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Turn off TV? OK — after the game

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In the name of all that is healthy, the proper weight, socially adept and morally correct, a national consortium of 67 agencies including the attorney general, the National Education Association, the American Medical Association and third-grade teachers everywhere, is urging all of us, as Americans, to do something drastic this week.

Turn off the TV.

Even better, turn it off and lose the remote.

Do something else, anything else, urges the nonprofit TV Turnoff Network that is coordinating this week's TV Turnoff Week. Read, hike, ride a bike, learn Mandarin Chinese, hunt and gather, start your own Walden Pond, cook, garden, play the trombone, yodel, learn the names of other family members. Or, as it says on the tvturnoff.org Web site, "Throw rocks at birds."

Better that than witnessing 16,000 murders by the time you're 18 — which is exactly what happens to the average red-blooded American kid who watches an average red-blooded American four hours of TV a day.

And that's not to mention the more than 200,000 acts of violence, almost half a million commercials, and three complete cycles of "M*A*S*H."

Better that than racking up more hours of TV time during the year than hours of school time, which is what schoolkids are prone to do.

And far better than checking out 6 million videos every day as opposed to 3 million library books — which is what the American public averages.

Fact: 25 percent of Americans know the Constitution was written in Philadelphia while 75 percent of Americans know 90210 is the ZIP code of Beverly Hills.

Another fact: 17 percent of Americans can name at least three Supreme Court justices while 59 percent can name the Three Stooges.

And no, they're not the same.

Obviously, these advocates of dark TV are no fans of the NBA playoffs.

Think about it. If no one watched television this week, the NBA would lose its TV contract, there would be no big salaries, no league, and everybody who would otherwise be playing big-time pro basketball would look just like Charles Barkley. And exactly how is that going to help the national obesity problem?

English translation: I'm watching the playoffs this week.

Besides, it can be an aerobic activity.

As with anything else in life, a happy medium when it comes to television would be nice.

A little balance mixed with a little common sense mixed with some self-discipline.

Like the people who run out of life lines on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" we should all know when to say when.

Like the contestants on "Survivor," we should know when it's time to leave the Outback.

As a public service announcement, I would like to suggest these basic guidelines for mandatory stopping viewing at once:

When you see a highlight on SportsCenter you've already seen at least twice. That night.

When you begin to chuckle at the start of the commercial.

When you begin a sentence with "Regis said . . . "

And this basic guideline for when it's time to go back:

When you start hitting the birds.

Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to benson@desnews.com and faxes to 1-801-237-2527.