My Turn: Landing in TV’s wasteland

Incapacitated this summer owing to a debilitating injury, I had no choice but to spend much of the last 15 weeks lying on my back.

For the most part, I took this as an opportunity to improve my mind and to be creative: reading, writing music, etc. Occasionally, though, my mind sought respite from such proactive engagement and I lapsed into the craven waste of time to which we all periodically subject ourselves: watching TV.

As a longtime baseball fan, this proved a bad summer to have done so. Our local cable monopoly, which just a few years ago offered us the options of watching the Yankees or Atlanta Braves’ networks, has reduced our options to: The Red Sox (and occasional Fox and ESPN games featuring teams with actual major league talent). As so often happens, the Bosox management created yet another roster filled with minor leaguers and a plethora of hapless reserve outfielders and designated hitters (can you say “Willy Mo Pena?”). The Sox broadcasters became so bored with the proceedings that long stretches of time frequently went by with no commentary to be heard other than the scornful inebriated rants of the Fenway faithful within earshot of their microphones as they harass visiting on-deck hitters in hahsh Boston accents.

On one FOX game of the week, though, the Dodgers and Giants played. Reminded me of my pre-Western Mass. childhood in New York (before ’65), watching artful, strategic, smallball. The only drawback with the generally knowledgeable FOX broadcasters (Tim McCarver and whoever else) is that they are constantly interrupting the game with news of the latest college and pro football. Honestly, when I tune in to a ball game, I don’t do so to get an update on Jack Buck’s fantasy football team.

It’s a breach of trust ... There’s enough encroachment of football in the media as it is already. I never understood football ... Looks to me like a bunch of artificially enhanced behemoths trying to kill or capture the few talented athletes on the field. Is this really America’s favorite sport, with its underlying ethos of violence and militarism, not to mention commercialism. Is this the direction baseball is heading, too?

We used to go see to those hapless Mets in the Polo Grounds in 1962 and ’63. They brought people in the door by filling their rosters with former “Bums” (the Dodgers and Giants had abandoned New York for the Left Coast in the late ’50s), most of whom were well past their prime. I remember seeing white-haired Duke Snider, Gil Hodges and others laboring for the Mets while their manager, the by-then-senile Casey Stengel, slept through the game on the bench. Lacking any sort of farm system at the time, the Mets kept the team afloat financially by pandering to the remaining NL fans in the city with a roster featuring the over-the-hill gang. But the game of the 1960s was real baseball. Koufax versus Marichal was like listening to Ellington and Beethoven! But seriously, folks, watching the Red Sox play Toronto (a team whose management also evidently shares “American League” values) is the equivalent (watch out here comes another metaphor) of watching Yanni open for the Whiffenpoofs.

Which brings me to PBS. Does the “P” stand for Pandering? Is there perhaps a connection between what passes for music programming on that network and the tastes of their large donors?

And how about that Mitt Romney? He makes Bill Clinton look more like a panda wolverine than a panda bear. His contempt for working people is exceeded only by his chronic case of hoof in mouth. I hate making predictions, but I’ll go out on a limb here and say that “Mitt: we are the 57 percent!” That’s how badly you’re going to lose (notwithstanding the Republican CrowJims who are trying to roll back the Voting Rights Act). Seriously, as long as Mitt and his Junior partner Paul “Rosy Ruiz” Ryan keep talking, Obama cannot help but win (and I’m not here to say that everything Obama’s done as president has been that stellar, by the way — one could easily fill another column with his broken promises and lapses of judgment).

And I’ll close by saying that Paul Ryan is a pathetic liar. Anyone who has only run ONE marathon can surely recall his correct time (for those of you who missed it — he said he’d run under 3 hours when the well-documented truth is that he ran OVER 4!). His exaggeration was no doubt based on the assumption that nobody listening would really know the difference. And let’s face it, every runner exaggerates a bit. For example, if I’m asked my best time, I might say “around 2 and half hours” if I know I’m speaking with someone who doesn’t care that much about it, which is most people (the actual time is 2:36 for anyone who does). A mere rounding error, one might say. The difference between sub 3 and over 4 is hugely different. Plenty of people my age (in their 60s) can still break 4 hours. No 42-year-old should brag about it, though I do give him credit for having at least finished. All finishers are winners, as the saying goes.

Andy Jaffe, a Conway resident, is director of the Williams College Jazz Program.

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