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.

A Busy Saturday

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Is it weird to like a hospital? I would have thought so until I went to the new Kaiser hospital in Oakland. Here’s a photo of the waiting area for the orthopedics department. I’ve been going there with my daughter because she broke her leg snow skiing last February. She’s all healed up now and ready to have the rods removed later this month.

Anyway, the new hospital is beautiful; another word I would not have associated with a medical facility until now. Here’s another photo of the interior. This one’s next to the cafeteria. The photo is of a mural made up of thousands of images of Oakland residents, arranged to create a panorama of downtown Oakland near Lake Merritt.

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As inconsequential as it may seem, I think there is value to aesthetics when it comes to a medical facility. It makes going there less intimidating and reduces the stress one usually associates with health concerns. Here’s one final photo; this one is also next to the cafeteria. It shows a container of spa water put out by the staff.

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I went to the hospital lab yesterday to have blood samples taken as part of my annual physical. By the way, I really like my doctor. He’s an elderly guy with a Southern accent that sounds exactly like Andy Taylor from the classic TV show Mayberry RFD.

After the lab work, I took a smoking cessation class. Yes, I smoke. Not much; I average about 7 cigarettes a day, but still. I had quit three years ago by going to a hypnotist. I started again after my wife died of cancer. She never smoked and barely drank. Who said life was fair? I realize it’s counterintuitive that I would start smoking again after that terrible event. I don’t claim to understand it myself. The good news is that I am going to quit again.

So in the class they helped me draw up a plan to quit. One of the things they tell you to do is to let others know you are going to quit so that you are more committed to success, which is why I’m telling you this. My quit date is January 1, 2015 (I know, I know). But it’s not a New Year’s resolution, really. It’s just that I’m supposed to be doing certain things to prepare, such as to start using a nicotine patch, in advance of the actual quit date.

I plan to blog each day about my quitting experience. It should be fun.

After the smoking cessation class I went to the car dealership and bought my leased vehicle. If you read my post about the SF car show, you’ll know why. Just as I was about to leave the dealership, a few hundred protesters marched by. I had only seen the protests on TV, so it was interesting. Here’s a photo (not a very good one).

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Of course, the protesters were there because of the controversy surrounding deaths from police shootings, the most recent being the shooting of a twelve year old boy brandishing a toy pistol. The death has been ruled a homicide by the medical examiner. There’s video of the incident. I would assume that there will be an indictment in the case, but based on recent history I’m not holding my breath.

OK! I need to go buy a Christmas tree. Happy Holidays!