Free advice can be like free food.
Too much and we get fed up.
That’s what happened to me after a steady diet of World Cup and Wimbledon on TV.
The broadcasts were packed with assumptions and dodgy messages… so, I am going to use this week’s column to dish out my own free advice about the advice on the media menu.
I believe we should think very carefully about the things we hear and see on TV and read in the papers before digesting it.
I’ve talked about this idea before, but mainly as applied to news stories.
The thing I noticed during my TV binge, though, is that even sporting event broadcasts try to tell us what we should think.
Hopefully, most of us realise the adverts in and around the action are designed to persuade us to buy whatever is being sold.
Of course, we should take that stuff with a grain of salt, but I think we also need to question the assumptions many sports commentators and athletes make and the values they take for granted.
The most common one is the belief that winning is everything. That doesn’t sit well in my stomach.
Yes, I think trying our best to win is essential if we want to improve, do our best, challenge our opponents or provide top class entertainment, but I don’t think anyone should try to win at all costs.
That approach leads to football players diving to win free kicks and penalties and tennis players making a meal of minor injuries to disrupt their opponents’ rhythm.
That’s called cheating, but many players and commentators seem to think it is acceptable and even smart, as long as the culprits don’t get caught.
This need to win can also be counter-productive for supporters.
Over here in England where I now live, some of the locals lost interest in the World Cup as soon as their boys bounced out in the semi-final, and many didn’t watch the third-place play-off or the final.
My native country, the United States, didn’t even qualify, so if I’d taken the same approach, I would have missed one of the tastiest World Cups ever.
Then there is the assumption that more is always better, even if it’s just more of the same.
Most Wimbledon fans and commentators appeared to be heartbroken when Roger Federer lost his quarter-final and when Serena Williams dropped the ladies’ final.
I, on the other hand, couldn’t help wondering why they were there in the first place.
Federer already has 20 Grand Slam titles, while Williams has 23.
They also both have spouses, children, plenty of money and hopefully other interests they could pursue instead of dining on tennis for five or six hours a day so they can continue to compete at the highest level.
I mean, they are already recognised as the best male and female players ever.
The message seems to be we should never feel satisfied.
My last piece of free advice, however, is that I don’t believe that is a recipe for happiness.
I think the trick is to appreciate what we have and recognize that it is possible to have enough.