Monday, January 30, 2012

Look, Ma, I'm On TV!

Glossary--"Ghosts In The Vapor" (mp3

I spent a decent part of Sunday after noon looking for my brother-in-law. At a golf match. On television.

To accomplish such a thing is easier said than done, and there is no guarantee of success. He, a middle-aged member of a large crowd of golf watchers enjoying the 68 degree sunny weather near the coast, was going to be at the Farmers' Insurance Open golf tournament. And he had let his 85-year-old mother, who was staying with us, know that he would be at the tournament and that the tournament would be on television. "I'll be the one waving," he texted. So we started watching. When such a thing becomes a possibility, suddenly, somehow, it becomes paramount.

He was in San Diego; we were sitting in our den in Chattanooga, TN.

Actually, when we started looking for him, he wasn't even there yet. But we didn't know that, or that his girlfriend really didn't want him to go but that he felt like he needed to put in an appearance (he works for a professional sports team, so I suppose networking was involved). So we started watching the last day of the tournament and looking for him about the 7th hole on.

NOTE: If you never watch golf, the television coverage focuses only on the frontrunners or someone embroiled in scandal, just like the political primaries.

Then we found out that he had arrived. But he told us he was on the 13th hole, watching a golfer from the University of Florida. We could see that said golfer was not on the leaderboard, so we knew there was no chance. Hold on, we texted back, the leader, Kyle Stanley, is about to tee off at the 11th. We'll be there at 13, via television, soon.

Then we heard from him that he was at the 11th. Stanley hit his drive into the crowd and it bounced off someone's shoe and carromed back into play. Text him and ask him if that ball just him, I joked. No, he wrote back, he was on the other side of the green. Tell him to get on the side of the green where the balls are landing, I said.

After Kyle Stanley chipped onto the green, he took off his golf glove and handed it to the spectator he had hit with his drive. Quid pro quo.

And, then, a minute later, as the players were finishing up the hole, all of a sudden there he was. "I see him," I shouted. "He's right beside Stanley's golf bag! See him? He's wearing a dark blue shirt."

And that was that. Mission accomplished. And that was the ending of our watching of the golf tournament.

Now, I love my brother-in-law, but I've never shouted about having seen him before. It's a funny thing, isn't it, to know that someone you know might be on television and to spend your time trying to get just a glimpse of him? Why? To what end? Is it some verification of his existence several thousand miles away? Is it the chance for a mother to catch a glimpse of her distant son?

I'd have to say no. These days, a cell phone camera can take care of those needs in short order. Is it more that there is some famous event and I know someone who is at that famous event and that somehow that makes both him and, by extension, me more famous, too? Is it the bragging rights of "I saw my brother-in-law on TV yesterday"? I'm not sure.

There probably isn't much to it at all. And yet, if I get word that he'll be visible at the All-Star Game next year or that you are going to be in the audience of a Letterman taping week, I'll probably check out those as well. Much as I might malign television and as tired as I am of so much of it, it still possesses that strange ability to make us, if we're on it, or someone we know who is on it appear more real than however real we are. While the various native peoples who claim that having our images captured costs us a bit of our souls may be right, the fact remains that seeing ourselves or people we know projected on a screen counters the tenuousness of our presence.

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