February 2011

Super Bowl / NFL

Author: Frank Dunne, Jr. | Photographer: Matt Anderson

Let’s break down the Super Bowl matchup.

Kill! Kill! Kill! (That’s an audible, and it means I’m changing the play at the line of scrimmage). I can’t break down the Super Bowl matchup, because my deadline was a month ago, so I’m speaking to you from a place where we don’t even know who’s playing in Super Bowl XLV. Right now, all we know is this: Either the Chiefs, Colts, Jets, Patriots, Ravens or Steelers from the AFC will face either the Bears, Eagles, Falcons, Packers, Saints or Seahawks from the NFC at Cowboys Stadium on Super Bowl Sunday.

We also know that somehow the Seahawks won the NFC West with a record of 7-9. First team in NFL history to win a division with a losing record, but it gets even weirder than that. They got home field in the Wild Card round against the 11-5 defending Super Bowl champion Saints. Sometimes the NFL is wacky that way.

Believe me, I know about wackiness in the NFL. I’m a New York Jets fan. Yup. That’s my team. Oh sure, they won Super Bowl III glory with Broadway Joe (I wanna kiss Suzy Kolber) Namath and all that stuff, but that was 42 Super Bowls ago! C’mon, Man! I’m in serious pain here!

Deep breath. I should be happy right now. I’m in early January and as far as I know, it’s now February 7 and the Jets won the Super Bowl.

Stop laughing. I have a point. Despite decades of total ineptitude, underachievement, and a knack for snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory in the relatively good years, I still love my football team. I love the NFL, and I love the Super Bowl. In fact, I have a special bond with the Super Bowl. We were born in the same year, and since I have trouble counting that high, I can always look to the Super Bowl to remember how old I am (Check your local listings for my birthday party later this year, Frank XLV). The point I’m trying to make is that I’m crazy. You’re crazy. Everybody’s crazy for the NFL. It’s the most popular sport in America.

It’s so popular that it’s the only sport whose season lasts all year. So, since I can’t break down the Super Bowl matchup, there’s plenty of material to have some fun breaking down the year that got us to Super Bowl XLV.

THE DRAFT
What do I mean by a season that lasts all year? Well, we start in January with the playoffs from the previous fall’s season and finally get around to the Super Bowl in February. Even though the Pro Bowl is now played the week before, the NFL year doesn’t end with the Super Bowl. February to April is Draft Season!

Yes, the NFL Draft is a season unto itself that gets almost as much coverage as the regular season. During this time, Mel Kiper, Jr. is the most important man in America because he knows everything about every player coming out of college, and everything about which players every NFL team needs to draft. And he can break it all down in 15 seconds.

The Draft is televised nationally, and the nuttiest fans buy tickets to see it live. They even wear replica jerseys and face paint, and they chant and grunt and make other weird noises just like at the games. I think there might be beer involved. Maybe that’s why it’s called a draft?

Speaking of fans. Guys, listen to me carefully. If you’re over 25 years old and you still wear a replica jersey to the game, to the bar, to the Super Bowl party…C’mon, Man! You look ridiculous. Unless you’re actually on an NFL team’s roster and (not or) the name on the back is your own, lose the jersey. It’s time. Leave the gear to your girlfriend. She looks cute. She can pull it off (no pun intended) provided it’s something designed to fit her and not a 325 lb. offensive lineman. So get your baby some of that stuff Alyssa Milano hawks for the NFL Shop and let her earn the style points for both of you. And don’t even get me started on face paint, or worse, removing your shirt at Lambeau Field—or any NFL venue for that matter—in December.

BRETT FARVE IS GONNA MAKE A BRETT FARVE KINDA PLAY
We were talking about the NFL’s rites of spring, and you can’t have that discussion without mentioning the ongoing serial of Brett Favre’s retirement, or unretirement, or re-retirement, or whatever the heck is going on in Number 4’s mushy head. Favre’s been holding the sports media hostage from spring until Week 1 every year for, what is it, three? Four years? ESPN’s Doug Gottlieb likened it to the movie Groundhog Day, where Bill Murray kept waking up to relive the same day over and over. “It’s Favrehog Day,” said Gottlieb.

Supposedly Favre does this because he wants to go out in a blaze of Super Bowl glory. He got close last year, leading the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC Championship game, but other than that? Well, let’s see…

In ’09 he screwed up the Jets’ season and got head coach Eric Mangini fired. In ’10 he spent the season getting beaten like a piñata on the field and dodging questions about his “sexting” scandal with Jenn Sterger off the field (which occurred while he was with the Jets, of course). Ultimately, he screwed up the Vikings’ season and got head coach Brad Childress fired. It ended with Favre standing on the sidelines—his record streak of consecutive starts a memory—watching the Vikings not only lose to, but finish beneath the Detroit Lions in the final NFC North division standings. Yes, those Lions, winners of a combined total of two games in the previous two seasons. C’mon, Man!

It’s not all bad, though. After the Jets canned Mangini, they hired Rex Ryan to be their new head foot fetish…I mean…football coach and got a new quarterback, Mark Sanchez, who isn’t old enough to collect Social Security. The next year, they made it to the AFC Championship game for an astounding third time in three decades. They lost.

TRAINING CAMP, HOLDOUTS, AND PRESEASON SHENANIGANS
Summertime used to be baseball season, but who can be bothered with baseball when there’s Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s pathetic attempt to pick up girls at a college bar and the ensuing assault charges to discuss? Or Brett Favre?

Summer is also when big, tough, alpha-male pro football players act like a bunch of whiney little brats. Take Jets cornerback Darelle Revis. He had three years left on his contract. No matter. Revis wanted a new one, so he held his breath, stomped his feet and held out of training camp until he got it. Ever tried that with your boss?
How about defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth? He signed a seven-year, $41 million contract with the Washington Redskins, then pouted and complained all season because he didn’t like playing in a 3-4 defense. $41 million? Shut up and play!
Thankfully the action does move to the field in the late summer when training camps begin. This is where my beloved Jets once again made a spectacle of themselves for something other than playing good football. First, Rex Ryan made headlines for his expletive-riddled dialogue on HBO’s Hard Knocks. Then, the J-E-T-S players were reported to have behaved “inappropriately” toward a rather comely and some would say not exactly professionally-attired female reporter in their locker room. Imagine that.

All together now: C’mon, Man!

KICKOFF (FINALLY)
I’m not going to bother with the preseason games because, frankly, those games stink. September’s when we get down to business. You’re done with your fantasy draft and your lineup is set for the first football Sunday (sorry, Thursday night) of the year. By this time, we know that Brett Favre is unretired.

The 2010 season was pretty crazy. Lots of close divisional races and up-and-down teams kept things interesting. Take the NFC East for example. The New York Giants stunk, then they got good, then they stunk again and missed the playoffs. The Dallas Cowboys stunk, then got good when they fired the coach, but it was too late. The Washington Redskins just plain stunk, and they had that weird ordeal with Donovan McNabb. That left the door open for the Philadelphia Eagles and comeback player of the year, Michael Vick.

If Vick’s the comeback player of the year, the comeback logo of the year award has to go to Bubbles the Lion. Who’s Bubbles the Lion? Bubbles is the blue lion on the Detroit Lions’ helmets, and it is believed that he is responsible for the team’s remarkable 6-10 season. You see, Bubbles used to pose with his left paw up and his right paw down when facing left to right, and you’ll remember that the Lions were 0-16 in ’08. But Bubbles got a makeover in 2009 that included reversing his paw positions, and the team finished the season 2-14. This year, they tripled that win total and ended the season with a four-game win streak. There’s no telling how far Bubbles can take this team.

AND HERE WE ARE
…at Cowboys Stadium for Super Bowl XLV after a wacky season where we learned that Rex Ryan likes his wife’s feet and that the Minnesota Vikings’ stadium is a deathtrap. I hope you enjoy the game and pick some good squares; and good luck to whatever two teams are playing, unless you’re reading this after February 6. In that case, I hope you enjoyed the game and won some money; and congratulations to whoever won.

One last thing: All you Patriots fans who are wondering how I could write a thousand-word article about the NFL and not mention your team… I just did.

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