Championship Sunday. Despite what marketing people and Joe The Less-Than-Casual NFL Fan think, Super Bowl Sunday isn’t the key day in the NFL. Rather it is the Sunday two weeks preceding it that is most important for NFL fans. Championship Sunday is two games instead of one and often these games are a lot more exciting than the actual Super Bowl. Plus they are played in front real home crowds, not the corporate tent denizens who populate the stands at the Super Bowl, a game where even the hash marks seem to be sponsored.
This past Championship Sunday won’t be remembered for the successes as much as the failures. A missed field goal by the Ravens sent the Patriots to the big game in Indy. In San Francisco, two botched plays by the Niner back-up punt returner gift-wrapped a victory for the Giants.
As fans, we want games to be won, not lost. Sure, you have to have a loser in order to have a winner but we expect victory to be earned. The way the Pats and G-Men won was just flukey, hollow, and dare I say it, a little cheap.
Face it, all the teams stunk on Sunday
It’s not I thought the Ravens and Niners should have won those games. The Ravens moved the ball on New England (and actually out-gained them). But twice they had the ball inside the red zone and had to settle for field goals before their fateful last trip which resulted in the missed field goal. The Forty Niners were horrible at converting third downs. 1 of 13. A mere 7% conversion rate. That’s certainly not championship-quality. But the Giants were equally bad on offense. Look at their second half possessions: punt, punt, punt, punt, recovered fumble leads to a touchdown, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, recovered fumble leads to game-winning field goal. That’s not the stuff of champions either. Meanwhile, Tom Brady threw two interceptions and no touchdowns. When was the last time he won a game with those kind of stats?
I feel for Niner and Raven fans. Despite their offensive futility, their teams were in the game. Both fanbases were teased into thinking they really could be going to the Super Bowl. For a split second, the Ravens thought they were Super Bowl bound when Lee Evans looked liked he caught the game-winning touchdown only to have to the ball smacked out of his hands. The Niners appeared to have recovered a fumble by Ahmad Bradshaw at the New York 22 with just over two minutes left only to have officials prematurely blow the whistle and thus nullify what was clearly a fumble. (BTW, can we stop with the whistle exceptions and allow every play to be challenged? What’s the point of instant replay if it can’t eradicate all officiating injustices?)
Sports are far from equal when handing out championships
Think of the losing cities. San Francisco and Baltimore are both hungry for a championship. Sure, the Giants of San Fran won the World Series two seasons ago, but other than that, the Bay Area has been starving for a winner. Baltimore won a Super Bowl eleven years ago but their beloved Orioles have been a disaster for decades. And neither city has sniffed title success in the NBA since the seventies or in the NHL since…ever.
So now it’s New York and Boston, again. I doubt most of America is really tickled for these cities’ good fortune. No one outside the Northeast is excited for a Patriot team which was second-to-last in total defense. Or a Giant squad that finished 9-7 and lost twice to the Redskins.
But America will watch the Super Bowl. We always do.
Here’s what I would like to see: In the waning moments of a tie game, the Giants’ punt returner fumbles the ball deep in his own territory. The Patriots attempt the game-winning field goal and miss it. This ironic turn of events sends the Super Bowl into overtime for the first time in history. Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth then spend the next twenty minutes explaining the new postseason overtime rules. It causes Joe The Less-Than-Casual Fan to fall asleep in a bowl of half-eaten nachos . For the record, the nachos are sponsored by Doritos.
Who wins Super Bowl XLVI? Joe The Less-Than-Casual-Fan says the Red Sox.