When Guests Commandeer The TV

by admin on February 5, 2013

Three months after the death of my father, my mother under some pressure from friends and family, hosted memorial/get together/party/wake. My dad was an atheist, was cremated and did not believe in an afterlife. However he was well known and liked, and it seemed disrespectful not to do “something”. It was held at my mother’s house and close friends and family were invited.

It was informal and towards the end people got up and told their favorite story. It was actually a pretty nice event and my mom and I are glad we did it.

However, the day and time of the event corresponded with this year’s AFC Championship. After the party, I noticed that the TV had been turned on to the game and there were several glasses and plates in the room. My mom and I had a chuckle, since my dad was a terrible host and would often leave halfway though a party my parents were hosting if there was something on TV that he wanted to watch. Had he been alive, we have no doubt, he would have watched the game himself abandoning my mom and the guests.

My question is, what is the etiquette about watching TV when at another person’s house during a planned event?  0126-13

Regardless of how informal the party, or how relationally close the guests are or how Dad would have done it, for the guests to presume to turn on the host’s television without the host’s consent or knowledge is rude.   The purpose of the party was to honor a deceased friend and family member, not an excuse to have a game viewing party.    I cannot wrap my brain around people who live as though missing a sports game on TV is the greatest tragedy of their lives and will go to exceptionally rude lengths to make sure they are not deprived.   I had only one incidence of this type of rude presumption upon the ownership of my TV and usurping of my planned hospitality during an event I was hosting at my house.  I quietly went over to the remote, turned the TV off and closed the entertainment unit doors again which had been closed prior to the young adult taking it upon himself to open them and turn on my TV.   Had he had the audacity to complain, I would have calmly told him that he was free to continue viewing the game at his own home…may I get your coat?

{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

Allie February 5, 2013 at 6:26 am

Oh, Admin. While I do believe good manners are important, you could lighten up a little. Turning on the TV is hardly a capital offense and it can be an excellent ice breaker and awkwardness defuser. It’s the only thing that got my co-workers and I through an awkward office holiday party at the home of one of the firm’s partners. Instead of standing around making awkward chit-chat, we had a great time enjoying the game together.

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Bint February 5, 2013 at 7:19 am

Pig-ignorant. You don’t turn on someone else’s TV without permission. I also think turning on at a party because YOU want to watch something – or asking if you can – is rude as well.

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The Elf February 5, 2013 at 8:17 am

The Admin’s right, but when I host something informal, I pre-emptively set something up if the date of the event co-incides with something big like the AFC championship (and even more so if one of the teams was local). Our TV is not centrally located, so it’s not hard to have a little spot to drop in on the game while the event is going on.

But because the event in question is a wake, even informal, I don’t know if I’d actually do that. Seems disrespectful. Then again, if the deceased was a big sports fan, I might have made it part of the entertainment.

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Abby February 5, 2013 at 8:20 am

Well it’s certainly not the worst thing I’ve heard on here, but yeah, turning the TV on during a quasi wake/memorial service is kind of tacky. In the age of iphones and similar products, it wouldn’t be a big deal to go into the corner and check the score on your phone if you’re so inclined. Plus, the AFC championship wasn’t exactly a nail biter this year. This rudeness was compounded by them leaving their plates and glasses in front of the TV.

It IS a little funny though that your dad would have done the same thing. It doesn’t excuse the guests preumptiousness, but I am glad you and your mom saw the humor in the situation.

Kind of reminds me of the episode of Friends where Ross’s dad and some guys are all listening to a game on the radio covertly during Ross’s grandma’s memorial service. Their team loses, and Ross’s dad loudly announces, well *now* I’m depressed.

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siamesecat 2965 February 5, 2013 at 8:40 am

A similar incident happened at my cousin’s 50th b-day party. Which was held at her SIL’s house, my other cousin. It was a small gathering, but her SO, who she says is a bit anti-social, I think mainly to excuse his behavior, and my cousin the host, had put the remote away, out of sight.

They arrived, and he immediatly seeks out the remote, so he could watch a baseball game. Not any kind of playoff, but just a regular old game. WHich I thought was quite rude, since a. his GF is the guest of honor, and b. the point of the gathering was to celebrate her birthday, NOT watch sports.

I personally think its rude too. While I am a huge sports fan, if there’s a game on, and I’m at someone’s house for something, I will either record it to watch later, or simply miss it.

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Julia February 5, 2013 at 8:59 am

I have a grandfather who, frankly, is the most selfish person I have ever known. My sister is autistic, and for her 16th birthday, wanted a small family party. He walked in the door and turned on the TV. My parents’ house is not large enough that this was in any way unobtrusive, or we would have happily left him to his own devices.

Once I managed to get her to stop crying, I quietly invited anyone who was interested to walk with us over to the beach to fly kites until dinner. We had a great time. I don’t think he even knew we were gone.

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Lychii February 5, 2013 at 9:08 am

I think that far worse than simply watching tv, is the fact these guests retired from the party to a room into which they apparently were not invited. Then didn’t even have the decency to clean up after themselves. What’s up with that?

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Erin February 5, 2013 at 9:24 am

The guests were pretty much telling the hosts that they weren’t nearly as important or interesting as what was on TV. Why bother showing up if that’s what they thought?

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Hel February 5, 2013 at 9:26 am

I think that’s horrible, esp considering it was obviously done in a sneaky way. If it’s that important to you, time your visit accordingly. Either apologise for having to leave early or send your apologies for not attending. No excuses. Reminds me of a wedding I went to with my then boyfriend. It was his family, they were huge(this was a “small” wedding at over 350 people). My one request was he didn’t sneak off to watch the rugby, since I didn’t know that many of his relatives at this stage. He did, along with numerous other members of his family,finding a room in the hotel with a large TV and texting each other to let them all know. The dinner ended up being delayed be nearly an hour as none of them arrived back, and when the guests finally DID go in they loudly complained about missing the last 10 mins. I felt so bad for the poor bride, it was obvious she knew this was why 40-50% of her guests didn’t turn up, but was smiling politely and not mentioning it to any of them. For a match, and not even an important one. I can’t imagine who’d ever consider this acceptable for a wake!

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Hel February 5, 2013 at 9:30 am

sorry just to explain how they all fitted in the hotel room, it wasn’t a bedroom but a large side room to one of the bars in the hotel with a screen. A hotel bedroom that could hold that many people all being able to see a tv would be something quite magical..

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Princess Buttercup February 5, 2013 at 9:45 am

It amazes me how much people worship sports, especially football. I’ve heard so many times “I’ll have to see if a game will be on, then get back to you”.
A game that makes no difference in the grand scheme of life should not rule your every move.
Funny that a little clean-up after your selfish selves could have kept anyone from noticing. Always clean up after yourself! :)
I host a lot of friends at my house and most leave dishes and trash everywhere and a general “wake of destruction”. The one that takes his dishes to the sink and rinses them and folds up his bedding, etc is welcome absolutely anytime he wants!

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WildIrishRose February 5, 2013 at 9:56 am

Regardless of how Dad would have done things, guests should *never* help themselves to a room with a TV if that’s not where the main event is being held. And even if it is, the TV stays OFF until the host/hostess decides otherwise. I’m with Admin. I too have trouble understanding people who can’t miss one game, regardless of its importance. Surely nearly everyone now has either a VCR or DVR and can record the game for later.

But the thing that would bother me more is finding dirty dishes in that room. What prevents people from cleaning up after themselves? Shame on those guests.

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--Lia February 5, 2013 at 9:58 am

I so often run into the opposite problem. I’ll be invited for an informal get-together, maybe just coffee or chit-chat. It could be more formal. The hosts leave a t.v. on in every room. Somehow the guests are expected to ignore it or talk over it or not be distracted by it. I never know what to say. Ask that they turn it off? Say I can’t pay attention to what they’re saying with it on? Leave quickly with the explanation that they must prefer to watch television? I get the idea that the t.v. doesn’t bother them at all. They leave it on the way they leave lights on or the air conditioning. For them, it’s just an appliance that they’re not fully aware of.

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Wendy B. February 5, 2013 at 10:14 am

I might have quietly slipped out for a few moments to check the score on the radio (I’ve done that for other games) but no game is worth missing a family event. My wedding was during my college team’s homecoming. I lived, so did all the other fans who attended. There might have been some quiet score checking via cell phone at some point, but it wasn’t disruptive and I didn’t care. Usurping the TV without at least asking is just…boorish.

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DGS February 5, 2013 at 10:21 am

Incredibly rude to turn on the TV without permission in someone’s home, doubly so at a memorial. I get that people can be a tad nutty about their sport or show of choice (my husband is a huge football fan), but scheduling one’s life around an athletic event to the expense of social obligations is quite silly. And, whatever happened to DVR or TIVO for people who want to watch the game?

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Lisa February 5, 2013 at 10:29 am

We live in Indiana which is a HUGE Big 10 basketball state. My first wedding in 1992 (or as I call it, my Mom’s wedding since I had NO SAY in it and did not know most people that attended!…I was WAY young!) was held in March. The reception was in a very nice K of C banquet hall. After we cut the cake, a huge TV was rolled out next to the DJ’s booth and a crowd gathered to watch the NCAA Playoffs! In all of my photos that the photographer took of the first dance, etc., there is a group off to the side sitting in their chairs, gathered in front of this TV!

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Laura C. February 5, 2013 at 10:42 am

Yes it was rude, but in an odd way a fitting tribute to the individual.

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Jane February 5, 2013 at 10:45 am

It was tacky, for sure. They could have had the decently to clean up their plates, yeesh. As Buttercup pointed out, if they’d only cleaned up after themselves, no one would have noticed.

Most here will disagree with this, but just from another POV: Was there another day the memorial could have been held? I live in SEC country (college football), and typically events are not planned for the day of the SEC Championship, since so many people are diehard fans. Having a wedding? Better set up some TVs. :)

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aka Cat February 5, 2013 at 10:46 am

I’m torn.

On the one hand, it’s very bad manners to wander into a room into which you’ve not been invited and make yourself at home with the TV. Ditto for watching the game to skip, of all things, a wake.

On the other hand… if these particular guests were in the habit of joining the OP’s father in going off to watch the game, and this is a game he would have ditched the party for, then in their own goofed up way they were honoring his memory. Mind you, I wouldn’t say this if the OP and her mom hadn’t got a laugh out of it.

I could actually see some members of my family going off to deliberately stage the TV room specifically in memory to the deceased. That is, they’d turn the TV on to the game, leave a couple of plates and glasses behind — and then returning to the wake.

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k February 5, 2013 at 10:59 am

Eh, I can’t get too excited about this one. The hosts were not offended, and the wandering guests were subtle enough that no one seemed to mention their absence during the get together. I would call it a misdemeanor at best.

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Tricia February 5, 2013 at 11:10 am

Unfortunately, this is a common theme, particularly among the male species. Lots of folks just assume that everyone is as into football as they are and would be indignant after reading this post (I can hear it now – “Who isn’t watching the AFC championship???).

I have hosted events at my home in which men were sorely disappointed to look for my TV, only to find I don’t have one. This fact thwarts their rude ways, but if I had a TV I would do exactly what the admin suggested – quietly turn the TV off and, if confronted, ask if I can get their coat to watch the game elsewhere.

I am very specific in my invitations for events at my home. Board Game night means just that. “80′s sing-a-long around the piano night” is not secret code for “please come into my home and monopolize the noise level with a loud game”.

P.S. What is the AFC championship??

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Ergala February 5, 2013 at 11:17 am

This is a big reason why I despise televised sports. Growing up if there was a game on that is what was on TV. It didn’t matter if the people wanting to see it fell asleep in the middle, if you dared change that channel be prepared to get yelled at immediately.

Our TV is in our living room which is right where all the entertaining usually occurs. I’ve solved the problem of the TV being put onto a sports channel. Neither my husband or I follow sports at all, we watch the super bowl for the commercials and for the halftime show. When we have a party we change the channel beforehand to one of the music only channels. Not like MTV, it’s a commercial-less radio station on TV. Usually we pick jazz or if it’s a holiday we do the holiday themed one. We have a big TV so it is very very tempting for some to change it to football or baseball or whatever else is going on. Only one person has ever changed the channel and it was another guest who told them to switch it back.

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AS February 5, 2013 at 11:20 am

Turning on the TV at a party is one of my pet peeves (ofcourse, unless it is a TV party, like watching the Super bowl / Oscars / a movie or serial, etc. I feel that it totally kills the party because you can’t quite socialize because everyone is watching the TV. Why take the pains to go to someone’s house and just watch some random channel when you could have done that just as well at your own home! But I am not a TV person, and maybe that affects what I think.
On the other hand, I do love to watch some things, like games. You can’t get me off the TV when the world cup football (soccer) or Olympics is going on (well, I don’t want to loose my job; but at other times)! But if I go to a “party” to honor a deceased friend or a family member, or any other party that I accepted the invitation to, I would not be spending the time in front of the TV watching the game! At the end of the day, any game is not more important than the real life relationships that we have; and now-a-days, you can always watch the games on internet later.

We actually had our wedding on the same day as Euro cup finals! But hubby and I decided that we would rather enjoy our wedding than spend time watching the game :P! Our sports-fan family and friends felt the same way too.

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KMC February 5, 2013 at 11:36 am

I have an uncle who will take it upon himself to be in charge of the TV no matter who he is visiting. My parents often host family birthday or holiday dinners at their house. He would walk in, sit down and turn on the TV to whatever he wanted to watch. Usually football or basketball. It drove me crazy when I was growing up. But him being my uncle and my parents putting up with it, I never felt I could say anything.

As an adult, when I decided to host a Mother’s Day brunch, I invited my aunt and uncle. I put the TV remote away in the cupboard underneath the TV. The first thing my uncle did was walk into the living room and look for the remote. For some reason, he didn’t want to ask me about it. I heard him tell my aunt to ask me where our remote was. She did and I told her “I put it away. I wasn’t planning on turning on the TV during brunch.”

She and my uncle argued quietly for a few minutes and I heard her whisper loudly “Just BE here with us for once!”

I’m not the only one who was tired of it.

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MichelleP February 5, 2013 at 11:41 am

Been there, done that. My ex BIL would CHANGE what I had on when he and my sister would come to my house for dinner. He got it from his dad; my sister still tells stories about her ex FIL.

He would come into their house and turn off the TV, and the overhead fan, adjust the thermostat, etc.

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The Elf February 5, 2013 at 11:58 am

Princess Buttercup, watching sports is no different than any other passion except in one major way: it’s on someone else’s timetable. And as a football fan (Ravens), I totally get it the desire to watch a big game live. It does not rule my every move (does anything?), but I won’t lie and say it wasn’t a very big part of my fall and winter schedule this year. The AFC championship was a very big deal if you were a Patriots or Ravens fan, less so if you are a football fan generally or devoted to another team. OP doesn’t say if she is located in the Mid-Atlantic or New England areas, where it is likely that there were several Patriots or Ravens fan in attendance. And, yes, that does make a difference. Football is the most popular sport in America; you could expect something as big as the AFC championship to be close to omnipresent if the local team is playing.

THAT SAID….. This was a wake, however informal. It should be assumed that there wouldn’t be the game on no matter how popular the event, unless told otherwise. So guests who are football fans should either decline attendence, plan to stay only for part of the event, or tape it and watch it later. And, if they really wanted to see if they can both attend the memorial and keep up on the game, they should ask the host rather than assume, preferably in advance. It’s not like the game schedule and the wake schedule was a surprise! That’s where the guests really mess it up. I completely agree that turning on the TV without the host’s consent and knowledge is absolutely rude. As Abby said, it would be easy enough to just occassionally check the score via smartphone. It can be done discretely with minimal interruption.

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Twik February 5, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Allie, if friends came to your home, and turned on, say, your computer, you’d “lighten up”, and consider it acceptable practice? What if you came out from the kitchen to find a guest had taken your car for a short spin, just as a “mixer”?

Guests don’t mess with their hosts stuff. If you want to watch the TV, there is a simple idea that is just crazy enough it might work – *ask* the host if you can turn it on. If it’s not YOUR TV, you don’t touch it unless given permission.

To turn on the TV during a wake is beyond the pale. It’s telling the hosts “I’m tired of talking about your lost loved one. Let’s do something interesting now.”

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Ashley February 5, 2013 at 12:21 pm

I’m used to my family being able to multi task and watch whatever game is on while still having a complete conversation…but at a wake, without asking or anything? Not cool.

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Library Diva February 5, 2013 at 12:22 pm

It always makes me sad to see people prioritizing manufactured entertainment over the company of those they ostensibly care about. Whether it’s skipping social events to watch something on TV, turning on the TV in the middle of an unrelated party, cutting short an outing so you don’t miss whatever’s going on, spending the entire social gathering engrossed in your phone getting updates on the score of the game, it just seems like a sad way to live, and yes, rude to the people you’re with. They may not confront you about your behavior, but it’s definitely noticed.

Has anyone ever seen the movie Avalon? You could argue that it’s about how TV destroyed social relationships. It opens with a Thanksgiving in an undetermined date in the late 1940s or early 1950s, with a horde of children engrossed in their grandfather’s story about how he came to America. When the TV comes in, everyone starts watching that more and more, even just the test pattern. Over the years, family tensions and the increasing busyness of modern life shrink Thanksgiving. In the mid 1960s, they’re eating turkey dinners on TV trays, just the grandfather, his son and daughter-in-law and their children. At the end, one of the children is grown, with a son of his own, visiting the grandfather in a nursing home. The grandfather starts to tell the boy the story of how he came to America, but in mid-sentence, heartbreakingly realizes that the boy’s eyes have not moved from the TV set the entire time he’s been in the room, and breaks off the story.

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Shannon February 5, 2013 at 12:38 pm

My wedding was the same day as the Carolina-Duke basketball game. And I’m a Carolina alum, as were many of my guests. We had a TV on in the corner at the reception (which was informal and in a pub). A few guests latched a bit too strongly to the TV, but other guests were able to nudge them away for things like the first dance and cake cutting.

I suppose I could have been deeply offended, but honestly…it just wasn’t that big a deal to me.

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Shalamar February 5, 2013 at 12:54 pm

I know I’ve posted about this before, but I once had a confrontation with my brother-in-law when he switched on our TV during a family gathering on *Christmas Day* so that he could watch a football game. I was furious, but I kept my temper and simply turned it off again, saying “Sorry, we’re visiting right now and the TV stays off.” He had a tantrum and stormed out, saying “I can’t even watch THE GAME!” His wife (my husband’s sister) said beseechingly “Can’t you let him watch the game? Don’t you want your guests to feel comfortable?” My husband said “The thing is, if the TV is on, it’s distracting and disruptive to anyone who doesn’t want to watch it – and that makes US uncomfortable.”

To this day, I’ve been tempted to visit my brother-in-law and turn on *his* TV to a “Doctor Who” marathon, and if he protests, I’ll say “But I want to watch this. Don’t you want your guests to be comfortable?”

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Angel February 5, 2013 at 1:00 pm

It’s a shame and in many ways, it’s their loss. The ones who retired into the other room to watch the game I mean. Not just because the game was not very exciting, but also because they missed out on time with family and close friends for something that will be forgotten about in a few days. I remember the day I got married. On the advice of a close friend, because we were just so busy all day, visiting guests and socializing, making sure everyone was taken care of, we took about 10 minutes to just stand off to the side and observe. All those people were there to celebrate with us, and for some of the older guests, it was actually the last time we got to spend time with them. We slowed down and watched. It was amazing and I won’t ever forget it. We had a great photographer and that certainly helped but there is no substitute for experiences.

It’s important to keep a sense of humor about stuff like this though. My husband is an avid football fan, however, even he wouldn’t retire to another room to watch the AFC championship game during a memorial gathering. And certainly I wouldn’t have gone into another room that is not set up for a party–and just bring food in there. That’s a no no.

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Shalamar February 5, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Forgot to add this:

Tricia said “Lots of folks just assume that everyone is as into football as they are and would be indignant after reading this post (I can hear it now – “Who isn’t watching the AFC championship???). ”

YES. EXACTLY. People who are into sports cannot wrap their heads around the fact that not everyone lives and dies by the football/baseball/basketball/soccer schedule. I gathered up my courage and threw myself a birthday party a few years ago, and hardly anyone showed up. Why? Well, I found out afterwards that I’d booked it for the same night as a football game. I’d had no idea (I don’t follow sports at all). People said indignantly afterwards “Well, of COURSE I couldn’t go to your party, the GAME was on!”

Count me among the people who have no clue what an AFC championship is. :)

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LonelyHound February 5, 2013 at 2:48 pm

I have only known two times where events specifically allowed tv. One was the Christmas parties I used to attend with my parents. All were at the upper mangement houses, which were never really kid-proof. So, to prevent breakage of important things, and this is where it get really good, the host and partners would buy ALL the children gifts; have footballs, soccer balls and baseballs outside for those brave enough to play; AND would open up their family rooms for holiday movies for the kiddos. My SIL had a very small intimate family wedding at the grooms house a few years ago. they specifically planned it for a big football game so they could get the maximum number of people. They held the cermony, reception and cake cutting BEFORE the game. Then the tv went on and people were invited to talk or watch the game. Both these events were specifically designed to ALLOW the tv to be used and watched.

At OP’s wake it was not. I was raised that touching something that does not belong to you is wrong. My parents also taught me that it was impolite to ask to turn on a tv during someone’s party citing, “Would you want someone to be watching tv during your birthday party?” The wake was specifically designed to remember OP’s father, just like a birthday party is specifically designed to celebrate the birthday girl/boy or a Chirstmas party is designed to celebrate the season with family and friends. Turning on a tv in a room that is obviously not being used to entertain in is rude in my opinion.

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Qwisp February 5, 2013 at 3:09 pm

While I can see everyones point, I am so used to having the TV on in the background (to to my husband and father) that I no longer notice it any more. I also have found that it can be a social lubricant if a game is on.
In response to Shalamar, there is nothing more important than a Doctor Who marathon :D I fully expect my funeral to be scheduled around it!

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Angeldrac February 5, 2013 at 3:18 pm

I must say, I feel a bit for the the teen in the situation admin describes.
I was the oldest child, by many years, of all my parent’s friends and loathed social gatherings as I was inevitably asked to “go and watch the little kids” (God forbid anything ever happened to them under my watch!) or was left hanging around like a bad smell with the adults, ultimately stifling their conversation. The kindest thing some of those hosts ever did for me was to offer me a quiet spot in their house with the tv and/or book shelf.
While I agree that it was rude for the teen in question to have just “helped himself” to the tv, in situations like mine, I feel that offering the tv is actually a mark of a fantastically gracious host.
In OP’s situation, of course, though, the guest’s behaviour was disgraceful. I’m glad you look on it with good humour!

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Shalamar February 5, 2013 at 5:54 pm

Same here, Qwisp! :)

I had somewhat of a reverse experience, too – once again, this was with my husband’s family, and once again it was when we were hosting Christmas Day dinner. I’d popped a CD of Christmas carols into the stereo in the livingroom, then I went to the kitchen to check on the food. When I came out, the livingroom was dead silent – no talking, and more to the point, no music. Puzzled, I went up to the stereo and found that it was turned off. My sister-in-law said airily “Oh, it was too loud, and no-one wanted to listen to that stuff anyway, so I turned it off.”

I turned it right back on again and said tightly “*I* want to listen to it, thanks.” (I did turn down the volume, though.)

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Ellen February 5, 2013 at 6:03 pm

It is not just televised sports – I have a cousin who RSVP’ed to my wedding – and then called back 2 days before the event to decline for his family, citing that his son had a baseball game. His son was 6 years old.

Certainly, everyone is entitled to prioritize their own schedule, but a) the short notice, after the caterer’s headcount was final, and b) detailing the reason, was very rude and offensive. If he had merely said that something had come up and they could not attend, it would be an inconvenience, but not insulting. Sometimes “the truth and nothing but the truth” does not need to be “the whole truth”.

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Barbarian February 5, 2013 at 6:36 pm

TV has taken over our culture in every way, but etiquette has not caught up to it. Keep in mind, TV’s are now in each and every room of some people’s homes, families eat meals in front of the TV, and they are mandatory fixtures in most restaurants-even fine dining. In one city’s upscale restaurant, there was even a small screen in the toilet stall!

As such, people don’t always understand they can be intrusive in a social setting. They get surprised to be asked to socialize without them. The TV has been a challenging area of etiquette in our home. For example, every T-day and X-mas, DH and his best buddy hole up in the TV room watching science fiction shows hr after hr that just do not interest the rest of the guests-his 82 yr old mom and her 92 yr old sister who come from out of town to be with us. This year, I found a solution-while cleaning the TV room, I pre-selected three DVD movies that would interest them and everybody visiting.

We all watched those with breaks for meals and games. A better time was had by all.

Just remember-it’s your home, your TV or your social gathering. You set the rules. Get a polite spine and proudly wear your “Entertainment Sheriff” badge. What you say goes. If your guests get unhappy and leave, then their friendship is probably not of great value if they can’t peel themselves away from an electronic device long enough to interact with you. Personally, I would be very unhappy if I paid for a wedding or reception and the guests took it upon themselves to watch a football game or other TV show during an event I paid for!

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Anonymous February 5, 2013 at 7:34 pm

Okay, this really doesn’t reflect well on the TV-watching guests, but is there any possible way that their train of thought might have been something along the lines of, “OP’s Dad loved football, and if he was still here, he’d be watching it with us?”

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Library Dragon February 5, 2013 at 9:04 pm

This was rude to the family. As others have said the worship of sports is outrageous. My husband and I attended a retreat our first November in Alabama. After lunch the retreat leader was missing. He sent word that he wouldn’t return until the Iron Bowl was over. I was clueless and angry (great way to be at a retreat). I didn’t realize it was the high holiday of Alabama football (annual game between Alabama and Auburn). If the retreat leader wanted to watch football he shouldn’t have accepted the invitation. We left, checked into a hotel and just spent time together. I was amazed at the number of people who just shrugged it off.

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Ms Kitty February 5, 2013 at 9:32 pm

Ugh! This is a personal pet peeve of mine. My husband’s dad and stepmother host fairly regular family get-togethers (DH’s side), and without exception the TV in the living room is on and tuned to some sporting event—football, hockey, golf (sooooo boring), it doesn’t matter—and attention and what conversation there is, is generally focused on whatever is transpiring on the screen. Oddly neither my FIL nor my step-MIL really care that much about sports and are very gracious and etiquette-savvy people so I am at a loss as to why this always happens. I was raised with the idea that social events, including even the most informal family gatherings, were meant for, you know, socializing–conversation, group games, and other forms of live interaction during which the focus is on eachother, not on the Idiot Box. DH and I drive an hour each way to attend and, frankly, sometimes I resent it when I could just as easily stay home and watch something I wanted to watch, or, more likely, read a good book. Of course, the free-flowing alcohol generally mellows me out considerably!

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Jdbar93 February 5, 2013 at 9:44 pm

While the behaviour here is pretty clearly rude, it does offer an interesting perspective on the array of what’s “normal” at a social event. There should probably be an expectation of no outside distraction or entertainment at more or less formal events like funerals, wakes, weddings, but I’ve found pretty significant variety when it comes to less formal holidays gatherings, for example.

When my side of the family gathers it is usually pretty freewheeling with everybody in every room of the house…and a sporting event of some kind is usually on, mainly as “social lubricant”. This is largely because my father grew up in a home where (in his recollection) gatherings were incredibly stilted, formal, with awkward conversation and even more awkward silence as everyone sat in the living room. Consequently, I unconsciously developed the understanding that most times social/family gathering = sports. There was then a rude awakening when I started attended my wife’s family functions, which are perfectly pleasant, but the tv usually stays off. The first few were kind of painful as I adjusted to hours of simple sitting and small-talk and I’ll confess I didn’t hide my discomfort as well as I should have. As the years have gone by, I’ve learned that small children also provide significant “social lubricant” value too…and definitely prevent things from ever becoming dull.

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NostalgicGal February 5, 2013 at 9:56 pm

My parents place, that TV was on from test pattern to the national anthem, and when TV programming went 24 hours it was from dad up to dad to bed. Nobody’d be in there but grief it HAD TO BE ON and I’d catch it if nobody was in there and I’d turn it off. So almost anything including family gatherings for holiday, the Thing Had To Be On. If you wanted to talk or play cards or such you had to head for another room in the house. Even the basement (which wasn’t really finished, trust me)

Many years later, we have a flatscreen IN the bedroom and none in the living room… and we de-cabled and de-satellited. (both priced themselves into ridiculous, I won’t go over the bait and sneak routine the satellite did to try to get me back). We have a dongle thing that is plugged into the back of the set and stuff streams to it. I want to have a party and NO tv, I remove that little bit (a bit flatter and wider than a disposable lighter) and hide it. We have NO broadcast and without that there is NO tv. The computers and our wifi are password protected, so. If a guest is sooooo desperate they will have to resort to cellphone or go home. If someone does find a remote and ‘it won’t work’ I just smile and nod, ‘yes we stream our TV and the streamer bit thingy is busted, and on order…’

If I am in another’s house their things are not mine to play with unless it’s made clear they are.

As far as an etiquette breach, yes this is, and at least the OP could see something good in it anyway.

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Barbarian February 5, 2013 at 10:21 pm

To Julia,

I’m sorry your grandfather ruined your sister’s party. It is inexcuseable for an able-bodied person to turn on a TV without the host’s permission. For elderly folks, you may have to make some allowances and exceptions. For example, my late FIL lost his leg to diabetes at the age of 77. He also lost his mobility. He spent his final 6 years a very introverted & depressed person. He had poor eyesight from a stroke and therefore could not read and enjoy books like he used to. He was essentially confined to his recliner in the living room with the TV, a stereo, and a VCR to keep him occupied until he passed away at age 83. It is true he was rude and overbearing and would watch TV anywhere at home or visiting us without asking anybody. To top it off, he would also watch the TV at a deafening volume and change the channel without asking anyone else if they were watching that show. This behavior may have been annoying, but you need to put it into perspective. He lost his health. The TV was his connection to the outside world and the remote was probably the only thing he controlled in his last years. Yes his behavior was annoying, but when you have the blessing of two legs and can go wherever you want, putting up with it was a small price to pay. I don’t know your grandfather, but old age does exacerbate rude behavior. Maybe the Tv had become one of his few ways to be connected to the world as he aged and he was too stubborn to give that up, no matter what was going on around him.

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Kate February 5, 2013 at 10:58 pm

I don’t think having a wake/memorial after the funeral service is restricted to religious funeral ceremonies. I’ve been to five or six non-religious funerals and they’ve all had some sort of get-together following the service.

I do think it was an etiquette breach. I am probably one of the more football obsessed people you’ll ever meet (Aussie Rules footy, though!) and even I wouldn’t turn the TV on during someone else’s event. Unless the host switched the footy on themselves, I would assume it was rude to even ask and would just settle for a discreet check of the score on my phone, maybe while in the bathroom so as not to seem rude.
Heck, I went to a wedding *during* the Grand Final (like the Superbowl for Aussie Rules) and managed not to check the score! Fortunately my team were not participating.

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Backup February 5, 2013 at 11:59 pm

Ha. Reminds me of a friend’s wedding I went to, that coincided with ‘a big game’. Her uncle found a TV with cable and set it right up, ignored the bride’s request to shut it off, then the uncle’s wife had the audacity to say it’s the BRIDE’S fault for scheduling a wedding on a day where everyone would be watching the game, and that’s why no one showed up to her wedding. Poor girl was left in tears and as far as I know still doesn’t speak to them.

(For the record, it was a small wedding with few guests by choice, not that Aunt More-People-Means-More-Presents would get that.)

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Allie February 6, 2013 at 11:43 am

Twik, anyone I like well enough to have in my home is welcome to any of my stuff, within reason, of course. None of my friends would steal my car and that isn’t really a comparable example to turning on my TV or using my computer. I did not suggest it’s acceptable for a guest to turn on the TV in any situation, but at a larger party where groups of guests are gathered in different areas, some chatting, some eating, some admiring your potted plants or discussing you artwork, I don’t think it’s a big deal. And I don’t think TV is the great evil of our times. Like I said, in some circumstances, it can actually help people interact by acting as an ice breaker and point of conversation. At the party I mentioned, I don’t know who turned on the TV as I joined in after the fact. For all I know, it was the host. He came in later to check on us and had the caterers bring some of the food down for us, so he was fine with it. When you are hosting a large party, it’s very difficult to take care of all your guests at once, and I think he was just glad we were enjoying ourselves.

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Mark February 6, 2013 at 1:51 pm

For me it would depend on who the guest is, and what the occasion is. If it’s close family coming over for a general get together. I really wouldn’t mind. If it a specific event, and I don’t know you very well. I would appreciate you keeping your hands off my stuff with out asking first.

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Nina J. Hodgson February 6, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Guys, it’s like this. Suppose I’m a HUGE opera fan, and Traviata is on live! Suppose I went to the TV and turned to that station and turned the sound up in the middle of a gathering. How would you all respond to that? Would it matter if it was live from the Met and the Berry Brothers are singing? Doubt it. This, fellows, is how the constant stream of sports adulation is to lots of other people. Just a voice from the other side.

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