Josh Shainin 1999
1999 has been the best year of my life thus far, and was one of the best years in
human history, period. My 18th birthday on January 14th, an important milestone in
anybody’s life. Super Bowl XXXIII on January 31st, possibly the best moment in my
life. Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace, taking the world by storm throughout the month
of May. Graduating from high school – the school I had attended for the previous 5 years
– and moving on to the new and expanded world of college. Entering and experiencing
the exciting world at Sandia National Laboratories, joining their Student Internship
Program and working on their Computer Science projects. Starting college at UNM, and
making the transition from a small high-school setting to an expanded college setting.
Everything dealing with the turn of the millennium and Y2K, ranging from the Y2K virus
to end-of-the-world fears to exciting celebration preparations. Clearly, Prince was right
when he said, “I’m gonna party like it’s 1999”, because 1999 was a year full of major
events to myself and society.
----- 18 and Counting -----
18 years old – an age old enough to vote, and an age old enough to enter the draft.
I wasn’t sure what to expect on my 18th birthday. “Is this the day I become a man?” “Do
I suddenly have a ton of additional privileges and responsibilities?” “Will the Denver
Broncos defeat the New York Jets and make it to the Super Bowl for a second straight
year?” Sure, the final question might not exactly fit in with the others, but that was
something which was definitely on my mind at the time, being one of the biggest Denver
Broncos fanatics in the world, and with my birthday occurring around the time of a huge
playoff game, I was hoping I could in some way transfer some of my luck to the Broncos.
My special day came and went, without really altering my life and without truly changing
me. I was ready for a change, and I was ready to be changed. All the excitement of
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becoming 18, all the new opportunities and new encounters I would experience being 18.
Yet, on that special Thursday, I started the day as a typical high school student, and on
the following day, I returned to school the same, with the same duties, the same
homework, and the same life. However, little did I know how much excitement would
occur during my 19th year of life, even if on my 18th birthday, nothing really new and
exciting happened. Sure, I had a nice celebration, received great gifts, and had a blast.
However, not until weeks later would I really see how cool it was to be 18. Not until
weeks later would I realize my dream as a Denver Broncos fanatic. Not until weeks later
would I be at Super Bowl XXXIII.
My birthday was very similar to Y2K in that on my birthday, nothing really
changed, in the same way that nothing really changed on January 1st, 2000. However, the
21st century has been much different than the end of the 20th century, with terrorism and
stock market hysteria changing many aspects of society, even though the first day of the
21st century was relatively normal. In that same way, my 19th year of existence was very
unique, with Super Bowl and Star Wars memories, advancement in school and work, and
dealing with Y2K excitement, yet on my birthday, I really hadn’t changed. It was just in
the days to come in which I would realize how different this year would be, starting with
my experience at Super Bowl XXXIII.
----- Wide Left -----
The guy throwing passes to kids jumping on an inflated mattress. People kicking
field goals from an outrageous distance of 40 yards. Marketers selling everything
everywhere, ranging from Super Bowl towels to Super Bowl hats to Super Bowl shirts to
Super Bowl pictures to…the list goes on and on and on. I hadn’t seen anything like this
before, and this wasn’t even Sunday! This was Super Bowl Saturday – the day to go to
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Pro Player Stadium and get an NFL Experience before the biggest game in the world. As
insignificant as Super Bowl Saturday should be toward the real game, I couldn’t help but
feel a strange feeling in the air. I couldn’t help but feel that some events on Saturday
could affect the outcome of the game on Sunday. One of those events, which I was
involved in, was the all-important field goal kicking at the NFL Experience.
I had been waiting in line for almost a half-hour by now, and was only two people
away from my shot at glory. At the plate was a short, stubby fellow, with such short legs
that it was a wonder he could even move his leg in an attempt to kick a football through
the field-goal post which seemed a mile away. Needless to say, he ended up short on
both attempts, but did manage to kick the ball, an accomplishment in itself.
Next in line was an athletic-type man, the kind of guy that you’d bet money on
that he’d split the uprights, making this field-goal with no effort. He would erase my
terrible memory of the guy before him. He would kick like a true professional. He
would…nearly shank the ball?! I couldn’t believe my eyes. He had taken a full wind-up,
and in an attempt to kick the ball around the world, barely made contact with the ball,
sending the ball perpendicular to the intended target line. OK, that was a fluke, a warm-
up, just to prove he was a mortal. Before I could recover from the fact that this athlete
had just shanked a field goal attempt, he did it again! Wow, suddenly I was next in line
to kick, with the heavy thoughts of two guys that had just embarrassed themselves in
front of hundreds, and myself, a skinny little 18 year old up next, feeling I had no shot of
making this field goal. I had attempted this kick at home, practicing for this exact
situation. At home it was easy – just stand back, run toward the ball, kick it, and watch it
go through the uprights. However, I was shaking as if I was in Minnesota and not Miami,
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and could barely make a move toward the ball. I finally got to the ball, where in an
attempt not to shank the ball off to the right like the guy did before me, I made solid
contact…and sent the ball straight left into the crowd, hitting some poor lady with her
child. Well, at least the lady got up and was fine, and at least I had gotten that bad kick
out of my system. Now, I was relaxed, because I had completely embarrassed myself,
and was awarded another attempt at this field goal, so it couldn’t possibly get any worse.
Well, right as I got to the ball to attempt my second field goal, the thought of the guy
before me popped right into my mind, and I did the exact same thing again, almost
hurting someone in the crowd because I kicked the football so far left. I immediately ran
into the crowd, acting as if I was just on my way to another merchandise stand, and not
walking away from utter humiliation.
So, what does all that have to do with Super Bowl XXXIII and my great
experiences in 1999? Well, believe it or not, Jason Elam and Morten Andersen must
have been watching us and picked up bad habits from us amateur field goal kickers,
because on Super Bowl Sunday, they both missed easy field goals badly. Two kickers
which, at the time, were the best in the world, missed routine field goals as if I had been
kicking them. Obviously, the Super Bowl in and of itself is purely exciting and
memorable. However, I walked away with the realization that dealing with
embarrassment is an essential part of life, and even though both professional field goal
kickers missed easy field goals early on in the game, they stayed focused, and made more
important field goals later on in the game. That taught me to put those two field goals
that I had kicked behind me, and focus on the present and future, a trait which has really
helped me since that experience, and something I always remember whenever another
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embarrassing situation occurs, something I turn back to which happened in the great year
----- Super Bowl XXXIII -----
Passing for 336 yards and running for the final touchdown of his career at the end
of the game, John Elway left Super Bowl XXXIII and the NFL at the top of his game and
on top of the mountain, winning his second-straight Super Bowl. Even though I wasn’t
on the field and didn’t have a direct impact on the game, I also felt like I was on top of
the mountain, not only because the Broncos won, but because I was surrounded by
Falcons fans leaving the stadium in disappointment.
When ordering Super Bowl tickets for my birthday and graduation present, my
mother didn’t know that there was a Broncos side of the stadium and a Falcons side of
the stadium. Therefore, when we arrived at the stadium and found our seats, we were
shocked to see that we were surrounded by black and white – colors that are symbolic of
being a Falcons fan. Throughout the game, it was tough being supportive of my team,
because each time I jumped up, waived my “Broncos Thunder Towel”, and shouted in
jubilation, people around me gave me an evil stare which made me think I might not get
out of this stadium alive. Luckily, the Broncos did win the Super Bowl, Elway won the
Super Bowl MVP award, and I walked out of the stadium in one piece, but that feeling of
being alienated as the only person wearing orange and blue on an entire side of a stadium,
yet being myself and triumphing over everyone around me, is a feeling I’ll never forget.
----- People From A Galaxy Far, Far Away -----
“That is why the power of the Ewoks can never be underestimated.”
That’s not a sentence you’ll hear too often, but that is a sentence I heard all day
waiting in line for Star Wars Episode 1 tickets. Imagine hundreds of freaks that have
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been shunned by society, people that are considered fanatics at best, all congregating in
one place, letting their voice be heard by the world and thousands of people watching
television. Almost sounds like a terrorist camp instead of a bunch of Star Wars fanatics
anticipating the release of the first new Star Wars movie in theatres in over 20 years.
And just like a terrorist camp, I wasn’t sure I’d escape, with either my life or my sanity.
“Thanks Bob. Do you have any more Star Wars stories you’d like to tell us?”
Bob was a 300-pound storyteller that had hundreds of stories ranging from
Wookies to Ewoks to Jedis and so forth. He wasn’t the kind of guy I’d like to be found
with in public, but he was the kind of guy I’d love to listen to waiting 12 hours in one
spot for Star Wars tickets. 12 hours waiting in one location isn’t my idea of fun, but for
Star Wars I’d do almost anything, and there was plenty of entertainment surrounding me
during those 12 hours which helped to pass the time. People driving their huge pick-up
trucks, delivering sofas, boom-boxes, and dozens of pizza to their friends who had been
saving their place in line. It seemed like a typical dorm party, with the major exception
that most dorm parties are not outside in freezing temperatures with a bunch of people
that are considered crazy for being so obsessed over Star Wars. Being young and
enjoying the lively atmosphere, I couldn’t have enjoyed this environment any more.
However, there were some people that weren’t in the same shoes I was in.
“Turn that damn music down. Can’t you see I’m trying to sleep?!”
“Sorry ma’am, but you’re not my mother.”
“Yeah, well, you’ll wish I was your mother, because mothers tend to show some
sympathy when punishing their children. I’ll just come over there and kick your ass.”
Josh Shainin 1999
It was getting really ugly. Many children couldn’t wait in line for Star Wars
tickets like I could, because school was in session, so they had their middle-aged mothers
wait 12 hours in line for Star Wars tickets. They didn’t see eye-to-eye with the majority
of fans waiting in line. The majority of fans were college-aged students who came to
party, drink beer, have fun, and enjoy the experience of waiting in line for something fans
had been waiting many years for. These fans wanted to play loud music, dance, and
make themselves known to others, which was fine with the other fans, but wasn’t
tolerated by the mothers. The mothers simply wanted to read their boring Danielle Steel
novels, sleep, and get this thing over with. It was a conflict which was persistent
throughout the whole day, but a conflict which I believed was won by the fans, since the
fans would temporarily turn down their loud music, only to turn it up again after the
mothers fell asleep or were otherwise not paying much attention.
Waiting in line for Star Wars tickets – an activity which many people would
consider boring and a waste of time, but an activity which I will never forget for many
great reasons, such as the partying and storytelling which took place during that wait.
Unfortunately, in some ways, waiting in line for the Star Wars tickets was better than the
movie itself. I love Star Wars and refuse to think Episode 1 was a terrible movie.
However, many people thought Episode 1 fell way short of expectations and overall was
not a good movie. This sort of hype and disappointment wouldn’t be unique in 1999, as
Y2K generated this same type of hype and disappointment. However, many people
including myself did enjoy Episode 1, which is why I believe Y2K was a much greater
disappointment than Episode 1. Even though I enjoyed Episode 1, though, I definitely
thought the waiting in line was more exciting than half of the movie, the half of the
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movie which was boring and forgettable dialogue. That is why regardless of how much I
enjoyed Episode 1, what I’ll remember most from 1999 is not the movie itself, but
waiting in the most exciting and craziest line I’ve ever waited in.
----- The Educational Leap -----
13 years before, I had thought this day would never come. 13 years before, I was
in kindergarten, learning the ropes of being a student (sure, kindergarten really isn’t like
any other grade in school, but it’s a start). Now, here I was, getting ready to graduate
from high school and enter the exciting world of UNM.
I was so ready to graduate it is beyond description. I had been at Sandia Prep for
5 years, starting in 8th grade, and as much as I learned at Prep and as much as I enjoyed
Prep, it was definitely time to move on. Sandia Prep, being a small school, couldn’t offer
all of the classes I would have liked to have taken in high school. Sandia Prep, having a
small and constant student population, meant that each student pretty much knew every
other student at the school, but that also meant that there were never any new people to
meet at Sandia Prep, which was something I was ready for at UNM.
I knew that this graduation would mean more than just advancing to another
grade, or just being able to attend another school. I knew at UNM I would be able to take
classes not even imaginable at Sandia Prep, such at the Theory of Football and all of my
Economics courses. I knew that attending UNM would advance my education beyond
anything I had ever imagined. Looking back, it might be a stretch to say that UNM has
completely changed me from when I was at Prep, but UNM has really opened my mind
and expanded my horizons, in terms of knowledge, opportunity, and overall satisfaction.
And I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that I’ve learned and progressed more in 3
years at UNM than in 5 years at Sandia Prep.
Josh Shainin 1999
----- I’m Sorry, This Information is Strictly Confidential -----
Right after graduating from high school, I quit my job at Go Golf and started my
student internship at Sandia National Laboratories. Boy, what a shift! One day I was
labeling, stocking, and cleaning inventory for a golf equipment store; the next day I was
working at a place where only limited and privileged people get to work, a place that
increased my responsibilities, my importance, and my excitement a thousand-fold.
Sure, I enjoyed my time at Go Golf, being a golf fanatic. However, I knew that
stocking inventory was not my future. I’m still not sure I’ve found my future at Sandia
Labs, but switching from Go Golf to Sandia Labs was certainly a step in the right
direction. Working with classified information, programming for an important national
cause, and getting an “inside scoop” with important national issues and projects are all
things that Go Golf couldn’t even get close to offering me.
However, I’ve learned through the years that, although the people at Sandia Labs
are extremely brilliant and important, they are people, too, and take an enormous amount
of breaks and vacations. In fact, each regular Sandian must take a month of vacation each
year, or forfeit that vacation time. Before starting at Sandia, I would have thought that
everyone worked a 60-hour work week, essentially living out at Sandia, because of its
importance to national security. Boy, was I surprised that Sandians are some of the
luckiest people in terms of the leisure time they get. That is something I’m looking
forward to as I approach becoming a regular Sandian – lots of vacation time, an important
occupation which affects the world, and a healthy salary – no wonder my dad always told
me to get my “foot in the door” with Sandia Labs, because now that I work there, I’m
finding more and more great things about Sandia, and because of that, I’m not sure I’ll
ever want to leave.
Josh Shainin 1999
----- Y2-OK -----
With all of these events which had already taken place during 1999, how could
the end of 1999 match this kind of importance and excitement? Actually, it was simple –
people started talking about the new millennium and the end of the world.
The Y2K virus had everybody paranoid that the economy would collapse, all
computers would become worthless, and society would have to return to a horse-and-
carriage society. It was the end of modern society as we knew it – all because computers
would think it was 1900 instead of 2000. Even though a lot of work went into
reprogramming computers to fix that bug, the fact that absolutely nothing happened, even
to companies that couldn’t reprogram their computers, leads me to believe people were
overly paranoid over absolutely nothing.
How about the turn of the new millennium? With the constant conflicts in the
Middle East, 2000 years having passed since Christ roamed the Earth, and people simply
having the feeling that something huge would happen at the turn of the millennium, the
turn of the new millennium would have to have some major, catastrophic global event
which would mark an important point in history, right? Well, many countries held large
firework spectacles and other kinds of new-year parties and celebrations, but once
January 1st arrived, I felt absolutely no different that I had the day before, and this was
the same for billions of people around the world. The turn of the millennium was just a
huge celebration, with the anticipation and results of Y2K falling much shorter than the
anticipation and results for the new Star Wars movie that came out in 1999.
Sure, the period which has followed Y2K has been pretty unique, with the
devastating terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001, with the stock market in disarray,
and companies performing all sorts of fraud…and getting caught. However, on January
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1st, I was expecting something different, just like I was expecting a change on my 18th
birthday. However, these two events wouldn’t be important for their impacts on a
specific day, but would mark a point in which things would change in the future, which
make these two events – one occurring at the beginning of 1999, and the other occurring
at the end of 1999 – important to 1999 and the time to come.
----- 1999: Year in Review -----
1999 – a year unlike any other. Even though a lot of events that happened in 1999
specifically affected me, people can at least relate to what happened to me in 1999, and
with the major events in 1999 that affected everybody around the world, 1999 wasn’t
only an important year for myself, but 1999 was an important year for everyone. I think
the Y2K thing alone is something which affected everyone, making people think about
what might happen at the turn of the millennium, whether their lives would completely
change, or if it would just be like another new year, with January 1st being relatively
similar to December 31st. With the exciting release of Star Wars Episode 1 and another
thrilling Super Bowl, with many people graduating around the world, and many people
entering a new and exciting world during and beyond the summer of 1999, 1999 truly
was an exciting year which will be more than just another year in history to many people
around the world. Sure, 1999 had different impacts on different people, but I hope I was
able to help you realize and remember what a truly great year 1999 was, and at worse,
help you differentiate 1999 from all those other recent years of human history.
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