Saturday, November 03, 2007

Truth, Justice, and All That Stuff: Why I Hate TV News and Sports Broadcasts

I don't usually watch TV news, and when I ventured to catch a few minutes tonight, I remembered why. At the completion of the weather forecast, the weatherman's voice rose in pitch, and he remarked that there was a possibility that next week could see some snow. "Dunt-duh-DA" remarked the male news anchor in an overly melodramatic voice. "We don't want to hear that," squeaked the female news anchor.

"Shut up," I said out loud, "We live in Wisconsin; we know that it is going to snow sooner or later. This happens every year. There is no need to make a production about it. It's like every year when you hear people say 'The summer went by so fast.' No it didn't. The summer went by at the same rate of speed that it does ever year." I felt a letter better after venting. Nobody likes cliches, and cliched reactions to changing weather patterns are especially irksome to me.

"You get annoyed so easily," my wife teased me upon completion of my monologue.

The truth of the matter is that in real life, I don't. I pride myself on my unflappable patience. Yet I'll admit that this patience goes out the window when I'm watching TV. The majority of my television consumption is sporting events, and it's true that I get annoyed easily watching sports. I'm not talking about getting frustrated when my teams do poorly. Third down defensive penalties notwithstanding, I'm not one of those guys who yells and screams at interceptions and missed tackles. I reserve my wrath for the announcers.

My biggest problem is the sheer repetitiveness of the commentary. The same stock phrases are trotted out every broadcast--players talk about the necessity of "execution" and "staying focused," while announcers tend to emphasize "consistency." Announcers discuss how one team "wanted it more" by "digging down deeper" during "clutch situations" and exhibiting "the heart of a champion." Players aren't as aggressive as the need to be, since they are playing not to lose. Sometimes, the cliches may even be true, but that doesn't make it any less excruciating. I get it that pitchers sometimes "nibble" and "give the hitters too much credit," but I'm sick of being told that. I'm also to the point where I don't need to be told anymore that Brett Favre is a gambler who will "make something out of nothing," but that he will make one or two throws a game where he will give the defense a chance to create a turnover.

Yet on some levels, I'm forced to acknowledge that my impatience is rooted in selfishness. I have been watching sports, and to a lesser extent television news, for about 20 years now. I have an irrational expectation that the announcers that I watch know this, and I demand that they provide a level of sophistication commiserate with my experience. What was profound to me at age 10 is now inane.

And herein lies a problem that is actually mind blowing in its ramifications, and it's importance transcends televised sports. Cliches tend to get to be cliches because they are true. And they tend to get repeated because they especially poignant truths. And they work their way into our worldviews and they form the foundation for how we construct our reality.

And then what happens? To borrow a cliche, familiarity breeds contempt. They wear out their welcome. We may develop more nuanced and sophisticated ways to approach situations, but what is lost is that the cliche was necessary as a first step in order to advance to the more advanced perspective.

In 2006's Superman Returns, there was a mild controversy containing one of the lines of the film. Perry White asks "Does he still stand for truth, justice, all that stuff?" Some were infuriated that the phrase "American Way" was taken out. I can see why they did it, though. The phrase once meant something, but now it's pretty much empty of signification, much like sports cliches once meant something to me, and are now empty of meaning.

So what's the problem? Let's say I get my way and sports announcers begin taking a novel approach to every game. They never state the obvious and look only for nuanced detail. They assume an air of sophistication, eschewing light humor and embracing ironic commentary. My needs as a viewer are satisfied. And somewhere there is a little 10-year-old boy sitting down to watch his first game...


Blogger Enjoy_Every_Sandwich said...

"In 2006's Superman Returns, there was a mild controversy containing one of the lines of the film. Perry White asks "Does he still stand for truth, justice, all that stuff?" Some were infuriated that the phrase "American Way" was taken out."

Why were they angry? People are so dumb sometimes. Did you know Superman's artist was Canadian?

Btw, watch "Chuck" Mondays at 6 on NBC.

9:50 AM  
Blogger nate p said...

I was curious on your thoughts of John Madden? Don't hold back.

12:13 PM  
Blogger Azor said...

Actually, I like Madden. Perhaps precisely because I have grown up with him, I have an easier time turning off my critical faculties and enjoying him the same way I did when I was ten and he and Summerall were in their prime on CBS.

10:17 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home