Song: Risky decisions, different results

Who dat say dey gunna beat dem Saints?

For all of you living under Snooki’s poof for the past week, a little football game went on between the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. Through all the weird commercials (I don’t know what godaddy.com is, but Danica Patrick and her host of hot models just made it my homepage) and disjointed play (extended commercial breaks after both the touchdown and kickoff?!), I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between the Super Bowl and The Game 2009.

In both games, there was one clear favorite and one clear underdog. All the pundits leading up to the Super Bowl predicted a runaway victory for the Colts. Indy could’ve gone 19-0, they said. Jim Caldwell was a mastermind, even if we’re not 100 percent sure he realizes he’s coaching a football team. Peyton Manning was touted as a relative of Jesus, savior of the endangered yellow-throated hanging-parrot, and maybe the greatest quarterback of all time. (OK, so I made a couple of those up, but you wouldn’t have been surprised if an NFL analyst said any of the above three things.)

The Saints, on the other hand, were reeling. After a 13-0 start, they had started to fade. (They lost to the Buccaneers!) There was no way Drew Brees could continue throwing darts, no way a banged up Jeremy Shockey with more ink on him than my Constitutional Law casebook could have an meaningful impact, and no way Manning could allow the Colts to lose. (He’s related to Jesus for God’s sake!) SAT analogy lesson: The Saints were to underdog as Kim Kardashian is to hottest derriere of all time. OK, I failed the SATs — but you get the point.

Now, let’s backtrack to The Game 2009, or as I call it, The “flashes of recollection in between blacking out from depression and Popov” Game 2009. At 6-1 in the Ivy League, the Cantabs swaggered into the Have with more gusto than Jamie Foxx in the “Blame It” video. (Quick digression: Have you seen that video? Is there a weirder collection of club bangers than Jamie Foxx, Forrest Whitaker, Jake Gyllenhaal and — wait for it — Ron Howard? At what point does Jamie Foxx roll out of bed and say to himself, “Man, you know who I wanna go clubbing with? Ron Howard. And a dude dancing around with a panda helmet.” OK, back to the column). Their rushing offense led the conference, their defense was stingy, and their fans had just realized New Haven’s drinking laws weren’t actually enforced.

Meanwhile, Yale was reeling after the graduation of its workhorse running back, Mike McLeod ’09. We had a rookie head coach, a new quarterback and a supposedly solid defense that had just given up 247 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns against a Princeton team that had scored a total of two rushing touchdowns in its first eight games. In other words, we were supposed to be more overwhelmed than a 13-year-old kid at an adult video store.

Now, on to the actual games.

Down 10-6 and kicking off to the surging Colts at the beginning of the second half, the Saints did the unthinkable. They (gasp!) sneak-attacked Indy with an onside kick! Why? Here’s a list to break it down:

1) The Colts had all the momentum.

If it hadn’t been for a dropped Pierre Garçon third-down pass, the Colts might have been leading by at least another touchdown. The Saints’ defense seemed to avoid sacking Peyton Manning more than I avoided talking to girls in ninth grade for fear of cooties. (I developed late, OK? Leave me alone!)

2) It’s been proven time and time again: The only way to beat the Colts is to play an unconventional game.

Think back to that ridiculous Miami Dolphins game earlier in the season. The Dolphins ran all over Indy and held onto the ball like Khloe Kardashian to Lamar Odom. (Two Kardashian references? Somebody’s been keeping up with them…) The Colts only had the ball for what seemed like five minutes the entire game. And they still one! Miami played essentially a perfect game in the conventional sense — dominate the time of possession by running the ball. What did they have to show for it? A loss.

3) After countless seasons mired in mediocrity, the Saints knew they needed a huge karmic change if they wanted to win.

More qualified writers than I have explored the subject of tortured fan bases. But the Saints seem to bring that to a new level. After all, name me another city that was almost swallowed up in an apocalyptic hurricane, exposed our nation’s horrible disaster planning and started Kanye West down a path of craziness. (Remember when Kanye West said George W. Bush ’68 hated black people? Kanye hasn’t been the same ever since…) Facing that kind of hatorade, only something really, really ballsy could’ve gotten them back.

And that brings us back to the onside kick. Detractors say that had it not been for Hank Baskett being too busy looking at pretty girls to catch a football that bounced off of his facemask (the Colts’ Baskett married Kendra Wilkinson, former reality star of “Girls Next Door” and girlfriend of Hugh Hefner), the Colts would’ve recovered and the Saints would’ve gotten rocked.

Fair enough. But isn’t that inherent risk what makes the call so ballsy and momentum-shifting at the same time? If recovering an onside kick were as easy as getting into Toad’s, then it wouldn’t matter when a team got it. From the moment the Saints recovered the ball, I knew they would come back and win the game. Momentum had been swung, they had kicked the Colts unexpectedly in the groin, and reversed all their karmic woes of the past decade.

Now let’s look at The Game. I’ve already spent an entire 1,000-plus-word column defending the call, so I won’t go into the details of going for it on fourth-and-22 as heavy underdogs and securing a place in the history of the rivalry. But let’s look at why the call made sense when paralleled to the Super Bowl.

1) Harvard had all the momentum.

After Yale’s inspired play dominated the game for three quarters, Harvard slowly came back by repeatedly going for it on fourth down and bribing the refs (it hasn’t been confirmed yet — but we know they cheated). Even the Cantab fans had awoken from their drunken stupor to know to cheer for the guys in the Crimson jerseys.

2) Whatever Yale had been doing wasn’t working.

Sure, Yale had the lead. But it’s not like the offense was the second coming of the New England Patriots circa 2007. At the same time, Harvard was showing why they led the league in rushing the football. Our tired defense was a step slow after playing like the Energizer bunny on crack for most the game. Those two things might be a worse combination than Spencer and Heidi.

3) After years of losing to Harvard at the end of the Jack Siedlecki Era, Tom Williams needed to make a change.

How do you counteract the conservatism of the Siedlecki Era? Go for it on fourth-and-22! ’Nuff said.

So we went for it. And we failed. “The Call” didn’t work because we missed a key block that would’ve sprung our runner for another 20 yards.

When you think about it, the situations of the calls were the same; only the results were different. Instead of an onside kick going off Hank Baskett’s helmet, we missed a block and got stuffed seven yards shy of the first down. Instead of a victory parade that started Mardi Gras a week early and a drunken Darren Sharper yelling incomprehensibly on national TV, we had 70-year-old alumni cartoonishly throwing their hats onto the ground in protest.

But sometimes, that’s just the way the ball bounces. The Saints waited 45 years to win their first Super Bowl. I guess we could wait for one more to beat Harvard?

John Song is a junior in Berkeley College.

Comments

  • y13

    well done! i’ve never enjoyed a sports commentary more!