"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

"Real" NFL season seems over now

The football season always seems over this time of year. There are only two teams left in the running for the NFL championship. We have to wait two weeks between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl.
It's amazing how the Super Bowl has grown to be so much more than a good NFL football game. It seems like a mid-winter reason to celebrate and shove aside the winter doldrums.
The pageantry of the game obscures the game's innate value as a championship sports event. The TV commercials seem almost as much an attraction as the game.
We go out of our way to party, socialize and snack to excess. My point here is that the distractions and non-football elements of the day obscure the game.
It's terrific if you enjoy all that extracurricular stuff. But beware, because I have read that the type of snacking we do on "Super Sunday" encourages flatulence.
I have previously written that "Super Bowl Monday" maybe should creep into being a holiday, much like "Easter Monday" has crept to become a pseudo-holiday. We can depend on our public schools and public employees leading the way with these things. It would make as much sense as Columbus Day.
When I say "the football season seems over," what I mean is that we have lost that wonderful week-to-week tapestry of NFL games. We have lost all those unpredictable human interest angles that arise with all of the NFL's teams in action.
We learn those stories every Monday on ESPN Sportscenter. They can be so unpredictable. Examples are Derek Anderson laughing on the sidelines during a bad loss, and Rex Ryan's "foot fetish."
During the season we had the week-to-week soap opera about Brett Favre's status.
All of this interest continues through the first two weekends of the playoffs. That's because a fair number of teams are still involved. First there's Wild Card Weekend and then the Divisional Playoffs. There are four games in each of these weekends and it's like an abundant buffet for people who enjoy NFL football.
After that it really does get anticlimactic. Conference championship weekend has just two games, on Sunday.
In a previous post, I did correctly predict the winners of those two games for 2010: the Packers and Steelers. I also predicted that Pittsburgh would win the Super Bowl. We'll see.
I won't get flatulence because I don't party the way so many fans do.
We had a good example of one of those unpredictable human interest stories coming out of conference championship weekend. It was Jay Cutler's behavior. Cutler is the Chicago Bears quarterback who was on the losing end against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
Cutler left the game early with an injury. Controversy erupted among Bears fans based on two issues. One was whether he was really hurt that bad. The other had to do with his sideline demeanor once he left the game. He donned a parka and looked detached. He looked almost sullen.
He like Derek Anderson (of the Cardinals) should know that the cameras are always on. Cosmetics matter. Cutler had the opportunity to reach the Super Bowl, and perhaps he should have tried to surmount all obstacles. Wear a brace, maybe.
There is an issue here that hasn't gotten enough attention, I feel. Why weren't the Bears in better shape with backup quarterbacks? Here we are in the NFC championship game and we're having to watch quarterbacks of the type you'd expect to see in the second half of pre-season games! It was surreal.
Cutler's first backup was the fossil named Todd Collins. Collins accepts a paycheck as an NFL quarterback. Against Green Bay he seemed incapable of completing a forward pass.
The lesson here is that old guys don't make ideal reserve players. As we age we cannot activate our bodies as fast. This thought crossed my mind as I watched Collins' pathetic attempt to play.
I'm not sure what thoughts were crossing Chicago coach Lovie Smith's mind, but he saw the necessity of going further down the depth chart. Now we have a quarterback who truly belongs in pre-season games, the type of games where the home team practically has to give tickets away.
And this on conference championship weekend. Bizarre.
Just think of the top-notch quarterbacks who didn't make it this far.
I'd have to go to Google to refresh my memory on the name of the third-string Chicago quarterback. This individual did throw a couple of good passes, granted, but he threw a couple of disastrous ones too.
There is a school of thought in the NFL that your backup quarterback should be a running quarterback. There's logic here. A team's offense can lose some rhythm when a backup is called upon. Therefore it's nice to have a QB who can improvise and simply take off running when a play's scheme breaks down.
Chicago had a roster that seemed to assume Cutler was going to be indestructible.
Might Cutler have been slightly relieved to be out of the game? Green Bay seemed to have him totally figured out. He had gotten nothing going prior to being injured. We'll never know if coach Smith and Cutler could have made some adjustments to get things going.
There was no "Willis Reed moment" where a severely injured athlete takes to the court or field to inspire his team and play capably in the face of injury. I remember when Reed made his triumphant entrance to the basketball court for the New York Knicks. Was it about 1970? That sounds about right. It was the days before NBA players felt they had to put tattoos all over their bodies. Or wear the baggy shorts.
Basketball seemed like a more graceful sport back then. But it's hard maintaining interest in the NBA when you live in a state with the Timberwolves - the Detroit Lions of the NBA.
Many Chicago Bears fans are irate with Cutler. Even if his injury was severe, his sideline behavior didn't seem appropriate. He almost looked disinterested. NFL fans deserved better on conference championship weekend than to see a team so unprepared for dealing with an injured quarterback.
We could have seen a backup quarterback become a surprise hero. Instead we saw "garbage time."
Now we have the Super Bowl between the Packers and Steelers. I have written before that Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has that huge intangible called "talent," like what John Elway had. Again I feel this will be the deciding factor.
I think Pittsburgh will put 27 points on the board and dispose of the Packers.
And remember, "Super Bowl Monday" isn't a real holiday, yet.
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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