The NFL once again reigned supreme last Sunday, providing football fans with yet another exciting Super Bowl. While most spent time afterward complaining about how Christina Aguilera botched the national anthem, the game itself was as good as any played this year.
For the longest time, the Super Bowl was a snooze-fest, existing mostly as an excuse for all of us to stuff our faces among friends while eventually losing interest in the game, but parity suits this modern NFL just fine. We’ve been treated to four, consecutive classics: Patriots-Giants, Steelers-Cardinals, Saints-Colts and now Packers-Steelers.
An estimated 163 million people watched the Packers beat the Steelers which means, if my math suits me correctly, over half the country tuned in to see Terrible Towels turned into Kleenex.
The recent playoffs and their corresponding ratings (Super Bowl XLV was the most watched program in TV history) proved once again why the NFL is king of American sports.
2 points – Ohio State Basketball
Very quietly, or not so quietly if you live in Columbus, the Ohio State Buckeyes are coasting through their regular season schedule. They are now 24-0, have seven games left to play before the post-season and are a virtual lock for a number one seed in the upcoming tournament.
Six-foot-nine, 280 pound, Jared Sullinger is averaging a double-double and is making the days of Greg Oden an afterthought. With a much stockier frame, it’s also looking like he’ll be a more durable pro.
But Sullinger isn’t doing it by himself. William Buford, David Lighty, and Jon Diebler are all averaging over ten points a game. The Buckeyes are third in the nation in field goal percentage (49.6%) and fourth in the nation in points allowed per game (57.8), which is usually a good combination to have entering March.
Closing the regular season undefeated will be a tough task as three of the seven teams they’re about to face are ranked, including Wisconsin twice, however, I’m sure Buckeye fans will be okay with dropping one or two of those if it means winning a national championship in early April.
3 points (of course) – Ray Allen
It’s one thing to be a great NBA shooter. It’s quite another to be the greatest three-point shooter in the history of the game. That’s what Ray Allen, aka Jesus Shuttlesworth, became this week as he sunk three-pointer number 2,561 against the Los Angeles Lakers, besting Reggie Miller’s record. Miller was in the audience and as a classy gesture, congratulated Allen shortly after the record was broken.
While Miller’s jump shot was an eyesore, Allen’s is perhaps the sweetest stroke ever. Allen has worked on his game tirelessly over the years to ensure proper form and long-term success. And before you think he’s done, Allen is only 35 and probably has a few good more years left on his career if he cares to play that long.
In this day and age of unbreakable records, Allen’s, which he continues to add to nightly in Boston’s quest for title eighteen, might stand for quite some time.
4 points – Aaron Rodgers
Well, he finally got the monkey off his back and nobody can be happier about that than Aaron Rodgers, except for maybe Ted Thompson.
For years, Rodgers lived in Brett Favre’s shadow, repeatedly answering questions he wanted no part of, but understanding they came with the territory.
Now, as Favre rides off into the sunset once again, his legacy tarnished with indecision and an explicit phone text he sent to a woman that wasn’t his wife, the ring-bearing Rodgers is having the last laugh as Super Bowl MVP.
Rodgers’ pass where he threaded a touchdown through the Steelers defense to Greg Jennings will forever make Pittsburgh fans wince. His performance showed us all we needed to know about his will to win, which was the reason most of us without Steeler allegiance were rooting for him to do so.
Or were we just rooting against Favre?
1 point – The NFL
How does someone make both Hail and Rail in the same week, you ask? Easily considering Super Bowl XLV may very well be the last professional football game any of us see for a while, unless you’re watching Arena Football or the Canadian Football League.
I don’t want to belabor this point more than I already have, since we’ll probably be talking about it for the next few months, but it just seems inconceivable that all parties involved in a nine billion (with a b!) dollar industry, might not be able to find a middle ground, destroying the image of the sport many of us have come to hold so dear.
In the midst of what ESPN is currently calling “labor uncertainty,” how ironic is it that as our nation faces one of it worst unemployment crises in history, millionaires are fighting over what most third world countries could live off for generations. As much as we love our football, one would have to think a lockout will leave a bad taste in every fan’s mouth. See baseball.
So cross your fingers, sports fans, in the hopes that the owners, players and Ringleader Goodell will ensure there is football for us to watch come September.
2 points – Otis Smith (I think)
I hate to say I told you so. Actually, that’s not true. I love to say I told you so, particularly when my predictions turn out to be spot on.
Months ago, I wrote that the Magic did the WRONG thing by uprooting their roster mid-season. Some agreed with me, many didn’t. Those who didn’t claimed Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis were inconsistent at best. So far, Gilbert Arenas and Jason Richardson have yet to be any sort of improvement.
The blockbuster deal turned out to be a lateral move, technically making it a step backward considering the time an NBA roster needs to develop chemistry.
Orlando has gone from legitimate title contender to a team that now can’t beat the better teams in the league. They can’t rebound, they don’t score consistently and they can’t defend. The Magic started out the season 15-4 and have now lost eight of their last fifteen. In fact, the Magic haven’t beaten a team with a .500 record or better in over a month and that was the Dallas Mavericks without Dirk Nowitzki in the lineup!
I’m still not sure who was ultimately responsible for this trade, Dwight Howard, Otis Smith, Stan Van Gundy or Rich DeVos but something will have to give if this team fails to at least make the Eastern Conference Finals.
Let’s hope it’s not Dwight Howard’s willingness to stay in Orlando.
3 points – Anyone who sends me a fantasy baseball invitation
Here they come. There’s no hiding from the never-ending e-mail strings from friends, family and websites asking me to play ball. No no no no NO!
Sporting News, Yahoo, ESPN, CNNSI, ugh!!! I just say no to fantasy baseball.
The baseball season is already long enough. I don’t need to be reminded of it daily by filling out some faux lineup. With most of us looking through the classified section for jobs, who has the time to peruse every single sports section box score to rejoice that his team landed him three stolen bases and a save?
I don’t play fantasy baseball, fantasy football, fantasy soccer, golf or anything of the sort, although I did agree to join my buddy’s fantasy NASCAR league just to prove someone who knows nothing about the car racing can still eke out the occasional victory (Yes, I’ll take Jimmie Johnson again this week, please).
And one more thing. To all you fantasy buffs out there, I kindly request that if you’re ever chatting with someone about what a steal your back-up catcher was in the 22nd round of your draft and you start to see their eyes wander off, have the decency to recognize they’re not paying attention and end the conversation immediately.
4 points – Cleveland Cavaliers
I debated whether to even include the Cleveland Cavaliers, losers of 26 straight, in this week’s Hail or Rail Scale, for I usually don’t like to kick a man while he’s down. That was until their recent home loss to the team formerly known as the Detroit Pistons, where the Cavs just seemed like they were there to collect a paycheck.
If it weren’t for a hot start after LeDeparture, the Cavaliers would easily be in the discussion as one of the worst NBA teams ever.
If there’s any good to come out of this losing streak, it should at least put an end to any discussion of whether Antawn Jamison was a solid pick up last year. A player of Jamison’s caliber should at least be able to take over a game every once in a while. Jamison was selected fourth in the 1998 Draft. Other players who were selected fourth over the years include Chris Paul, Chris Bosh, Stephon Marbury, Rasheed Wallace, Jamal Mashburn, Dennis Scott, Glen Rice, Chuck Person and ironically, the man who now coaches Jamison, Byron Scott. All these players, at one point or another, were able to put their team on their backs and get them a well-needed victory. Not ‘Tawn.
Although he’s averaging nearly 20 points per game (but shooting only 42% from the floor), Mr. Jamison is only one of twelve Cavs not getting it done. If a team ever needed a win, it’s the 2011 Cleveland Cavaliers. I mean, even LeBron must feel bad at this point.
5 points – My wagering
Why is it that whenever I get into a Super Bowl grid pool, I always end up with 8s and 6s and rooting for a safety? I continue to throw money at the cause for camaraderie’s sake even though I’m a rather unimpressive 0-for-a-lifetime in winning them.
I know they’re based solely on luck yet it never ceases to amaze me that, with over 150 million people watching the Super Bowl every year, you still have to explain to everyone at the party how the darn things work.
After a week of indecision on how to bet the Super Bowl, I ended up going with Green Bay. As I’ve mentioned earlier, to me, the Packers just seemed to want it more. Even though Pittsburgh had been there before, desire always trumps familiarity in my book.
Everyone was surprised that Las Vegas made the Packers, a six seed, the favorite to win the Super Bowl before Championship weekend. People also forget these lines are based on perception.
As it turned out, Vegas was once again spot on. Croshere and I, however, were not. We got greedy, liking Green Bay a little too much, stretching the point spread to 6.5 (and a theoretical payout of +160), only to lose by the hook. Oh well, I guess I shouldn’t complain considering I was still up for the playoffs.
Now who wants to bet on whether there will be a season next year?