Sunday, February 7, 2010

Take time for paradise ~ then enjoy the game

Today is Super Bowl Sunday and the culmination of the biggest day in the American sports calendar. With lots of hype in all kinds of media ~ print, broadcast, online ~ the build up to the Big Game has been hard to ignore, especially if you're a football fan. It may be freezing cold outside with three feet of new snow blanketing the Atlantic seaboard, but the weather's been ideally sunny and serene down in Miami, site of the 2010 Super Bowl game.

The Super Bowl commands a big stage with big Roman numerals ~ this year's game is Super Bowl XLIV. Quickly, can you remember who has played in the previous XLIII Super Bowl games? I lost track a long time ago. However, I'll always remember Super Bowl III in 1969, in which the young, brash and handsome Joe Namath guaranteed victory for the AFL champion New York Jets and promptly led his underdog team to a 16-7 victory over the Baltimore Colts. Parity had been gained in pro football and, soon thereafter, a merger of the NFL and the upstart AFL took place. And, as they say, the rest is sporting history.

Pro football in our country has come a long way since the first Super Bowl game was played at the Los Angeles Coliseum on January 15, 1967 between the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs. The game, which was televised by both CBS and NBC, didn't sell out ~ only 61,000 attended and the Coliseum could accommodate about 90,000 ~ and it was blacked out throughout most of southern California. I remember this because I was a nine year-old kid living in Tarzana, Calif., a San Fernando Valley suburb of Los Angeles, and had to wait until the following evening to watch a replay of Green Bay's lopsided 35-10 victory. It's funny to look back and realize tickets to the game were in the $6-10 range, which in 1967 dollars was a lot of money to spend for a sporting event ~ considering that box seats to a Dodgers game at Dodger Stadium sold for only $3.50 (we always sat in the less expensive $2.50 reserved seats).

Fast forward to the 2010 Super Bowl between the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts in a sold-out, modern stadium in Miami (with the corporate name of Sun Life Stadium, although it will always be Joe Robbie Stadium to me, after the Dolphins first owner) with tickets costing hundreds of dollars and up and TV adverts ~ both the good, bad and the tasteless ~ costing in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for 30 and 60-second spots. The NFL is the ruling king of American sports and, today, it's all about the money, baby!

For me, it's all about escaping before the game and taking time for appreciating other things before the Super Bowl kicks off. I have no need to listen to the CBS network talking heads for what seems like half a day before the late-afternoon kickoff. Since I'm not a big pro football fan (living in the Bay Area there's the choice of rooting for the equally-underachieving 49ers or Raiders), my Sundays leading up to Super Bowl XLIV have been most devoid of being a football couch potato.

Instead, my autumn ~ and, now, early winter ~ Sundays have been a great opportunity for doing non-sports related things like working in the yard, going on nice afternoon walks through the neighborhood ~ even going to the movies. It's my form of escapism from the gridiron and the endless replays and beer commercials that make up NFL Sundays in America.

Today, my wife and I ventured to the cinema multiplex at Bay Street in nearby Emeryville to see a late-morning screening of the Academy Award-nominated "An Education" starring Carey Mulligan, Afred Molina and Emma Thompson in a coming of age story about a 1960s suburban London teenager. I won't share any plot spoilers, but safe to say it's a wonderful screenplay that was penned by the British novelist and essayist Nick Hornby which I highly recommend seeing before the Oscars. And, yes, it was great escapism for a few hours before the kickoff of the biggest game of the year ~ the one with the hype, the costly-but-memorable adverts and the Roman numerals. And, every once in a while, an exciting finish with an improbable winner.

After all, shouldn't we take time for paradise?

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