Erma Bombeck? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: Television is filled with athletic events during the winter holiday season. A hypnotized sports addict could stare at the tube for hours on end. A caustic remark about this behavior was apparently crafted by the humorist Erma Bombeck:
Anybody who watches three games of football in a row should be declared brain dead.
I haven’t been able to locate a solid citation. Is this quotation accurate?
Quote Investigator: Erma Bombeck visited this topic at least five times in her syndicated newspaper column, books, and speeches. None of her statements precisely matched the remark given above, but there was a semantic overlap.
In 1972 Bombeck discussed stressful situations during which individuals talked to themselves. Although this might be considered mentally anomalous conduct she felt that it was sometimes justified. Here were three acceptable scenarios she listed. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
The woman standing in the middle of the kitchen asking herself, “If I were car keys, where would I hide?”
The man on the golf course who has just missed a two-inch putt and is the only one who wouldn’t be shocked by his X-rated dialogue.
The woman who is married to a man with a 23-televised-football-games-a-week habit. (It’s even permissible for her to dance with herself.)
In 1973 Bombeck published “I Lost Everything in the Post-Natal Depression”. She began her book with a set of self-revelatory remarks: 2
Before you read this book, there are a few things you should know about me.
I consider ironed sheets a health hazard.
. . .
Renaissance women were beautiful and never heard of Weight Watchers.
. . .
Men who have a thirty-six-televised-football-games-a-week-habit should be declared legally dead and their estates probated.
The above statement provided a substantive match to the expression under examination, but Bombeck did not use the phrase “brain dead”. Also, the criticism was aimed at couch potatoes with more extensive viewing schedules.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading
- 1972 May 17, The Daily Reporter, At Wit’s End by Erma Bombeck (Syndicated), Quote Page A16, Column 7, Dover, Ohio. (Newspapers_com) ↩
- 1973, I Lost Everything in the Post-Natal Depression by Erma Bombeck, Chapter 1: Ironed Sheets Are a Health Hazard, Quote Page 7, Fawcett Crest Books, New York. (Verified with scans) ↩