Last night as I was up watching the new "Moonlighting" boxed set, and reflecting on just how much the character of David Addison has shaped my life ever since, I got a mysterious knock at my window. I drew back the curtains and flung open the latch, and to my surprise, I beheld a middle-aged man in what looked like a forty-year-old Boy Scout uniform.
At first I thought it was my old Scoutmaster Mike, who after years of searching, had finally managed to track me down and test me on my knot-tying expertise. But the sunglasses and goatee were a dead giveaway: once again I was to be paid an enigmatic visit by my old friend and mentor, Dr. Venison Skidmore.
With a grunt, he grasped my hand and pulled himself into my room.
"What brings you here this late, sir?" I implored.
"You've got to help me save the Boy Scouts, Josh." he gasped.
I was a bit stunned. I knew the BSA had faced its share of recent controversy, but I didn't think they were on the verge of oblivion. Plus it was the first time Dr. Skidmore had gotten my name right in three years. I nodded for the Doctor to continue.
"If we don't intervene, the Scouts are going to release a line of new merit badges that will undermine the credibility of whole organization."
According to the Doctor's highly esteemed source (a bowling pal named Murray) the BSA had plans to follow a recent social ill, the trend to reward mediocrity and discourage genuine achievement. In order to avoid offending or even potentially offending all people (and even some inanimate objects), several organizations had taken to the notion of giving commendation for insignificant achievements, and making sure that everyone always gets a prize. Now, under significant social pressure, the BSA was following suit.
Their plan was to retain struggling membership by awarding merit badges for the stuff the scouts were doing anyway, with the idea that an award or two would convince a kid otherwise fascinated with basketball or girls to stay on an extra year or two. The badges were designed to attract the natural interests and instincts of the contemporary scout.
"These badges cross a line, my friend." the Doctor declared. "See for yourself."
He handed me a folded piece of paper, which when unfolded, read the following:
NEW BSA MERIT BADGE SERIES (Scheduled for May 2006 Official Launch).
Requirements subject to change upon final board of review.
NATURAL EMMISSIONS APPRECIATION:
I finished reading and handed the list back to the Doctor. He grimly accepted it and looked at me with a sadness of a man watching his childhood stolen from him.
"What do you think?" he asked.
"Well, if those things had been around in my day, I might have gotten that last Eagle Palm."