A bunch of years ago I was on vacation in Aruba. Every evening vendors set up booths and shopped their wares; tropical jewelry, exotic spices, Cuban cigars, and butt-ugly Hawaiian shirts. One shirt design pictured a man sitting at an easel in a thatch hut painting a view of a tropical ocean sunset outside a window. Another shirt was the sunset itself. An ingenious gimmick to get me to buy two unlovely silk-ish shirts instead of one useless article of swag.
The Bills hired Rex Ryan as their next head coach. I was no fan of his with the Jets; he’s a blowhard and, unless I’m missing something, not a very good coach (50-52 overall, 4-12 last season). His teams are noted for defense, and that’s the last thing the Bills need. They were 4th in the league last year, and they wasted one of the best defensive performances in team history by missing the playoffs. The Bills scored 21.4 points per game, the Jets 17.7. The Bills gave up 18 ppg, the Jets 25. Both teams played basically the same schedule. Tell me again how Rex Ryan upgrades our coaching situation? Terry Pegula, team owner, said Ryan was a good interview. I can see that. Pegula also said he’s a “good fit”. I can’t see that. Ryan was fired from a team with a solid defense, and an underachieving, salary-cap killing, over-drafted quarterback. He’s taking over a team with great defense and an underachieving, salary-cap killing, over-drafted quarterback. It’s like my Aruba Hawaiian shirts. Maybe Ryan is the horizon and Marrone the painter, but it feels like an ingenious way to get me to buy more useless swag.
That said, I believe pro sports are for entertainment purposes only (see Cowboys-comma-Dallas and the myriad rules created from a Tom Brady pass attempt; the Tuck Rule and 95% of roughing the passer penalties). Rex Ryan will be entertaining at the least, the same way interstate pile-ups and reality TV are entertaining. I just don’t think this is the formula to get the Bills to a Super Bowl.
Deflate-gate, Non-inflate-gate, whatever you want to call it, the New England Patriots supposedly cheated in the AFC Championship by using soft footballs. Maybe you heard about it. I don’t really care, except that it’s another prism through which people can psychoanalyze Bill Belechick and ratify their paranoia that the Patriots are an evil empire. I’ll repeat myself, pro sports are for entertainment purposes only. I say enjoy the debate, but don’t come to the conclusion that it matters. If you’re looking to pro sports for your daily dose of integrity, you’re not looking in the right place. Besides, it’s a pretty stupid rule.
It would have been brutal waking up last Monday if you were a rabid Packers fan; just a ridiculous and improbable series of events that had to happen for them not to be suiting up in Glendale, Arizona next Sunday for another Super Bowl. When Green Bay safety Morgan Burnett intercepted the ball with five minutes, 13 seconds left, the Packers had a 98.2% chance of winning the game. Not sure what metrics they use to come up with that number, but 98.2% is a number you just don’t get in sports. I don’t think the Heidi game, or the 1982 Russian hockey team got to 98.2%. Those are odds you’d only find in a Syracuse basketball non-conference game, or Southwestern girls swim meet. A big number. You almost have to try to lose when you’re sitting on 98.2%.
The problem for Green Bay was that Mike McCarthy was forced to coach. He didn’t. The game came down to yards and seconds, and he handled neither with what you’d expect from a head coach. Picture any NFL coach you consider good. Now picture him losing that game. I can’t. In McCarthy’s defense only two teams in conference championship history had come back from a 16 point deficit, but he HAD to have felt the momentum shift. He had to have some sort of feel for destiny in this game. He twice had his team kick field goals from the Seahawks’ one yard-line. He took the ball out of the hands of the best player in the game to hand it off and plead for the clock to tick down to zero. He failed to coach enough to stop a fake field goal, an onside kick and a 2-point conversion in the same game. Any idea the last time a team pulled off that tri-fecta in the same game? Yeah, me neither.
These two quotes say it best for me:
“We just kept believing,” Seattle receiver Jermaine Kearse said. Yeah, sure.
“We gave it away,” Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. Yes, you did.