The Corner

Sports

A Game and Our Culture

Bobby Bowden, head coach of the Florida State football team, at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., 2010 (Daron Dean / Reuters)

As you may have heard, or seen, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wore an eye-catching dress — one that said, “Tax the Rich.” This was the most famous inscribed garment since Melania Trump’s jacket — the one that said, “I Really Don’t Care, Do U?” (She wore it on a trip to Texas, where she visited children separated from their families on the border with Mexico.)

I begin my Impromptus today with AOC and “Tax the Rich.” I go on to discuss populism generally — populism on left and right. Among my other items is a Bella Abzug story. Because what would any column worth its salt be without a Bella Abzug story?

Oh, let me tell another one, right quick. Ed Koch once encountered the congresswoman’s husband, Martin, in an elevator. They chatted amiably. As they parted, Mr. Abzug said to Koch, “Do me a favor, would you? Please don’t tell Bella we talked.” (The congresswoman was no fan of Ed Koch.)

I heard Koch tell this story with relish. I could picture it all.

Okay, on to some reader mail — all of it relating to football, and our culture. In my column on Monday, I had an item that touched a bit of a nerve. I’d better reproduce that item, before getting to the mail.

Many years ago, I wrote something like this: “Last night, the Metropolitan Opera staged a series of intermissions, punctuated by a performance of Aida.” I thought of it while watching the Michigan–Washington football game, or trying to. The game started at 8; the first half ended about five minutes to 10. The commercials were constant — constant interruptors. The momentum of the game was killed. I, who am unusually interested (for reasons I could get into), had to work to sustain interest.

The game was just too long, especially if it was going to start at 8. I’m all for commerce, but commercialism is something else, and it should not be allowed to strangle our culture, including college football.

Amen. Oh, hang on: You mustn’t say that, in response to your own writing. Anyway, I want to publish a sampling of mail, with the pièce de résistance at the end.

A reader writes,

You struck a chord with me in your complaint about commercial interruptions during the Michigan game. That’s one reason I find high-school games refreshing — they remind me of way back when I attended the U of M, back before every game was on television: score a touchdown, kick the point-after, kick off, play on.

Those commercial breaks are even more intolerable and interminable when you’re in the stadium. . . .

Somehow it seems unjust to pay $100 to sit in the stadium and then have to endure long pauses in the game to accommodate those who are sitting at home watching for free.

Another reader writes,

I was at the game Saturday and agree with you — too many “full media timeouts,” as they call them. . . .

We did not get out of the stadium till 11:30 p.m. We had parked in the Maynard Street garage and did not get out of there and back to our hotel in Novi (20 minutes away) until 2:00 a.m. Made the eleven-hour drive back to North Carolina on Sunday really REALLY LONG!

I bet.

A reader writes,

I have resigned myself to DVR-recording almost all sports, allowing 40 to 60 minutes of lead time and adding an hour or so of recording time beyond the scheduled end in case of overtime (or a playoff in golf). There are many complications and contingencies. DVR-recording is far from ideal. But it preserves my sanity.

Okay, your pièce de résistance:

The commercials are too numerous and abhorrent, oftentimes selling products and services that render viewing games with my grandchildren an adventure in muting the sound and trying to pause and then fast forward. Technology!

In-person attendance at a televised game drives me crazy, owing to two things: commercial timeouts and video review of plays. The tempo of the game is destroyed.

I am a Florida State alum. Bobby Bowden and I got to campus at about the same time. I played rugby and one day happened to bump into Coach Bowden in the old Tully Gymnasium. He asked me why I hadn’t tried out for the football team, and I replied, “No sissy helmets and pads for us, Coach.”

Years, and a great hair loss, later, we chanced to meet again, and he recalled our previous encounter. He looked at my head and asked, “How’d that no-helmet thing work out for you?”

Classic. R.I.P.

Thank you to all. Again, today’s Impromptus is here.

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