That’s Entertainment?

I enjoy watching professional sports on television, except for hockey and soccer. But I definitely watch a fair amount of baseball, American football, and basketball. It is the primary reason I have not dropped my cable TV service in favor of streaming services such as Hulu and Netflix.

Of course, professional sports are not the only thing I watch on television. I watch a fair amount of cable news coverage, and I watch a lot of shows like Antiques Road Show, Ice Road Truckers, as well as the History Channel, cooking shows and stuff like that. But live action sports are, for me, the main attraction of cable TV service, because it is live television that let’s you get away from the day to day rumble tumble. I mean, really, the only other live television these days is hurricane coverage, which is not a get away from anything; it’s an immersion into something very bad. Even Saturday Night Live isn’t “live” if you’re watching from the west coast (though supposedly their going to try a live coast to coast broadcast this season; it’ll be interesting to see how many people stay home in prime time on a Saturday night to see that).

Which is why I am dismayed that in the past several months, professional sporting events have began to cross-pollinate with the sort of news coverage that I watch live sports to get away from. It started last season when a certain quarterback decided to sit during the singing of the National Anthem as a protest. Of course, said quarterback has a right under the First Amendment of the Constitution to engage in free speech, even in the context of his employment, because the matter he was protesting is a matter of broad public interest. Even I have written about it previously. So, I have no problem with him (or any other professional athlete) exercising their right to free speech. But you know what? When they engage in that free speech attendant to a professional sporting event, I don’t find that entertaining.

In fact, quite the opposite. It makes we want to change the channel, or turn off the TV. Which is not to say that I think the issues they are protesting are unimportant. I watch a lot of news coverage about those issues and follow the discussions with keen interest. It’s just that maybe I already spent a few hours during the week watching that coverage. Maybe I’ve also watched coverage about street protests in my region about those issues; perhaps I’ve even attended a protest or two. So when I try to watch a live sporting event, the last thing I want to think about at that particular time is protests or the underlying issues. I’m trying to take a break from that for a few dear hours. And it’s now to the point where I can’t listen to sports talk radio without 20% of the content being a meta-level discussion of the protests and the underlying issues.

Some might say that’s selfish on my part; that the protests are so much more important than the live sporting events. That’s true, of course. But then why should I watch the live sporting events at all? I could just watch the cable news coverage about the protests or read about them in articles online without sandwiching in a lot of sweaty guys engaged in various activities involving balls of different shapes and sizes.

I spent some time thinking about this and it occurred to me that the National Anthem is not played or sung at other events, like golf tournaments, for example (I’ve been to several tournaments, so I know first hand). Also, the National Anthem is not played prior to the beginning of most live music event, or when you go to a comedy club or some other type of live entertainment.

Why do the major professional sports leagues in this country play the National Anthem before the games? It isn’t required by law; it’s something the leagues have decided to do at some point and have done for a long time. Frankly, I don’t presume to know why they do it, exactly. If you take them at their word, via the stadium announcer, it is to “honor America.” The stadium announcer always says, “To honor America, please stand and remove your cap during the singing of our National Anthem.” So let’s assume there is no other reason than the stated one: to honor America. Except that some subset of the players have decided to not follow the request of the stadium announcer, which is their right. Well, it seems to me at that point it does not honor America. My suggestion would be to stop playing the National Anthem at professional sporting events until this entire issue is resolved.

In the meantime, I’m going to stop watching live action sports on television, not as a protest or boycott, but because I am not entertained.

Straight-Up Nuts

mixed nuts

I watched a bit of trial footage in the case of a former Marine who shot and killed “American Sniper” Chris Kyle and his friend at a shooting range. One piece of evidence is a text message from Kyle to his friend just before the shooting that reads: “This dude is straight-up nuts.” The shooter’s attorney is saying he’s not guilty by reason of insanity, so Kyle’s text is being used by the defense to support that notion.

Not to blame the victim; Chris Kyle is a true hero and it’s so sad and ironic that he was killed in Texas after surviving multiple tours of duty as a Navy Seal. But I can’t help but wonder why he went ahead with the planned visit to a shooting range once the thought expressed in his text message crossed his mind. He had volunteered to take the shooter out for the day as a therapeutic activity and I suppose he felt a certain responsibility to follow through with it.

Speaking of nuts, the crimes committed by ISIS just get worse by the moment. I don’t think they’re insane in a clinical sense, but what word can describe people who would cage a human being, set them on fire, film it in high definition, and post it on the internet? I think the appropriate word is “evil.”

Then there’s the American woman who died while being held as a hostage by ISIS. She was kidnapped while doing humanitarian work in Syria. The media haven’t reported the specific circumstances of her death, probably because they aren’t sure of the facts. That’s fine. Spare me the details. My condolences to the family and friends of Kayla Mueller. I admire people like her who are willing to risk their lives to help out victims of war, but may I make a suggestion to anyone thinking of following in her footsteps?

As much as Syrians need the help, I have concluded that on balance it doesn’t make enough of a difference to counter the possibility that the helpers will be kidnapped by ISIS and used for horrific propaganda videos. Please, folks. Stay away from the war zone unless you’re in the military.

Then there’s the situation with Brian Williams, who appears to have manufactured a series of phony experiences, such as surviving a rocket propelled grenade attack on a military helicopter he was riding in. He admitted the story was not true, saying he misremembered the incident (total BS, in my opinion). I’m at a loss to understand why a journalist would feel compelled to make up phony stories when there’s so much real stuff to report on. He should try phony news for a living and replace Jon Stewart on the daily show, because he’s disqualified himself as a serious journalist.

It seems like these things are unrelated, but when you line them up next to each other a theme emerges. As much as technology seems to be a dominant force in the march of recent history, you have these examples of human behavior that negate the ability to feel like we’re moving in the right direction. Maybe that’s because we’re saturated with various media, blogs included.

OK, I’m only going to write about positive stuff for the next month.