Thoughts on the NFL Divisional Playoffs this past weekend..
Every week we learn something new watching NFL games and some of what we learn is that those who supposedly know the game the best have learned very little. The league’s television partners can be counted among the learning deficient. CBS spent Saturday afternoon making it evident that one player and one player alone is responsible for any success the Baltimore Ravens have. That would be the guy who cut a deal to get out of a murder rap, linebacker Ray Lewis. Even as the offense was putting up points, the camera was pointed at Lewis. This after the game opening shot of Lewis being embraced by commissioner Roger Goodell. This after a week of talk show hot lines burning with the demonization of Tim Tebow, who’s main sin is his love for his lord and his fellow man. In that same game CBS showed the difference between a legal “check us out” group end zone celebration and an illegal celebration, in replay, in slo-mo, with the circles and arrows and paragraphs on the back. I hope all the midget football players at home were watching. You’d think the guys in the booth would use the replays for what they’re intended, to get it right. Too frequently the officials on the field fail to that end, defeating the purpose, but the announcers shouldn’t be immune. But asking them to admit when their wrong and correct themselves is too much. Yesterday, with the Texans arguing for two seconds to kick a field goal at the end of the first half Jim Nance announced there were two seconds left when the whistle blew to end the play and introduced the replay saying, “Listen for the whistle”. So I did, as I’m sure the rest of the viewing audience did. Nance sat silent as the whistle sounded with the clock showing zeros. Worse than regular displays by the network talking heads who feed us the narrative with every game, primarily designed to suit their own narratives, are coaches who continually outsmart themselves. But don’t question their decisions because the answer invariably comes back, in some form or another, “Because I’m me and you’re not.” Sometimes just knowing what we see with our own eyes isn’t enough. For instance, how many fans had seen the fallacy of the “prevent defense” before coaches realized they were losing more games with the strategy than they were winning because it was one of the easiest tactics to draw up offenses against. Or the “wild cat” offense, which is tipped off everytime, simply by the personnel in the game. But the worst strategy, one that no NFL head coach seems to have caught up with yet, is the last second timeout to “freeze” the kicker just before the snap of the ball. These are NFL kickers who thrive on pressure or they wouldn’t be in their positions, particularly on playoff teams that got there by making a habit of winning close games. All a “freeze” timeout call accomplishes is giving the kicker a free practice boot right from the spot, and under the conditions, he’ll eventually be called on to kick it for real. Most times he makes them both, but the best case scenario is the one that was on display yesterday when Seahawks coach Pete Carroll outsmarted himself. Matt Bryant missed the 49 yard attempt Carroll’s timeout wiped out. The one that, then, counted, Bryant nailed dead center with room to spare. When will these guys just throw up their hands and say, “Whatever made us think this was a good idea?” With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.