It sure isn’t because of the chance to prognosticate. My effort at picking the games last week was pretty much horrible. Only one game picked correctly (at least it was the most important one) and the rest were not really even close. I think I am going to retire this portion of the blog because: a) I am not very good at it b) my analysis does not appear to be very insightful c) I’m pretty sure no one is reading this because they are dying to know what my weekly picks are. (However, you, the loyal reader, are free to let me know differently! Or unless I come with some kind of interesting twist on this overdone gimmick during the offseason.) I will dutifully finish out the rest of the season, because my parents taught me not to be a quitter.
I was asked last weekend at a party by someone who loves college football, but not the NFL, why I like the NFL so much (and not college football.) I can sit down and pretty much watch any NFL game that is on, no matter what the team. (As evidenced in my original NFL post.) I can’t do the same with college. I can pretty much only watch Purdue play (and sometimes even that is a struggle. And not just because of our tradition of poor play) and occasionally a team that I am really interested (such as Boise State or TCU this year.)
Part of this stems from having grown up on the NFL more than college. My parents went to a college that had a football team that was not particularly good (sorry Huskies of Northern Illinois, even though you have had some success lately!) and the team my mother’s brothers and father were interested in tended to be average, except when it would occasionally get your hopes up by going to the Rose Bowl, then it would get crushed (sad but true, Fightin’ Illini. On the plus side, we took many great road trips to Champaign and other Big Ten cities in the rickety, 0ld RV to see you play which are very positive memories. Just not enough to make me like college football!)
But many Sundays, we would watch the NFL and the Bears play. The Bears were just starting to come back to prominence when I was a kid, culminating in the Super Bowl Shufflin’ Crew of 1985 (whose 25th anniversary is this year, yikes! Although it would be tremendous if the Bears could win it all this year. I thought there was a good chance that they would even meet the Patriots in the Super Bowl again and we could somehow convince the Patriots to wear the old red, white and blue’s again! But the Jets had to go and ruin it! And my picks! I hope you lose to the Steelers! Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself…) so the 1985 Bears definitely helped. But it’s more than that. I love the Bears and they are my primary team, but I like many other teams as well. In fact there are very few teams that I can’t stand (sorry to all of those purists who want me to hate the Packers, but only the Giants, Cowboys, Raiders and Colts make the list.)
For me, it is the visual feast of the NFL. The grass seems greener, the snow seems whiter and the players are bigger, faster and stronger than life. But the most important part is the helmets. All of the logos, with the vibrant colors and imaginative artwork, are what seal the deal for me. I remember as a kid going to Sportmart (a long by-gone sporting goods store in the Chicagoland area) and seeing one long aisle that had nothing but real football helmets which were decorated just like the real NFL helmets, and they had most of the teams, not just the Bears (which was great because at the time, I thought the Bears had a boring helmet. Of course, now I think it is a timeless classic and no one should dare touch it. Just look at it.)
I would spend most of my time there trying on helmet after helmet, taking on the persona of each Bengal, Jet , Buccaneer and Oiler. I wanted to save up as much money as possible and buy all 28 of them. I’m not sure if I ever got that much joy putting on my own actual football helmet when I played, but thinking about one of the various NFL helmets on my head was enthralling.
Now, on to the men who actually wear those helmets I never got to wear for real…
Green Bay at Chicago – Everyone (including Las Vegas, although not really, but I am saving my point spread discussion for another post, so bear with me) outside of the shouting distance of Fort Dearborn, thinks that the Packers are going to roll over the hapless Bears on the way to being crowned in the Super Bowl. But people seem to forget that the Bears previously beat them at home this season and held the PAckers to a whopping 10 points, when the Bears had nothing to play for and the Packers had everything at stake. While I am still nervous that the Bears are going to get steamrolled, I think the passion the befits this rivalry comes through, the Bears defense plays well and the Jay Cutler love-fest continues for a 23-17 Bears victory and the trophy that bears their founders name.
New York Jets at Pittsburgh – The Jets have been brash, loud and bold on the way to this game, taking everything personally and having me underestimate them all of the way. This week they for once have decided to shut up and not talk. Do they realize that the game is this week? There is no bye week. This is the real thing. The Steelers have frequently lost home playoff games when the Lamar Hunt trophy is on the line, but despite this and despite losing to the Jets earlier this season (when the Jets were MUCH more desperate for a win), the running game and defense of the Steelers will beat the Jets into submission and Big Ben will make just enough plays (and hopefully not make a pass at any cheerleaders) for a 24-10 Steeler victory.