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Chad: TV just too big a lure in the U.S.

I was watching TV the other day when it struck me that we watch too much TV.

(Note to Pulitzer committee: The preceding sentence is my award submission for 2010. Take it or leave it.)

This year’s Stanley Cup had its best ratings since 1997. The NBA Finals were the most-viewed since 2001. The last World Series had its biggest audience since 2004. And Super Bowl 44 was the most-watched TV show in U.S. history.

Across the land of liberty, sports on TV appear to be liberating.

We’re at war,* the economy stinks and nobody’s quite sure what tomorrow will bring. The solution? The masses huddle up their small lives in front of their big screens.

(*-I don’t discern much about foreign policy – largely because I’m sitting on the sofa staring at my Sony most days – but every time I’ve looked out the window since 1963, it appears we’re at war. At any given moment, I’m not even sure where the war is, or whom we’re fighting, but this much I know: If it’s some ongoing “war on terror,” we’re in for a rough one. I mean, some of those fundamentalists strap bombs to their bodies and literally are willing to die for their cause; on the other hand, we just want to watch football on Sundays.)

Like the old expression says, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going – and the rest of us turn on the TV.” Indeed, it remains a curious phenomenon: As our lives get worse, the games look better. Especially on HDTV.

Anyway, Couch Slouch doesn’t know if hunkering down and holing up for more Snooki, “Survivor” and SEC games is the best way to go in the face of our ongoing national crises and societal dysfunction.

Let me briefly detail the rise and fall of the American empire:

In 1787, at 4:30 in the morning any random day, everybody in America was either fine-tuning the U.S. Constitution, getting up to work in a cotton field or asleep.

Now, in 2010, at 4:30 in the morning, 16 percent of all Americans are watching TV.

I want you to think about that for a minute – actually, scratch that, because if I leave you alone for a minute, you’ll go turn on the TV.

But let’s look at that number again.

At 4:30 a.m., according to the New York Times, 16 percent of all U.S television sets are on.

(I am reminded of the late comic Robert Schimmel who, after having a heart attack in 2000, said, “You know you’re out of shape when you have a heart attack when you’re watching television.”)

Now, as a card-carrying insomniac who can remember the pre-cable days of the 1980s when all I could watch at 4:30 in the morning was Charlie Rose on CBS, let me tell you smug 9-to-5 types that, even with a satellite universe of 300 channels, there is ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY NOTHING GOOD TO SEE on television at that forsaken hour, other than the occasional, finely announced poker re-run.

I don’t care if you’re just getting up or just going to bed, there’s no upside to having your TV on at 4:30 in the morning.

Which brings me to a Pew Research Center phone survey earlier this year, in which only 42 percent of Americans said they felt a TV set was “a necessity.” Oh, really? Then how does this reconcile with the fact that the number of televisions per household keeps rising? More than half of American homes have three or more TV sets.

(In other words, television isn’t that important to us – we just happen to have a TV set everywhere but in the bathtub.)

I’m figuring that either many Americans are lying here, or they just didn’t hear the question correctly over the sound of their TV sets.

Speaking of which, would it kill us to just turn off those TVs an extra hour a day? Visit a library. Write a poem. Talk to a neighbor, or even your spouse. We’ve been through several TV generations now, and, frankly, as the pictures have gotten sharper, our vision has gotten blurrier.

I would explore this further, but, well, I’ve got to get ready for “Monday Night Football.”

Ask The Slouch

Q. Under whose auspices can NBA commissioner David Stern instruct the Wizards’ Gilbert Arenas not to discuss his gun conviction ever again? (Ronnie Bryant; Fairfax, Va.)

A. Like most pro basketball players, Arenas holds dual U.S. and NBA citizenship, and Stern’s authority supersedes that of the Constitution.

Q. Do you believe the allegations that David Beckham paid two hookers $10,000 for a New York romp in 2007? (Marc Russell; Milwaukee)

A. No. I don’t think Beckham has scored since he came to the U.S.

Q. I once heard you mention that you’ve been banished from ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption.” What did you do? (Ed Ziegler; Shaker Heights, Ohio)

A. I borrowed Tony Kornheiser’s comb-over, which apparently is a no-no.

Q. A TV analyst states that a player has “all the intangibles.” How can he tell? (Jim Mannella; Beaver Falls, Pa.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

Norman Chad is a syndicated columnist. You can enter his $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just e-mail and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!


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