Occasionally my wife will mysteriously disappear into her office
for long periods of time. Out of curiosity, or in some cases, desperation, such as when we’re late for a movie or a dinner date, I amble
into her den and peer over her shoulder. And what do I see on
the computer screen? Animals. Lots and lots of animals — horses,
dogs, chinchillas, puppies. It seems that anything with fur will occupy her attention for hours.
As for me, I’m quite capable of wasting time with the best of them.
My wife would be quick to point out a few of my favorite distractions,
such as the TV show “ 24” and my fixation with the final two minutes
of any game on TV. I admit these are times that I consider sacred
— no interruptions, no phone calls, and no attempt at conversation. I consider this to be just a trivial flaw, however, a minor quirk
of character. But I am fearful that I am about to disappear into the
brainless abyss. Any semblance of productivity will soon become
a thing of the past. A new insidious distraction has threatened to
consume my life — live timing for ski racing.
To pause for a moment. There are just so many ways to waste time
these days. Back in the 1950s and 60s there was only TV to distract
us from productive activity. Critics used to preach about all the evils
of TV. They warned us that this generation of baby boomers would
grow up to be brainless numbskulls. Looking at our current political
morass, maybe they were right, but the days of “Leave it to Beaver”
have long been replaced by many more malicious brain drains, and
I’m not even counting reality TV.
In the early 90s, an entirely different set of “experts” warned that
computers and email would turn us into monosyllabic zombies. Little
did they know that these were only harbingers of more potent things
to come, such as social networking. Psychologists again sounded
the alarm. They warned us that depravations such as Facebook
and Twitter would usher in the demise of civilization as we know it.
It would be just a matter of time before the complete sentence or
even the complete thought would become only a distant memory.
Yes, we are all doomed to nincompoop-dom.
To further accelerate the decline, we’ve been inundated with giz-
mos and gadgets specifically designed to accelerate the further
destruction of brain cells. Even some of my peers have burdened
themselves with Blackberries, Blueberries, iPhones, and Droids.
It appears that seemingly normal intelligent people, when carrying
such a tool, fall victim to the “digital imperative,” which could be
summarized as, “If an application is available, it must be applied.” In
the case of my friends, the symptoms of this affliction are: check for
messages every two minutes, solve every argument with a quick
search on Google, and frequently check for the results of whatever
sporting event they happen to be watching in real time.
Despite being a bit slow to grasp all this new technology (although
not for lack of effort), I’ve had my share of successes, as well. For
example, after a long struggle, I conquered email and word process-
ing, and I’ve made enormous strides in understanding the many nu-
ances of my old-school dumb-phone. I can proudly boast that I’ve
now mastered all the features, with the exception of retrieving my
messages, which is only because I can never remember my own
But for the most part I’ve stayed above the digital frenzy. I’ve had
a lesson in Facebook, and find it fascinating, as well as a bit alarming. Is it creepy to be just a Facebook voyeur? It seems I’m more
interested in reading about everyone else’s lives than revealing
anything about my own. I understand the addictive nature of social
networking, but I can take it or leave it.
But then I stumbled across live timing on the FIS website. Maybe
I shouldn’t reveal this in order to protect some of you with potential
addiction issues, but live timing allows you to watch the times appear on the screen for each racer in real time for a ski race happening anywhere in the world. There are no images, just numbers. So
you have to use your imagination to visualize each racer coming
down while you’re staring at a screen showing all the interval times
and finally the finish time and rank.
I know. It sounds boring, but trust me, this can lead to problems.
I’ve tried to just quickly check in to see how Lindsey’s doing, but
then as long as I’m online why not wait for Julia, and then, Resi.
More than an hour later, I’m still there shouting encouragement for
a Slovenian racer I’ve never heard of. I’m perfectly aware that a
complete set of results will be posted later and that I certainly have
better things to do at 4 a.m. (European start times), but when that
first racer slides into the gate, my computer exerts a gravitational
pull over which I have no control.
As for you ski racing parents: Walk away from the computer, if it’s
not already too late. Have someone chain you to the barn door at
10 a.m. every weekend when your child might be racing. Do not listen to the siren’s song, because there’s no turning back and there’s
no known antidote.
We can talk about support groups soon, but for now I’ve got to run.
I believe the World Cup race is due to start any minute now.
Real Time Results THE PERILS OF LIVE TIMING FOR SKI RACING FANS BY BILL MCCOLLOM