Our Modern-day Colosseums on Super Sunday
30.10.2011 - 30.10.2011 40 °C
It’s Sunday. For some it means church, others sleeping in, and for others its another day at work. Those having the day off, we generally appreciate the working stiffs that make our day enjoyable–like say the New York Giants and the New England Patriots–but do we ever thank them? On THIS Sunday–Super Bowl Sunday–the answer is a resounding, YES!
We thank them by stopping our lives to watch these amazing teams compete in a modern-day clash of the titans, wearing their jerseys, and for a lucky few, filing into Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Rome’s Colosseum isn’t a ruin, it’s a franchised inspiration! The United States has dozens across the country, mostly named after multi-national corporations, but grand and glorious, nonetheless. Think it’s an accident Super Bowl XLVI uses Roman numerals? (It means 46, for those not up on their football or biblical references.)
Still more, and even larger, enthrall thousands around the world as they watch their gladiators kick a soccer ball (although they more appropriately called it a football first) until one claims victory…or the clock runs out. Miniature arenas dot the world at high schools and city fields, but the fans no less passionate on Friday nights (in the U.S. anyway).
Unlike the edifice in Rome, the football stadiums of today are built for impermanence. During a pilgrimage to the new Met Life Stadium during the Halloween Blizzard this year to see the Giants squish the fish in a roller-coaster game against the Miami Dolphins, imposing and impressive venue gives a sense of an erector set structure that could be disassembled with little trouble. It replaced Giants Stadium that was gloriously unveiled as the new home for the venerable NFL team only 25 years earlier.
We had a great time: we were ‘wow’ed by the immensity of the place, tailgated with friends, climbed the incredibly high snowbanks that had no business in metropolitan New York in October, and left with a win. Sadly, there was a disappointment in not being able to share with my daughter the experience of where I sat in for my first Giants game, because the long-gone stadium I believed would stand for my lifetime was a paved parking lot, not far from the car.
This wasn’t always the case.
The imposing columns at L.A. Coliseum belie the intention to not only share in the Roman arena’s name, but its staying power, as well. Built when sporting teams left the east coast for cheaper homes and fans who’d show up to games, Los Angeles was making a bold statement that the westward expansion was no fluke–sports was there to stay…forever! Teams like the Chargers, Raiders, and Rams traveled through like nomadic tribes, but the Coliseum stood sentry as southern California’s professional sports authority.
Chicago’s Soldier Field also includes a grand colonnade as part of its arena anchored solidly on the south shore of Lake Michigan. It clearly was built letting everyone know it’s not going anywhere ever.
While L.A.’s field was given to the colleges because it was too costly, too beautiful, too historic, or all-of-the-above to tear down, Chicago opted to go the way of modernization, to make the Bears’ home field “camera-ready” to accommodate the digital-television and corporate-sponsorship age. While it it not entirely clear what the architects–or the city, for that matter–had in mind, but the result is that of a space ship plopping down atop a gothic cathedral. The impermanent straddling the permanent.
What are the edifices marking time in your cities? Maybe the history, the memories, and the ideals of ancient Rome are…well, ancient. Perhaps in this society of rapidly-evolving, instant-high-tech information is the way it will–and should?– be.
It’s true cities are made up and for the people living in them. But, imagine Rome’s tourism industry if people were lured to several parking lot or a blocks of skyscrapers to see the spots where ten or twenty Coliseums had been 1900 years ago.
So when the modern-day Maximus takes the field in Indianpolis tonight in the form of Eli Manning or Tom Brady, take a second to think how the brick-styled structure materfully designed to blend in with the ciy’s industrial landscape will be recreated in the scene for the film version, release date 3912. Thank goodness the architects did!