Regular Writing Boots readers know that one of the ways in which I have psychologically survived The COVID Time is watching YouTube videos of sporting events—mostly pro football and baseball games—that occurred during my relatively untroubled youth. It comforts me, somehow, to have a game on in the background, or in the foreground, that I already know the outcome of. The more meaningless the game, the better. The 1978 Atlanta Falcons against the St. Louis Cardinals, both teams out of the running for the playoffs? That, and a good book and a strong drink, is what I call a Friday night.
I’ve also discovered news broadcasts that serve the same purpose, though it’s hard to find meaningless versions of those.
It was sad and disturbing to watch the three-hour live coverage of the assassination of Robert Kennedy, commentators hoping against hope that Kennedy would be all right. “His eyes were open and he appeared to be licking his lips.”
It was comfortingly boring to watch the Reagan-Carter presidential debate in 1980, and the CBS election returns of that year.
And it was fun and thrilling to see a young Christopher Hitchens on “Firing Line,” more than holding his liberal own with William F. Buckley.
Once you start watching these videos, YouTube starts feeding you more of the similar. When I wake up in the middle of the night and sleep goes into my office and begins to work, I click to see what YouTube has to offer me. By now, a combination of 1980s ballgames, and extended news coverage.
The other night, it was the three-hour-plus live, wall-to-wall ABC coverage of President Nixon’s resignation speech, on the rainy Washington day of August 8, 1974.
“The twilight calm in Chicago finds residents moving toward the security of familiar gathering places,” begins Harry Reasoner. “People seem to want to be together. They want to help one another try to understand what a resignation will mean, and what lies ahead.”
It was interesting while I was awake, then did not disturb my sleep, and then was interesting again when I woke up a couple hours later. You can’t sleep either? You can see it here.
Some Black musician on the Simpsons once told Lisa: “The blues ain’t about makin’ you feel better. The blues is about makin’ other people feel worse!”
I have no idea what that has to do with my deepening, broadening fascination with televised calamities, insanities and inanities of the past. But it has something to do with it, I’m sure.