Tuesday, June 21, 2005

National Sports and television

Futon Report: Wild ping, you make my heart sing: "The wild Arizona State-Nebraska game Tuesday afternoon sparked personal intrigue toward college baseball."

I can't imagine college baseball doing the same for me, but sports programming does possess something alluring. Usually, I'm not a big fan of televised sports, but I have been setting my social calendar around the NBA Playoffs and Finals. Part of this stems from my youth, the San Antonio Spurs' acquisition of David Robinson, and my near-obsession with the team's philosophies. But, I watched last year's Finals between the Pistons and Lakers just as psychotically. I'll watch regular season football games if I'm at home...usually I'm not, but I always wish I were.

No matter who's playing, I end up sitting on my couch and coaching. I argue calls. I complain about contact and non-calls. I get involved. My parents weren't big sports fans so I started this phase of life late, living vicariously through the Monday Morning Quarterbacks in my middle school. I love the fans and the momentum switches. I love to hate the announcers and the officials. It'll never be a religion for me, but it'll always be a pastime.

Tonight, I watched Game 6 of the NBA Finals between the Spurs and Pistons and found David Stern's halftime interview ironic. The anchor, cannot remember who, questioned Stern about the future of the sport, its possibly tainted public opinion, and the future of the sport. The ratings are down, yet Stern was sure people were still watching, just not on television. With internet and TiVo, the game's audience is shifting from either live or real-time at a later time. With all the recent cyber chatter about the imminent death of newspapers, I'd be more concerned with the current life-expectancy of television. Before long, WebTV or some improvement on that concept will soon replace remote controls with keyboards. The opinionated/"expert" commentary of the announcers?...there's still the mute button.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

New Worlds To Censor

New Worlds To Censor: "A troubling shift is underway in how lawmakers censor media in this country. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), chairmen of the Senate and House commerce committees, as well as Kevin Martin, the new head of the Federal Communications Commission, are proposing to broaden federal broadcast 'indecency' regulations to cover cable and satellite television. And a separate measure recently introduced in the Senate would regulate 'excessively violent' programming, not just in broadcasting but on cable and satellite service as well."

I'm a glutton for media. It not only influences society, but it also reflects it. Everyday, millions of people flock to their safe-space in front of their television sets, computers, and radios to escape the responsibilities they have to live every day. Most of these are parents looking for a reprieve, something that entertains them and their children. With the flip of switch, everything sacred in this sloth, could be lost.

With these new proposed regulations on cable and satellite television - subscription luxuries - the omnipotent hand of the government could find its way into our homes, influencing not only our leisure time, but also parenting our children. I don't have children - at least none that I'm aware of - but I see the cause for concern. I saw Janet Jackson's clothing malfunction, in fact, I have a PVR so we re-played it, zoomed in, slowed it down and saw all that there was to be upset about. None of us were offended, but the room was full of guys and beer. We were shocked and awed. I was amazed at the audacity. The story blanketed every major media outlet; the public was outraged. The root of all this wasn't the malfunction or the network, it was the shock - the surprise of it all. Americans sat in their living room, enjoying the spectacle that is the Super Bowl halftime show, and all of a sudden there it is - a nipple. We see them as teenagers going through adolescence; we see them as adults and parents; we see them on cable television late at night. Nipples, sex, violence - these are an American institution. But, so is decency and so is expectation.

We expect to see these types of things on cable television, so we're not offended then. When we want premium programming, we get cable. That's what we pay for. Network television is a community service, offering mass entertainment. Network television is the hometown paper; it's familiar faces, places, and experiences. Cable television is unchartered territory. It's something new. When I turn on my satellite, I enjoy channel surfing. The only thing I expect is the service that I pay for, not a government intervention telling me I have a problem and need to start attending some sort of meeting. It's freedom that can be enjoyed by all as a right to receive what one pays for. If you want the Spice channel, pay for it.

I'm a member of a niche audience. I fit into a specific demographic, but in that demographic I have friends. They are my friends, neighbors, and complete strangers I know nothing about other than they, like me, have specific interests. If the government starts to regulate what niche I fit into, then I lose even this bit of anti-social interactivity. That is the core principle of the American media - bringing people together through programming that reflects specific interests, not to spread a message. The message is the messenger. Don't kill him.