The end of sports programming
I thought rock bottom on sports-programming had been reached a few months ago when I saw, when looking at one of the TVs at a sports bar, a football video game contest/tournament being shown as programming on ESPN (making a spectacle of a simulacrum — Baudrillard, where are you).
But my colleague Tim Lemke topped that with a Sign of the Apocalypse on Wednesday’s front page. Madden 07 has become a sports event in its own right. Complete with … get this … a pay-per-view special. $19.95 to watch basically an infomercial on how to play a video game? Yes. I am not making this up.
Tim once came over to my apartment to watch pay-per-view, but of a legitimate athletic contest — the John Ruiz-Roy Jones Jr. fight, if memory serves. I’d be the first to admit that video games left me behind (or maybe I just left them behind) in the late-80s — Galaga, Ms. Pac-Man. But I always thought the point of athletics as a spectacle, as a spectator activity, was to be wowed. To see people do stuff that popped your eyes out, that you couldn’t do, that involved an element of physicality.
But in the era of reality TV, that believes in the name of pig-headed egalitarianism that *anyone* can be a star/athlete — apparently not. Now, more and more of the programming on sports channels (the proliferation of them also undoubtedly accounts for some of this — they need to fill the hours somehow) is taken up by what can at best be called leisure activities. There always had been the fishing and hunting shows that were staples of Saturday mornings on the UHF channels, of course.
But in recent years, and in bigger venues, this has expanded to include card games, spelling bees, Scrabble/crossword and similar intellectual pursuits. So, everyone can be an athlete. Now the ultimate (as far as I can think of) — a computer representation of the game that can be seen at other times on the same channel, as itself.
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