CNNSI ran an interesting piece this week called “25 Things We Miss in Football“, and while it hit on a few things I would definitely have in my own list (Al Davis as a genius, well-dressed coaches, and the Orange Bowl played in the Orange Bowl) there are naturally some missing items. So to rectify that I’m going to list the things I miss not just in football, but in sports in general. Let’s take a look!
1. Helmet/Bullpen Carts: I miss helmet and bullpen carts for a few reasons. One is the pure fun and novelty of the concept. I mean, the notion that a professional athlete needs motorized assistance to travel a few hundred feet is laughable on its face. Still, despite all the cynicism of our modern age I have to think there’s room in peoples’ hearts for sweet rides like this or this.
Secondly, seeing an athlete with a career-threatening injury being carted off the field in what looks like a bizarre amusement park ride doesn’t seem quite so sad. I’m sure carts like these are still in use somewhere, but not seeing them on the professional level is sad. (Paul Lukas of Uni Watch wrote a good article on bullpen carts a few years ago)
2. Marching Bands at Halftime (Pro Football): It’s hard to envision a Super Bowl without a completely overblown, pretentious halftime show, but it wasn’t always so. Marching bands (usually collegiate) were once a constant at football halftime shows, and provided an entertaining yet dignified spectacle. No bad lip synching, no homogenized Disney garbage, and no nipple slips – just a bunch of really talented musicians doing their thing. Imagine that.
Here’s a blast from the past – the University of Michigan Marching Band performing during halftime at Super Bowl VII. And bonus – there’s helmet carts in the second clip!!!
3. Good Logos: Speaking of “when I was your age”-style rants, I do remember a time that sports logos were not created by soulless, marginally talented marketing agencies. I also remember a time that a logo didn’t have to be all edgy or angry. But even worse than the crappy logos given to newer franchises (like this) are the “upgrades” to old favorites. Can anyone honestly assert that this is an upgrade over this?
What I like to see are logos that are fun and full of character (even if they sometimes straddle the line with cheesiness), like these old logos for the San Diego Padres, Baltimore Orioles, or the Boston Celtics. If not fun, at least make it dignified and unique like the Detroit Red Wings, Oakland Raiders, or the Cincinnati Reds.
4. Pre- and Post-Game Shows Without Morons: Somewhere along the way, television executives (never a bright bunch to begin with) got the idea that the entertainment value of a pre-game show was directly related to the amount of SCREAMING involved. Voila, Terry Bradshaw finds a new line of work. But at least the guy can usually string together sentences using understandable English. Now when I have the misfortune of catching a minute of some pre-game shows (I’m looking at you, ESPN) I might as well be watching Telemundo for all I can comprehend.
And don’t even get me started on that blithering buffoon Chris Berman. Where have you gone, Brent Musburger and Irv Cross?
5. Atmosphere: Once upon a time, just attending a sporting event and basking in the sights and sounds of the game was enough for people. The crack of a bat or the crunch of a body check was all the soundtrack anyone needed. But now that we’re in the ADD generation what we get instead is a 120-dB concert with sports in between. No more room for spontaneous crowd reactions; it’s all nice and scripted.
I guess it’s easier this way. How else would I know to get excited unless I heard the familiar “Hey ho, let’s go” refrain from “Blitzkrieg Bop” for the billionth time? Is it a close game? Must be, ’cause there’s AC/DC’s “Hells Bells” again.
6. The WWF in the Mid-to-Late ’80s: Say what you want about Vince McMahon, the guy almost singlehandedly took what was a regional, backwater sport (yeah, I know) prior to the ’80s and turned it into a true entertainment juggernaut. And boy was it a great time to be a wrestling fan from about 1984 through the rest of the decade. The high point of the year was always WrestleMania, but thanks to a colorful cast of characters the WWF was fun to watch all year. The bright outfits and shiny boots, the colorful stereotypes (Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff anyone?), and the big but not yet freakish men themselves all combined together to create lasting impressions.
The list is as large as Hulk Hogan’s legendary 24-inch pythons – Andre the Giant, George “The Animal” Steele”, The Junkyard Dog, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Captain Lou Albano, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, and so many more. Even the announcers and other peripheral figures were entertaining. Who can forget the immortal Gorilla Monsoon and “Mean” Gene Okerlund, or managers like Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, Classy Freddie Blassie, and Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart?
7. Bowl Games With No Corporate Sponsorship: Look, I don’t begrudge any organization looking to maximize profits legally. But I will never, ever get used to seeing ugly corporate logos besmirching classic sporting evens like the Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl, or Gator Bowl. Worse yet are bowl game organizers that don’t even try to hide their avarice. Who gets excited for the Meineke Car Care Bowl or the PapaJohns.com Bowl??? Thankfully the Rose Bowl has partly avoided this awful trend, as their sponsor merely gets listed as a ‘presenter’.
8. Trading Sports Cards for Fun: OK, so this is only marginally related to sports, but I remember clearly being in a sports card store when I was a teenager and watching some little kid haggle with the owner over a card like he was engaged in negotiations for nuclear arms reduction. That’s when I knew that collecting and trading sports cards had morphed from a fun hobby to a cutthroat business. It had been years in the making, what with all the new card manufacturers and ever more ridiculous marketing gimmicks designed to do nothing more than part kids from their money (Coach cards? WTF?).
I stopped collecting that day.