There is no question that we are in the midst of a peculiar football season. Sunday night, I was watching the end of the Steelers-Chargers game. I mentioned to my step-dad that I had never seen an 11-10 final score in a football game. Seconds later, a bulletin popped up at the bottom of the screen that read, “There has never been an 11-10 score in NFL history (12,837 games).” Naturally, I started to root for that elusive outcome. The Steelers had made the score 11-10 with just a few seconds remaining. Only an absolute disaster of misfortune could’ve prevented it from happening. Enter one of the worst laterals you’ll ever see combined with Troy Polamalu picking up that “worst ever” lateral and racing into the end-zone. Dream over. Or was it? After an on-field, post-game review the officiating crew correctly ruled the play a touchdown. When CBS ended its coverage in lieu of “60 Minutes”, the scoreboard still read “17-10.” Seconds later on ESPN, the scroll at the bottom of the screen read “Pittsburgh 11 San Diego 10”. I was confused. I found myself rooting so badly for that outcome that my emotions felt like they got caught up in a tug-of-war. Sad but true. I’m pretty sure that the referee’s final explanation was so confusing that the scoreboard operator did not initially know whether the score counted or not.
Minutes after the game had ended, the officiating crew was informed by the NFL that it made the right call (illegal forward lateral by San Diego) but erroneously applied it to the legal backwards lateral that Polamalu ended up taking in for a score. Alas, the final “official” score was 11-10. It took a brain-lapse by the officiating crew to make it happen. They made the right call. They just forgot who it was supposed to go against which is perplexing considering they had the aid of replay. I’m guessing that has probably only happened a handful of times in NFL history as well. Then, for only the fourth time in the last 18 years, there was a tie in the NFL (Eagles-Bengals). On the same day, we had the rare fortune of seeing something that had not happened in 12,837 games, and something that had only happened three times in the previous 8,640 games. I’m pretty sure that means that when we all woke up on Sunday morning, the odds of both a tie and an “11-10” outcome were roughly 1 in 19,717,632. I don’t even want to get into the odds of an NFL quarterback not knowing that there were “ties” in the NFL. Does Donovan McNabb commute to Eagles games from Mars? How could he not know there were ties? The last NFL game to end in a tie was between the Broncos and Falcons in 2002. Ironically, McNabb and the Eagles beat the Falcons that year in the playoffs. I hope I’m not the only one that gets excited about this stuff.
The peculiarity on the national level is at least intriguing. Our local brand of football related peculiarity? Not so much. Michigan is having its worst football season in its 130-year history. The school with the most wins and best winning percentage in college football history has just laid claim to its first eight-loss season—ever. The Lions—not to be outdone—are trying to lay claim to the worst NFL football season—ever. Nobody has gone 0-16. For dual Lions/Michigan fans, it doesn’t get any worse. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the only reason I got so excited about that first paragraph is because it was a welcome escape from the wretched excuse for a football season that we’ve got going on in Michigan. Maybe an “11-10” final doesn’t excite a fan in say, Texas where Texas, Texas Tech, and the Cowboys are rollin’. Maybe an NFL tie doesn’t fire-up a fan in Florida where the Gators are blow torchin’ teams by 40 points and Jeff Garcia is reviving his career for the 38th time. Maybe those people don’t care about that stuff. I deeply care about that stuff.
Strangely, I’m not that upset about the whole thing. Sure, I would have preferred a Lions revival and a seamless transition for Michigan but it’s not as bad as I would’ve thought. I’m rooting as hard for 0-16 as I ever did for a Lions victory. William Clay Ford has been able to coast for far too long. He had this coming to him. I didn’t expect back in the spring that Michigan might go 3-8 but it didn’t take too long before that became a possibility. I take solace in the fact that Rich Rodriguez has struggled mightily in his first year at virtually every stop. He’s holding on to a top-ten recruiting class this year and will have his Pat White next year. He’s building a monster recruiting haul for 2010. Plus, the excitement that will accompany National Signing Day and the NFL Draft will more than make up for these clunkers of a season. Or, at least that’s what I keep telling myself.
Part of me wants to break every man-law in the book by citing the old proverb “This, too, shall pass.” It’s weird, though. I’m kind of enjoying it. Every fall, I get frustrated beyond reason because someone isn’t playing to their potential or a coach is doing something lame. I overanalyze play calls and game decisions like we’re in the midst of a nuclear conflict. It’s been kind of nice to go without that curse for a while. I wouldn’t want this fate every year. It’s just nice to take a mental vacation every once in a while. And, for those wondering, the odds of Michigan losing eight games and the Lions going 0-16 in the same season are roughly 1 in 113,000. That’s something to get excited about.