The Redskins have made the playoffs despite having one of the worst defenses since F. Lee Bailey's last client. What's amazing is that the Redskins have a serious shot at becoming Super Bowl champions. This is because there are no great teams this year. There may not be any truly good teams, in fact. There are merely some teams that can argue plausibly that in some regards they are not mediocre.
These teams -- Indianapolis, St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Tennessee -- are impossible to take seriously, because they all have a long and storied tradition of ridiculousness, except for Tennessee, which is a team no one has ever heard of. The rest of the playoff teams are either bad, abysmal, or are currently in what is known in the medical profession as a permanent vegetative state.
The Seattle Seahawks lost their critical game yesterday with the Jets. Of their last six games, they lost five. They made the playoffs. Miami also is playoff-bound even though it has been losing almost without interruption for two months and has a fabled quarterback, Dan Marino, whose mobility has decreased to the point where he is demanding that they put two extra cylinders in his motorized wheelchair. Dallas made the playoffs despite having lost last week to the ultra-terrible, Columbia University-level New Orleans Saints. Detroit made the playoffs yesterday by losing its fourth consecutive game.
Obviously there are too many playoff teams. This is one of those annoying moments when a true football fan, almost by instinct, starts complaining about the sorry state of the game today and how it's all been downhill since they started wearing facemasks. This is when we pop open a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon (or PBR, as we say) and start talking about the December 28, 1958 game between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts, also known as the Greatest Game Ever Played LINK TO http://www.nfl.com/news/981215nflchampionship.html.
The Giants were the Eastern Conference champions, having won game after game down the stretch, including one in the final minutes in a near-blizzard when Pat Summerall kicked a winning field goal from out near the middle of the snow-covered field. The Colts were the Western Conference champions, led by young Johnny Unitas, and coached by Weeb Ewbank, the kind of name that you just never hear anymore among today's chardonnay-sipping coaches.
They didn't play in domes then. The players didn't bolt their teams at the end of the year. And it certainly didn't occur to anyone to allow a bunch of LOSERS, much less teams from INDIANAPOLIS or TENNESSEE or the non-existent location called TAMPA BAY (or does the team actually emerge from the water to play the game?), to join into the playoffs.
The Giants and Colts took their game to sudden-death overtime. The crazed crowd knocked loose a TV cable. The TV broadcast went dark for a couple of plays. Those were the days -- when you were grateful to have any picture at all. Finally Alan Ameche scored the winning touchdown for the Colts. From David Maraniss' biography of Vince Lombardi, "When Pride Still Mattered," we read this: "In that moment when Alan Ameche took the handoff from Unitas and churned across the goal line in the late December mist of Yankee Stadium, he ran pro football to a place in the American consciousness it had never been before."
And now look. The game has turned into . . . into . . . badminton.
Speaking of football: "I've been thinking about this, and I think what I'm going to miss the most is Lucy holding the football and looking up and then the big bonk when Charlie comes down."
So says Charles Schulz, in an interview with the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. He said goodbye this morning in Peanuts in a direct and characteristically wistful note.
And in the Not Really News Department, we have a story on the wire LINK TO REUTERS STORY saying that President Clinton "suggested Monday he was still toying with the idea of running for Congress from his home state of Arkansas." But a review of the transcript shows that he was just shooting the breeze with Katie Couric. She brought up the idea. He sounds as though he was playing along with a fanciful notion, not seriously entertaining it. Note two key sentences: "That might be something I ought to think about. No, I haven't thought about it."
Believe this: Clinton won't run for any office, and won't take any job. At least he'd be crazy to do so. He can be Bill Clinton for the rest of his life -- Former President At Large, Freelance Mouthpiece. Jan. 20, 2001 will be a jailbreak for him. Let's be nice for once and make no jokes about how he can hit the club scene. He can make actual money for the first time in his life. The ability to attract media attention is insanely lucrative in the era of the Attention Economy.
Finally, for the record, here are my new year's resolutions:
1. Stop being a lazy, worthless, fatty-foods-eating, loud, egocentric, rapidly-going-to-seed, selfish, insensitive, unstylish, moppy-haired, ugly-shoe-wearing, sniveling, wheedling, whining, Amazon-rank-checking, disorganized, procrastinating, constantly distracted, overcaffeinated and fundamentally repulsive carbuncle on the face of humanity.
2. Learn to accept myself for who I am.
Stretching credulity, Rough Draft vows that this year it will not only claim to appear three times a week, but will in fact appear three times a week, on washingtonpost.com.