[Yes, I bitch about the Stupid Patriots here. I have some positive stuff about football first, though.]
Well, another NFL season is in the books. (Except for the Pro Bowl, but really, who cares about that? I'm amazed that thing is even televised.) A lot of football-loving friends of mine were complaining last week that there was only one game to go, but I'm fine with it -- the NFL season doesn't overstay its welcome, unlike, say, the NHL or the NBA, both of which begin their playoffs in March and crown a champion in August or something like that. And it surprises me that a usually unremarked consequence of the NFL's relentless quest for parity has been that as of late, the Super Bowl has almost always been a good game: in the last ten Super Bowls, there have only been three blow-outs.
:: John Scalzi recently solicited rules-changes for the Super Bowl. I don't have any of those to offer, but I'd make a change in the NFL season thusly: I'd shorten the preseason to just two games, and then I'd start the season three weeks earlier, thus adding two more games to the regular season for a total of eighteen (plus one extra bye week for each team, thus yielding a 20-week regular season). Since this would increase the amount of wear-and-tear on the NFL players' bodies, I'd also increase the rosters to 65 players, the practice squads to ten, and accordingly bump up the salary cap to accomodate those extra bodies. Why would I do this? Just because there'd be more football on the front end. Oh, and I'd add two teams to the playoffs in each conference and get rid of the bye weeks.
:: As for tonight's festivities: that was the best rendition of the National Anthem I've ever heard at any sporting event. I mean, having no celebrity doing it at all -- just a bunch of military choirs, supplemented by herald trumpets -- was just plain classy. What a great moment that was.
:: I'm not entirely sure why President Clinton was introduced as part of a tribute to the World War II generation. I know that since the tsunamis hit Asia, he's been partnered with President Bush the Elder in drumming up support for that region, but I genuinely have no idea why he was part of that particular tribute.
(UPDATE: He was there with Bush the Elder to promote tsunami relief, and the NFL execs probably figured it would be rude to bring out one ex-President on the scene and exclude the other one.)
:: I liked the Fox/NFL thingie about the Declaration of Independence that was playing when I first switched to Super Bowl coverage.
:: Paul McCartney? Not my favorite performer ever, but certainly a step up from last year's noisy, music-free debacle. It could have used more breasts, though.
:: Commercials? I don't care, really. I used them for their intended purpose: as opportunities to visit the bathroom, get more food, check the hit counter, et cetera.
:: OK, the game itself. If you're a StuPat fan, or just some fair-weather oddball who has an inexplicable love for these guys, turn away now!
Yes, they're a dynasty. Three Super Bowl championships in four years has to earn the title of "Dynasty" in the NFL. I won't even try to deny that (not that I would in any case -- before the StuPats, my most hated team was the Cowboys, and I don't deny that their team in the early 90s was a dynasty, either). So, there it is: the New England Stupid Patriots of the early 2000's are a great team.
But they're the worst of the NFL's great teams. Any of the other great teams in NFL history would beat these guys. And I'm not just talking about the former dynasties, either (70s Steelers, 80s 49ers, 90s Cowboys). I think that the best single-season teams I've seen would also probably beat them. (I'm thinking of the 85 Bears, 89 49ers, 91 Redskins, 94 49ers, and 98 Broncos.) That's because in each Super Bowl that the StuPats have won, they really haven't beaten the other team. They've merely not lost to the other team. Big difference.
In three victories, the StuPats have beaten a clearly superior team in a big upset by three points; they've barely held on to beat a clearly inferior team by three points; and they've held on to beat a probably inferior, but not by much, team by three points. Big whoop.
The truly great teams took command in their championship games (most of the time, anyway). There was never any doubt. True, the Steelers had two close games against the Cowboys, but their other games were dominant performances. True, the 49ers had two tough ones against the Bengals (and there's another sticking point: when Tom Brady leads a two-minute drill to win a Super Bowl with his team trailing at the time, then you can get back to me with the Joe Montana comparisons, and not one second before), but the 49ers also blew out the Dolphins (one of the best offensive teams ever) and handed the Broncos the worst drubbing in Super Bowl history. The Cowboys of the 90s were never really in doubt of losing any of their three Super Bowls. And neither were those great single-season teams I mention: those teams flat-out dominated their Super opponents.
I see no true dominance from the StuPats -- just a freakish level of competence that is impressive in its own right, but not one that puts me in mind of the greater dynasties that have existed in years past. And tonight, the StuPats didn't even display that: they were downright sloppy in the first half, and only the fact that the Eagles were equally sloppy and remained so in the second half allowed them to win. That's what I mean when I say that they don't so much as win as they don't lose.
And that's my final bit of StuPat ranting for the 2004 NFL season. A couple of more random thoughts before I check out until the Draft (give or take an interesting free-agent offseason by the Bills):
:: Did Andy Reid suddenly turn into Gregg Williams at the end of the game tonight? Seriously, what was up with the horrible clock management? I'm watching the Eagles act like there's no sense of urgency at all, and I was reminded of that hilarious scene in Bull Durham when the manager berates the team for being a bunch of "lollygaggers".
:: I like the word "lollygag" a lot, in all its permutations.
:: OK, I'll say one nice thing about the StuPats: This year the MVP award was given to the exact right player. Deion Branch had an amazing game. That guy won, big-time.
:: Unintentionally hilarious moment of the night: During the postgame, when Terry Bradshaw goes to award Deion Branch with his new car (the main part of the MVP prize), he says, "Deion, I've got something in my pocket for you...." I couldn't keep from laughing at that.
:: Next up: World Championships of Figure Skating. Go Michelle Kwan! And I wonder what blond Russian guy I've never heard of before will win the Men's competition?