Summer is waning,
is in reruns, and the baseball team of my misspent youth stinks as usual.
But it's not just the calendar, Dunder Mifflin and
that have me bluer than
It's this week's sports television fare, brought to you, of course, by the omnipotent, benevolent worldwide leader.
First, we have the Little League World Series, baseball and softball thank you very much. Plus the regional qualifying tournaments.
Showing our age and crankiness, Comrade Fairbank and I have flogged this nag before. No matter how charming or established the event, the sporting pursuits of elementary and middle-school kids belong on grainy home video and not on high-definition national television.
Even those who prefer to avoid are subjected. Among the lead images on Monday morning's SportsCenter was a close-up of a Japanese player devastated by a loss to Curacao.
Not what the young man, his teammates, family or anyone else needed to see with their Cocoa Puffs and jelly donut.
Sure, the "agony of defeat" sells. "Wide World of Sports" made Slovenian ski jumper Vinko Bogataj a celebrity with footage of his bruising crash.
But he was an adult. This shouldn't trickle down to vulnerable kids.
And what of their heroics? The diving catches and game-winning hits? The "thrill of victory"?
Equally problematic. They feed the beast, the glorification of athletes who soon consider themselves entitled and bulletproof, convinced that their talents excuse academic and behavioral lapses.
The same tenet applies to high school jocks, which transitions us nicely to this week's other gripe: the opening of
's high school football telecasts.
The cable network and its assorted brands will carry 22 prep games nationally in 2009, with more high school coverage to follow during basketball season and in subsequent years as ESPN continues to branch out.
One football team, St. Thomas Aquinas of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., will appear twice this season. The Raiders won USA Today's mythical national title in 2008, are No. 1 this
and count Pro Football Hall of Famer
among their alums.
Most of ESPN's games are made-for-TV, interstate contests, including one Friday in Chesapeake. That's where defending Division 6 state champion Oscar Smith will host Venice (Fla.) High in a matchup of future Southeastern Conference quarterbacks — Oscar Smith's Phillip Sims has pledged to Alabama, Venice's Trey Burton to Florida.
Intriguing game, no doubt. One worth the price of admission, absent Friday traffic crawling toward the OBX.
But I won't be watching on ESPNU.
Granted, high school sports long have been chronicled, first by newspapers, then local radio and television. The Daily Press created a Web site devoted to the preps, and not out of the goodness of our capitalist heart.
But national television is different. National television means painstaking replays and analysis and a wider audience.
That may be fine for players, such as Sims and Burton, accustomed to relentless hype and evaluation. But what about their teammates?
The potential for an embarrassing gaffe, and the hazing that would follow, far outweighs that of "One Shining Moment."
If you don't believe national telecasts are different from mom-and-pop local access channels, consider some of the personnel ESPN is deploying to Iowa for Friday's game between Dike-New Hartford and Aplington-Parkersburg.
Rece Davis, among many duties, anchors the network's Saturday night college football scoreboard show; George Smith is a field reporter whose recent assignments include — address sympathy cards to Bristol, Conn. — the
Watch; Herman Edwards is a former
Last season Edwards was preparing his
for their opener against
. Monday night on SportsCenter he was critiquing
rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez's exhibition effort against the
Now he's going to break down a high school game?
Of course, the sole reason for ESPN's presence in the great heartland is the June murder, by a former player no less, of Aplington-Parkersburg coach Ed Thomas, from all accounts a prince among men.
Reporters tread a fine line between journalism and exploitation when pursuing such stories, be the backdrop sports, war or politics.
But that's a debate for another day.