The holidays are behind us, the Christmas decorations are back in storage, and the ball in Times Square is on its annual year-long vacation. This means that the sports world turns to a very special time of year.
Baseball lays claim to the granddaddy of all post-seasons, and hockey holds the oldest one-of-a-kind trophy on our planet. While these two traditions are sacred among fans in the United States and Canada, football can lay claim to the most intense system of determining a champion. One shot, one game, there is no best-of-seven series format on the gridiron!
The drama of the winner-take-all mentality led off the sports calendar on New Year’s Day with the National Semi-finals in college football. The NCAA’s latest attempt at actually determining a national champion on the field is known as CFP (or College Football Playoff). The format pits four schools that are ranked at the end of the season competing in a semi-final, single elimination format for the national title.
To this writer it’s just another throwback to hand-picked “Mythical National Champion” of days gone by. The four schools in this year’s playoff are #1 ranked Clemson (ACC Champions), #2 ranked Oklahoma (Big XII Champion), #3 ranked Georgia (SEC Champion), and #4 ranked Alabama. If you notice, Alabama has no conference championship attached to their program this year. Alabama’s loss to Auburn in their annual “Iron Bowl” game during rivalry weekend cost them an appearance in the SEC Championship Game. Georgia defeated Auburn to earn the SEC Championship and their place in the College Football Playoff.
Alabama was placed fourth in the rankings following the regular season by those voting in the NCAA polls. This earned them the final playoff spot. Ohio State won the Big 10 Championship and was placed at number 5, USC won the PAC 12 championship and were placed at #8. How does a team that didn’t even qualify for their conference title game get in ahead of two top-tier conference champions? Again, college football is still about style points and not about qualifying.
The University of Georgia Bulldogs celebrate after winning one of the greatest Rose Bowls of all time.
The Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowls were the settings for the National Semi-finals. First up on New Year’s Day was the Rose Bowl between Georgia and Oklahoma. What a show the two teams put on! In a back and forth contest that couldn’t help but grip anyone who tuned in Georgia defeated Oklahoma 54-48 in double overtime. In the 50 years or so that I have been watching college football, this year’s Rose Bowl may very well be the greatest one I have ever witnessed.
The University of Alabama Crimson Tide celebrate their victory in the Sugar Bowl.
As for the aforementioned NCAA darlings from Alabama, they took on first ranked Clemson in the Sugar Bowl. The Tide did roll on New Year’s Night, to a 24-6 win. I can’t help but think how that game would have gone if it was either Ohio State or USC going up against Clemson. I also can’t help but think how tomorrow night’s National Championship Game would’ve played out without Alabama. I’ll have more on Alabama and Georgia next week.
The Rams returned to Los Angeles last year, and return to the NFL Playoffs this year.
The win or go home begins this weekend in the NFL. I am happy to see the return of some familiar faces of my youth to the post-season.
First off, those of us who grew up in the 1970’s remember the late Sunday afternoons when the Los Angeles Rams were a mainstay on national TV. The 1980’s and 90’s took the Rams out of the spotlight, and out of Hollywood. Yes, the Rams did flourish in the late 1990’s and early to mid 2000’s in St. Louis, but to me it wasn’t the same. Seeing the current edition of the Rams, playing in the backdrop of the Los Angeles Coliseum (albeit a temporary home) brings me back to the days of Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen and Jack Youngblood. Glad to see the Los Angeles version of this iconic franchise back on the map.
Secondly, it’s great to see the Jacksonville Jaguars rise from the ashes to return to the AFC playoffs. I am actually happy for the Buffalo Bills (even though they are bitter rivals of my Dolphins) back in the national spotlight. The Tennessee Titans also return to the AFC post-season this year. After years of either the Cowboys or Giants (although I wouldn’t have minded seeing Big Blue back in the post-season) representing the NFC East, it’s even a little refreshing to see the Philadelphia Eagles back in the playoffs.
With all this new blood, could it still be the ho-hum yawn of the Patriots hoisting the Lombardi Trophy? It’s time to put up or shut up!