By Pete Williams
Want to find more time for training and other things? Give up TV. Completely. Cold turkey. Not a minute.
As I write this, I’m two hours away from getting through Lent for the second year in a row without television.
You know what is the toughest thing about going 43 days without television?
It’s not missing certain shows or big events or sitting around as a family watching TV.
No, the tough part is avoiding TV in daily life. I wrote about this last year when I managed to keep a Lenten vow for the first time ever. When you’re trying to avoid watching TV, it’s startling to discover that TV is everywhere.
Here’s a short list of places that never included TV as recently as five years ago: the waiting rooms at doctors’ offices, New York City cabs, elevators, and eateries such as Subway, Moe’s, and Rita’s Ice. I don’t remember when television monitors were installed in airports (mid 1990s?) for anything other than flight information, but now it’s impossible to find a seat in the terminal where you’re not assaulted by CNN talking heads.
Who decided we needed a screen in front of us at every moment of our lives? Steve Jobs? Rupert Murdoch? Mike Teevee?
That’s the other tough part about giving up TV for Lent: defining what constitutes TV. I decided it meant not watching television, of course, but also not viewing TV content on any other device. YouTube videos, for the most part, were acceptable so long as they were not regular broadcast content. Sports highlights online? Not acceptable. Using Skype was allowed. Watching movies of any sort was not.
For a guy who makes a chunk of his living covering sports, I worried for a second year that my TV blackout would be a business liability. Fortunately the Excessive Self-Promotional Network (ESPN) has been unwatchable for years and Lent is a dead period for sports. The NBA and NHL are going through the motions before the playoffs. Baseball has not started and the NFL is on hiatus until 2012.
Unfortunately, Easter and Lent arrived later this year, so I missed the start of the NHL playoffs, early-season baseball, and the Final Four. Last year the NCAA basketball title game took place the day after Easter. This year, it came in the middle of Lent. My alma mater (Virginia) no longer recognizes the NCAA tournament but my wife’s school (VCU) went on an unlikely run this year.
I told her I’d make a Lenten exception if the Rams made it to the title game. When it appeared they would bow out to Butler in the semifinals, I caught a glimpse for about two minutes. That’s the closest I came to watching TV since March 8.
During Lent, it’s easy to be a baseball fan because Major League Baseball, for some reason, does not broadcast the vast majority of its spring games via TV or online. Of course, it helps to live in the heart of the Grapefruit League and go to spring games – and regular season games – in person.
Good thing I made it to the Tampa Bay Rays opening series. Otherwise I would have missed the Manny Ramirez farewell tour.
As usual, my wife gave me grief for my Lenten “sacrifice,” noting that I don’t watch much TV under normal circumstances. That’s true. I haven’t watched a network television series in more than a decade. Still, it’s a challenge just to avoid TV.
I’ve never tried one of those nutritional cleanses, but having given up TV for two consecutive Lents, I appreciate the concept. Like last year’s Lent, I felt more focused and had perhaps a little more time on my hands. I got more done, read more, slept more.
As for TV, I don’t feel like I missed anything.