50 Million Squats
Counterprogramming interests me. When I lived in Potsdam, New York, the local movie theater had two screens. When there was a huge line to see "Titanic", naturally, I was one of four people in the other theater, watching "The Postman" (that'd be the Kevin Costner vehicle, not the Italian movie known as "Il Postino"). I was always fascinated by what the other networks would throw up against NBC's "Friends". If I was ever in New York City on New Year's Eve, I'd be checking out what they were doing in Herald Square.
So I was watching ESPN this evening, even as I also watched my New England Patriots thump the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship game, because I was curious about how the all-sports network would counterprogram against what I would assume was a pretty heavily-watched football game on CBS. Throughout the rest of the football season, ESPN has generally sent figure skating up against Monday Night Football -- figuring, I suppose, that if there are any sports fans out there not watching MNF, they're probably women, and as we all know, the only sport women are interested in (note heavy sarcasm) is figure skating. [Of course, I was more than happy to stick with the skating when given the opportunity to avoid bellicose football announcers. But I digress.]
This evening, I would have though skating was an obvious choice, or, at the very least, women's professional billards, a sport which -- if ESPN's coverage is to be believed -- has only three competitors (The Asian Woman, The Vaguely-Attractive Woman With What May Be An English Accent, and The Woman Who Bought Her Eyeglasses In 1975). Instead (we're still talking about counterprogramming), it was a marathon of The World's Strongest Man competition. Apparently, the decision was made to support the viewing habits of people who don't believe there are enough steroids in professional sports. For those of you not familiar with the WSM competition, it features strength events ranging from pulling a 15,000 pound truck cab down a course, to carrying enormous milk jugs down a completely different course. The programs are a swell way to pass a half hour's time, if only to see how many times the announcers invoke the name of Magnus Ver Magnusson, the legendary Icelandic strongman who apparently won all of his championships before most of us had cable.
Truly an inspired, gutsy choice by ESPN, though even they wimped out a little just before the end of the last episode, when they cut away to live coverage of a news conference being given by Steelers Head Coach Bill Cowher. Cowher, incidentally, was spectacular as he attempted the triple-axel.