The other day, I was asked "why do you have that Vikings soap dispenser in your bathroom? I've always hated that thing. And you don't even watch football."
In response, all ll I could think of is "because it's so awful." It's the same reason I have a John Wayne spoken-word poetry LP, and a lamp shaped like the Eiffel Tower. I can and do look away from traffic accidents, but cheap chintzy products? Intentionally created by the best and brightest marketing minds? That reek of idiocy and failure? There was a period in my life where something about them screamed "you MUST purchase me."
And it's the same reason I have a collection of Minnesota Twins-licensed fishing lures.
When I found the John Wayne LP, and brought it to the counter at the record store (remember those?), the employees begged to listen to it before I left. They put it on the store speakers, and the entire place froze. It was a big split-level store, easily the size of a Walgreens, full of maybe 50 customers, and everyone stopped like a scene in "The Matrix." As if knowing this was a seminal moment in their lives that would never come again. After a minute or so, you began to hear whispers from various sources, all slowly intoning the same "Oh . . . My . . . God." If there's a fire, I'm grabbing the laptop and some souvenirs from dead loved ones. Then I'm going back into the burning building for the John Wayne LP.
The Vikings soap dispenser? Well, it just called out to me from a Cub clearance bin in 2000. It suggested not something a Vikings fan would own, but a Vikings stalker. Or what you'd give your disabled nephew for his birthday if you were too cheap to buy anything good and too uncaring to know what his other interests were. ("Oh, we forgot Harold. Doesn't he like the Vikings? I'll find something at the dollar store.") It's hideous and all who look upon it shrink in revulsion. But, hey, it dispenses soap.
I think the first Twins lure promotion was the Eric Milton Fishing Weasel. made by Northland Fishing Tackle of Bemidji. It "drives bass, pike, and DH's wild!" and "attracts strikes!" I actually took the day off from work to get this thing. It combined pure promotional desperation (the team was still struggling then) with utter Minnesota kitsch, and as a recent transplant who liked the Twins and found Minnesota's outdoor obsession (in a state with, let's face it, not a lot to look at outdoors) bizarrely charming, I knew I had to have it. I still do, and the package is wonderful, complete with a Milton bio on the back, highlighting his 1999 no-hitter. (Quick, name the other Twins no-hit pitchers. Ready? I am -- my lure leads me to wisdom. Jack Kralick in 1962, Dean Chance in 1967, and Scott Erickson in 1994, before Liriano's last year. There's a collection of names for you.)
It must have been a successful promotion, because other fishing lures followed, and for a while I religiously collected each of them. Mientkiewicz, Guardado, Radke. But susbsequent versions were all the same model -- manufactured in Finland -- with different signatures, and I finally stopped myself. You reach a point of diminishing returns. Laying off the first time was hard, but it got easier after that. Now I wonder why I still have the durn things -- except the first, original, and best, which continues to make me smile.
I don't feel the urge to buy consumer disasters as much, these days. The last I found was a "Made In Oregon" combination bottle-opener/nail clipper which broke the first time I tried to clip my ever-bitten nails. (Bottle opener still works, tho'.) And the last Twins promotional gimcrack I own is one from the Dome, issued in response to an interleague matchup against Atlanta where the Braves insisted that, way back when, the team had manipulated Metrodome roof-support blowers to help the Twins in 1991. Some genius picked up on this and issued "Every Fan Counts" handheld fans at the gate, to be used against Atlanta when the Twins were batting. Now that's not junk -- it's actually hilarious -- but I do still have it. And the fan still hums when you hit the switch.
(Although, for Xmas this year, my soap-dispenser-hating friend gave me a pair of gold lame pants. I've wanted a set since seeing the "Heart-Shaped Box" video, and now, almost 20 years later, I have them. "Merry Xmas," my friend said. "And if you ever wear these in public, I'll never speak to you again.")
So, folks. What other cherished oddball Twins (or sports, or any other loveable junk) memorabilia is out there?