All the news that will fit on TV screen

The Baltimore Sun

It's 7:30 in the morning and I am on a treadmill at my health club, watching CNN on the big plasma TV and slowly getting a migraine.

I am here because if I didn't do this, I would weigh 400 pounds instead of having the sleek, pantherlike body I have now.

A sign nearby says something about a yoga class. Don't talk to me about yoga. I tried it once. I went with my wife and a friend to this yoga place in Timonium.

You had to take off your shoes, which I wasn't crazy about, and it was 95 degrees in the room.

Apparently, you were also supposed to take a mat, which we didn't do, and that ticked off Lars, our instructor, who grudgingly gave us three mats from his private stash.

So that was it for yoga. Now I climb on the treadmill and watch CNN and get a headache from the sensory overload that comes from watching these cable news shows.

What is the deal with these shows? Are they trying to drive people crazy?

Can they possibly cram any more information on the screen at one time?

Here is what greets me the other day on CNN as the death-march on the treadmill begins: a split-screen, with a news anchor and reporter blabbing to each other.

The word "Live" is in the upper left-hand corner.

Under that is the big CNN banner and this headline: "BREAKING NEWS: TERROR IN PAKISTAN."

Under that is the "crawl": "Florida's I-4 closed with deadly fog and smoke ... update expected today on sole survivor of plane crash in Panama ... Iranians dispute U.S. version of incident in the Straits of Hormuz ..."

In the lower right corner of the screen is the time.

Under that is the weather and temperature in various U.S. cities.

OK, tell me: Who can possibly absorb all this without going insane?

Your eyes don't know where to look. Your brain is on overload, bombarded with too much visual stimuli. You don't know what's important, what's not important, what's totally stupid.

As they're doing a story on a suicide bomber who blew himself to bits in Lahore, Pakistan, I thought I saw this on the crawl: "Dallas Cowboys' Terrell Owens still unable to practice with high ankle sprain ..."

How do you process those two stories at once?

How much of all this can a person take before losing it?

Oh, I try to concentrate on the anchors and what they're saying.

There's affable John Roberts, with that tremendous head of thick hair, one of the best in the business, with apologies to the great Tom Tasselmyer, WBAL-TV's crack chief meteorologist.

There's perky Kiran Chetry, with her dazzling smile and Chiclets teeth.

But there's so much other stuff on the screen vying for your attention that the anchors move in and out of your consciousness.

The other day, around the 15-minute mark on the treadmill death-march, I found myself staring at Chetry's teeth.

How does she keep them so white and sparkly? I wondered.

Do her teeth get scraped and sand-blasted and polished every morning until they glisten like a row of pearls?

But then ... an item in the crawl caught my attention.

"Scientists tracking an asteroid approaching Mars," it said.

And suddenly you couldn't worry about Chetry's teeth, not with a rogue asteroid careering around the galaxy.

Then here was Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's chief medical correspondent, reporting on "Overeating and Your Brain."

"The brain cells are saying, 'Stop! Stop! We're full!'" Dr. Gupta cried at one point.

But then the temperature in Boston was posted, and the crawl was giving an update on the deadly conditions on Florida's I-4, so I stopped paying attention to the good doctor. Although I noticed he had nice teeth, too.

Then the death march on the treadmill was over.

Maybe tomorrow they'll have the big plasma TV tuned to ESPN.

It's a lot less stressful all around.

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