Everyone has been around the fraudulent liberal. The type of person who quotes the Kennedys in everyday conversation and loves the idea of President Obama, but then turns into Glenn Beck the minute they hear about the slightest tax increase. I’m convinced there are more of these people in this country than anyone else. They’re the people who feel bad for the starving children they see in commercials, but will never contribute a penny to help them eat. In general, these aren’t bad people. They like progressive ideas. They know we need big changes. But when reality sets in, they realize they don’t want to do with being effected in the short-term.
We’ve got a version of these people in sports too. They’re easiest to spot during the final two weeks of the NFL regular season. Usually they’re ticket holders upset about paying all that money only to see second stringers get the majority of the playing time or they’re fans enraged over losing a fantasy football championship because their best player sat out. Typically the media jumps aboard, claiming any team who chooses to rest its players is damaging the integrity of the game. This week, some writers even compared it to the NBA teams who tank for draft lottery purposes.
They’ve got a point, of course. I would be pissed off too if I paid to see Peyton and got Curtis Painter instead. This year was particularly controversial because Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell chose to rest his starters for the second half of week 16 against the New York Jets and it cost the team a shot at an unbeaten season. The ethical debate over Caldwell’s decision was only magnified by the fact that it put the Jets in the driver’s seat to reach the playoffs.
The uproar lasted the entire week. We were finally talking about something other than Tiger Woods. It seemed like everyone agreed that it’s bush league for a team not to put forth its best effort. Even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell seemed concern, suggesting that the league will look into finding a way to reward a team who plays its starters when it doesn’t have to.
Everyone was on board. Everyone liked the idea of playing all out no matter what.
And then reality set in.
Now someone should ask a fan in New England or Cincinnati how they feel about how hard their teams played in meaningless games to end the year. ESPN is reporting that Wes Welker suffered the same injury that cost Tom Brady his entire season in 2008 and Chad Ochocinco needs an MRI after a knee injury forced him to leave Sunday’s game in the third quarter.
Just like that, the Patriots’ chances of winning the Super Bowl have vanished. Mr. Reliable is gone –probably for some of next season too—and now Tom Brady has to hope the anti-Welker, Randy Moss, will show up ready to become the main contributor again. The Bengals face a similar situation. They are unlikely to put up much of a fight against the Jets if Ochocinco isn’t 100 percent next week.
Following the Patriots loss to Houston, the players who did talk to the media (Brady was not made available) gave the standard “this is football; this is what happens” statements. But how can they not be troubled by Bill Belichick’s decision to play his starters?
The fans certainly are.
Now we have to ask if maintaining the integrity of the game was worth it. Because it sure doesn’t seem like it. The bottom line is that because they chose to play their starters, both the Patriots and Bengals are weaker than they would have been had they rested everyone.
And the Colts?
Well, they’re just fine.