Sunday, September 25, 2005

COLUMN: Cable

We serious journalist types (cough) are non-stop seekers of the truth. We pour our hearts and minds time and again into the stories we cover to bring you the very finest in news coverage. And when one of these stories hits home, it affects us so deeply that it's seemingly all we can talk about around the office.

That's why it should come as no surprise that, over the past week, the most heated discussions around the water cooler here, naturally, have been about Cable, Ill.

Cable is a small town just to the south of the Quad-Cities. This fact alone is likely newsworthy to most of you, as "small" is a bit of an understatement when it comes to Cable.

I've been to Cable once myself. Back in college, my friends and I needed a late-night study break, so we all piled into my car and took off on an aimless country drive. We got really lost and somehow ended up in Cable.

I remember this because, as we were driving through the town, I had to slam on my brakes to avoid hitting WILD TURKEYS that were amiably strutting through the main street. I'm not making fun of small towns here, so don't write me hate mail -- I come from one myself. I'm just saying that Cable is the sort of town where wild turkeys can feel free to take midnight strolls, OK?

The running joke that none of us knew until last week is that Cable has no cable-television service. Thus enters an enterprising marketing guy from Quad City Satellite with a brainstorm. They went to the residents of Cable with a proposal: 10 years of free Dish Network satellite TV to the entire town -- if the town agreed to change its name from Cable to DISH, Ill.

This is, in my book, a pretty funny idea. It's the kind of funny idea that would give Dish Network AND Cable, Ill., some pretty amusing 15 minutes of fame. It's the kind of story that would run in every newspaper in the country. The kind of story that might even get a mention from Leno or Letterman. A win-win situation, right?

Not so much. The idea backfired. A city-council meeting was held, and Cable residents were, for the most part, outraged. Satellite-dish subscriptions were canceled, residents spoke their minds, and the folks from Dish Network were sent packing.

I'm not so sure I would've done the same thing. I guess I've never really had enough civic pride to honestly care about the name of my town (unless, of course, I was living in "Loserburg" or "Lameville" or something). I like living in Rock Island, but that's only because when my music-nerd friends from out of town ask where I'm from, I can throw up the devil horns and scream, "I'm from the Island of ROCK, dude."

Cable started as a mining and railroad town, and got its name because most of the major stockholders of the railroad had the surname Cable. One news report interviewed a resident of the town who said those stockholders would be "turning in their graves" over the name change.

But how do we know? Maybe those guys would all be big fans of "The Sopranos" and want their town's residents to have access to HBO. It's neat that residents of the town obviously have a great respect for history -- but you know what else can foster a great respect for history? Ten years of The History Channel for free, that's what.

At the end of the day, you have to respect the wishes of the 40 households of Cable. They were offered their 15 minutes of fame, and they wanted no part of it. That's commendable. You folks (and even your wild turkeys) should walk with heads held high.

I, on the other hand, am a complete sellout. Unfortunately, it turns out that, despite my powerful role as a beloved area humor columnist, I surprisingly don't have the authority to change the name of Rock Island. However, I can still accommodate any interested publicity executives reading now.

For the right return, and at great personal expense, I hereby publicly declare that I'm willing to change the name of my apartment from "Apt. No. 5" to "Apt. No. 61-Inch Flatscreen Plasma Hi-Definition TV."

Any takers?

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