All of this, of course, follows the five-second delay enforced on the broadcast of the Academy Awards, which came fast on the heels of the Super Bowl halftime undraping by Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson — which, unfortunately, was not operating under a delay of five or seven seconds.
Let’s face it. This sort of reaction seems to be spreading. If events as large as the Academy Awards and as casual as a NASCAR broadcast are doing this, it might not be long before there’s a seven-second delay instituted between everything that happens out there in the world and the moment when you actually see or hear it on radio or television.
This could cause mass outbreaks of confusion among those sports fans who, with headphones clamped to their ears, like to listen to a radio broadcast of the event they’re attending.
They might be told that Dale Earnhart Jr. is leading a race after having seen him spin into the infield.
They might be told that a college hoopster is about to take last-second shot to win the game after already having seen him miss it.
They might be told that a quarterback has just launched a desperation pass when a cornerback already has intercepted it and returned it for a touchdown.
For a society that spends so much time plugged into TV, radio and cell phones, there’s a danger that we could become a nation of people suffering from a permanent sense of déj… vu, unable to distinguish between what already has happened and what hasn’t.
We’ll be bumping into one another at the water cooler and wondering if we hadn’t just bumped into one another at the water cooler seven seconds earlier. The only way we’ll know for certain is if one of us is toweling off the water that was spilled when we’d bumped into each other seven seconds earlier.
There are, of course, situations where a seven-second delay between what’s said and the decision to pass it along to the rest of us could change history.
If a seven-second editor had been at work in Iowa on the night of the “I Have a Scream” speech, Howard Dean might still be running for president. (Dennis Kucinich, on the other hand, might need a seven-day delay. Or seven decades.)
If a seven-second editor weighed in on everything President Bush said, it might give him time to work out the pronunciation of “nuclear,” sparing us from repeated references to “new-kew-lar” developments.
Or, if John Kerry’s open microphone the other day had been connected to a seven-second editor, Kerry might not have had to spend the week explaining why he whispered to supporters about how his Republican opponents are a pack of crooked liars.
If the political world takes a cue from the direction that the sports and entertainment worlds are going — instituting a seven-second delay to keep us from seeing or hearing anything embarrassing — it won’t be long before the news broadcasts we watch have a weird, disconnected look to them, with gaps in statements and long lapses between the beginning of a sentence and the end.
Are we ready for this? Would we be better off, or worse? Do we want to know what was said, or are we better off with our tender sensibilities left intact?
I don’t know. Ask me seven seconds from now. Maybe I already answered the question. S
Dave Addis is a columnist for the Virginian Pilot.
Contact Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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