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FIRST-PERSON – TV’s use of our time: Talk about a raw deal

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (BP)–My brother Tim is what you’d call a serious trader.

Let me clarify.

He’s a serious trader of baseball cards.

At last count Tim’s personal collection hovered around 500,000 cards. No joke. His command of the various players, their personal statistics and their relative card value is nothing short of astounding. Tim knows his stuff. He knows what to buy, when to buy it and, most importantly, when to sell. One of his prized cards is a mint condition 1954 Ted Williams. Any good collector would place its worth in the ballpark of $1,000. That’s a thousand dollars for one baseball card.

I’ve done a little card collecting in my time — nothing on the scale of Tim. In the late ’80s, inspired by my brother’s success with collectibles, I proudly purchased several cases of Topps baseball cards. (A case is made up of 20 boxes. Each box contains 36 packs of cards. A pack holds 15 individual cards.) In short, a case contains 10,800 cards.

I was now on my way to becoming a big-time dealer, or so I thought. It was with great anticipation that I called Tim 10 years later to see how much the value of these cases had appreciated. After some hesitation, he said, “Actually, Bob, they’re worth less than you paid for them.”

Huh? How could I be left holding the bag?

He explained that I had struck out on an industry curveball. The three major baseball card companies Topps, Fleer and Don Russ had overproduced the number of cards, effectively flooding the market during the time I purchased my cases. Not to rub it in, he informed me his one Ted Williams card was worth at least four such cases.

That’s 43,200 of my cards for his one Ted Williams.

Talk about a raw deal.

It pains me to remember how I exchanged something of real value (my cash) for what appeared to be of value (the cards). What am I gonna do with thousands of cards nobody wants?

I share this experience with you because it illustrates why I became so motivated to get unhooked from my television. Essentially, I came to the realization that my time spent watching TV, like those cases of cards, was a bad deal. No matter how I cut it, when it came to trading something of real value (my time) for what appeared to be of value (endless TV shows), I always got the short end of the stick.

Let’s review the terms of this arrangement:

For my part, when I trade my time for TV, I must suspend most of my body functions; I sit in a catatonic state; I don’t speak to my wife or children — unless it’s a commercial I don’t care to see; I put my talents on hold; I will get no exercise that would otherwise enhance a healthy life; I won’t accomplish any tasks around the house; I tend to munch on excess food; and, on top of that, I must suppress my better moral judgment while the TV mocks my personal convictions and belief system.

In exchange for all of that, what does TV give me?

A diversion?

A little relaxation?

That’s it?

Is that the best trade I can get for my investment of time? Time, after all, is the most precious commodity of all. Everyone receives the same amount of “time” each day. You can’t buy more time no matter how rich you are. And, once spent, there’s no way to repurchase it.

From now on when I trade my time, I plan to get my money’s worth. Whether it’s TV viewing or some real-life activity, I intend to maximize the experience. How about you?
DeMoss is a specialist in youth and entertainment cultures based in Franklin, Tenn. This article is adapted from his new book, “TV The Great Escape: Life-Changing Stories from Those Who Dared to Take Control,” published by Crossway Books. (c)2001 by Bob DeMoss. Used by permission.

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  • Bob DeMoss