Tuesday, February 02, 2010

[Football] My Self-Indulgent Super Bowl Post

My Self-Indulgent Super Bowl Post: I've done good until now. I have resisted the urge to inflict a football post on you all year. No matter how badly I wanted to lambaste Brett Favrerer for his tomfoolery I held my tongue. No matter how desperately I wanted excoriate the bad plays, moronic coaching, and lame officiating, I stayed reticent. No matter how stupid I thought the decision to abandon the undefeated season was for the Colts, I...well, since we're talking about a team in the Super Bowl, I'll start there. Move on now if you have no interest in the NFL.

The call to take a dive had to come in from Colts team President Bill Polian. Had to. Peyton was livid about it and there is no way coach Jim Caldwell made that call because if he did Peyton would have just laughed his ass off and went back in the game. It's an open secret that Peyton is actually running the team and Caldwell is a cardboard cut-out they dust off and set up on the sideline every Sunday. It had to come from higher up and it was a horrendous decision because:
  1. A team wins the Super Bowl every year but a chance to go undefeated comes along once in the lifetime of a franchise. You have to go for it. Look how long the '72 Dolphins have milked their perfect season. The Super Bowl is a career pinnacle. Going undefeated sets you up for life.
  2. The NFL has a huge problem with phony games. When I wrote my football column I referred to the final week of the season as the Week of Shame -- when locked in teams lay down and played their scrubs, screwing fans and gamblers in the process. It was especially awful this year as teams like the Colts were locked in to playoff positions weeks in advance. (A related symptom is the long-running joke that is the Pro Bowl. David Garrard played in the Pro Bowl this year. David Garrard. Think about that.) This is really undermining the integrity of the NFL. If I was Roger Goodell, this would be job one...after a new labor agreement, anyway. This was a remarkably high profile example of a phony game. Ugly for a league that supposedly values integrity.
  3. Worst of all, if the Colts win, it is ruined it for everybody. In the uber-cautious, superstitious NFL, every time the chance for an undefeated season comes up, every coach will take the secure way out and lay down in a late season game because it worked for the Colts where as it failed for the Patriots a couple of years earlier. Sample size = 2, but that's all you need for NFL coaches. It will be etched in stone that if you try to go undefeated you will not win the Super Bowl. "Lay down for a loss as soon as you can" will be the decision that won't get a coach fired and that's that. The '72 Dolphins are set for life and well beyond.
That said, I have to say I am rooting for the Colts. I have become a big Peyton fan. He is almost certainly the best quarterback ever. Probably the best football player ever. On every drive it just seems like he is carving up a defense like a Christmas goose. These are the kinds of performances future fans will wish they were alive to have seen. (Of course, unlike my generation, they will be able to see them. Probably at will on their iPhones.) Appreciate seeing them live. Sit your kid on your lap and say "remember this." Plus, Peyton is the best comic actor the NFL has ever produced by a mile.

And I think they will win. Back in Super Bowl XLI, the Colts came in with a newbie running back, riding a wave of late-season defensive resurgence that came from nowhere, and took the crown. This year they have a pair of newbie wide receivers and are riding a wave of late-season defensive resurgence that came from nowhere. Peyton is just too good to only have one ring.

For their part, the Saints can bite me. Oh I'm OK with Drew Brees from back when he was with San Diego and got his pants dissed off, first by a futile attempt to draft Eli Manning, then a successful attempt to get Philip Rivers. Then the Dolphins picked Daunte Culpepper over him (as a Fins fan, my eye still twitches when I write that). Brees didn't complain, didn't whine to the press, didn't ask for a government bailout. He just picked things up with New Orleans and hit the heights beyond anyone's imagination. Great work from a class act. The perfect way to make people eat crow -- by your actions on the field.

But the rest of the team, come on. Reggie Bush? Way to hammer your alma mater for years to come. Jeremy Shockey? Needs lessons from Peyton on how to be a lovable character instead of just annoying. That and a haircut. Then their defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, goes off on a live mike as to how they are hoping to give Peyton some memorable hits and if they have to take a roughing the passer call, well, he just hopes it knocks Peyton out of the game. The only thing that statement achieved was to put the refs on high alert. Any Saints pass rusher who neglects to genuflect before tackling Peyton is going to get flagged now. Good thinking, Einstein.

Worst of all, why are we still talking about Hurricane Katrina? New Orleans has had five years and untold piles of money thrown at them and they still cry about being victims. Remember that asinine wank-fest for the first post-Katrina home game in New Orleans, starring Bono? Wretch-inducing, but apparently that was just the start. A couple of years ago I went down for Mardi Gras and they were still wandering around wearing anti-FEMA t-shirts. OK, we get it. It was bad. You had a rough time. But you've had half a decade and well into the billions in aid to sort yourselves out. Why are we being subjected to this city-revives-through-its-football-team schlock? Will your football team really be your ultimate savior? It makes me long for a story about how Jerome Bettis is from Detroit. Maybe they are just setting themselves up to plead for government assistance to recover from Peyton.

Colts for the win is what I'm driving at here.

Topic change: A brief comment about the other end of the NFL spectrum. Bill Simmons recently posted a list of "tortured" sports franchises, the Chicago Cubs rightly at number one. But there is one team conspicuous by its absence: The Detroit Lions. Yep, in his list of the top twelve tortured franchises he completely omitted the single worst sport franchise extant. I don't blame Simmons. The Lions are so awful that they have simply slipped out of the consciousness of sports fans. They don't really exist. If they are on your schedule it is like bye week, you just don't even think about it as an actual game. Remember that episode of the Twilight Zone where the punishment for a crime was to be completely ignored by everyone and everything. That's what it's like to be the Lions. You don't even make Worst Of lists. You're not even good enough to be bad.