If you took a poll at the beginning of the football season (which I’m sure somebody did)I’d venture to guess that no one short of Rasputin would have predicted a Ravens-Giants Super Bowl. I guess that’s why they call that crazy Russian “The Mad Monk,” because you would have had to be completely detached from reality to pick two of the most mediocre teams ever matched up in what is supposed to be the sport’s greatest showcase.

Let me say this: I have been wrong before and I will be wrong again, but I feel confident in stating this unequivocally. The Super Bowl is going to be boring. It may be close, it may have solid defenses on display, but it is going to be boring to watch. It may even put the Orange Bowl to shame.

To even the most avid fan, offense is what keeps your interest during the course of a game. A few good hits every now and again are pretty exciting, but when it comes down to it, a field goal contest is unbearably dull to watch. Consequently, this Super Bowl, featuring two of the most inept offenses in the league, isn’t going to keep anyone pinned in their seats long enough to catch the debut of Survivor II. Sorry Probst.

The Ravens offense is miserable. Trent Dilfer is so bad that one of the most incompetent offenses in the game’s history, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, cast him out into what was then considered the Baltimore wilderness. The Ravens’ offense had a slew of games this season (five in a row during one stretch) in which they did not score one single touchdown. So, despite the reputed greatness of their defense, they will never go down as one of the great teams of all time, even if they pitch a shutout in the Super Bowl. The Purple People Eaters had Fran Tarkenton, Ahmad Rashad and Lynn Swann on the other side of the ball. The 46 Defense had one of the greatest running backs of all time, Walter Payton, providing the offensive complement to its 1-2 punch. The Ravens have Jamal Lewis and Qadry Ismail. You do the math.

The Giants are no great shakers either. They feature no one, not one single player, who you would choose to feature in your offense. Kerry Collins is a washed-up bum who ditched his former team because he didn’t feel like playing then. Tiki Barber is kinda good, I guess, and so is Ron Dayne, sorta. Amani Toomer is becoming considered a top receiver, but just because he is the only guy the Giants have to throw to, so his numbers are hyper-inflated. The Giants offense is, in general, mediocre – the whole bunch of ’em.

The NFL was asking for this kind of match up between two relatively good teams when it began its transformation into a socialist dictatorship under the iron fist of Commissioner Paul Tagliabue (CAS ’62). The way the league is currently structured is destined to produce exactly the kind of results that occurred this year, with lots of decent teams emerging from a mediocre pack to qualify for the playoffs. Socialism may work well on paper or in large bi-continental semi-industrialized nations, but it sure as hell doesn’t make for excellence in a competitive environment.

What am I talking about, you ask? Well, for starters, the revenue sharing plan coupled with the salary cap means that no team can afford to maintain a quality team for a long period of time any more (see Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys). Furthermore, automatically giving the worst team in the league the first pick in the college draft also adds to the rampant mediocrity. Add to that the schedule making process and you’ve got a recipe for boredom. Sure its “fair” but it makes for undeniable parity.

So, with so much parity in the league, you’ll forgive me if I don’t think the Raven’s defense is so magnificent; it’s easy to keep a bunch of average teams from racking up a lot of points.

The mediocrity of most of the league is reminiscent of the depressing way that Timothy Hutton describes his moderately attractive and marginally intelligent girlfriend in the movie Beautiful Girls. Most of the teams in the league are a “nice, solid seven and a half.”

Aiming for a seven and a half in your football teams might make for a couple of exciting games during the regular season, which is good for ratings. But the goal of sports should never, ever be based entirely on the bottom line. In some cases, excellence has to be the paramount concern. In short, the Super Bowl should feature a couple of tens that are clearly better than all the rest of the league.

Instead of accepting mediocrity, the league should make changes to make it more likely to reward excellence.

Maybe that way they won’t have to settle for a couple of seven and a halfs.

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