Sunday evening I watched the NBA All-Star Game, in its entirety, while feverishly shoving pastrami down my throat, accompanied by frequent sips of beer to prevent the catastrophic public display of a Reuben induced death by asphyxiation from traumatizing every other person attempting to enjoy this athletic and commercial belch of programming. Now I perform this routine on more occasions than I should realistically be proud of.
This Sunday evening’s performance I tried to observe in tandem with my viewing, McCarthy’s concept of televisions in environments typically understood as waiting environments. It was immediately that I noticed that my motivations in seeing this game, while at once academically requested, is something I do frequently. I frequent this restaurant, The Oinkster, in search of an uncomfortable and egregious consumption of food, but mainly to watch the game. I saw my concern that McCarthy’s idea of television viewing in environments of waiting was not going to have much bearing on my viewing because I was going to specifically watch this game, and as an encouraging supplement to my viewing, eat too much. I have done this very activity before at this very establishment, arranged a meet up with friends to eat, drink and watch a basketball game, with semi-earnest and social interest in the outcome of the game. Also, adding to a discussion we had a couple weeks back on the relationship between statistics and the broadcast and viewing of sport events, the fact that I participate in fantasy basketball, generally with the very people who are with me at the restaurant, increases my interest in the game, albeit centered around inconsequential stakes permeated by an unnecessary focus on fickle data.
Moving on, my problem with McCarthy is in no way a disagreement with her ideas. In fact only the night before, I was at a bar and as I stood waiting for either my drink or acknowledgement from one of the bartenders that I wanted a drink, above the bar I witnessed two very large flat-screens both playing for whatever reason Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, on mute with subtitles. I stood there, with nothing much else to do, transfixed by this bizarre silent subtitled film, partnered with the general incomprehensible chatter of everyone in the bar and an unreasonably loud Tribe Called Quest song playing on the speakers throughout. I stood there for quite some time. I believe my desire to wait in this Fitzcaralldo-chatter-hip hop stupor trumped my initial want for a drink. The mundanity of waiting seemed to leave me for a moment as I began to sort through this barrage and befuddlement of stimuli, even in my own head quietly asking myself “What the fuck is going on here?” And then I ordered my drink and went outside as the routine usually goes.
Back to the Oinkster however, since I realized that my role and wants as a commercial viewer would not be in line with any type of quality of waiting. I instead began observing the exchange of customers throughout the several hours I was there. For the most part very few customers stayed much longer than 30-40 minutes, and with the exception of my party and another, most customers viewing of the game, while enthusiastic, lasted only as long as the meal. So the question arose, why do I come here, a public environment to watch this game? I do often enough to beg the question. The proliferation of establishments with televisions and my lack of cable seemed to satisfy my question. However, I’m sure I could procure some stream online of any of these events in decent enough quality. I’m neither a distracted viewer nor a viewer in waiting. Perhaps I’ve been swept up into the appeal of the very commodification of my activity, and joyfully engage with forms of industrialized culture, and to an extent I find the public arena to better suit this engagement.