Saturday, May 28, 2011

I love television: Memorial Day weekend edition

It's just true.

My dad loved television, too. One of my favorite memories of Dad from my boyhood was our weekly Saturday-evening date to play Othello on his and Mom's bed and watch "CHiPs" on their portable, black-and-white TV. In his memoirs, he opens several chapters with a summary of various world developments before going into the personal happenings of his life in that period. Anyway, one of these opening sections, for the late 1950s, I think, ends with a sentence along the lines of, "Meanwhile, television continued to provide affordable entertainment for the working man." TV to Dad was--like the Kentucky State Parks, Boys Scouts of America uniform exchanges and public tennis courts--the American ideal applied.

The corollary of this position was that Dad raged--and I do mean raged--against cable television. To him, the rollout of rabbit-ears, WFIE ("We're First in Evansville"), free-for-all, broadcast TV was what he thought he had been fighting for in Leyte Gulf, et al; the introduction of black-box-behind-the-shrubs-at-the-side-of-the-house, TBS (Ted Turner Broadcasting), country-club-packaged-pricing, cable TV was what he came to rue having fought for.

But, like all of us, Dad was full of contradictions and compromises. We got cable about midway through my senior year at Heath High School ... somewhere in late 1985 or early 1986. He started writing his memoirs after I moved out of the house for WKU. His original title was, "The Death of Democracy." When he raged, he raged about as fiercely as ever in his last 15 years of life--but much less frequently than he had in the previous 15. That's how long I knew him. He died in 1999, at age 74. Lung cancer.

Anyway, TV.

Saturday mornings when I was a kid, I'd scramble out of bed at 5 or 6 to watch cartoons while my mom and dad slept in or got started to work. Now on Saturday mornings, I still often scramble out of bed for the remote while my wife and daughter still snooze. This morning, I caught a later Match Game on Game Show Network (panel included Brett Sommers, Gary Burghoff, Richard Dawson, Avery Whatshisname, a couple of others I recognized but can't now remember the names of), and now I'm on an HCBU-hoops documentary on ESPN Classic--both fantastic in their own ways. But I hear the girl over the baby monitor, starting to stir, and she's going to be hellbent for Nick Jr.; my time of control is drawing short.

I know what Dad was saying. I get the raging, and I appreciate that it's necessary. I know what Thomas Jefferson was saying. I get the calling to arms, and I appreciate that it's necessary. I get it. Even when it's not Memorial Day.

And--and I do mean and, not but--I think it's important for the sake of sanity and staying in the game to stay mindful that this is all basic, human-condition stuff that we're going to be bumping into over and over and over again. The urge to be In runs really, really deep. There will be no end to this war in this world.

At his most fierce, Dad might've assailed me as an appeaser for that paragraph. But in his less-fierce moments, which became more frequent in those last 15 years I knew him, he might've just said to flabby, too-far-gone me, "OK. Fine. Did you see there's a movie about Luis Tiant coming on ESPN Classic later this morning?"


  1. Eric, this is great, great stuff -- and a wonderful tribute to your dad on Memorial Day weekend. Thank you very much.