I don't know how strong a craving for a McDonald's Happy Meal toy would have to be for me to consider flying to Europe to buy one, but if I ever would have done so, it would have been in 2003.
During qualifying for the UEFA Euro 2004 Championship, McDonald's locations in England gave away one of 11 official Corinthian MicroStars figures from the England Men's National Football Team.
Figures included goalkeeper David James; defenders Kieron Dyer, Rio Ferdinand, Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole; midfielders David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes and Joe Cole; and forwards Michael Owen and Alan Smith.
The 2-inch tall athletes are wearing white shirts and navy shorts, except for David James, who is dressed like Johnny Cash. Goalkeepers cannot resist their urge to be the team fashionista.
While I had been a soccer fan since the 1994 World Cup and an MLS fan since its inception, my first interest in the English team came after reading an article about David Beckham in "ESPN The Magazine's" 2002 World Cup Preview Issue. It must have been very well-written, because it gave me a fandom for Beckham, England, the Premier League and tea.
It was while rooting for England in the 2002 World Cup that I first came across Corinthian MicroStars and the slightly larger ProStars, both of which were already popular collectibles in Europe at the time. My excitement upon finding them online was no doubt similar to the euphoria miners felt when discovering gold in California in the 1800s. If any of those miners were still alive, they would wholeheartedly support this analogy.
This set of 11 was made exclusively for McDonald's. I purchased a set from an eBay seller in the United Kingdom, and to all of those unfortunate losers whom I outbid, the figures are still available and affordable on eBay.
Had I been 8 years old when these were released, I would have experienced no greater thrill in life than having my mom order a complete set of the figures for me at the McDonald's counter, then finding a corner booth and cozying up next to Grimace, as he and I reenacted corner kicks and set pieces. I could not have pulled that off in my 20s, however, since McDonald's employees would have given me looks of askance if I asked one of them to dress up as Grimace.
I intend to write a letter of concern to Ronald himself, chastising him for denying the youth of America the chance to collect MicroStars of the United States National Team. Why Corinthian and McDonald's did not extend this promotion to the United States is beyond me, though I'm sure the United States not participating in a European tournament is a common excuse.
Christopher is a Waco, Texas, resident, Editor in Chief of MyBriefs.com, author of the book "Sports Briefs" and the adult writer for the Gab Four. Read more of his solo columns here.