Best of NFL playoffs are already over

There’s something missing from Super Bowl XXXIX. With all its intriguing angles, how come I’m not more enthusiastic about this game?

In a way, this Super Bowl is a perfect storm. For the first time in a while, the obvious best teams in each conference will go head to head on the biggest stage. This is the match-up most of the experts picked before the season started. It’s the game I predicted before the start of last season and this season. And, while I have the chance, I’ll probably pick these squads to meet again in next year’s Super Bowl, provided McNabb and Co. can hold off the Eli Manning dynasty (yeah, right) for one more year.

Meanwhile, so many solid match-ups are in play. There’s the meeting of the great coaching minds: Bill Belichick vs. Andy Reid. There’s also the battle of the defensive coordinators on the rise: Romeo Crennel vs. Jim Johnson. (Since Crennel is going to become head coach of the Browns, I’ve contacted Johnson about taking the Yale job for next season. I have not heard back from him.)

I even like the showdown of Boston vs. Philadelphia. A pair of traditionally tortured cities with one experiencing newfound success and the other still reduced to booing Santa Claus. These towns have two of the most boisterous — yes, that’s a euphemism — fan bases coming together in Jacksonville. How bad will the riots be?

The potential for memorable stories is as high as I can remember. The Dynasty: If the Patriots win, are they the best team in NFL history? (Yes). The Willis Reed/Curt Schilling: Will Terrell Owens transcend the limits of medicine to carry the Eagles to victory? (No). And I say this despite the fact that Owens just announced that God, if not his doctors, has cleared him to play on Sunday. The Pats’ secondary is just not that beat up.

All of this classic material existed even before Freddie Mitchell opened his mouth. Now that a mediocre receiver with a hysterical haircut has called out Rodney Harrison, an All-Pro safety desperate to blow somebody up, I can’t wait for McNabb’s first pass over the middle of the field.

The possibilities are endless. Will Tom Brady win a third MVP in four years? Can Adam Vinatieri connect on another game-winning field goal? Will T.O. get more reps at cheerleader or wideout? Is Rodney Harrison actually going to kill Freddie Mitchell or just maim him?

This Super Bowl has so much potential for greatness. So, why can’t I get excited about this game? Maybe it’s because I feel like I’ve already seen the Patriots play the two biggest games of the season against the Colts and Steelers.

Or maybe there’s just too much superfluous hoopla and pageantry for my tastes. Two weeks of build up is a lot to sit through. Media day is a joke, and I’m pretty sure I won’t enjoy watching pre-game shows replete with not-so-witty banter and exactly zero insights into the game itself.

Also, I really don’t like the way a football game can be so easily overshadowed by commercials, half-time shows, wardrobe malfunctions and Marc Roberts. The biggest football game shouldn’t be played in a place where nobody’s ever heard of cold weather, or in front of an audience of schmoozing corporate executives.

One of these days, I’d like to see the NFL allow the Super Bowl team with the better record to host the game. Then, the stands would be packed with people actually interested in the final score. There would be a chance for some real football weather too, so we could all enjoy performers trying to finish their acts in three feet of snow at Foxboro.

But that’s not going to happen. So, while one of America’s great pastimes continues to be corrupted by excess, I’m turning to another great American institution for some entertainment. That’s right, gambling.

I’m not actually putting down any wagers, just looking for something interesting to ponder. The Patriots are favored by seven and the over-under is 47.5, but that’s not tricky stuff (I’ll take the Pats to cover and the under). Of course, you can bet on just about anything, from the player to score the first touchdown to the outcome of the coin toss. Which team will commit the first penalty? Will either team score in the last two minutes of the first half? Boring.

All of that stuff is played out. I need something a little bit more challenging. It’s easy to predict one measly football game, but what about betting across different sports? I like the Super Bowl combined with basketball. For example, which total will be higher on Super Bowl Sunday: David Akers’ points or Raymond Felton’s assists? What about Deion Branch receptions + 0.5, or Yao Ming’s made free-throws? If you don’t follow hoops, there’s always golf. Do you like the total number of points in the Super Bowl + 21, or Ernie Els’s final round score?

But honestly, I’m not going to be watching any other sporting events on Sunday. I need something earlier in the week, and I’m feeling a little creative anyway. So, what about Yale sports? Combined score of the Super Bowl + 83, or total number of the men’s basketball team’s weekend points? (It would seem reasonable to have the Bulldogs give 83 since they average about 65 points/game and the Super Bowl over-under is 47.5). Then again, maybe I should avoid making lines for a team that only managed 84 points combined in losses to Penn and Princeton last weekend.

What about the number of Terrell Owens’ receptions or the Yale men’s hockey team’s goals? I guess they might both get shut out.

But Yale’s teams are on the road this weekend, and their games won’t be televised. I need something I can watch. Since you’ve still got time to place your bets, think about the State of the Union. Let’s try the amount of times FOX football announcers say “dynasty” + 70 against President Bush’s combined usage of “freedom,” “Iraq,” and “terror.” What about the Super Bowl MVPs’ references to God + 19, or Bush’s total?

Maybe Super Bowl XXXIX won’t pan out. Well, there’s always next year. If nothing else, we can all look forward to watching enormous linemen sporting XL gear in 2006.

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