I didn't want to believe the general human population was as mindless as the whiners say. When more people preferred Two and a Half Men over Arrested Development, I figured there were just a bunch of smart people slipping through the survey cracks. When the standards for celebrity status were lowered to the point where one merely had to be related to someone else famous to get in, I at least held out some hope.

What it took for that hope to vanish was when I found out a book called The Secret was a runaway bestseller and inspiring people all across the country. If you aren't familiar with the Secret this book reveals, it's that you can have anything if you wish hard enough for it.

No, really. That's the Secret. It's really that simplistic and fairy-tale-based: if you really concentrate, you can always get your own way. As with most popular things that don't make sense, this one was set into motion by Oprah, when she picked it as one of her Books of the Month. What Oprah, a woman who has already had all her dreams come true, would find in this kind of philosophy is a mystery to me, as well as why she would seduce all her gullible fans into falling for it. Stupidity can be fatal if encouraged: Oprah soon got a letter from a woman who had halted her chemotherapy because she believed using The Secret would wish away her breast cancer. The following day, Oprah nervously went on stage and said "Okay, I wanted to get you into this book, but I didn't mean for you to get THAT into it..."

The most telling thing about the whole incident was that it happened shortly after Oprah's endorsement of James Frey's A Million Little Pieces, and the debacle afterward when it turned out much of the book's "true" events were fabricated. Oprah brought Frey back on her show just to give him a verbal beat-down, then swore she would never let herself get fooled by a book again. And then she endorsed The Secret.

I know people have a tendency to only listen to what they want to hear, but I didn't think they were mentally deficient enough to take it to this kind of extreme. That's just shocking and depressing. Besides, I already found out about The Secret at age seven and gave up on it within a week.

It was thanks to Tiger Town, a 1983 Disney TV-movie. Tiger Town was at the video rental store; these places were great for stumbling across all sorts of rare, obscure and strange VHS movies with sun-faded off-color covers. I based most of my rental decisions on the appeal of those covers, and at the time my latest phase was baseball. I was gathering up baseball cards with a passion, and I was also part of an afterschool softball team. Why baseball? Because I was a dweeb.

Tiger Town was about a shrimp named Alex, a devotee of the Detroit Tigers but specifically of Billy Young, an aging former superstar who was playing his last season. As the film opens, Alex is at Tiger Stadium watching Billy strike out again, in super-slow-motion that goes slower than life even WITH fast-forward activated.

Alex's pop took him to the film's first game, but becomes ill and can't take him to the second one. He slaps him bus fare and says, "Don't tell your mother." Then, for some reason he grabs Alex's hand, some tender music starts up and he utters with sincere urgency, "Alex, remember what I told you....if you believe in something with all your heart....you can make it happen." What was that suddenly about?

Anyone who's seen a fair amount of movies before can guess: that was Alex's last conversation with his dad. He comes home to find not his father, but twenty old relatives in the living room. One of them takes him aside and says, with no subtlety, "Your dad's dead." What of is never discussed. In the scenes before this, he looked plenty healthy.

So, if you believe in something with all your heart, you can make it happen? Alex sneaks into the next Tigers game and decides to try out his father's dying words. Maybe he can make his father return from the grave? NO! What he REALLY wants is for that Billy Young guy to hit a home run! So he closes his eyes as tight as he can and clasps his hands together, and Billy Young steps up to the plate, and Alex is still squinting with all his might, and Young takes the swing....

HOME RUN!! The stadium erupts in cheers and applause from everyone, except for Alex, who sits there watching it with his jaw open, thinking "HOLY MACARONI! I did that!" Alex can make that old guy hit homers! By wishing him to!

He just has to test it out again. He waits impatiently through school until the bell rings, then races to Tiger Stadium, sneaks into the next game and squints again, and Young comes up to bat, and he swings....and it's ANOTHER HOME RUN!! That proves it beyond a shadow of a doubt!

The next day, he's at the cafeteria picking at his food and wondering what else he can do. No one else is watching at the moment, so he starts squinting at his milk carton intensely, and that high-pitched ringing noise from The Shining starts up....but it's never revealed what he wanted to do to it, as he's interrupted by "Do you have to go to the bathroom or something?"

During Alex's next meal, his mom begins to notice he's been acting a little odd lately. He's picking at his dinner in the same manner he was picking at his lunch. He doesn't attempt anything with his mind on the meatloaf, but he's still exhibiting peculiar behavior. "How's...how's your schoolwork?" she says to strike up a conversation. "Guess what? Billy Young's gonna hit a home run in the ninth inning of tomorrow's game!" Alex chirpily replies. His mom chalks that up to youthful optimism and dismisses the comment.

Until the following day, when Alex is once again at the game and his mom is watching it on television. Young hits a homer in the ninth inning. She almost burns an iron-shaped hole in her shirt.

"How did you know that was going to happen?" she asks him afterward.
"Easy. I just go to the games, and every time Young is up to bat, I just think really hard. I wish for him to hit a homer. And he does."
She has difficulty swallowing that.
"Know what else? The Tigers are going to win the pennant," he says with an air of confidence. Things will be different now that he's in charge...

Or that's what he thinks. The Tigers play their next game elsewhere, and Alex has to settle for watching it on TV. As Young comes to the plate, Alex makes his stupid-looking face again....yet this time, nothing happens. Young strikes out. Maybe the game is tape-delayed? Or maybe his powers don't work through the TV! He has to always physically be there, or Young won't win the games! Listening to a talk radio show about sports statistics, Alex figures out that the Tigers must win 27 games from this point to earn a shot at the pennant. Forget school--some things are way more important!

He sneaks out of class the next day to attend the next home game. He runs into a minor hang-up with the hall monitor--"You need your education when you're as stupid as you!"--but there's corruption in elementary law enforcement and the monitor can be bribed for the price of one dollar. "Hey, bring me back a beer!"
Young smacks another one over the wall, but Alex's mom is less than thrilled with his new life mission.
"What's the matter with you, thinking you can skip school?"
"But Moooom, if I'm not there the Tigers won't win! Why don't you believe me?"
"Because it's STUPID! You can't WISH people into doing things!"
Hear that, Oprah?

Alex arrives at the next game anyway, but feels guilty about betraying his mom's wishes and leaves early. And it affects the game. THIS time, the ball doesn't connect with Young's bat, but ends up hitting him right in the head. It's kind of sad how this guy needs a mind-link with an eight-year-old to function.

Alex believes the bean ball is his fault, and feels even guiltier about abandoning Young. "I can get out early! Just say you have to work and I need to be home!" he pleads with Mom, who's still not entirely convinced. Then Alex plays the dead-dad card by pointing out this all started with his final statement to him, and that he needs to fulfull it to make his father happy. This, Mom bends to. A montage of successful games follows, with Alex psychically rigging each of them.

Inevitably, it all leads to one situation: World Series, winning game, behind by two, bottom of the ninth, two outs, bases loaded, Billy Young up to bat, and Human Performance Enhancer locked out of the game due to arriving too late. What it boils down to is that the other kids got tired of him getting to leave school early so often, and decided to rough him up. They also stole his ticket money, so he has to sneak inside.....

Strike one! Strike two! When it all counts, can this decrepit player fulfill his lifelong dream and hit a home run BY HIMSELF?
......What do you think?

Actually, he might have had help, and he might not have....the movie leaves that a question, as the moment Young's bat connects with the ball, Alex finally breaks into the stadium and rushes out screaming "NOOOOOOOOOO!!!" Whether he received one last blast of Alex, no one knows.

I was Alex's age when I first watched this, and I started wondering if I could develop a similar power to get whatever I wanted. It couldn't hoit to try, so when we went back to the video rental store to return the tape and get something else, I put all my world-shaping will into the next video box I grabbed off the shelf. "I COMMAND THIS VIDEO TO BE A COMEDY!!" I thought with all my might.

We took it home, and sonofagun, it was a comedy. It worked! Now you might be scoffing and saying, "They group those genres together." Ah...but the video was not ON the comedy shelf when I grabbed it. So what do you think of that?

I took my newfound powers to the playground. When I got in trouble and was banished to lean on the chain-link fence for the next five minutes, I started staring at the empty swing over on the left end of the playground and thought, "I COMMAND THAT SWING TO STILL BE EMPTY WHEN I FINISH SERVING MY SENTENCE!!" ....I did this several times and sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.

After a few hit-and-miss days I figured out nothing was really happening and I quit trying to shape things with my mind. Perhaps all those people following The Secret will figure this out as well, hopefully sooner rather than later. I mean, it took a seven-year-old child about five days.

But maybe I'm putting too much faith in humanity.