Ladders, adders and TV cameras

"Extreme" sports are all the rage these days, feeding an ever-growing hunger for fast-paced action, sudden violence and crass "reality."

In case you've been living in a nice safe bomb shelter for the past decade, let me explain: "Extreme" sports (also known as X-sports, X-treme sports, X-tra Crispy sports and various other near-names) are those televised athletic "events" that involve elements of danger.

For example, a show called something like "Real Triple-X-Treme Real Sports Challenge of the All-Stars" might feature real juvenile delinquents on skateboards flying high off a plywood "half-pipe" at breathtaking speeds, performing various twirling moves in the air and almost landing in a pit of irritable vipers before being yanked to safety by a bungee cord attached to their feet. The show's shouted advertising slogan will be something like: "WHO'll still be standing at the END?"

This kind of programming is irresistible to a large, mouth-breathing audience composed entirely of those who wear their baseball caps backward. Since that's the perfect market for Zima, motor oil and other such products, these shows have proven to be commercial gold mines.

Naturally, such a restless audience grows increasingly desensitized to fake suspense and "real" mayhem, which means the shows must keep ratcheting up the level of risk so the goobers will keep tuning in. Before long, extreme sports will feature athletes who, at breathtaking speed, fashion their own bungee cords out of irritable vipers before leaping directly into a pit of bubbling lava.

Extreme sports is changing the whole definition of sports. Many of us remember when a "game" usually involved something called a "ball" and was played by professional athletes with recognizable names. Extreme sports feature athletes you've never heard of doing dangerous, unseemly things with strange combinations of equipment, such as a downhill snowboard race through a forest fire with each participant simultaneously lifting weights and playing the nose flute, all while being pursued by angry National Rifle Association members on snowmobiles.

So far, network producers have overlooked one area of real everyday risk-taking that should be considered an extreme sport -- homeownership.

American homeowners regularly take our lives in our hands, working around the house. We use dangerous, unfamiliar tools to attempt repairs we're not qualified to make. We use whirring blades and whipping plastic line to trim our lawns. We perform complicated aerial maneuvers involving aluminum ladders and overhead power lines.

What's riskier than mowing a yard dotted with hidden metal sprinkler heads? Is anything more dangerous than a power saw in the hands of a klutz? What's more thrilling than a fat man climbing a rickety ladder while wearing sandals and trying not to spill his beer?

Such everyday events may seem catastrophic in real life, responsible for property damage, divorce and overcrowded emergency rooms, but let's face it: They'd make good television.

All it takes is a little organization and a video crew, and we could take TV by storm. We could call the show "The Real Extreme All-Star Homeowners Challenge." Plenty of homeowners would volunteer to play, particularly if free beer is involved. We'd stage the events in the participants' own homes, recording their every move with handheld video cameras. Their critical neighbors would eagerly volunteer to be judges.

Participants would race the clock while facing extreme challenges, such as an overflowing toilet with rusty parts flooding a carpeted bathroom. Each barefoot homeowner would be armed with only a monkey wrench and an electric hair dryer. Imagine the possibilities!

Sure, much of the work could be boring, but careful editing would result in clip after clip of homeowners skinning their knuckles and tripping over live wires and doing backflips off parapets while holding TV antennas. That, folks, is entertainment. If you don't believe it, ask your neighbors.

If such basic competition fails to keep our show's audience loyal, we can always elevate the risk and add to the gear involved. Imagine high-speed ladder-climbing by cigar-smoking men carrying buckets of combustible roofing tar and wearing heavy tool belts and funny hats.

Now that's extreme. If that's still not enough, we can always throw in a few vipers. Particularly if free beer is involved.

1 comment:

john smith said...

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