After carefully scrutinizing almost every angle of the NFL playoffs, I have come to one disturbing conclusion: This year, the playoffs are boring.
Do not get me wrong — the last 2.5 minutes of the Packers-Cowboys game on Sunday evening was one riveting moment since the end of Week 17. I am extremely grateful for Mason Crosby kicking two 50-plus yard field goals to defeat the Cowboys in dramatic fashion.
But the rest of this season’s playoffs have been painfully predictable, starting with the pitiful Raiders-Texans game during Wild Card weekend, where replacement quarterback Connor Cook engineered no surprises. Ironically enough, however, the score of that game was the closest of the entire weekend. The Giants failed to find their Lambeau Field competitive magic and Matt Stafford failed to throw a touchdown. Every home team won. The weekend was terrible for the narrative of the underdog.
This past weekend had plenty of potential from the Packers-Cowboys showdown at AT&T Stadium to a potential upset in Atlanta, provided Russell Wilson could finagle a couple extra touchdowns if Matt Ryan were to have an off day.
And though this weekend was a slight improvement with two statistical upsets and the admittedly impressive Packers win, the games largely lacked the shock value that the playoffs are supposed to showcase. Even the Steelers managed to pull out a win against the Chiefs without scoring one touchdown in a painfully boring game.
This week’s matchups have promise — Ryan is finally getting the respect he deserves, and it should be fun to watch Tom Brady air it out against the Steelers’ secondary. But then again, last week’s matchups held just as much promise, and the only game that came even close to living up to its entertainment potential was Jerry Jones’ worst nightmare.
My anxiety truly lies in the potential of a football fan’s biggest nightmare: a boring Super Bowl, especially with 2014’s putrid Super Bowl XLVIII still fresh in our minds. A Super Bowl that was more or less decided after a safety on a missed snap on the first play, the Super Bowl in which the Seahawks scored 35 more points than Peyton Manning’s Broncos.
Of course, the NFL has no real control over how exciting the Super Bowl or any game for that matter really is, despite the many conspiracy theories and jokes about Roger Goodell’s personal preferences. At the same time, professional sports are a form of entertainment.
They are supposed to be entertaining.
The definition of entertaining, of course, is relative. Seahawks fans were surely entertained during Super Bowl XLVIII, as any fan enjoys watching their team destroy another team on one of the world’s biggest sports stages. But there is a difference between enjoyable and entertaining, at least in sports. No other fans enjoyed the 2014 Super Bowl, I can assure you.
The NFL in particular has no obligation to its fans to be enjoyable. The nature of being a sports fan is in its essence a wildly unenjoyable endeavor. Fans spend an offseason and then season reading every article, watching every game and agonizing over every trade for the possibility that their team has the slim chance of winning a championship. And every time that team does not win that championship, the fan is disappointed.
But what professional sports perhaps should be able to accomplish is entertainment with unpredictability, living up to the phrase “that’s why they play the game.” They should deliver shocking and not solely statistical upsets, featuring the back-and-forth, tooth-and-nail fights that have characterized so many football games outside of the last couple weeks.
In truth, this is a plea to the NFL gods in the hopes that the next few weeks will deliver true, gritty, gut-wrenching sports entertainment. You know, those games that invoke the passion to get you on your feet, scream at the television when your favorite team is not even playing.
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