Awaiting Pigskin Armageddon, Remote Control in HandFeb 1st, 2013 | By Chris Bateman | Category: Bateman's Blog
You might call it the TV Room. Or maybe, as the folks at Panasonic, Toshiba or Sony might prefer, The Home Theater. Or, given the room’s new hypnotic, mind-numbing abilities, The Brain Drain.
That’s because there’s a 55-incher in there. A huge 3D TV, from which – if you put on a pair of those goofy glasses – running backs, computer-generated pterodactyls and gesticulating weather forecasters might suddenly explode into your formerly private space.
The Super Bowl, featuring the hometown 49ers and a halftime show that again might include wardrobe malfunctions, is just hours away. I should be buying a keg, ordering up enough pizza and chips to feed Soulsbyville and inviting, as Hank Williams Jr. might say, “all my rowdy friends” over for the overblown, over-hyped Sunday afternoon extravaganza.
Trouble is, my rowdy friends aren’t that rowdy anymore and I don’t have that many of them. Then there’s that huge TV.
My wife and kids gave it to me for Christmas. They hauled it up from Costco and lugged it into the soon-to-be-ex-family room in a huge box. Then my son Ben set it up and it was, well, huge. Almost embarrassingly huge. Nevertheless, I watched it.
In the weeks followed I watched bowl games, Christmas Day NBA games, Fiscal Cliff hand-wringing, two rounds of NFL playoffs, Lance’s contrived, self-serving confession, the inauguration, pundits’ endless dissections of the inauguration, replays of and feigned outrage over Beyonce’s lip-synched inaugural National Anthem, Manti Te’o trying to explaining away an imaginary girlfriend, and hours of pre-Super Bowl hype – including shots of Coach Jim Harbaugh scowling and his marginally more mellow brother, Coach John Harbaugh, flirting with a scowl.
And to think I could have read a book. Or a dozen of them.
Don’t get me wrong. I wanted this TV, I asked for this TV and I’m the guy that turns this TV on 95 percent of the time. Still, I feel mildly uncomfortable owning a flat-screen that just a few short years ago would have cost a fortune and been the centerpiece of many fair-sized sports bars.
When it comes to televisions, I’m not one of those how-big-is-yours guys. Instead I look for ways to explain away or rationalize such possessions. But with a 55-incher, it’s tough.
I start by pointing out that this TV would have cost thousands a few years ago, and now it’s hundreds. And that one out of every four sets sold these days is 50 inches or larger. And that there are a whole lot of flat-screens out there that are much bigger and much more expensive than mine. Sony, for instance, sells an Ultra HD 110-incher for $25,000.
None of which explains why I need a TV that’s nearly five-feet across.
What do I say? “Oh, I got it for PBS and BBC”? “It’s only for classic movies”? “I’m waiting for the next Ken Burns documentary”?
Get real: That’s like saying you buy Playboy for the stories.
But I have learned a few things watching this much-larger-than-life TV. I have learned that not everyone looks good in high def. Jowly, bloviating politicians, for example. And a lot of ordinary people who look just fine on the street, but aren’t made up, carefully coiffed and accustomed to being on the air. As much as we all crave our 15 minutes of fame – or, more likely these days, 30 seconds of fame – on the local news, these huge new TVs bring us up too close and way too personal.
Likewise, guys my age and beyond should hide when an HD camera gets within 100 yards. There are certain things, like nose hair and skin folds, that should not be highly defined – particularly on a face that’s magnified to nearly three times its normal size in your former family room.
This situation won’t improve in coming years. I’ve read that Ultra-HD technology will shortly magnify even minor facial blemishes to asteroid-size, sharply focused craters, and that otherwise skilled actors will be all but disqualified from appearing on what was once called the small screen.
Still, I’m not going to return my 55-incher, throw a sheet over it, or restrict myself to 15 minutes a day of astute news analysis. My big-screen angst is hereby over. Twenty years hence, when interactive, holographic wall-size TVs are the norm and musty turn-of-the-21st Century flat-screens are relegated to video museums, the teeth-gnashing above will seem outdated and irrelevant.
But what these new sets do need is fewer jowly, bloviating politicians and more NFL action. Which brings me back to the Super Bowl:
Of course I’m going to tune in the 49ers and Ravens. Flush with speed, grace, strength, machismo and violence, pro football is no doubt the perfect sport for America’s millions of mega-TVs. Add pageantry, hoopla, hucksterism (at the rate of $4 million for a 30-second spot) , sex (yes, it’s all over the ads and the halftime spectacle), and hundreds of millions of dollars in legal and illegal wagers, and you have an irresistible proposition.
If some sinister foreign power wants to catch us with our collective guard down, 3:30 p.m. Sunday would be the time to do it. But if those scheming terrorists choose to make their first strike at my satellite-dish-connected outpost in the Central Sierra foothills, at least I’ll go happy.
At least I will if the Niners are up by a touchdown or better when Armageddon arrives.
Chris Bateman, 66, is a journalist based in Sonora, California, where over the past 40 years he has covered everything under the Sierra Nevada sun. Assuming Armageddon does not arrive, watch this spot for his post-game analysis next week.
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