It's a scaled-down version of the real thing, with scaled-down players. But there's nothing smalltime about the Pop Warner Super Bowl. This year's event, held last Saturday at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, featured 36 teams from around the country, including a squad from Hawaii, and another from Moscow (Russia, not Idaho), gunning for titles in five divisions. The players, who ranged in age from eight to 15, got to visit the Magic Kingdom and play on plush grass before hundreds of spectators. Best of all, Up with People was nowhere to be found.
When the smoke cleared, the Naples (Fla.) Gators were the new champions of the premier division, for kids aged 11 to 15, thanks to a 45-12 win over the New Britain (Conn.) Raiders. Other age-group champs included the Miami Northwest Falcons, the Liberty City (Fla.) Falcons and the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Falcons. Win or lose, a Super time was had by all. As 12-year-old Terry Perry of Miami Northwest said, "The only thing more exciting is Christmas."
The Final Fall
In Fall of the Phantom Lord, published last month by Anchor Books, Andrew Todhunter explores the fascinating, frightening world of Dan Osman, a rock climber known for taking risks extreme even by the extreme standards of his sport. Todhunter, a contributor to The Atlantic Monthly, describes Os-man's solo climbs of harrowing routes without ropes and his free falls off bridges and mountains from record-setting heights of 500 feet and more. On his free falls Osman, attached to a single rope and a harness, plummeted toward the ground, yet because of the angle of his jump and the spot at which his rope was attached, he ended up swinging pendulumlike to a safe landing. "It is only when he completes...." the visualization that the risk of what he is about to attempt becomes clear...." writes Todhunter, describing Osman's preparations for one 700-foot plunge. "[H]is fear leaps to the next plateau. Sweat runs from his pores and freezes. Goose bumps rise across his skin."
Trying to master that fear, according to Todhunter, is what drove Osman. It is also what got him killed.
On the night of Nov. 23, Osman, a 35-year-old part-time carpenter who lived in South Lake Tahoe, Nev., stepped to the edge of a 1,000-foot-high rock formation in Yosemite National Park. He had made this jump before, but this time it was dark. Osman wore a headlamp. He leaped. The rope snapped, and he fell to his death.
In the aftermath Fall of the Phantom Lord becomes a haunting read. Todhunter, who lives in New York's Catskill Mountains, recalls his experiences with Osman, a warmhearted man who, the author says, was "overtly aware" of his mortality. "Much of his life was about his fear of death."
Osman, who had almost no assets, left a 12-year-old daughter, Emma. (A trust fund has been set up to help her.) Todhunter refuses to romanticize Osman's death. He refers to a passage in Fall of the Phantom Lord, in which Osman discusses the possibility of a fatal fall: "By dying I would let everybody down—my family, my friends.... I say free-soloing is not a death wish, and then it happens, and people are like, 'Hey you've obviously been talking s—the whole time.' "
Says Todhunter, "I think he pictured himself challenging mortality but always coming home to his daughter. Dan didn't want to die that way."