Corky: TV talking heads conduct 'an uncivil war'
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Corky: TV talking heads conduct 'an uncivil war'

Watching politics and sports on TV not for the faint of heart

In the cave of winds called Television, no zephyr shrieks like the voguish panel discussion.

It's an affliction - or infection, take your choice - that has developed both in TV news and sports.

These free-for-alls usually include a blond moderator (news) or blow-dryed pleasing non-entity (sports).

The blonde is flanked by a Republican and Democrat, in a framed triptych on the screen.

The sports guy is flanked by morons.

Mr. Sport brings in as many idle newspaper reporters as he can find who'll work for free as long as they get to eat at the commissary. On some shows the sportswriters appear at their desks back at the office, the company logo prominent in the background.

But whether its news or sports, after these discussions - if you'll pardon the exaggeration - is like trying to watch one tiny parachute in an explosion of thousands from a dandelion patch in a stiff breeze.

Or tracing the path of one snowflake in a blizzard.

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The issues and angers of the hour are pulverized into one anguished howl.

And it is neither debate nor discussion. It is disorderly conduct.

An uncivil war.

There is no purpose to these overlapping conversations, as far as I can tell, except that networks apparently have sold advertisers on rhetoric rendered into a gooey glop.

A mess, in other words, not unlike modern politics, or for that matter, modern sports.

My argument against TV arguments isn't that the adversaries bat out of turn, but that they bat at the same time.

And whether it's Kobe vs. LeBron, health care, government bailouts or periphrastic Latin equations . . . the result is a mess.

It's sort of like those musical rounds where different voices begin at different times, you know? So that different parts of the melody coincide. Or is it collide?

Except that the news and sports debates are yelling matches, more grotesque than harmonious.

So why do I watch? Why does anyone watch?

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I guess for the same reason 40,000 people showed up one September day in 1896 in McLennan County, Texas, to watch two unmanned railroad locomotives crash into each other at full speed in a bizarre Katy Railroad promotion.

Craziness is common and recurrent, unfortunately, among humans.

But Television should expand into equal opportunity panel-show shouting matches. Why limit it to political hacks and sportswriters who have nothing better to do?

I, for one, would like to see Martin the Geico Gecko, the Aflac Duck, Yosemite Sam and Oscar the Grouch brought in to debate the pros and cons of the Cash For Clunkers program.

Or how about Rosie O'Donnell, Hulk Hogan, Barney Frank, two-time world hog calling champion Roxanne Ward and an antique factory whistle going over the selection process for the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament?

That would be worth watching, although you'd have to stand outside in the street to listen, so as not to ruin your hearing.

As long as the taming of the TV panel discussion is a futile hope, we might as well ask for a little variety.

Civility being out of the question.

Corky Simpson is an award-winning sportswriter and columnist who has worked in Southern Arizona for more than 35 years. He now writes a weekly column for the Green Valley News.

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1 comment on this story

Jan 27, 2010, 2:26 pm
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I can see coming out to watch that train wreck, especially given that it predated YouTube some. But watching shallow talking heads pontificate on anything is my idea of severe punishment.

I don’t need some ex-jock to “inform” me about a sporting event, and I don’t need spin doctors to interpret the train wreck that has become our political landscape.

Corky, if you must be in front of the TV, I recommend shows like Top Gear. They are fun, entertaining and neither condescend nor pretend to be something they aren’t.

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Click image to enlarge

Courtesy The Texas Collection, Baylor University

Two locomotives of the Katy Railroad face off just before the crash stunt in Crush, Texas in 1896.


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