Beyond the Pigskin Pantheons

4 Jan

by Roger White

The pain. The confusion. The snuggie commercials. Who could have ever guessed that in any one season, you would see more fans with paper bags on their heads at Dallas Cowboys and Texas Longhorns games than at the home of the Texas Rangers?

Rangers in the World Series? ’Boys and ’Horns in the dumper? Absurd!

My little TV sports world is on its head. Now what? My two favorite football teams have more losses than the Dow Jones in (insert any week here since 2008). What’s on the box to ease Game of the Week withdrawal?

Welllllll, let’s see. NBA basketball these days is about as exciting as watching Wisconsin ice fishing. And if I have to endure another half-hour special on LeBron’s decision to, say, go vegan or turn right on red, I’m going to go all Henry David Thoreau.

It is very difficult to stay riveted to an NBA game. Why don’t we just give each team 120 points to start out with, put two minutes on the clock, and let ’em go after it? Besides, the last two minutes of a basketball game last about as long as your average salmon migration. Government-funded scientists in Rawlings, Nevada, have theorized that one NBA second is roughly equivalent to one-half of our Earth hours. It has something to do with worm holes in the time-space continuum and the hang time of the ozone layer over Madison Square Garden.

Somehow, I just don’t think today’s NBA game is what James Naismith intended when he aimed his rubber ball at that peach basket. I believe ol’ James was looking for teamwork and accuracy. If he were alive today, what do you bet ol’ James would call for the slam dunk to be outlawed, or be awarded only one point? (And what do you bet ol’ James would call for a nurse? James would be about 149 years old, you see.)

There is hockey. Meh. Try as I might, I just can’t get pumped about hockey. My conclusion is that it’s some sort of brutish Beowulfan rite of passage for fellows too slow for the NFL and too Nordic for the NBA. I never have caught on to the rules exactly. You can quite legally destroy an opponent’s face and severely hinder his chances of siring future Nordic types with a properly executed “body check,” whatever that is, but you get two minutes in the penalty box and fan ire if you, gasp, trip someone.

If one is prone to channel-surf (and the best channel-surfing is achieved in the prone position), there are, believe it or not, some morsels out there tasty enough to get one back around to, ah-yes-smell-it . . . baseball season. Ahhh.

Now here’s something. On ESPN, where else? Monster trucks. Yes, monster trucks. My wife thinks that’s a redundant term. But you gotta love this. Especially if you’re there in the stadium. You gotta love this, or the Neanderthal sitting next to you with the Confederate-flag T-shirt and the combat-fatigue pants will pummel you senseless. Ford and Chev-er-lay trucks, on tires large enough to require building permits, smashing perfectly good used cars into commemorative coins. Can’t say I know what the point of it all is, but it’s loud and violent and has lots of commercials. Ain’t that America? Gotta love it.

The Atlanta station’s got a fishing show. Such a calming influence, fishing shows. Fishermen (and fisherwomen, or to be nonsexist, fisherpeople) are so placid, even-tempered, lobotomized. I just like to sit and listen in on the two fishing experts as they discuss the finer points of capturing catfish. It’s become a real science.

Zep: “Ya know, Pud, to attract those low-schooling darkwater cats, I think I’m gonna have to go with a freetail yellow-fan mudwiggler on a nine-pound spinner notch.”

Pud: “Uh huh.”

Zep: “’Course, with that bilgewater slew comin’ in from the north, it might be best to bait ’em in with a red-back stinkfoot skimmer fly.”

Pud: “Yup.”

Zep: “Then agin, it bein’ early season an’ all, we could be safe and pull out the ol’ reliable purplefin hummerwig hopper-skim.”

Pud: “Uh huh.”

Zep: “What you gonna use, Pud?”

Pud: “Worm.”

On cable, there’s a bicycle moto-cross race. Not motorcycle, bicycle. It’s a pubescent rendition of motorcycle dirt-track racing. Personally, I think it’s harder than the motorized circuit. There are hills and dirt and wrecks, just like the big boys, but on top of all that, the riders have to pedal their brains out.

My nephew Jason used to ride bicycle moto-cross. He won enough trophies to fill six rooms. BIG trophies, too. When Jason finally grew tired of the sport, his folks had his trophies melted down into a Winnebago.

Beyond that, the pickin’s are pretty thin. Wafer thin, one might say. You do have the American Gladiators on reruns. Remember that show? Here you can watch aerobics instructors from East Lansing and pool-maintenance guys from Carmel battle steroid people from Mars. They compete in contests created by former Olympic committee members on acid. They have to do things like roll around inside gigantic cat toys or recreate famous Civil War battles using Nerf balls as ammunition.

It’s actually fun to watch. But as soon as you find yourself rooting for someone, you get an overpowering rush of guilt, immediately click off the TV, and attempt several pages of your long-abandoned novel. It was a dark night, and stormy. . . Hmmm.

Hurry summer.

[Published in the Oak Hill Gazette, November 17, 2010]

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