They’re doing all of this for you, sports fans, so that you keep paying attention, keep staying interested and keep watching television.
When the Canadian government and its COVID-19 regulations evicted the Toronto Blue Jays from their domed nest, the team chose Buffalo as its off-site playing field. They could have picked Havana, I suppose, but they chose Buffalo. If you were there — I attended three games in Buffalo — you’ll have noted the stadium was essentially repainted, repackaged, upgraded and generally treated as Toronto’s, and I found that irksome.
Not a single reference to Buffalo, within or without the building. All the regalia and paint indicated it was the Blue Jays’ stadium, and not even a stenciled profile of a buffalo on a wall. The outfields fences contained advertising, of course, all for the Toronto television market. Ever heard of Pizza Nova? Not La Nova, but Pizza Nova. It was promoted on the left field wall.
Oh, the hoops they jump through when there’s a money-stuffed contract on the line. While we in Buffalo were thrilled with a little major league attention, the Blue Jays treated it as business as usual but in a remote location.
ESPN covered the hockey draft last week like a large and impenetrable blanket, largely because that sports empire will be broadcasting National Hockey League games next year (with TBS and TNT. Goodbye, NBC Sports Channel). If you follow the Buffalo Sabres there was ample opportunity to stay caught up with the action, which consisted largely of older men naming younger men to join their businesses as employees, followed by comments of gratitude from the young ones, who tend to be as inarticulate as any group of 18- and 19-year old males.
There was some tension from hour to hour — would prominent Sabres with bloated contracts be traded? Yes, in two of three cases — but a fan less infected by the turmoil could have waited for a wrap-up segment, or even — gasp! — read about it in a newspaper the following day.
Yes, a broadcast of establishing who’ll eventually, maybe, play for your team someday is packaged in such a way that, if you claim to be a sports fan, you cannot live without it. The selection by the Sabres of Mr. Owen Power as their next savior, he of the six feet six frame and the great hair — local girls, prepare to fall in love — coincided with the NBC presentation of the Olympics opening ceremony, which took place hours earlier in Tokyo.
No one in the grandstands, in a stadium surrounded by pandemic panic, yet the show went on.
Notwithstanding your interest in swimming and street skateboarding and competitive surfing and trampolining for several minutes every four years, Olympics are often about emergence of the host country. See, this is what we can do.
In the opening ceremony we saw what Japan could do, in various tableaux featuring ancient crafts, technological brilliance, modernist art, the momentary appearance by brilliant jazz pianist Hidoni Uehara, a depiction of the globe formed in the air by illuminated drones, and hell, we don’t need the Olympics to discern what Japan can do
Breathtaking. I wonder what it looked like live, but unless your government or national organizing committee sent you there to compete, you’ll never know. The stadium was as empty as the one in Toronto when the Blue Jays were in Buffalo. The athletes marched in, colorful and unruly, as expected, and waved to — not to the television cameras but to empty seats.
So it is with the athletic events. When counterfeit recorded cheering is not piped into the building, you can hear the athletes swear at themselves, in several languages. Some of those female volleyballers have mouths on them, to be sure. Interviews of the winners tend to focus on the thrill of victory, and not the swamp of virus surrounding the entire event.
Yes, sports fans, this is all for you, so that you stay connected to the television, so that sponsors have eyeballs attached to people capable of buying things. Never mind the risks, the second-hand feel of it when it’s all over — a year and a half in Buffalo while your shirt tells you that you play for Toronto, the grip-your-couch pressure of a vaguely predictable hockey personnel assignment, or a year-delayed Olympics in which no one showed up but let’s pretend everything is normal — it’s all for you.
If you watch the Olympics, which will be conducted for another two weeks, await the Old Navy advertisements and their colorful, multicultural and cross-age dance routines. Never mind the alleged harmony brought by international sports competition. I want the world to look like the world in those Old Navy commercials.