November 6, 2009

SPORTS VS. SOAPS: Television Addiction



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SPORTS VS. SOAPS: Television Addiction

Nancy Briskay Cornell Lipsius

     Have you ever walked into a room anticipating an enthusiastic greeting and some lively conversation, only to be greeted by a blank wall of inert bodies, eyes glued to a piece of furniture lighted by miniature figures darting across a square that might be anywhere from 12 inches to 25 inches wide? If you listen carefully and closely their response to your greeting may be a ‘oomph’ or “Oh wow, what a play!”

     It could be Saturday, Sunday, or, in mid-fall and winter, almost any evening. Of course, that doesn’t leave much time during the week for anything else other than working, a quick trip to the store and maybe church on Sunday morning. Not to mention showering, shaving and eating. Of course, most television game addicts will eat in front of the television.

     What happens to people who are television game addicts?

     First, we have to go to the live games. Seeing a group of live people in competition for a football, baseball or hockey puck or soccer ball creates emotional extremes. When your team is winning, you are enthusiastically screaming, cheering. Your body and mind are exposed to healthy fresh air and exercise. The game players become known to you by name, number and actions. They are real flesh and blood.

     Games on television become emotional inhibitors. The smoke filled rooms, darkened to accommodate the TV screen, further inhibits physical and vocal enthusiasm. The TV viewers become lethargic and seem to develop a tunnel vision. Spontaneity is not part of the game of TV viewing. What, then, can one find of interest in such a narrowed-down outlook?

      Soap operas are another area of television that seem to create addicts. I am sure that everyone has a friend or two whose lives are structured around the soaps. They cannot talk on the phone during their programs and certainly one cannot visit with them during that most crucial time. The soap fans become so totally immersed and involved in the lives of the players on the TV screen that they talk about them as though they were real people. Their involvements are with total unreality. They, too, are peering through a tunnel.

     Where is the interaction between the viewers and the players? How would it change the life of a viewer were he/she to become involved in the lives of family, friends, or, on a broader spectrum, involvement with neighborhood or community projects. On the other hand, there are times when a soap addict might try solitude, getting involved with self.

     My feelings are mixed with regards to television addicts, be it sports or soaps. On the one hand, frustration raises its ugly head because I can get no real response from a person whose very soul is wedded to the outcome of a football, baseball, soccer or hockey game, or the daily trials and tribulations of a group of characters in a contrived situation.

     And then I feel sympathy for the addict, sympathy for all that he/she is missing out of life. For the life that is boxed into that person, strangling his very soul.

     Not all television viewing is evil. Like eating, smoking, drinking and other habits, it is the person who is in control of the television who can be moderate and selective about his/her viewing. It is only when the television controls the life of the person that it becomes evil.

     There is no real joy in sharing a game on television. It is only an electronic box and one cannot become emotionally involved with the players shown on a piece of furniture. One’s presence at a real live game stimulates emotional involvement, both with the players and the spectators.

     The same holds forth with the soaps. Emotional involvement with the actors on the screen is an affair of perhaps an hour. There is no feedback. It is one-sided. There is no physical or emotional involvement.

     I have tried both types of television viewing, sports and soaps, and after only a few moments I find myself growing bored, lethargic. In no time at all sleep creeps up on me.

     Perhaps that only says that I am tired. However, I am afraid I would not like television to grow on me. My preference is to become addicted to participation.


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