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When lines blur between reality and sports

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WHEN THE REALITY TV SHOW SURVIVOR FIRST burst onto my tube in 2000, I was immediately hooked. The combination of the personalities of the contestants, the athleticism of the challenges, and the strategy of the game itself was enthralling to me and I have never missed an episode of Survivor in its 25 complete seasons since. (Yes, for those of you who haven’t been following the show, there have been 25 seasons!)

My love for reality TV didn’t stop with Survivor. I’ve watched everything from The Amazing Race to Big Brother to The Bachelor. Heck, I’ve even watched the one-offs like Joe Millionaire, Mr. Personality, and Paradise Hotel too.

And do you know why I’m addicted to reality TV? It’s because I was addicted to sports first – basically from the time I came out of the womb.

It took me awhile to realize, but sports is the original and best form of reality TV out there. In sports, we have personalities, athleticism, and strategy, but it’s all highlighted in a different way. All of the points we love about reality TV are on display in sports each and every day, at each and every level of sports too.

Think about it the next time you’re at a Keyano Huskies game, in the stands for a CFL contest, or watching the Stanley Cup Finals. We have personalities we cheer and boo in all – sports and reality TV alike. Survivor villain Richard Hatch had about as much love from viewers as Canadians had for the US Women’s Soccer Team in London last summer.  And don’t try to tell me you don’t get excited when the lovable old couple advances in a leg of The Amazing Race the same way you do when the MOB wins over bitter rivals, Spruce Grove.

The non-competition reality TV shows like The Real World, Jersey Shore, and Real Housewives of XXX are even more eerily similar to sports. These shows follow around a group of normally privileged young people, put them under extreme circumstances, and mix in a bit of sex and alcohol, and voila – TV magic. The same formula has been used for sports for decades - just not as obvious. Television cameras have been in locker rooms since the advent of the video recorder itself, all the while capturing the passion and excitement of a “behind-the-scenes” look into the life of the players and teams we love. That inside look has basically been replicated in these reality TV shows.

In the last few years, the direct combination of sports and reality TV has been enhanced and nearly perfected by HBO. Their 24/7 and Hard Knocks series are simply amazing, exposing us to the sporting world like we’ve never seen before.

Whether it was Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin preparing for the 2011 Winter Classic, Manny Pacquiao getting ready to be knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez (sorry Manny!), or Rex Ryan leading the laughable New York Jets into another season of blunders – these series are why sports and TV always go hand-in-hand.

I want to see it taken to the next level - local. Shaw Cable is sitting on a gold mine with the Fort McMurray sports scene. Who wouldn’t want to watch a regular series featuring the hilarious escapades of Phil Meagher as he skis across the region all the while making calls on the blue line? Or what about a 24/7 on Gord Thibodeau as he juggles lines and tries to lead the Oil Barons to the Enerflex Cup? And who wouldn’t want to go check out MacDonald Island head honcho and football aficionado Tim Reid’s “crib”?

In reality, if more people are watching Here Comes Honey Boo Boo than presidential debates these days, then a weekly show about radio personality and local sports enthusiast Nolan Haukeness telling old hockey play-by-play stories isn’t such a bad idea after all.

Let’s just remember to leave out the shower scenes.

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