God praise Monday Night Football. What better day of the week is there for two helmets crashing together to mark the beginning of a gridiron battle? Monday is perhaps the worst day of the week, but good old ABC gives us a reason to rush home from work or school to prepare for four solid hours of Dennis Miller's obscure post-modernistic references.
To even try to compete with MNF (much like TRL it deserves its own acronym) is insanity. Most channels simply give up, providing us with reruns or running shows which would attract the complete opposite audience of MNF. These shows include such greats as Ally McBeal and Martha Stewart Living.
This past Monday, I ventured into this Al Michaels-less abyss. What I found, unlike what they found in that stupid movie Abyss, was terrifying. As I jumped from channel to channel I passed cancelled show after cancelled show. It was like being on the highway and driving past a steady line of car wrecks. I would slow to catch a glimpse of the shows' mangled remains for sheer morbid curiosity before moving on.
It was when I reached ESPN that the true horror set in. What I saw set off my gag reflex. There he stood, an average height male teenager, jumping rope. Not only was he jumping rope, but he was also on a stage, doing it in front of other people, and he was doing tricks as well. He was flipping, he was twisting, he was doing three passes of the rope on one jump. I had stumbled upon a piece of pure evil. Hell, thy name is the National Jump Rope Championships.
Like any good national championship of the cheerleading, dance team, or marching band flavor, the jump rope nationals are held each year at Disney World, in a big warehouse somewhere on the Disney property, far, far away from the eyes of anyone. This seclusion is necessary, because even lobotomized Disney employees would be unable to fight the urge to beat the snot out of anyone over the age of 10 jumping rope.
I had tuned in during the competition's highlight or so, the announcer said. All I could think of is how desperate this guy must have been to accept such an assignment. Sure, its ESPN, and you have to work your way up, but there is no need to prostitute yourself to become the next Stewart Scott. Also, where do you move up to after jump rope? Is it on to curling at the Winter Olympics or rhythmic gymnastics? God forbid you get pigeon holed as a national "random skill" championship announcer, spending your professional career in Disney World covering watermelon seed spitting and whatever other ridiculous "sports" they put on there. I gazed in horror as each competitor had two minutes to perform their "freestyle single rope" routine. What made me even more upset was that these guys were in better shape than I am. To see a jacked 21-year-old doing cartwheels with a pink and light blue jump rope in his hands makes me realize how badly I need to hit the weights.
Eventually the two time defending champion once again held his own to win the freestyle event. I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking my bad dream was over and World's Strongest Man would come on.
Oh no, my friends, this was only the beginning. You see, there are 20 events at the jump rope nationals. There is single freestyle of course, followed by three-jumper freestyle, five-person freestyle, and then team jump off. Team jump off is perhaps the scariest thing I have ever seen.
The way it works is this. There are jump rope clubs, I guess formed to protect their members from getting constant wedgies, consisting of anywhere from 10 to 20 people. These clubs go by the names of the skip-masters, the high-steppers, and a long list of other made up compound words.
Each club gets a minute to do a routine, first one person, then two, and they keep going up. The other club gets to respond. Basically its like the rumbles in West Side Story; keep the silly dancing but replace knives with jump ropes.
The competition pretty much went down from there, turning to speed events where you see how many times you can jump in a certain time frame.
I had had too much. I turned back to ABC and to the warm glow of grown men slamming into each other at top speed. Now Monday Night Football with jump ropes, that I might watch.