So, which nationwide hot-button topic this week has left you feeling the most manipulated, has played with your emotions most blatantly, has exploited your most base instincts the most shamelessly?
The "Survivor'' plan to divide contestants up by race? Or the latest Terrell Owens "controversy''?
Tough call. With both, you do feel as if whoever threw both issues out at you, did it with a maniacal cackle, pointing a finger and laughing at how bent out of shape you are about them - and, worse, at how helpless we felt when we fell for it all.
Honestly, don't we all feel just a little bit guilty that a reality TV show that hasn't even aired yet has got us debating it so ferociously - and that, regardless of how we feel about it, we're all going to be tuned in for at least the season premiere? CBS and the "Survivor'' producers are grabbing us by the ankles and shaking the money loose from our pockets, and we're so busy debating whether they're evil or brilliant in conceiving the idea that we don't even notice we're hanging upside down.
As for that stuff going on in Dallas - the "Survivor'' people may be calling their scheme a "social experiment,'' but it's hard not to think that the Cowboys and the NFL, and maybe the networks, had their own collective social experiment in mind, with us as the guinea pigs.
I mean, imagine if MTV had started running promos saying, "The temperamental, ego-driven superstar wide receiver! The gruff, ego-driven Super Bowl-winning coach! The money-crazed, ego-driven celebrity owner! We've gathered them all together on America's Team, the one with the stars on the helmets, in the stadium with the hole in the roof so God can watch his favorite team! Watch the Texas-sized sparks fly! Stay tuned for 'The Real World: Dallas!'''
We would have spit out our drinks and spluttered, "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard of in my life! How gullible do you think we are? Is this the most contrived, phony, manipulative piece of garbage this juvenile, bottom-feeding network has ever come up with, or what? I don't want any part of it!''
But it's the Cowboys and the NFL and ESPN involved, so we glue ourselves to the screen and waste countless hours on radio and barrels of ink debating its merits. Everybody could have seen it coming a mile away, yet we got sucked into it anyway, the moment it finally ignited.
And face it - what has really ignited? T.O. has been injured, and has managed to attract camera time anyway. Bill Parcells has managed to create waves of news and speculation by his manner of "not'' talking about it. (Last week, he even mimicked the classic Allen Iverson "practice, practice'' press conference.) Now Jerry Jones claims that he doesn't know how on earth anyone found out that T.O. had missed sessions and been fined, and that he's going to find the rat and fire him. He said this while surrounded by cameras and mikes, of course.
Give me a break. I don't know about you, but I feel used. By somebody. It probably wasn't intentional at all - but then again, to think that any of the people involved didn't weigh the possibilities of that player, that coach, that owner and that team generating as much attention as possible together, is probably a touch naive.
It all makes the "Survivor'' thing seem tame by comparison.
Anyway ... someone's going to ask the question, but I am insisting here and now that I'm not going to answer it. That's the last time the "Survivor'' idea gets any play here. It's on the Banned-Topic, Look-Somewhere-Else-For-Your-Fix list, along with a certain Orioles pitcher's attention-hungry wife.
Except for one thing: one problem with picking "Survivor'' teams is deciding who belongs to what group. Too hard to do in this multicultural society (now there's a debate we really don't want to get started). But, as always, Dave Chappelle has the answer for us. Just as he did in envisioning the natural followup to televised poker by producing The World Series of Dice (uncensored here), long before dominos, darts, dodgeball and rock-paper-scissors made their network debuts, he was ahead of his time in suggesting the solution to all "Survivor'' theme-related arguments ...
The Racial Draft.
Not to give anything away, but Tiger Woods, Mariah Carey, Halle Berry and Eminem are mentioned. Enjoy.