By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

I believe it was Socrates who wrote that an unexamined life is not worth living.

To which I add this 21st-century Cooler caveat: A life without working cable is not worth living.

The wife and I made the Big Move into our very first, very own home over the weekend.

Big deal, right?

It was. That is, until we realized -- with regret on the scale of a novice male gymnast making his first pass on the parallel bars without a cup -- that we had forgotten to call to hook up the cable.

Can your first night in your first home be official if you don't have cable?

I mean, haven't you and your babe already said pretty much all you have to say to each other?

Yulia Nesterenko
If you didn't have cable, you might have missed Yulia Nesterenko's run for the gold.

"Pretty house, hon."

"Yeah, it's great."

"I like the water pressure."

"Yeah, it's great."

"And the dishwasher is nice."

"Yeah -- say, we gonna get cable anytime soon?"

Ever try to watch the Olympics on a TV that gets only sketchy, snowy, barely-visible images?

I have. It's no good. I mean, I'm straining to care about synchronized diving as it is. Throw in a TV screen that looks like Lambeau Field in January; and all of a sudden, the four years of work put in by the Chinese duo dissolves into two blurry blobs who look like they're doing The Cannonball.

Meanwhile, our TV gets a 2.9 from the Russian judge.

It gets a guy to thinking: Just how bad have we, as a society, become at the art of conversation? Or how hard is it for us to embrace the art of reading a book?

Whenever there's a power outage, I think of Abraham Lincoln. He didn't have access to Bravo, CNBC, MSNBC or the Spice Channel. He never heard Al Trautwig describe the way a man works a pommel horse. Yet somehow, Honest Abe muddled through.

But in 2004, the idea of a quiet evening at home is as foreign as the Belarus babe who won the 100-meter dash. We need those TVs. We need that working cable. Without it, what can we do?

Examine our flipping lives?

Come on, Socrates!

You know he'd have signed up for TogaTV's satellite service, had it been available. That is, as long as installation and the first four months of Olive Oil Wrestling were free.

On, then, to the Weekend List of Five, heavy on the snowy-image Olympic Games:

1. AquaMan
Michael Phelps deserves our awe -- but not for his six golds or his eight-medal haul.

Rather, he deserves our awe for two reasons that have always impressed me about swimmers:

Michael Phelps
Michael Phelps should get props for the early workouts -- and the Speedo.

  • The Insanely-Early Morning Workout

  • The Speedo

    I understand that every athlete who makes the Olympic Games does so with dedication, perseverance and a workout regimen that makes you sweat and ache just to read about it.

    Well, except for the ping pong players, that is.

    But back to the point: They all bust their humps. They all work hard. They all put in what they get out.

    Except for swimmers. Swimmers, to me, stand above because of the Ridiculous Morning Workout. Some swimmers are in the pool at 4 a.m. to chase their Olympic dreams.

    FOUR EH EMM!

    That means at 3:30 a.m., every day, a swim coach hits you with a caddle prod in the dark of night to make the following bargain: Get up. Get into a Speedo. Get wet. Kill your body for two hours. And after that, approximately .00001 percent of you will see national -- let alone Olympic -- glory.

    Me? I'm offered that bargain? It's pillow over the head and sleep till noon.

    But Phelps deserves another level of respect for strutting around in a form of Speedo -- even if it's those thigh-length huggers -- in front of the world. Put 99.99 percent of the male population in those things and it's a Giggle Fest of Lard, a Laugh Riot of Male Breastage. There would be, of course, comedy on a par with Derek Smalls' tin-foiled cucumber through the metal detector in "Spinal Tap."

    The Speedo ... the mere thought gives me shivers and makes me long for a pair of Big Dog swim trunks.

    2. Hamm: Hosed
    Holy cow! Olympic gymnast Paul Hamm made the greatest comeback in the history of his sport to claim gold! Cue Jimmy Roberts! Cue the Olympic Theme! Enter Hamm's name in the lore!

    Except for the fact that ... uh, he didn't.

    Turns out the judges took the choke. They did math so bad, it was on par with Bluto Blutarsky's Econ final at Faber College.

    A South Korean should have won gold, but all he got was the obligatory "My Bad" from the Olympic judges.

    That should make him feel better. In general, a "My Bad" cleanses all wounds, whether on a basketball court or an Olympic stage.

    Not blaming Hamm here, but can we eliminate the Event That is Judged by Humans from all sporting discussion?

    Paul Hamm
    Paul Hamm is not too pleased with all this judging controversy.

    Name a legit sport whose outcome is determined by JUDGING.

    I understand that figure skating and gymnastics are two of the most physically demanding sports on the planet.

    But can we not find some empirical way to rate these things? I know tons of people who heckle golf as "not a sport." But at least there's a flipping numerical system to determine the winner.

    Since we were little, our parents have been telling us the whole deal in life is this: Don't Judge.

    But the Olympics tell us: Judge.

    If figure skating and gymnastics insist on a judging system for determining winners and losers, let's just go with a robust dude who enters after each routine and shouts, "Heah Come the Judge! Heah Come the Judge!" and then we can watch him run the dozens on every competitor -- from hairstyle to music taste and on down.

    I mean, fair is fair, right?

    3. Some of Those Sports
    The Cooler is an official Olympic Supporter.

    I've always found the essence of the Olympics to be in their eternal and universal qualities. What compelled the ancient Greeks over 2,000 years ago still compels us today -- Citius, Altius, Fortius, Tinkers, Evers, Chance ... the whole bit.

    That said: Trampoline?

    Trampoline?

    I swear there was a trampoline competition ... although it could have been the snowy images on the tube.

    Olympic mascot
    Even the Olympic mascot took a turn on the trampoline (by the way, what kind of mascot is that?)

    Trampoline.

    I couldn't wait to hear Trautwig say: "After the trampoline, there will be a nap competition, followed by a Vanilla-Wafers-and-milk eat/drink competition. And then for the climax to the day, an exhibition sport for 2008 in Beijing: pillow fighting."

    We all come full circle, don't we?

    And now, nursery school has become part of the Olympics.

    Give the Games enough time and give us the right socio-political landscape -- in particular, if Chico State can host the Games in the future -- and I believe it, dear reader: We can make Beer Bonging an Olympic sport.

    4. What Do You Do?
    Just a quick aside to present a Miss Manners question:

    If a strong, hard-working kid is hired by a major moving company to help you move into your first home; and if that strong, hard-working kid works hard, lugging and hauling; and if that strong, hard-working kid asks you to use the toilet at your new home ... what do you do?

    Why, you say "yes." Of course.

    Next question: If that strong, hard-working kid befouls your new home's bathroom to the point that everyone -- his fellow movers, your wife, you, even your dog -- is overcome by a stench that, if put in anthropomorphic form, equals a right cross from Joe Frazier ... do you say anything?

    Or do you suffer in silence, knowing that your new home's first bathroom visit was:

    A.) Not made by you;

    B.) Made by a strong, hard-working kid who left an olfactory mark on your new home that, were it a home run ball, would be a Bondsian shot into McCovey Cove?

    Final question: How does the bomb left by the strong, hard-working kid affect his tip?

    You have 30 minutes to craft an essay in your blue book on this topic. Thank you.

    5. The Music Man
    We would be seriously remiss -- put on double-secret probation, even -- if we didn't mourn the passing of movie composer Elmer Bernstein.

    Trivia question: What do the films "Magnificent Seven," "Animal House," "The Great Escape" and "To Kill a Mockingbird" have in common?

    Nothing.

    That is, except for Elmer Bernstein, the Michael Jordan of movie music.

    I could put two of the world's greatest debaters in my living room and assign them this topic: "Better Movie Theme -- 'Magnificent Seven' or 'Great Escape'?" And then watch two brilliant minds duel to an inevitable draw.

    I'd be forced to cast the tie-breaking vote and "Magnificent Seven" would ride triumphant.

    Elmer Bernstein
    We lost a true giant when Elmer Bernstein passed away.

    How perfect was the "Magnificent Seven" movie theme?

    So perfect that years ago, my buddy Roberts was convinced that if he were able to rig an alarm clock to play that theme to awaken him each day, he would be so inspired that he would roll out of the rack, do 50 push-ups and scale the Fortune 500 with impunity. I've told that tale before, but Bernstein's passing calls for a redux.

    (Of course, now, with CD alarm clock players, my buddy Roberts has no excuse.)

    So perfect that it would have to rank No. 1 on the "Tune You Need to Blast on Your New Stereo Speakers," whenever you get New Stereo Speakers.

    Yes, even ahead of Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog."

    Put it another way: What do Pinto, Scout, Steve McQueen and Yul Brynner have in common?

    Nothing.

    That is, except for Elmer Bernstein, the Wilt Chamberlain of movie music.

    If Bernstein were alive, he could have even put a score to our fuzzy TV set this weekend: "The Ballad of No Cable." I'd be doing push-ups in no time.

    But no early workouts, pal. I'm sleeping in.

    Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle writes every Monday for Page 2.




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