AS ONE who watches 20-some hours of television a day, I
naturally had my concerns about the celebrated V-chip, such as:
Does it come in Bar-B-Q flavor? But, as President Clinton
explained in his State of the Union address, the V-chip is in
fact a device that can block out unwanted TV programs, like the
State of the Union address. This raises another question: Can I
get a V-chip that specifically screens out the most unpleasant
things on sports television? In other words, is there a Dickie
If so, we will never again have to watch commercials that
feature college basketball coaches. UMass's John Calipari has
sold his armpits to an antiperspirant maker and now claims that
potential recruits regularly greet him with the question: "Coach
Cal, got any Degree?" Never mind that when 54% of college
basketball players exhaust their eligibility, they don't "got
any degree." I'm sure that's beside the point.
With a Dickie V-chip, we will no longer have to endure ESPN's
promos for their coverage of the women's Final Four. The
network's ads feature women's hoop highlights set to the sounds
of Brick House, the 1977 Commodores hit that goes: "The lady's
stacked and that's a fact.... She's built like an Amazon."
Presumably, ESPN could not secure the rights to K.C. and the
Sunshine Band's Shake Your Booty.
Likewise, the chip will selectively silence analyst Bill
Raftery, whose CBS play-by-play partner, Sean McDonough, became
ill while broadcasting last Saturday's Kentucky-Wake Forest
game. When sideline reporter Michele Tafoya filled in, Raf went
into a swoon, telling her she was "much better looking" than his
regular partner. He then narrated a replay of Kentucky's defense
collapsing on Demon Deacons center Tim Duncan by saying to
Tafoya, "You have the same problem: When you walk into a room, a
lot of people are attracted to you!" To borrow Raftery's two
favorite words, he clearly thinks she's a "dish!" and all but
gave her a "kiss!"
And talk about Must-V TV: What to make of those ads in which
aging rocker Alice Cooper, who, as legend has it, once ate
excrement on stage, teams with straight-arrow Johnny Miller to
plug $125 Tuttle putters by Callaway? The company also pays
soprano sax virtuoso Kenny G to push its Big Bertha drivers.
My chip will be programmed to do what few NBA forwards can:
Screen out Dennis Rodman. And what better use of a Dickie V-chip
than to block Dick Vitale's sometime broadcast partner, the
supercilious and sanctimonious Digger Phelps, who always looks
as if he would rather perform Cooper's old act than share the
ESPN studio set with the bald, one-eyed wacko.
Needless to say, the sports V-chip will intercept any inane
interviews before they can sully my Sony. Thus I'll be spared
yet another repeat of the CBS sound bite in which Patrick Ewing
reminisces about Georgetown's performance in the 1985 NCAA
tournament. Says Ewing, "The whole team was in a zone." In fact,
the whole team was in a zone. Just once, I want to hear a player
say, "The whole team was in a box-and-one."
Adios, as well, to those sports anchors who confuse speaking
Spanish with being clever. The vogue began innocently enough,
with SportsCenter's Dan Patrick describing all hot performers as
"en fuego" (on fire). His colleague Craig Kilborn was soon
segueing to NHL highlights with the phrase, "And now, to the
chilled agua" (water). Of late Kilborn has been referring to
SportsCenter as "el Centro" (the Center). All of which makes him
a cloying cabeza de alfiler (pinhead). Indeed, just about
everyone on the show now speaks this gratuitous ESPNol. Had Phil
Rizzuto cut his teeth on SportsCenter, his signature line would
be "Holy vaca!"
And then there is CBS analyst Clark Kellogg, who has more
signature lines than Oleg Cassini, if not as much basketball
savvy. When a player scores, Kellogg is wont to say, "In the
cup, mark it up!" He gets V-chipped, along with his studio
co-host, Pat O'Brien, the Barneys mannequin whose conversation
last Friday night with retired Princeton coach Pete
Carril--dressed in a short-sleeved shirt and bow tie--was just too
weird for words. Think of Don Johnson and John Houseman forced
to share a transcontinental train compartment.
Another member of that CBS set, George Raveling, noted that the
difference between him and Carril is, "I never coached anyone
with 1900 on the SATs." Given that the test's maximum score is
1600, one could only paraphrase the basketball rule book:
Raveling is a violation.
America needs the Dickie V-chip now. If such a product is
unavailable, then I'm not sure what to do with these annoying
anchormonsters, these hypersmug studio hosts. But I have an
idea: We set their ties en fuego, until they beg for agua. This
would give much-needed new life to the phrase "network blazer."
And at last there would be something worth watching on TV.
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: EVANGELOS VIGLIS [Drawing of sportscaster on television screen being eaten by V-chip]