Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Super Bowl? Not the real championship of football

      The world championship of football is coming up soon, and I'm rooting for the team in orange.
      No, not American football. Not the Denver Broncos. Not the Super Bowl. Don't be silly.
Two of the few reasons to watch the NFL, in my opinion: Two of the great
quarterbacks of all time, Tom Brady (left) and Peyton Manning, after
Sunday's AFC Championship Game (photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
      Real football, the world's football. The World Cup ... of soccer. This summer in Brazil. The team in orange, my team, The Netherlands.
      The Super Bowl in two weeks? I don't really care. If the Dallas Cowboys aren't playing -- and they haven't been on this stage in 18 years -- I don't care. I haven't cared for that long ... except I was happy for the New Orleans Saints and their fans four years ago.
      So the Broncos and Seattle Seahawks will be playing at the Meadowlands, right outside of New York City. So?
      This is a continuation of a blog piece I did at World Series time, stating the reason I would not be watching. That had more to do with who was playing (and who wasn't) because I still love baseball. But as I wrote in that piece, there are many trends in the game today I don't like.
      Same type trends are prevalent in the NFL. Mostly it has to do with the players' behavior, and their arrogance. Frankly, I don't like the game anymore. Still enjoy college football, but you can have the pros. Why? Read on, if you must.
      Here is how bad it's gotten: (1) Talk of the NFL has been outlawed at my house; (2) I have not watched a game live in two months.
      Item No. 1: Beatrice hasn't watched or cared about football for a couple of years now, and was a fan in recent years only because she likes Les Miles and she knew that Jason (our son) and I cared about LSU football. She hasn't watched the NFL in years.
      But when she saw a couple of pieces the PBS NewsHour and NBC News did on the brain injuries/concussions/suicides and the NFL's reticence to acknowledge that the violent nature of the game is likely linked to those players' problems, she was appalled.
      And so now I've been told: Do not discuss the NFL in any form or fashion in her presence. Do not mention the Cowboys, Jerry Jones, Tony Romo, Peyton Manning ... nothing. Period.
      She thinks all the players are doing is heading toward their demise. Grim.
      OK, I can't say I totally disagree. It is a gruesome side of the game.
      I have not watched a game live since early in the season. I wrote this previously; every time I watched the Cowboys live, they lost. Every time I taped a game, they won. Of course, once I stopped watching them live, that didn't hold up. They proved they could be an 8-8 team (again), with or without me.
      But because I still want them to win, and I'm still interested, and I want to write about it with as much intelligence as I can (yeah, I know, that's a reach), I taped the games and watched them late at night ... after Bea had gone to bed.
      Taped some other games, if the matchups were appealing (few were). New England vs. Carolina on Monday night, Nov. 18, was one I wanted to check out. And in the first half of that one, Carolina receiver Steve Smith and New England cornerback Aqib Talib had three shoving/wrestling/in-your-face matches worthy of Ultimate Fighting Championship feature attractions. (Both those guys have a history of on-field, off-field transgressions. Hard to feel good about either one.)
      It was ugly, ugly, ugly. They both should have been kicked out of the game. I stopped watching that game right there.
      But that's the NFL these days.  Far too much trash-talking, too much posturing, too much showing off ... too violent, really. Concussion Central waiting to happen.
      Look, I know it's a physical game, it always has been it, and always will be. It's just the nature of the sport.
      Even in this pass-happy era, it is still -- as coaches Billy Joe Adcox and Jerry Adams reminded us so often all those years ago at Woodlawn High -- about who blocks and tackles best, who can push the other guy around most effectively.
      The rules protect players -- quarterbacks, wide receivers, even running backs, from a lot of cheap shots these days. But they still happen.
      Patriots coach Bill Belichick whined publicly Monday about Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker's "cheap shot" block that injured Talib and knocked him out of Sunday's AFC Championship Game. I don't want to see any player get hurt, but I couldn't help but think of Talib and Smith's ugliness in that Nov. 18 game.
      So tough luck for Talib and the Patriots. Hard to feel sorry for Belichick, who -- no question -- ranks among the greatest head coaches (and defensive coordinators) in pro football history.
      Belichick, in the public view, is cold and calculating. A winner, for sure. But unless you were a New York Giants fan, when he helped Bill Parcells' team win two Super Bowl titles, or a Patriots' fan, you're probably not on his side.
      Remember this: He is close friends with Nick Saban; they are best of friends. Belichick is Saban's guru; when Belichick was head coach of the Cleveland Browns, Saban was his defensive coordinator for four years. And Saban isn't beloved by many, other than Alabama fans.
      But I digress. Back to this Super Bowl. Will I watch live? Don't know. I won't if it is going to be played in a snowstorm, or in frigid temperatures. There is a chance of that, of course, because the NFL powers -- dazzled by New York City's charms -- chose to put this game at the new Meadowlands stadium. No dome there.
      The Super Bowl has been played in cold-weather climates before -- Detroit, Minnesota, Indianapolis -- but at indoor stadiums. It was very cold the day the Cowboys won their first Super Bowl title, at old Tulane Stadium in New Orleans, in January 1972; it was cold at Rice Stadium in Houston two years later.
      Is the NFL pushing its weather-luck, with an open stadium in the middle of winter? Of course it is. But we proved right here in Arlington, Texas, three years ago that the Super Bowl could be staged in arctic-like conditions. Could it happen again with an outdoors game? Maybe the NFL powers want to show that the Cowboys-at-Packers Ice Bowl wasn't such a bad deal.
      I have taped all the NFL playoff games this year, and watched them late at night. Must say there have been some entertaining games, but also a recurring theme: ugliness.
      I thought Carolina's players were more interested in trash talking than actually playing well against San Francisco, and the Panthers got hit with some very costly penalties. When it came time to really man up, they couldn't do it. Talk is cheap.
      Which, of course, brings us to Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman. As I write this, I have watched the AFC title game, but not the NFC title game, and not Sherman's profane, out-of-this-world postgame rant in the interview with Erin Andrews.
      There is reaction everywhere about it. I am one of the few sports fans, apparently, who has not seen it. Think I should?
      Why are we surprised? Sherman was featured in Sports Illustrated's main story in its preseason NFL issue, and he came off as pretty darned sure of himself (understatement). A friend yesterday posted a clip of Sherman tearing down ESPN announcer Skip Bayless, which -- as I pointed out -- isn't a bad thing. But Sherman is a little boastful (ha!).
       I won't be rooting for Sherman or Seattle, which has the only coach (Pete Carroll) who ever coached a Heisman Trophy winner who had to give back the trophy -- an indication of the type program Carroll had at Southern Cal.
       I'm not a Denver fan, either, but I am a Peyton Manning fan and he's the only reason I would even consider watching this Super Bowl.
       Now he's a great story. Certainly has his secure place among the game's greatest quarterbacks ever, but this comeback from a severe neck injury is almost beyond belief. Plus, he's humble and gracious and well-spoken.
       He's been such a class act -- so, by the way, has Tom Brady, whether you don't like hi or the Patriots -- and so is Peyton's quarterback/father, Archie.
       It would be nice to see Peyton have one more big victory -- in decent weather conditions -- and then retire from the game ... and remain in good health. That would be the good side of the NFL.
       To watch or not to watch, that is my question. Guarantee you I will not watch any pregame hype or read much about it over the next week and a half.
        I can do with a little less violent brand of voetbal. Looking forward to the World Cup and my team in orange.


  1. From Jim McLain: (Subject matter: NFL? Phooey!) Regarding your recent blog on the NFL, I completely and wholeheartedly agree with you. I have not watched the NFL games on TV for many years for precisely the reasons you put forth.

  2. From Peggy Comeaux: Good luck with your "orange" team. I have become an avid football fan. Like you, I like Peyton Manning, but am not a Broncos fan. The matchup between Seattle and Denver will be interesting to say the least. I enjoyed reading your latest blog.