Tuesday, January 3, 2017

"An Exonerating Excuse For Not Knowing"

Assurance:  This post is unrelated to the recent election.  Though I seem fated to consider it tomorrow.  If you are needful of a “safety space” from this electoral (if it were only just a) nightmare, don’t read it.  I may not read it myself.

I wrote recently about being wrong and how it feels.  (Retroactive Reminder:  Bad.) Sometimes, however, you can’t help being wrong, which should legitimately make you feel better, although the congenitally guilty among us, seeking any available opportunity, will feel terrible all the same. 

(I kind of wish I knew less about that.)

You watch Law & Order, pulling a random example out of the air.  Okay, I watched three episodes in a row yesterday; it comes readily to mind.  (Like it’s any of your business.)

They are interrogating a suspect.  You try to guess if they did it.  (Helpful Hint:  If it’s in the first fifteen minutes of the episode, they didn’t.)  It feels like it could go either way.  Then, as the police “grilling” drags on, the “Ballistics Report” comes in:  The incriminating bullet matches a weapon owned by the suspect.  Now, instead of being released, they are headed for “Riker’s”, which I know from watching The Night Of is an unfortunate place to be headed for.

Had the viewer received the ballistics information earlier, they would have easily known if they did it.  But if they had gotten that ballistic information earlier, the show’s Executive Producers would have berated the episode’s scriptwriter for “tipping the ending.”  There is, of course, still the possibility they’ll get off – if it can be shown that others had access to the murder weapon or if the jury buys the exculpatory defense of “Not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.”  (“My, how that man goes on with his ‘Lawyer Talk!’”)  But the ultimate verdict aside, the withheld information made it impossible for the viewer to actively participate in the speculation, or to actively participate and, lacking the withheld information, be wrong.

Okay.  That’s about maintaining the suspense.  And maybe the really good mysteries don’t do that, giving you a fair shot at ascertaining the perpetrator.  Bottom Line:  It’s a fictional exercise, so who cares?  It’s just another way of blowing your precious moments on the planet, which in itself is not unusual.  Everyone has their own specialty, up to and including exercise.

Remember the joke:

“Do you jog?”


“Really?  I’ve heard that jogging adds two years to your life.”

“It does.  But you spend them jogging.”

Here’s another example of not knowing, also due to withheld information, but this one feels disturbingly less forgivable.

Back in the 80’s, we had a local newspaper, now defunct, called the Santa Monica Outlook.  At the time, the Outlook’s longtime “beat reporter” covering the Los Angeles Lakers was Mitch Chortkoff.

During that era, the Lakers played their home games at the “Fabulous Forum”, so named not in commemoration of an ancient Roman sporting arena – that was the “Coliseum” – but because “Forum” alliterated appealingly with ”Fabulous.” 

Besides, we already had a “Coliseum”, where a local college team played football.  If the two venues had been identically named, attendees might have easily appeared at the “Coliseum”, bearing tickets to the wrong sporting event. 

“This is basketball.”

“But I brought a flask.”

“It’s basketball.  And no flasks.”

Wisely, they gave the two stadia differing monikers.  And no subsequent “flask checking” was necessary.

Here’s the story.

During the 1980’s, the Los Angeles Lakers were a basketball powerhouse, capturing five championships in nine years.  But in the season in question, they had gotten off to a horrible start, losing considerably more games than they won.

Speculation concerning the team’s early faltering ran rampant.  The Lakers were too slow.  They were too predictable.  They were starting to age.  They had “tuned out” their coach.  Newly fortified competitors had caught up.

Everyone had a reason explaining the Lakers’ substandard performance, one, all or a combination of which were persuasively plausible.  Then Mitch Chortkoff wrote a column on the subject.  And things immediately came clear.

In contrast to reporters from the “major” newspapers – the (now defunct) Herald Examiner and the Los Angeles Times (currently funct but getting alarmingly thinner) – who were conspicuously “mum” on the matter, Mitch Chortkoff exposed information that, once revealed, illuminated the Lakers’ ongoing difficulties.

Chortkoff explained that the Lakers’ early schedule required them to play all of their opening handful of games on the road – where it is notoriously harder to win – due to the fact that their “home” arena, the “Fabulous Forum”, was unavailable, hosting an extended run of the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus.

That was the reason they were losing.  The proof?  When the team returned home after the circus’s eventual departure, the Laker ran off an impressive string of consecutive victories.   And that was that. The world was back on it axis, spinning regularly, as expected.

We were no longer in the dark and guessing inaccurately.  We had been unaware of the “Circus Connection” because nobody had told us.  When somebody told us, we knew.

Leaving the troubling question:

What do you do when there’s no illuminating Mitch Chortkoff?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What do you do when there's no illuminating Mitch Chortkoff?

You buy basketball tickets and end up going to the circus?