Finally. It's Super Bowl weekend. I've been waiting for Sunday for what seems like months. Not because I have any significant interest in the game, but that it'll finally, thankfully, mark the end of the football season. The column inches devoted to the assorted parolees of the NFL can then be turned over to covering more interesting things such as
bi-hourly updates on Brittany Spears' latest meltdown baseball. Yes, the long dark winter of the other sports will almost be over, which means it won't be long before we hear the sound of ash hitting horsehide. And I don't mean that Michael Vick has moved over to the equestrian arena.
Winter in Arizona is bad enough, with all the snowbirds clogging up the roads, making left-turns from the right-hand lane, driving resolutely at four miles per hour below the speed-limit and ensuring that no restaurant is accessible without a 45-minute wait. [Hah! We just out-wait them; they're all in bed before 9pm, so as long as you're up for a late dinner, it's not a problem] This week, you can add in 150,000 more people - and these are not even genteel grandmothers from the northern mid-West. These are East coast sports fans. Know how much we hate Boston and New York? Well, guess who's playing in the Superbowl. Frankly, if there was some kind of Black Sunday-esque incident at the event, I would be...far more likely to tune in.
We are supposed to be grateful for the 'boost' these visitors will provide to the Arizona economy. Yeah, whatever. I know there's a recession on, but drug-dealers undoubtedly stoke the local finances to a much greater degree, and they don't get eight-page sections of daily coverage in the Republic. Seeing as I work for a hosting company whose customers are nationwide, and our Internet bead business is mail-order, any economic boost will likely only affect the Snakepitette. She is pulling a double shift on Sunday at Bar Louie, over in the Westgate Center by UofP Stadium, with visions of a four-figure payday dancing in her head. But otherwise, while the room rates in Phoenix may have quadrupled, you know that money is heading straight back to the corporate head-office, rather than being paid out to the local employees.
The game just doesn't deserve this much coverage: to quote Will Leitch of Deadspin, "Even though the Super Bowl is the biggest sporting event on the calendar, everything besides the game is mostly a dull, joyless affair." And that's on a good year, when said match-up is actually likely to be a genuine contest, rather than the one-sided procession anticipated for Sunday. It just doesn't deserve in-depth analysis. Part of it is a side-effect of the nature of football, where radically fewer games are played. To win the World Series in baseball, you have to have eleven playoff victories; that's more than the Giants managed in the entire regular season. Two weeks of analysis on a single game is simply more than this can bear. But what else would you expect, in a country that takes ten months to elect a President?
Even though it's taking place in the city where I live, I certainly won't be taking part in any of the festivities or attending any of the parties. $1,700 to hang out with John Travolta, REO Speedwagon and - be still my beating heart - the Deal or No Deal models at the Scottsdale Galleria? Even though the price includes "delictable Horderves" [sic - I think they mean "delectable hors d'oeuvres". You'd think that at that price for a ticket, they could afford a spell-checker], I think I'll pass. I will probably not even watch the game; the only reasons to do so are if any of the commercials are good, and to boo lustily when my ex-employer's one appears. I've just realised that azsnakepit.com is registered through Go Daddy - longtime readers will appreciate the irony of that. Or maybe the last couple of minutes, if it's close, to see whether my countryman Lawrence Tynes, the first Scot-born player ever to appear in the Super Bowl, can nail the winning points as kicker for the Giants.
That is one thing I do like about the NFL. Despite the monstrous players, 'roided up as if auditioning for WWE - this year, the average weight for an offensive lineman this season was 312 lbs - about 25% of the time, the outcome of the game is decided by someone like Tynes, a lightweight in comparison at only 202 lbs. It's as if the NBA introduced a rule requiring all free-throws to be taken by midgets. [Hey, I'd pay to see that...] Tynes missed a kick in the NFC championship game which would have won it for the Giants, then redeemed himself in overtime with the winner, though was basically ignored by his team-mates afterwards. Kickers seem a different breed, like closers in baseball or goalies in hockey, and can only be admired as such.
Enough about a game played by men with odd-shaped balls. I laughed out loud at the Republic today. Dan Bickley was reporting on his experiences at the recent Diamondbacks fantasy camp, and had the misfortune to be placed on Mark Grace's team. I say that, because Grace's team had not won a single game in the first two years of the camp. Finally, in Game Two, they broke their duck. Grace's reaction? "Just got off the phone, fellas. The whores are on their way." Well, the Republic being the Republic, the quote was reproduced there as "The (prostitutes) are on their way," but you know what Grace said. That's one for the quotes page, and simply solidifies his reputation, in my eyes, as one of the very few professional sportsmen, with whom I would want to hang. I sense a night out with Grace would be the stuff of legend.
Steve Gilbert bring us an update on the returns of Tracy and Slaten from their microfracture surgeries. Well, "update', might be a bit of a stretch, since it implies new information; the reality is that Bob Melvin "still doesn't know" whether one, both or neither of them will be roster-ready for the start of the season. If not, the name of perennial fringe player Robby Hammock has been brought up as an alternative to a free-agent type like Eric Hinske. That would also allow him to work with Johnson; he was the Big Unit's personal catcher early last year and, of course, also caught Randy's perfect game in Atlanta.
Interesting discussion in the Trash Talk Manifesto thread on Arizona vs. Colorado attendance. Looking at the figures, this one looks basically like a tie. Here are the stats for the seasons since the Diamondbacks came into existence, followed by a nice picture of same, for those of you who tend to glaze over when faced with multiple rows of data, arranged into daunting columns.
Year Arizona Colorado MLB Avg 1998 3,610,290 3,792,683 2,353,372 99 3,019,654 3,481,065 2,336,773 2000 2,942,251 3,295,129 2,423,414 01 2,736,451 3,166,821 2,418,904 02 3,198,977 2,737,838 2,264,813 03 3,198,977 2,334,085 2,254,335 04 2,519,560 2,338,069 2,432,298 05 2,059,424 1,914,389 2,479,510 06 2,091,685 2,104,362 2,531,972 07 2,325,249 2,376,250 2,648,244 Avg. 2,770,252 2,754,069 2,414,363
I was surprised to see how parallel the paths of attendance in Phoenix and Denver have run over the last decade. While baseball in general has seen a fairly-steady increase, both teams here dropped, reaching a nadir in 2005, but have rebounded since then. In particular, the previous four seasons have been especially close, always within 200K - over the course of a season, that works out to little more than a couple of thousand each game. Indeed, taking the previous decade as a whole, we have pulled bigger crowds, but the margin is less than two hundred per contest. Last year, the difference was basically zero, since the Rockies had an additional game at Coors for the wild-card playoff. Take that full house off, and they were 2,600 up on Arizona over the rest of the season, or a mere thirty per. Seems close enough to call it equal to me.
Of course, the truth probably is that we should be comparing Colorado and Arizona, not to each other, but to their expansion brothers, in the Marlins and Tampa Bay respectively. And, there, the Western franchises are basically kicking Florida ass. The Marlins have averaged less than 1.4 million per year since 1998; the Devil Rays only fractionally more (1.44 million), each barely half of what the Rockies and Diamondbacks have seen. Particularly in Tampa's case, you can argue that the woeful mediocrity of the team has hampered things - a franchise-high of only seventy wins for the Rays, while the Marlins have a World Series title, but the last decade has also seen seven losing seasons and one of the most notorious fire-sales in baseball history. But in 2008, they now have Gonzo, meaning full houses are practically guarante... Hey! Where are you going? :-) All told though, Arizona and Colorado are both doing perfectly well, it seems to me.
And with that, I think I'll head back to bed - note the time-stamp on this post! Yep, I had one of those 'wake up in the middle of the night and gaze at the ceiling for a bit' experiences, so decided I might as well get something productive done. Enjoy your weekend, and please stay safe if you're partying for the Super Bowl.