Two Offbeat American Holidays…..Back To Back

A Super Bowl stadium collaged with two images depicting Groundhog Day
A Super Bowl stadium collaged with two images depicting Groundhog Day

Winter

Winter is 13 weeks long….and depending where you live – this can be a short 13 weeks or a very long thirteen weeks. Also part of the equation is whether you enjoy outdoor winter sports……or not. For an avid skier, a warm winter with no snow can make for a very long winter and an economically bad season, as well, especially…. if he or she happens to be employed with the ski industry. However, for the most of the rest of us, it is a long ways from the winter solstice to the spring equinox. Perhaps, this explains why there are so many joyous holiday within this time period. Without Christmas, New Years Day, Valentines Day and St. Patrick’s Day, this quarter of the year would be a whole lot, less bearable.

Midwinter

Strangely enough,  two of our most offbeat holidays occur right at the midwinter mark. In fact, this year they fall on consecutive days. If you haven’t guessed it yet, I’m talking about Super Bowl Sunday and Groundhogs Day, which just happen to respectively occur on the first and second day of February. The combination of the two just might maks for a great way to revel in the fact that winter is half over.

Bad Year For the NFL

A recent news story about the jurors in the Aaron Hernandez trial illustrates just how low the NFL has fallen during the current season. Judy Garsh, judge for the Hernandez trial, has ruled that the jurors can watch the Super Bowl, only if the name of Aaron Hernandez is not mentioned. And, if one of the newscasters has a slip of the tongue, then the unlucky viewers will  have to turn the game off. Now that’s bizarre. Combine this situation with all the sex abuse allegations and the recent deflate-gate controversy surrounding the Patriots victory over the Colts and it becomes quite clear that the NFL commissioners (and many fans as well) with have very good reason to celebrate Groundhogs Day on Monday. Yeah!!!! the season’s finally over.

A Cult Movie Accents an Offbeat Holiday

Look through the comedy section of any movie DVD store (or online site) and you will see hundreds of listings with catchy titles that fail to deliver. Strangely enough, one of the perennial favorites is Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. When first released in 19992, the movie was well received and got favorable reviews. Since then the film has grown in stature, so that nowadays, the popular fantasy fare is consistently listed as one of the top ten comedies and sometimes even included as one of the ten best films ever. So if you have yet to see this film, you might want to give it a viewing. And if one of the announcers slips up and mentions Aaron Hernandez’s name, you can show solidarity with the 18 jurors and turn off the sports contest and put on the groundhog movie.

Congratulations to the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks

The New Meadowland Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey during the first ever Jets-Giants pre-season game in 2010, from Wikipedia
The New Meadowland Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey during the first ever Jets-Giants pre-season game in 2010, from Wikipedia

The League Champions

I know this is a bit late, but I would still like to congratulate the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks on their respective AFC and NFC championship victories last Sunday. In just over a week these two teams will meet in New Jersey to decide the pro football champion. This is Superbowl XLVIII and the contest will be a bit of an experiment, as it is the first Super Bowl set in an outdoor, cold weather stadium.

Nothing like this 1966 North Dakota blizzard will affect Super Bowl XLVIII, photo by N.D. Highway Dept., from wikipedia
Nothing like this 1966 North Dakota blizzard will affect Super Bowl XLVIII, photo by N.D. Highway Dept., from wikipedia

What To Expect

Weather-wise the days preceding Superbowl XLVIII look to be bitter cold and windy, but temperatures should moderate by game day with a game time temperature expected to be just above freezing with no precipitation in the forecast. This should allow for a classic showdown between Peyton Manning’s high octane aerial attack and the much-praised secondary of the Seahawks.

Punxsatawney Phil will not attend Super Bowl XLVIII, even though the game is being played on Groundhog's Day, photo from CNN
Punxsatawney Phil will not attend Super Bowl XLVIII, even though the game is being played on Groundhog’s Day, photo from CNN

Superbowl Sunday On Groundhog’s Day

No way around it, this is an unlikely meeting of two unique American events, which have almost nothing in common. Contrary to popular belief Punxsatawney Phil, Buckeye Chuck (Ohio), General Beauregard Lee (Georgia), Sir Walter Wally (North Carolina) or Wiarton Willie (Ottawa) will not be in attendance during thee popular sporting contest……..though the likeness of any of these rodents may be seen in the stands during the game.

However, there is an outside possibility that the real Staten Island Chuck, who resides in NYC, may make an actual appearance and subsequent weather prediction. Then again it has been reported that Chuck is very disappointed that since neither the Giants or Jets have made it to the big showdown, he may by-pass the whole affair……..And for those of you who may opt for an appearance at the annual Groundhog’s Day celebration in Punxsatawney, instead of the late-afternoon grid-iron contest, all indications suggest that the formal Pennsylvania event will be just as popular as ever. In fact, due to the close proximity of the two locales, avid party-goers will be able to attend both happenings if they so choose.

And Rough Is a Might Tame Name, drawing of bucking bronc by Will james
“And Rough Is a Might Tame Name”, drawing of bucking bronc by Will James

My Prediction

I expect Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos to win the superbowl, but the reasoning behind this prediction is rather unusual. Actually, it is based on a very strong phenomena called sibling rivalry. You see since Peyton’s brother, Eli, has two Super Bowl victories (and MVP awards) and Peyton has only one. So,  I would look for Peyton to even the score on Sunday evening. I know it takes a lot more than a good quarterback to win a football game much less a Super Bowl (just look at Archie Manning’s struggle as a NFL QB). But still, when all is said and done, I figure that Peyton Manning, with the inspired help of the entire Broncos squad, will find a way to get it done. I guess you might say that this is the weird nature of sibling rivalry.

Lombardi Trophy Returns To Green Bay

Zeta Oph: Runaway Star Credit: NASA, JPL-Caltech, WISE Team
Zeta Oph: Runaway Star Credit: NASA, JPL-Caltech, WISE Team

Congratulations to the Green Bay Packers, who edged the Pittsburgh Steelers, and rode to victory on the crest of three turnovers. Without these turnovers, the contest could have easily gone the other way, but that’s what football is all about. You can have the greatest team play in the world, but it is still possible to shoot yourself in the foot with penalties and turnovers. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

I’m always glad to see Green Bay win. It just goes to prove you don’t have to enlist the support of  a large metropolis to be competitive at the highest level. And not only is the Green Bay franchise given out to a comparatively tiny community, but the team is owned by the city municipality, instead of your usual billionaire tycoon. True, the iconoclast owners can be quite colorful to follow, but variety has its advantages also.

And then there were those lovable commercials. The one that stuck in my mind the most was the McDonald’s ad just before the game began. You know the one where the bears turn a car upside down to shake loose the last remaining french fries, while the previous occupants hide in the woods. There were many good commercials during  the game, but they kind of got blurred together. The one thing that came through was the large number of movie previews that got filtered into Sunday evening  viewing experience. They were definitely fun to watch.

All in all, it was a good night to be glued to the tube.

The San Francisco 49ers' Super Bowl XXIX trophy, photo by BrokenSphere from Wikipedia
49ers' Super Bowl XXIX trophy, photo by BrokenSphere from Wikipedia

Super Bowl Haiku

Mt. Fuji and The Sea off Satta by Utagawa Hiroshige
Mt. Fuji and The Sea off Satta by Utagawa Hiroshige

Applying poetry to sports is not an unheard of event, but it is a literary activity that is not usually applied to football. However, an opportunity recently arose to write a piece of Haiku about the upcoming Super Bowl, which features a contest between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers. The popular sporting event is scheduled on Sunday and will be played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas barring any unusual weather events or meteorites dropping out of the sky.

Haiku is an interesting form of short poetry, originally associated with Japan, but now popular in the English-speaking world as well. In this type of writing a short poem is created using just three lines of text. Each line has a designated number of syllables and rhyming isn’t necessary. The first and last lines each contain five syllables, while the middle phrase bears seven. Traditionally, Haiku portrays two juxtaposing images, which when combined, should reveal irony, humor and awareness.

In Japan, Haiku was often used to express some of the tenets of  Zen awareness, along with detached observations and comments on everyday life. In America, Haiku has become a popular method of reflecting our national past time, baseball, but associating this poetic structure with football is much less common. Perhaps this will change in the future.

Recently, I wrote several Haiku in honor of Super Bowl LXV, which is due to be played early on Sunday evening. One was published at Associated Content and the other two I have included with this post. Hope you enjoy.

Poem  #1

As the pack returns

Strong resistance heeds their path

The trophy is theirs

Poem #2

Heads clash in Dallas

The sound echoes everywhere

Then there is silence

Congratulations To The New Orleans Saints

inside the superdome
Inside the Superdome, New Orleans by Dave Reber coutesy of Wikipedia

It must have been quite the weekend for Mitch Landreau. First on Saturday he wins the election for mayor, a position that his father once held, and then on Sunday the Saints win the Super Bowl. It’s probably gonna be a fun ride till Mardi Gras passes and then he’s gonna wake up Ash Wednesday with quite a headache, even if he has nothing to drink on Mardi Gras day.  But best of luck to the new mayor and the people of New Orleans, and I wish I could be there to join in this year’s Mardi Gras. I’m sure it’s going to be a humdinger.

All of these comments come from someone, who once lived in the Crescent City, and who enjoyed his time there very much. I lived in the city in those lean years when the Saints were called the “Aint’s”, and some of the fans would wear paper bags over their heads. But I never went to any of the games and I never really got very excited about the team till Bum Philips came along and at least got the team out of the cellar and the paper bags off the heads. By some streak of luck or talent he was able to get the team up around 500 and sometimes at the end of the season, he would have the fans guessing whether they might actually make a wild card game of not. Of course, they didn’t, but it was kind of fun thinkin’ they might. But all that was before the days of Bill Walsh, “the genius” and the amazing Joe Montana, who quickly came to dominate the division and sometimes the whole NFL.

But I had to lickety-split across the border to the grand state of Texas, which in some ways is worlds apart from parochial Louisiana, but still a fun place to be. If I had one thing I could do in New Orleans, I would go back and tear all the concrete out of the Superdome and put in real grass – or at least – AstroTurf on top of soft ground. I can’t imagine how a team plays on that surface and stays healthy.

Rex Parade
Rex Parade, New Orleans, Canal Street, Mardi Gras Day 2006, photo by Information - courtesy of Wikipedia