When reality television star Ted Cruz collides with actual reality

I’m addicted to reality television. I can’t help myself. The cable box in my man cave is loaded with episodes of “Call of the Wildman,” “Duck Dynasty” and “Pawn Stars.”

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No segment of reality television grabs my attention, though, quite like “Gator Boys.” On Animal Planet, the show is the day-to-day life of Paul Bedard, Jimmy Riffle and their band of swamp loving comrades who rescue alligators from South Florida’s civilized areas and release them into the protective confines of the Everglades.

Every episode of “Gator Boys” is exactly the same.

Paul and Jimmy show up where an alligator has been spotted in a (insert: canal, pool, culvert, backyard). Paul tells the viewers about the dangerous circumstances surrounding the pending capture. To the amazement of the person that made the call, Paul gets in the water and swims around looking for the damn thing. As Paul places a noose around the reptile’s neck, Jimmy tells everyone back on dry land how Paul faces imminent death.

Note this is usually the point in “Gator Boys” where my wife walks through the room, points to Paul and says, “He’s crazy.”

Once the alligator has been pulled onto dry land, a barefoot Jimmy wrestles with the animal. No, he doesn’t hit it over the head with a medal folding chair like on the WWF. We’re talking old-school, Seminole gator wrestling.

After Jimmy wears the alligator out, Paul hops on its back. They tape up its jaws. Paul gives it a big kiss (the alligator, not Jimmy). Then they toss the animal into the bed of their pickup truck to the adulation of a relieved crowd.

This scene repeats each and every week. I know because I’ve never missed an episode. I sit on the edge of my recliner in my “Gator Boys” tee shirt and Jimmy-style hat wondering each week what might happen next. On my last book tour through Florida (the book is titled “Alligator Alley” – detecting a theme here?), I even stopped by Everglades Holiday Park to bask in its Gatorboyness.

Prime time dilemma

The other night my television allegiance was torn as the Gator Boys were up against the Obamacare Filibuster. Should I watch Jimmy and Paul or Ted, Rand, David and Marco? I love Gator Boys, but I hate Obamacare.

My political wonk side won out over my desire to someday wrestle an alligator – I clicked to the filibuster. My heart raced as I waited for the dramatic moment when the bill to defund Obamacare would be called up for consideration and Senator Ted Cruz would use his parliamentary skills to disrupt the Upper Chamber, fight back the liberal horde, grab the floor, beat back cloture vote after cloture vote until either he or Obmabacare collapsed in defeat.

Of course that drama never happened because it wasn’t really a filibuster. Cruz did not act to disrupt or delay Senate proceedings on the continuing resolution or anything else for that matter. It was a made-for-television 21-hour speech-a-thon that just happened to take place in D.C. Mr. Smith didn’t go to Washington and plan his burst of outrage to occur in prime time with the assistance of Harry Reid’s scheduler.

The Great Defund Obamacare Filibuster was a super long episode of reality television. And just like “Gator Boys” has my attention each week, Cruz produced the show for the perfect demographic – me.

The problem is Cruz and company shouldn’t have been talking at me. I know Obamacare is bad. I want it gone. I’ll vote next year based upon where my candidates stand on defunding. Unfortunately, the people who Cruz needed to be convincing were walking through the room, pointing at the screen and saying, “He’s crazy.”

If like me, you’re genetically predisposed to reality television, you watch. However, not too many folks switch over from PBS. That is OK in a ratings war, but not good enough when the future of our health care system is on the line.

About an hour into the filibluster, I switched back to “Gator Boys” just in time to watch Jimmy gently pull a broken tooth from an alligator’s jaw before releasing the critter into the wild. Disgusted, I flipped back to Cruz. The freaking alligator has a dental plan and I don’t.

Rick Robinson is an award winning novelist. His books (like Alligator Alley) can be found on Amazon, Nook and at bookstores everywhere. Like him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @authorRick but don’t expect him to reply during Gator Boys.

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