SUPER BOWL XLIV:
The More Things Change...
One of the reasons the NFL has blown past Major League Baseball as the National Pastime, in addition to its distinctly appealing lack of BUD SELIG, is the soon-to-be-nixed SALARY CAP. The cap was established in hopes of ringing in a new Era of "Anyone can win"-style parity. While it hasn't quite achieved the lame, "we ALL get trophies!" spirit that pervades the Little League Awards Banquet industry, it has allowed for Super Bowl guest-spots from historical also-rans like the '09 CARDINALS, the jobbed-in-'05 SEATTLE SEAHAWKS and Chucky's BUCS, who actually managed to win, way back in 2002. Sure, the salary cap didn't quite bring an end to the concept of the Dynasty (see: "PATRIOTS," comma, "NEW ENGLAND") or to the Same Time, Next Year * post-season invitee (and "EAGLES," comma, "PHILADELPHIA"). Nor did the numbers dwindle in terms of the *You Can Count on Me basement-dweller (see: "LIONS," comma, "on the other hand...") Still, the structure collectively bargained into place by league ownership and the NFLPA has basically served its function.
Considering INDIANAPOLIS has spent the last half decade accumulating mantle hardware like MERYL STREEP, it goes without saying that this year's "team-diverse" Bowl participant is none other than your NEW ORLEANS SAINTS, who, until two weeks ago, had spent their entire existence accumulating mantle hardware like ROBERT DOWNEY, JR. True, both experienced intriguing moments of greatness - Chaplin, the JIM MORA Era - but each hit their award-winning stride just recently, following a dramatic series of ups and downs punctuated by the odd self-inflicted, bourbon-laced humiliation.
What a long, strange trip it's been for The Big Easy. It began with half-empty stands and the Bags on their Heads brigade. Next came the scourge that is JOE "Girls Gone Wild!" FRANCIS let loose upon its streets and the resulting beaded, flashing Spring Break-ettes stumbling down French Quarter cobblestones. Then along came Katrina, something more than a summer storm, breached levees, "Heckuva job, Brownie!" incompetence and a dome torn asunder. And now?
Now, New Orleans, you're home to the sexiest show in sports with SEAN PAYTON, the latest, greatest NFL x's and o's guy; a QB in DREW BREES so prolific that he and '07 TOM BRADY may as well be separated at birthmark, and a hot and cold defense that promises big plays for both sides. Meanwhile, you're one win away from hoisting the Lombardi and one quasi-stepfather-in-law away from Olympic Gold. (For the uninitiated, Lady Gym Teacher-haircut connoisseur-slash-Decathlete BRUCE JENNER is poised to become REGGIE BUSH's step dad, just as long as the Saints RB and KIM KARDASHIAN don't break up. And, really, a twenty-something pro athlete and a Paris Hilton-wannabe on VH1 - what could possibly go wrong?)
Win or lose, the high-octane "Who Dat?" Gang has given their city, league and country a helluva story to root for. Who among us hasn't been reflecting on Katrina and a flood of panic; on CNN and a ransacked Superdome; on the oddball optics of SEAN PENN in a rowboat and puppies on rooftops, and thinking, "Wouldn't it be awesome if...?" Yes it would. Will it? Read on...
...the More they Stay the Same
So. Yeah. The Colts. AFC Champs. A five-and-a-half point (and growing) favorite. A jugger-NOT to be denied, just four quarters from a potential perfect season of 19 and oh wait...
Over the last decade, plenty has been said, written and hyperventilated about the aforementioned Same Time, Next Year *crowd - the Patriots, Steelers, Eagles and Colts, each of whom deserves every accolade. Consistent excellence is rare in any enterprise, let alone one in which structures have been set up to discourage it. Then there are the bumps in the road every team faces, on the field and off. Not just losses, but losses; not just turnovers, but *turnover - as in...
EDGERRIN JAMES...whose timely release by dual Hall of Fame-worthy GM BILL POLIAN - a shoo-in for both the Hall of Fame where DBs belong AND the Hall of Fame where "DBs" belong - was one of the better examples of The BILL WALSH Theorem: Better to lose a player a year too early than a year too late. Out goes the Edge, in comes JOSEPH ADDAI and DONALD BROWN. And the beat-down goes on. Next up...
MARVIN "Bang Bang" HARRISON, whose Facebook Doppelganger apparently resides in the darkest heart of the City of Brotherly Love. The retired all-pro wideout, a real weapon on the field, and (allegedly) an even higher caliber off it, has been ably replaced by rookies COLLIE and GARCON, and by the fact that their QB is about as flawless as ALEC BALDWIN on 30 Rock.
And finally there's everybody's Mother Teresa, TONY DUNGIER-THAN-THOU. This one's kind of a tough call, actually. Yes, he took a perennial loser and transformed it into a perennial winner, walking away with a trophy and a ring, but the guy lost a lot of big games with one of the great assemblages of talent the league has ever seen. It's arguable he's a Hall of Famer, but it's also arguable he's the NFL equivalent of Bill Macy in The Cooler. Dungy leaves the Bucs...they win the Super Bowl. He walks away from the magic he performed in Indy...the curtain opens on the muted Teller to his Penn, JIM CALDWELL, who leads Indy to a potential coulda-shoulda-woulda Perfect Season. Bottom line: Indy again reloads and keeps on winning. Which brings us to...
THAT COMMERCIAL ACTOR WHO MOONLIGHTS AS AN ALL-WORLD NFL QUARTERBACK. The one guy who can't be replaced. Surrounded by Hall of Fame locks like Polian and Harrison, protected by a once great, still good offensive line, buoyed by pass-catchers REGGIE WAYNE and DALLAS CLARK, and coached by a string of world-class motivators and tacticians, he's still 99% why, despite all those changing things, the Colts just stay the same. Will Archie's # 1 son, and those happily on his coattails, take the next step toward burgeoning immortality? Read on...
Props Vegas Didn't Think Of... (and we don't mean glow-in-the-dark tassels)
Lombardi season is upon us, as is Oscar season (kinda) with its regrettable, NHL-style expansion - TEN Best Picture Nominees? Really? Did you even see ten movies this year? And what the Hell is a pro sports team doing in Columbus?! - so we figured, what better time to offer up a few of the prop bets you won't be making on Sunday. Kicking it off...
Number of times CBS airs an ADAM VINATIERI MONTAGE despite the fact that he's not even playing. (Over/Under: 1 1/2)
Number of times CBS airs a HEATH EVANS MONTAGE despite the fact that he's not even playing. (Over/Under: negative-3 1/2)
What's Less Likely: During her Oscar acceptance speech, Hurt Locker director KATHRYN BIGELOW outs fellow nominee and former husband-cum-King of the World JAMES CAMERON (Avatar) as unflinchingly ego-less OR...OCHOCINCO and DEION both opt for suits in muted hues to go along with their understated fedoras and meat-and-potatoes commentary.
What pops up more often: Shots of Katrina-ravaged Superdome roof + number of times someone says, "PIERRE GARCON is Haitian" OR...promos for SURVIVOR: HEROES vs. VILLAINS?
What's Least Likely: Indy HC Jim Caldwell "pulls a Rex Ryan," flipping off the Miami crowd OR...JOHN EDWARDS, CHARLIE SHEEN and TIGER WOODS tie for a League of Women Voters "Best Husband" Award OR...someone calls us sexist for claiming the League of Women Voters has a "Best Husband" Award. Easy, ladies...take a breath. It's football season. (See previous sentence for early frontrunner, 2011 League of Women Voters "Best Husband" award.)
Number of times JIM NANCE marvels at "the odds of two guys named Pierre - Garcon and Thomas - playing in the same Super Bowl!" (Over/Under: Off the board. One is too many.)
Now that ANGELINA JOLIE is out of the picture, what's more likely for Colts fan-slash-budding Anorexic BILLY BOB THORNTON: Having Peyton Manning's blood in that vial around his neck or someone green-lighting Astronaut Farmer 2: Lose MORE Money?
YES OR NO: Will broadcasting the Super Bowl finally convince CBS to update PHIL SIMMS' "Keys to the Game" graphic so that it even remotely *resembles * technology from this millennium?
Blooper Reel: Super Bowl XLIV Prediction Edition
~ Rumor has it we accurately predicted the result of last week's PRO BOWL. However, despite the facility of the internet, the ubiquity of information and the fact that we love football enough to write down stuff about it, we are not yet able to find anyone who cares enough to confirm. If the rumors are true, our post-season record gets propped up to a respectable 7-5. If not, well, eighth-alternate QB DAVID GARRARD played, so, like we said...who cares?
~ Enough talk. Our heart says NEW ORLEANS, our head says INDY. Split the difference and meet in the gut: Indy's experience and Peyton's jones for burnishing his Legacy overcome Freeney's iffy ankle, Brees' trio of B+ receivers, the other Payton's emerging genius and a little thing some god somewhere calls Karma. Colts 34, Saints 31 sends CBS execs home happy. Garcon cops MVP honors, making ten or so people a zillion dollars for banking big on 15-to-1.
~ We are neither splitting the vote nor hedging our bets, but MRS. OUT-TAKES predicts a 45-38 win for the Saints, and would like it on the record that the only reason she's okay with Out-Takes picking the Colts is that, since the people of New Orleans will be celebrating their football team, win or lose, "there would be two parades." That's the last word, sports fans, straight from Mrs. Out-Takes. (League of Women Voters...take note.)
John Cockrell is a screenwriter, whose other work has run the gamut from "Sesame Street Parents Magazine" to Playboy TV's "The Weekend Flash." (He figures everything else is pretty much in-between.)