January 22, 2007

And Now, the Super Bowl! (Oh, Joy.)

YOU KNOW, I MUST SAY I looked pretty damned smart around the second quarter of the AFC Championship Game, when the New England Patriots were leading the Indianapolis Colts 21-3. You see, earlier in the week, I had cleverly predicted a Patriots victory to my fellow Kepples Back Home, nearly all of whom were rooting for Indianapolis. This prediction, largely based on general principle, was met with complete and utter silence when I issued it. But then, in the second quarter, I received a call from Mr Kepple.

Dad described his call as "pre-emptive" in nature, given the Patriots' domination over the Colts up to that point in the game. Instead of gloating, however, I simply said the game had a long way to go and noted there was still plenty of time left. Dad admired my statesmanship.

"You're being too nice," he said suspiciously.

True, I said, but I pledged that if the Patriots pulled things off, I would be perfectly nasty about the matter on my blog. Until then, though, I wasn't going to say a thing. That's because I knew the Colts were perfectly capable of pulling off some implausible comeback. Hell, it had happened to Pittsburgh last year, and that nearly sunk Pittsburgh's run for the trophy. It wasn't likely to happen to New England, I figured, but it could.

And it did.

Shit.

Now, that reaction may come as a surprise to many people, as I'm a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I do not generally root for the Patriots in the regular season*. I do not fawn over the supposed genius of Bill Belichick, I do not swoon over quarterback Tom Brady (although he too is a Michigan alum) and I think the Pats benefit greatly from playing in a weak division. Also, for years they had the Steelers' number -- and that still bothers me.

But having lived in New England for nearly six years now (my God!), I've found myself liking the Patriots more, and I certainly have realized one must respect them. They're a good football team on any given Sunday and in the post-season, they're a great football team. Plus, if the Steelers or my Designated Alternate Teams** aren't in the mix, there's little reason not to root for the Patriots -- particularly if they end up playing a team I hate, like the evil Baltimore Ravens.

Also, after thinking about the matter, I realize I don't really like the Colts all that much. Oh, I like Tony Dungy, of course. Everyone likes Tony Dungy, because he is a good guy. But I don't really have any reasons for liking anyone else on the team. Besides, they play in a dome the whole year round. True, there are styles of football for which that is acceptable, but I can't in good conscience approve of any NFL team that purposely avoids dealing with the vagaries and challenges of the weather. If the Green Bay Packers still play outdoors in the dead of winter, so can everyone else.

But alas, the Colts won.

So now what?

True, there is the Super Bowl ahead, but as a colleague of mine said at work today, it will be difficult to fight apathy. Chicago? Indianapolis? Ooooooooooooooh. If it had been Chicago-New England it would have at least had some historic significance, but this matchup is just grim, primarily due to the wretchedness of the Bears offense. The game will likely turn into a rout somewhere in the third quarter; the Colts will glide to victory; Peyton Manning will win his Super Bowl ring. Then, after the game, he will be named a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire whilst drinking Gatorade and exhorting people to use their priceless debit cards so the card processors can increase their fee revenues. May God help us all.

Anyway. We'll have the Super Bowl, and then the Pro Bowl, which no one ever watches because everyone knows the AFC will crush the NFC like a bug. And then ... uh ... uh oh. Um, we're going to have to wait eight months for college and pro football to start again. True, there are other sports to watch, like baseball and basketball and hockey, but it's going to be pretty tough without football.

Unless, of course, you're like me and will find ways to watch football. Thus, as a public service announcement, here's a general listing of all the minor-league professional football available being played during the spring and summer. (You're welcome!)

The ARENA FOOTBALL LEAGUE: At the very least, we'll have 26 AFL games broadcast throughout the spring and summer, starting on Sunday, March 4. Even though people often cut down arena football, it's quite an exciting game. Defense plays a surprisingly large role in the game, and with extremely narrow goal-posts and rebound nets, the kicking game becomes far more than just an afterthought. The season will run through July 29, when ArenaBowl XXI is played in New Orleans. (NOTE: The Rant will support the Philadelphia Soul this spring due to the ex-Manchester players on the squad).

THE AF2 league: The arenafootball2 league (AF2) is arena football's minor league, in which players develop their skills. They can earn promotion to the AFL, in which case they can play full-time and conceivably make it to the NFL. Games start on Thursday, March 29, and the regular season runs through the end of July. You'll probably have to listen to the radio if you can't make the games, but you should make the games if you can -- they make for a fun and generally inexpensive night out. (The Rant, as you know, will support the Manchester Wolves).

NFL EUROPE: NFL Europe games start on Saturday, April 14. Many of the games are broadcast via tape delay -- which stinks -- but the NFL Network has generally carried at least one game live a week, often on Saturday afternoons. Not only do these games provide Quality Football Action, they also allow football fans to become familiar with players who will soon fight for spots on their NFL teams during the pre-season. Why, just a few minutes of watching Shane Boyd play in an NFL Europe game made me look like an expert when he played for the Steelers during the preseason this year. So when you get really desperate for football in mid- to late spring, you know where you can turn. (The Rant supports the Cologne Centurions).

The CANADIAN FOOTBALL LEAGUE: So it's summer. It's hot. It's muggy. The last thing you want to do is go outdoors and commune with nature and all that crap. That's when the Canadian Football League comes in, with its three downs and twelve men and metric football field***. True, it starts in June, and during the fall the games are impossible to find on US television, and you forget about it halfway through September until November rolls around and, oh! the Grey Cup's on! and Pittsburgh played at one o'clock anyway, so ... (The Rant supports -- who else -- the Saskatchewan Roughriders).

If all that doesn't at least pique your interest about "off-season" football, consider this: the chances of stumbling across a Peyton Manning-related advertisement will probably be close to zero. If you ask me, that's reason enough to watch.

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* Unless, of course, the Pats are playing a team which I hate and believe must be destroyed. These teams include the Baltimore Ravens, the Oakland Raiders, and all the teams in the NFC East division.

** The Rant's secondary team is the Cleveland Browns. The Rant's tertiary team is the Detroit Lions.

*** In Canadian football, the football field is 110 yards long (a "metric football field") as opposed to the standard 100 yard ("short") football field used in the United States. Furthermore, the endzones are 20 yards deep by 65 yards wide, which is exactly one "hectare" in area. That's compared to the US endzone of 10 yards by 53 1/3 yards.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at January 22, 2007 08:22 PM | TrackBack
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