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Column: Lazy days of summer
The telly, the boob tube, the idiot box. Call it what you will, it’s consumed way too much of my time in recent months.
I’m ashamed to admit that, lately, entire evenings that would have been better spent walking in a park or with my nose buried in a book have somehow melted away in what feels like minutes.
Despite the recent stretch of beautiful weather, between the TV and my laptop, I confess I often find it next to impossible to pull my gaze from the magnetism of a glowing screen.
It’s sheer laziness, and not at all conducive to good health — I recognize this.
The worst part is, it’s not at all how my brother and I were raised.
Growing up in Port Hardy and Pouce Coupe (near Dawson Creek) we certainly didn’t spend hours sitting, slack-jawed and glassy-eyed, in front of the TV.
We were too busy running around in the woods behind our house, building ‘log cabins’ that never actually made it past our knees, and racing down homemade ziplines which, in hindsight, probably weren’t the safest. But then safety wasn’t our chief concern, with the wind whipping our shaggy 1970s hair-dos in our faces.
In Port Hardy, especially, there were regular neighbourhood games of kick-the-can, road hockey matches and long afternoons spent combing the beach for whatever new treasure the tide had washed ashore.
And if there was somewhere we wanted to go, we usually got there under our own steam, on bicycles with tires that barely had time to cool off between rides.
Up north in the winter, a 30-second thrill ride down the local toboggan run came at the price of a long, strenuous hike back up, hindered by a puffy ski jacket, freezing wet jeans and ungainly moon boots.
By the end of the day, we were usually too wiped to watch much TV.
Today, the great outdoors has far more to compete with than it did when we were kids.
Television on northern Vancouver Island in the ’70s, offered the CBC and, after a certain point, a test pattern.
So, on a given night, if you weren’t watching the Wonderful World of Disney, Hockey Night in Canada (when dad commandeered the house’s lone set) or the Donny & Marie show, you were probably looking at a screen of coloured bars accompanied by an annoying high-pitched tone.
In the ’80s our world expanded exponentially, with the introduction of cable and the awesomeness that was MTV.
And we’d eagerly anticipate the start of the new fall season after an agonizing summer spent waiting for last spring’s cliffhanger to be resolved. Were we ever going to find out who shot J.R.?
By contrast, today’s shows run year-round, with many scheduled specifically to air fresh episodes during those previously dry summer months. And, of course, programming now goes round the clock on 200 channels.
It’s not all good, but it’s readily available.
Add to that online gaming, smartphones, and tablets, and today’s kids stand a slim chance of enjoying an active childhood.
Forty years ago, ParticipACTION was already telling us — on television, where else? — that the average 30-year-old Canadian was in worse shape than a 60-year-old Swede. It’s scary to think how we’d stand up to that test today.
In the face of such an uphill battle — the kind that would no doubt leave me gasping for breath on the sidelines — what is there to do but try to set a better example?
Perhaps it’s time to put down the remote and walk away.
Five kilometres or so should do the trick.