Tuesday, February 3, 2015

That Was a Boneheaded Call

Sunday's Super Bowl had no real attraction for me — which is ironic, I suppose, since the overnight numbers indicate that it was the highest–rated Super Bowl ever. Obviously, it had an attraction for some people.

But I was a disinterested observer, watching only because there really was nothing else to watch. That is one of the things I remember from my days on the sports copy desk. Super Bowl Sunday was all about the Super Bowl. There might be a few basketball games earlier in the day, but they were just to fill the time. Once the Super Bowl began, nothing else was happening.

I also discovered that nothing competes with the Super Bowl on TV, either. Maybe there was a time in the last 50 years when the networks tried to compete with whichever one had the broadcast rights, but they must have learned quickly that was pointless. People throw parties on Super Bowl Sunday. You can't compete with that.

Once video recorders became a part of American households, it was possible to have quality options. Before that, though, it was the Super Bowl or nothing. On the sports desk, ever mindful of our deadlines, we kept one eye on the game and the other eye on the clock.

I stopped working on sports desks several years ago, and Super Bowl Sunday means something entirely different to me now. Sometimes the Super Bowl has had great meaning for me — like when the Green Bay Packers are playing in it. Most of the time, though, to borrow an expression I heard often when I was growing up, I haven't had a dog in that hunt.

That was the situation in which I found myself Sunday. I didn't really care for either team so I was able to watch with a complete sense of detachment. Being a Packer fan, my attitude would have been entirely different if the Packers had beaten the Seahawks in the NFC championship game. But they didn't so I was free to be just a football fan. That was kind of nice. It meant I could second–guess strategy — which I guess I can do anyway, but it is different when the Packers are playing. I always feel like I am being disloyal if I second–guess the coach's strategy. After all, he works with the players every day. He knows their strengths and weaknesses better than I do — even though I like to tell myself that I know those things, too.

When I have no emotional stake in the outcome, it is easier in some ways to watch the game and more difficult in others.

But I don't have a problem with calling 'em the way I see 'em — and that was a boneheaded call by Seattle's Pete Carroll.

One yard from the end zone. Seattle needed a touchdown to win the game. Carroll has, perhaps, the most punishing running back in the NFL today on his roster, a man who is certainly capable of picking up a single yard. And if he doesn't get it, you've still got time and a timeout to use. You can try again.

Sure, it's playing the odds. Sure, it's predictable. It's even boring — except that it probably would have worked. The Seahawks had the top–rated rushing game in the NFL this season. New England had the ninth–best run defense in the entire NFL — good but not great. How can it be great when the New York Jets were rated ahead of the Patriots in run defense?

Fact is, the Patriots were worse against the pass than they were against the run. They ranked 17th in the NFL. But when you're talking about the passing game, New England's pass defense has the edge against Seattle's pass offense, which ranked 27th in the entire NFL.

"You dance with who brung you," Darrell Royal used to say. The Seahawks relinquished their NFL title because they forgot to dance with who brung 'em.

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