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Solomon

How to survive watching the Super Bowl and Olympics on TV

On May 9, 1961, Newton N. Minow, who had recently been appointed chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, made a statement before the National Association of Broadcasters that not only shocked those TV insiders but is as much a bit of TV history as is the Super Bowl since the event was invented on Jan.15, 1967, when the Green Bay Packers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in the first-ever AFL-NFL World Championship Game, which became known as the Super Bowl, “Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off,” he said. “I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.”

While television has changed, over the years, some of it even serving the public’s interest, many media watchers feel that today television is worse than ever – pointing out how slanted coverage of politics by the cable political networks has helped create a division among the Americans public so large, that even a 300-pound football lineman could run through with ease.

Which brings us to the thesis of this essay:

How to survive what I consider the brainwashing of a large portion of the American public, who have become cemented to their TV sets as all sorts of sports are televised – which this year will include both the Super Bowl and Paris Olympics Summer Games.

With the Feb. 11 Super Bowl (on CBS) and the Paris Olympics (on NBCUniversal) primarily in mind, here are my suggestions on how to survive watching sports on television beginning right now.

General Survival Suggestions:

Never take seriously the predictions of sports handicappers. If they were so certain of the outcome they would be betting instead of handicapping.

Never take seriously the comments of event announcers. Their job is to keep you tuned in so you can watch the commercials regardless of the dullness of the game.

To preserve your sanity, never watch the pre-game, mid-game or after game telecasts. It’s a waste of your time; better tune in a network news program to learn what happened while you spent the previous eight hours or so watching sports on TV, instead of doing something worthwhile.

Super Bowl Specific Survival Tactics:

  • To preserve your sanity, don’t tune in the pre-game shows. They’re nothing but promotional shows for the actual game and sponsor’s products and if you are a rational person you can find something better to do. (If you’re a sports fanatic and must watch those programs get professional help.)
  • “Remember, no matter what the game day announcers say, you are just watching another football game, and not necessarily between the best two teams. So don’t be glued to the TV set. For your own health, take a walk around the room every 10 minutes; if there is a break in the action more frequently. 
  • Don’t feel that you have to say how great the TV commercials are. Most are mediocre and many are misleading and can-do harm to at-risk youngsters and adults.
  • Don’t prop bet. You can’t beat the house.

And remember, people with heart problems are much more likely to have a cardiac event if they take what’s happening in a sporting event too seriously. So perhaps the most prudent thing is to read a book or take a nap instead of watching just another over-hyped football game (that often does not feature the best two teams).

Olympic Specific Survival Tactics:

  • As with the Super Bowl, to preserve your sanity don’t tune in any pre-Olympic programming, especially the obviously over-hyped staged excitement on the Today show. They’re nothing but promotional shows for the actual game and sponsor’s products and are a waste of a prudent person’s time.
  • Don’t believe the hype that you’re watching the world’s greatest athletes. What you’re watching are athletes who qualified for specific events that you don’t care about, some of which are so dull that watching them can be substituted for talking a sleeping pill. (Saying that, in my opinion, I think the Olympics are the most important of all sporting events, but that doesn’t mean that it’s really important to society.)
  • Don’t buy a product just because brands run a commercial on the telecasts. Most of the commercials cost a bundle and the costs add to the price of that product, one of the reasons the products are so expensive. In fact, for your good health, a commercial break should be used as a timer for you to walk around the apartment for a few minutes. Or to close your eyes for a few minutes and rest them from staring at the screen. Believe me, you’ll miss nothing worthwhile. 
  • For your intellectual well-being, don’t believe the International Olympic Committees propaganda that the games promote peace. Russia has invaded countries twice immediately after the Olympics have concluded and Muslim athletes have long refused to compete against Israeli athletes and the IOC has remained silent when it happens. Controversies only become public when the non-NBCUniversal media reports on it. (Question for Mike Tirico: As in your past Olympic gig, are you again going to self-censure yourself, or are you going to act as a journalist instead of as a PR person for NBC and the IOC during the Paris Olympics?)
  • The most positive thing I can say about watching the Olympic Games is that you’re much less likely to have a cardiac event than when watching the Super Bowl, an event more popular with Americans than the many hours of boring Olympic events that Americans have no interest in. That’s because there is so much less interest in Olympic events.

Much of the above advice can also be used during Presidential election coverage, but with a big difference: The outcome of that election can affect your life for many years. The outcome of a

sporting event only affects the athletes, broadcasters and sponsors of the events and, for a limited time, those fans who take it seriously.

People, who make a living in the sports business, view all events through the eyes of a P & L auditor. Certainly, they’re happy if their team wins, but they’re much more realistic about sports than fans are. And that certainly is a fact.

So while what Newton Minow said many years ago about television being a vast wasteland is certainly true today, the ever-increasing amount of sports on TV has made it worse.

Given the unhealthy products promoted on sports telecasts, including alcoholic beverages commercials during hours that youngsters are watching, and the barrage of commercials about betting from home, two things are certain:1 – Sports on television are more popular than ever, and 2- Watching sports on television can be dangerous to your health and wealth and sanity.

While I still believe that while the Olympics are the most important of all sporting events, the question remains: Are any sporting events really that important, except to individuals personally involved in them?

 

 

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Arthur Solomon

Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications and consults on public relations projects. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr (at) juno.com.

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