Earlier this month, a young child found his way onto the field of a Euro 2016 game between Iceland and Hungary. He was one of a number of boys chosen to stand in front of the two national teams before the game. But unlike the others around him, our protagonist had a plan.
The boy surely knew he'd only have a split second to pull his idea off before the camera cut away from the Icelandic team behind him. But if he could get it just right, make his move at the perfect moment, there would be no doubt that he, not Iceland or Hungary, would go down as the game's true winner.
After a few moments, the camera fixed on his face. It was time -- now or never. And so, the boy with the swooping hair turned toward the camera on his right with complete confidence. He held a straight face for half a second, maybe even just a third. Then, he did it: The most perfect goddamned wink I have ever seen.
The moment was so brief that many people missed it at first. But soon enough, the headlines started rolling in: "Fans can't get enough of the coolest mascot football has ever seen at Hungary vs Iceland;" "World's Chillest Mascot Kid Winks At Camera During National Anthem At Euro Game;" "A wink of brilliance went unnoticed during the Hungary vs Iceland match."
The internet is a hot bed for hyperbole, but, c'mon, the hyperbole was justified here. That wink was brilliant and chill. It was understated. It required an almost professional-level understanding of TV timing and angles -- the kind of knowledge neither I nor anyone I know really possesses. Which made me wonder: Is it just me or have kids become extra suave recently?
Kids, like adults, have long been obsessed with appearing on the Jumbotron and television for as long as Jumbotron and television have existed. But when the camera has dropped on them in the past, the traditional reaction has been either to shy away or go completely bonkers, like this kid.
Lately, I've noticed a subtle change in the ideal way the cool kids are trying to act on camera. They seem to be becoming more self-aware and media savvy of course, but there is something else going on, too, and that "something else" feels like a growing degree of subtleness and timing in their viral exploits. And to be honest, I'm not mad about it at all. It's awesome. Consider the latest person to garner the interest of the internet for his viral genius: That kid at the College World Series over the weekend who stared into the depths of the camera and, by extension, the depths of my own soul.
Or what about this kid, who recently stood behind some sportscasters while performing a series of dabs and dances?
Or how about this wonderful human right here?
Or Marsai Martin of "Black-ish" fame at the BET Awards on Sunday night?
Or water bottle guy?
We have created a generation of children who have spent their entire lives not only on the web, but also mastering the exact angles, faces and movements that can be packaged into six-second Vines and consequently distributed to the world. Sure, they are probably going to end up hopelessly addicted to their iPhones -- the consequences of which we won't truly know until it's too late. But it's also created a generation of suave-ass kids, who seem to be coming into their own in the last year. Or maybe more likely, I'm just getting old.