Monday, December 10, 2007

Why I Will Watch the NFL Playoffs

I have spent some time pointing out the reasons that college hoops is the best spectator sport, but today I offer an olive branch to you NFL fans. I will watch the NFL playoffs this season with great interest...even though it will require me to watch an INSANE amount of commercials for Gillette and terrible beer. And, love them or hate them, it is because of the New England Patriots. The undefeated, 16-0 Patriots.

This does not happen in big-time sports very often. There are way too many (82 total...and 40 of them meaningless) NBA games for a team to go unblemished. Baseball? HA! 162 games. Hockey? They count ties in their point system for crying out loud, and again, too many games. The NFL? The 1985 Bears were close, but they lost one game to the Dolphins. It does happen relatively often in college football, but their championship system is a farce. I am talking about an undefeated season where the champion is decided on the field (not by a poll) in a winner-take-all tournament setting.

Only once in my lifetime have I had the opportunity to watch this play out. It was the 1991 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, and the UNLV Runnin' Rebels, led by their towel-chewing coach Jerry Tarkanian, rang up a 30-0 regular season record. Their ballyhooed "Amoeba" defense perplexed and dominated the opposition. Their roster was littered with future NBA players like Greg Anthony, Larry Johnson, and Stacy Augmon. They had won the NCAA Championship the year before. They were a juggernaut. A sure bet. Unstoppable.

They dispatched four teams fairly easily on their way to the Final Four where they met Duke. And, they lost by 2 in a shocker. They were a great team that lost, but it was a great story. If they had won, it still would have been a great story. Fans could not lose in this scenario (unless you were a UNLV fan, of course).

See, no matter what happens with New England, it will be high drama. It will be full-on, parade-inducing, confetti-flying, glory for the ages for the Pats, or it will be euphoric pandemonium for the team that upsets them.

I have no dog in this fight, so it will simply be good sport regardless of the outcome.