Super to not-so-super, TV sports can be an addicting experience

May 29, 1991|By Rich Hofmann | Rich Hofmann,Knight-Ridder bHC B

Now, it's important to establish the mindset at the outset. So, here's a test. If you were stranded on a desert island and could take only two things with you, what would they be?

If you answer, "A person who is a good conversationalist and a copy of 'The Brothers Karamazov,' " turn the page. Turn it now.

If you answer, "Julia Roberts and Madonna," you are to be complimented on your good taste and your spirit of adventure. You also are excused.

But if, on that desert island, the two things you desire the most are a refrigerator stocked with the fruit of the brewmaster's labor and a television remote control (with extra batteries), then you are in the right place.

We have been told that network sports television viewership is down. We have been presented with some rather impressive numbers to back up that statement, including what probably is the all-time whopper -- $100 million, which is what CBS was said to have lost in only one year of televising major-league baseball.

It's hard to argue with those numbers, it really is. But it's hard to verify those numbers among the people I know, who pretty much watch anything and everything that the networks choose to put on. I take that back -- nobody I know watches the WLAF -- but

everything else is pretty much fair game.

It's true that many of these people have been genetically altered by the glow that radiates from their 25-inch screen with stereo sound, but that doesn't explain everything. Some people are just addicted to sports on television.

Are you?

Rank, in order, the events that are watched by the most people.

a) The World Series

b) The NCAA basketball championship game

c) The Super Bowl

d) The Orange Bowl (Notre Dame vs. Colorado)

e) The NFC and AFC championship games

f) The American League and National League playoffs

g) "Monday Night Football"

h) Your average NFL Sunday

This should be a pretty easy question for people who watch sports on television, and the beginning of it is easy. The Super Bowl, viewed by almost 39 million television households, is the clear leader. You only have to be breathing to know that one. But what's next?

The World Series, right? Wrong. The NFC and AFC championship games are next, with a combined average of about 25 million households tuned in. The World Series comes after that, at 20 million.

And after that? In order, the NCAA basketball championship game (about 19 million), "Monday Night Football" (almost 18 million, on average), the Orange Bowl (almost 17 million), your average NFL Sunday (more than 12 million) and the baseball championship series (an average of about 11 million each).

What does this tell you? That more people would rather watch the NFC championship game than the World Series. That more people would rather watch a game in Week 12 of the NFL season than the American League Championship Series. That more people would rather watch a "Monday Night Football" game than what amounts to the college football national championship.

Guess this NFL thing is still pretty big.

But, frankly, watching these big events is not what distinguishes the sports television degenerate. And, I mean, it was hot this weekend -- too hot to cut the grass, too hot to barbecue -- so just because you watched the Indy 500 (even though you don't know anything more about the cars than their colors), that doesn't make you a degenerate, either.

No, it's the little things.

Do you know the name of the old guy on "Outdoor Writers on TV"?

Have you ever seen "Outdoor Writers on TV"?

Have you worked out the physics so that you can lie on the couch, with the remote control on your stomach, and change channels without moving?

Other than the superb Jon Miller and the overexuberant Chris Berman, can you tell the rest of the ESPN baseball announcers apart?

Do you know the names of the professional bowlers who a) rolled a gutter ball with a $30,000 tournament on the line, and b) won a tournament and then dropped the trophy during the awards ceremony?

When somebody mentions the name Robin Roberts, do you think of the old Phillies righthander or of the current ESPN sports anchor?

Have you ever found yourself waking up tired because you stayed up late to watch the end of that basketball game between Fresno State and Cal State-Fullerton?

Have you ever watched 11 minutes of a tractor pull just to be sure you wouldn't miss the scores at :28 or :58 on ESPN?

Do you watch David Letterman only when he has Marv Albert narrating those blooper highlights?

Have you ever yelled at the television when Nick and Fred pick the wrong highlight for their Play of the Day on CNN?

Do you know what Barcelona's nickname is in the WLAF?

Can you name two Barcelona players?

No, not even a degenerate can do that. And as for the rest of the answers, well, if I told them to you, I'd be admitting to my own degeneracy, wouldn't I? And besides, I haven't quite got the remote-control-on-the-stomach physics worked out yet.

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