Monday, January 24, 2005

As It Should Be

Perhaps it's fitting that on the day Johnny Carson passed away the Patriots and Eagles advanced to the Super Bowl in dominating fashion.

Carson was often described as simply being "the best." Nobody ever had anything bad to say about the guy. He was untouchable. He was that good. He was...the best.

Simply being "the best" would also adequately describe the Patriots and Eagles. They have been winning more than any other two teams for the last four years. They win by running the ball, playing defense, passing well when needed, and outclassing opponents in all facets of the game. They have no egos. They respect the moment and their opponent. They win a lot and they win with class.

The best, indeed.

With all due apologies to the Steelers and Falcons, the Super Bowl is as it should be. The Patriots and Eagles will go down as dominating the present era in the NFL, so it's only appropriate that they meet on the biggest stage at least once. It's like when the Cowboys were dominating in the NFC, and the Bills likewise in the AFC, and they crossed paths. Twice, in fact. Unfortunately for the Bills.

Maybe it's time people stop mentioning the word "parity" as if it's the be all/end all of the NFL. Parity isn't dead, it never existed. The Patriots will be playing in their third Super Bowl in four years. The Eagles are coming off their fourth straight NFC title game. This so-called parity seems to be little more than some concept that experts and fans alike talk about because it's trendy.

Teams don't rise to the top because the NFL's financial system dictates the ebb and flow of success, but rather because teams like the Patriots and Eagles are smart franchises that find players who are dedicated and coaches who are wise. Parity? No.

Clearly, the Eagles are the feel good story of the playoffs thus far, having cast aside the doubt that lingered over their mission. Their haunted past was left behind. How can you not root for Andy Reid or Donovan McNabb or Brian Dawkins or John Runyan, guys who built the Eagles from scratch and came so close in the past only to find disappointment? How can you not root for the Philly fans, who despite their drunken, Mad Maxesque image, never stopped believing in a city that hasn't seen a professional title in 22 years?

(Check out the intro to the Eagles' website. Good stuff.)

The Patriots, meanwhile, are hard not to like despite their constant winning reaching the point where it becomes boring. They've reached the point where their legacy among the best teams of all time can be debated. It's interesting to watch. This game means as much to them as it does to the Eagles, who just want a first taste of such glory.

The Patriots' excellence is easy to appreciate, if not necessarily enjoy. If one Patriot sums up their story, it's Troy Brown, who has spent much of the season playing offense, defense, special teams, and driving the team bus. You almost forget that he's in his 12th year. He's not a youngster.

Brown is the Patriots in a nutshell. Selfless. Diligent. Hard-working. Role-accepting. And really freakin' good.

For the Falcons and Steelers, their fortunes came down largely, but far from entirely, to their young quarterbacks, who proved not quite ready for the biggest stage.

Michael Vick's passing ability has yet to catch up to his legs and can be shut down without a running game. Ben Roethlisberger is a rookie and his thumb looked injured. Atlanta plays in a dome. The Steelers don't play well at home in AFC Championship games.

Oh well.

Terrell Owens looks to be recovering from his ankle injury just fine.

I loved Vick's postgame allusion to McNabb reaching the "next level" and hoping to reach the "next level" himself. The next level. I like that. Vick is a guy who gets it. He understands and appreciates the ups and downs McNabb has experienced. He understands that yesterday's loss was just one step on his own personal journey to the "next level." He understands that getting to the "next level" will never be easy, but he's willing to try.

Vick will be back.

It was tough watching Roethlisberger talk about not wanting to let his team down. The kid's alright.

Does anyone else get the feeling that Jim Nantz and Phil Simms have money on the results of instant replay decisions? They seem to take it seriously, borderline snippy.

(I had my money on Simms, but they split two disagreements. Push.)


How enjoyable was the Bulls' 100-89 win over the Pistons in the Palace on Saturday night? Hmm, let me count the ways.

1) I liked when Tyson Chandler drew an offensive foul on Rasheed Wallace late in the game and then repeatedly pumped his fists in total exhaltation. Chandler is taking his defense seriously. Very seriously. I love that.

2) If there was a sure sign of the Bulls' growing presence in the NBA, it came while watching the Pistons nearly reach the point of total implosion in the fourth quarter when a few calls didn't go their way. While the Pistons were whistled for three technicals in a matter of seconds, the Bulls quietly walked away and hit their free throws. Nice.

3) I loved when Eddy Curry was sprinting to the locker room after the win, then turned around to greet the other Bulls with high fives and slaps on the back. That stuff is infectious.

OK, all the talk over Scott Skile's substitution pattern regarding Ben Gordon, particularly in fourth quarters, has to stop. Why is this a worthwhile debate?

Has Gordon had some phenomenal fourth-quarter performances? Yes. Is it odd to see Gordon sitting in fourth quarters so shortly after his streak of late-game heroics? Sure.

But here's the thing: HE'S A ROOKIE! Rookies will go through ups and downs. They'll learn lessons the hard way. And, hey, it's working, isn't it? The Bulls are winning.

Gordon has done it in the past, and hopefully he can do it again in the future. But he doesn't have to do it every game. Everyone is stepping up. This is a good thing.

I want J.J. Redick in a Bulls uniform. An outside shot like Redick's would be lethal on the Bulls right now. He'd fit into the Steve Kerr role nicely.

This is classic.

"The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that's the essence of inhumanity." - George Bernard Shaw


Blogger WarriorFive said...

Yeah, the Bulls are approaching "the next level" like Vick is in the process of doing. The upcoming weeks (and months?) shall me interesting. Is this a wrinkle amongst the waves upon a beach?... something stiring beneath the surface? Character and depth is what I'm looking for. When they trip at 3 in a row on the road, will they demolish Shaq in their house at home?! 30 million dollars better buy me more than a dunk and an attitude!! I'm not calling amyone out (i'm being stereo-typical), but I'm curious who wants to be the Vick or McNabb of Chicago's legendary team? Their young and somebody has the opportunity to step (by example) before his team and lead his warriors to battle. He must do this when they most need it. This is a great situation this young Bulls team has created for themselves. Now if they can 'believe' and WORK for the remainder of the season..........Who knows? I remember a certain team that carried that mentality to a Super Bowl in 2001 and defeated Goliath. Being a Champion is about Will and Desire. These guys make millions because they have the vehicle to carry them to the promise-land. Which one of these guys wants to drive? Brady did in 01'....Bastard!

6:35 PM  

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