Friday, September 21, 2012

Here Comes the Judge(s)

The famous line in one of the 1980s “Dirty Harry” movie goes, “Opinions are like pie-holes; everybody has one,” or something like that. But what happens when people who have a large public following push what they think and say about a topic as if it’s more important than the topic itself, and do it in demeaning ways? That’s seems to be the growing slant during television sporting events, political news shows and other programming. It’s a poor commentary (excuse the pun) that has led to deep-seated problems, especially among our youth.
This whole, “I’m on TV, so what I’m saying is more important than what you’re thinking” mentality is poisoning popular culture. A good deal of it occurs among celebrity judges on reality shows, the kind where ‘ordinary people’ compete in singing, dancing, cooking and other skills-based activities. TV and radio sports commentators are also drifting beyond providing useful analysis, information or personal asides and into poisonous second guessing.
There’s mean-spiritedness going on; it is of a kind the public seems to accept. It’s one thing to describe the action and break it down for folks to better understand what’s happening during competitions. It’s quite another to lambast competitors for their missteps and split second decision-making. This brand of armchair quarterbacking used to be confined to game day tailgates or La-Z-Boy couch potatoes ranting to their beer-drinking buddies. Now we’re forced to endure, with growing regularity, commentators and reality show judges popping off about players and participants like there’s no tomorrow. Oh yeah, it’s on Facebook too but I digress…
I'm all for learning and entertainment. The problem for me is that I really am not interested in other people always telling me what I should be thinking. Everyone has opinions and that's well and good. American Idol, America's Got Talent, Dancing with the Stars. I'd like to believe most fans watch these shows to celebrate emerging talent. Sadly, I've overheard water cooler commentary bitterly ridiculing the previous night's contestants with all the immaturity normally reserved for troubled middle school bus passengers.
However, I must be in the minority about my dislike of all the, “Here’s what the contestant/player/coach/referee did wrong and why,” pontificating. That’s because the networks conduct consumer research and no doubt have data which support that the average viewer wants to be told what’s happening with cynical opinions stated like fact.
To my mind, there’s a declining beauty in games and competitions. Commentators and judges show no mercy for imperfection and seem to relish pointing out the shortcomings of participants. It’s like they’re judging the performance of robots and blaming them for acting too much like human beings. The more venom the better it seems, and it’s been seeping into our own personal commentary about each other.
This mass media habit of building up and then tearing down people has infected communities in ways that hold far-reaching effects. To my mind, it’s time to turn sports and other forms of competition toward more positive footing, on which the search for excellence conspires to bring out the best in who we can be rather than excessively seek out the worst.
Nobody’s suggesting we ignore the mistakes, missteps and other nuances that make up healthy competition. What I do believe is that our over analysis of each play and player dehumanizes the participants. What does that say about how we might be treating each other in our daily lives? More to the point, how does that translate into how we feel about ourselves?
Then we wonder where the whole bullying mentality in schools and at work comes from.

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