Monday, January 25, 2010

The Big Easy

If the Jets-Colts game had been tied in the final 20 seconds of regulation and Mark Sanchez had thrown away at least a chance at the game-winning field goal with a really, really bad decision on a interception, how long would it have taken before his lack of experience came sailing out of every mouth and laptop?

Instead, it was Brett Favre, the quarterback with arguably the most experience ever in NFL history, who did so yesterday in the NFC championship game, costing the Vikings a shot at a field goal. It would be the last time Favre would touch the ball in the game, as New Orleans won the toss for overtime and then got a 40-yard field goal from Garrett Hartley on the first possession to win the game.

If this sounds familiar, Favre also threw an interception on his last touch against the Giants two years ago in the NFC title game, leading directly to the game-winning field goal in overtime.

As an aside, Hartley's kick would have been good had the goalposts been an inch greater than the width of the football itself. As clutch kicks go, this one was pretty impressive. Also, if the other team really wants to mess with the opposing kicker, then DON'T call a timeout and "ice" him. That's what he expects; if the Vikings had simply let it play out, then Hartley would have spent more than half a minute expecting a timeout and had to rush it at the end.

Meanwhile, back at Favre, TigerBlog has always found him to be somewhat overrated. Terry Bradshaw, for instance, called him "the best I've ever seen" on the Fox halftime show; has Bradshaw ever seen game films of himself as a quarterback? Favre wouldn't be in TB's list of the top 5 or 10 quarterbacks he's ever seen, let alone all time.

Or maybe TB is just so sick of the way Favre is shoved down the collective viewers' throats that his judgment is affected. Favre's story is familiar: He retired from Green Bay, unretired to play for the Jets and then destroyed their season last year, retired again, unretired again to play for Minnesota and then destroyed the Vikes in the end (granted, he did have a great statistical season and came very close to getting to the Super Bowl).

Still, how does any of that translate into making him bigger than the game? How many shots of his mother and wife do we need to see (had Dallas beaten Minnesota last week, those would have been unnecessary Jerry Jones shots)? How many sideline shots? How much over-the-top glowing commentary? It's enough already.

And don't get TigerBlog started on the use of instant replay in the OT. The overtime, if TB is correct, went kickoff, two plays, penalty for first down, four downs to get a first down, completion for first down, three plays and then game-winning field goal. It took nearly 20 minutes of real time to play, as there were video reviews three times in a four-play span, all three of which took several minutes, killed the game's flow and, ultimately, confirmed the ruling on the field.

TigerBlog has been to New Orleans twice, both times because Princeton was there for men's basketball. The first time was in 1994, when the Tigers played in a holiday tournament at the University of New Orleans, and the other was in 2001, when Princeton's NCAA tournament game against North Carolina was at the Superdome.

Despite his limited time there, TB can safely say that there's no place else quite like it.

Both times that TB was there with Princeton, he remembers how all of the locals talked about how the city was below sea level and that the right storm was going to come along one day and basically wipe it away. Sadly, they proved to be right, as Hurricane Katrina essentially did so in 2005.

The tournament at UNO was played in the Lakefront Arena on campus, but Princeton stayed more in the center of the city, near the Superdome. That meant it was a short walk to Bourbon Street, and if you've never walked down Bourbon Street, well, try to get there. It has to be experienced.

Princeton beat Texas A&M in three overtimes in the first round of that tournament and then had to play UNO in the final the next night. With five players having played the majority of the first game, including a 55-minute night for James Mastaglio, a tired Princeton team fell to the home team 50-43 in the final.

TB remembers that game mostly for when Princeton coach Pete Carril yelled at one of the refs about the physical play of the UNO big men and had the ref respond: "You have big guys too." Carrl's response? "Yeah, but I didn't go down the docks to get them."

As for the NCAA tournament game, the hotel was attached the Superdome, which again meant it was in walking distance of the Bourbon Street. TigerBlog remembers the night before the game, when he and the rest of the Princeton contingent were hanging out on Bourbon Street with Jim Nantz and Billy Packer (TB may be the only person was a big fan of Packer's).

North Carolina, led by current NFL lineman Julius Peppers, thumped Princeton in the game, despite a huge second half from Ed Persia. TB's other big memory of that trip? The fact that he sent three boxes of media guides (remember those?) to the tournament site, only to find out when he got there that two of three boxes had football guides and not basketball guides in them. TB's reaction was something along the lines of "oh well."

Actually, since the postseason guide was there, nobody really needed the regular one. TB should have known then and there, in 2001, that media guides were no longer worth doing.

When Katrina hit and the Dome became the symbol of the city's misery, TigerBlog thought back to the good times he'd had there on his two trips. The great food. The great weather. Bourbon Street. The general feeling of being in a city that was a little different than any other.

TigerBlog doesn't usually get caught up in the "this team or city deserved it more than that city or team" when it comes to sporting events. To root for Syracuse in the 2004 NCAA men's lacrosse final against Navy, for instance, was essentially painted as unpatriotic, and TB remembers one of the SU players' saying: "Hey, we're Americans too."

Still, with the way New Orleans was almost wiped away five years ago, TB was happy that the people of the city had a city to call home and a building to play in, let alone a team in the Super Bowl.

And yet that's what New Orleans has today. It's a great accomplishment for the Saints, though they did need a little help from Brett Favre.


Anonymous said...

Can someone tell me why during yesterday's rout of a D III school, the Tigers continued pressing well into the second half, even trhough they were up >40?!?


It took 17.9 games for Bret Favre to remind us that he was who we thought he was...

And as an aside, if I remember it correctly, Mike Powell's quote was "It's not like we're the Russians"

Anonymous said...

I was also in New Orleans for the 2001 NCAA Tournament, my first -- and only -- trip to the Big Easy.

You're right, it is a town unlike any other. Bourbon Street on St. Patrick's Day (which was the same weekend as the tournament) is incredible.

Chuck B '92 said...

First of all, love the new look on the blog. Second of all, I love the talk of Favre and New Orleans, as a huge Saints fan myself: