Can I get a mute button?

Published 12:00 pm Friday, December 11, 2015

By T.J. Ray

The weather guy was impressive tonight as he moved about in front of the giant map of the Mid-South, pointing out pockets here and cold fronts there.

As a computer user, I admired the production of that display until the day I learned he actually was walking around in front of a solid green wall. And through some digital legerdemain, voila!, he was transported over an image on a computer. But I was a bit bored with the ads that showed a gecko walking on a beach, talking to crabs.

Email newsletter signup

What, you ask, is this all about? Well, let me tell you. It’s about the Gee Whiz things that television producers create. There is one more technique I’m looking forward to: a way to suppress the mindless, tedious, sometimes adolescent voice-over comments of announcers of sporting events. No doubt many athletes look forward to the time their on-field experience makes them expert  enough to sit behind a table and talk about what active players are doing.

Of course, many sportscasters are not former athletes, a detail which in no way dampens their critiques of folks who have suited up and played a game. And the clever dissection of a sport goes on and on and on. For instance, the baseball season is over but a Major League Baseball chit-chat is still on the air. Either the talking heads are rehashing games from weeks or months ago or are prognosticating what the spring will bring when so-and-so is over his shoulder surgery and Mr. Fix-it takes over as head coach of the fearless Terragons.

How nice it would be to watch and listen to a game without the constant jangling of kibbitzing by non-players. Then one wouldn’t hear such genius as this: “No way that pass will get him a slot on the team. Maybe some other squad will look at him. He just stands there flat-footed and has no juice on the throw.” Or solemn pronouncements of future failure such as this: “We’ll never see him enshrined at Cooperstown, not with his poor bat.”

At times these talking heads are so impressed their vocabularies fail them, at which moment they smoothly serve up witticisms about a player’s physicality. A really memorable run with a football may even elicit a comment about the guy’s athleticism.

What I yearn for is that the television techies will invent a set that permits me to watch a game and listen to its natural sounds without having to hear inane play-by-play dialogue. And, no, just turning down the sound is not the same because one loses the noise of the crowd on the scene. At some moments in games, I want to yell, “Shut up!” at the boys in the broadcast booth.

Perhaps the solution is quite simple: As officials during football games can push a button and be heard, why not a button on a TV remote control that silences the talking heads when one is tired of them.

T.J. Ray, a retired professor of English at the University of Mississippi, can be reached at