Feel The (Lack Of) Power

I was watching the end of the Titans-Texans game last night. The outcome had been decided a while back, the Texans were going to win being way ahead – but as I’ve remarked in previous blog entries, I’m a fan of statistical oddities when it comes to sports. I “mark out” (feel a tinge of excitement) when I look at the NFL scores and see a 2, a 5, or an 11 listed.

The Tennessee quarterback, Marcus Mariota, was having a unique game. Late in the fourth quarter, he had yet to throw an incomplete pass – or a pass that had intercepted (caught by the opposing team). I’m paying close attention to these last few minutes that would ordinarily be “garbage time” (inconsequential to the outcome of the game) – and the power goes out. I miss the end of the game and miss Mariota launching an incomplete pass with a mere 7 seconds to go. The power had gone out a few seconds, but it takes a few minutes for my cable box to reset – so I missed it.

That reminded me of Super Bowl XLII – the game where the New England Patriots attempted to become the second NFL team to go undefeated, playing the New York Giants. Right before the second half of that 2008 game was to start – the power goes out here in eastern Pinellas county on an evening where the weather wasn’t a factor. By the time the power came back that night, the fourth quarter was just starting, and the Giants pulled off quite the upset to stymie the Pats and their hopes for a 19-0 season, 17-14.

I’m not insinuating my power grid is substandard in any way – I just think it’s funny how random things happen, and how the randomness of things in life and sports often get entangled.

The League Of Changing Times

Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys

One of the themes that has persisted in the four years plus I’ve been doing this blog is that I’ve talked about the changing state of professional football, which most of my life has been my favorite thing to watch. Not too long ago, it was this day, the date when the conference championship games were played, was like Christmas Eve for me. It’s the day that the two Super Bowl finalists are found, and etched into history for all eternity.

Now, with all the information that has come out in recent years about concussions, and how some playoff games (like the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh game a couple of weeks ago) just resemble gutter wars with pads and helmets, I must admit the games have lost some of their luster for me. Too many players like Antwaan Randle El are regretting not playing other sports, paying too steep a price for playing a game they loved to play.

Back when I was growing up, there seemed to be a lot more mythology about the NFL then exists now. There were dynasties that existed despite the league’s attempts at parity. If the Patriots lose today in Denver, however, that will mean that the seven Super Bowl champions crowned in this decade will have belonged to seven different teams: the Saints, Packers, Giants, Ravens, Seahawks, Patriots, and either the Panthers, Broncos, or Cardinals joining them two weeks from tonight in the 50th Super Bowl.

Oddly enough, the Patriots are the closest thing that exists in this era to a dynasty, and yet they flaunt the rules of the league close enough to get slapped for it in Spygate, Deflategate, and some other controversy with a “Gate” at the end to come sometime in the future. This tells me one of two things, but I’m not sure which: the great teams of the past didn’t cheat as such, or they weren’t caught doing so, maybe even both possibilities are true.

Everything seems so objective any more. What’s a catch, what isn’t? What’s a dirty hit, what isn’t? What foul play is a fine, and what foul play is not a fine? What do the officiating crews see, and what do they not see, and why? A decade or two ago, everything seemed more finite, now a days, there are all of these shades of grey that go embraced that probably shouldn’t.

I’m also not a fan of numericizing the Super Bowl this year, by the way. As I’ve mentioned before, I was very fortunate to have gone to Super Bowl XXV in Tampa in 1991. This year, they are referring to the game as Super Bowl 50 and not Super Bowl L. Another case of tradition tossed aside for the sake of temporary buzz, if you ask me.

It just seems that change is the new tradition in the world anymore, or at least that is the way I see it. Someone change is good (in politics, I’ll always favor it, for example), sometimes change for the sake change isn’t, and how can we differentiate between these two things?

OK, enough of this tangential rant.

Injured Reserve

Several members of the Carolina Panthers whoop it up for the cameras during their 38-10 win over Tampa Bay, January 3, 2016.

It was as bad an injury as I’ve seen watching the NFL in over three decades.

Jovorskie Lane of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was injured on the very first play offensively for visiting squad traveling to Charlotte to take on the Carolina Panthers. One part of the leg was pointing the right way, the lower part was mangled and twisted around in a direction legs were not meant to bend.

The injury was so gruesome that the venerable Dick Stockton, who’s called or been a part of NFL games going back to the 1960’s, announced to viewers that the replay of the injury would not be shown due to its graphic nature. I’m sure it reminded many of the Joe Theismann injury which he suffered on Monday Night Football in 1985 in a game against the New York Giants when a shoddy tackle split one of the veteran QB’s legs in at least two places, ending his career.

I’ve been very lucky in my life not to have ever been so seriously injured. The worst injury I ever had was in 1999 when I was at my aunt’s house in Charlotte. I went into a closet pantry to get things for breakfast, having to duck my head to gain access because I’m six-foot-one and the maximum height of the door was shorter.

When I retrieved what was needed, I was in the middle of a conversation with someone, and I literally forgot to duck. WHAP!!! I slammed my head against the top frame of the door, and yes, I could see stars that weren’t really there for a few moments.

I had a cut on my forehead just above the hairline that a professional wrestler would have loved, and my forehead had streams of red running down it from the blood. It was quickly off to the emergency room to get patched up. Luckily, I didn’t need stitches for it, just a lot of gauze to get the cut healed up, much like boxing cutmen use.

I have a hard time imagining what a broken leg must feel like, but that’s why I write, and the great athletes out there in the world of sports play their games.

Football Is The New Boxing

Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys

In many ways, it was not a good series of days for the NFL this Thanksgiving weekend past. The games played on the 12th week of play were for the most part entertaining, but it’s getting clearer that the league has serious issues.

First, the concussion issue is a continued pain in their side, and it should be. Findings were released the day before Thanksgiving that NFL legend Frank Gifford suffered from CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) that’s being found in more recently retired players. Gifford was famously the target of Chuck Bednarik in a 1960 NFL game where a vicious tackle by the Philadelphia Eagle injured Gifford, who didn’t resume playing for the Giants until 1962.

While the NFL is constantly improving what they call its “concussion protocol,” it’s clear from the retired players currently suffering that the league could have done more earlier. The question is: is it doing enough to protect players now?

There’s another issue the NFL has that is starting to remind me of professional prizefighting: the officiating, and how it seems to have gotten worse in recent years.

Namely, I speak of the recent Denver Broncos 30-24 win in overtime against New England’s Patriots, though there were other games were the crews look like they ate too much weekend turkey. Watching the game on NBC, it seemed like there was something Al Michaels or Cris Collinsworth wanted to say, but didn’t have the gumption to say.

It seemed to me that the calls against New England were way out of proportion to the calls against Denver, and that the Broncos always seemed to get close calls in their favor while Patriot players had to have been murdered to get a Broncos penalty.

Even the usually calm Tom Brady (who I called in a tweet Johnathan E. from the 1975 version of Rollerball) was seen a few times jawing with the officiating crew, pleading for better results a few times. Revenge for the whole Deflategate fiasco, I wondered, as Skip Bayless did on ESPN this morning?

I’ve been watching NFL games and seeking a better understanding of them since I was seven years old in 1978. (Other kids were reading nursery rhymes, I was reading the NFL Record and Fact Book.) When you have broadcasters like Jim Nantz saying on the air (as he did yesterday) that there’s an ambiguity about what a legal NFL catch is, and what a catch is not, there are issues.

The question is, will the league do anything about all of this, or will it continue to bury its head in the sand, saying this is all just muse for our entertainment?

The Gift Of Grab

In case you missed it last night (and I nearly did…sometimes 3 NFL games in a row is like a Thanksgiving turkey, it makes you sleepy), Odell Beckham Jr. made a catch for the New York Giants against Dallas’s Cowboys that will be the stuff legends are made of.

The Cowboys won the game 31-28, but this catch will live forever.

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!

You would think after all these years of being a Bucs fan, I’d have a little faith in the home town team, right?

I didn’t like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers chances against the Carolina Panthers in the 2012 regular season opening game. The Panthers were picked by a few to make the playoffs, I had them projected to go to the Super Bowl. I’d thought the Bucs would lucky to get within ten points of winning.

Well, they did sixteen points better, winning 16-10 over the Panthers to start the year with one win, no losses. Some good teams started the season with a loss like Green Bay and the New York football Giants.

(Why do they still call the Giants that, by the way? Baseball’s Giants haven’t played in New York since 1957.)

I’ll be honest, the Bucs surprising me. I hope they keep surprising me this 2012 season. Best of luck to them.

Missing The Boat

So the individual members of the New England Patriots are feuding and a fussing over their 21-17 loss to the New York Football Giants at the 46th Super Bowl yesterday.

One thought, if I may.

Why is Bill Belichick not being criticized for running the ball on the 2nd and 10 pass that Wes Welker dropped?  They had the lead, 4:00 or so to go in regulation, just inside Giants territory, and the Giants were down to one timeout.  Running the ball once, if not twice…or a safe pass that keeps the ball inbounds for that matter, either forces New York to burn that last timeout, or runs the clock down to about 2:30 or so.

Why not make it difficult as possible for Eli Manning to beat you in a Super Bowl one more time.  Might not have made a difference, but I thought Belichick’s playcalling was a little too aggressive under the circumstances.