Are NFL Storylines a Little Too Unreal?

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NFL: National Football League or Nuts For Lewis?

I admit, I’ve really only been a serious fan of football since the start of the new millennium. So what I’m about to ponder will most likely seem ridiculous – something to which my wife would readily agree. Still, I will press forward with my skepticism about some of the things that go on in the NFL. Since I started watching the NFL regularly, there have been some storylines that are just a little bit too good to be true. Not for the fans, but for the media and the league marketing department.

Here are some that come to mind.

  • John Elway, perennially denied a Superbowl victory, finally wins the big game. Twice in two years, including in his final game. Don’t get me wrong, those were some really good Bronco teams, but back-to-back SB wins from a 38 year-old QB seems a bit unlikely.
  • St. Louis Rams, “The Greatest Show on Turf,” lose (on turf) to a rookie QB despite being 14 point favorites. It wasn’t even supposed to be a contest.
  • The proliferation of low-seeded teams or teams with relatively weak records to emerge as Superbowl champs in the past decade (Steelers ’06, Giants ’07, Packers ’11, Giants ‘12). And we could be adding the Ravens to the list this year.
  • HOF running back Jerome Bettis wins the SB in his last game (on a 6 seed team). Michael Strahan wins SB in his last season (on a 5 seed team). I already mentioned Elway, and now Ray Lewis could go out a champion.
  • How about the Giants over the 18-0 Patriots? Looked like Superbowl XXXVI all over again. (BTW – I might’ve been the only person in America who picked the Giants that year.)
  • How about a Giants/Patriots rematch in a year (2012) that should’ve been Niners/Ravens? Not to worry, the Harbaugh Bowl was merely delayed for a year. And now it just got better with the added factor of the Ray Lewis spectacle…

Why I Bring This Up Now

First, the recent “he said, he said” between former wide receiver Tim Brown and former head coach Bill Callahan. The gist is that Brown implied Callahan ‘sabotaged’ Superbowl XXXVII because he hated the Raiders and wanted to see his friend John Gruden win, instead. Brown’s assertion is extreme, but he did at least get confirmation from former teammate Jon Ritchie, who stated that the Raiders spent all week practicing for a game plan which they completely discarded come game time. Callahan immediately denied Brown’s accusations. Regardless of who you believe, it puts even that Superbowl in the shadow of the sportlight.

Then there was this little gem from Peter King’s MMQB column (Tuesday edition).

Jim, a reader from Regina, Saskatchewan, wrote:

Any idea why the Patriots appeared to run exactly the same offensive scheme against the Ravens that the Broncos had failed with the week before? Lots of inside runs, short passes in the flat, short crossing patterns. If they were trying to make Ray Lewis look good, that was the offense to do it with. And then both head coaches choked in key situations – Bill Belichick punting from the 34, John Fox telling Peyton Manning to run on third-and-seven? Did they forget they both have the best quarterbacks of their generation?

You can draw your own conclusions…

No Conspiracy Theories—Just Skepticism

It just seems strange to me that both the AFC and NFC runner up from last year would make the Conference Championship Game the very next year. And, after the hoopla about the possibility of two brothers going against each other in the big game last year, it’s not a stretch to maintain that marketing machines and the media saw a story they could sure sink their teeth into this year. Then add the Ray Lewis farewell tour into the mix and there’s no way the Patriots were going to be allowed back to the Superbowl. What about the Falcons? Sure, Atlanta hasn’t won, but Matt Ryan is young and there’s plenty of time for them to get there. I’m betting they’ll be back.

For the record, I don’t care about the Harbaughs. I think they’re both good coaches. I don’t particularly like Ray Lewis and being married to a Steeler fan while living in Cincinnati, I’m starting to really hate Baltimore. Still, I’ll close with this: Ray Lewis may not have murdered anyone, but the media spectacle that has become his self-proclaimed farewell is killing my appetite for the NFL.

—Ryan Varney

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