I try, but I can’t do it. I last, maybe, a minute or two and, then, I just leave the room.
What I’m talking about is watching some of the most popular programs on television just now.
The list is long.
“American Idol.” “Dancing With the Stars.” “So You Think You Can Dance?” “America’s Got Talent.”
It’s no use. I just can’t watch them. It’s reached the point where my wife and daughter let me know when they’re on and I just go upstairs.
That they’re popular is obvious because former House Majority leader, Tom “The Hammer” DeLay just did a turn on “Dancing With the Stars.”
Minor aside: Leonard Pitts, a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist at the Miami Herald, watched that one and wrote about it. He mentioned in passing that he wasn’t going to trash Mr. DeLay’s dancing because his own talents in that area were nothing short of awful.
I fit into that category too because “graceful” and “Larry” are two words that are never going to meet in any sentence having to do with dancing.
Anyway, back to what I was saying about these programs.
I can’t watch them because it’s painful to watch people who are wearing their dreams on their sleeves get pummeled by a group of “judges” who know that the whole thing is a show and that part of the show is to pick someone apart every now and then. This in front of an audience of millions.
I think these feelings stem from the fact that I had it hammered into me that you always had to consider other people’s feelings. Cora Wells, my maternal grandmother, used to endlessly repeat the old saying that “If you can’t say anything good about someone, then don’t say anything at all.”
In other words, you should always go out of your way not to hurt - which would eliminate one or two of the judges on each of these programs.
My first experience with similar - but much lesser - situations was in Little League baseball. There, most of us knew by about the end of the first week of practice who was going to make the team and who wasn’t. I think those who weren’t going to make it knew it, but they still stayed and gave it their best shot.
Sooner or later, though, the coach would ask them to stay for a minute or two after practice and he’d talk to each of them privately. Usually, he’d emphasize the good things that they did and try to make the situation as positive as such moments can be. Then he’d break the news.
I also saw this in high school and, later, as a freshman in college, where I was told - privately - that my talents in baseball weren’t what was required at that level. The blow was softened by the fact that I’d already pretty much figured this out for myself. Still, I appreciated the private talk.
Later, after entering the work force, every course in leadership and management that I ever took emphasized that you always “praised in public” and “criticized or critiqued in private.”
Eventually, all of this became ingrained in my DNA somewhere alongside my love for Snickers Bars, Oreo cookies, and Cheetos.
As regards these popular television programs, though, I know I’m a member of a very small minority.
Both my wife and daughter watch them religiously as do many of the people I either know or work with. And these are all good people - kind, decent, caring, salt-of-the-earth individuals.
So, consider me an oddball. Out of the loop. Off on my own. That’s because I still won’t watch them even though truly amazing talents such as Susan Boyle are sometimes discovered among the contestants.
I just can’t get past the thought of how I’d feel if ever anyone actually saw me dancing (think mule on roller skates) and then proceeded to discuss it in front of an audience of millions. Then I transpose that thought to what some of these contestants must feel when it happens to them.
So, when these shows are on, I just head upstairs, plug in an episode of “Victory at Sea” or “Band of Brothers,” and wait until I can safely descend to the living room again.
My problem, I know. One of many.
Let’s just call it avoidance and we’ll let it go at that.