GRATIFICATION last week--it's not something to be taken for granted at my age--came in the form of a sudden local uproar over the now-expunged-from-my-screen local cable provider Comcast (and its regional partners in crime). The Big Ten (Motto: "Only 91.7% As Corrupt As The Big 12") has begun its own sports network, via FOX, and it won't be carried any local cable system, or not soon, anyway. The news that negotiations were at an impasse and that, as a result, some Purdue and Indiana games would not be seen locally (except by subscribers of Direct-TV and astute, handsome, Comcast-hating beta testers of the upstart AT&T U-Verse) resulted in a lot of fist-shaking at all concerned. That is not the really gratifying part. The failure to reach a deal has to do with the Big Ten's insistence that its network be part of the basic cable package, while Comcast (whose Big Fish status makes it the de facto negotiator) wants to put it on a That'll Cost Ya sports tier. Both sides fired away after word was made public, natch, and the bemused outside observer was left to marvel, once again, at the sort of shit some people are willing to be spoon-fed. A Comcast mouthpiece actually said that Big Ten basketball was a niche market in Central Indiana. Or so I read; it's probably not surprising that no one could keep a straight face while reading that on camera.
The Big Ten, meanwhile, pointed out that most of what Comcast did, in fact, offer on basic cable was shit, except they said it in a more academic-sounding way. Perennial ratings-grabbers The Golf Channel and Versus (a version of Spike for people who consider Spike "too cerebral") are embarnacled on the basic schedule possibly because they are owned by Comcast. The Big Ten probably backed this up with statistics or something; if they can fit eleven schools into The Big Ten you know they've got that math thing down cold.
Which is not to let our nation's colleges, including the ten members, or roughly 91%, of the Big Ten schools which are state-supported, off the hook for behaving like money-grubbing agents whose clients share in roughly 0% of the take. Their mouthpiece tried to argue that increased athletic revenues would eliminate the need for increasing tuitions to fund lesser sports, which either means that Logic has become less rigorous in the thirty years since I matriculated, or they figure the rest of us don't know anything about it.
Anyway, word is that the Big Ten wants $1.10 per subscriber, and Comcast--which charges $60 a month for basic "service"--says its customers Just Won't Stand for a rate increase. Again, presumably, this was said this off-camera. I was reminded of the recent loss of Leona Helmsley, whose great contribution to American culture--having The Help perform her Community Service--has gone sadly unmemorialized. There's a lot of talk these days about when America lost Her Greatness. I would point to that morning in 1985 when the much-limned Little People, having seen and heard Leona on the previous night's 60 Minutes, did not march into work and kill their bosses simply on the off-chance they were like her. This was the crucial evidence needed that the Reaganscam had worked beyond anyone's wildest dreams. I believe it was at this point that Dick Cheney said to himself, "Fuck! Let's try war profiteering!"
Which brings me back to my own 190, soon-to-be 191, channel line-up. My Poor Wife got me watching The National Geographic channel when she caught its fine Katrina recap recently, and I taped a couple shows I saw promo'd: a four-hour tick-tock on 9/11 which traces back to the Soviet-Afghan war, and a one-hour Road to War: Iraq, which traces back to My Pet Goat. And I'm still working my way through the former, but I ran through the latter last night. And what was interesting is that despite the fact that it's almost entirely Republicanized (the sole "Liberal" commenter is Bob Graham), not one of its former insiders could make the case anymore, or even be bothered to try, and these are people whose public perceptions will forever be linked to Our Mideast Adventure. Half the fuckin' WHIG group is there (Card, Frum, Matalin, Calio) plus Dick Armitage, and the well just pumps dust and nobody seems inclined to work the handle very hard anyhow. Card does seem to do his best to make Bush seem Presidential in a vague sort of way, but, assuming that is his best, one might be justified in thinking the suggestion that the next administration try hiring people with a spark of intelligence would insult only Armitage. Frum actually finds it necessary to say, over the My Pet Goat footage, that Bush "didn't have a good poker face," which suggests that Frum doesn't play the game much. Granted "total zombie incomprehension" is not your standard approach to the problem, but it's technically quite serviceable.