AFC, NFC title games were big letdowns

BY Jason Whitlock • January 24, 2012

Perfect endings are a myth. The 100-year-old man who dies while making passionate love to the woman of his dreams is the man who reaches heaven or hell irate he didn’t last two more minutes.

Endings, by their very nature, are dissatisfying.

And one man’s perfect ending just might be another man or woman’s nightmare. It all depends on your taste, your life purpose, your perspective.

I bring this up because Sunday’s AFC and NFC Championship Games were completely dissatisfying to me. There were no winners. There were only losers — Kyle Williams and Billy Cundiff, the 49ers and the Ravens.

The NFL playoffs, if you believe the critics of major college football, are the perfect way to end a football season, the perfect way to determine the best football team. Really? The best teams lost on Sunday.

The 49ers and the Ravens outplayed New York and New England. San Francisco’s defense brutalized Eli Manning, hitting him 21 times, sacking him six times. It was a marvelous defensive effort that should’ve combined with two big plays from tight end Vernon Davis to put San Francisco back in the Super Bowl. Baltimore’s defense made just enough plays — two interceptions and a critical third-down stop late — to make Tom Brady appear mortal.

I write this not to suggest the NFL should abolish its playoffs and adopt a bowl and/or BCS system. I write this not to suggest college football is better than professional football. I absolutely love the NFL and its playoffs. I simply recognize its ending can be imperfect, too. I recognize that professional and college football began with two different purposes and that’s what created the two distinct, imperfect endings.

Traditionally, the emphasis in college football has always been about the regular season and deciding conference championships. The bowl games were the early Saturday morning after parties the cool kids bragged about going to Monday morning in the school parking lot.

The architects of college sports were content to let the media — The Associated Press and United Press International — determine a mythical national football champion. Hell, at one time, the preseason National Invitation Tournament used to be a bigger deal than the postseason basketball tournament.

The media drove the focus on the postseason. The media have been trying to create the perfect-ending narrative in college sports.

Perfect endings are a myth.

At funerals, it has become popular to talk about the deceased’s dash. The little mark “-” that separates the year of birth from the year of death — 1926-2012. What did you do and/or accomplish with your “dash.” Your beginning and ending are irrelevant. It’s what you did in between that really matters.

Of all the sports, college football has the best dash. College basketball and the NFL playoffs — with their single-elimination tournaments — clearly have the best endings. Major League Baseball, with its nostalgic Opening Day, has the best beginning.

I’ve been writing columns in defense of college football’s regular season since the mid-1990s when sports-talk radio exploded and everyone seemed to decide all at once that a lack of playoffs was akin to apartheid.

I’m losing the war.

In this era of entitlement, the public has been convinced college football owes America a playoff. Even President Obama believes this. Joe Paterno, the alleged “teacher” and “educator,” was a proponent of a college football playoff.

As a four-year participant and lifelong fan of college football, I’ve never spent one moment dissatisfied with the game because of its lack of a playoff. I’m dissatisfied by bad and insignificant games. College football produces good and significant games at an equal or higher percentage than the NFL.

Sunday’s playoff games were not all that good. They were close and competitive. But they were also sloppy, and fluke plays determined the winners.

There was a major uproar this season because the BCS title game pitted Alabama and LSU in a rematch of their regular-season clash. As best I could tell, most of the media and the public wanted the Giants and the Patriots to meet in a Super Bowl rematch of their regular-season contest.

Rematches are good in the playoffs and bad in the bowl games. OK. Got it.

You have been convinced the ending is far more important than the dash. It’s just not true.

What if I told you the 100-year-old man was a virgin until the day he died? Would you want his ending or Hugh Hefner’s life?

share story