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OpinionColumnistsLane Filler

The siren song of chainsaws in televised competition

Credit: iStock Photo

 Last Saturday, with the weather turning chilly, the slow and jiggly process I call running moved to the gym. Outdoors is better, but at least the gym has TV.

But these days, watching a bank of televisions tuned to various stations feels like a full-blown LSD trip, with the news channels no nuttier than the rest.

Sure, there was a time when we could be thrown by seeing one news network run a headline like "Trump persuades the lion to layeth down with the lamb" next to another covering the same story with the message "Amid reports of 13 slaughtered lambs, Trump calls lion 'Hero.'" But I've grown used to that flavor of crazy.

The same could not be said of the next TV over, tuned to CBS, which was showing  "Stihl  Timbersports" championships, in which, Stihl's website informs us, "Athletes compete with razor sharp racing axes and saws in six grueling disciplines — the underhand chop, stock saw, single buck, standing block, springboard chop and hot saw."

But why, Stihl? Why, CBS?

The first event I saw was springboard chop, with men hacking grooves into 9-foot-tall poplar poles, sticking shelves into the grooves, standing on the shelves, and chopping higher grooves for another shelf, then standing on that to chop a log at the top of the pole. Next up was hot saw, in which competitors are timed using custom saws powered by engines from dirt bikes or snowmobiles to cut three slices off logs.

People can turn any task into a competition, but who watches it on TV? Why are there collegiate divisions? And does being more flummoxed by the women's divisions than the men's mean I'm not woke about wood sports?

Confused, I turned to the TV tuned to News 12 Long Island and each time the news was of the same man being mugged, which first made me think, "That poor man sure gets mugged and beaten a lot," and then made me think crime victims should get television royalties when they go into reruns.

The gym's own promotional channel showed videos, accompaniment to the high-intensity workout music, that alternated between oversexed (That's a lot of women to be rubbing on!) and confusing (That's a lot of men, guns and Bibles to be rubbing on!).

There was a show on one television about people who buy, repair and sell houses, which bores me even when I'm the one doing it, and another about the Kardashians/Jenners/Wests, who try to buy, repair and sell each other. So I turned to college football on ESPN and caught Alabama, which has a chance to win another national championship, playing the Western Carolina Catamounts, a Southern Conference bottom dweller that lost to Samford University, 31-13, the week before and was earning about $2 million for this prearranged beatdown. Alabama was favored by 58.5 points.

If such games are played and aired just because people will watch, why not let the Crimson Tide play a middle-school team, or let the Catamounts play against hungry jaguars with a ball  made of raw beef? Ratings gold!

By the time I went back to CBS, timbersports had been replaced by professional bull riding. I get rodeo in that it's mostly job tasks, like domesticating horses and roping cows. But no traditional professional task involves riding bulls. Bull riding is the kind of thing that gets started because the idiot intern, Lyle, sneaks off to smoke weed with friends when he's supposed to be milking cows and says, "I bet I could ride that bull!"

I'm not saying bull riding isn't great television. It's just not "Stihl Timbersports"  men's collegiate underhand chop.

Lane Filler is a member of Newsday's editorial board.