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COLUMNS

Outtakes Around the Lakes: Frustrations with Closed Captions

Frank Weaver Jr.
Suburbanite correspondent

With my foot still healing from a recent operation, I watch a lot of sports on TV. After all, what else is there to do? In the process, I gain much in the way of joy whenever my team wins and indigestion when they lose. With my hearing slowly diminishing as I approach the upper years of life, I faithfully use the TV's Closed Caption (CC). Otherwise, I'd drive everyone out of the house with the sound.

Frank Weaver Jr.

Recently, the CC went haywire. On Fox, CNN and MSNBC it worked. On CBS, ABC, NBC, AMC and both PBS stations, which we both watch more than some of the more popular stations, it worked sporadically. Sometimes, the dialogue would print, other times only parts of sentences would print and still other times whole dialogues were missing with a moot prepositional phrase. The remaining 87 or so stations; nothing. Not even a musical note to let the viewer know that music is playing.

In our quest to correct it, the wife and I did everything within our limited knowledge of how these no-knob, no-switch, 273 button remote controls, which I nicknamed "zappers," they give you to control these electronic wizards, worked. But we failed time and time again. Finally, we called our channel provider. She shared with us the instructions on how to fix it. But instead of using the king's English, she used some strange electronic jargon that seemed foreign; at least it seemed to us. Regardless of what she said, or even how she directed us, we still had no idea where to begin.

I was becoming quite nervous. The election returns would be coming in and I had no Closed Caption. The college football games would be televised on Saturday and I had no CC. The NFL would be televising games on Sunday and I had no CC.  Baseball season was over, thank the Good Lord. After all, if you need CC to watch baseball, you don't understand the game. I played baseball and understood it. Football and basketball were different. Having never played either sport, I'm still learning referee and umpire hand signals and flag throwing and the hand waving coaches go through on the sidelines trying to get this player or that one into a certain spot on the field in order to successfully execute the upcoming play.

I went through that weekend Closed Captioned-less. Withdraw symptoms were starting. Hunger pangs began gnawing in my stomach earlier that usual. I thanked the Good Lord for newspapers or the North Koreans could blow up the world and I wouldn't find out about it until I got the CC fixed.

I was in a mess. The only thing that saved me from losing my sanity was that my beloved Browns had a bye that weekend and wouldn't play again until the following Sunday. That should give us plenty of time to either figure out how to fix it ourselves, have someone else fix it or sell it to someone with 20/20 hearing who wouldn't need the CC. Then we'd go out and buy a new TV. Either way, I was not going to experience another "silent" weekend again like I did the week before.

This past weekend arrived. The Closed Caption still had not been fixed. Nevertheless, I watched college football on Saturday between Notre Dame and Boston College. I wasn't too concern about not having CC because Notre Dame was favored heavily. All I cared about was seeing them score touchdowns.

Notre Dame won, and on Sunday I was bright eyed and alert for my Browns. At 1pm, they announced the game was delayed because of weather. After it cleared, they started. Then the unthinkable happened. With the Browns ahead in the second quarter, we suddenly lost all power and the screen remained dark until nearly 7pm; long enough for the game to be over and done with.

When power was restored, the TV had to be reprogramed. After five long minutes, finally a picture. And then, lo and behold, much to our delight, real live Closed Captioning. On every channel. And all it took to fix it was a violent storm.

Oh, by the way, the Browns won.

Comments may be emailed to: Frankweaverjr@aol.com