The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Envision a planet with two moons. One is visible only once a year, the other every four years. The second arrives in approximate alignment with the first.
We approach something similar next week, a two-moon February with the appearance of the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics, in that order. One need not be a sports enthusiast to welcome and appreciate these phenomena; they have social consequences and impact far beyond the confines of the sports section of the — I almost said newspaper — of the world of sports media.
Security will be breath-stealingly tight at each event. There will be winners and losers and kids watching who want to become those they observe. Patriotism, and its cousin, commercialism, will be on parade, and there likely will be a few scandals involving cheating, in competitive cauldrons more cut-throat than Wall Street or the entertainment business.
The takeaway, for those who follow the action via the media, notably television, will likely be whatever we bring to it. If we look for examples of bravery, talent, excellence supported by hard work, we will find it. If we see young people ready to trade broken bones, early hip replacement surgery and chronic traumatic encephalopathy for the possibility of fame and glory, it will unfold.
We will not cheer for these athletes when they are 50 years old and too feeble or damaged to walk down the stairs, so let us cheer for them now.
We can ponder Latvia’s Olympic hockey team, coached by the Buffalo Sabres’ Ted Nolan, a Canadian who is also of the Ojibway Nation, and consider whether any endeavor other than hockey could have made arrangements such as those for his life, or for that team.
Will you watch the Super Bowl in part for the commercials, or the halftime show? Will you watch at least some of the Olympics for the spectacle, or the possibility of the incidence of low-level terrorism?
Each event has a new hook to it, this February. The Super Bowl will be played, controversially, in whatever weather falls on New Jersey that day, an open-air, outdoor championship game in cold weather. Just like the ones they played before there was a Super Bowl.
Read the list of National or American Football League championships played prior to 1966; they were contested on the home field of one of the competing teams, which means they were overwhelmingly played in winter conditions in the Midwest or northeast. Chicago’s Wrigley Field figures prominently, and regularly, on the list. Buffalo’s War Memorial Stadium is there as well, in 1964 (Buffalo 20, San Diego 7, attendance 40,242, one of whom was me).
The Winter Olympics will be held in a summer resort town with billions expended to turn it into a winter resort town. By Russians. A few miles away from a hotbed of terrorism. Some of whose residents have publicly announced their intent to disrupt the events. Choose your hook.
The Super Bowl has become our secular holiday, and I am not the first to note it. “Our” holiday, the way Independence Day is a day to show off our Americaness to the world (welcome, new citizen) but Inauguration Day is ours alone, with no invited guests from other countries. This game is all about us, hard-working, hard-fighting, beer-drinking, patriotic us, right down to the fighter planes roaring overhead. (If you see fighter planes at the Olympics in February, you’ll know there’s trouble.)
Certain homes will have Super Bowl parties, with invited guests who won’t care about the outcome of the game. In that manner it’s replaced traditional Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners in splintered, busy homes. Secular holiday, indeed.
I’ve heard of Olympics parties in homes where figure skating is particularly admired, and if the Canadians and Americans play in hockey’s gold-medal round, expect a lot of impromptu gatherings in Western New York homes.
Annually in football, quadrennially in snow-covered events, sport delivers its best to us, and it brings with it the best commercials, the best in television technology, the best in chauvinist bombast.
So observe what it offers, next week and beyond, especially if you’re not a sports fan and wonder why you pay for a dozen or more cable channels you do not regularly watch.
I remember soccer’s World Cup when it was contested in the United States in 1994. It began with a recital by opera’s Three Tenors (Pavarotti, Domingo, Carreras), which I watched on television mostly to see if an opera program could be pulled off in a baseball stadium (Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles). It was pulled off marvelously. I have no idea how the soccer matches turned out.Ed Adamczyk is a Kenmore resident whose column appears Fridays in the Tonawanda News. Contact him at EdinKenmore@gmail.com.