giving-a-crap fad started with Tony Orlando and Dawn’s sappy hit “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Old Oak Tree”. It was about a guy who was away for three long years and wanted to know if his long-lost gal still wanted him back. I can’t recall if he was away in prison, the military or backpacking across Europe. It was a schmaltzy AM radio classic, as sickly-sweet as anything Bobby Goldsboro or Terry Jacks could have mustered.
Years later, during Operation Desert Storm or one of those other wars with the catchy names, people began tying yellow ribbons around oaks, hemlocks, elms, street lamps and fire hydrants to welcome home soldiers. It was a sweet, nostalgic gesture. It caught on and people soon became fixated with out-ribboning one another, tying bigger yellow ribbons around larger and larger things to prove that they were even prouder and more loving than those people down the street.
They quickly discovered that yellow ribbons faded out in the elements and their glorious tributes to returning vets ended up looking kind of sad before too many weeks went past. Marketing geniuses figured out that a picture of a single loop of ribbon held the color longer and saved people the pesky task of tying bows. Further refinements involved putting the picture of the ribbon loop on a magnet thus allowing people to display the ribbons on their cars. Even idiots know that we care much more about our cars than we do our old oak trees.
Somewhere along the way, people began using alternate colors of ribbons for other causes.
One thing is for sure; whether you’re far away in the military, a victim of abuse or afflicted with some disease, there’s a pretty good chance that there’s a special ribbon just for you. There are periwinkle ribbons for eating disorders, pink ones for breast cancer, raw sienna ones for yeast infection awareness and one with special meaning to me; paisley ribbons in support of victims of Mongolian Brain Fever.*
It’s not surprising that colo-rectal cancer has an alternate ribbon color of blue instead of the original brown. Though the choice of brown for cancer of that region has a certain logic to it, not all logical connections are equally positive. Rectal cancer? Brown? Great idea, we’ll take ten thousand magnets and five thousand lapel pins. Can you make the lettering a nice corn yellow?
Correct labelling of the colors is critical. There’s a huge difference between the meanings of light blue and plain old blue. Blue ribbons have the biggest number of causes, including child abuse, anti-second hand smoke and “Save The Music”. Seriously?! Save The Music? Do you guys really need a ribbon for that? I would have kept those crate of LP’s in the basement without some silly ribbon.
Light blue, on the other hand, represents prostate cancer, among other causes. It’s possible that a certain ex-football coach could sport a light blue ribbon pin on his orange jumpsuit. He might find comfort about his fears of the enlarged prostate which men of his age know to be a risk factor for prostate cancer. Imagine the potential for misinterpretation if a casual observer in a prison interview failed to distinguish that it was a light blue ribbon and not regular blue. Better yet, imagine said ex-coach getting the prostate exam he truly deserves from Dr. Bubba.
In my fifteen minutes of research, I was disappointed to find that there is no ribbon color designated for bulging and herniated discs. I somehow feel under-represented. To add insult to injury, though there was a ribbon for alopecia, there was not one for male pattern baldness. Where’s the justice? I guess I should just be happy that the proponents of my various causes didn’t choose brown.