Any given Saturday, Sunday means football parity party

Commentary

October 28, 2007|By DAVID STEELE

In college football this season, parity rules. Anyone can win on any given Saturday. It's the best thing that has ever happened to the sport.

In the NFL this season, parity rules. Anyone can win on any given Sunday. It stinks.

Everything that has gone before this season tells you that this should all be reversed. Having dozens of teams capable of winning a college national championship is exactly how the powers-that-be didn't set it up, but now that's what they have. It will take awhile to figure out how this situation came to be and even longer to come to a real conclusion about who is the best team.

There won't be a Southern California vs. Texas for us to luck into this January, folks. Yet it doesn't matter, because until that faux championship game in New Orleans in a couple of months, we're going to see football finally experience March Madness, and you'd have to be crazy not to love that.

Finally, Saturdays (and Thursdays, right, Boston College?) are really great.

Sundays? Eh, not so much. Not this season.

This is what has ended up making the least sense of all the turmoil in college ball: The sport that's going to have the one-game season that will determine everything is the pros. The winner of the New England Patriots-Indianapolis Colts game at the RCA Dome a week from today is going to win the Super Bowl, unless somehow Tom Brady and Peyton Manning break each other's fingers giving each other a macho post-game handshake.

Today's games, for both teams, are exhibitions. Pretty much every game the rest of the season is a tuneup for the AFC championship game.

The next 12 teams in the AFC standings are separated by just two games, with either four, three or two wins. About halfway through the season, they're all in contention for something - officially, a postseason berth, but really to just serve as doormats for the Patriots and Colts. Nobody is showing even a hint of excellence. Everybody is mired knee-deep in mediocrity.

This is why some local precincts are cleansing the rose-colored glasses and proclaiming the Ravens shouldn't be considered a disappointment at all. They're a half game behind the Pittsburgh Steelers for first place! C'mon, what more can you ask for?

At the start of the season, some asked for a legit shot at the Super Bowl. Now, they're asking that the Steelers fall back to one game above .500 today (while the Ravens take their bye) and make this a real playoff chase.

But don't smirk at the Ravens. They're not alone. That's the problem. And it's not just in the AFC. The NFC has two teams with one loss (the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers) and 12 more between two and four losses. The difference is that the Cowboys and Packers are so flawed, even mentioning them in the same breath as the Patriots and Colts should be outlawed and punished by a loss of draft picks.

For instance, the Packers' only loss was to the busted-up Chicago Bears - at home. Yikes.

This is parity. It's almost a parody of parity (the old joke about the ideal season having every team go 8-8). Beneath that, it's a facade of parity - because two teams have managed to figure out the formula and are not only cashing in on it, but also making sure their brethren don't even get to see the ingredients.

The one thing that's even less fun than having no one separate from the pack is having two teams separate so far that it makes the rest of the pack irrelevant.

It's the problem college football had for years. Now, who can tell who's big and who's little? The list of shockers is so long, nothing is shocking anymore. It makes every game weighted down with importance, and the pressure keeps producing diamonds - such as Boston College's last-minute comeback win at Virginia Tech on Thursday night, which produced, among other moments, coach Jeff Jagodzinski dancing on the field as if his clothes had caught fire, then getting pancaked by his quarterback, Matt Ryan, doing a chest bump - and then Ryan hurling on the sideline from the after-the-fact tension of it all.

The win kept Boston College at No. 2 in the country. Boston College? And that was before No. 1 Ohio State played at Penn State last night. It's not as if Nos. 1 and 2 are chiseled in stone this year.

Not in that football league, that is.

Today's NFL schedule, meanwhile, is full of games that couldn't possibly match that level of drama. They're all just skirmishes to determine whom the Patriots and Colts have to step on to get to their January showdown.

This means the NFL either has too much parity or not enough. The colleges, though, have it just right.

david.steele@baltsun.com

David Steele -- Points after

Ah, the tested-and-true recipe for a productive NFL bye week: Player calls out coach on radio show, coach responds on his radio show, former teammate calls out player and coach in magazine, player and coach give snarky replies, ex-teammate fires back with a vengeance. Yup, time well-spent.

Upon further review of the further review of last week's Maryland loss: The Virginia player scored the touchdown. But it's irrelevant because he never got the first down that led to it.

Those were some cool baseball promos Fox ran during its four-hour infomercials last week, weren't they?

Factor that disgruntled Orioles fans have to remember: It's still easier logistically to bring back World Series heroes from three years ago than from 24 years ago.

Yes, it's a different sport, fan base and culture. But someone should have fined Jonathan Papelbon for that on-field celebratory dance the night the Boston Red Sox won the pennant.

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