By pure serendipity I was in a position to watch all of the National Football League games this past weekend. All of them. This just in--the party is over. In Hollywood terms, the NFL has "jumped the shark".
(FYI--"Jumping the shark" refers to an episode of "Happy Days" in which Fonzi jumps a shark on water skis. When a television show reaches the point that it has to make up that kind of weak, inane, story line, it is said to have "jumped the shark". It's over.)
There's allot of talk this season about the strength of the New England Patriots. How they might go undefeated. How that would make them one of the great teams in NFL history. Baloney.
The greatness of any sports team or individual is not only based on it's, or his or her, performance, but on the quality of it's opposition. For instance, Muhammad Ali was a wonderful boxer. But how "great" would he have been if he had fought only Floyd Patterson and Henry Cooper? Or any of the other stiffs they rolled into the ring to face him?
Societal issues aside, Muhammad Ali was great because he fought and defeated Joe Frazier, George Foreman, even Sonny Liston and Ken Norton. They could punch. The Arizona Cardinals can't.
The Patriots aren't "great", they're simply the best of a bad lot. Witness Sunday's game against Philadelphia. Are the Eagles a good team? A mediocre team perhaps, but not good. So a mediocre team with it's back-up quarterback comes close to beating the Patriots in Foxboro. Look at the other ten wins and look at the teams they've defeated. Yup, they beat the Colts. Turns out that wasn't such a big deal now doesn't it?
I don't mean to pick on New England, but rather use them as an example of how low the standards have dropped. Take a good look at those standings. I say if you're not at least two games over .500 at this point you shouldn't be listed in the newspaper. Everything has a life cycle, General Motors is no longer the biggest, baddest car company.
The NFL is no longer fun to watch. Any league in which Trent Dilfer and Vinny Testaverde are still playing--and starting!!!!--has "jumped the shark." Is Tom Brady the best quarterback of all time? No. Is he good? Sure he is. But even Milt Plum could put up numbers against the Buffalo Bills secondary. Quarterback is right now the weakest position in the NFL. Who is the quarterback for Minnesota?
The reality is this. There are only so many quality NFL caliber football players. And while the league has expanded, it's source of players, major colleges, has basically stayed the same. I give the NFL all the credit in the world for figuring out ways to maximize it's investments. But at this point something needs to be done about the product. How about that Miami-Pittsburgh game Monday night. The league has outstretched it's talent pool and watered down what happens on the field. What would happen if they did that to the beer?
Note to Jets fans: instead of standing around chanting for women to show your their breasts, try chanting at the owners to show you a team! Note to the NFL Network: Bryant Gumbel. It's a joke right?
The NFL can take a lesson from NASCAR--now there's an example of having turned something quasi-exciting into a boring spectator sport. How many times has this guy Johnson won The Chase? How many races did that one team win?? Why and how did that happen?
Side note: I also managed to watch a number of college football games over the Thanksgiving holiday. Plenty of excitement. Gee, are they playing the same game as the NFL?
'Mike On America' is in Montana all week. Go deep, and we'll see you along the road.
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