Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How the World Series Will Kill Your Children, and Why

So . . . I am almost forty-three years old. I've been around, I've seen some shit. I've been in places I shouldn't be at times when I shouldn't be there with people who do gnarly stuff. Then I grew up and have had to be the protector sometimes because, ya know, I'm a dad and a dude. I'm not afraid of shit, is what I'm saying. I mean, sure, I am uneasy around certain large-ish spiders. And bodybuilders make me uncomfortable, not because they're strong but because they look like their skin is going to explode. And lately I'm not so sure about the Amish. But I'm not afraid of anything, not really. Which is why it's a little disconcerting that, as I begin to write this, I've been sitting at my desk for almost an hour, reluctant to go back to sleep because I just had the WORST NIGHTMARE EVER.

Admittedly the details are a little fuzzy. I was in a crappy raised ranch with a bunch of people who were, presumably, my family, except they were all characters from the shows I grew up watching in the fabled seventies: sideburns doctor from Emergency, Grandpa from The Waltons, Agent 99 from Get Smart (we weren't related, I think she was dating my uncle, that dude Gopher from Loveboat). Peter and Jan Brady, my two least favorite Bradys, were my brother and sister. Typical. I have such lousy dreams. Anyway, for some reason there seemed to be a bunch of what we used to call "mental patients" in the house. They mostly kept to themselves and were, of necessity, heavily medicated. I'm guessing it was sort of like those people who have like nine foster kids at a time, and the state pays you to take care of them. I mean, honestly, if you're mentally ill, there's nothing better than to be strapped to a twin bed in the home of a modern thermonuclear family. At least that's how it was in the seventies. I'm pretty sure we loved our crazies.

So, alright, here's the thing: I had this sense of foreboding the whole time. Premonition, really: I knew the fat guy with the mustache, the one wearing the grey sweatpants and the stained t-shirt, was going to go berserk, with foreseeable consequences. I think I saw this coming because, scamp that I am, I was the one who for some unknowable reason . . . unfastened his restraints! Oops! That was me, I guess, rebelling against the middle-class upbringing I never had. So, yeah, I set the monster free. And very slowly, with no expression on his face, with very little fanfare, in fact, he went about butchering my entire made-up seventies television character family. And guests (sorry, Agent 99). I was outside by then, watching strange things happen through the picture window. Of course, windows work both ways, and as he was flaying Mr. Bentley from The Jeffersons, the crazy guy looked up and saw me standing in the yard, looking in. He headed for the door. Then I woke up, and except for my already enlarged heart pounding out of my chest, I lay perfectly still, lest the real-life murderer know I was awake and ready for him. I. WAS. TERRIFIED. And then, from the desk eight feet away, my phone buzzed, not the usual three buzzes that let me know I have a message, but five, six, seven -- I stopped counting, it just kept buzzing and I was too busy filling my pants to care anymore.

So I got up, and I went to my happy place -- Turns out that wasn't safe either, because the first thing I came across was an article discussing how politicians and health officials are urging Major League Baseball to ban the use of chewing tobacco during the World Series.

I have a few thoughts on this subject. The first is this: Stop. Stop. Stop stop stop stop stop stop stop. Stop! Fucking cut it out already! Seriously, just stop! Cut the shit! Please. Stop. Please.

Here's the article: (I don't know how to make that a hotlink, maybe blogger will do that for me?)

Here are more of my thoughts: stop telling people what they shouldn't do to themselves, and stop saying you're doing it for the children. That is unmitigated horseshit and it offends me more than most other horseshit you could name. Here is a direct quote from the letter sent by a group of US Senators to MLBPA union head Michael Weiner: "When players use smokeless tobacco, they endanger not only their own health, but also the health of millions of children who follow their example." Are you fucking kidding me? If this argument were only specious, I could dismiss it and say, "Yeah, nice try." But this is witch-hunt shit, man. I'm sorry, let me get this straight: your child's health is at risk because he saw somebody doing something? Burn them! Burn them!

Okay, let's get some facts out of the way, see if we can't feel better about this. The combined population of Texas and Missouri (it's the Rangers and Cardinals squaring off in the World Series, in case you missed the news), depending on who you want to believe, is probably about 32 million people. Take out the typical non-baseball demographics -- NASCAR fans, eighty-one percent of football fans, professional dancers, exterminators, and potters, and that leaves a whopping 174,000 people in those regions who are likely to watch the games. Factor in another 80,000 people worldwide, some of whom are diehard baseball fans (like me), the rest, meh, they're somewhere, the game's on, they're sort of watching, but it counts. That's about a quarter-million people who will probably watch these games on TV (sorry, Fox, can't win 'em all -- good thing you have football, eh?). And of that quarter million, guess how many are kids? Well, here's the thing: the revenue is in the prime-time slots, and you want to push the start times as late as possible to get the west-coast viewers home in time for the third inning, so that means late starts, so you're likely to have a whopping 3,500 kids worldwide watching any or all of these games. That's right: 3,500 kids. Even if every single one of these kids has his eyes glued to the set the instant Chris Carpenter is inadvertently caught on camera stuffing a wad the size of a small raccoon into his cheek, and even if each of those kids wakes up the next day and tells two friends, and each of those kids tells two friends and . . . wait, where was I going? Oh, yeah: where are the parents?!

Yeah, I said it: where are the parents? Assholes. Look, it's time to stop expecting everyone else in the world to raise your kids. Because of course that's not really what you want, is it? No, it isn't. Here's what it is: parents fuck up. My parents did, as did theirs and theirs. As have I. Your kids grow up to do stupid, sometimes terribly unfortunate, things. And isn't it nice to live in a world where everyone -- even the government -- is willing to make it somebody else's fault. "No, Mrs. Jones, it's not your fault Little Jimmy killed all those people. Those eighteen years of nagging and whining and passive-aggressiveness and neediness didn't affect him at all. It was The A-Team." It's not your fault, Will. It's not your fault. It's television and video games and role models gone wrong. Have another gimlet, flip through the family photo album, and think about how sad you are that the world failed you so completely that Jimmy smokes crack and Joanie is a teenage prostitute. Write a letter to your congressman. Let's fix this shit so no one else ever suffers your particular pain again.

George W. Bush may have said several intelligent things in his life thus far; I am aware of only one. In response to complaints about television programming some parents deem inappropriate for their children, he chirped, in a purely George W. Bush turn of phrase, "Turn on the off button." Parents, if you are truly afraid your children's health will be compromised by what they might see on television during the World Series, turn on the goddamned off button. You know, once upon a time, in a land much like this, there was a very special off button that kept you from ever seeing anything bad on TV: it was called radio. Yeah, that's right: people used to listen to baseball games on the radio. In fact, I think if you dig around, you might find that technology still exists. Back in the day, it was a good thing all they had was radio: I'm pretty sure both corner infielders for the 1919 White Sox -- Chick Gandil and Buck Weaver -- were actually smoking cigarettes while fielding their positions. Imagine the children seeing that on your sixty-four inch flat-screen. In HD, no less! Gosh, I almost fainted.

Being a parent doesn't mean telling everyone what to do, it means telling your kids what to do. And being a senator doesn't mean you're America's parents. You're supposed to be our cool older brothers and sisters. Start acting like it, you bunch of self-satisfied, overly earnest dweebs.

By the way, I just checked my phone to see what all the buzzing was about. There was a text that read, "You have insufficient funds to send a message." I haven't been this terrified since I walked out on The Blair Witch Project.

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