Boob tube fare:
Returning to the Dark Ages?

Feb 28, 2006 3:34 AM

It is becoming increasingly clear that civilization is sliding backward, like a receding glacier, into the Dark Ages once again.

There is abundant evidence of this on the boob tube, but I base my observations on the fish-wrapping rag that is the daily news fare in the town where I live.

Last week it carried two large feature stories, one on cage fighting and the other on the triumphant return of the Roller Derby.

What more is needed to tell where mankind is headed?

Cage fighting on television is today’s equivalent of the Colosseum of the Roman Empire, with the Christians tossed to the lions, and the gladiators fighting to the death.

Instead of the emperor and his consort sitting in the royal box giving a thumbs up or thumbs down on life or death, we have some pop-eyed yahoo sitting on the sofa, swilling beer.

I couldn’t care less for him, but I am concerned deeply about his kids.

There is no question in my mind where crime comes from in this country: directly from the magic box.

One does not need a degree in psychology to figure out that a generation of kids raised on shoot ’em, stab ’em, blow ’em away fare, available 24 hours a day, will sooner or later consider that the norm.

Now they get a new perspective. Kick a guy in the groin, smash him with an elbow, pummel him to a pulp while he is lying on his back. That’s the appeal of cage fighting and the retarded guys who practice it.

Welcome back to the cave, and be careful of the -saber-tooth tiger and the tyrannosaurus pups.

There is, this week in my town, a championship round of Roller Derby, featuring an all-day, all-night schedule of "bouts" between busty, foul-mouthed bimbos with gams like piano legs and names like The Termanitrix and Mellicious Mandy.

I thought I had seen a glimmer of hope for the country a decade ago when the Roller Derby had seemingly expired, but it rose again, Phoenix-like, to meet the national demand for violence, and the bash-em broads are back.

I began to wonder if my revulsion at this stuff was merely old age or common sense, and to find out I transported myself back to my boyhood.

What was the fad then, long before cage fighting and smash-em skating, well before the day now arrived in Vegas where the American Civil Liberties Union takes to the courts to defend gangsta rap?

It was, long before the time of present readers, the Walkathon.

This spectacle, the first I remember as a little kid, consisted of couples dancing, dancing constantly and endlessly until one partner was hanging on desperately to another, sagging at the knees, propped up, on the verge of collapse.

I was fascinated by this, and used to beg my father and mother to take me to old White City Park to see the resurrected Roman orgy.

But there was a difference.

The Walkathon may have been just as inane and insane as the Roller Derby or cage fighting, but it was passive.

It aroused curiosity as to who would survive, but only to the extent of who would be last on their feet, fighting off exhaustion, not kicks or butts or blows.

While ruminating about all this, I came across a story of true inspiration in the local rag.

It was an improbable story about a kid, a 17-year-old high school senior who sat, week after week, on the bench with the basketball team he served as manager. Dressed in a white shirt and black tie, he did anything asked: keep the stats, run the clock, hand out water bottles.

And then the coach, perhaps feeling sorry for the boy, a 5-foot, 6-inch senior considered too small to play, told him to suit up, and sent him into a game.

The kid hit six three-pointers, finished with 20 points scored in four minutes, and was carried off the court on his teammates’ shoulders, the Associated Press story said. The coach told his local newspaper, "It was as touching as any moment I have ever had in sports."

Maybe there is hope for mankind after all.