I looked through a chapter from Christopher Lasch’s The Culture of Narcissism about sports in order to follow up on Bill Maher’s criticism of America’s sports fans. One passage diverted me from that topic to the upcoming Super Bowl and its unnatural locale:
When the television networks discovered surfing, they insisted that events be held according to a prearranged schedule, without regard to weather conditions. One surfer complained, “Television is destroying our sport. The TV producers are turning a sport and an art form into a circus.” The same practices produce the same effects on other sports, forcing baseball players, for example, to play World Series games on freezing October evenings. The substitution of artificial surfaces for grass in tennis, which has slowed the pace of the game, placed a premium on reliability and patience, and reduced the element of tactical brilliance and overpowering speed, commends itself to television producers because it makes tennis an all-weather game and even permits it to be played indoors, in sanctuaries of sport like Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. Television has rearranged the athletic calendar and thus deprived sports of their familiar connection with the seasons, diminishing their power of allusiveness and recall.
This brings to mind the NFL’s “50 Degree Rule” which is set to be broken next year when the game will take place in New York City – a one-time exception to take advantage of the uniqueness of the city that never sleeps:
The 50-degree rule was created for the comfort and convenience of fans and players. Anyone who has ever planned an outdoor event can appreciate how much of a relief it is to not worry about the weather. Neutral conditions, like those in a dome, also are supposed to help the caliber of play. It also makes it more comfy for all the practices, parties and other events during the week leading up to the game.
We spend the whole season getting acclimated to these cold weather competitions and we begin to feel that “this is real football”, and then all of a sudden we’re watching a game on turf in a dome or a place with a retractable roof. The Super Bowl is the New Year’s Eve of sporting events. Huge build up, an aura of phoniness culminating in a big let down that booze struggles to rescue from the pits of boredom. It’s great for the people who attend the central hub where the event actually takes place, but for people at their own home parties it is often (not always) a drag. Of course, this could also be because the game is held on a Sunday where the spectre of work the next day hangs over the festivities like a late bill.
It isn’t that the geography is the only thing diminishing the game, but it is the place-setting for the rest of the phoniness: the advertising, the hype, the halftime show. There’s something about a late season football game played in a near tropical clime that seems disjointed from the sport. I recall Super Bowl XXVII between the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills. The game was held in Pasadena and the Cowboys won 52-17. I loved the outcome because the Cowboys are my team, but looking back at the game and watching highlight reels and pre-game and post-game footage makes it seem only a stone’s throw from the Pro Bowl which is held each year in Hawaii.
But I’ll post more from Lasch on sports in America.