Behind the Screen, Behind the Banner, Behind the 8-ball
-Fred Stock

           Business slows down from time to time and a self employed on-line business person has the chance to take an afternoon off and park in front of the TV set with the family instead of his computer screen. His focus is suddenly whisked away from “the most efficient way” and the clients, and directed toward “entertain me” for a moment. That’s when it hits you; television has changed. Sometimes it seems as though the tube is being run by magic, other times, as though it were being run by monkeys!

          We have perhaps a thousand channels, many of which are filled with the most fascinating visits to exotic places, interesting people, backdrops that could only be described as breathtaking! There are sports broadcasts and Olympics and races… but regrettably also “Survivor Garbage Dump” and Hannah Montana reruns. But with all that, I find it most exasperating the way the information broadcasts – newscasts, analysis programs and sports coverage – are overlaid with graphics! If I wanted to see cute revolving clocks and animated stars and stripes and little noises and sound effects, I would invest in a video game. Where is John Cameron Swayze when you need him?

          Case in point; the golfer hits a ball out of the sand trap and miraculously it pops up on the green and rolls directly into the cup – a birdie! The crowd cheers. His competitor drives a long near-perfect shot that lands five feet from the pin and the crowd is elated, then hushed. He eyes the shot. The announcer whispers, “This one is for all the marbles!” The player gently taps the ball, which rolls toward the cup and goes ... behind the four layers of signs, stripes and crawlers at the bottom of the screen next to the flashing network logo in the corner. You can’t see the hole at all! At that exact moment the phone rings and someone in the room pushes the MUTE button so the screen goes silent! You gasp! Did it go in or not? Hey! What happened? Now you look up and they’re on four minutes of commercials! Arrgghhh! Yah, but I… Did he?...

          The other shock is the language on the cable channels, evidently not regulated by the decency standards applied to the broadcasting industry in which we used to work. If you slipped and used the term “damn!” by mistake on the radio, you were sternly chastised or fired. My my, things have changed! Tony Soprano would be unable to communicate at all!

          Of course, there seems to be a place for SOME of the more coarse emotions as long as they are tempered a whit. Imagine this; they put portable microphones on all the players at your favorite sporting event. The player hits a long fly ball that’s going going going… caught for an out! The batter slams his bat to the ground and mumbles, “Oh, fiddle-de-diddle!” Uh-hhuhh! That’s gonna happen! Or the basketball coach watches a spectacular drive down court, as his star player stops short to attempt a three pointer. He glances at the hoop and goes for the long shot, as the forward from the other team grabs the ball from his hands and streaks the length of the court and lays up the winning shot. The microphone on the coach picks up his disappointment as he hollers, “Oh, golly-sox! Darn darn darn!” Sure! Right! Yahh!

          Another new intriguing “feature” of the broadcast world is the blonde behind the screen directly behind home plate. She hasn’t looked at the baseball game for three minutes the whole afternoon. She’s spent the whole nine innings talking on her Blackberry and commenting to the brunette next to her, who is also on her cell phone “texting” someone! Apparently the Blackberry is now connected to a broadcast viewer who has said to her, “Oh, I see you on the TV!” She instantly begins madly waving and flailing her one free arm, as you are trying to watch the batter attempt the game-winning walk-off home run! I’m sure the pitcher appreciates it too! Where do these people come from? I mean, they have the best seats in the house, but they are not acquainted with the game at all! And who put her on “wavers”? Yikes!

          Yes, news and entertainment are “evolving” – perhaps that’s the correct word – maybe “degenerating?” My vote is, there be a button on my remote to delete the bars and logos on the screen kinda like the mute button works. Maybe we could use it to dissolve the dingbat behind the screen too! Oh my! -fhs