Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Maybe I'm just ex-jock jealous

"....these alleged analysts and colormen serve a limited role - and they rarely proved themselves capable of bridging the gap between entertainment and journalism. How many times must the viewing public be subjected to the same old worn-out bromides?" Excerpt from I Never Played The Game by Howard Cosell, 1985.

The term "jockocracy" originated with writer Robert Lipsyte and was popularized by the aforementioned greatest sportscaster ever. It is today such a permanent fixture of sports television, hardly anyone complains about it anymore. What's even worse is that the jockocracy mentality is also permeating portions of our world that contain actual quality of life meaning.

The quintessential example of the current state of the TV sports jockocracy was a recent episode of ESPN's college basketball highlight show "Midnight Madness."

On the screen was the usual lone broadcaster-by-trade on the panel. (His name does not matter; in the Jockocracy, regular hosts are known as "interchangeable part number one"). After said broadcaster spoke his requisite seven words of the evening, the "analysts" began their bloviation. However, for the first time in my memory, these ex-jocks arrived with an on-screen "resume" which let the viewer know where they had played, where they had coached, how many containers of hair gel they had used prior to the show. In other words, we needed to know why they were more qualified than you or I to hold discourse on March Madness.

There are many former athletes who have become fine additions to my television routine. Too often, though, the typical ex-jock speaks platitudes such as "you don't know what the pressure is like to play. I played, I know." That serves as their usual answer to questions regarding steroids, life on the road, and why so many athletes' manhood demands that they fire guns at strip clubs or bring dogs to the fighting ring. When the "analyst's" assertion is challenged, a repeat of the above remark is, in their mind, supposed to "nyah-nyah nyah-nyah boo boo" the discussion to an end.

This is, of course, a trivial worry, since it only involves games, distractions from the ills of society. But the Soviet-like behavior of some ex-athletes on the tube now increasingly shows up in that very society. Some examples of this lucridity that you may have heard, as have I:

- How dare you criticize the asinine behavior of Congress/our President/your City Council or County Commission. Since when have you ever served office?

- I don't have to go to court because I am a Member of Congress/the President/the Secretary of Bulletin Boards in the Capitol Mess Hall, therefore, I am above the law.

- Don't you dare complain about the lack of road construction speed; you aren't an engineer.

- You can't have an opinion on global warming; you aren't a scientist.

- How dare you criticize TV and newspaper journalists; you are not a journalist.

- You can't criticize talk radio, because you don't know the business. And you're probably a member of "The Liberal Media" anyway.

- Leave my naugahyde couch alone. You don't know what it's like to be one of those little Naugas, sacrificing itself for my sofa! (Apologies to the late Lewis Grizzard!)

You may laugh, but it is no laughing matter that people actually believe some of those statements at a time when, according to the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, a majority of Americans say they don't mind some restrictions on free speech.

So, though I may complain like Cosell, I can handle the United States of Jockocracy so long as it is confined to ESPN and it's knock offs. If Americans are only allowed to comment on topics in which we are experts, our next discussion will be limited to Frank Sinatra and Popeye cartoons from the 1930's. Unless you'd like to hear Bluto's rendition of "The Lady Is A Tramp", I can't imagine subjecting a friend to that conversation.

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