One is the kind that strings over and blocks my seeing a critical play. A second is the kind that springs the same skit on me 40 times. The first four times it is amusing, the 40th time it is not. What is the matter—do they run out of money or talent? Another type that gets me down is the one that has a jingle tune that penetrates into my subconscious and will not be evicted, something like garlic, pleasant at the time but annoying on recurrence. I can hardly blame the advertiser who does this if he can get away with it, but I wish he would be more considerate.
The type that really rouses me to rebellion, however, is the ad that repeats over and over a statement which is asinine on the face of it and that I know is not true. This is done because of a conviction on the part of the advertising profession that if you tell a chap something often enough, no matter what, he will end in believing it, or at least it will get its name embedded in his cranium where he cannot get it out and will act on it in spite of himself. I do not like to be used that way or thought to be that dumb. So, if I am told a million times that Alfalfa Cigarets will increase my innate appreciation of feminine beauty, I will carefully buy Lespedeza Cigarets, even if I do not like them very much. I hope there are millions like me and that we can prove the advertisers wrong.
This advertising business, come to think of it, is dangerous in many ways. Now they have a scheme, I understand, for putting ideas in my mind without my seeing them or knowing anything about it. I will bet they cannot. I will bet they would be surprised at the things they sometimes do put in my mind. And I do not think I am any different in this regard from the rest of the population.
Why does the American public like to watch games? One point, of course, is that they like to see an exhibit of supreme skill. Yet this cannot be too strong an attraction, or billiards would be a feature on TV, for it is a game of consummate skill, readily depicted by a vertical camera. Another reason is the pleasure of joining a crowd, where excitement is intensified by mass psychology. Yet there are millions who watch games on TV where no such influence is present. A strong motivation is vicarious participation. When a pitcher in a pinch, with periodic clapping going on to distract him, with heat and weariness sapping his strength, nevertheless delivers ball after ball with precision and judgment, those in the stands share with him in his ordeal and rejoice at his steadiness as they put themselves in his place. Hero worship goes along with this, of course. There is also a large group with a strange pride in being erudite, in knowing all the players and averages, in excelling at an intellectual undertaking of something even though it be utterly artificial.
Audiences like suspense, no doubt of that. But also, as noted before, they like to try to fathom planning and strategy. This is the great difference between baseball and cricket, in my opinion. I advance the thought timidly, because I do not really understand cricket; I wish I did. For one thing, I cannot fathom the system under which games are abandoned once the outcome is determined, although I believe we might adopt some such system to advantage on this side of the water, instead of the mournful finish to some of our games, killing the clock and the like. But I think the greatest attraction of baseball is this element of strategy. And I believe it is present to a far greater extent in football and that this would be quite a game if the coaches and officials would let the players play it.
Is it all foolish? Are we foolhardy to be watching games? The Russians have put up sputniks, and they use athletics only to further the designs of the state. They still say they intend to conquer the world. Must we be equally serious and concentrate entirely on matters of national prosperity and military power? We certainly need to be alert and vigorous and wise in a tough race with a tough antagonist, where survival may be at stake. But one cannot be grim all the time. And there is no better and no more healthful mental relief, in my opinion, than participating in real sport, not in sport as I have defined it. And, as a substitute for the millions who cannot directly participate, watching sport, even sport of the most crassly commercial sort, is not too bad. I only wish that those who run the business would pay more attention to the customers.