If the mixture of articles selected for inclusion in this weekend's USA Today meaningfully reflects a diverse population's collective interests, then ours is a nation of strange priorities. The current issue runs an unusually hefty 54 pages, thanks to a special section highlighting Super Bowl XLVI. The 14-page supplement, longer than any one of the self-billed Nation's Newspaper's customary News, Money, Sports, and Life sections, includes detailed analyses of the upcoming game, in-depth profiles of players, and even a cutaway diagram of host venue Lucas Oil Stadium. As hyped as the Super Bowl is, it's an understandable - and I imagine rather profitable - editorial concession.
But the spotlight on Super Bowl Sunday is not contained within its designated section. A quarter of the Sports section provides further insights, including Madonna's tantalizing comments on the nature of her highly anticipated halftime performance. A lead article on the relationship of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady dominates the front of the News section and continues over the whole of page two. The Money Section boasts a cover story about Super Bowl advertising, accompanied by a look at related smart-phone promotions and some insights on the rising popularity of chicken wings as a game day staple. Even the Life section is not exempt, lest a lightweight patron of the arts somehow miss the news that there is a very important football game this Sunday. There in the Travel subsection is a list of Larry Bird's favorite haunts in Indianapolis, which, by the way, just happens to be hosting the Super Bowl this weekend.
"You aren't planning on doing this every day, are you?" asked my wife. Well...no, not really. Deep down, I knew that a $3-a-day, six-days-a-week habit was, like current state and national spending schemes, unsustainable. Yet so long as I had money in my wallet, I was finding it hard to resist the siren call of the newspaper rack and coffee machine of our local grocer. After all, what was three dollars on any particular day? Not much. Still, there was no denying that my little indulgence was putting an $18 dent in our weekly budget. No matter how much I enjoyed it, it was absolutely unnecessary.
It all started rather innocently earlier this month. We were heading out to stock up on groceries, but I was feeling uncharacteristically sluggish, as though I might be in danger of swooning over the produce bins and falling into a deep sleep. Caffeine, that wonder drug that I had managed to purge from my daily consumption for months, seemed to be in order. I wondered if there was a way that I might procure a coffee that I could enjoy whilst perusing the aisles. As it happened, there was just such a service in place.
Faster than a stolen base, more powerful than a grand slam, it's...
If there are supermen among us, one of them showed his strengths last night in the ordinary metropolis of Cincinnati. Paul McCartney, age 69, demonstrated extraordinary endurance while plowing through a setlist that mere mortals would sell their souls to have written. While there is no question that the old Beatle is a living legend, Sir Paul surely put to rest any speculation that his talents have waned. He is as captivating as ever, delivering nearly three hours of flawlessly performed classics with as little apparent effort as that which you and I expend sitting on our talentless bums.
So influential is McCartney's catalog that selections from it successfully comprised the entirety of the pre-show music. As concertgoers wandered the breezy concourse of Great American Ball Park and swarmed numerous swag stands, they were treated to a diverse array of cover tunes, from a Hammond organ instrumental of Eight Days A Week to a reggae version of Blackbird. For half an hour before the show began, a scrolling video collage of McCartney memorabilia was accompanied by an infectious remix mashup featuring Coming Up, Twist and Shout, Goodnight Tonight, With A Little Luck, Temporary Secretary, We Can Work It Out, Back in the USSR, and inevitably, The End. Then, with audience anticipation at its zenith and the video screens displaying a sparkling silhouette of the iconic Hofner violin bass, McCartney and his band opened with Hello Goodbye followed by Junior's Farm.
Bring back these two wonderfully corny attractions, and I'll make a beeline for Sandusky.
Amusement park season is arriving soon in Ohio, and I am less than excited. The perennial allure of Cedar Point and Kings Island, which bookend our stoically Midwestern state to the north and south like a pair of Mad magazines bracketing a law library, will surely attract the usual stream of thrill seekers and families in search of a summer diversion. Local media will carry the customary publicity puffery touting the heights and speeds of each park's marquee roller coasters, and we shall be further enticed by breathless promises of all that is NEW for 2010! I don't begrudge anyone the pleasure of giddy anticipation, but I cannot muster much enthusiasm.
It wasn't always this way. There was a time when I looked forward to a day at either of our big amusement parks with the same measure of excitement that was provoked by the imminence of my birthday or the arrival of Christmas. Actually, now that I think about it, that remains the case today, as I no longer get worked up about my birthday or Christmas. But there was a time - and I'm sure you can accurately identify it - when all three of these events represented the pinnacle of fun and enjoyment.