This is the time of year when much of America is glued to the TV set on weekends to watch a cascade of pro football playoffs. This has become so ingrained in our national culture that it’s almost become a season, like autumn or spring.
“I need to finish that before The Playoffs,” a person might say, indicating that most of the rest of life – save eating and sleeping – will just be put off until the Super Bowl is in the history
Oh, sure, you might go to work. But much of that time will be taken up discussing this play or that matchup, just like when we were kids we argued over whether Superman could defeat Thor or who would win between a grizzly bear and a tiger.
Transfixed as we are by the big-screen, we sit through hours and hours of play-by-play, commentary, interviews and speculation. Colorful graphics flash on the screen, and a variety of divas (male and female) murder the National Anthem.
First off, “The Star Spangled Banner” should not be a showcase for individual preening. I don’t care if you can hit and hold the high note on “laaaaand of the FREEEEEEEE…”
I’m not impressed. It’s a song about people who risked (and in some cases lost) their lives when America was invaded by the Brits in 1814.
Volunteer to risk your life for your country. That impresses me.
The great thing about television is that you get to see what happens. As much fun as it is to attend a sporting event in person, it’s kind of a pain in the neck. Between parking problems and long lines at the latrine, and outrageous prices for snacks ($8.95 for a bratwurst sandwich? Really? For a glorified hot dog on a bun?), it’s an expensive and exhausting process.
At home you get many comforts and a great view, but you have to listen to the patter of big men with big voices, i.e, announcers. The typical pairup now is an ex-jock with a glib wordsmith. The play-by-play fella tells you what you are seeing (a bit of redundancy, me thinks) and the color guy tells you what reeeeeallly happened.
“As you can see, the wide receiver ran a double-wide slant-six route with an overhead cam, shunted the cover man and evolved that to a utility bump for the first down.”
And we all nod as is that’s just as clear as can be. “Yeah, Farkleson sure knows how to run a … that thing the guy on TV said.”
It’s in the interests of people in any profession to make what they do so magical, difficult and complex. Ever ask a plumber for an explanation of your bill? You’ll get 15 minutes of monologue that would make a NASA scientist’s head spin. But the whole thing might really come down to this: “You had a leak and I fixed it.”
Something similar happens in sports. Saying “Smith ran out there and caught the pass cause the other guys messed up” makes it all sound too easy. Why else would we pay big money to athletes or the announcers who describe what athletes do? Of course, what’s easy to see isn’t easy to do, and that’s what separates you and me from Tom Brady and Troy Polamalu.
Take, for example, what I do here at the Journal (aside from sipping diet root beer and sneaking in too many games of Scrabble on the iPad). I download data and digital images and reconfigure them for inclusion in InDesign. The images start as JPEGs or PDFs and have to be turned into TIFFs, although there are times when an EPS file is a better match.
In my prepress tasks I synthesize input into narratives as well, and assemble the job in a compatable format to be uploaded to an FTP site.
Translation: I write stuff and put it in the paper, then send it to the printer.
Occasionally, the obfuscation lobby lets the truth slip. During a recent broadcast. Cris Collingswood was trying to explain a blocking scheme for his audience. He started using all this jargon, then stopped himself. “Hey,” he said with a laugh. “It’s not that complicated. Remember, these are football players.”
And we are all experts in our fields, too. Just don’t think that because the guys on TV are carrying a football instead of driving a bread truck that they’re any more sophisticated than you are. They just get paid more.
Oh, and by the way, a grizzly would totally kick a tiger’s keister.
First, he would throw the tiger a head fake, then cut hard left to get some separation. Then he’d slant right, pick up a block from a pine tree, and clothesline the cat. Then ….