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Using the Force
Rush Olson uses The Force to change TV channels; photo by Dave French

Last Tuesday, I found myself in an eating/drinking establishment watching a heated contest on the television. Literally heated, as in two fencers dueling it out over a pit of hot lava.

No, it wasn’t some new promotion the venerable sport of fencing implemented to jolt itself into the mainstream (although that would probably do the trick). No, this place didn’t actually have any live sports on at all, at least on the TVs I could see from my seat. This matchup was between the Sith and the Jedi. It was a scene from Episode III of the Star Wars film series.

It also got me thinking about ways I would manipulate The Force if I possessed a Jedi-esque midichlorian count. In addition to keeping a dropped fork from hitting the floor (a Jedi never worries about the five-second rule) and influencing traffic stops in my favor, I would think I could pull off changing the TV channel in a local watering hole with a wave of my hand.

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Imagine if you could walk into Upper 90 on College and instantly put every screen in there on the Rangers game. Back during the television station portion of my career, I would have gladly turned to the dark side to have the power to cram KXTX-39’s Big 12 basketball or Dallas Stars coverage onto people’s radars.

And, of course. I would use this power to always ensure sports ended up on display. That’s not just because I love sports and watch little else in an effort to bring you an informative weekly blog on the subject. It’s because that’s what’s best to have on in a public house. There’s a reason we don’t have romantic comedy speakeasies and that Netflix doesn’t open taverns.

As bar movies go, the portion of Revenge of the Sith I saw was about as good as it gets. It helps that the franchise is one that can generate conversation. And it features a whole bunch of scenes that, as noted at the beginning of this column, look a lot like sports. You can follow a light saber battle while also enjoying casual conversation and discussing the outcome with your buddies Tom and Dave (spoiler alert: Obi-Wan kicks Anakin’s butt).

But most films don’t work in a bar setting. If you have other screens in the place tuned to other programming, it’s not easy to focus, and you probably can’t hear the dialogue. You stare at the people on the screen wondering what the hell Senator Palpatine is saying to the little green man on the other side of the Senate Chamber. And you generally have to devote two full hours to a movie to get the gist of it. Even for a half hour television show, the equation is suboptimal. It occasionally works in a small, relatively deserted bar where the bartender and a couple of the patrons are into it, but that hardly seems a sustainable business model.

Sports, on the other hand, doesn’t require audio to work. You can follow it via the on-screen action and graphics. You can also keep up with more than one game at once, and that functionality, in fact, is a big part of the appeal of the sports bar. Not long ago I wanted to watch baseball, hockey, and basketball all at the same time, so I went to Boomerjacks. Plus, you can talk to old or brand new friends about what’s going on and enhance the experience by doing so, as opposed to having people tell you to shut up because they couldn’t make out Jar Jar Binks’ latest folksy wisdom.

The proprietors of the establishment where we observed the aberrant tv bar content bill themselves as being the “last kids picked..” Maybe that’s why they didn’t have sports on. I don’t know. What I do know is that if I’d walked in there and felt the Force flowing through me, I’d have fixed their misstep with a wave of my hand.

Alas, my Jedi skills were found wanting. They still are. Friday night, I wanted to watch the BIG3 basketball games with friends. I had to ask the bartender to switch the channel for me.

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