Archive for Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Whacked-out television draws moth to flame

March 26, 2008

Among the programs I run into from time to time on my cable television at home is a compendium of fluff that goes by the title, "Whacked-Out Sports." If you've not seen it, it's a half-hour of people failing miserably (and spectacularly) in various sporting endeavors.

Mishaps with skateboards and motorcycles are popular. As often as not, the athlete although I tend really to think of them as victims either falls on his head or gets smacked in the crotch. Some of the falls are so spectacular, you wonder how a person could survive.

I'll be the first to admit this lacks any redeeming social value, but once I stumble onto this program I cannot tear myself away. I cringe with each impact, but I don't change the channel.

Having tried and failed several times to explain why I watch this, I've thought about it and have finally reached a conclusion.

It's empathy. At many occasions in my life the only difference between me and the nincompoops in this self-destruction derby was that they had cameramen. I've got the scars to prove it.

Some of my tribulations resulted from normal childhood accidents, like the time, when I was about 4, that one of my aunts was frying a chicken and I peered over the edge of the skillet just as the liver burst. No scars, but some painful burns.

Another time, about a year later, a cousin gave me a ride on his bicycle. I was riding up on the handlebars, and my foot got caught in the wheel. My first memory of the emergency room.

The most spectacular crashes on "Whacked-Out Sports" seem to occur when the subject does something really stupid, with predictable results, and a few of mine fall into this category.

When we went to the movies on Saturdays during the summer, we'd usually see a cartoon and a feature, plus a short of some sort, often one of those serials like "Ace Drummond and the Squadron of Doom" or my all-time favorite, "King of the Rocket Men."

After watching one of these classics one Saturday afternoon I got it in my head that I could use an umbrella like a parachute, so I grabbed a bumbershoot and launched myself off the roof of my Uncle Mike's garage. I wasn't seriously or permanently injured. I do remember that the umbrella must have retarded my progress at least a little bit, as it was turned inside-out.

In my teenage years my closest friend was Ken, a budding chemist who lived a couple of blocks down the street. Ken found out that some cousins who farmed in Miami County were using a crude explosive a mixture of potassium something-or-other and sugar to blow tree stumps out of the ground.

We didn't have any tree stumps to work on, but we did have some dandelions in his side yard, so we bored a hole under a dandelion, then cast about for a fuse to set it off. One of us got the idea to use black powder for the fuse. I carefully laid a trail of black powder several feet back from the dandelion, then crouched over it and struck a match. Poof! I couldn't see for a few minutes. When I went home that night I had to explain how I came to have powder burns on my face. The blast from the "fuse" had singed off my eyebrows and eyelashes.

I'll never forget the classic opening to ABC's "Wide World of Sports." I'll always identify with the agony of defeat.


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