My Beef with the WB

With apologies to my readers that are fans of its shows, but I’m perversely gleeful about the problems and shake-ups at the WB Network.  My beef with the network is pretty simple and hard-headed: when the WB was launched in 1995, its Chicago affiliate WGN had to cut the number of the station’s Cubs and White Sox baseball telecasts in half in order to make room for inane shows by the Wayans brothers.

For most of Western Civilization and the developed world, this wasn’t a problem because they could simply switch the approriate cable television channel to watch those games.  However, at the time of the WB launch, I lived in a mud hut with parents who to this day have never paid a dime in their lives for cable.  If you don’t know me already, you’ll find out soon enough that I am a baseball freak, so after being accustomed to watching baseball on a daily basis for seriously as long as I could remember watching TV, finding an episode of “Sister, Sister” on WGN rather than a meaningless mid-September Sox-Royals game spurred me to initiate a personal boycott.  Even though I now have a DirecTV account that gives me access to hundreds of more baseball games than I could ever possibly watch, I still can’t evaluate any show on the WB objectively because of this deep-seeded bias against anything that appears on the network.

Of course, since the WB has banked its entire existence on attracting an audience of teenage girls (not my biased words – that’s the linked New York Times article’s analysis), it hasn’t been hard for me to avoid its shows.  I’m glad the WB’s executives paid $100,000 for their Ivy League MBAs and blew literally hundreds of millions of dollars in television production costs before figuring out that (surprise!) teenage girls are a pretty fickle audience, meaning that they had a shaky foundation for an over-the-air TV network.  I could have told them that when I was a high school kid who just wanted to watch some baseball in 1995.

Land-o-Links – 12/21/2005

Happy Braggin’ Rights Day!  I’ll have comments on the Illini-Mizzou game and Quin Snyder’s celebrity look-a-like after tonight.  Until then, here is the first installment of recommended reading on the web in Land-o-Links (I was going to call this recurring section the more clever “Land of Linkin'”, but then I realized that people might mistake me for some advocate of the band Linkin Park – which I certainly don’t want to happen, and Eric Zorn from the Chicago Tribune uses this title for his links):

1) Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster – The water cooler talk around the nation today is centering around the case ruling that rejects Intelligent Design (I thought we resolved the debate on Evolution in public schools 80 years ago, but I digress).  Any random talking head blowhard can critique Intelligent Design, but the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster has taken this issue to a spectacular level.

2) Oracle of Baseball – This is the baseball version of the Kevin Bacon game.  Plug in any two baseball players in history and the program will show you how they’re linked by teammates and teammates’ teammates over time.  For a baseball junkie such as myself, this is like crack with an angel dust chaser (if you’re a movie buff, the classic Oracle of Bacon is here).

3) Stricken Genius (click on “Read the stories”) – On a different note, if you haven’t seen this powerful front-page series on pianist Alexei Sultanov in the Chicago Tribune over the past few days, I urge you to take a few moments out of your day to do so.  Sultanov was a musical prodigy that won the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition as a 19-year-old.  At the age of 30, he suddenly suffered 5 successive strokes that left him completely paralyzed and unable to walk or talk.  While Sultanov wasn’t able to move any other part of his body, he eventually was able to get his fingers to move enough to play the piano once again.  The greater point is that he was born with musical gifts that few had ever seen, yet the pressure of living up to his own high expectations of himself made him curse those gifts when he was healthy.  It took the loss of Sultanov’s gifts to get him focus back on why he had loved music in the first place.  With all of the stress and anxiety that we have in our personal and professional lives, taking the time to appreciate what we have is an old adage that never gets old.