Sunday, November 29, 2015

NFL Week 12: Let's Get Caught Up, Again

This weekend of the Thanksgiving holiday marks three years that this page has been up and running. I started the blog when I got back from California, where I go every Thanksgiving to visit my father. We have a routine. We run a "turkey trot," one of these community fun runs that are popping up all over and are very popular now, so much so that the turkey trot is becoming as much a part of the Thanksgiving holiday as Black Friday and the National Football League. After we run the turkey trot, we return to my father's modest house in a suburban neighborhood close to downtown of the Solano County seat, and we watch football all day. The next day, Black Friday, I travel north back to the Emerald City. That's the routine.

There was some variation this year in that I decided to get my father a flat screen digital television. TV is very important for the elderly, something I found out one Christmas while visiting my mother, who resides in an assisted-living facility, when her universal remote quit on her. A panic attack ensued. Thank goodness it happened at a time, 4:30 PM on Christmas Eve, that I could run out and buy a replacement at the Radio Shack. If the remote had quit just an hour or two later, my mother, who can only move about with the aid of a walker, would have had to go without her regular televisual experience for more than 36 hours. A real crisis.

My father has had the same TV for years, a small -- 13-inch -- analog model with a picture tube and a built-in VCR; the same kind of TV that I have had for the last 12 years. We both have the analog-to-digital-antenna converter box. But recently a co-worker gifted me an older flat screen that she and her husband never used in a spare bedroom because they found something newer and larger on craigslist. And it was such a marked improvement from the old-school 13-inch, particularly for the type of programming that I use the television for -- the NFL -- that I decided my father, who watches TV every day, would benefit if he had his own.

So prior to my trip down to California, I went online and found a well-rated, reasonably-priced 2015 high-definition (HD) 32-inch LG flat screen. (Read Nicholson Baker's magisterial New Yorker piece, "A Fourth State of Matter," on the South Korean flat screen television industry. Samsung and LG are the two big South Korean producers.) The LG arrived at my father's house in a little more than a day, and he installed it himself. But by the time I arrived he was having difficulty picking up the same stations that he had with the old set.

Here our troubles began. I thought we would face only minimal difficulty in working out the kinks and matching the reception he enjoyed before because I had no problem with my own gifted flat screen. What I didn't take into account is that my flat screen was so old that it didn't have its own HD tuner; hence, I was able to use the same analog-to-digital-antenna converter that I used on my old-school cathode-ray-tube TV. These new flat screen televisions come equipped with their own HD receiver, and, apparently, at least what my father and I have learned, is that they are not as good as the analog-to-digital-antenna converters which were widely distributed when we the non-cable unwashed were kicked off the analog spectrum into the digital stream.

We then proceeded to problem solve for the next two days, our goal being to try to match the number of channels he had with the old technology; that, and be able to receive all three networks televising the Thanksgiving games -- FOX, CBS, NBC. This meant two separate trips each to both Target and Best Buy, and one trip to Sears. What we learned is that most digital antennas are useless, particularly if you live in an area that is windy and rainy and far away from the nearest transmission tower. My father lives in a wind corridor, and we learned by research online that the nearest transmission towers are 29 miles to the east. So we returned the first digital antenna we purchased at Best Buy and upgraded to one with amplification and a 40-mile range.

After purchasing 100 feet of coaxial cable at Target and walking the digital antenna all around his living room, dining room and kitchen; out into the front yard; and finally out into the patio area at the back of the house, we found the sweet spot -- the window in the living room at the front of the house. Thanksgiving Day was clear and not too windy so we were able to enjoy the morning and afternoon games on the big screen. But the winds picked up at night, and we were forced back to the old 13-inch to see Chicago hold on for a big upset of the Packers at Lambeau Field.

My takeaway from all this is that "superior" technology is not always better. Analog TV might not have been high definition, but neither was it so sensitive that a gust wind would lead to disintegrating pixelation of the picture.

If new, "higher" technology is not better then we as a society can expect nothing but trouble ahead because that is all that Western civilization has to offer its citizens these days -- the promise of "consuming" newer, more wonderful digital technologies.

As neoliberalism -- the divination of the market above all else -- continues to reign supreme despite its inability to deliver economic growth, as our political parties, in fealty to concentrated wealth, atrophy beyond recognition, as the Global War on Terrorism" leads to ever more terrorism, as the mass extinctions of anthropocene surge, we the people are cajoled to visit the big box outlet at the super mall and purchase the latest digital tech. That is our consolation. And having just "been there and done that," I am here to tell you it is no consolation at all. Pope Francis is completely on the mark when he says in his encyclical "On Care For Our Common Home" that the dominant technocratic, consumer-driven paradigm is killing the planet and needs to be overturned.

But this is supposed to be a post about the National Football League Week 12. Of two unbeaten teams, Carolina and New England, the Panthers are the team that has the best shot at going all the way. Why? Because they are playing the best defense -- hands down -- of any team. They have it all -- a fantastic secondary; super-fast smart linebackers; a steady stout line. As long as Cam Newton can keep his gigantic ego in check and play turnover free football, I like Carolina's chances.

The Patriots, always formidable, have issues, which were on display Monday night against mediocre Buffalo. Julian Edelman is Brady's go-to guy, and he's gone for the year. Maybe he could come back for the AFC Championship game or the Super Bowl, assuming New England is there, but it is doubtful. Dion Lewis is gone for the year too. The Patriots defense is beatable. New England depends on Brady controlling time of possession.

If Osweiler, who is good, can play well; or if Cincinnati can overcome there late season issues; or if Pittsburgh gets hot -- all could beat New England.

Speaking of Pittsburgh, the mood in Seattle is not buoyant heading into today's game with the Steelers. The young men in Seahawks gear I talked to on the flights down and back were not optimistic. The feeling is one of resignation. We've been burned too often this season to believe otherwise. The oddsmakers favor Seattle because the Steelers-Seahawks match-up is usually decided by who is playing at home. It should be a nail-biter. Again.

My epiphany while struggling through the turkey trot on Thanksgiving is that will power is a hard thing to maintain year in and year out. My times have really suffered lately. I'm not training like I used to. There are a whole set of reasons for this, but the end result is the performance. And my performances have been poorer.

The Seahawks are in the same place. This cannot be denied. The Seattle faithful, the 12s, long hoping for a turnaround I believe have accepted that the team is diminished and will be fortunate to win today. Something Seattle must do to remain in the hunt for a wild card playoff berth.

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