#140: No One to Root For or Against
For the first time in at least a decade, I have no specific rooting interest during Championship Sunday in the NFL.
The Patriots and the Ravens are done, and I won't be upset no matter which of the four remaining teams hoists the Lombardi Trophy this year.
All I'm rooting for are a couple of good, well-executed, exciting games.
I have a leaning toward the New Orleans Saints because they are the league's other "Black and Gold" team (and they were my NFC Champions in the WMBS NFL Roundtable in the preseason), but a matchup between Brett Favre's Vikings and either Peyton Manning's Colts or the New York Jets (who saw fit not to bring him back) would be fun, too.
I suppose I also have a slight lean against the Jets, mainly because Mark Sanchez will, in that event, become the first rookie quarterback to start a Super Bowl (pending injury), and his stat line on the year (and even in the playoffs) isn't nearly the caliber that Ben Roethlisberger's was for the Steelers in '04. Folks are still under the false assumption that Big Ben was a game manager. At any point in his career, when, in fact he was a game changer. While Sanchez has played adequately down the stretch, he's not winning the games. He's just not losing them.
That aside, I decided to do a retrospective of how I've had either a severe rooting interest (for one reason or another) on Championship Sunday and find out how far back I have to go before I find another year where it was stress-free. I'm treating this year's matchups as "2009", even though it's January.
2009 - NFC: Vikings vs. Saints - AFC: Jets vs. Colts - Prefer Saints/Colts, but won't lose sleep if one (or both) fail to make it.
2008 - NFC: Eagles vs. Cardinals - AFC: Ravens vs. Steelers - I prefered an all PA matchup (because a friend of mine...an Eagles fan...was going to hook me up with Super Bowl tickets), but I just needed to see the Steelers win.
2007 - NFC: Giants vs. Packers - AFC: Chargers vs. Patriots - Heavy rooting interest against Patriots. Then, after the Patriots won, heavy rooting interest for Packers, as I perceived that they were the better matchup to beat New England in the Super Bowl. Thankfully, the Giants didn't lose again until autumn.
2006 - NFC: Saints vs. Bears - AFC: Patriots vs. Colts - Pulling for the Bears because a) I like defensive teams more than offensive teams as a whole, and b) I was just a year and a half removed from living in the Windy City...but the Saints were a nice story. But, again, my heavy rooting interest came against the Patriots, who, some how, some way, coughed up a huge lead and allowed Indy to advance.
2005 - NFC: Panthers vs. Seahawks - AFC: Steelers vs. Broncos - Again, heavy rooter for the Steelers. Especially after blowing the AFC Title game the previous year. Laying down, more like it. No real preference on the NFC side.
2004 - NFC: Falcons vs. Eagles - AFC: Patriots vs. Steelers - Once again, the prospect of attending an Eagles/Steelers Super Bowl was too large to ignore, but for the Steelers to defeat the Patriots was my greatest wish. It did not come true.
2003 - NFC: Panthers vs. Eagles - AFC: Colts vs. Patriots - Heavy rooting interest against the Patriots. Pulling for the Eagles on account of my buddy. But Philly losing didn't boost my blood pressure. The Patriots that year had worn out their welcome with me, so I was, even back then, rooting for Peyton. Close to stress-free, but was pretty much in Patriot-hating stage by then.
2002 - NFC: Buccaneers vs. Eagles - AFC: Titans vs. Raiders - Pulling for my buddy's Eagles while simultaneously rooting against Warren Sapp. Actually hoping the Raiders would bloody Tennessee's nose, as I was not yet over the supposed "roughing the kicker" penalty against the Steelers the week before. Fairly involved that year, too.
2001 - NFC: Eagles vs. Rams - AFC: Patriots vs. Steelers - Any AFC Title game where the Steelers are involved is high drama here, even if I did not hate the Patriots quite yet.
2000 - NFC: Vikings vs. Giants - AFC: Ravens vs. Raiders - I didn't yet abhor the Ravens, because they had only recently begun to come on, and I didn't really hate the Raiders, either. I was leaning toward the Raiders and the Vikings that day, but wasn't overly disappointed.
So, there you have it. You just wasted three-to-five minutes of your life reading about -my- stress levels on Championship Sunday. You have to go back nearly a decade to find a day where I wasn't hurling curses (or coasters) at my television screen.
What about your Championship Sunday experiences? Picks for Super Bowl XLIV?
I think the Saints win in a 2nd-half walk, and the Indy/Jets game comes down to a kick (Colts win...after all, they've got Vinatieri now).
Also, a semi-major project is in the works and I will hopefully be announcing its launch toward the first of February.