Thursday, June 26, 2014

The low-life life

Soccer “mania” seems to have hit America, although how much of it is actually being a “fan” of the sport or just curiosity about the ESPN-generated “excitement” about the World Cup is a matter of opinion. It is certainly not a sport without its “melodramatic” moments on the field—or off. A few people (a very few) might recall when U.S. women’s team goalkeeper Hope Solo made a pouty stink about being substituted in favor of Brianna Scurry during the 2007 women’s World Cup; her behavior no doubt had an effect on the team’s play in a 4-0 loss to Brazil, and her self-involved  postgame whine didn’t help “clarify” her position.

Not surprisingly, Solo has had subsequent bouts of low-life mania, such as getting into a tiff with her “Dancing With the Stars” partner and alienating everyone else; her booting off the show did not come too soon for fellow contestants and assorted observers. The day before she married former Washington Husky football player Jerramy Stevens, they had an “altercation” that led to an arrest but no charges. Because of this and her frequent bouts with foot-in-mouth disease, she opined that “I have a bad rap, People look at me as selfish, outspoken. But I know who I am.”  

What is that? “I don’t expect any of the media to be positive” she disingenuously told CNN, “But I know that I’m doing wonderful things for the sport of soccer, and I know I’m doing amazing things for female athletes.” That apparently is enough to excuse her latest misplay, this time an arrest for (allegedly) assaulting her sister and a teenage nephew while in a drunken state at a family get-together in Kirkland, WA. After receiving a call about “a woman hitting people,” officers at the scene concluded that “Solo was the primary aggressor and had instigated the assault." She was charged with fourth degree domestic violence. She and her lawyer, of course, deny everything.

I have to admit that my only interest in this affair is the fact that it demonstrates that even “success” and “fame” cannot change a person’s basic nature.  When I was growing up, you rarely were confronted with the sordid side of life on television or the news. Sure, there were the sex scandals involving politicians and The National Enquirer, but of the everyday life of common ordinary people, you rarely went beyond the “silly” side of life in a typical sitcom. Occasionally there were movies like Midnight Cowboy that “shocked” viewers; it was even given an “X” rating initially, although that didn’t prevent me as a child from watching it on a super-size screen in a drive-in theater. Its depiction of the sordid world of low-lifes, vagrancy and homelessness was a far cry from the “nobility” of poverty seen in films like Grapes of Wrath. At “worst” there were soap operas, but the usually malicious melodrama they portrayed was from a “genteel” upper class world, the kind that the British comedy troupe Monty Python often skewered. “Common” people and their problems rarely intruded in this social scene, unless to “upset” the balance of the world.

But today, we have “reality” television and small claims court shows—and worse: The amateur “psychologist” shows where the host brings in the dregs of society with a whole slew of “issues” that generally involve conflict over domestic partnership arrangements, domestic disputes, paternity resolution, cheating boyfriends, crazy daughters and others of this ilk. Although it is true that Phil Donahue and Oprah Winfrey were “pioneers” of this type of programming, they never turned their shows into carnivals of out-of-control behavior (well, except when Tom Cruise jumped up and down on Oprah’s couch like a little boy). That started with the likes of Jerry Springer, who invited people to send in their stories of woe for possible appearances on his show, and the ones most likely to create on-screen mayhem were the ones deemed to be “worthy" of inspiring an equally nauseating "performance" from the audience. I recall that Geraldo Rivera was made the “poster boy” for television bad behavior when his nose was broken by a chair during an altercation on stage between two guests on the extreme side of the racial divide, but this was in regard to a “serious” social issue; all of the current variety exists in the sewers of society that some of us wish to avoid all contact with.

I realize that some otherwise “sensible” people only take a peek at these shows just to have a laugh at just how sad and pathetic people can get. On the other hand, there are viewers who actually either “identify” with these people or otherwise “enjoy” having their political or social stereotypes “confirmed.” It’s just another element of the poor quality of much of television these days, which needs to fill hundreds of network and cable channels with something. With programming out to “outsmart” the next show—particularly “crime” shows that try to “wow” viewers with the latest technology rather than actual thinking—it seems the “dumb” is what really draws in many viewers.

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