14 October 2007

Cultural Disconnect

A chance conversation with one of my uncles got me to thinking about being a part of, and yet separate from, American culture. My uncle, you see, is a big college football fan. I've written before about my dislike of football, American football, not the sport that is football to the rest of the world and we Yanks call 'soccer'. I like that sport. But the one that the NFL plays? Not so much.

It would seem if I were to judge by the standards of my uncle and his kids that I am beyond strange. And honesty compels me to admit that I am a bit strange. I grew to adulthood in the United States without ever once sitting through an entire football game, either on television or in person. I started working during my freshman year of high school and was never able to go to a high school game. Not that I cared; until I met DH, I had no idea what was going on down on the field during a game anyway. I was a sophomore in college before I actually sat through an entire game, and probably about 23 before I understood what was happening on the field.

Listening to my mother and her sisters talk about television, I thought again about how I've never really been connected to pop culture, even though I do know quite a bit about it. My parents didn't allow us to watch much TV when I was growing up, and by the time the television shows that were popular in the 90s came along, I didn't care about them anymore than I've ever cared about football. I've never watched an episode of Friends, nor of Seinfeld, nor Will And Grace or Everybody Loves Raymond. Neither has anyone else in my immediate family. My aunt was asking my mother if she'd seen the NBC sitcom Cavemen, and my mother was at some pains to explain that no, she hadn't seen it, and she was pretty unlikely to see it ever. Me neither. Anything with a laugh track...ugh.

I don't think that any of this makes me some sort of freak; most of my friends (naturally) feel the same way I do about television, although they do occasionally raise an eyebrow at the lengths and depths of my sports ignorance. Ask me if I saw 'the game' last night, and I'm likely to ask you if 'the game' was baseball, basketball, football or something else, because I'm never even sure which sports season it is. Mention a particular sports team to me, and I will probably know where geographically they're from, but I won't have any idea what sport they play.

That's not to say that I have no idea about local sports teams; I know the names and sport affiliation of most of the professional and college teams from Oh-hia-ia. It would be difficult to remain willfully ignorant about the Ohio State Buckeyes football team, for example, unless I lived under a rock or in some state of perpetual isolation.

But disconnected is a good word to explain how I feel about most TV and sports. To disconnect a phone call, you hang up. To disconnect your cable, you unplug it from the television. (Assuming, of course, that your cable isn't being disconnected because you didn't pay the bill.) A disconnect is an avbrytning in Swedish, literally 'a breaking off.'

Of course if you've been witness to any of my SN ranting over the last ten months or so, you're cracking up right about now, as you think to yourself, "She would go NUTS if I turned of her cable and she couldn't watch The CW on Thursday nights at 9 PM." And you wouldn't be wrong about that. But I feel obligated to point out that SN pulls in a regular viewership of about 4 million, a paltry sum indeed compared to the juggernaut that was Friends during its heyday.

I like being disconnected from the mainstream when it comes to things like that. I like that I'm a little out of step with the rest of the world on sports. I also like that my politics are far out of the mainstream around here, that I'm a little liberal island in the midst of raging conservatism. Even when it makes me feel like I'm constantly trying to re-acclimate myself to the culture of the country I was born in.

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