Before history began, boys became men by hunting and killing their first beast. Macedonian boys did not come of age until a wild boar was corralled with a net. The ability to provide for the tribe defined and protected a man’s standing with the people.
Battle is another traditional definition of a man. Conscription has always been considered a rite of passage for boys for those countries that require military participation of its male youth. In Barbados, men continually tested themselves against each other through Bajan Stick-Licking, a method of fighting using fire-hardened sticks.
Fertility is a measure of a man that even those without a warrior’s skills can hope to meet. The species propagates only thorough the virile man. Thus, the fertility rituals of Papua New Guinea developed over time, requiring some combination of fasting, prayer, body mutilation, and cannibalism. Women were sent to menstruation huts to avoid contaminating the men with their femininity.
Of course, today’s male defines his manhood through more modern methods. As the television became ubiquitous, the man took control of the device when he was at home, ruling his castle with an iron fist to compensate for the emasculating post-war world. Children were drafted into the role of rudimentary television tuners and channel changers; a solid smack to the back of the head sent the child scurrying to the set with a yelp, tasked with turning the knob or fiddling with the rabbit ears until reception was restored.
Today’s televisions provide much more content with many more functions, making the remote-control-on-two-legs both inefficient and punishable in a court of law. (Most states make an exception to send the child on a remote control hunt. Men don’t dig their hands into the couch.)
Men now define their manhood through their mastery of the remote control. An alpha male can pull down the cockpit on his Home Entertainment Machine and rip through 752 channels in less than five minutes, sliding between picture-in-picture and high-definition content as he organizes and then dismisses entire entertainment monopolies without disturbing the beer bottle resting precariously on his stomach. Women must relinquish control of the remote to the men so they can conquer the new landscape, not lollygag through a few channels at a time, sniffing the goddamned flowers of the Oxygen Media empire.
In this spirit, I slapped down my plastic on Major League Baseball’s new online television package a month ago. MLB.tv Premium offered a new product, Mosaic, which would offer me six baseball games in one screen. I would be able to park my ass in front of more baseball in one night than my ancestors could see in a month. I could zoom into a single game for full-screen semi-sharp glory or bounce around all the games for as much coverage as I liked.
I would not settle for six games, of course. I would flick my wrist through even more games, flittering through 8 or 9 games, while drinking neat Scotch, smoking Nicaraguan cigars, and cycling through a wide selection of college-aged women that did not require me to remove my eyes from the screen.
After a month of MLB.tv Mosaic, I would be forced to purchase a specially modified van so I could use a wheelchair lift to help me lift my gigantic testicles into and out of the vehicle.
When the first full slate of games came out April 2nd, I laid out party food and drink to rival a Super Bowl spread. Of course, I invited no one over; I didn’t need anyone nattering over my shoulder or eating the onion dip while I slapped my fire hose on the keyboard and engorged myself in the raw sports action. My manhood would finally receive its due.
After about ten minutes, I found myself curled into a ball in the far corner, sucking my thumb and singing “I Will Survive” at the top of my lungs to drown out the six screens of raw sports being hammered through me.
I crawled back to the computer, unplugged it, and threw a blanket over the top. The cool breeze that blew through my crotch, unimpeded by dangly bits, was a sharp reminder of my vanquished state. I flipped on the television and set down the remote control gingerly.
As I wiped away tears at the utterly unfair treatment of Deidre Hall at the hands of her cruel husband, William Katt, I tried to make sense of it all. Maybe I could get a small child to come over and I could get a Nerf bat and…
No. No, I would regain mastery of my home. I would reclaim my manhood and my computer. I inched back to my computer and cautiously restarted Mosaic. The six screens started their screeching again. I covered my eyes with one hand and pounded the mouse with the other until the four-screen option appeared. I dropped in a blacked-out game, making it possible for me to see only three games. I peered through my hand, making sure it was okay for me to come out again.
Over the next two days, I came to an understanding with the clunky Mosaic interface, the slow-buffering videos, and the overwhelming amount of content. Four games… five games… six games… six games plus one of the blacked-out games on the television… 6+1 with zooming in on rallies and special at-bats. Eventually, I learned to work with Mosaic and got all the baseball I wanted, but it didn’t come without a lesson to be learned.
I didn’t treat Mosaic as a land to be conquered, like I did with television. She became a slow-turning mothership, one at the whims of a capricious Internet ocean. In the hands of an experienced ship’s captain, ol’ Mosie would get you there eventually. Don’t push her; don’t threaten her. She’s a lady. You treat her good, son, and she’ll treat you good.
I have regained control of my digital entertainment and my life, thanks to a new point of view. Media mastery isn’t about manhood or pecking order; it’s about finding new respect for a new medium and learning to work with it. I don’t need to prove to anyone how well I can handle Mosaic, hunting, or parallel parking. I only need to enjoy ol’ Mosie for what she is and treat her as an equal. If I do, she’ll take care of me for all the rest of this season.
Of course, not everything has changed; I still occasionally trip over my own fire hose on the way to the bathroom first thing in the morning. After all, I’m just a man.