Tuesday, February 05, 2013

One of the Best

Like most of America, I enjoyed the Super Bowl without getting too emotionally caught up in the outcome.  The first half of most Super Bowls is when the game gets decided;  for the players, the game goes by too fast, things happen, and suddenly it's out of control.  That almost happened here, and the kickoff runback by Jacoby Jones which put the Ravens ahead 28-6 seemed to signal the rout was on.

Instead, the power outage came, a couple of minutes later.  It wasn't a matter of night and day (with the lights, either; there was enough light to play, but not for the many support systems, and leaving the fans to fend in partial darkness was a security issue), but the break gave the 49ers one more chance to recover their poise; they did, and the Ravens almost lost theirs.

For keeping his cool, when the 49ers rush was on--they scored 17 points incredibly fast--Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco deserved the MVP award that he got when they finally held off SF's final charge.   I would've voted for Jones, though; besides the 108-yard kickoff return, he had a receiving touchdown, and a little change from the usual diet of winning quarterback MVP awards would have been nice.  (For the record, Joe Flacco was quoted as a flaccid 2-1 choice in the proposition bet for the winner, while Jones was not even one of the named candidates, just part of "the field", at 8-1).

It was a Super Bowl without any major disasters (though yet another with an "equipment malfunction"); there were injuries--most notably, to the Ravens defensive nose tackle, which contributed to the 49ers comeback.  The ending was a surprise one; the 49ers were so sure they would score from 1st-and-goal that they let the clock run down to the two-minute warning, giving up 15 seconds they would have dearly loved to have at the end (forget about the wasted timeout; that was the real waste).  The play calling was not the best on that final series, about the only beef I had with either of the Harbaugh head coaches.

For Baltimore, it was a great last hurrah--Flacco will, presumably, be back, but they seem unlikely to scale the heights again--while for San Francisco and their sudden superstar Colin Kaepernick, it would seem there is plenty more to anticipate.

Finally, my vote for best Super Bowl ad was the Tide ad about the stain that looked like Joe Montana.  It has a level of absurdity that was about right for the occasion.

The Big Deal for the NFL
As the liability issue burgeons, the league has to make a big decision about the head injury problems that are widespread among former players.  Generally speaking, compared to other big-time professional sports leagues in the US, football players are underpaid (a few positions being the exceptions), and to ask them to ruin their lives to do it is too much--for the parents of the ballers, if not for the punchdrunk, starry-eyed players themselves.

Football faced a similar crisis in the early 1900's--the "flying wing" was leading to huge numbers of serious injuries and deaths.  The play--in which the lines linked arms as they flew into each other--was banned, and safety improvements like pads and helmets followed, with the thing that really saved the sport--the forward pass, which opened things up--coming a decade or two later.

Football will need to re-invent itself again somewhat.  The masters of the game might do well to look at rugby--a game almost as rough as our football, without pads, in which the rules of tackling prevent most of the serious injuries that occur (I don't know about the long-term brain deterioration-type illness, though).  I would predict a massive fund to pay the retired players who suffer from it, some rule changes, and some equipment changes, with the NFL somehow surviving the emerging crisis and figuring out how to preserve their feeder systems (the high school and college games).  The American way of life is at stake!

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