Saturday, October 15, 2005

Food for thought.

If it's true--as Oprah incessantly goads her audiences--that "you can achieve whatever you put your mind to!"--then why is there still only one Oprah?

You mean to tell me that nobody among Winfrey's average weekly audience of some 30 million viewers wants that kind of celebrity? Or even has made a full effort to pursue that kind of celebrity (only to fall flat on her face)?

Come to think of it, why has Oprah herself struggled so much with her weight?

And why am I using so many italics...?

OK, I grant you, the weight thing is a bit unfair. Maybe. But it does go to the heart of this whole "attitude trumps all" mantra that has held sway in American society ever since SHAM's Empowerment wing began beating its drum in earnest. I am reminded of the episode, described in Chapter 5 of my book, wherein NBC's track announcers were so agog at sprinter Michael Johnson's victory in the 1996 Olympics that they couldn't confine themselves to the evidence at hand (like, say, the fact that Johnson was simply faster than his opponents). No; they had to trot out just about every SHAM-inspired buzz-phrase in order to infuse the sprinter's admittedly impressive victory with all sorts of allegorical overtones. "Michael Johnson made up his mind that he simply wasn't going to be beaten today!" gushed one member of the NBC crew, a line that, for one thing, implies that in the past--especially in races he lost--Johnson didn't particularly care about winning. It also seems to say that his Olympic competitors didn't particularly care about winning on that day. (And how the hell do the announcers know what Johnson was thinking or feeling, anyway? Maybe he was looking ahead to a date, later. Or maybe he woke up with a terrible case of diarrhea and thought, "Man, there's no way I can compete today..." Many athletes, notably Joe Namath and David Wells, have confessed that they were in no shape to play, physically or mentally, on days on which they went out and achieved spectacular heroics.) How far are we prepared to take this "logic"? Do we really want to buy into the notion that in every case where A wins and B loses, it's because B gave a less whole-hearted effort than A?

Does no one see the troubling implications here?

Nonetheless, in every $1000-a-minute-or-better corporate speech he gives, baseball's unofficial ambassador-at-large, Tommy Lasorda, cites Kirk Gibson's pinch-hit homer in game one of the 1988 World Series as ipso facto proof of the primacy of a PMA. (A current Wheaties commercial pays homage to the historic event.) Lasorda, who was Gibson's manager in that Fall Classic, uses almost the same language as the NBC announcers: "Kirk went up to the plate determined not to lose." It's worth noting that the pitcher who surrendered the homerun, Hall-of-Famer Dennis Eckersley, was a fierce competitor in his own right. I wonder what he makes of the tacit allegation that he didn't care all that much whether he cost his team a shot at World Series immortality...


Anonymous said...

Maybe she's been a little too busy to read Dr. Phil's words of weight-loss wisdom...

Anonymous said...

Another reed in the wilderness responds: Hey, just getting into this WEB BLOG genre, and spotted yours. I'll be back, sounds interesting, and I'll get SHAM as budget permits.
Did you realize SHAM spells MAHS backwards? FYI only.

Pax, Merrell