The first full week of 2021 was not supposed to be this eventful. There were a couple of big items on the political calendar, it was back to work after the holidays for most people, and there was a lot of football on television over the weekend. That was how it was supposed to go, but a lot of other stuff happened instead. The biggest, of course, was a protest that turned into an insurgence that got five people killed.
For us news junkies, Tuesday was a big day. The two Senate runoff races in Georgia meant control of the upper house. Going into the early morning Wednesday, it was becoming clear that the Democrats were going to win both elections, which means a 50-50 split, and Democratic control for the incoming Biden administration.
To seal the deal, all was needed was the ceremonial tabulation of the Electoral College votes, and Joe Biden would officially be elected President. The opening of the envelopes, alphabetically by state and led by Vice President Mike Pence, got underway at 10am Wednesday morning (Pacific Time). By 11:30, protesters attending a Donald Trump rally had penetrated the Capitol, rushing the East steps and breaking windows. They got onto the Senate floor. A woman was shot to death as she attempted to reach the House chambers. An officer also died, reportedly from being struck in the head, and three others perished after medical emergencies.
To the television viewer, not everything was known in real time. Flipping back and forth between NBC and CNN, each organization had its firsts with different accounts. CNN was the first to report that the protesters had made their way inside, while NBC was the first to say that the Senate had been evacuated. Overall, CNN had better access to video inside the building, but anchors Wolf Blitzer, Jake Tapper and others were quick to use words like “shameful”, “disgusting”, “terrorists”, and “coup attempt” instead of being reporters and concentrating on what was going on. NBC reported that it was a woman who was shot by police. CNN was first to say the Capitol had been secured.
After over nine hours, the Electoral College vote resumed, and even after the riots, many Republicans still objected to the vote tally from Pennsylvania (Arizona was objected to just before the rioters entered the Capitol, and after resuming, an objection to Georgia was withdrawn), meaning two hours of debate in the House—which meant around 4am Eastern Time before the whole process was finished. Now, even with only nine days remaining in Trump's term, the House could vote on an article of impeachment, accusing the President of inciting the riot, as early as Wednesday.
Then, with just a couple of days to digest what had happened in Washington, we woke up on Friday to learn about the loss of a sports legend, especially in the Los Angeles area. Tommy Lasorda, who said over and over again during his 71 years in the organization that he bled Dodger Blue, died at the age of 93. Lasorda is his own audio essay. The colorful and often profane Dodger manager was friends with Frank Sinatra and Don Rickles, spit out expletive after expletive after a game in 1978 where Dave Kingman hit three home runs and after the game was asked his opinion of Kingman's performance, but also celebrated and perpetuated the Dodgers and the game of baseball like no other. Saturday's Los Angeles Times had a seven-page sports section (which is rare for the newspaper now), and five full pages were dedicated to Lasorda. Lasorda often referred to God as the 'Great Dodger in the Sky', and now joins him. Watching several clips on YouTube will make you smile, but viewer discretion is advised.
With all the seriousness of events during the week, there was plenty going on in the fun and games department. The NFL playoffs kept TV watchers busy Saturday and Sunday, and college football just got done crowning their national champion. For the seventh time in the last 13 years, it's Alabama. The Crimson Tide defeated Ohio State 52-24 and went undefeated. Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith caught three touchdown passes in the first half, and missed the second with a hand injury.
If you were into any or all of the above events this past week, your television got quite a workout. Perhaps a dull, tedious, cumbersome week two of the new year would be better for all of us. At least give us a day or two.
Whew! Some close ones: While five NBA games on Christmas Day, and just about all of the major college football bowl games were blowouts, the NFL 'Super Wildcard Weekend', as it was called, created some drama of the good kind. All six games (three on Saturday, and three on Sunday) were decided by twelve points or fewer. The two-day marathon began with Buffalo beating Indianapolis 27-24 and wining their first playoff game since 1995, and ended with Cleveland scoring 28 points in the first quarter against favored Pittsburgh, and the Browns hanging on to win 48-37. The Rams won 30-20 at Seattle, and will be at NFC top seed Green Bay on Saturday.
A kids game: Sunday's NFL playoff game between Chicago and New Orleans was not only televised by CBS, but also by Nickelodeon (both networks are owned by Viacom). The cable version was designed for kids, complete with the SpongeBob SportsPants Pregame Show', and virtual green slime to cover the end zone when a touchdown was scored. CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said the reason the game aired on a children's network was to "maximize the co-viewing appeal for kids and families, while maintaining the integrity of the game and its traditions."
Walton's World: It can be a little exasperating sometimes to sit through a college basketball broadcast when Bill Walton is working, but you will always learn something. During Thursday's UCLA-Arizona State game on ESPN, Walton shared that the San Fernando Valley community of Tarzana was named after the legendary character Tarzan, because that area was once the site of author Edgar Rice Burroughs' ranch. You don't get insight like that during a sporting event from anyone else. Walton was doing that broadcast from his San Diego home, and just a few minutes before dispensing that knowledge, you could hear one of his dogs barking in the background. Classic.
Final Jeopardy: Friday's episode of Jeopardy! was the last one that host Alex Trebek taped before his death in November. The show was originally scheduled to air Christmas Day, but they added a couple of weeks of re-runs during the holidays. Friday's show ended with a montage of Trebek and his 37 seasons of hosting the program. Tonight's episode was hosted by all-time winner Ken Jennings, and a series of guest hosts will run the program for the near future.
Saturday marked two years since the passing of my mother. I did tear myself away from the TV to go the cemetery and think about her. It's probably a good thing she did not have to witness the events of the past few days, but I am staying in her home right now, and there were several split-seconds where I was in one end of the house, and thought she was watching TV in the other.