The Lamest Durden

durdenI don’t watch much TV. In fact, I was a cord cutter before the Internet was in most homes. I hate paying for cable because it’s shit. TV was free when I grew up and it’s still free now and if I need mind-numbing shit, I’ll get it there. The downside to having only free television is I am unable to tell a Kardashian from a Cardassian and have very little sense of how to bid on abandoned storage lockers.

This is the part where you tell me how good the Walking Dead is, or how riveting the drama of Animal Planet, or the deep intellectual benefits of the History Channel. I’ve been having arguments about the comparative worth of television since O.J. Simpson was known  as a mediocre actor. And it boils down to this: I don’t think I’m better than you because you spend money on things I don’t see value in.

But, when people get angry, defensive or even genuinely perplexed that I don’t respect television, it is with an addict’s attitude. If you have any real emotions about my television hatred, you are inferior to me. Also, you’re not going to see this because, somewhere, there is tension in the duck carving studio, or whatever the hell happens on Duck Dynasty.

It’s your money, and you can do whatever you want with it. Especially since you know your Walking Dead money and your Animal Planet money and even your Duck Dynasty money goes to ESPN.

Now, I don’t mind ESPN per se. Although their website is an utter horror show, they do sports coverage well on radio as well as on television and they pay for one of the first premium longform journalism sites on the Internet: Grantland. (Actually, I guess you pay for that. So thanks.)

But ESPN’s success has encouraged people who don’t cover sports to be more like ESPN. Specifically, CNBC Money. Now that I go to the gym with some regularity, I get to see this a lot. I used some of the money I don’t pay for Duck Dynasty on an upgraded YMCA membership. Yes, I know it’s sad to pay for the “high end” YMCA, but it counts as luxury to me and it’s worth the $15 per month.

The locker room has the television blaring constantly and often the blaring is two CPAs disagreeing over the latest tax law. Now. Whether Michael Jordan is the best athlete of all time could reasonably be settled in an ESPN-style screaming match. Whether or not millions of viewers should invest their life savings cannot. No one is served by important things being influenced by screamed sarcasm, or by a corespondent’s tone of derision when reporting.

In case you missed it, I’ve been reminded John Stewart (another show I don’t see regularly) said pretty much the same thing when he trashed CNBC’s Jim Cramer.

Lately, I’ve taken to turning the TV off when I walk into the locker room. If there’s someone there, I’ll ask if they mind (no one seems to or at least won’t admit they do), then snap it off. On occasions when I succeed (often, there is a room full of guys watching last night’s highlights, and it would be rude to ask) it stays off; sometimes for an hour, sometimes more. I feel a little bit like Tyler Durden, a revolutionary in the war against the mundane.

True, it is sad when turning off the television feels like fighting the power. But what must it feel like to turn it on? To be compelled to fill the silence with arguments about dividends and whether or if we’re entering a bear market? It’s probably a false dichotomy, but I’ll take pathetic revolutionary over television servant any day.

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