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Non-football fans ask, "Given all of these scandals and with so many participants at risk of suffering serious consequences to their short- and long-term health, how is this game still so popular?"
The latest, bestest answer: "Did you watch Super Bowl XLIX?"
In fact, the whole of the 2015 NFL playoffs featured one amazing game per week, with Detroit suffering a drama-packed loss to Dallas to start things off, Dallas then falling to the Packers in similar fashion and then the Packers absolutely blowing it against the Seahawks in the NFC championship.
The game is still the thing.
Despite controversies large and small (it says here the deflated football issue will eventually be remembered as a small kerfuffle that seemed large for a little while due to timing - in other words, absolutely nothing compared to the Ray Rice fiasco) and terrible leadership, the NFL still has one, ultimate trump card: Spectacularly compelling competition.
Take Sunday's drama: The game was tied at the half but then one team took command. When the fourth quarter began and the Seahawks led by 10, the Patriots experienced the big gloom identified in "how-to" screenwriting books as essential to maximizing the eventual climax.
The Patriots rallied to take the lead but Seattle wasn't dead yet. Echoes of history (remember David Tyree) were bouncing around as the Seahawks caught a massive break on a long pass that put them in scoring range. But an unlikely hero (rookie free agent defensive back Malcolm Butler) rushed forward to save the day with a magnificent interception.
No matter how many "reality" television series they come up with, nothing will ever compare to the original reality programming: Sports, led in America by the biggest dog, football. Sport entertains far better than anything else on the planet.
And of course in the aftermath, there has to be a massive scapegoat (we know a little about that up here on the North Side, don't we Mr. Bartman?). Post-game analysts can start by celebrating the achievements of the victors but they don't. Instead they find the biggest goat and pile on so much they deserve a blizzard of late-hit flags.
Let's be clear about something: Even though Pete Carroll took responsibility for the play call (the one that didn't involve sending Marshawn Lynch up the middle), this sucker was on offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Carroll may have the final say in this sort of a situation, but a great leader, like Carroll has become as he has coached the Seahawks so well the last three years, simply doesn't question his key subordinate at a time like this.
Bevell's calls had put Seattle in position to gain one more yard and win their second straight Super Bowl win. Had Carroll questioned even one of those calls earlier in the game? I'll bet he hadn't. A leader can say "The buck stops here!" until he's blue in the face but we know how this process works on successful NFL teams.
One of the reasons Bevell, one of the best offensive coordinators in the league, works for Carroll is because Carroll allows him to do the job with minimal interference. So sorry, Darrell, you wear the horns.
And oh by the way, Bill Belichick not calling timeout before that play was a significant blunder as well, and that was all on the head coach. A precious 25 seconds ticked off the clock as Seattle prepared to run their second-and-goal play from the one. There was a great chance those 25 seconds would have been the difference between New England rallying for a tying field goal or not had the Seahawks taken the lead with a touchdown.
In all, it was nothing short of another epic game for the NFL. And now we can take, what, a week or maybe two off before starting to obsess about free agency and the draft?
Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Monday. He welcomes your comments.
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