It seems that I cannot simply give an observation without offering a personal opinion. This entry is eventually going to be about the Super Bowl, but I must first give my reasons why I think professional athletes and the people who pay money to watch them are stupid.
I wish I could be an avid football fan like I was when the Eagles had their spectacular run of 4 consecutive NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl - that they lost to the cheating Patriots. This will undoubtedly come back to haunt me, because any time from now on when I root for them come playoff time I will be called a hypocrite for criticizing the sport right now.
But the tipping point for me as an NFL fan came during that season when the Eagles made the Super Bowl. I was just as pumped up as everyone else, but I missed all the hype. I was in New Zealand, on the first leg of my Down Under adventure which lasted 6 months. I regretted being away, and missing that ridiculous two weeks when all ESPN ever talks about is football. And come game time, when I watched from a sports pub, at 10AM, in which the place was evenly split between Pats and Eagles fans, I 'lost the edge', as Cougar famously said in Top Gun. 'I turned in my wings.'
When the Eagles lost that game, I remember removing my Hugh Douglas jersey and stuffing it in my pocket. I walked out onto the balcony of the pub, beer in hand, and suddenly realized I was in New Zealand. That loss stayed with me for about 4 minutes. I had an adventure to look forward to! Football didn't matter then, and it hasn't been the same since. I find that I actually get irritated with myself for not rooting harder, but I just don't have it in me.
However, I'm addicted to reading about sports, and have since become a diversified sports fan. Since I've been on the move more often than not and haven't had a TV to watch anything on anyway, I've become more interested in how other people perceive sports and about savoring the transcendent sporting moments, whether they occur in golf, boxing, hockey or horse racing.
Which is why I found myself rooting for the Patriots this season. I became enthralled with the idea of an NFL team in the modern era going undefeated, and wanted to say that I watched it happen. But, interestingly, I only saw one game. When the Eagles almost beat them back in October, I watched as a faithful Eagles fan, and truly wanted us to win. But that was the only Pats game I saw all season, yet I wan mesmerized any time I read about the team online. This is the cool thing about sports...that people can become so passionate about a topic, so enticed by a team that the ensuing writing becomes very interesting to read, especially when it's about a team about to make history.
So I'm not so much a sports fan as I am a sports writing fan. I like when interesting things happen in sports because I enjoy reading about them from the perspective of sports writers. And when a sports team like the Pats is knocking on the door of history, the writers bring out their best as well, and the entire escapade becomes enormously entertaining to follow.
Back to the Super Bowl. Already the sports world is forgetting about it. The front page of ESPN.com is currently devoted to the Shaq trade and Roger Clemens. It's old news by now, and i think it would have been even if the Pats had won and gone 19-0. But historically, that game will probably be viewed as the biggest loss in history, when the 12 point favorite Pats, with their historical offense managed to score only 14 points and was defeated by a Wild Card team.
I think it's the biggest win in history for the Giants. They may eventually be more mythical than the 18-1 Pats. Think about this...every year the 1972 Miami Dolphins pop a bottle of champagne when the last undefeated team goes down, as they inevitably do every year. How good must that champagne have tasted this year? I think it may have been Jack Nicklaus who said that anyone who says they are truly happy to see their records broken is either lying, or was never a real competitor in the first place. So those 72 Dolphins must still be celebrating. But, I think the 2007 Giants may go down in history much like the 72 Dolphins did...they will forever be remembered as the team that dethroned the mighty Pats. Yes, the Pats will be the only team with 18 wins, but that pesky '-1' will be their downfall...the Giants have no such negative. If I were a 72 Dolphin, Michael Strahan, Eli Manning and Plaxico Burress would be at the top of my guestlist for every champagne party from now on.
Coincidentally, Tiger Woods is currently undefeated in his 2008 campaign. The man has publicly stated that the Grand Slam is "easily within reason" in 2008. Hmmm...the Pats never made mention of their undefeated season as it was happening, yet Tiger is brazen enough, with only one event (at the time) completed in 2008, to say it's his goal. The Pats must have been thinking 19-0 in the locker room...they would just never say it publicly. Normally reserved Tiger has laid down the gauntlet this year, saying he's playing better even than in 2000 when he went on his remarkable run.
Golf is an individual sport. If Tiger wants to win the Grand Slam this year, all he has to do is beat the world's best golfers. He's not relying on Phil Mickelson to sink his putts, or Ian Poulter to hit his wedge shots. If he stays in the moment, and stays on top of his game, he will win the Grand Slam this year. Tiger has to thanking his lucky stars he's not on a team sport. He probably hated doing group work as much as I did in college. With his attitude, if he were on a team sport, he's probably want to play every position, and would (maybe rightfully so), honestly believe he was better than everyone else, ever, at that position. That's his attitude. He has to believe that he is a better putter, better driver, better wedge player, better sand player, etc, than everyone else in the world if he's going to admit that the Grand Slam is "easily within reason."
Team sports is all about relying on each other, which is why I think Tiger would make a miserable teammate to play with, and why T.O., the 'old' Randy Moss, and every other 'me-first' athlete should have been a golfer or a tennis player. Then there is nobody else to rely on, and nobody else to hide behind.
I think this is why Tiger has more than double the points in the World Rankings than #2 Mickelson, who choked (again) in a playoff, at the same time Tiger came from 4 shots down with 7 to play in Dubai and emerged victorious (without even needing a playoff). Tiger is so supremely confident in himself, and himself alone, that he literally doesn't even notice the rest of the field. It's the same reason he can get pissed at himself for hitting a few poor shots, despite winning by 8 strokes, as he did last week at Torrey Pines.
Which leads me back to my original comment...I enjoy reading about sports more than actually rooting for anyone. I'm thrilled to be experiencing history as it happens. I am going to enjoy telling my kids that I grew up in the Tiger Woods era, and watched the undefeated Pats lose to the lowly Giants. It's fun watching history unfold as it happens, and it will be fun to see where history ends up putting these events when they're long completed.