Whatever happened to real football? You know, the football played outside in the cold and the elements with two teams grinding it out on the ground with bruising running backs and hard-hitting defenses?
You won't see much of that on Sunday during the Conference Championship games. Like most of the playoff games this year, both contests will be played in domes--meaning no weather. No iconic videos from NFL films showing the steam created by the breaths of the offensive and defensive linemen in the trenches like you had at the Ice Bowl. No mud-covered running backs turning the corner on the sweep and carefully stepping into the endzone like Paul Hornung against the Browns in the '65 NFL Championship Game. No dramatic 45-yard field goals in the blinding snow like Adam Vinatieri against the Raiders in the "tuck rule" game. Not even players being helped off the field due to exhaustion in the draining heat like Kellen Winslow against the Dolphins in the '82 AFC Divisional Playoffs. Instead, we'll have players running around in the antiseptic atmosphere of the domes--leaving little clouds of black rubber pellets in their wake--on the sportsturf fields.
And don't expect a lot of bruising running in either game. Yes, the Jets try to win with ball control and defense--but they are alone in that strategy this weekend. The Colts had the worst average gain per rush in the league. The Vikings could be a great running team with Adrian Peterson and a good offensive line--but Brett Favre keeps audibling out of running plays to pad his own stats. And the Saints--do they even have a running back? So get ready for plenty of empty-backfield, five-wides, quarterback-out-of-the-shotgun, dinke-and-dunk passing with the ocassional bomb to draw the almost-automatic 40-yard pass interference penalty. Not even John Facenda could make that garbage sound dramatic.
And there is a real nightmare situation brewing this weekend. Imagine what the coverage of the Super Bowl will be like if the New York Jets advance to take on the Minnesota Vikings. The combination of a New York team--with its jingoistic media--and ESPN's love affair with Brett Favre would make the two-week hype of the game absolutely unbearable. I might not even turn on my TV for those two weeks. Of course, Indy-Nawlins wouldn't be a football purist's dream either. All I can say is the folks at Landshark Stadium (Landshark Stadium????) in Miami had better make sure all the lights on the scoreboards work--because they will be using them.