As per usual, I ran out of time in my previews, this time only getting through the 8 worst teams in the playoffs before I had to do other things like talk about some guy pretending that Tim Tebow miraculously appeared on his grilled cheese sandwich (the bid for which is up to $25.01 as I write this, because apparently people would rather pay $25.01 for a used Fake Tim Tebow Grilled Cheese than make their own, and, as usual, the fact that there exists people stupid enough to spend money on a stupid thing makes me have to remind you again that we have more than enough money to fund Social Security and Medicare and still provide universal free health care because we live in a society so rich people will pay for Fraudulent Grilled Cheese Souvenirs, and people who say otherwise should go to Hell.)
Anyway, the four teams I had loosely ranked the top four playoff teams, by process of elimination, were the Patriots*, the Packers, the Giants, and the Broncos, and two of them made it past this weekend, so not bad for me, if you count a 16% success rate as "not bad," which I do.
But since only two of the as-yet-unanalyzed teams moved on -- both the Broncos and the Packers falling out of contention due to the incredibly Tebow-like play of their quarterbacks in the divisional round, the difference between Actual Tebow and Aaron Rodgers' Tebow Impersonation being that Actual Tebow wasn't given 40+ opportunities to badly overthrow his receivers and then shake his head in disgust -- I've decided to change it up for the final four and tell you why each team should go to the Super Bowl, and also why they should not go, and in doing so, preview each of the upcoming weekend's two games, only one of which is worth watching anyway.
Before going on, I should point out that Tim Tebow's playoff passer rating was higher than A-Rodg's. The Anointed One, who will likely be voted the MVP this year, finished the playoffs rated lower than His Tebowness, with a worse completion percentage than Andy Dalton, second-last among playoff quarterbacks in average yards per completion, and behind Joe Flacco (and 6 others) in first-down percentage. Some of that is due to the fact that Packers' receivers treated the football as though it caused them actual pain that increased the nearer it got, but part of that is that Rodgers routinely over- and underthrew his receivers and tossed it behind them, all the while grimacing as though he were the only one on the field who was even remotely competent. Whenever Tebow did something stupid in the half-game I watched, his teammates gathered around and he was supportive and supported.
Whenever the Packers did something stupid, they scowled and yelled and frowned and sulked, which is perhaps the difference between being gratified to make the playoffs and hoping for more, on the one hand, and thinking that you are entitled to win and shouldn't have to go through the motions, on the other hand. Possibly one reason so few teams repeat as Super Bowl winners is that once you've spent a year being called a "World Champion" and interviewed and paraded and featured on the NFL's opening night and then run through the season with people saying how you're the team to beat, you may forget that you still have to play the games.
So today, it's the lesser of two evils, the AFC Championship Game, featuring the Patriots* vs. the Ravens, the Ravens being the AFC version of the Atlanta Falcons: all boringosity, while the Patriots* manage to be the AFC's version of the Patriots*, a team full of guys who in my mind are forever branded as cheaters, making it impossible for me to root for them.
Before going on to analyze why each team should, or should not, win, let me take a moment to feature a quote from an anonymous guy on ESPN radio on Saturday. I never get the names of the interchangeable voices saying interchangeable things on the radio, so I don't know who said it, but on Saturday, while running some errands, I put on the radio and heard An Anonymous Interchangeable ESPN Guy say:
"I'm more of an AFC guy myself"
Which caused me to immediately turn the radio to NPR and give up for the day on sports "commentary" because what sense does it make to prefer the AFC over the NFC?
I can understand, in baseball, preferring the American League or the National League: the rules are slightly different, so the style of play is slightly different. But at this point, the AFC/NFC divide is as meaningless as the NBA's East/West divide or whatever it is they do on hockey (I think they divide it between "people who don't care about hockey" and "that one guy who does care a little.")
It's not right to say that one conference is more physical than the other -- both the #1 seeds this year featured high-scoring offenses dominated by passing with no defense on the other side. Both conferences featured old-school bruising defenses like the Steelers or the Bears. The conferences play each other all the time. The AFC has been part of the NFL for something like nearly 50 years, so nobody young enough to be on sports radio has any reason to think of it as anything but a meaningless division in the NFL; old-timers could be forgiven for clinging to memories of the AFL, but old-timers aren't worth listening to anyway.
So: Back to the AFC Conference Championship, featuring a match-up between two teams that I dislike so much, I actively rooted for the Generically Named Houston Texans (would it be any worse if they were the Texas Houstons?)(It might be better) on Saturday, to no avail. And now I am trying to muster up a reason to care for one or both of these teams so that I don't end up spending Super Bowl Sunday at Chuck E. Cheese's with Mr F and Mr Bunches which, come to think of it, actually sounds like it might be kind of fun...
...No! Nobody's skipping a Super Bowl on my watch. While it's true that Obama has set himself up as the sole defender of all of our rights so that we exist in a world where for now we are safe from rendition and SOPA, at least until we elect President RonPaul to run President RonPaul's America Circa 2001 (TM) and he has us all spirited away for questioning while shutting down the Internet, but for now I still have an obligation as an American to watch the Super Bowl and complain that the commercials weren't as good as I remember, and so here goes with
Why The Patriots* Should Win The Super Bowl This Year: If you want a good reason why you should root for Brady and whoever else is still on this team to win the Super Bowl, here's one: they could be the greatest team ever in football.
With the Packers opting to not really try against the Giants in the divisional round, their chances of repeating as champs is over, but a fascinating article in the Green Bay Press Gazette pointed out that doubling up on Super Bowl rings back-to-back isn't really that great anyway, and just winning a Super Bowl? Pleh.
Consider this quote from Tedy Bruschi, whose name is ridiculously hard to spell, talking about whether it's a big deal to win more than one Super Bowl. Saying it's not, really, Tedy pointed out:
You want to own a decade...That's the ultimate compliment. To have a decade mentioned in the history of the NFL and to have them think of only one team. That's the ultimate compliment. That's what sets so many different teams apart.He's not the only one who thinks that. Troy Aikman, who seemed not to say anything calling the Giants-Packers blowout, said in that article:
Yet, there's always the opportunity then for someone to say, `Well, yeah, he won this, but … or this team won one but when you win a second Super Bowl or multiple Super Bowls, it eliminates a lot of those buts.
This, then, is the world we live in: Winning the World Championship is nothing. Winning back-to-back is, well, okay but to be anything anyone would care about, you've got to win a decade, like Steelers in the 70s and the 49ers in the 80s and the Cowboys in the 90s and the Patriots* in the Aughts and that's why you should root for the Patriots* in this Super Bowl: because they can begin again with this decade and if they're good enough, maybe they'll win the Teens too and they'll be the only team to win a score -- that's twenty years -- and they can set the bar a little higher than it's already been set.
In the age of parity, when anyone can win on any given Sunday and new teams make it to the Super Bowl every year,practically, the cool kids have, as the cool kids always do, redefined cool. The Patriots* can do that again by setting themselves up as the first Team Of A Score, or something.
Why The Patriots* Shouldn't Win: For that same reason. Wasn't everyone a little relieved when it turned out the Patriots* were cheating all along and that none of their Super Bowl victories really counted for anything, and we could all say "It's not that they're geniuses or great or anything, they just cheated and if I had a DVD of everyone else's defensive calls, I'd be dating Gisele Bundchen, too." I mean, enough is enough, right? While we, as a society, have been slowly redefining success downward -- handing out ribbons for everything and supersizing our food to the point where 44 ounces is now regular-sized and seeing Dove claim that ordinary people are beautiful despite the fact that we see ordinary people every day proving the exact opposite -- the Patriots* have been going around winning every Super Bowl there is and throwing for record touchdown and record yardages and this year getting to the AFC Championship without even bothering to play defense just for the fun of it, I'd say, except that there's nothing fun about the Patriots* and their whole grimly-determined faces and precision attack and joyless approach to football.
The Patriots* are all about winning no matter what: they are, by now, the living embodiment of everything Vince Lombardi ever thought: it's as if someone took all those Vince Lombardi quotes and his eyeglasses and scary 1960s'-too-large teeth and put them in a beaker with amino acids and zapped it with lightning and the result began spewing out perfect football players who could play any position and can each perform every task on the field, all of them guided by the Hive Mind of Bill Belichick. The Patriots* are success, winning, taken beyond all rational norms to a point where it's sort of frightening, isn't it? I mean, sure, they win a lot, but if there was ever a gray, faceless, post-apocalyptic vision of the future, it's Patriots* football: clean, antiseptic, unfunny, mechanical, perfect Patriots* football.
If the Patriots* win this Super Bowl, it'll feel not so much like a celebration as that moment when Hal says "Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye."
Maybe they're heralding the next phase of evolution, but I don't want to be a Sky Baby.
Which Way I'm Gonna Go With This: Ultra-perfection either way... but at what cost? Then again, a Patriots* Super Bowl means that instead of Napoleon Dynamite in the stands (as he was at Lambeau Field yesterday), we'll get shots of Gisele:
And if Hal had looked like that, Dave would've never left the pod bay. Vote: SHOULD win.
Tomorrow (or soon?) Why The Ravens Should(N'T) Win The Super Bowl.