Tuesday, January 18, 2005


Good. The fact that the Patriots are favored on the road in the AFC Championship game might be the best thing to happen to the Steelers.

Before going on, I should mention a few things. First, it was just a few hours ago that I vowed not to read any national sports outlets or watch the crap now passing for SportsCenter because I didn't want to be subjected to all the talking heads pontificating about why the Patriots will demolish the lowly 16-1 Steelers. Son1 commented that the blathering started before the Pats/Colts game even started. Not surprisingly, it was Chris Berman providing the hyperbole (isn't this the same Chris Berman who practically gave birth last week when Moss pretended to do the rump shaker with the Green Bay goal post? Just checking.) Anyway, despite my solemn promise, I spent much of today punishing myself by reading various news accounts about why the Patriots should just fly right over Pittsburgh on their way to Jacksonville, because to actually stop and actually play the game would be a monumental waste of time.

Hmmm. That was a longer than normal aside. Anyway, I still think that the Steelers being a 2.5 point underdog is a good thing. The Pats relish the role of the dark horse, and for them to be cast as the favorites kind of lessens their whole "It's us against the world!" meme. And I should also make it clear that when I say that "everyone" is making the AFC Division Championship out to be a formality for New England on their way to picking up their third Super Bowl trophy, I mean the media and the fans. Now to hear either Bill Belichick or Bill Cowher tell it, their teams are the David to the opposition's Goliath. In yesterday's press conference Belichick had more compliments for the 2004 Steelers than Mark Madden has for the guy who makes the donuts. And when Cowher finished his interview on Steelers Cam, you were convinced Pittsburgh would be playing the '27 Yankees Sunday given the way he described the Pats has "having no weakness." Anyway, here's what Ed Bouchette said today in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about Vegas giving the Steelers some points (and a couple of other observations):
...The Steelers are 3-point underdogs? That's the best news Bill Cowher could receive on this Jan. 17. It will be the first time he takes a team into a home playoff game as an underdog. They were heavy favorites in each of their previous AFC championship games, except the one against Denver when they were slight favorites. And you know how most of those turned out.

...It doesn't matter how you win. The Patriots were lucky to beat Oakland in the "tuck" game, which put New England here and helped them win their first Super Bowl.

...Doesn't matter -- luck, breaks, yips by the kicker, bad officiating calls, none of it. You win, you win. Sort it out later.
And I think Bouchette's first point is an important one -- and not because it's so profound. but because despite being painfully obvious, it's true. I think the Steelers play better when the "pundits" say they don't have a chance of winning (see here and here, for example). OK, that's enough talk about all this stuff. I mean, it's only Tuesday already. Given the current level of conversation in the media, I'm guessing this may be one of the longest weeks of the NFL season for no other reason than I'll be bombarded with goofy stories every time I read a website or watch ESPN. Which reminds me...

I'm officially adding Dan Patrick to the list of ESPN guys who've Jumped the Shark. I had the great misfortune of listening to his radio show yesterday, and in addition to his usual self-important tone, he also had time to ask what seemed to me to be a really dopey question:
"Should the Vikings trade Randy Moss for Ray Lewis straight up?"
Let's see, Randy Moss in his prime for Ray Lewis who's on the downside of a great career -- straight up. Why is that a good trade for the Vikings? Can Ray Lewis play 11 positions on defense at once? Randy Moss is a game-changer; Ray Lewis was a game-changer. Now if the Ravens want to trade Ray Lewis and Ed Reed for Randy Moss and Nate Burelson, then I might buy it (although I'm guessing the Ravens would probably, er, pass).

And I'm not saying that the Vikings wouldn't benefit from trading Moss. I mean, when you have maybe the worst defense on the planet, making changes is probably a good idea. But what was more astounding than Patrick proposing the trade was having to listen to the incredulity in his voice as he talked about it -- like anyone who believed the trade might actually be a bad idea for the Vikes should be committed. Look, Patrick is probably the best SportsCenter anchor ever, but at the end of the day he's still a sports reporter. To take yourself so seriously is just ridiculous. The guy needs to take a deep breath, take a step back and repeat "I get paid a lot of money to say things like 'En Fuego' on television" a couple times to remind himself that he's just an entertainer (you know, like Stuart Scott).

OK, for the second time in as many weeks, I'll have to save what would have otherwise been a completely negative post with one positive final thought. I'm going to the well for this one, but it's important -- I'm invoking the words of the great Ben Crenshaw to give the Steelers an early-week boost heading into Sunday's game. And don't forget, people thought Crenshaw was delusional at the time:
"I'm a big believer in fate...I have a good feeling about this. That's all I'm going to tell you."
And like I said before, I just hope Ben's right (this time, both of them).