My New Year’s featured some new activities.
There were the traditionals: bubbly with Dick Clark at the stroke of midnight (sorry, Tila Tequila); taking down the Christmas tree; The Tournament of Roses Parade on HGTV (sister service, Food Network’s Emeril Lagasse was the grand marshal of the 119th rendition); and that other Pasadena perennial, The Rose Bowl.
Unfortunately, the granddaddy of them all was what many feared: a blowout by Pete Carroll’s USC Trojans over an overmatched Illinois squad that didn’t have nearly enough Juice (Williams).
The new wrinkles saw early college bowl action put on the back burner in favor of holiday fixtures from Barclays Premier League on Fox Soccer Channel and the National Hockey League’s Winter Classic on NBC.
And while I certainly enjoy soccer much more than the puck sport –and a brilliant backheel pass from Christian Ronaldo to a cutting Carlos Tevez to give Manchester United a 1-0 over Birmingham City rang in the year in fine fettle – it was the hockey action that carried the day for me.
Played outdoors before 71,217 fans in Ralph Wilson Stadium, the Orchard Park, N.Y. home of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, the game featured the current face of the NHL, the Pittsburghs Penguins’ Sidney Crosby, setting up the first score in the initial minute and winning it on an OT shoot-out goal.
But the weather was the real star. Snow, sleet, rain and wind evoked memories and anecdotes about pond hockey and the sport’s Canadian roots. Precipitation on camera lens and on the plexiglass atop the boards at the specially constructed rink let all viewers know this was a different sort of a hockey game and one worth staying with.
But the game could have had been even more visually appealing (maybe it was for those watching in high-definition). As entertaining as the comments about strategy, the weather, surface conditions and ice/rink maintenance were, NBC could have provided more since the elements complied. After all, the ice –unlike when snow falls on the green of football fields – is a natural barrier for viewers.
To that end:
*Both teams should have been in the colored version of their throwback unis. At times, the snow wasn’t that visible until cameras closed in on the Penguins’ blue jerseys or the referees’ black pants. The Buffalo Sabres all-white duds didn’t work nearly as well.
*The blue backdrop behind the near boards offered a solid contrast for the precipitation. Putting it on the screen more might have obscured some of the game coverage, but would have underscored what the players were up against from Mother Nature.
*With a focus on zealots/fanatics/nuts adorned in face or body paint, sports’ crowd shots are often over done. In this case, I wanted to see more of the hardy souls standing in the cold, snow, sleet and swirl. Interviews aimed at finding out how attendees were keeping warm would have illuminated, even if the answers/activities might have proven incriminating.
*Although we saw a surface divot being mended intermittently during the third period, I would have liked to have witnessed more of the shoveling and zamboni action. Of course, bills have to be paid via commercials, so in the next classic NBC/NHL must find an ice maintenance sponsor.
*An overhead aerial shot, a hockey first, was interrupted by low flying clouds. That was a cool view NBC should have attempted to revisit.
In the afterglow, NHL and network executives talked about more outdoor classics, perhaps even staging a doubleheader with a college-contest opener. I’m all for making that part of my New Year’s tradition, provided the white stuff’s coming down.