Monday, November 25, 2013

Few Stories Put Their Moral in the Middle

Football is a game of momentum and/or funny bounces, this blog has learned.

Aside from the validation of two of the three oldest and truest cliches of the sport (couldn't work "game of inches" into the lede despite my best efforts), there was no Big Picture I could see as I drifted off to sleep after last night's engrossing if quite odd 34-31 Patriots' victory over the Broncos. No new Big Picture anyway.

Pats a good team hard to beat? Knew that already. Ditto for the Broncos. Good teams winning almost all of their home games against other good teams in the 2013 NFL season? That's been a trend visible since before Columbus Day. Tom Brady, still good player? Now, THERE'S breaking news for you.

Instead, I submit that a game in which almost all the biggest plays were funny bounces, especially the biggest play of all, there are no trends, no new information to be processed. If you, dear reader, can correctly divine whether from here on in the Patriots will resemble the invincible outfit of the third quarter or the invisible one of the first half, well, you've got me beat. Also Don Shula.

OK, maybe Brady will have an edge over Peyton Manning the next time the two teams play with the hurricane flags out, but really, what are the odds there? There's a much lower chance of that than of Manning correctly deducing that by giving Knowsheon Moreno the night of his career, Manning was maybe the best defender against himself New England had on the field.

Rousing wins/horrible losses are to be enjoyed or suffered. Otherwise, what's the point of watching games at all? Pats fans should be delighted this afternoon, and Broncos fans dispirited to homicidal. May I recommend, however, that by happy hour they emulate their two squads of heroes and forget the game as completely as they can.

Cris Collinsworth made me laugh last night. Sometime early in overtime, he opined that the game would benefit both teams, as it would provide priceless psychic conditioning for the playoffs. As a former player, Cris should know better. By January, this game won't be a memory for Denver and New England. It'll be just another video overwatched by the assistant coaches. Short-term memory loss has more causes than just concussions.  Hell, by Wednesday both clubs will be more or less (and it better be more) absorbed by their next opponent. In the NFL, the events of two months ago are as remote to the consciousness as the Napoleonic Wars.

Amnesia is one the most primal survival tools of professional sports. Nothing will be better for Denver's damaged souls than the next game. Nothing will be better suited for keeping the Pats from reliving their triumph, too. Doesn't mean Denver will beat the Chiefs next Sunday, nor even that the Pats will beat Houston. It just means that these men are too busy for memories right now. They will derive no lasting conclusions from last night's game, except maybe "turnovers are bad." Nor should they.

The Broncos will not see themselves as one-down to New England. Do you think the Pats regard the outcome of the Panthers game as the last word on their respective merits as teams?

Wins are better than losses, so the Pats are better off today than they were and the Broncos worse. How much better? How much worse? Nobody knows.

A whole lot of commentators, however, will spend their week not thinking of the next game, but proving just how extensive that lack of knowledge is.


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