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President Bush, Sponge Bob and a Banana
by Charles Dowdy

A few nights ago President Bush gave a major address on the situation in Iraq. I remember it well because in an effort to be a good citizen of my country I rushed home from work, camped out in front of the TV and watched every second of the speech.

OK, thatís a lie.

Truth be told, I was watching ďSponge Bob SquarepantsĒ during the speech. For those of you who donít have young children, Sponge Bob is a small, annoying, yellow sponge who, according to the theme song, ďlives in a pineapple under the sea.Ē

Donít ever listen to this theme song. It will lodge itself in your brain, and days later you could find yourself in a bikerís bar with Hellís Angels and youíll still be singing that song.

Back to speech I did not see. After helping get my children to sleep (I was in charge of ďbath timeĒ -- I didnít wash their hair so much as wet it really, really good), I did what millions of people all over the country do: I collapsed into my favorite chair and spent some time talking with my wife, maintaining our relationship as we shared the events of our day.

That too is something of a lie.

Weíd been "sharing" since I walked through the door, only in the form of ďThen that son of yours colored his sisterís head with a half chewed banana,Ē which is how I got busted on the hair-washing thing to begin with. In my defense, I imagined it was sand or dirt. What kind of reasonable person sees grit in a girlís hair and assumes itís a perishable item?

So, too tired to actually talk, we began the nightly ritual of channel surfing that goes on for about fifteen minutes until my wife throws up her hands in disgust and wanders away. Even in this world of multi-tasking she has this thing about watching more than one show at a time.

Now you have an idea of my state of mind as I checked in on the coverage following the speech I missed.

And I was stunned by what I saw.

Iím not out to persecute anybody, so Iím not going to name the actual individuals (Chris Matthews, some pollster named Frank and MSNBC). In order to protect their identity I will call them Chris, Frank and MSNBC.

Following the presidentís speech, MSNBC cut to a breathless Chris. Now, normally you would expect Chris to interview two or three talking head experts on their views regarding the speech.

That was before the 2000 Presidential Election. The media received a good bit of criticism from . . . the media about their faulty election coverage. So the media did the same thing Al Gore did when he wasnít sure what to do: they held focus groups.

Anyway, the big media outlets spent hundreds of dollars and at least half a morning studying this great problem and came up with a solution of their own. Now they are going to base their major event coverage solely on . . . more focus groups.

Thatís where the pollster Frank comes in with his collection of thirty average Americans. Iím not sure if the criteria call for them to be average Americans or look like average Americans, but Iíve never seen a more average looking group. And because we donít trust these average people actually to verbalize their average thoughts, Frank had hooked them up to all sorts of gadgets that will voice their thoughts for them. So now we have an average looking group of people all sitting in an average studio, with diodes running to their heads (for thoughts) and hearts (for feelings) and stomachs (for upchuck factor), watching a speech they would never in a million years actually watch so that we, as average Americans, can know what we are thinking.

They set up the equivalent of a focus group EKG, and the three colored lines went across the screen as Frank explained them. The dialogue was riveting. Hereís an excerpt:

Chris: Frank, youíve got a couple of them flat lining. Are they dead?
Frank: Two are dead drunk, oneís stoned, and three are sleeping. Remember, our sample had to be representative of average Americans.

What we donít know and will never know is what exceptional Americans thought of the Presidentís speech. Or below average Americans. We only needed to know what that expanding waistline, balding, overdrawn, average looking group thought.

Which I never really found out.

This is about the time I realized I was sitting on that banana.


BIO: Charles leads a peaceful, quiet life in south Mississippi with his wonderful wife and 4 children . . . a couple of dogs, a cat, several donkeys and 2 miniature horses.

You can contact Charles Dowdy at cwdowdyjr@yahoo.com.

Charles Dowdy's web site is not to be missed! He has to be one of the funniest, most irreverent writers in the South . . . or anywhere. Go see!

Read more of Dowdy's stories at USADS:
This column stinks!
Hair plucking and Ghandi
Family opinion statement
Ten years with the Bepper

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