Those Treasures on Tape: Out of Sight, Out of Mind

I wanted to tape the Lakers' game the other evening because we were going out, so I started scrounging through several drawers of VCR tape for a blank. What I discovered, instead, was a treasure trove of shows I had taped and never watched.

Most of them didn't have labels--a bad habit I'm trying to correct--so I had to put them on the VCR and play pieces of them to make sure I wasn't taping over something desperately valuable like the video of a stunt flight I made 3 years ago or my stepson's collection of Michael J. Fox minutiae. Turned out most of the unlabeled tapes were mine, and about three-fourths of them were sporting events.

The scenario for this sort of thing is always the same. I settle in to watch the Rams or the Angels or the Lakers or an NCAA tournament basketball game or Championship Bowling or the Miss Junior America pageant, and my wife says, "You'd better start getting ready."

"Ready for what?"

"You know we have theater tickets tonight."

"No, I don't know. Nobody told me. Do you think I'd be stupid enough to agree to theater tickets on the night of the first game of the World Series?"

"Will you please just get ready."

So I put on a tape. I've never really totally mastered that operation. I know how to record when I'm watching the show, but setting the timer or recording one show while watching another is a perilous undertaking for me. So I just leave the set on, which leads to certain complications.

Since the show I want to tape usually doesn't start until after I leave and finishes long before I come home, I have a considerable amount of footage of shows and sitcoms and newscasts in which I have no interest. On a couple of occasions where baseball games were rained out, I have 4 hours of such footage. One of these days, I'm going to sort through all these tapes and set aside a pile to be taped over.

Meanwhile, I have some rather exotic stuff in my collection.

Among these treasures:

* Ski jumping at the Winter Olympics--which Olympics, I'm not sure.

* An NFL game between the Bears and the Redskins in a snowstorm at Soldier's Field in Chicago.

* The opening ceremonies of the Seoul Olympics.

* UC Irvine beating the University of Nevada Las Vegas in basketball on a last-second shot. I have no idea in what year this took place since Bill Mulligan and his Anteaters have made an annual affair of beating UNLV.

* The Angels losing to Oakland, in Oakland. Since this is also something that happens with dismaying regularity, I'm once again not sure of the year.

There's a lot more sports stuff, most of it portions of football games I had to leave after they were under way. But by way of illustrating what a balanced TV diet I consume, there is also a lot of political and cultural footage:

* About 9 hours of Contra hearings, most of it of Ollie North, sitting square-jawed and stern at the witness table. I've also got some John Poindexter and several other witnesses I can't identify.

* Two PBS documentaries of Bill Moyers interviewing Great Minds.

* A reunion of the Glenn Miller band, and a retrospective on the life and music of Benny Goodman.

* Two documentaries on John F. Kennedy, done during the 25th-anniversary year of his assassination.

And so it goes. There is more in both categories, all sharing a common bond: I never looked at them after I taped them.

That's not to say I won't. All of these tapes are clearly significant--although I can't remember what it was about the Bear-Redskin game that intrigued me. And the Gershwin program has a lot of syrup between Marvin Hamlisch and Nancy Reagan. And I have absolutely no interest in skiing.

So maybe I'll tape over those--if I can find them again. Meanwhile, I've got to overcome the problem of losing interest in a tape just because I know the score before I sit down to watch it. There's always the aesthetic value of a game well played--like a fine ballet performance. That's why I don't plan to tape over most of these treasures. I'll watch them one day. But this year, I'm going to concentrate on seeing more of these events live, even if theater suffers.

First things first.

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