In the Book of Ecclesiastes, we are told that there is a season for everything. In the 1960s, the Byrds turned those words into a hit song. Rev. Charles Goodrich expanded on that idea and proclaimed that there is a place for everything and everything needs to be in its place. No, I do not intend for today’s rant to be theological or philosophical; there really is a sports angle to this.
When considering places for things, there are environmental reasons why certain things are where they are.
Banana plantations are in Hawaii and not in Alaska.
Fine wines come from vineyards in France or Italy and not from Panama.
Fish is a dietary staple in Nova Scotia and not in the Sudan.
Twelve months from now, we will have two potential opportunities to witness sporting events that just may be in the wrong place. The first of these sporting events is the Super Bowl game scheduled to be played in the relatively new but open to the elements MetLife Stadium in northern New Jersey. The weather event of last weekend – Winter Storm Nemo – “spared New York city” in the words of Mayor Bloomberg when it dumped only 11 inches of snow there. His remarks need to be put in the context of what happened only about 150 miles north of NYC in central Massachusetts where in excess of 2 feet of snow arrived in an overnight blizzard.
Lots of people say that they like the idea of a Super Bowl game happening in the elements because “football is meant to be played outdoors in the winter”. I agree with that sentiment completely; I remember watching “The Ice Bowl” game in the 60s and watching many games from Minneapolis before there was dome there. Cold weather football is just fine with me.
The problem is that the Super Bowl is only partially about a football game. The Super Bowl is an entertainment and advertising/promotional event that has engulfed that football game. Tickets to a Super Bowl game are used as rewards for corporate partners for the NFL and for the host team; NFL sponsors run campaigns for months promising tickets to the game to lucky winners. At least half the fans in the stadium in New Orleans a week ago had not been to an NFL regular season game last season. So, next year, all those ticket winners and corporate partners might be sitting in stands where a foot of snow arrived the night before the game.
By the way, you can bet that Beyonce will not be performing in the halftime show next year in that same outfit she wore in New Orleans this year. In fact, the NFL might find it difficult to round up a fieldful of mouthbreathers to run out on the field just to be near the stage where the halftime performance will happen.
Local politicians have proclaimed that the weather will be just fine and that they will be prepared for any traffic issues that might arise. Recall those pronouncements in the event that something analogous to Winter Storm Nemo hits the NYC area 24 hours before next year’s Super Bowl game. Should that happen, you will have at hand a perfect example of hubris – the gross exaggeration of one’s capability to make something happen.
Next February, Commissioner Roger Goodell will need to be mindful of Tony Kornheiser’s definition of a bad omen. On his local radio program here in DC, Kornheiser has said more than once:
You know you are in trouble if you look out your window and you see Jim Cantore standing on your sidewalk.
Bob Molinaro offered a challenge to Commissioner Goodell in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:
“If Roger Goodell is so sure that the weather won’t be too cold for fans at next year’s Super Bowl at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium, he should promise now that he’ll abandon his glass-enclosed luxury box to sit outside with the great unwashed.”
The second event scheduled for February 2014 that bears watching are the Winter Olympics scheduled for Sochi in Russia. The climate for the city of Sochi is classified as “humid subtropical”; the weather there this year has seen temperatures hovering in the 50s and 60s. To be sure, the Winter Games will happen in the mountains outside the city, but once again, there is the potential for a climatic mismatch between Mother Nature and a sports extravaganza. According to a report in the St. Paul Pioneer-Press:
“Temperatures at Sochi’s Krasnaya Polyana ski resort hovered about 50 degrees this week after a cold snap the previous week when athletes competed in test events amid snowstorms with temperatures dipping to 20 degrees.
“On Thursday, temperatures reached 66 degrees in Sochi and 59 in the mountains.
“Dmitry Chernyshenko, head of the Sochi organizing committee, said Sochi’s snow-making system and other technologies will enable organizers to ‘cope with any challenges of the weather.’
Setting aside any weather/climate issues, the Winter Games in Sochi face another hurdle – getting the facilities constructed on time and to anything resembling a budget. The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, visited Sochi in the past week or so and criticized the people in charge of building what needs to be built to stage the games. That cannot possibly be interpreted as a good sign…
Then there is the cost… Recall that the Winter Games held in British Columbia in 2010 cost something in the neighborhood of $10B and probably did not come close to recouping that cost. When Sochi was bidding for the 2014 Winter Games, their estimated cost was $8B but miraculously as the IOC was making its final inspections/visits/decision that cost commitment jumped to $10B. That sounds reasonable; things probably cost a bit less in Russia than they do in Western Canada so maybe the Russians can really get all the facilities built for the same cost as the 2010 Canadian games.
Now, the cost estimate for the Sochi Games is up to $50B. Imagine the added costs in the event that the weather does not cooperate and the organizers have to haul in snow by the truckload from the highest points in the Caucasus Mountains…
Bob Molinaro had another cogent observation regarding this situation in his column last weekend:
“Estimates of how much it will cost to stage the Winter Olympics next year in Sochi, Russia, are already in the $50 billion range. Pretty steep considering that London put on the Summer Games for $14.4 billion. It’s not hitting below the Borscht Belt to note that widespread corruption – the Russian way of doing business – is blamed for the exorbitant price tag.”
Finally, if I recall correctly, a warm snap also caused the folks in British Columbia to augment the snow pack at the winter games in 2010. If there is a paucity of snow in Sochi, here is a suggestion for the IOC:
Perhaps the Winter Games should have a permanent site for all of the games going forward. Might I suggest Antarctica…
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………