Tonawanda News

October 25, 2013

Patron of the arts, in a Bills shirt

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Time, being a variable and artificial construct, can be told in many ways. What feels like a beginning to some is a conclusion for others.

The broadcaster Marv Albert was once in a horrendous car accident, and while awaiting an ambulance, a police officer kept him talking and answering a stream of questions to keep him conscious. What season is it?, he asked. Basketball season, Albert replied. 

If you follow sport (or can be described by that odious term “sports fan,” a pejorative that bothers me more than “history buff” or “illegitimate child”), you know you’re now in a brief syzygy (really; it means “planetary alignment”) of the so-called “seasons” of sport — baseball’s departure from the stage converges with the middle of football’s year, hockey’s has just begun and the curtain is about to rise on basketball.

For some of us, those are the life’s four seasons, with apologies to Antonio Vivaldi and Frankie Valli. 

Frank Zappa, the rock star, composer and crank, once pointed out what the world needed was fewer all-purpose auditoriums and more concert halls in which basketball can be played, and he’s right. The stage of New York’s Radio City Music Hall has been used for boxing matches and basketball. Los Angeles’ (outdoor) Dodger Stadium was used, at least once, for an opera recital. Some of us can appreciate this sort of thing.

There are those capable of intelligently yelling about (pick any) dropping a pass that hits a receiver in the numbers, messing up the give-and-go, whiffing on an inside curve or watching a goalie looking at something other than the puck. Others can go into a dreamland of admiration for the composers, choreographers and practitioners of some artistic performance on a Sunday afternoon while everyone else is either watching the Bills game or crying about the Bills game.

Some, the fortunate ones, can appreciate them both, appreciate them all. Personally, I blame a liberal arts education and a lifetime subscription to Sports Illustrated. It would shock some people to know many members of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and many more in its audiences, take the Bills and Sabres a little too seriously. To put it bluntly, vice versa.

This is life, not a dress rehearsal (or pre-season, if that makes you more comfortable), so appreciate the hell out of all of it, I say, and that brings me to a point that has guided me admirably through life: sport, as it is convened and presented in the 21st century, is a performing art, so start treating it that way.

You’ve got music in its many forms. You’ve got dance, theater, film, a few minor league examples like puppet shows and magic, and you’ve got sport. The comparisons go on and on.

While you tend to keep score in sport (less so in the others, unless you consider box office receipts), what the patron remembers is the movement, the action, the breathtaking one-thing-or-another that keeps him or her returning. Those lucky to be old enough remember Julius Erving, dunking after leaping from the free throw line, don’t recall the game’s final score, only the endlessly airborne Dr. J driving the ball through the hoop. (Non-followers, be aware I describe an artistic defiance of physics and a seemingly limitless example of “hang time,” time spent in the air before returning to the hardwood floor.)

Sport. The performing arts. Start young. Practice, practice, practice. Martinets for coaches. Bad breaks, equipment failures. Interminable time on the road. Autographs, groupies, obligations. Agents and big contracts. No contracts, the phone’s not ringing.

Whatever you use for equipment, you need more, and better. You can rich and famous doing this, or ruined and bitter. Photo shoots that seem to have no connection to your endeavor raise brand awareness, raise your awareness. 

Unless you’re Pablo Casals or Katherine Dunham or Wayne Gretzky, your career arc, the time and timing of your art, is short. You’re not here for a long time, you’re here to leave your mark and move on.

Record sales, ticket sales, endorsement deals. You’re one injury or screw-up from the end, so you work from a mindset of mortality. Samurai basketball player. Samurai dancer. 

You’re only as good as your last season. The ones coming up are better, younger and cheaper. Run into colleagues, rivals, in airports all over the world. Use the body and brain to convey artistic expression. Wow ‘em in Cleveland and Shreveport, then take your act to the Big Apple, or Paris or Shanghai — they play the same game by the same rules, there.

If you value the skills of a hockey player more than that of a French horn player, or maybe it’s the other way around, try taking what you know about the performing arts and apply it to sport, or do it the other way around.

The fan sits in the arena, or on the living room couch, in his Buffalo Bills regalia, the detritus of whatever not-good-for-you food at his feet, and ponders what he just saw. What he saw was an art form, however crude its origin (hey, look up where opera, or the tango, came from), and it may be years before he realizes he’s more than just another slob of a sports fan, he’s a patron, and lover, of the arts.

Ed Adamczyk is a Kenmore resident whose column appears Fridays in the Tonawanda News. Contact him at