Reality T. V. (Tele-Vexation)

By Michael-Louis Ingram
Updated: December 19, 2007

Brad Smith (then and now)

Brad Smith (then and now)

PHILADELPHIA — Forgive me if I am not a fan of reality television.

Whenever I see a commercial for “American Idol,” I’m thinking about those idle Americans who weren’t smarter than a fifth grader that helped George Bush get re-elected to a second term in the White House, but that’s another story for another time.

In all honesty, I don’t have time or need to watch “Survivor,” because I’m too busy trying to do just that. I already know “Big Brother” is watching my ass, so I don’t sweat trying to get along with others in attempting to manipulate getting them out of a house. Ask anyone who is suffering through this sub prime mortgage / foreclosure madness if they give a fuck about “Big Brother.”

All right – but if you’re wondering where I’m going with this, it goes back to a commercial I saw recently. The cable channel “Court TV” is changing its name to truTV on January 1, 2008.

The new truTV, which uses as its tag line, “Not reality – actuality” is actually looking to cash in on the reality TV phenomenon.

With all the channels and programming devoted to “reality” – the true reality of all this is the entire genre would not be what it is today without one name: Orenthal James Simpson.

The 1994 double homicide trial of the Hall of Fame tailback from the University of Southern California polarized America and made serious dollars for the television witch doctors and the advertisers who jumped on it, pimping Simpson out until as much juice was squeezed from his ass as squeal from a pig.

Names we had previously never heard of; Star Jones, Greta Van Susteren, Nancy Grace, Marcia Clark, Christopher Darden, Mark Fuhrman, Kato Kaelin, Robert Shapiro, Robert Kardassian – and one very prominent name – Geraldo Rivera – were among the cast of characters in this epic tragedy.

Court TV, which came into existence in 1991, was foundering in a sea of red ink before the Simpson trial. But the 133 days of televised courtroom testimony – and related programming — turned millions of viewers into Simpson trial junkies; and vaulted Court TV into the black.

At 10 A.M. PST on October 3, 1995, when Judge Lance Ito’s clerk read the jury’s verdict of “Not Guilty,” over 91% of all persons viewing television nationwide were glued to the unfolding scene in the Los Angeles courtroom.

If we backtrack to the “low-speed chase” that led to Simpson’s arrest, 95 million viewers were watching the former Heisman award winner cruise back to his Santa Monica home as regularly scheduled programming was cut; to the chase.

The steady flow of opinion, hypothesis and often vitriolic diatribes led to the unnatural birth of “immersion journalism,” which, from a sports aspect, has claimed the likes of other figures like Charles Barkley (gambling issues and fighting) and Michael Vick (convicted for involvement in dog fighting).

To Barkley’s credit, he has been able to withstand the media flood by swimming against the tide when the bullshit got too deep.

Barkley, who correctly stated one’s parents should be their role models and not some idiot dribbling a basketball, is a Black male able to defend himself to the point of blunt speech or putting up his hands, if need be.

Whatever troubles Barkley has come across during and after his National Basketball Association career, he has survived with his balls still in his pants.

In the Michael Vick situation, however, the mistake Vick made has been compounded into an emasculation of someone whose ability scared every front office in the National Football League to death; so much so that players who legitimately earn spots on teams get buried or released (yes, Casey Printers was screwed, in my humble opinion) because the NFL doesn’t want the most important position in their business to be overrun by Black men.

Real Reality T.V. (Tella – Viewer)

Now before I hear the critics drop any invective this way, remember this; one franchise has on its roster a young man whose college pedigree reads thusly:

All-time division 1-A leader for rushing by a quarterback; first player in division 1-A history to pass for 8,000 yards and run for 4,000 yards in career; first player in division 1-A history to pass for 2,000 yards and run for 1,000 yards in a season twice in a career;

Only the second player in division 1-A history to rush for 1,000 yards and pass for 2,000 yards in a season; fourth player ever in division 1-A history to score 200 points and pass for 200 points in a career; the sixth player in division 1-A history to pass for 200 yards and rush for 200 yards in a single game.

Holds school record for: career rushing yards, career touchdown passes, career total yards, career total points scored, most points in a game (30) most touchdowns and 69 Big 12 and NCAA game, season and career records.

Where among the League’s passing leaders can you find this young man? Playing fucking wide receiver (did I say WIDE RECEIVER????) for the New York Jets – Brad Smith.

In the 31-year history of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, no player had ever returned a kickoff for a touchdown in 1,865 tries. Until a young man blessed with speed, a cannon arm (arguably the strongest throwing arm on the team) but co-opted by another short-sighted college coach, takes a kickoff 90 yards into the wild green yonder for six.

But those “experts” will say that at 5-foot-10, Michael Spurlock, former starting quarterback at the University of Mississippi, will not be able to play quarterback in the NFL because he doesn’t have the desired height.

However, I don’t think anything negative will be said about white quarterbacks like Missouri’s Chase Daniel or Kansas’ Todd Reesing being too short to play once the draft drums start to beat after the Super Bowl.

And we won’t see Heisman award winning sophomore quarterback Tim Tebow playing fucking wide receiver in the pros. We’ll hear the code phrases like, “they’re winners” or “what they lack in height, they make up for in intangibles” or some horseshit along those lines because they won’t say they need to go to Canada to see if they can play there first like they’ll tell a Black quarterback with those same “intangibles.”

And some asshole will beg for some NFL franchise to “take a chance” on a “fine, upstanding young man” like Daniel or Reesing. Either way, America’s Next Top Model quarterback will not be of the chocolate persuasion, if the powers that be have it their way.

Sorry, guys – no hating intended here; it’s just…reality.

Ultimate Reality T.V. (Tell – Vick)

Vick’s sentence of 23 months in federal prison belies the fact in spite of terrible wide receivers and an average at best supporting cast, he played his ass off on the field.

That he got caught acting an ass off of it without any prior criminal record should not have warranted any jail time for his crime. Fine him? Yes! Do community service? Absolutely. Contribute to the Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals? Most definitely.

But to the media whores of organizations like PETA that look only to use Vick as an example in the same way they attempted to use murdered women in Vancouver, Canada in the Robert Pickton serial killings, you deserve the same fate – in my humble opinion. And I say this as a long time pet owner and pet lover.

And, with the NFL fining Atlanta Falcon teammates Alge Crumpler, DeAngelo Hall, Chris Houston and Roddy White $10,000 each by the league’s Thought Police because they put Vick’s #7 jersey number in their eye black, the League’s actions smack of out-and-out fascism.

Called a “uniform violation,” the only real violation here is freedom of speech.

The truth of truTV and immersion journalism is if there is a dollar to be made off of young misguided Black males, it will be made with as few Blacks involved in the process on the profit end as possible; and you don’t have to run, dribble, shoot, throw or hit a ball to prove that.

And the reality is Michael Vick needs to be told that he deserves a second chance and that there are people who do care about him and will reach out to him in a positive manner.

So, in case I forgot to mention it, your parents are your role models. And if you do aspire to a career in professional sports, keep people around that will help you stay grounded without isolating you like Mr. Simpson, whose sad story has directly affected several lives; and generated revenue for channels like Court TV greater than the gross national product of several countries.

That’s not reality – that’s actuality.