Seeing as how it’s a good time to be a Bay Area sports fan and what not, you would think that I would expound upon the surprisingly gritty performance of the Warriors, the fact that the Sharks are unstoppable right now, that the Giants are beginning a World Series title defense and even that Poppinga defeat against CU on Saturday. But I have had something on my mind that only a Niners Super Bowl appearance can really compel me to discuss.
Last summer, I was sitting in the backyard of a friend’s house–and this is mostly a crowd of Raider fans to state for the record–when the topic of the upcoming season came forth to the conversation. As an assemblage of diehards would have it, just about everything from whether or not Tony Bergstrom would play right away to how bad Hue Jackson bent us over in the Carson Palmer trade. But after some liquid and medicinal courage, one of the members of our little gathering said this:
“…there’s that Tom Brady [expletive]. Son of a bitch fumbled that night.”
Yep, he went there. Really, it’s too soon, but as long as I’m alive it will probably always be too soon. So because of that among many other aspects of this whole saga, it isn’t easy for me to wax nostalgic, let along talk about this in any sort of objective way. And since you more than anyone else on the Internet know how extreme my bias gets, I will now put as much closure on the 2001 Raiders as I know how.
Raider Nation was minding its own business one Sunday afternoon, sitting pretty at 8-2 and happened to be a 13 point favorite against a very mediocre Arizona Cardinals squad. First quarter starts out with Gannon to Tim Brown, Touchdown Raiders! Just like we drew it up. Followed up by 20 unanswered Cardinals points, the Raiders come all the way back to tie the game at 31 late in the 4th quarter. Well, sure enough, the Cardinals win the toss in overtime, and 31 points and nearly 400 yards of Arizona offense later…the Cardinals upset the Raiders. It was at this point where I knew this team had a major problem.
Now, you may be asking yourself “self, upsets like that do happen in the NFL, don’t they?” Yes, but this was the beginning of larger issues with this team. Consider:
–The Titans rolled into the Coliseum and beat us on a last second field goal after both teams didn’t score at all during the first half.
–A backbreaking Gannon to Rice TD pass to win a game in Denver was called back because of a tripping penalty on Frank Middleton. Denver then scored the tying goal on the power play and went on to win the game.
–So a first round bye is pretty much out of the question by the time the Jets come to town to play a make up game that was rescheduled due to 9/11. The strange thing was that if we lost in Week 17, the Jets would be our Wild Card opponent, so in theory at least we would have two chances to beat them.
Sure enough, that is exactly what happened and it was on to the Divisional Playoff round against New England. With the very Gruden sorts of things that were going on in that game–on a very critical 3rd and short, he decides to hand off to Zack Crockett and he gets stuffed short of the first down–it was on the defense to get a stop and send us to Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship Game. With Tom Brady going back to pass, Charles Woodson comes untouched on a corner blitz, ball is loose, Greg Biekert falls on it, game over…
…and then, Walt Coleman ruins the whole thing by saying the pass is incomplete. Let me ask you something. If there isn’t instant replay in the league at the time, does that call get overturned? For at least a year after that I was adamant that the NFL jettison instant replay which I suppose is akin to advocating the removal of stop lights after you get pulled over for running a red light. Yes, it’s very Flat Earth Society of me, but when you’re tired, hungry, hungover and likely in a bad mood, these things happen.
Fortunately, it isn’t just me that harbors bitterness towards the Pats, but Marshall Faulk has a few words of his own on that Patriots team . But in case you were wondering how I sleep at night, I ask myself three questions:
1. Would the Raiders have beaten the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game?
That’s hard to say. A lot of Raider fans seem to think we would have, but I sort of doubt it. Even without the debacle in Foxboro, I could definitely have seen this team run out of gas after all the last 5 or 6 weeks of the season and the wackiness that resulted. Nostalgia from the 70s notwithstanding, there could have easily been some other obscure nook and cranny of the NFL lore that could have aided the Steelers onc more.
2. Would they have beaten the Rams in the Super Bowl?
Hey, how ’bout an “Escape from LA” Super Bowl? If Marshall Faulk is right and New England committed a gross act of industrial espionage, I can’t really go the full Monty and say that we would have fared any better. Our defense was average at best that year (which was the reason why we signed Sam Adams, John Parrella and Bill Romanowski in the offseason), and for all the work Jon Gruden did in making us relevant again, he had a bad tendency of going “Martyball” on us and that always worked well for Cleveland and KC. There’s a reason why Gruden is in the broadcast booth and not on an NFL sideline.
3. Was the right call made?
According to the league, yes. But as I mentioned above, the catalyst for all of this in the first place was instant replay, especially because the play happened inside of two minutes where plays are reviewed from the booth. If there’s no replay booth and no replay system, would anyone have noticed the “wrong” call was made? It’s grating to many degrees to think that a fumble could have been called just as easily and have been well within the confines of the rules. You are an attorney by trade. Have you ever had a case where a judge ruled one way and ruled against your client but with the evidence and testimony you presented it should have been a slam dunk, obvious victory?
It is also not too difficult for me to ponder this either: Legend has it that when Al won his lawsuit against the league to move the Raiders to LA, a young attorney for the league said to the gathered media on hand “I will get Al Davis back if its the last thing I do.” That attorney was none other than Paul Tagliabue.
Well played, sir. Well played.
See I think that’s why we get along so well, two Wyoming boys cheering for the Utes whose emotional breakdowns can be triggered by the simplest of mentions. Just like if you said, Al Kinkade or Benny Dees to me, I’d freak out and you’d find me three days laters in Nogales trying to hide the body of a dead hooker I have no memory of. Its good to know what defines you.
But for a moment I’m going to start with Utah Basketball and how we nearly blew another 20 point 2nd half lead. Did you attend? Should I be happy or sad, in fact watch this short video on interjections to tell me the best way to feel. As it will explain, they’re separated from the sentence by an exclamation point, or by a comma when the feeling is not as strong. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PaWSQuS_ZUw
And then we move onto the Super Bowl. Where some crazy gambler shut the lights out because he had a ton of money on the Niners. I mean is there really any other explanation? And I’m going to say it now, and we’ll see how it holds. First, the Niners would have been Super Bowl Champions with Alex Smith. Now this one I cannot prove but I think Alex could do things, like throw under pressure. And second, this idea of running the pistol will be dead by the end of the off season? Thoughts?
Finally to end this reply I’m going to point something out. The Wyoming women’s basketball coach and his lead assistant are both from Rock Springs, WY. In fact, I remember then leading Rock Springs to a state title way back in the day. Wyoming is the edge of getting ranked while our Utes languish at the bottom. This guy was supposed to be Elaine Elliott’s successor but she stayed just a little too long. Join me in being a force to bring a couple of Rock Springs Tigers to save women’s hoop. We gotta start somewhere.
Let me address for a moment the Super Bowl and my thoughts, laid out in convenient bullet point form:
–My hobby on Twitter these days is watching the reactions of crushed Niner fans, with their fall from arrogant grace. Bay Area franchises love to market themselves in their own special way, and what’s more, well, BYU-ish than “who’s got it better than us?” No phrase is more emblematic of a franchise and how its fans view themselves than that. Raider fans always suspected that Niner fans were haughty bandwagon jumpers, this time they spelled it out for all the world to see.
–On the other hand, maybe BYU wouldn’t go quite that far, since there is typically a veneer of humility they associate themselves with?
–Did you ask yourself at various points throughout that game “boy, I sure wish Peyton had Anquan Boldin to throw to?” Truth be told, I had that thought when it came to Carson Palmer. Granted, we are effectively starting from scratch while you all had a team that probably should have been playing in that game on Sunday, but you can’t feel a little bit envious.
–Niner fans complaining about the no call on the 4th and goal on their final drive was pretty hilarious, given the fact that they still roll their eyes when I write several hundred words on things like the Tuck Rule. Again, there’s some amazing poetic justice with that which is pleasing to my eyes.
–You also know full well that Alex would never get any amount of credit if he were to lead them all the way to a title, especially from their fans. Heck, when they nearly got there last year, it was to the credit of Jim Harbaugh, Vernon Davis, their defense, anyone but Alex. Besides, it’s kind of nice to see a guy like Colin Kaepernick, the biggest thorn in the side of Boise State football since John L. Smith, further annoy people, even if it does get on my nerves a little.
If you care to explain old Ute fan Internet meme(s), feel free. To tell you the truth, we might just have to make a glossary of those when the summer months drag on. First and foremost is the Poppinga Victory, which in the case of the CU game this Saturday is a pretty clear Poppinga defeat. This is how I choose to feel about it.
Honestly, I have mixed emotions about saving women’s hoops. Especially since a few years ago when the Lady Utes made the Elite Eight when I asked my brother if I should turn in my man card if I went and bought a Women’s Final Four t-shirt. When he said “oh hell yeah, and you should also have to forfeit anything Y chromosome related”, I think that is a pretty decisive answer. On the other hand, I am desperate to be good at something in this conference, so I will place my trust in the eternal wisdom of a couple of old Rock Springs Tigers.
I will hand this back to you by pondering how bad Alex might get killed if he ends up playing in Kansas City. Hey, if Joe Flacco can win a Super Bowl, then all things truly are possible.
So much has happened this week that I’m just going to wrap this up and post it. Since you wrote, we’ve been blown out by Oregon St in basketball. The news that Dennis Erickson might be a Ute broke and it looks like the Raiders just might get Star Lotulelei. All of which are topics for their own discussion.
It looks like we have a solid recruiting class that is real middle of the Pac-12 ish.
So I think I’ll leave these thoughts. This season by Larry is a failure by any measurement. Some people think Kyle could be fired at the end of a bad season.
I don’t get Ute fans.