GEELONG rejoiced when Gary Ablett signed for next season. He and Paddy Dangerfield are two of the top midfielders in the competition. Double danger, went the notion, echoing the assumption that the combined talent will blend.
Yet good things don’t always combine. Think Cadbury’s vegemite and chocolate, which belongs in a nappy.
Or Bruce McAvaney and Dennis Cometti. The football commentators shared an unquestioned verve. They are the best and they are both giving. Yet their orbits seemed to sometimes collide in the same commentary booth. Like planets and competing gravitational pulls.
The point? Sometimes, two rights can make a wrong. It’s unclear how long Coca-Cola considered this question before it mixed Coke and coffee. The products share caffeine, but one is served cold and the other hot. Coke and coffee are staples, true, with water, beer and nicotine. Each judged alone, to borrow from Cometti, is “like finding fault with Miss Venezuela”. But Coke is fizzy and sweet, while coffee is flat and bitter.
Coke is for when it’s hot, coffee for when it’s cold. Coke is for the day, except on a hangover, when it’s to be guzzled from the bottle within moments of waking.
Coffee’s for sipping in the morning. One cup, then the next, then the next. Coke — the genuine version, at least — consumed the same way is a shortcut to dentures and diabetes.
The conclusion is plain. Coke Plus Coffee, released not long ago, doesn’t know if it’s Arthur or Martha. It represents the biggest identity crisis since Bruce Jenner.
The company spoke of giving people “more of what they want”. But is this what people want? Do kindly old ladies want Devonshire tea served in a Thermomix treacle of scones, jam and English breakfast tea?
Some music fans like both Guns N’ Roses and Snow Patrol, bands who share a talent for slow songs. One act is hard, the other soft. As novel as they first sound, do fans want to hear Snow Patrol’s Sweet Child O’ Mine or the Gunners’ Chasing Cars?
Coke With Coffee, goes the official line, is about “more choices”. Potato chip makers have embraced the same thinking. Salt and vinegar has been upgraded to champagne vinaigrette and shallot. The result is that I alone, or so it seems, like black truffle potato chips and everyone questions my sexuality.
More is more, perhaps, but sometimes more seems like less.
Subway has more choices than a Senate ballot paper and the resulting ham roll of my choosing sits as sloppily as democracy.
Who hasn’t been to Bunnings to buy a screwdriver and discovered three options are better than 23? Why are there so many kinds of milk? Are there different kinds of cow, branded with A2 or lactose free? Where are the skinny cows that look kind of pleased with themselves?
“Unexpected”, says Coca-Cola of the matching. That is true enough, much as the pairing of Donald Trump and the presidency, or Richmond and a premiership, can be accepted as facts but nevertheless seems surprising each time they are recalled afresh. Once Coke used to be simple. It included cocaine a long time ago. The genuine version still oozes sugar. Coke was simple.
Author and thinker Malcolm Gladwell has made the same point about McDonald’s fries. It was bad — so it tasted good. Now there are lots of options. Coke With Coffee tastes like sparkling Nescafe, as though someone has shaken that big old tin and forced you to scull in a workplace hazing ritual. It smells like coffee but tickles the back of the throat like a soft drink. If it’s the best of both, is it not also missing the best of both?
Again, to borrow from Cometti, it seems to suffer from “delusions of adequacy”. Coke and coffee is not Cheech and Chong, but Bruce and Dennis — at their greatest when separated from the other. It’s the sort of distraction that might leave you, as Cometti once said, feeling like “a St Bernard in a heatwave”. PATRICK CARLYON IS A SUNDAY HERALD SUN COLUMNIST email@example.com