"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

On celebrities, the media, football etc.

It's 4:45 a.m. and I'm hearing all about the career of Regis Philbin. I don't think I've watched the Regis Philbin TV show for one minute in my entire life. I wish him well in his retirement.
Celebrities i.e. creations of the media, are a much bigger part of the "news" than was once the case.
The distinction between news and entertainment was once pretty marked. News was done almost as a public service. A media historian once observed that the nature of TV news changed forever when it was shown that a news-oriented program could make money.
When I was a kid, we watched Irving R. Levine deliver his business news as part of the NBC evening news, in a fashion that was surely dry but professional. Compare that to Jim Kramer. Levine concentrated on reality. He was restrained and cautious in a way that any sober observer of the business world ought to be. He knew that hysteria could lead to bubbles.
This transformation of business news into something "sexy" has been perverse. People with their inherent greedy tendencies are drawn to it. I haven't had a penny in the stock market since about 1983. I decided it was more important to be able to sleep at night. My life is no less fulfilled having not watched Regis Philbin or not owning stocks.
Celebrity Brett Favre did give some fleeting fulfillment. Will his newly-reported retirement be as genuine as Regis Philbin's? Or Larry King's? Will Favre be remembered like Y.A. Tittle, a guy who played for a little too long?
There was a headline the other day saying Favre was trying to resuscitate his image in Green Bay. We all know that in posterity, Favre will be associated with the green and gold. Scoring points with the Packer faithful might be a little difficult now, since Green Bay is immersed in its present success - quite abundant success.
Green Bay has a quarterback now who is truly in the top tier. The Packers will play the Chicago Bears for the NFC title and a Super Bowl berth this Sunday. Signal-caller Aaron Rodgers was once Favre's understudy.
Favre will have no long-term intimacy with Minnesota.
"Intimacy" is a word I should perhaps use delicately in connection to Favre. He is in the news now for reasons outside the lines. How do I asses his "sexting" tribulations?
I actually sympathize with him more on this, than on his efforts to prolong his career. All this new tech stuff presents a hazard to people who behave impulsively sometimes. The problem is that it's all too easy. Karl Rove, a man who I'm not fond of quoting, was quite precise when he said the new communications "give the illusion of anonymity."
You really do leave a trail when you use all this stuff.
These bozos who get nailed on "Dateline" would probably never have gotten in trouble in the old analog days. They might hide a "dirty magazine" under a pillow. But today by impulsively pressing a button or two, in the privacy of one's home, you can create serious problems for yourself.
These guys on Dateline are just bozos. We should just scare the heck out of them and allow them to return to normal life.
I don't think it's practical to continue treating the adolescents on the other end of these communications as total victims. The adolescents need education and must take some of the responsibility for what they do. Doing stings like on Dateline, all over the country, would just create a class of people whose ability to gain desirable employment would be gone. And taxpayers certainly don't want to pay to incarcerate all of them for long periods.
We must all acknowledge that this new world created through tech tools has hazards. This must be impressed on young people with special vigilance. The recipients of Favre's alleged inappropriate photos and overtures are adults. Yes it seems disgusting, but these are adults dealing in one-to-one fashion.
Much of the law, civil and criminal, that addresses such things was created in an earlier time. I use the word "analog" loosely. Back then you really had to cross a line with your behavior to get in trouble. It took appreciable effort and forethought. You used to have to buy film, gain some skills with a camera and then take the film to a drugstore for processing. You might have to wait a week!
If Favre's alleged misbehavior had been with an old Kodak Instamatic camera, everyone would have thought he was just nuts. Somehow the perception isn't the same today. Today we assume that the basic nature of the new communications tears down privacy. We adjust to this new frontier.
The best policy today is to probably just ignore unwanted communications, not call authorities. Or just make a polite request.
With Favre, his riches make him a target for civil actions. I'm sure agents warn pro athletes about this like crazy. But sometimes the hormones just get too powerful. Favre will have a headache for an extended time over this, more so than getting thrown to the frozen turf of TCF Bank Stadium for that re-located game.
Great, so a whole national TV audience has an image of TCF Bank Field imbued with talk of arctic-like conditions - just what the U of M football program needs for recruiting those southern athletes, right?
Jerry Kill is the new Gophers football coach? He's just another victim. Tim Brewster is in talks to return to the NFL. He'd be an obscure assistant but he'd be quite comfortably perched in his profession.
Kill is just another one of those coaches with drive and exuberance who rises through the ranks until finally he reaches a level where he can't overwhelm opponents anymore. These guys get the "genius" label in their ascent until we suddenly realize they're mortal.
We saw this in Morris, at UMM, with Al Molde and maybe even Mike Simpson and Jim Lind. Oh, they were good at this level and the institution gave them the resources they needed at that time. Molde ascended to the Mid-American Conference where he made a small splash (with Western Michigan, the Broncos) before turning mortal.
Simpson looked mortal at St. Cloud State. Lind blended into the NFL in a role like Brewster, taking advantage of political connections (all right, his old friendship with Mike Holmgren).
These guys were all capable and they were gentlemen. But the "genius" tag was probably hyperbole.
I predict Jerry Kill will languish and ultimately end up with a treadmill type of job in football. Nothing wrong with that.
The boomer generation has never had anything to feel excited about with Gopher football, and that's not likely to change.
This weekend will see Rex Ryan, he of the celebrated "foot fetish," in the limelight for NFL playoff football. Could you imagine a story like the "foot fetish" getting anywhere in the old days of media? It only came out at all because of the ease of the new communications. There was probably an "illusion of anonymity."
Stuff gets sent and forwarded around with so much ease it's ridiculous, and then there's a broad television universe ready to exploit it.
The old media universe had a gentleman's agreement not to touch JFK's dalliances. Is there anything more quaint than that? Can you just imagine Joy Behar delving into that topic?
Wes Welker of the New England Patriots was actually benched because of talking about that foot fetish thing. So the new media universe is really a minefield. Missteps can hurt lives. And it's all so impulsive. You can act as fast as you think, sometimes seemingly faster.
Young people understand this best, of course. And I don't think they're eager to send the legal attack dogs at people who just do stupid things. They would just tell us to apply a filter.
They would tell us to just use personal responsibility.
And with time they'll be old enough to set the tone with all of this.
And who exactly was Regis Philbin anyway? And who is this Piers Morgan fellow? Last night he was interviewing Howard Stern. Nothing much to be learned from that.
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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