The Seahawks don’t seem to get how this works. Becoming one of the best teams in football is a clearly defined process, and while they followed some of the early steps — find a franchise quarterback, build a great defense (although that one is optional) — they’ve struggled with the final one. When a team finally does prove it belongs, its purpose is then to square off with other great teams in perfectly hyped, insta-classic prime-time games that keep us fixed to the couch. Last night, for the second time this season, Seattle turned the Game of the Century into a rout and, in doing so, made it look like the NFC playoffs might just go the same way.
Any Week 13 game between teams with three combined losses would get the glossy "game of the week" treatment, but what made this one different is that for these two teams, home-field advantage actually does mean something. Including the playoffs, the Saints have won their past 15 home games with Drew Brees and Sean Payton on the sideline. They’re 6-0 at home this year, and the difference in Brees’s numbers at and away from the Super Dome are staggering. This was before last night:
In case you were out looking for a shooting star to wish on, but finding only derelict satellites, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
It took two overtimes and 53 saves from Tuukka Rask, but the Boston Bruins took a 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals with a 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins at TD Garden. Rask was jubilant after the win, saying, "Rask! Rask! Rask!" while pounding his stick on the ground. When asked what had inspired him to produce such a stellar showing, Rask added, "Rask! Rask! Rask!" before again pounding his stick on the ground. When asked whether Boston's poor showing after taking big leads in previous rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs had him at all nervous going into Game 4, Rask slashed the reporter in the knee with his stick, severing the bottom portion of his leg from the rest of his body, before adding, "Rask! Rask! Rask!"
After 13 scoreless innings, the White Sox and Mariners engaged in a seesaw battle at Safeco Field, including a game-tying Kyle Seager grand slam, before Chicago finally put away Seattle, 7-5, in the 16th inning. White Sox pitcher Addison Reed, who pitched three innings in relief, wound up getting the win despite allowing all five Mariners runs. Adjusting for park and opponent, Reed's win is hold on a second, let me just carry the three yes, yes, yes, eureka! It is the proof I've been looking for! Wins are the most useless statistic in sports! I win! Now if anyone has seen where I've put my ironic victory trombone, I have some Sousa marches to play whilst stomping around my living room in my boxer shorts.
Super Bowl weekend was the one annual event I'd missed during my year in Las Vegas. I'd managed to take in every other special time in town: New Year's Eve. Independence Day. The World of Concrete convention. All of them, observed and processed. But I covered the Giants-Patriots Super Bowl from Indianapolis, and so I simply had to return to Vegas and fill in that missing weekend. As I'm sure many of you know if you've spent any time in Vegas, there is no steady, flowing story to take away from the weekend. A bunch of events happened, and they ranged from wildly exciting to downright tragic. Here, in roughly chronological order, are a few thoughts about what I saw.
For those of us who grew up with the lopsided Super Bowls of the 1980s, it seems as if we've had an unusual run. The past few years of Super Bowls have stayed tight, the result in doubt until the very end. It's almost miraculous we haven't had one go to overtime yet, though there have been some some close calls. Despite the early signs of a blowout (and maybe in part because of a brownout), Super Bowl XLVII held the pattern: While the 49ers fell behind 4:18 into the game, and never led, they were only three points down with the ball and a theoretical chance to win, right until Ted Ginn Jr. was tackled returning the game-closing kickoff.
How do you measure the closeness of a game? The final score is one way, of course. But for the viewer — especially the TV viewer who can change the channel — the real test is how long the outcome of the game remained in doubt. One way to figure that out is to ask: When was the last point at which the losing team was within striking distance?
In case you were busy hunting for valuable royal bones in a local parking lot, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
Tyson Chandler secured his third straight 20-rebound game, becoming the first New York Knick to do so since Willis Reed in 1969, as the Knicks topped the Detroit Pistons, 99-85, at Madison Square Garden. After the game, an excited Chandler said, "I hope to channel that energy in the postseason and have another Willis Reed moment when it really matters." When asked if he knew exactly what having a Willis Reed moment entailed, Chandler pulled a knife out of his pocket, stared straight into the camera and said, "Yes, I will do anything to motivate my team to win a championship. Anything."
On any given Sunday (or Monday, or Thursday), your NFL Run & Shootaround crew will be gathered around multiple televisions, making inappropriate jokes and generally regressing to the mean. Catch up on all the NFL action right here.
I don't know if something as unabashedly macro as the Super Bowl could ever be considered a microcosm for anything, but here's what I'd say: It seems almost stupidly fitting, after a season in which the NFL's commissioner displayed an uncharacteristic surplus of political ineptitude, that the league could not manage to keep its own power on. And it seems just as fitting that one of the more entertaining NFL seasons in recent memory climaxed near the goal line, with a quarterback who represents the possibilities of the future ultimately in charge of the game's result. The NFL is great, and the NFL is dysfunctional. It lives in the light, and it lives in the dark. — Michael Weinreb
It’s here. Super Bowl XLVII. The biggest betting day of the year. Hundreds of propositions available to wager on. It’s very sad that my wife getting a Valentine’s Day gift is completely dependent upon what color Gatorade is poured on the winning Harbaugh’s head.
But I’m not too worried, as I’ve been on a Rain Man–esque gambling roll lately. I crushed my theoretical bookie on championship weekend, amassing 472,000 jermajesties* — taking my season-long total to a whopping (and I mean a short, pudgy Italian whopping) 612,500 jermajesties overall. Still a bit shy of our goal of 1 million jermajesties, but that’s what Super Bowl Sunday is for. Follow my lead and let’s go to Disney World together.
(*Obligatory weekly explanation: A “jermajesty” represents the fake name given for a dollar amount in this blog. It’s also the unfortunate name of one of Jermaine Jackson’s sons.)
It's a Super Bowl-a-palooza from New Orleans! In other words, it's a two-part B.S. Report. In Part 1, Rembert Browne and Cousin Sal talk about the actual game; PEDs then find time to break down their terrible lunch. In Part 2, Tracy Morgan talks about the finale of 30 Rock before Giants defensive end Justin Tuck stops by to remind Bill that New York beat the Patriots twice in the Super Bowl. Good times.
To listen to this podcast, you can download it on iTunes here or go to the ESPN.com PodCenter here.
To listen to this podcast, you can download it on iTunes here or go to the ESPN.com PodCenter here.
[Editor’s note: An old friend called and asked if he could take over today's column. He sounded really sad and desperate on the phone, so I agreed.]
In case you were too busy NOT being the greatest shortstop AND third baseman of all time, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday.
Hey guys, future Hall-of-Famer Alex Rodriguez here. Spike asked me to take ALN off of his hands for the day, and I generously agreed. I figured I could use humor to start getting back into America's good graces after a not so great day of news for me. Hey, it's like they always say, when life gives you deer poop, kill the deer and drink the liquefied remains of their antlers. Hehe. OK, let's go.
We're going to start with my favorite sport other than baseball, and that's NBA basketball. Last night the Los Angeles Lakers of Los Angeles played the New Orleans Hornets at home. (Oh wait, I wrote Los Angeles twice. How do you erase words that you already wrote? I guess it's not technically wrong I'll leave it.) Before the game, I gave my best friend Kobe Bryant like 15 phone calls to be like, "Hey, bud, how's it going?" cuz I could really use a pick-me-up, but he must've been busy or something because he never answered. Anyway, he's a great friend, and the Lakers won, 111-106.
Grantland's Rembert Browne is in New Orleans for Super Bowl week, and he has some very specific goals in mind: (1) to chronicle everything seen, heard, tasted, smelled, and felt — emotionally; (2) to wake up first and fall asleep last; (3) to make his way into events he has no business attending; and (4) to somehow talk with Beyoncé. We don't exactly know where he'll be at any given time, but we've asked for at least two dispatches a day, if for no other reason, just so we know he's still alive.
Dispatch 1: "The Scene Was So Thick …"
Monday, January 28, 2013, 5:30 p.m. CST. Approximately 146 hours until Beyoncé.
As so many things do, it all started with Kevin Hart.
Just after exiting the TSA chamber where you throw your Roc-A-Fella diamond in the sky, I heard the strangest of sounds for this torturous section of the travel process: laughter. I was startled. Nothing funny had ever happened in the period between showing your boarding pass and being told to take off all your clothes. I turned around to find two young gentlemen directly behind me, cackling at a joke made by their friend. That friend was Kevin Hart.
On Sunday a Beyoncé performance will be bookended by a football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens. But before these teams take the field in New Orleans to do battle, they will engage in a cold war. Subliminal and explicit insults will become bulletin-board material. Injury reports will be investigated like Watergate leaks. Jim Harbaugh will get increasingly irritated. Every day there will be a winner and a loser of the Story Line Bowl. Who decides these things? We do.
There's something philanthropic about the Ravens' return to the Super Bowl (their first appearance in the title game since winning it all in 2000). There's just a spirit of giving surrounding the team. John Harbaugh is giving Juan Castillo a second chance at a third career, as the noted early riser/unremarkable offensive line coach/much-maligned defensive coordinator has been announced as the Ravens' new well, I'll let Harbaugh explain: "He’ll be kind of a lead coach in terms of the run game and organizing the run game for us." Also receiving gifts this week? Joe Flacco, who got the kind of backhanded compliment that could only come from a father: "Joe is dull As dull as he is portrayed in the media, he’s that dull. He is dull." Don't bury the lede, Steve Flacco! Other Ravens tidbits: Brendon Ayanbadejo wants to use the Super Bowl and the intense spotlight that comes with it to promote his support of gay marriage, Terrell Suggs hasn't called the Niners "arrogant pricks" yet, Bernard Pollard thinks we are in the twilight years of professional football, AND NOBODY SEEMS TO KNOW WHAT TO GET MILLIE OR JIMMY FOR THEIR WEDDING PRESENT. We're dealing with a lot of shit! That being said, the Ravens seem to have gotten through the first true day of Super Bowl buildup without giving the Niners anything to get irrationally pissed about, and even put some good karma into the world.