If you've spent any time around children lately, you might have learned that television viewing is a touchy subject. There are some fairly strict age-based guidelines as to both duration and content these days. I won't bore you with the details, but let's just say that television seems to be the new crack cocaine.
That school of thought wasn't mature when I was growing up, when the television was officially my third parent figure. It would have made a serious run at the number two position, except that it wasn't able to make me shut it off and go mow the lawn. I whiled away many summer Sunday afternoons alone, with a Cubs announcer chattering an endless accompaniment to whatever I was doing. But that was a best case scenario, because more routinely I think I watched every Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, and Three Stooges film. Although there was no parent to ask me how I felt about Moe Howard's handiness with a weaponized frying pan, I suppose I would have to say that it wasn't as bad as showing a kid Matt Cooke's hit on Marc Savard in excruciating slow motion.
I also did my homework in front of the television during a varied parade of after-school dreck. For the most part, that was probably a poor choice on my part, because what I retained has some pretty bizarre associations. For example, I can't think of the Pythagorean theorum without also recalling Marcia's crush on Davy Jones. [Warning: that video link is known to induce vomiting.]
Only once did my homework habit seem to pay off. I was completing a fill-in-the-blank assignment for a science class, and one of the questions asked me list three theories to explain the demise of the dinosaurs. At that very moment, like a lightning bolt, the CBS Evening News televised the then-novel theory that a giant asteroid slammed the door on the Cretaceous Period and seventy percent of its inhabitants. It was like getting a private tutorial from Walter freakin' Cronkite, so onto the list the theory went.
I wish this story ended happily, but my science teacher either didn't watch the CBS Evening News or didn't hold Walter Cronkite in the same esteem that I did. He marked the answer wrong, apparently because it wasn't one of the theories officially sanctioned by mid-20th-century textbook writers. Now, every time I read the steady stream of reports that prefer the giant asteroid theory to that laughable super-volcano drivel, I get a mental image of that science assignment with a big red check on it, and I remember that television was the best nanny ever.
For happy hour this Friday, March 12, please stop by The Big Hunt, located at 1345 Connecticut Avenue, NW, just south of the Dupont Circle Metro station's southern exit. Twenty-seven beers on tap and plenty of televisions. I'll be there at about 6:30, and I hope you can make it, too.