The NFL playoffs began this past weekend and were as lackluster as you probably imagined though not nearly as lackluster and bone-dry boring as next week’s games will be. All of the favorites won, handily, yesterday and Saturday, and all of the favorites will win, handily, next weekend.
The only glimmer of excitement –– perverse excitement, but still –– came in the fourth quarter of the Seahawks’ 24-14 win over the Redskins yesterday, when Skins star rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III went to retrieve an errant shotgun snap and almost misplaced his leg. And boom went the franchise. All sorts of mixed emotions flooded into my numb heart. One, I hope he’s OK. Last year’s Heisman Trophy winner from nearby Baylor lived up to all the hype in his first pro year, tossing for 4,293 yards (37 touchdowns) and rushing for nearly 700 yards, with an impressive quarterback rating (102.4). He’s a thrill to watch. In him, you have the eyes and arm of Tom Brady and the wheels of, uh, Randall Cunningham? Fran Tarkenton? Roger Staubach?! I mean, with the exception of scramble-ability, running quarterbacks have not mattered in the NFL in decades, which brings me to Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan, one of the biggest dicks in all of sports. (Shanny’s a dick, but at least he’s never been at the center of a murder investigation. I’m so glad I never again have to see Ray Lewis do that stupid, girly, leg-slide dance of his again. The accused murderer recently said he’ll retire after this season, a.k.a. next Saturday, after his flying rats get pummeled by Denver. I mean. Fuck that guy. Two men were stabbed to death, and Lewis obstructed the investigation –– at the least. And he has the gall to go out of his way to take off his shoulder-ma-pads after a game to reveal an undershirt bearing “Psalm 91,” a prayer of protection. As far as I know the only people who need protecting are within arm’s length of Ray Lewis and knives.)
Anyway, Shanny has always been a slimy bastard. Remember, he’s the guy who “invented” the biggest asshole move of all time: calling a timeout right before an opposing team’s kicker is about to boot a crucial field goal. So chicken-shit. But the Super Bowl-era Denver Broncos’ former chief asshole on a team full of classless pricks –– from ’roided-up cheap-shot artist Bill Romanowski to spoiled brat John “I Was Drafted by the Colts but Didn’t Want to Play for a Losing Franchise, So I Said I Was Going to Play Baseball, Which Forced the Colts to Trade Me to a Good NFL Franchise” Elway –– Shanahan was gifted after only one year as the Skins’ head coach with a fresh young quarterback with nearly unparalleled accuracy, technique, and smarts. What’s good ol’ Shanny decide to do? Run that stupid read-option.
See, with every read-option play, in which the quarterback has the “option” to hand off, pass, or run, you’re simply dangling your most important player in front of an opposing team’s biggest, fastest, strongest, ugliest players, the defensive front seven. Shanny should have tapped the breaks on the scheme after Griffin chose the run option in Week 5 against the Atlanta Falcons. Trying to slide out of bounds, Griffin was tackled and “shaken up” –– “shaken up” was the term used by Shanny and his staff at halftime to describe what was later diagnosed as a full-blown, no-nonsense concussion. Griffin did not return, but the next week, there he was, back in the lion’s den, where he stayed until Week 14, when he almost lost his right leg below the knee to the Ravens. Did that stop Shanahan from treating the best pure quarterback ever to wear burgundy and gold like a freaking plaything? Nope. Though Griffin could barely walk, he was stuffed into game after game, leading all the way up to yesterday’s loss against the Seahags and a fresh new pair of crutches.
Of course, Shanahan is not the only guilty party here. Young Robert also deserves a kick in the pants for mistaking a serious injury for a mere flesh wound –– you can bet that someone as competitive as Robert Griffin the third lied more than once to his team physicians, telling them that he felt fine, just fine, through gritted teeth, though you know he was in severe pain and though you would think that people as presumably intelligent as doctors would know when they’re being lied to. And where the hell was Skins owner Dan Snyder in all of this? Oh, I forgot. Dan Snyder is one of the worst owners in all of sports. He was probably yachting around the South of France while lighting Cuban cigars with $100 bills and dreaming up even more ways to piss on good coaches and players and bilk Skins fans out of even more money they don’t have.
There was one bright spot during this past weekend’s football hoopla, for me. I loved imagining everyone –– mainly NFL scouts and coaches –– coming even further around to Russell Wilson, that “other” rookie quarterback, the one chosen a half-dozen rounds after RGIII (No. 2) and Indie’s Andrew Luck (No. 1) and who, perhaps not incidentally, is two wins away from the big dance. Why do I give a shit about Russell Wilson? Because I’m an Aggies fan (by marriage), and if 5’10’’ Russell Wilson can thrive as an NFL QB, passing and improvising, then so too might my favorite college football player, 6-foot Johnny Manziel, who dominated on Friday in the Cotton Bowl against No. 11 Oklahoma, throwing for 287 yards and rushing for 229, leading the Ags to a convincing 41-13 victory. Yes, the National Championship game is tonight (Monday), between No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Alabama, but we all know the best team in college football –– well, at least the hottest –– played on Friday. Thanks, NCAA, for your ceaseless stream of steamy BCS bullshit. Instead of a playoff system, one that would play heavily into the favor of a hot team like A&M, we get such unforgettable nonsense as Florida State v. Northern Illinois, Oregon v. K-State, and (hahaha!) Ole Miss v. Pitt. This love affair between the NCAA and ESPN, the network that broadcasts all 900 bowl games every year and makes bank off advertising, has got to stop. Can’t wait ’til that playoff system kicks in, though it too will be flawed and driven by big-money conferences/alumni.
I know, I know. We take what we’ve given, and we like it, we luxuriate in it like filthy little pigs in shit, because we have no –– zero, zilch, nada –– say in what we’re given.
Maybe we can stop buying so much sports crap, stop buying overpriced shirts and caps emblazoned with team emblems and buying overpriced tickets to go to over-hyped games to drink overpriced beer and eat overpriced hot dogs. On a related note, NHL hockey will resume soon. The season had been suspended due to some sort of fight over, yep, money between the players and owners. I think. I dunno. I don’t care. Professional athletes are, almost uniformly, overgrown children who think they’re gods, thanks to the preferential treatment they’ve been given their entire lives by authority figures and peers, and owners are, almost uniformly, greedy bastards who’ve been unconscionably wealthy their entire lives, coddled by everyone, and who treat professional athletes like cattle.
Or gimpy thoroughbreds. And we all know what happens to them.