We can go all the way back to the first lifeform on Earth, which, according to the science crowd, occurred 3.8 billion years ago. Dear reader, let’s stop our busy lives, take a moment right now, and give it up for the entire prokaryotes group, lifeform founders, unicellular explorers, grandpappies of the whole life-on-Earth deal. Without you, old timers, we wouldn’t be blogging on our iPods today. Thanks.
At the time the prokaryotes group was claiming turf, Earth had a down-market climate, what with all the asteroids slamming into its crust. Technically, the period is called the Late Heavy Bombardment, which is strangely descriptive for a scientific term. But, enough mindless violence, we’ll skip the next 800 million years. Nothing much was going on, and then — wow — seemed like from out of nowhere the first continent was formed.
I know that’s not sexy — nobody holds a party for the first continent. Few remember its name — Ur. Maybe it was bad joss, being born in the wrong eon. The Archean Eon has always carried a bad rap, what with coming after the party-til-you-vomit-volcanic-magma Hadean Eon and just before the Paleoproterozoic Era, known to every mother as the notorious third son of the Proterozoic Eon. So, you can see, the Archean Eon (and, therefore, Ur) never had a chance.
Just a few continent drifts later came the Great Oxidation Event. Basically, the planet went out and got a job, began producing oxygen.
Another 800 million years passed by and from out of left field up popped blue-green algae, and the real party began. Rock on, algae. Three hundred million years after that, the first plants arrived and the deal was sealed — you couldn’t shut down the party with every cop in L.A. and San Diego beating on the front door.
Supercontinent Rodinia came and went. The Cryogenian Period, known as Snowball Earth, breezed by in 220 million years, when the first animals appeared and commenced their obsequious social climbing.
Things were going the way a good party should. Lifeforms were coming to the house, dancing, drinking, snacking, pairing off, and going out to the car. Yes, there were a couple marine species extinctions during that time, but who knew? Air-breathers were busy with the boogie.
Now, then, 115 million years after the last fish tragedy, something happened...according to some people, anyway. I don’t know this for a fact, but there are those who say that the Permian-Triassic extinction wiped out 90 percent of all the species on Earth. Saying that, you have to admit a lot of those creatures were deadbeats, occupying food-chain niches that would be better used by birds, not to mention modern animals.
Can you feel the pace picking up? The excitement building?
It was a time of easy living. Birds, mammals, reptiles, dinosaurs, all living side-by-side, taking hot baths together, long walks on the beach, big family picnics, inviting the neighbors over. Good times.
And then, wouldn’t you know, a fluke, one of those asteroids from the Late Heavy Bombardment days dropped in on Mexico and 50 percent of all the species on Earth were extinguished, including all the dinosaurs. That was 67 million years ago. What can I say? We miss you, big guys.
Nothing earth-shaking since then. Apes split off from monkeys, humans split off from apes, somebody invented fire, cave paintings, roast duck...you know the drill.
Humans invented cities, wars, writing, popcorn, condoms, the printing press, and just 491 years ago, the Mayflower, with its rapacious cartel of real estate speculators on board, landed in America.
Then we get the whole American thing. The colonies, the Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War, pit stop for the War of 1812 and Mexican War. Full stop for the Civil War. And all the rest. The U.S. is crowned as Big Deal Number 1 Nationhood by 1944. California becomes Big Deal Number 1 Most Populous State in 1964. Now comes birth control, Merle Haggard, rock ’n’ roll, JFK, granny glasses, LSD, disco, primal scream therapy, man purses, pet rocks, hip-hop, leveraged buyouts, Nintendo, Pokémon, Oprah, Mortal Kombat, YouTube, HDTV, Facebook, Red Bull, TiVo, and Lady Gaga.
Which brings us to today. Or, rather, to a few days ago, to March 17, 2011. It took 3.8 billion years and all the pain, good luck, bad luck, heartbreak, uncountable suffering that went into those 3.8 billion years to be able to stand up and say, for the first time in the history of our planet, a San Diego State men’s basketball team won a game in the NCAA postseason tournament. Etch this in stone: San Diego State 71, Temple 64. In double overtime.
Fellas, it was worth the wait.