" God, I hate Phoenix," said the nice lady sitting next to me on my flight to Tucson last year. " Phoenix is just so big. Tucson is more...is more..."
"More what?" I asked.
"Manageable. Tucson is a lot more manageable than Phoenix is. Phoenix is awful."
I have a cousin who is a banker over there. I asked him if he ever went out to suburban Glendale to watch the Phoenix Cardinals play. The perenially dreadful Cardinals, who are easily the worst managed franchise in professional sports, worse than the Los Angeles Clippers even, are the only NFL team where you can still walk up and buy tickets most games. I would go just to see an NFL game despite the fact that the Cardinals suck out loud. God knows that was the only reason I took in a couple of Saints games back in the early Eighties when I was matriculating at Tulane.
" Hell, no" my cousin replied. " I occasionally come into some tickets at the bank. But it's just too much friggin' trouble to get out there with the traffic and everything. It's not worth it."
Glendale Arizona is the site of this year's high holy day of the American civic religion known as pro football. The game will be played at deceptively named University of Phoenix Stadium. The University of Phoenix is a nationwide diploma mill who acquired the naming rights to the place despite the fact that the only tenants there are the Cardinals and the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. They got themselves a high dollar stadium without either a team or much of a school for that matter.
Ain't marketing grand?
As I have stated elsewhere, I'm not much of a pro football fan. I follow the Saints for some reason but it is rare that I will actually watch a game. Indeed, the two league playoff games a few weeks ago were the first time I watched two NFL games back-to-back since, well, last year. The NFL is too slick, too stuck on itself and its "brand." If IBM invented a sport it would be NFL football.
Still, I am kind of interested in tomorrow's game if only to see if the New England Patriots can pull off what I'm pretty sure would be a once-in-a-lifetime deal: Go undefeated.
Understand, as Wally Hall would say, that the NFL is a rigged game. I don't mean that in the illegal sense, unlike the NBA of the last couple of years where damned if it didn't turn out that some of the games were rigged by a dirty referee. What I mean is that the NFL, for all of it's corporate atmosphere, is a socialist system where parity among the teams is the goal of the draft and the salary caps all teams work under. No owner can buy a title in the NFL. And the Yankee teams of recent vintage have proven that it is increasingly damned difficult to do it in baseball.
So for the New England Patriots to have run the table, and for the most part in convincing fashion, is pretty remarkable. The system is just not set up to produce perenially dominating teams. It's not good for business. Not that anybody in the NFL is going broke. Even the execrable Cardinals turn a nice profit every year due to revenue sharing. Nowhere else in professional sports is such incompetent management rewarded as in the NFL.
So? What about the game itself? It's hard to bet against the Patriots. They play just enough defense to slow the Giants down and they have too many weapons on offense. Still, the Giants have got a puncher's chance. They scared the bejeezus out of the Patriots back in December. And if you go with the "hot team" theory of prognostication, nobody has played better than the Giants in the last month.
Nobody but the Patriots that is. And the idiotic playoff format used by the NFL with the two week layoff between the playoff games and the Super Bowl pretty much penalizes any team that is counting on momentum to get them over.
It says here that the Patriots win in a squeaker and ride off into NFL immortality with a season you will never see again.
Because the NFL is a rigged game. Domination is bad for business.