I don’t watch much TV. Oh, occasionally, I’ll tune into The Voice or American Idol or Parenthood. But, honestly, that’s about it. If TV went away completely, it wouldn’t bother me much.
Except for one fairly glaring exception to everything I just wrote: live sports.
This weekend, I was really looking forward to watching the NFL playoff games when I discovered—much to my significant annoyance—that our local NBC affiliate is squabbling with DirecTV regarding how much the satellite provider pays them. I don’t pretend to understand all the business arguments being made by both sides. All I know is that they haven’t agreed. And for the moment, that means no NBC on DirecTV here in Colorado Springs (and, I gather, quite a few other local markets around the country).
So I did what any reasonable person does in such a situation: I got on Facebook and complained to my friends. And they responded. In fact, what transpired next was quite remarkable.
One friend tried to coach me through how to go to the NBC Sports website to stream the game. (It’s 2015, but I don’t stream much TV content, either, so that was a relatively new thought to me). But, alas, I needed login information from my DirecTV account that I didn’t have. So that didn’t work.
Then things got kind of old-fashioned and nostalgic as several folks started trying to describe how they used an ancient device known as an antenna … to pick up a signal free and out of thin air! Imagine: TV you didn’t have to pay for, beamed straight to your house! What a revolution that would be!
I’m being facetious, of course. Anyone over the age of, say, 45 or so, likely grew up with exactly that kind of arrangement, at least in their youth. Before cable (and way before satellite), we only had the three networks, plus PBS. (Fox didn’t show up until later). That was it. You turned on your TV, and if the signal was bad, you adjusted the rabbit ears sitting on top of your gargantuan CRT set (which, you won’t be surprised to learn, we still have … none of that new-fangled flat-screen craziness for the Holz family). Or, if you were really, ahem, plugged in, you went outside and jiggled the giant antenna bolted to the side of your house or your roof.
But since those good old days, most of us have migrated to cable or satellite, so the idea of actually watching a broadcast signal has faded to distant memory. So distant, in fact, that most of us have a) forgotten you can use a TV that way, and, b) forgotten how to use an antenna.
So my Facebook rant devolved into an interesting conversation about all the ways other DirecTV-using friends were hastily trying to jerry-rig antennas in place of their satellite feeds to watch the game.
I never did figure out a way to watch. (I just kept hitting refresh on ESPN’s Gametracker feature, which is a lousy way to “watch” a football game.) But I couldn’t help but laugh (a little) at the rich irony of my friends and I struggling to remember how to use a far simpler technology that’s long since been displaced by a more complex and expensive one. (At least Facebook was there when we really needed it.)
Now where did I we put those rabbit ears?
(And, yes, I know I need newfangled digital ones now. I guess even antennae aren’t as simple as they used to be.)