Friday, January 9, 2009
I had a weird feeling come over me when I was watching the National Championship game tonight. I was bored. For some reason, I just could not really get into the game. Two excellent teams, some fantastic storylines, but I found myself flipping over to the 9-Ball Tournament over on ESPN2 at any chance I could. And then I realized that I have this same feeling pretty much every year when the title game finally comes around. There is just way too much time separating the end of the regular season and the game to decide the champion.
No other sport follows such a ridiculous time line in determining their eventual top team. Every other sport, rightfully, builds up the anticipation with each round of the playoffs or tournament. In this case, when the last series or game arrives, most fans are still immersed in the sport and the teams. That's because they did not have to wait 32 days like we did for this year's title affair. Both Florida and Oklahoma last played December 6th. That's an eternity in sports. Imagine for a second that Michigan or Michigan State managed to roll through this past regular season with an unblemished record. All that is left for the starving fans is the National Championship game. Well, good luck keeping the adrenaline level flowing for what would have been 46 days for those teams between their last regular season game and tonight. That's just outrageous. It's not how sports are meant to be. Not to go all Bob Costas here, but there is a certain symmetry to the way a season unfolds, in any sport. The regular season is a marathon that goes on for months. The contenders find themselves breaking away from the rest of the pack. Then the postseason arrives, and the drama begins to build. With each subsequent game, we are that much closer to the climax. We see the teams continually, establishing a real connection during that time that culminates (possibly) in a title run. How can these same feelings of anticipation be sustained when weeks and weeks go by without the top teams so much as making a sound?
I'm not even talking about a playoff. That's another issue, entirely. If this is what we have, then fine. But why can't this at least be done the right way? People always throw a fit when NBA Playoff season comes around there are sometimes 2-3 days in between games. How about adding 30-40 days to that wait? It is why I find myself having these strange feelings of apathy during the championship game each year. It doesn't take rocket science to correct, either. College football season begins towards the end of August each year. Let me tell you, something. I have been to many early season games at the Big House and Spartan Stadium, and have the peeled skin to show for it. It is hotter than H in those stadiums. Why does the college season start before the NFL when the college season is so much shorter? How about starting the season a few weeks later? You could still end up with your precious January 1 and beyond bowl games, but there would not be this endless amount of time until they took place. It only makes sense. A couple other thoughts from the game...
Normally, announcers for a game as big as this one would have the star power to match. Somehow, I don't think that Thom Brennaman and Charles Davis fit the profile. Brennaman is a pro who has been around for a long time, but not sure the little fella is quite "top billing" material. (I'm admittedly biased because I always associate the sound of his voice with the Bartman play in the '03 NLCS that he called. I continue to harbor bitter feelings towards all parties involved six years later. "Jimmy holds grudges, Kramer!") He seems to have gone to the "Tom Hamilton School of Broadcasting." Hamilton is a voice on the Big 10 Network who has no ability to differentiate one point of the game from another. He is just screaming and flipping out the entire game. At everything. Brennaman is not that bad, but he's in the ballpark. Oklahoma found themselves trailing by 3 tonight when Florida converted a 1st down with about 7:30 to go. A three point game with half the quarter to play. Time is not the main story here. Well, following that play, Brennaman exclaimed, "First down Florida...the clock stops, but will start again on the referee's whistle!!!!!" Somehow, he was insinuating that time was now the deciding factor in the game. Once it gets inside of 3-4 minutes, maybe you could have that kind of reaction. At that juncture, I found it to be quite bizarre.
And obviously, everybody talks about it, but the announcers admiration for Tim Tebow is borderline inappropriate. When the Chosen One got a taunting penalty in the game's final moments, Brennaman and Davis both began cackling how it was "probably the first thing Tebow has ever done wrong in his whole life." I'm not buying that for a second. There is only one person I know that ever managed to be the best at everything in his whole life without ever messing up. His name was Mr. Perfect. You're a hell of a player, Mr. Tebow, but come back to me when you can throw a 90 yard pass and catch that very same ball after racing across the field. There's only one Mr. Perfect, and it's not you.
Sam Bradford looked awfully pedestrian out there tonight. Not awful, not great...just average. I know his numbers and that offense were brilliant all year, but the Heisman trophy winner came back to Earth in a big way against Florida. I saw a pretty good passer with very little mobility. What I most definitely did not see was a possible #1 overall pick in the NFL draft. The rumors earlier today on the airwaves were that the Lions might be looking to hire Jason Garrett from Dallas to be the head coach, and following that up by selecting Bradford with the top pick. Thanks, but no thanks. His performance tonight reminded me a lot of another Heisman trophy winner that looked highly unimpressive in the title game to follow, Chris "Don't Call Me Paul Blake" Weinke. Now Bradford was not nearly as bad the 42-year old Weinke in that 13-2 loss to Oklahoma back in 2000. But for a guy that led such a juggernaut of an offense all year and is thought of as a possible franchise NFL quarterback, it was a disappointing night.
I hate to seem like a disgruntled sports fan, because I'm not. I didn't intend for the whole article to be down, down, down. But I go into title games and championships with high hopes, hoping to see a historic performance. I wanted the game to be on the heels of a dramatic regular season, and it wasn't. I wanted the announcers to be the best of the best, and on their 'A' game, and they weren't. I wanted to see a future #1 pick slice up a great defense, and I didn't. But hey, at least there's always 9-Ball.