Monday, January 25, 2010

Super Bowl Time - The Gladiators in the Coliseum - Are the Saints Angels or Demons?


Don't know about you but the one time a year when I like pro football is when it is time for the Super Bowl, football's version of the World Series, or is it the clash of titans? At any rate, this is the one game every year when there is so much money riding on the outcome, both legal and illegal, that you can almost count on an honest effort by everyone involved.

Gambling, yet another nation pastime that remains outside the law in most states, has had a corrupting influence on most sports over the years. Illegal gambling is like playing the hedge funds or derivative markets on Wall Street where you can bet and win for or against the team or fund depending on whether you can anticipate the outcome. All the better if you can influence it.

Many a great sports career has been tarnished or ruined by people trying to influence players or officials to throw games, fake injuries, or simply hurt an opposing star. Kind of like an investment house betting the housing market will collapse or oil prices will skyrocket and then influencing the news media to make it happen in the press.

In the league finals between the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings it was like watching a gang of paid assassins trying to permanently damage the Vikings legendary quarterback Brett Favre. I can't tell yet if the Saints are angels or demons so I guess I will have to see if Payton Manning can avoid what they did to Favre.

Not that pain isn't part of the game, and Favre can take as much pain as anyone, but the viciousness and excessiveness of the quarterback attacks seemed to go way beyond good sportsmanship and even resulted in a couple of penalties from the see nothing do nothing officials.

As for the overtime in pro football, sudden death should be declared dead on arrival. That is the most unfair method of determining a winner I have ever seen and the only overtime format in all of professional sports where it is entirely possible the skill of both teams may never get tested in overtime. I mean even tennis has a multi-point winner, not the first to score, and in soccer both teams get shots to win.

But professional football has a system where a team can score and the other team's offense will never get a chance to play in the overtime, like what happened in the New Orleans game. College football needs a real playoff and pro football needs a real overtime that rewards skill, gives equal opportunity for both teams to demonstrate their offense and defense, and awards victory to those who earn it.

As for the New Orleans Saint and whether they are angels or demons, does it really matter in a sport where strength, hard hitting, bashing, shooting off the mouth and grandstanding are all considered part of the sports mystique? The Super Bowl will determine the real champion and if the game is lousy which does occasionally happen at least we know the commercials will be entertaining, even during an economic recession.

So we have the Indianapolis Colts and Payton Manning who won it a couple of years ago against the New Orleans Saint who have never even been in the Super Bowl. People like underdogs and of course the Saints are underdogs. However, both teams were first in their leagues and league champions do not often make it to the Super Bowl.

Manning is not Favre, he is much bigger, younger and stronger and the Colts are a lot more protective. It seems the most successful sports franchises protect their stars at all costs. Look what happens when an opposing pitcher hits one of the Yankees baseball team starts. Someone is going to get hit in retaliation. Indianapolis will protect Manning if he even needs it.

I do have a problem with Reggie Bush, star of the Saints. There is something unfair about what he did when he was in college at USC and he won the national championship and Heisman trophy. A multi-year investigation by the NCAA is about to be released and I expect it will show Bush violated many laws in college accepting cars, cash, a home for his parents, trips and who knows what else from agents intent on getting a piece of his pro career.

If that is true, then USC will probably have to forfeit all the games he played in and might lose the national championship and Bush might lose the Heisman as the best player in college football. It would be appropriate for the severity of what he may have done. What is unfair is that the university can lose all that, be put on probations and lose millions of dollars in revenues from bowl games, lose tens of thousands of dollars in sports scholarships other deserving kids might have been given, but Bush, the one behind the disaster, loses his trophy and nothing more.

He still kept all the payoffs during his college career, his parents kept what they got, Bush got his millions of dollars in the pros, so crime seems to be very rewarding for him. You see, without the national championship and Heisman trophy he never would have got the millions he was paid to turn pro. If pro football wanted to run a clean house they would ban for life anyone who cheated in college to benefit in the pros.

As it stands right now the next generation of pro football players will be encouraged to cheat, take bribes and illegal gifts in college, further eroding the morality in amateur sports, especially if Bush and New Orleans wins the Super Bowl. It just does not seem right that the signal we send our youth is crime pays, and pays and pays, not just for the moment but throughout their career. This Super Bowl will be a bit tarnished if the Saints win.

By the way, one last bit of advice for the pros. The Pro Bowl, in other words the all star game for the pros, is the week between the League championships and the Super Bowl. That means all the star players on the top two or four teams in pro football cannot play in the all star game. Isn't that a bit stupid and a rip off for the fans who want to see the top stars in the all star game? Change the schedule so real all stars can play for the fans.

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