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Brian Evankovich

The Horror of What Might Have Been
By Brian Evankovich
Oct 26, 2003 - 7:53:00 AM

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I've been suffering from a serious addiction this past week - VH1, the cable music channel rivaling MTV, has been running a multi-part program called I Love the '80s. It's a "remember when" show, covering all the pop culture icons and nefarious happenings of that particular decade. It all seems interesting now - the funny fashion fads, the TV shows, singers and actors that, in some cases, are still working today - but when I was living through it all (and I'm sure it was the case with you, too) just getting through each day was more important than paying attention to who was hot and who was not. Watching it now, I'm surprised at how much I actually remember - especially when certain songs are mentioned. I think music, more than we realize, acts as signposts for our lives. I may not always remember where I was or what I was doing at a particular point in time, but throw on any popular song from the 1980s and I can tell you exactly where I was and exactly what I was doing when that song was a hit.

But one big event of the 1980s made the cut on the 1985 segment of VH1's I Love the '80s, and it was no surprise. So important was this event that seeing the segment brought back painful memories of what might have been, but thankfully never was.

You remember: In 1985 somebody at the Coca Cola company came up with the bright idea to change the formula of one of the best soft drinks ever concocted - they called it "New Coke". Who knows why they changed it. If anybody ever offered an explanation, I didn't hear it - the words "New Coke" still send me into a hear-no-evil pose.

"New Coke" was horrible. They turned the perfect pop into something too sweet and too much like Pepsi. I'd rather be buried up to my neck in hungry leeches than drink Pepsi; I’d rather be locked in a room and be forced to watch the “Can You Hear Me Now” guy for the rest of eternity than drink Pepsi.

At that moment in time humanity formed a united front unseen since the Second World War - we did not want New Coke, and we said so loudly. Remember the news stories? The protest letters, the video of people strolling down the soda isle at grocery stores all over these United States and frowning at the New Coke displays; finally, a mea culpa from the Coca Cola Company ended this dark period, and ever since we've had Coke Classic.

I remember shortly after the travesty of the formula change, I wound up with a six-pack of Coke that did not have the "Classic" label on it. A friend of mine gleefully told me that I was drinking "New Coke." I said it was Old Coke. He said it was New Coke. I said it was Old Coke. We almost came to blows; if I'd been smart, we would have, and afterwards filed a double lawsuit against Coca Cola because the fight would have been their responsibility, and I'd be on Easy Street right now, though I probably would have settled for a lifetime supply of Coca Cola Classic.

As my friends and family will testify, I do my part to make sure Coke Classic stays a top seller. Last business quarter, when the company announced sales were up 40%, I took partial credit (I certainly deserved it, and my doctor agreed, when he said too much caffeine was causing my heart to skip – woo hoo!).

Now that I think of it, I've sampled every form of Coca Cola out there - Diet, Cherry, Caffeine Free, Vanilla - but what I've never sampled is Diet Cherry Coke, which is apparently not available in all parts of the country, specifically the west coast where I hang my hat. If somebody from Coca Cola is reading this, feel free to contact me so we can talk about getting a case of Diet Cherry Coke delivered to my door. Laugh if you want, but I am not above using this forum as a way to get free stuff, nor am I ashamed; but please, don’t tell my doctor.

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