SO Monday my Poor Wife was working away on her class project, the one for the class she's taking, not one she's teaching, and I found myself alone with the remote at the critical 5 PM slot. She was still within earshot, and I am nothing if not dutiful, so she got to listen to a half-hour of local jibber-jabber, except from one station only with no flipping back and forth to catch three-to-six different weather segments, depending on what's happening on the Threat Board. (Local "News" now begins with Weather unless there's a catastrophe of Biblical proportions occurring somewhere other than Iraq, which is firmly affixed to the 5:30 slot. Thus for three days last week we opened local "news" by watching weather radar over Central Texas, and prior to the first storm of the season dumping 3" of fluffy snow on us Wednesday morning we'd spent a weekend watching the pink nimbus of its radar reflection arcing across Minnesota and Wisconsin like we were Aussies in On the Beach.)
Anyway, I started flipping around and landed on Pardon the Interruption, the vaguely closeted ESPN Siskel & Ebert spinoff in which the guy with the second-worse case of the cutes in national broadcasting discusses the day's sports "issues" with the guy with the worst case. I believe you will know, assuming, for some reason, that you care, which one of those is Tony Kornheiser.
And I stuck around because the second story was Sunday's Colts-Jags game (they list the chronology on a sidebar), which had been pretty much ignored by the national press despite its having involved the much-injured but still possibly second-best team-in-the-league defending champs and their divisional rivals and top wildcard team who're one of the most feared clubs in the NFL, and despite the Colts win having all but clinched the AFC South in a season of adversity. And instead the discussion centered on Jacksonville's claim of having been cheated.
The Colts are 9-3 against the Jax since the two were moved to the AFC South in 2002. Remarkably, and against all odds, all nine of those losses have been the result of the Colts, the referees, the League office, NASA, and all the companies that use Peyton Manning as a celebrity endorser colluding. At least according to the Jags. They're one of the toughest outfits in football, but they're the biggest whiners in all of sports. So much so that it is a common bar sport in Indianapolis to name the most outrageous Jags' complaint after their next loss and see if you can approach the reality; I have a standing bet that "Pepper spray in the eye black" will turn up before 2012.
You might suppose that this information would manage to find its way over the Appalachians, even to a professed computerphobe like Kornheiser, but apparently not. They took this stuff seriously, although Kornheiser took off the tinfoil hat long enough to debunk--thanks, Tony!--Jacksonville DE Paul Spicer's mock insistence that Bill Polian had paid off the refs. They proceeded to show two plays from the first quarter where a Colts challenge was upheld (while neglecting to show the actual replays), and one of the Jags' four false starts, which they had blamed on Indy's defense "barking". The segment sorta concluded with Kornheiser pulling the old boxing bromide "You have to knock the champ out" from his sphincter, as though the game had ended in a split decision.
Okay, so, no big deal; aggressive stupidity is very big with Nielsen families, they tell me. But it's Monday night; time for the undefeated Pats to play the Ravens, and Tony Kornheiser to talk over Ron Jaworski for another entire broadcast, lest America actually learn something about the game. And the Ravens beat the Pats for 59: 37, only to lose in the end, and afterwards some of the Ravens go ballistic over some of the calls in the last :44, about which they have maybe one somewhat valid point and are full of some measure of shit on the rest. And so I set up to tape PTI the next afternoon in case my PW is back at the controls, and Lo! and Behold! after two minutes discussing the actual game, and whether Tom Brady's jock tastes like chocolate or is more redolent of peppermints, the third story is on the Controversy, and the sidebar title is "Conspiracy Theory".
The script is irresistible. They don't have to write to it. They view everything through it, all their waking lives.
Which brings us to one Willard Mitt Romney and the groundswell of excitement over "the Mormon speech" he's said to be delivering today. By casual count I have now heard this compared to JFK's "Catholic speech" 137 times, without ever searching it out once; I have heard 84 times that this wasn't his Kennedy speech, 73 of those noting that he'd not compare the circumstances/personalities/cultural import of the two; several dozen explanations of how the speech was planned for later, after he'd won some primaries, but is being moved up because of The Amazing Surging Huckabee, most of those allowing that his advisors were agin' it, but none of them questioning whether his advisors were actually behind the decision to tell the reporter that his advisors were agin' it. I have seen or heard it described as a Make-or-Break speech, the Most Important Event of His Campaign, his "Moment", and "Pivotal"; someone even bothered to wake up Jonah Goldberg, probably figuring that corporate media insanity would be incomplete otherwise.
Romney, by the way, is spending something like $800K per day on teevee *, has now spent more money than any candidate in history to this point **, and has already spent more than all the Presidential campaigns through 1988, adjusted for inflation, combined †. Which has achieved almost 80% name recognition and a make-or-break moment even before literally hundreds of our fellow citizens swarm the church basements of Iowa for their Quadrennial Vote-N-Snack, but a lot of goodwill from that subset of voters who sell television advertising time.
The only thing that justifies the hyperbole is that hyperbole is one of the few things besides eye-catching new packaging schemes and making idiots of ourselves on television that we're still good at. The only thing that justifies all actual discussions of the "issue" in question, rather than the significance of its contrivance, being buried in paragraph 18, is the sensitivity of the sort of Religious Freedom voter who thinks Mormons will burn in Hell for all eternity but would rather not say so publicly.
Still, as we swirl down the drain, if we remember to keep our eyes on a fixed spot we can a) avoid vertigo and b) enjoy some unintentional humor while we're at it. Bob "Pivotal" Novak:
Romney no longer is called the perfect candidate hampered solely by religious prejudice. After a half-hour immigrant-bashing duel with Rudy Giuliani, he looked like somebody who would say anything to be nominated.Hey, Bob, you ever consider sportscasting?
† faith based