People watch the Olympics for various reasons, whether it’s to root on your fellow countrymen in all competing sports, or to finally get an opportunity to watch one of your favorite sports in prime time that normally would never be televised, except during the ultra late-night hours as they compete for ratings against a plethora of infomercials. Whatever the reason, the Olympics give all viewers a reprieve from the typical mainstream sports, even though several of those mainstream sports are represented in the games.
For me, I found myself watching the men’s decathlon – a non-typical mainstream sport. While I watched with amazement as Ashton Eaton of the United States put on a performance I couldn’t even do in my dreams, I was instantly taken back to 1992.
Like most nine-year-old boys, I found myself watching Super Bowl XXVI between the Washington Redskins and the Buffalo Bills. During a commercial break I witnessed what would become one of the most talked about advertising campaigns of the year. A short commercial came on showing old home videos of two little boys, Dan O’Brien and Dave Johnson – a pair of American decathletes aiming to compete for the gold medal in the men’s decathlon at the 1992 games in Barcelona, Spain.
The commercial instantly grabbed my attention and had me thinking about a pair of track athletes for the first time in my life. Reebok – the company behind the commercial – successfully made me aware of O’Brien and Johnson with the statement that the two would compete for the title of the, “World’s Greatest Athlete.”
The advertising campaign took off. Several other commercials featuring both O’Brien and Johnson began to appear on television sets all over the country. Reebok was the talk of many students at Highland Elementary School – and I’m sure at numerous other schools around the country.
I had never thought, or cared about track and field up to that point in my life, but I couldn’t help but wonder, who would be the world’s greatest athlete, Dan or Dave?
Unfortunately for many people interested in the Dan and Dave saga – along with Reebok who spent an alarming amount of money on the ad campaign – we would never get to witness the two decathletes face-off in Barcelona, as O’Brien failed to qualify for the US Olympic team.
The campaign became a bust about a month before the torch was lit in Spain.
However, while the campaign died for the most part in the summer of 1992, it still has lasting power, 24 years later.
As Eaton won gold in Rio de Janeiro and became the world’s greatest athlete, I couldn’t help but think about the ad campaign that first made me interested in the sport and I still wonder to this day if both had made it to Barcelona in the summer of 1992 who would be the world’s greatest athlete, Dan or Dave?
Reach Michael Hamilton at 740-353-3101, ext. 1931, or on Twitter @MikeHamilton82.