Before Captain Grid-Iron, there was the Fridge.
I’m not a football fan. My knowledge of football has always been limited to the little bit that permeates the greater pop culture. Which means nowadays I only know about them if they’re the inescapable types like Tom Brady or if they controversially kneel like Colin Kaepernick.
The 80s was the same way for me. Unless you somehow sliced your way out of the insular football fandom and poked your head into a wider sphere, I had no idea who you were, and I didn’t care. You ran, you fell, you ran, you fell. Whoopty-doo.
But if you joined the Joes, I most definitely cared.
I had a “friend” in elementary school that asked me what my favorite football team was. I put “friend” in quotation marks because he was that breed of friend that was always kind of an asshole but he was part of your friend group and there was no other option, so you kind of put up with him. You even enjoyed his company on occasion, when he wasn’t being an asshole.
I had no favorite football team. I still don’t. But since you are a kid and it’s the 80s and everyone on the playground had a favorite football team, it would have been somehow ostracizing for me not to have a favorite football team. Kids had favorite football teams. I guess it’s a thing kids have. I guess I was a kid? Hard to say now.
Since the Fridge had recently joined the GI Joe team, the Chicago Bears were on the forefront of my brain. So I told this little asshole that my favorite team was the Bears.
“You only say that because the Fridge is part of GI Joe.” Says the asshole. Except he didn’t just say “GI Joe.” He sang it, like they do in the theme song. “GI Joooooooooe!”
“No I’m not,” I say, knowing that it was indeed the case, and that the asshole is absolutely correct. If a member of the Bears had not just joined one of my favorite toylines, I would have not had a favorite team.
The conversation never went any further, mainly because I said “look, a meteor!” and disappeared when they weren’t looking. I never went back. I changed schools, I changed my name, I got facial reconstruction surgery. It was a whole thing.
The team responsible for running the G.I. Joe line in the 80s knew how make you excited about things. The Fridge didn’t have the benefit of being in the cartoon. It was 1987 and the Sunbow era was over. The Fridge wasn’t in the comic, because Larry Hama wasn’t about to cram a football player into his playground. The Fridge was just a real life guy who weighed about a ton and a half and played football. Not too exciting on the surface.
The Fridge had his own animated advertisement, where he beat the absolute slobbering bejeebles out of Battle-Armor Cobra Commander, some Techno-Vipers and friggin’ BIG BOA with his patented football on a rope.
The fridge had a football on a rope. I’m assuming some think the football was made of metal. You’d be wrong. It was made of AWESOME.
It was a whole new ballgame, to use an incredibly cheap pun. Now that he had been rendered in full-animated form, The Fridge wasn’t just some fat football guy. The Fridge was a badass Cobra-thumping member of GI Joe, just like Sgt. Slaughter wasn’t some fat wrestler but a member of the coolest elite anti-terrorist organization the 80s could produce.
Five Fridge certificates and a one dollar handling charge later and the Fridge was mine.
I remember the day I got him, after what felt like an eternity. The post office was right across the street from the school. We picked him up right there. Tiny little box. Tiny little Fridge.
The 80s were a different world. It was a world where a football player was incorporated into a massively popular toyline and everyone pretty much said “Ok.”
At least it wasn’t OJ…
I’m an adult now. More or less, that is. And I still don’t have a favorite football team. But I do have a favorite football player. And that is William “The “Refrigerator” Perry.
Because he was a member of GI Jooooooooooooooooe.