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July 15, 2010

Decisions and Reality TV

Derek Shackelford

Reality Television really has a huge audience in our current culture. We perceive to be a society where the public display of people’s lives paraded before television intrigues us.


It appears anyone who has a name will attempt to have a made-for-television reality show; that gives us the idea that those who participate in the show are just like us. The tricky proposition is that entrance into another’s life allows us to escape from our own dysfunction.


Statistics would bear me out considering reality shows are the highest rated programs on television. The in fluctuation of cable television allows for more access into this phenomenon.


Years ago – to my recollection and in my generation – Evel Knievel was the reality star. He only appeared every so often. His appearances did not consist of an every week opportunity and staged performances.


No matter the part – our culture is an over-the-top culture. The television media has exploited this concept for the appetites of those who eat it up. In the media cycle that is now 24 hour accessible, whatever you want to find out, whatever you want to see is available.


To a large degree we all have a little celebrity within us. Just check out many of the Facebook and MySpace pages. We give information to so many without the thought of how it can be used and without even knowing the people we are transmitting it to. We love to communicate, or so we think. It is not about the how we communicate but as long as we do communicate we have the thought that we take ourselves so seriously.


This leads me to latest made-for-television reality show that occurred last week. Free agent basketball player LeBron James announcing where he would take his athletic talents.


A little background, Mr. James played for the Cleveland Cavaliers for seven years. He has won two National Basketball Association most valuable player awards. What should not be overlooked is that Mr. James entered the NBA straight out of high school.


Last Thursday evening the Nielsen ratings recorded that 9.5 million people watched as he announced his decision on where he would play next season. This was an hour-long special, but it took Mr. James just a little under 30 seconds to make the announcement. ESPN participated in this spectacle in an attempt to lend some sort of credibility.


Subsequently a ripple effect occurred in Cleveland. Cavalier fans expressed their disappointment by burning his jersey, and showed their disapproval in interviews. There was also a scathing, (No, a childish) letter written by owner Dan Gilbert expressing his displeasure over the decision. One would think with the amount of financial wealth that Mr. Gilbert possesses, he could find someone who proofreads and edits public letters; but I digress.


This whole charade of announcement and response was definitely a made-for-television reality show. The attention and coverage was all for a 25-year-old man who plays basketball. This is not to diminish his skills in any fashion, but he is a man who plays basketball well, right?


I have heard critics criticize his participation in something of this nature and that his ego appears to be out of control. To that, I say, yeah, right! It is easy for us to say sitting on the outside looking in. We can talk about what we wouldn’t do when the opportunity is not before us.


For many of us, what kind of decisions were we making at 25? Just peek into our lives at 35 or 45, or even older, and we don’t nearly have the access that Mr. James does. I can admit that this was over the top; but that is the culture we currently live in. It is a culture where we want to share every decision we make because we really want everyone to know that our lives are of some importance.


Truthfully, some things do not need to be shared with the whole world whether it is where one plays basketball or where one is going to be posted on a Facebook page.


None of these decisions will change how my water tastes.


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