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Stay calm and sometimes stay seated

On a recent drive to Saskatoon, I had the radio tuned to a popular call-in show where folks, on this particular day, were given the opportunity to voice their concerns or air their beefs. My attention was immediately caught by one woman who called to complain about the overuse of the standing ovation.

"Yes!" I wanted to shout (to no one in particular since I was travelling alone), but had someone been with me I would have offered a high five. Finally someone was brave enough to say what many of us have been thinking, but reluctant to voice. Maybe if there were enough of us out there, I thought, we could put an end to this blatant and indiscriminate misuse of a well-intentioned gesture.

The standing ovation, according to Wikipedia, is a form of applause where members of a seated audience stand up while applauding after an extraordinary performance of particularly high acclaim. But these days the quality of the performance does not seem to factor into the equation. Even after the most mediocre of acts, some over-zealous individual will jump to his or her feet (quickly followed, I might add, by several other jack-in-the-box imitators scattered throughout the theatre) clapping enthusiastically for a less-than-stellar presentation.

Meanwhile those seated nearby squirm uncomfortably in their seats, trying to figure out what to do, until they feel compelled (by some side long glances from the initiator) to also rise to their feet.

Usually I try to wait out the uncalled for and undeserved, over-the-top response, but inevitably I succumb to audience pressure instead of wanting to appear like some unimpressed concert snob, and reluctantly stand and join the crowd.

But I can't help wondering that if the benchmark for standing ovations has become the ordinary, ho-hum performance, what does one do for a truly wonderful display of talent? I suppose some enthusiastic whistling or shouts of "Bravo!" might be in order. Maybe standing on one's chair? But why should this be necessary when there already exists a means of acknowledging excellent performances - it's called a standing ovation.

By over-utilizing the standing O, we have rendered it ineffective and meaningless. We seem to be living in an age where instead of praising what is superb, we are more focussed on bringing everyone to the lowest common denominator. Maybe it's time we stood up for, or should I say, stay seated, in order to make a point.

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