Saturday, August 30, 2014 • 03:45
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I Kid You Not: how far is too far when it comes to entertainment?


August 01, 2013
The Valley Center Jaguars are only a few weeks away from beginning their football season, but I'd like to take a minute to talk about the professional football Jaguars.

The NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars made some headlines earlier this summer when they announced their plans to broadcast the RedZone channel on their big screen inside the stadium during home games.

The RedZone channel is a creation of Dish Network and basically is a live feed of NFL games that jumps from one game to another, depending on which teams are threatening to score, or are inside the "red zone," the area inside the opponents' 20-yard line.

"Why would an NFL team purposely distract its paying fans from the in-person game in front of them to show highlights of other teams?" you may ask. That's a very good question.

The obvious answer is that the Jacksonville Jaguars aren't very good. I mean, every player that makes it onto an active NFL roster is an amazing athlete, no question. But compared to the rest of the NFL, the Jags aren't exactly the cream of the crop.

The obvious question-and-answer aside, I think that the more pertinent question is "How has it come to this?"

Specifically, how are we living in an era in which paying a minimum of $50 for a seat to a live, professional sporting event is somehow not enough for our entertainment palate?

Before we go any further, I have to point out that not everyone falls into this category of needing entertainment stimulation on an over saturation level. For some of us, doing two things at the same time can be annoying and frustrating because we feel as though we aren't able to give our full attention to either activity.

But it says something about the state of our nation that a major corporation (as NFL teams are) made this big of a decision in terms of injecting more entertainment into an activity that's already pretty entertaining.

It makes me wonder how far is too far.

I enjoy movies and books set in the not-too-distant future because I'm always curious to find out what others think life is going to be like in the next 20 to 50 years.

I like the little things like personalized advertisements delivered after a quick retina scan in Minority Report, or the idea of time as currency presented by the plot of In Time, or even the idea of people using robotic super-bodies controlled by the brain like they do in the movie Surrogates. The topic of the future is fun because it can be anything the imagination says it can be.

But it's also an almost-universally accepted assumption that, at some point, the human race will "go too far" in any number of different directions. The remake of the classic movie The Time Machine asks that specific question—have we gone too far?—as the splintered remains of the moon hover overhead after humanity's lunar mining operations delved too deeply and broke the moon apart.

Are we reaching that point with our entertainment?

There existed a time, as recently as a decade ago, when the common assumption was that, if you wanted something to entertain you, you were almost always expected to get up and go find whatever it was you were looking for. If you wanted to read about the top stories in sports, you had to go get a newspaper or magazine, or at least subscribe to one. If you wanted to watch the latest movie, you would have to drive to the theater, or at least drive to the video store to rent it. If you wanted to show your friends, family, acquaintances and random strangers what you were eating for dinner, you had to take a picture, develop the film, drive around knocking on doors and showing your chicken marsala to everyone in person. And we were all so glad you did.

Somewhere along the line, it became an assumption that entertainment should be brought to us, like bowls of grapes to palm-frond-fanned Roman emperors. We have on-demand…well, just about everything is on demand these days. Movies, sports, TV, video games—I'm pretty sure I could be eating a pizza with a side order of bubblegum-flavored jelly beans within 30 minutes using nothing more than a cell phone. And as a bonus, I'm pretty sure I could enjoy this smorgasbord without having to talk to another human being.

And as a fan of recording sports events to watch later, it's incredibly frustrating to have to be so wary of other human beings who could potentially spoil a game's outcome. We used to have to go out of our way to get results; now, I find myself having to work extra hard to not come across any updates.

Don't get me wrong, I'm definitely not a technophobe, and there are many good things that happen through the responsible use of modern technology. The fact that I can draft my fantasy football team live online with 11 other friends (including my brother in Africa) is pretty cool. Whether or not I eat pizza and jelly beans while participating in the draft is a luxury I can learn to live without. If I have to.

I think that's what this is about—learning to live without.

We may cluck and wag our fingers at the Jacksonville Jaguars for the ridiculous notion of showing other NFL teams' highlights during a live game, but we all—myself included—drove them to do it. It wouldn't have even been an idea in an executive's head without some external indicators that this could be something that brings paying fans to the stadium on Sundays.

Have we gone too far? Have we opened Pandora's Box and lost our innocence? I don't necessarily think so, but in order to make the most of what we do have, I think there are some steps we can take.

It's up to us to inject some of the purity back into the games we love.

Some modern conveniences are wonderful and help us enjoy the game even more. I wouldn't want to get NFL updates in a series of dots and dashes at the nearest telegram office, but neither do I want ESPN texting me automatic updates every time a team scores, just because I signed up for their fantasy football service.

It's about moderation.

And in turn, it's about recapturing some of the magic of what draws us to sports in the first place. The awe and the grandeur of seeing a game live have been replaced with a quagmire of ballooning ticket prices, unfriendly atmospheres and spoiled superstars. We don't have much control over ticket prices and player salaries, but if nobody shows up to the game for a few weeks, owners might just reconsider their methods.

Family Guy makes a joke about those annoying promos for other TV shows that play on the bottom of the screen during the show you're watching. "Maybe finish this candy bar before you open another one," Stewie Griffin says of the over-promotion disturbing his show.

I think it's a life lesson, delivered by a cartoon baby with a football-shaped head. Maybe we need to spend more time focusing on one thing at a time so that we don't end up walking around on the street with internet-connected glasses auto-updating our Twitter feed with every mundane thought that escapes our lips.

Who knows, maybe you'll actually get to see the Jacksonville Jaguars score a touchdown. If they manage to find the endzone this season, anyway.

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