Sunday, September 18, 2005

THAT'S The Ticket -- To New Remote Batteries

(the following column can also be viewed at, where a new column from yours truly appears each Sunday or Monday. They will also appear here for your reading pleasure. For archives of my columns there, go to and click on "Columnists")

I suppose the only thing worse than a man with a TV remote control is three men with one on a football Sunday -- when that TV is equipped with NFL Sunday Ticket.

My wonderful 12 year-old daughter, Nicole, with the blessing of my adoring wife Sharon, decided that daddy needed something special for his birthday last month. She -- my daughter -- remembered me talking wistfully of how fantastic it would be to have something really useful and practical and let’s face it, essential in life: NFL Sunday Ticket.

For those of you who don’t know -- and if you don’t, please don’t admit it to me because I just might bust you in the mouth -- NFL Sunday Ticket is a service offered by DirecTV. And when I say service, I mean it as a lady of the evening means it. This is because "The Ticket" is a full-body massage to a football fan, and then some. It is a nicotine bar to a smoker, a bowl of sugar, with a straw, for a sweet tooth.

It is also outrageous in its excess.

Here’s the skinny: with The Ticket, every NFL game is beamed into my home, every Sunday. Last Sunday, that meant eight 1:00 starts and five 4:15 kickoffs. And I could watch any one of them, any time. The problem began when we tried to watch them all at once.

"We" were me and my old pals from the neighborhood, Chris Gerbasi and Mike Lank. Gerbs was up from South Florida for U-M/Notre Dame, and Lank was up from Wayne County for, I suspect, my television, which with The Ticket took on an almost genie’s lamp type of aura.

If you have never tried watching eight football games at once, then, first of all, you haven’t lived, yet second of all, you’ll live longer than me. Because that’s what I’ve already found as being the trouble with The Ticket: it’s too damn much to take in! But it’s a nice problem to have, like figuring out which Maserati to drive for the weekend.

The guys arrived promptly at 1:01. They were late, because Gerbs promised a 1:00 landing in my driveway when I spoke to him the night before and invited him to help me enjoy my first weekend with The Ticket. "You know I have NFL Sunday Ticket," I reminded him on the phone Saturday night.

"Yes, I am well aware of that," Gerbs said, cackling diabolically. I think he would have come over right then and there to make sure he got a good seat in my living room if he had his druthers. He told me he would try to get Lank "on board" too, which was like saying he was going to try to get the sun "on board" to rise the next morning.

In fact, those two were so much on time, ready for kickoff, that they beat me -- at my own Football Frenzy. I had run some errands with Sharon and I was late -- about 1:10 -- when I pulled in and saw Chris and Mike bound from Lank’s vehicle.

**************************************** one point Lank called out "COMMERCIAL!" as if he was my wife spotting a mouse, and I dutifully responded, fumbling for the remote and switching channels abruptly as if I had been caught watching porn.

"Which game do you want to watch?," I said, I think before saying hello, which actually didn’t come until several minutes and four or five remote clicks later.

Again, that’s where the trouble lied. As I mentioned in my opening paragraph, giving three men a remote control and access to eight pro football games at once is like giving an alcoholic a key to the liquor cabinet, except at least the alcoholic can only consume one drink at a time. We were flipping through the games so fast we were losing track of them. As if our attention spans weren’t already short enough, the intoxicating power of The Ticket shrank it to about one play’s worth of time. I literally stopped at a game -- don’t ask me which one it was -- and saw the down and distance as being 2nd and 12 and said, "2nd and 12 -- I don’t like that," and switched the channel.

And don’t even talk to me about commercials. As far as we were concerned, we had The Ticket and The Power, and that power meant we were NOT to be bothered by commercials. As soon as game coverage faded to black, I zapped that clicker to someplace else, anywhere else. However, we got to gabbing a few times and at one point Lank called out "COMMERCIAL!" as if he was my wife spotting a mouse, and I dutifully responded, fumbling for the remote and switching channels abruptly as if I had been caught watching porn.

So we watched and flipped thru the games and actually saw some scoring plays and it was all very cool, except I gotta admit, they all kind of blended in after a while. At one point I said, "I picked a bad week to stop taking Ritalin." I had the volume turned up high so every game sounded the same: generic crowd noise and a booming play-by-play voice. The teams started blending, too. I’m pretty sure Minnesota played Tampa Bay, but did the Jets play the Dolphins? It probably didn’t matter; we were just thankful for The Ticket, and I reminded Sharon -- who had popped out for some pizzas, bless her heart -- and Nicole that daddy liked the gift and it was the best birthday present I ever received. Gerbasi told me he might consider moving back to Michigan, at least for the football season, to cop some more views of The Ticket. Lank had nothing to declare -- he was watching out for those offending commercials.

By the way, ladies, if you want to give your man the gift of football and are considering signing up for NFL Sunday Ticket (it’s not too late), remember that this includes the 1:00 AND 4:15 games, so if you do this, say goodbye to hubby until after 7:30. And then you have an hour with him until the Sunday night game begins. That’s almost 10 hours without your man.

See? It’s the gift that can give both ways.

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