First off, let me apologize for not posting my picks for the NFL Wild Card playoffs the last couple of days (if anyone cares, I went 3-1, losing only on Oakland). I've been busy with other matters not pertaining to the blog, and I had totally forgotten about it prior to Saturday's games.
Around here, we refer to the New England Patriots as the NFL's Evil Empire. Folks also have a tendency to haterize the Seattle Seahawks for whatever reason. Go back to the NFC title game vs. San Francisco a few years back, and Richard Sherman's impersonation of a pro wrestler in terms of talking trash at then-Niners wideout Michael Crabtree (now with Oakland). Sherman was rewarded (?) with 2 years of having to do beef jerky ads with ESPN's Stephen A. Smith as a "voice in the pit of Sherman's stomach".
During this season, online commentators on Yahoo! whine repeatedly about how the Seahawks are getting the benefit of poor officiating at home. On Saturday night, that certainly seemed to be little more than an error of omission, as replays clearly showed Seattle receiver Paul Richardson grabbing the face mask of a Detroit defender with one hand while catching a TD pass with the other. The students of Mr. Magoo went to Detroit coach Jim Caldwell at the end of halftime and sheepishly admitted they goofed for the zillionth time this season. Even NBC's Cris Collinsworth noted that the TD should've been taken off the board had the knuckleheaded zebras actually witnessed the infraction.
The Giants were torched by their own local press today in the wake of yesterday's loss to Green Bay, all because some players spent part of last week partying in Miami. In a major media market like New York, where scandal is just as much a part of commerce as panhandlers busking for change, this was a big no-no. In my eyes, the Packers exorcised the ghosts of post-seasons past at Lambeau vs. the Giants (2007 & 2011 playoffs), and now will play top seeded Dallas. Seattle, oh, by the way, is headed to Atlanta to battle the Falcons. A comforting thought for the 'Hawks is that if they beat Atlanta, and Green Bay beats Dallas, the NFC title game will be in Seattle, sparing Seattle the frozen tundra of Lambeau.
Once the season ends, an era will end at ESPN, as senior anchor Chris Berman is leaving Sunday NFL Countdown, and will take on a reduced role at the network. His detractors have been calling for something akin to that for years, tired of his schtick, although he did retire the "Swami" turban for his Friday 2:00 Drill feature on SportsCenter. Someone else, presumably Karl Ravech, will MC the Home Run Derby in July, and I'm guessing either Suzy Kolber (who's looking hotter than ever lately) or Trey Wingo will succeed Berman on Countdown.
Actually, ESPN would be better served (not by Applebee's) if they got rid of Stephen A. Smith, once and for all. He failed hosting a talk show (Quite Frankly was a bomb for a reason), but he somehow still is doing radio, which perhaps fits with the idea that he sounds like the late Howard Cosell, and probably thinks he's Cosell reincarnated. Lord save us from that. Smith is re-upping with ESPN Radio after trying satellite radio, doing his lame schtick on Chris Russo's Mad Dog Radio channel. Smith is and always has been a poser as a journalist. Is it any wonder that when Skip Bayless signed with FS1, his First Take ripoff, Undisputed, has him making ex-NFLer Shannon Sharpe (ex-The NFL Today) look even more minor league than before? Bayless only wishes he got that same kind of leverage over "Screamin' A", else he'd still be at ESPN.
Submitted for the C'mon Man! feature on Countdown next week: Pittsburgh's Ryan Shazier, a 3rd year linebacker (Ohio State), on the field with no shirt in below-freezing temps prior to Sunday's game vs. Miami. Someone get him some cold pills.
25 years ago, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney won a national title as a player with Alabama. Tonight, for the 2nd straight year, he's hoping to lead Clemson to the promised land. The Tigers, representing the Atlantic Coast Conference, haven't won a national title in 36 years. All I see is another shootout, like last year, and the end result will be the same. The Tide will roll again, 45-42.