It sure was swell of the Senate to intervene so Tom Brady and I could spend this Saturday night together. (Here’s the score so far: giving the people what they want, Iraq division: 0; giving the people what they want, NFL-watching division: 1!) I thought it was my economy-based move to minimal cable (no ESPN or any of its spawn, no Fox Sports) that was going to keep me from watching the Patriots go for a perfect season, but it turns out that it’s really the NFL’s attempt to put their games on a pay network that was going to keep most of the country, not just me, from watching. More and more games are slipping off the freely available networks and onto ones you have to pay for; in a few years my fanship might be limited to scanning the sports page while waiting for the train.
Practically everyone outside of New England claims to hate the Patriots now. The first time Brady led the team to the Super Bowl, it was an underdog story of the type allegedly beloved by Americans (of course, we only love underdogs once they stop actually being underdogs and become winners): picked down low in the draft and promoted due to injury, football’s Ruby Keeler had the proverbial storybook season, and remained likeable and level-headed through it all, even to the extent of insisting that the team be introduced at the Super Bowl as a team, without stars. But then he kept on winning, and dating supermodels, and appearing in model-like magazine spreads himself, and though he kept on seeming quite likeable, level-headed, and team-oriented, being handsome, rich, young, and successful is just too much for the public to take. Throw in the supermodels and it's all over.
The storybook aspect may be why people don’t seem to realize how chancy these things are; the Giants might actually win the game. But as far as I’m concerned, the Patriots, having already won fifteen out of the sixteen regular-season games they play these days, have already outdone the fourteen-game perfect season of the fabled 1972 Dolphins, so you can stick an asterisk on that old record (the Dolphins also used more than one quarterback, and played back in the pre-parity days, which proves my point that there is always an asterisk). But I suppose I can’t really blame the people who hate the Patriots because they’re sick of hearing about them, since I want the Patriots to win because I’m sick of hearing about the 1972 Dolphins, who smugly toast each other every chance they get.
Before Senator Kerry intervened, I briefly considered going to a sports bar to watch the game, but then I’d have to watch the game, you know, in a sports bar. Surrounded by rowdy drunks. Who hate the Patriots. I don’t think I really care enough. I mean, I enjoy watching football (though let me just say: the games last too long, there are way too many commercials, the action is very start-and-stop in a maddening way, and the game and the players exude an underlying, anonymous exhaustion, which, though it makes football the metaphorical sport of choice for contemporary America, is ultimately depressing), but I’m not a facepainter, and really don’t want to be surrounded by them.
Speaking of facepainters, I recently dipped a timid toe into the turbulent waters of Opera-L. I seem to have arrived in the middle of a Netrebko firestorm, but then there always seems to be a firestorm brewing there. Many of the postings take the form of indignant and sarcastic suggestions that other people should lighten up on the indignation and sarcasm. I’m not sure how long I’ll hang on. For every interesting note there are multiple examples of the higher bitchery taking up space in my inbox, and I only want to spend so much time hitting delete. I’ve never understood arguing for the sake of arguing. If it's not a dispassionate search for truth and beauty, I just don't have the patience. At a recent Wagner society meeting one woman announced repeatedly that she was “going to start something”; she then declared that the eighteenth century – all of it – was worthless and boring, at least compared to the nineteenth. To me, if you don’t like Gluck or Mozart or whoever, that’s your loss. Why would I argue? or care? You can’t have a discussion with facepainters.
Maybe my lack of enthusiasm for sports bars (or bars in general) is behind my bafflement at San Francisco Opera’s broadcasting plans. I can understand why the Met is in movie theaters, since their broadcasts are live. But if you’re broadcasting pre-recorded performances, why arrange them so that you have the disadvantages of live theater without the compensatory thrills? I will happily sit in a theater for six hours for a live performance, but much as I love, say, Tristan, there’s no way I’m going to cram myself into a movie theater that long, especially when I’ll spend the whole time wondering why there wasn’t a DVD release I could enjoy, repeatedly, at leisure. Financially the DVD is a better consumer choice anyway (at least for me, and am I not a representative man?), even without the possibility of repeated viewings: the Onegin and Puritani that the Met released recently are going for about $30 each on Amazon. If you add up the movie ticket price (I think it's currently about $22 for the Met broadcasts) and the cost of BART tickets, you’re already near that total, and that’s without any popcorn. Here’s my suggestion for the Met and San Francisco Opera: release DVDs, both on a subscription basis and for general sale, similar to the way Ward Marston sells his records or John Eliot Gardiner his Bach cantata series. Please, don’t thank me. Not having to go to the Cineplex and listen to Tristan with someone chewing in my ear is thanks enough.
ADDENDUM on the football game: I knew it wasn't going to be a snoozefest, and that the Giants were going to play their starters, so why didn't all the TV commentators know? I wish I'd said something beforehand, but I thought it was obvious. I wouldn't exactly say I have the heart of a champion, but even I know you're not going to go into the playoffs having rolled over and given the historic crown to your rivals, especially when they started their big season by thumping you soundly in your own stadium. Sure, from a rational perspective it was a meaningless game since both teams are already in the playoffs, but if you operate rationally you probably aren't caring that much about football anyway. From a psychological perspective it was huge for the Giants as well as the Patriots, so I fully expected to see Eli Manning out there for at least the majority of the game. Sometimes it amazes me how much more I know than other people.