Sport hurdles borders, leaps time zones, mocks distance and joins strangers. Taylor Swift, in Las Vegas, and I are 14,200km apart and have nothing in common, not even the calendar – she’s still in February 11, I’ve advanced to February 12 – but we’re hostage to the same clock.
The one which is ticking down to the end of the Super Bowl.
At 6.30am people start trickling into Hard Rock Cafe. At 8am, a bottle of whiskey is sampled (this writer sadly stuck to water). Sport is intoxicating, but a little help is never to be rejected. By now it’s past 11am and there is a stillness in the room. It doesn’t matter how unfamiliar a sport is, tension doesn’t require translation. At the end of a tight game, everyone can feel the heat. I grew up to hockey, not National Football League football, but pressure is a human thing not a hemisphere thing.
The Super Bowl is different from anything we were raised to in Asia, for it is heavily embroidered with music, commerce, ritual and hype. Spectacle remains America’s birthright. Everything is loud, even the rings the winners get. At least when Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach, first gave rings to his team in the mid-1960s, he had three words inscribed on them: Harmony, Courage, Valour.
I woke at 5.20am to watch a sport I don’t fully comprehend because how can you resist an event so affected it uses Roman numerals? This was Super Bowl LVIII. Ancient gladiators, understand? But, seriously, it is intriguing to wander out of our sporting comfort zones. My hockey is played on astroturf, America’s is on ice. They like lacrosse, I enjoy kabaddi. Our football has flow, theirs is interrupted by advertisements. Action unfolds in snippets of explosive seconds and it is brave, athletic, creative. A sort of violent haiku.
There is an allure to the mysterious and to love sport is to occasionally look beyond the familiar. A colleague once asked me to explain cricket to her and as I drew diagrams she listened patiently to the mechanics of a complicated game. It’s what we should all do, try and push our boundaries, for if sport is music then everything has an unusual beat. Try padel. Read a book on surfing. Appreciate that speed skater Eric Heiden’s thighs measure 29 inches.
Spend a while on Brian Phillip’s piece, The Sea Of Crises, on sumo. Describing the space where Hakuho, the great ...