Hold That Tiger

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Clemson sits atop the college football world today, defeating Alabama 35-31 in Tampa to claim the crown for the 2016-17 season. The Crimson Tide were going for their fifth such title in nine years, leading most of the way. But, a patient offensive attack by the Tigers eventually exposed an Alabama defensive unit that wasn’t too deep this season, as Clemson got the game-winning score with a second left in the 4th quarter on a very fatigued defense.

The Tide were the wire-to-wire favorite to win the championship all season, but when they lose, it usually takes a tremendous effort, or even a tremendous play (like the “Kick Six“Auburn needed to beat ‘Bama in 2013) to turn fate against Nick Saban’s bunch. They’re always solid contenders, and the argument could have been made that if a few plays over the past six seasons had gone their way, I could easily be sitting here typing about Alabama sixth straight national title.

Congratulations to the Tigers, and the people of upstate South Carolina where Clemson prowls.

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Some More Grid Musings

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Something very odd happened in the first round of the NFL Playoffs, often called the “Wild Card” round with the four teams who had the best records but did not win divisional titles in play. The road teams won all four games.

One of the ugliest playoff games in terms of temperament was Pittsburgh‘s 18-16 win over Cincinnati played this past Saturday night. There was bad blood stemming from a pre-game fracas when the two teams on December 13th, with Bengal players alleging death threats were made against them by Steeler players. As much as the officiating crew tried to keep order with some tight officiating (which baffled me, because no one goes to these games to watch the officials officiate), their grasp of the game was tenuous at best with a lot of pushing and shoving after plays and some dirty hits that were called, and some that were not.

The big moment came in the last half minute of play when Bengal linebacker Vontaze Burfict went out his way to hit Steeler wideout Antonio Brown on a play that produced an incomplete pass. A few years ago, the play would be totally legal (though a bit questionable) but the yellow flags went flying, indicating a foul had been committed. In the ensuing mess, Cincinnati was flagged a second time for unsportsmanlike conduct when the Bengals continued to protest.

Somehow, the officials missed an important point: a coach for Pittsburgh, Joey Porter, was on the field arguing with several Bengals which seemed to spark a series of expletive-filled exchanges. Porter’s presence on the field was also illegal, but no foul on him was called, and that would have at least cancelled out Cincinnati’s second 15 yard penalty. The Bengals lost the game with a field goal by Pittsburgh on the next play, not having enough time to get downfield for a score that would give them the lead back. As for Mr. Burfict, he is looking at a three-game suspension for the hit on Brown that left him with a concussion once the 2016 regular season gets started in September. Porter was also fined, but considering the officials royally goofed in their jurisprudence, I’m sure the former Steeler will gladly pay up.

The gutter war in Cincinnati was replaced two nights later by the pure art of the second College Football National Championship game outside of Phoenix. Alabama outlasted Clemson 45-40 in a game with a lot of big plays and momentum swings. The star of the game was the unheralded O.J. Howard for the Crimson Tide, making two long touchdown catches for some quick scores. I thought going into the game that Alabama would win decisively, but the Tigers showed a lot of heart and proved they deserved to be exactly where they were.

The college season is now done, and the last eight teams left standing in the NFL do battle this weekend ahead.

Football Blues

I like your product, Roger...I just don't like you.
I like your product, Roger…I just don’t like you.

It wasn’t a weekend entirely football free, but it may as well have been.

With the Buccaneers playing (if you could call it that) Thursday night in Atlanta, and with my favorite college football team (Notre Dame) not playing this weekend, I watched very little pigskin. I caught the tail end of the FSU-Clemson game (which FSU won in overtime without a QB embroiled in a scandal of his own doing) and that was about it. I watched the Rays games and the playoff contending teams in baseball, and Netflix. I didn’t know until I woke up this morning what happened in the big Seahawks-Broncos Super Bowl rematch game yesterday afternoon, or the Steelers-Panthers game last night.

If you’ve been reading my last few blogs, I think I’m footballed out as a result of the Roger Goodell-Ray Rice scandal. It ripped the scab off of the NFL for me, and the pus is flying everywhere. If a guy gets paid $44,000,000 a year to do a job that poorly, his product shouldn’t be watched or bought.

I found other things to do this weekend. I imagine some of you did too. I don’t know if my quasi-boycott is going to last once baseball season ends in about a month, but as long as the “Jolly Roger” is commissioner, I will do my damnedest to find other things to conquer.