It is not often you hear about the “up” side of being unassertive. But I would never have had the following experience without it. Of course, I would have preferred not to have that experience at all. A reflection of the more celebrated “down” side of being unassertive. Because I did.
I don’t tape things. And by “tape”, I mean TiVo or DVR, or, if there’s some new technology that does these things better and faster that I don’t know about, I don’t do that either. With one exception. I have TiVoed the entire series of Have Gun, Will Travel off of the Westerns Channel, probably more than once, if TiVo doesn’t discriminate against taping the same episodes over and over, which I have no idea if it does or it doesn’t. What I do know is no matter how many times TiVo has re-recorded those episodes of Have Gun, Will Travel, I have never watched any of them.
And it is quite likely I never will.
It is my preference to watch things when they’re actually on. I know this will sound crazy to people who don’t care about such things, but it just doesn’t feel right.
And also, there’s this. Suppose I tape something and watch it later. At the time I’m watching that taped show, I’m going to be missing something that’s playing on live TV at the same time. Unless I tape that show too. Of course, at the time I am watching that show, I will again be missing something else. In such an arrangement, I will always be behind. And I fear – no, I’m certain – I will never ever catch up.
I particularly do not like watching taped live shows, such as sporting events. To me, a game after it happens is an abandoned sweat sock on a locker room floor. A taped game misses the electricity of “Now!” I am also not happy that the world who watched the game simultaneous to its occurrence is ahead of me. While they’re up from the couch, “high-fiving” and going “What a game!” I’m sitting there like some held-back remedial student, clueless, and totally in the dark.
“Earlo, would you rather watch a taped game or miss the game entirely?”
“Please, Italics Man. Spare me the relativism when I’m talking nonsense.”
Okay. So last Sunday, Dr. M and I are guests at a couple‘s (Paul and Leah’s) house for Brunch. After a magnificent banquet (prepared by Leah), after a period long enough to show deferential respect to the prandial preparations, and with the awareness that I am about to sever the foursome down the middle along gender lines, I ask Paul, “Are you interested in the football game at all?”
Apparently, Paul has been waiting patiently for just this opening. Bidding the ladies adieu, we proceed post haste to the “Big Screen” to watch the NFC Championship Game, San Francisco Forty-Niners versus the Atlanta Falcons.
We are late. The game had already started. I don’t know, like an hour or so earlier.
Paul informs me, with a detectable excitement, “I’m taping it, so we can watch it from the beginning.” I have the distinct sense that that’s what he wants to do. My preference, well…you’ve been reading this, right?
Being certifiably unassertive, I say, “Let’s watch it from the beginning.”
Which is exactly what I don’t want to do. But, you know, I had free Brunch.
And so, I submit myself the murky netherworld of pre-taped programming, a bizarre parallel universe from which I may never emerge. Are you getting a sense of fear in there? It is not entirely made up.
We are watching the game from the beginning, which, in the natural world, is almost half over. Are there advantages? Sure. One, we get to see the whole game. And two, we can “Fast Forward.” A play is over, and Paul instantly “remotes” ahead.
And that’s when I see it.
The first time Paul “Fast Forwards” a bright orange bar appears at the bottom of the screen, its left-to-right progress indicating how far we’ve advanced through the pre-taped material. I have the feeling – and I confirm this with Paul – that, at some point, if we continue “Fast Forwarding”, we will eventually reach a point where we have caught up to the game in progress, and we will then be watching it live.
The way I like it. And enthusiastically look forward to.
And so, while others around the country and the world are rooting for the Falcons or the Forty-Niners…
For the slowly but inexorably advancing…
“Come on, Orange Line,” I hear myself chanting, possibly out loud.
There’s a break between plays. There’s a time-out. There’s a commercial interruption. And each time this happens, Paul immediately “Fast Forwards.” And whenever he does,
The Orange Line pushes ahead.
“Come on, Orange Line! You can do it, Orange Line!”
And, in fact, it is doing it. When we started watching, the Orange Line was thirty-five to forty per cent towards its destination. A few minutes later…
We are half way home.
I figure during the “Half-Time Break”, we can really shoot ahead, because the break’s twenty minutes long. But for some reason, our “Half-Time” advancement is shockingly meager. In terms of forward progress, “Half-Time” inexplicably provides hardly any more “line movement” than a commercial.
At one point, I needed to use the bathroom. But I was determined not to do so, because I knew that, being a polite host, Paul would insist on “Pausing” the game. I could not allow that to happen, because “Pausing” would inevitably cause the Orange Line to lose ground, receding agonizingly in the opposite direction.
The game was incredibly exciting, though I wasn’t sure if that was because of the game itself, or because of the way we were watching it. I remember in The Princess Bride, they talked about the “good parts version” of a book, where the reader skips over the boring stuff, reading only the portions of the book that are interesting and fun. That’s how this felt. “Fast Forwarding” allowed us to watch the “good parts version” of the football game.
In the end, overcoming a seventeen-point deficit, the Forty-Niners prevailed 28-24. Two sides were now happy, and two sides were sad. The Forty-Niners fans were ecstatic. The winning bettors were delighted. The Atlanta fans were bummed out. And I, though I’d watched a wonderful game, felt, well…(HEAVY SIGH.)
The Orange Line got close.
But it never caught up.
It was heartbreaking, I have to tell you. Not only had I seen a football game that had ended before I finished watching it. But the team I was rooting for had lost.
“We started too late,” explained Paul, trying to soften the blow. It was thoughtful, but it really didn’t help. I felt an emptiness inside. Not for myself, but for that indefatigable Orange Line that had tried so hard but had ultimately come up short.
It had done its best. Given a hundred and ten per cent. Left it all out there on the field. But, despite its proud and courageous efforts…
The football game had beaten it to the end.