Monday, February 22, 2010

The Olympics!! The Glory! The Drama! The Utter Irrelevance!!


Every four years I am reminded of how little I care about sports that take place on snow and ice.

Believe me, I WANT to care about Amund Nordlinngsen and his quest for gold in the ski-awhile-and-shoot-a-gun-awhile event, especially in light of him losing 4 toes and the tip of his penis to frostbite during training. I WANT to care about Wang and Chen and their pursuit of the hexagonal obtuse throw in the ice dancing, especially in light of the fact that Chen's father was persecuted in Tianamen Square and lost the tip of his penis when a tank ran over it. And I especially WANT to hear more about all these people from Bob Costas or Jim Nance or whoever is talking, especially in light of the fact that Bob/Jim/Whoever has lost, or is soon to lose, the tip of his penis to something, based on the theme of this first paragraph. I WANT to care, but alas, I don't.

There was a time when I really cared about the winter Olympics. I remember reverence for some Norwegian speed skater who was just such a perfect specimen and dominant and who won several gold medals - and then there was so-and-so and whats-her-name, and also whozits, my personal favorite. who in the every important years of 19__ to 19 ___ did so much to bring prominence and glory to their otherwise meaningless and fundamentally pointless sports. But that time has passed, largely due to living in places where snow and ice were not fun or sporting, and seeing all that snow and ice on the TV is just distressing. Maybe only people from California and Hawaii can enjoy the winter Olympics without some gnawing anxiety that involves shovels and snowblowers and grandpa having a heart attack in the driveway. I just don't know.

We all have a tendency to get deeply involved and become experts in obscure and stupid sports during the Olympics. We get immersed in the intricacies of curling, platform diving, the biathlon, the pommel horse, dominoes, the hula, making toast and other Olympic sports, and we become, for two weeks, utter experts on these activities. Within 24 hours after the end of the Olympics, we don't give two shits about any of it. It is a quintessential moment of being human - the innate desire to be involved, to know, to care. That, I must say, is a beautiful thing.

So I'm glad that even if I don't care, someone does. Someone cares about the immense amounts of time so many people have spent getting ready to compete, and someone cares about the personal struggles and insurmountable obstacles that athletes have overcome to be there competing, and someone cares about "the human drama" that is more important that the physical races against space and time that create the results and the medals and the winners and the losers.

I glad someone cares, and I'm glad I don't now, nor will I ever again, own a snow shovel.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Hell that is Basic Cable

A little more than a year ago I had approximately 4,347 channels of TV at my disposal. I was a Dish Network man, with the Ultra Supreme Omniscient package I think the called it, plus a little HBO and Showtime or Cinemax (who can tell them apart?) Today, through actions of my own, I must admit, I now dwell in the nether regions in a place called Basic Cable. Or if there's a level below that, that's what I have.

Yes, I chose to leave my formerly comfortable surroundings - 42-inch HD flat screen, leather sectional, Tempur Pedic mattress, stainless steel appliances - for the sofabed, folding chair, and college-dorm type kitchen I now "enjoy." I walked away from comfort for a number of reasons - good reasons - but I never anticipated falling into the seventh level of Hell that is Basic Cable.

Yes, I could buy my way back up into the clouds with Comcast, AT&T, Dish or Direct TV, but as the man sang, "money's too tight to mention" and if any more of my diet consisted of cheap soup I fear a loss of muscle mass. So, for now the price - free - is right.

I know it's gauche to confess a love - a need - for TV, but I would only be lying if I said it's not critical to my existence. I grew up in a house where the TV was always on. Granted, there were only two channels at first, and later (oh joy of joys!) a third channel (some newfangled thing called UHF that called for wizardry with rabbit hears and loop antennas) but by God I watched just about everything offered and I watched it again in reruns. To this I credit my fondness for Walter Cronkite, Captain Kangaroo and Roy Rogers - Superman, Looney Tunes and Johnny Carson - Jeopardy and the weather map and election night news - the Marx Brothers and W.C Fields movies that were shown after midnight - Phil Donahue and Dick Cavett and Tom Snyder - and to this I credit my encyclopedic knowledge of a great many utterly pointless things. TV was my babysitter, my mentor, my friend - in a time before I made a new friend that comes in a bottle.

Imagine my chagrin to now have in essence, about the same number of channels I had when I was 9. Ok sure, I now have some channels in Spanish, public access TV, and PBS. I have WGN and Discovery and Fox. But the list of what I don't have is long, very long. No ESPN. No ESPN2. No EPSN News. No CNN. No MTV or VH1 or Fuse. No Food Network. No Lifetime. (Ok I never watched that but it was comforting to know it was there.) No TBS, no TNT. No Fox Sports Channel. I am bereft.

Let's face it, there is a direct relationship between a man and his number of channels. The equation also encompasses the size of his screen and the configuration and possession of the remote, for sure, but without a wide array of totally unwatchable crap channels, what's the point in having a nice big TV? What, am I going to watch reruns of "Rosanne" with surround sound, with a little school board meeting in the PIP? I have been stripped of my manhood. Shoot me now.

I propose a sort of "Big Sisters Big Brothers" program for men in my situation. Once a week, someone comes and picks me up and takes me to their home where we sit and watch "Emeril" or "TRL" or "The Daily Show" or "Big Love." Some chips and salsa would be nice. Then after awhile, I get taken back home where I sob quietly until another week passes.

You can help for just pennies a day.