October 9, 2009
The other day I was at the gym in the locker room and noticed a guy sitting on one of the benches watching a football game on the television set up on the wall. This isn’t unusual, although I can’t help wondering why there has to be a television in the locker room or even in cars, where watching television seems like an incredibly bad idea, or, for that matter, in restaurants. When you’re in a restaurant you should be focused on what you’re eating and, if that’s not that exciting, whoever you’re there with, rather than watching some television show you could be watching at home. In a restaurant the whole point is to have someone else cook food for you that you couldn’t get at home, right? And yet I’ve never been able to find a restaurant that has a channel I can’t get from home, even when I’ve climbed up on top of the bar and flipped through all the channels. And on those occasions some nice guys in a car with a flashing blue light also gave me a ride home, but that’s another story.
At least in a restaurant you’re meant to be there for a while, unlike a locker room where the philosophy should be get in and get out, not sit on a bench and watch a football game, like this guy was. I got focused on the football game too, which was, of course, American football, a game the rest of the world calls "bananas". I’ve never figured out why the rest of the world has a sport called "football" that we call "soccer", while we have a sport called, well, "football". Where did the name "soccer" come from anyway? Baseball is called that because it’s played with a ball and the objective is to score bases, while in basketball the objective is to put the ball in a basket. And, naturally, the game where the object is to hold the ball in your hands while advancing by ten-yard increments into the end zone to score a touchdown is called football. Not that the names of all sports necessarily make sense. Pool is played on a table, mainly because billiard balls sink, and I should know because I’ve tried putting billiard balls in pools and not only did they sink but I ended up getting a ride home from some nice guys in a car with a flashing blue light. No one’s sure where the term "golf" came from, although "tiny-little-pockmarked-ball" would just be too much of a mouthful. The same goes for the game cricket,which would be called "twelve-guys-making-it-up-as-they-go-along-ball". And yet I think it’s significant that golf and cricket and pool and even soccer were all invented in other parts of the world while baseball, basketball, and football were all invented in the U.S., where we think it’s a good idea to put television sets everywhere.