Saturday, February 03, 2007

"People can have the Model T in any colour--so long as it's black."
-- Henry Ford

Following Championship Sunday's shamelessly inaccurate 0-2 showing wherein Sports Amnesia predicted exactly wrong, a Patriots-Saints Super Bowl instead of this immensely unexciting Battle of the All Black Head Coaches Midwest Bowl one might expect a moratorium on NFL predictions for the rest of the season.

The Battle of the All Black Head Coaches Midwest Bowl is of course a dysphamism for explaining why the dismantling of the Old Boys Nework has taken the NFL so long to accomplish (whilst between the lines they can ignore the white GMs, white owners, white television network executives) and we can all imagine a day not far from now when they'll be writing with equal self-congratulatory fascination about the first Super Bowl with both head coaches AND both quarterbacks being black, or the first Super Bowl with a Mexican QB or the first Super Bowl with Chinese wideouts, Iraqi placekickers and North Korean halfbacks. Meanwhile, it's been 19 years since Doug Williams drew fascination for being the first black QB to start and win a Super Bowl and 38 years since Marlon Briscoe became the first black starting quarterback in the NFL, ever.

The NFL is becoming more international and thus, more colourful, it's true. The Super Bowl, we are told, will be aired in 232 countries and territories by 54 international broadcasters in 33 languages.

Last year's game (Pittsburgh Steelers-Seattle Seahawks) was watched by 98 million viewers, 90.7 million of whom were in the United States. On the other hand, the World Cup football final, the mother of all international sporting events, drew 260 million viewers. Of course, the World Cup final's headlines aren't written by American media doyens eager to congratulate themselves on their enlightened approach to minorities in sport and of course, there isn't a long and boring two week delay between the semi finals and the final which force such unfettered headline hunts to accumulate. So perhaps the hyperbolic back patting on having two black head coaches in the Super Bowl at the same time is to be expected.

The other storyline is of course this semi-prodded great defence versus great QB debate - getting less airplay is what it means to have one of the worst defences and worst QBs.

Whilst the Bears defence is not only good this season but historically form in part anyway, the intimidating Monsters of the Midway label and have that awesome Defence of the 1985/86 season to their credit, the Colts defence is a bit ghastly by comparison despite the fact that their black head coach is considered a defensive rather than offensive mind. Only three Super Bowl champions allowed more than 300 points: the 1980 Raiders (306), the 1983 Raiders (338) and 1998 Broncos (309). These Colts have allowed a staggering 360. The Colts ranked last in the NFL against the run with the fourth-worst run defense in history, allowing an average of 173 yards per game and 5.3 yards per rush. The worst run defense to win a Super Bowl was the 2001 New England Patriots, who ranked 19th with an average yield of 115 yards per game.

As for the QBs well, there hasn't often been as big a mismatch - on the one hand the fabled Peyton Manning who, if he wins this Super Bowl might instantly elevate himself into the pantheon of All Time Greats and is already a near certain Hall of Fame candidate. On the other hand, the Bears are led by the oft-maligned and tragically inconsistent Rex Grossman.

Where are the headlines for this being the first Super Bowl with a QB named Rex?

Rex, after all, is Latin for "king". Peyton is ostensibly named after a 1960s soap opera called Peyton Place.

But these aren't the only issues that might allow us to unravel the mystery of the next Super Bowl Champ a day early.

We could also examine certain things which will not come into play but certain sway Sports Amnesia's thinking.

Once, Everbody's Did The Macarena Too, That Didn't Make It Right...

1. The Everyone Else Is Doing It Factor - You can count on one hand the number of non-Chicagoans who think the Bears can beat the Colts. The Colts are established as a seven point favourite going into this game. The celebrities are going with the Colts. Most of the SI football experts, all of whom have a better record than Sports Amnesia at this sort of thing, are going with the Colts. No, I take that back Every Single Expert Is Picking The Colts. That leaves us in the difficult situation on jumping on this hideous Colts bandwagon or rooting against what appears to be common logic. Advantage: Bears.

2. Domed Midwest Football Stadium Factor - The Bears won their NFC Championship game in the cold and with a few snow flurries. The Colts won their AFC Championship game in a climate-controlled dome. As these are both Midwest teams having faced similar outdoor conditions in their respective cities, the fact that one of them plays their games indoors means that the Colts are not immune to climatic factors, like global warming. Sure, you say there is no way to measure toughness of a domed team versus that of a team that plays in the bitter cold but the St Louis Rams of the 2000 Super Bowl were the only home dome team to win a Super Bowl. That doesn't mean there can't be a second one but it means, with the Colts' undefeated record in their cosy little dome, that the slightest bit of inclimate conditions might throw off this delicate little Peyton Passing Machine. It means Da Bears are reall men who play the game outdoors, not inside a computer or inside a dome. Advantage: Bears.

3. Moving Franchise Factor. A quick refresher - the Browns were moved to Baltimore from Cleveland and renamed themselves the Ravens, who did in fact win a Super Bowl against an historical NFL franchise (the NY Giants). The Rams moved from LA to St Louis and won a Super Bowl against another team (the Tennessee Titans) who moved franchise (from Houston to Nashville) but those same Rams who moved from LA to St Louis also lost a Super Bowl against an historical AFC franchise (the Patriots, who "sorta" moved from Boston to "New England".) What it means is that if you've moved your franchise from one city to another as did the Colts from Baltimore to Indianapolis you've got a good chance of winning. However, of teams to have moved from one city to another and won the Super Bowl, NONE of them had won the Super Bowl with the previous city's franchise, i.e. the Browns never made it to the Super Bowl before they became the Ravens, ditto the Rams of LA, the Titans (néé the Oilers of Houston). The Colts won the Super Bowl in 1971 when they were in Baltimore. Advantage: Bears.

3. Peyton's Pressure Factor - Just a few weeks ago Peyton Manning was more known for his inability to win the big one than the collective of brand names he markets. The Bill Belichick and Tom Brady monkees are off his back. Sure, he still hasn't won a Super Bowl but at least he's beaten his nemesis, the Patriots. Historically, overcoming this type of adversity leads to Super Bowl victories, i.e, the Raiders finally overcoming the Steelers in the 70s, the 49ers finally overcoming the Cowboys in the 90s, the Giants overcoming the 49ers, etc. Of course, the Iggles lost three NFC Championship games in a row before making it to the Super Bowl they lost in 2004-05, the Cowboys lost three NFC Championship Games in a row from 1980-83 and didn't make the Super Bowl again until 1992-93 and the Bills, well they LOST FOUR CONSECUTIVE SUPER BOWLS. What it means generally is, if you throw a monkey off your back, you win it all. Advantage: Colts.

4. Coin Toss Factor - I dunno what this means but if you look at the history of the coin toss in the Super Bowl you will see that the last time a team called heads, won the toss AND the game was back in Super Bowl XXVI when the Redskins did it when they beat the Dolphins in a come-from-behind victory. The Colts get to call the toss in this one which means they'd either better call tails or they'd better call heads and lose. Of the last five Super Bowls, the team getting to make the call lost four of them. Advantage: Bears.

5. Rex Grossman Chipped Shoulder Factor - Probably with good reason considering his season to date, Rex Grossman has been ridiculed and humiliated for the last two weeks whenever he, rather than Peyton has been the focus of the media's attention. Admittedly, this factor is related to the everybody favours the Colts factor noted above. You just get the feeling that a team can stand hearing how much they suck only so much before exploding. Rex Grossman will confuse no one with being a Hall of Fame QB unlike his counterpart. This reminds Phil Simms of the abuse he took back in Super Bowl XXI when the Giants faced the Broncos and their Hall of Fame QB, John Elway. Advantage: Bears.

What this is all building to, you guessed it, is Sports Amnesia putting itself on the line once more going against public opinion, common wisdom, logic and probability.

The Pick:

Chicago Bears 30 Indiapolis Colts 27.