I had a nephew ask me last week what it was like growing up in the 1980s with all those toy robots like GoBots and Robotech and Voltron as opposed to now where if you want a toy robot in the U.S. you can have whatever you like as long as it's one of ten million flavors of Bumblebee. Well right there on the fly I couldn't think of anything except it was "more powerful than you could possibly imagine", which really didn't make sense but sounded cool when Ben Kenobi said it. Then later on I remembered a GoBots power cycle ad Lionel Playworld ran on December 4th, 1985 and I came up with a story that perfectly encapsulates seeing the Toy Robots Wars of the 1980s happen all around me when I was growing up.
Imagine some 2nd graders running a big wheel race down a neighborhood street in 1985. There are a about five little kids and their big wheels in this race but two of them have the most friends assembled on the sidewalk to watch. The race starts at a time of day when most of the other kids are still in the playground playing with GI Joes and He-Mans but the word spreads and those kids come over, too. So the race starts and this one kid is riding his GoBots power cycle and he gets a head start but about halfway down the street he crashes when all his tires fall off and it doesn't matter anyways because the other little kids in the crowd stopped watching him shortly after he took off. Then there's a second kid in his Transformers cycle and he starts late but all the other little kids on the sidelines are cheering him on as he pedals furiously and accidentally runs over the little GoBots kid that fell off his bike. Well Transformer boy reaches the finish line first and all the little kids cheer but he keeps on going well after anyone cares, then BAM! A Nintendo semi runs him over. The other three kids never finish the race because they got off their cycles and just went back to playing with Matchbox cars or whatever they were doing before. And the crowd of little kids went back to playing with their He-Mans and GI Joes.
Then 25 years later the little boy on the Transformer cycle is all grown up and he's crippled and brain dead but he gets a man named Mike to fix his big wheel for him. Mike doesn't really know much about big wheels so it still looks all mangled like a Nintendo truck ran it over but he's put some fuzzy dice on it and those mudflaps with the sexy hooker silhouette on the back wheels and taped lots of firecrackers all over it. And unbelievably even though it's 25 years later and you'd think the other kids would have grown up by now and be into other things, they still show up in droves to watch Transformer boy pedal his beat up, broken old exploding big wheel down the street in a race against nobody. Then BAM! A Nintendo semi runs him over again. And although all the grown up kids know it's awful and they know they shouldn't look, they keep coming back to see how many more slutty whores and firecrackers Mike can fit on that beat up rotting old carcass of a big wheel. And when I asked Jesus why there was only one set of footprints in the sand during the hard times he said, Hey don't look at me, I wanted the kid on the GoBot bike to win.