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The More We Change…
Wednesday, December 17, 2008 • Posted December 17, 2008


The More We Change…

Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury

Column #294 for Release Saturday, December 13, 2008, or Later

When my mother held strong beliefs, she did so with the tenacity of a bulldog determined to remain in custody of a bone until the final growl.

Her approach was better suited to the 20th century, when her reversals of opinion—however few—were accompanied by “wall-eyed fits”—the kind Wall-Eyes throw when snared on the losing end of a rod and reel.

Today, such bedrock allegiances are rare. In but a few decades, we have moved from “Get used to it” and/or “Get over it” to “Change is inevitable” and/or “Get a grip.”…

  • * * * *

Anyway, Mom had a sure-fire treatment for what she labeled “bad colds”—as opposed, I guess, to “good colds.” It called for a gooey slathering of Vicks VapoRub on a baby diaper.

A rattle in my chest or any sign of congestion meant that the poultice would be slapped on my chest, easily visible under my shirt. Mom ordered me to “leave it in place” for the entire school day, sometimes for week-long stretches.

Fellow students, however, didn’t get the memo. The smell of the treatment cleared sinuses of all three dozen students on the school bus. Catcalls erupted, and the driver muttered about finding another line of work. At school, fun-pokers joked about the “smelly Vicks rag,” and at recess, creative tormentors took over. It was yanked from my shirt, wadded up and used as a football. The “bad colds” would have been preferable to Mom’s treatment….

  • * * * *

I mention this only to call attention to present-day whims, hunches or whatever causes us to change allegiances on a dime, and before inflation, on a nickel. Sometimes they switch with the changing of wind direction.

In these days of flipping and flopping, we move quickly from “putting our money where our mouth is” to “putting our mouth where the money is.”

And that’s exactly what “Dr. J.” (former NBA star Julius Erving) is doing with his TV commercials for Dr Pepper. As his slow-motion three-pointer ice cube hits a drinking glass from long range, he admonishes us to “drink it slowly.” We are to trust him, reminded that he “is a doctor.”…

  • * * * *

His linkage with soft drinks rang a bell whose clang was first heard a couple of decades ago when he retired from the game. The corporate world’s biggest players salivated at the prospect of linkage with the super star.

Coca-Cola made the strongest pitch for one of only three players ever to eclipse the scoring milestone of 30,000 points. Erving became a majority owner of Coca-Cola in Philadelphia, the sixth-largest franchise in the USA.

He followed the money then, and he’s doing so now, with Dr Pepper. In our culture, changes in taste, of minds and of allegiances are okay….

  • * * * *

His nickname reminds that doctoral degrees occasionally cause recipients to lose their way. After all, big heads can become exceedingly wobbly. Not Erving, though. His “title” was conferred by adoring fans early on. He got it the old-fashioned way—he earned it.

Now, of course, anyone with a desire to be called “Dr.” can order bogus degrees on the Internet. With just a few strokes on the keyboard and commitment of a few bucks, doctoral diplomas are “in the mail.”

I suspect that when Erving is not making TV commercials, he could care less about the designation. “Dr. J” would just as soon be “Mr. J,” or even just “J.” As the comedian used to say on television in his role as “Raymond J. Johnson, Jr.: “Ya can call me Ray, or ya can call me J. But ya doesn’t hafta call me Johnson.”…

  • * * * *

New-found wealth is an almost-certain status changer.

Back in the day, I knew a hard-scrabble couple who worked hard to hack out a living on their acreage of rocky soil.

Things changed the day oil was discovered. Previously known as “Billy Goat Hill,” it became “Angora Knoll.” As I recall, the couple’s drink tastes changed, too….

  • * * * *

During growing up years, fountain drinks replete with crushed ice were unheard of.

When they were introduced at our drug store soda fountain, they were the talk of the town.

A friend, upon hearing of the new treat, raced down to the drugstore, only to find every stool taken. “I’d love to have me one of them ice cold drinks whenever you have a glass of ice that ain’t busy,” he said….

  • * * * *

With the approaching season, I’m looking forward to a cup of hot Dr Pepper, peppered with a handful of Red Hots.

I will relish these rare seasonal moments when I ingest anything without “diet, low cal or fat free” on the label.

I recommend the same treat to you, with the reminder to “drink it slowly.” Remember, you can trust me. “I’m a “doctor,” albeit not the kind that can do you any good….

  • * * * *

Dr. Newbury is a speaker and writer in the Metroplex. He welcomes inquiries and comments. Email: Phone: 817-447-3872. Website:

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