One day when my nephew was younger, he said to me in all seriousness; “Uncle Zulu, when my father was a kid, they only had 3 channels on TV!” He then went into a fit of uncontrollable laughter. Thinking back, it was kind of funny. TV was different in those days. The “idiot box” spawned bumper stickers that said “Throw Your TV Set Out The Window” and “Turn Off The Boob Tube.” This was long before The Discovery, History and SYFY channels brought some intelligent life back into our homes. Like most young kids, I watched TV more on Friday nights and very early Saturday mornings. The big line up on Friday was The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family ( Oh, great Zulu, were not even one paragraph into the letter “A” and your starting in on that again….) and Love American Style. For each Saturday episode of “Land Of The Lost” I watched, cautiously waiting for the “Sleestak” to awaken, and attack, there was much I didn’t understand on TV. I struggled to follow the story on the national nightly news about Americans fighting “guerillas” in the jungle, anxiously waiting for the “gorillas” to be captured and put in a zoo. I couldn’t understand why “we” had to wait so long for Barnabas Collins to come out of his coffin and bite someone on the neck during Dark Shadows; unaware of what a “daytime soap opera” was. Mostly I could never understand “where and how Mr. Brady met Mrs. Brady and why Greg, Peter, or Bobby never once screamed out to Mrs. Brady; “You are not my mother, you two-bit dime store gold-digging”……ah…well …anyway, you get the point. It must have been long before step children and step parents were invented.
There was some TV that needed no explanation; it was ABC’s Wide World of Sports; better known as “The thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat!” The program’s beginning started out with the winning of a car race, and ended with the horrific fall and crash of a Slovenian named Vinko Bogataj who was captured on film not only falling down on the ski jump but “helicoptered” off the corner of the base and almost landed in the crowd. 20 years later he was shocked to find out he’d been on American TV almost every weekend since the fall, and had become a cult hero. At a reception many years later for the show, Muhammad Ali asked for his autograph. As kids, everything was related to the start of that sports program. You make your first ski run without falling; the thrill of victory. Suffer server burnt hands from the evil ski rope tow; the agony of defeat! Get kissed by the very cute Megan Miller; the thrill of victory. Megan ignores you so as to talk to Carl Zolak because he has an above ground pool; the agony of defeat! Step by step; it was all in sequence, and we were there.
In a world where so many achievements, milestones, and athletic feats are measured by those who “come in first,” it’s refreshing to know that sometimes those who show up, compete, or give their best effort and fall short, are not completely forgotten; infamous as they may be.