But, alas, and I never was able to fully accept it, the main holiday always came to an end. All was not lost, though. There still was New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day to ease the transition. In high school there was the New Year’s Eve dance in the school cafeteria with the expectation that at midnight you would get to kiss the girl. In later years came the pride of having managed to stay awake to the magic hour, watching on TV as the ball dropped in Times Square.
Always there were the college football games, listened to on radio as a youth and watched on television as an adult. This year there were four January 1 bowl games, with three of them occurring simultaneously.
But the big one, the grandaddy in my mind over the years, was the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. It has always been in its own time slot and that was the case this year.
Associated with this football classic is the Rose Parade held the morning of the game. It’s an amazing festival involving bands with hundreds of members, horse troops, and the spectacle of huge, animated floats every surface of which is covered by plant life of some form. The floats have become expensive to create with prices ranging from $150,000 to $500,000. Normally I would rage against such expenditures, but the results are truly amazing, and the creation involves thousands of hours of volunteer work. Granted there are better causes for which a person might employ their volunteer time, but I just can’t seem to get upset about someone spending large parts of their lives attaching flowers to a float’s structure.
The football game itself is another matter.
As I watched it, the team receiving the kickoff punted on fourth down, and the other team took over. But not right away. First there was an extended series of commercials. This second team also punted after four downs. Yup, you guessed it. Before the play resumed, there was another set of commercials. In fact, in almost every case where the ball changed sides, ads buffeted the airways. As they did, of course, after every score and when teams switched sides in the middle of a half.
This adds time to the length of a game, with three and a half to four hours being typical. It seems to me that play lasted from two to two and a half hours in the past. I found it annoying that the continuity of the game was interrupted by these messages. And it didn’t help that some ads were repeated several times.
When I was in high school, I was in the band. This band happened to have a wonderful group of musicians—and me. The only reason I was there is they had no baritone horn player and so my meager effort was accepted. Of course, we performed at half times and as a result I’ve always enjoyed watching such half-time shows put on by the college bands.
There was a time when these shows were carried in their entirety. I’ve noticed that nowadays they often are only partially covered if at all. The powers that be seem to think three talking heads are of more interest to the viewing audience than the well-constructed and complicated maneuvers of talented musicians and twirlers.
But this was the Rose Bowl! Surely the bands would be shown during its halftime. And they were. But, again, not in their entirety. Those heads just had to get in the way and spoil the show.
No, watching that game which had been so special for me over the years made me realize things had changed, and not for the better.
Then later the same day, during a professional game, Damar Hamlin of the Buffalo Bills was struck in the chest and went into cardiac arrest. He remains in critical condition. Other major injuries occur all the time in games from high school to professional.
I wonder if football has had its day and it’s time we sought entertainment elsewhere.