To paraphrase Tony Bennett's most famous hit, some San Francisco 49ers fans----and for that matter, Baltimore Ravens fans, too----might as well be singing, "I left my brains at home" when they went to Sunday's conference championship game.
In San Francisco, Kyle Williams, a kick returner finishing his 2nd season with the resurgent Niners, fumbled twice, the last of which ultimately cost San Francisco the game in overtime, enabling the New York Giants to reach the Super Bowl for the fifth time, all in the last 25 years. Hours earlier, in Foxborough, Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff missed two field goals in the 4th quarter, denying Baltimore a Super rematch of their own with either the Giants, whom they beat for their lone title 11 years ago, or San Francisco, which would've been a rematch of coaching brothers John & Jim Harbaugh. What was lost in Cundiff's misfortune was the fact that on the preceding play, the referees held their flags when New England should've been called for defensive holding. As it was, the Patriots, the NFL's "evil empire", will get a chance to avenge not only a November loss to the Giants, but also the defeat in Super Bowl 42, 4 years ago. I'll discuss that further another time.
What links Cundiff & Williams together is the fact that both have been singled out by irate fans in each team's home city for costing them a chance at another championship. News reports say that both players have been getting death threats. Now, pilgrims, that's just pushing things a wee bit too far.
The fans issuing the threats had to be overly inebriated to begin with, and one suspects that they wagered plenty of money, which would give them cause to be angry, but to single out one specific player just because he had a bad day at the wrong time is just plain wrong. In the era of social networking, you're going to get far more of these liquored up, know-nothing yahoos making these kinds of remarks. What these idiots fail to see is that, at the end of the day, it's just a game.
Oh, sure, I may have an axe to grind myself, seeing as how New England took advantage of the zebras' usual post-season lieniency when they could've been called for far more penalties than they have. In the playoffs, the officiating takes on two different tacks. One is the "playground mentality" where they'll just let the players play and will only call the most obvious and heinous fouls, which is why New England's Sterling Moore, a reject plucked off the practice squad of the Oakland Raiders, can count himself thankful he wasn't costing his team 5 yards. On the other hand, there's also the belief that the league and its media partners got the matchup they wanted, strictly for the purposes of maximizing television ratings. Patriots-Giants isn't exactly on the order of that other Boston vs. New York rivalry, simply because the two teams don't play each other every year. The way the network suits see it, it is Yankees-Red Sox flipped over, with the Patriots as the hated villains. That all having been said, you lay the blame for the Ravens' misfortune solely on the officials' showing blatant home-team-favoritism. New England has had just 3 penalties in 2 playoff games. What does that tell you?
The Giants weren't exactly getting favorable calls, and have been underdogs the last two weeks while beating the two best teams in the NFC. The tabloids are already in maximum hype mode, and that won't stop until the day of the game, February 5. For the most part, the playoffs have been exciting and dramatic, unless the Patriots are involved.
Bottom line: If you want someone to hate, don't single out someone on your own team. Read between the lines. If you felt your team got screwed (and that should be the way they see it in Denver & Baltimore), don't take it out on your team, go after the ones truly responsible. Oh, and, one more thing. You'd be well served to have a clear conscience when you're on Twitter.