SPORTS w/The Jock 12/21/11

NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE
We’re down to the nitty gritty in these last two weeks of the NFL season. This is the time when most of the games are played with the postseason on the line. And it seems almost every team recognizes this, knowing the potential consequences, and is dealing with a host of injuries that certainly are affecting who plays, to what extent, and to what level.
Going into this weekend, four teams have clinched playoff berths in the AFC (NE, BAL, PIT, HOU), and three teams have done so in the NFC (GB,SF,NO). Otherwise, you’ve got tight battles for the Division in both the AFC West and the NFC East. In those situations, the winners will get in, while the losers are done for the season, with no chance for a wild card slot.
And so there will be games on Saturday where both teams are strongly needing a win. In New York, the Jets and Giants will be playing each other, having to win to stay in contention for the playoffs. I guarantee it is going to get nasty there, being played as a Jets home game, although I’m guessing you’ll see some Giants fans attending. The key will certainly be on the performance of the two Qbs, Eli Manning and Mark Sanchez.
In Kansas City, the Raiders and Chiefs will play, with both teams very much still in the hunt for winning the division. If they don’t win, they are out. That said, this game carries solid significance, so you can count on some tough, competitive, physical play. It could get ugly, but then again that is what that rivalry has been about all these years.
And in Dallas, the Eagles arrive, having won their last two games, to play the Cowboys in a traditional rivalry. Both squads need this win to stay in the hunt for the NFC East. Lose, and they’ll pretty much be toast. Therefore, this game has serious meaning, which should get the crowd of about 95,000+ rocking! Philly beat Dallas handily, 34-7, earlier in the season. This should be a fun one to catch.
While all that is happening, teams like the Patriots and Saints are riding along, prepping for the postseason with 11-3 records, both having won their last six contests. For those teams, it always makes you wonder their mindset is like, whether they are going to stay cool, pull back, and rest banged-up players, or whether they want to keep their foot planted on the accelerator and stay intense. It always makes for even a slight hint of curiosity to emerge, both before and after the contests! The Pats will host the 5-9 Dolphins, while the Saints host the 9-5 Falcons on Monday night.
It will be interesting, to say the least, to see how things go. You can count on some interesting, exciting play, without question, setting up even more drama for the final week of the season! We’ll see how it all plays!
 
NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION
After a long, drawn-out off-season, dominated by the NBA lockout, the NBA will finally
begin their regular season on Christmas Day, with five games to kick of the schedule.
Teams have only had a week of exhibition games in order to prepare for regular season play. That might mean we are going to see guys who are not necessarily in the best shape, with some possibly needing rest to get into the flow. Whether that is a good or bad item of discussion remains to be seen!
With only a short period of time to prep, many teams also will still be trying to determine the structure and lineups on their rosters. A lot of teams are making adjustments on the run, so to speak, and will be doing so for the next few weeks! In a way, that sounds crazy! But that is the way things are shaking out as a result of the circumstances leading in to this chaotic, shortened season.
What will be most interesting to me, at least (and I’m sure to a lot of other media-types), will be how fans will respond within the first few months of the season. For example, how will the attendance figures come out for the season, especially the first few games? Will people have a desire to come out and watch, or will they simply stay at home to see how things are shaking?
It will also be interesting to see how fans react to how games are played, who is winning and losing, who is playing good ball, etc. Again, it will all be about hearing opinions thru the media, and also hearing whether or not people care, and to what extent, after all the crap that went on this offseason, during the lockout.
I’m sure a lot of attention will be given to the ‘sexy’ teams…those squads people are familiar with, either by the players, or their history. I’m talking about the Lakers, the Celtics, the Heat, the defending-champion Mavericks, etc. My guess is you will have a chance to see those guys on national TV quite often.
I’ll also be curious to see what will happen now with the L.A. Clippers. Since they traded for G Chris Paul, the media attention given to this franchise has been pretty strong. If they play well, it’ll get even stronger. If it doesn’t, I’m sure they’ll be looked at like we all have looked down on the NFL Eagles this season!
So, off we go! Should be a fun and interesting season, at the very least! And it all starts on Sunday…

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
So far what we’ve seen from the few Bowl games that have been staged is not very good.
The play has been sloppy, mainly due to the fact the teams participating haven’t played in a few weeks. The attendance for the games has been awful. The stadiums haven’t pulled anything close to capacity crowds, in San Diego, Albequerque, Boise, St. Pete, or New Orleans. You can blame some of that on the lame draws of the teams. Not many local folks have been interested in Ohio University in Boise, or TCU in San Diego. And the teams aligned with these teams haven’t traveled well, bringing rather porous crowds with them.
In the meantime, ESPN, which televises almost all of these contests, tries their hardest to get us interested and wanting to watch! They’ll spotlight one particular player, or the head coach, or what the team did during the season, all to get us to have our interest piqued. Sometimes it works. So far, though, it has been a thankless proposition.
I say all this, and I will state that I am all for creating good games in any sport, as long as there is a sense of purpose, entertainment, and competition. Again, I go back to mentioning there should be a football tournament created, incorporating these venues and teams, to create a national champion, which I know would kick tail!
But so far, we haven’t seen that in the Bowl games. And the level of play and the excitement for these bowls honestly isn’t gonna change any time soon…probably until January 2d at the very least. So, I guess we all should just resign ourselves to realize these games are simple exhibitions with very little meaning in the big picture of things.

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