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  1. #1
    r8rh8rmike's Avatar
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    Bernie: It's A Game Worthy Of Prime Time

    Bernie: It's a game worthy of prime time

    BY BERNIE MIKLASZ
    Thursday, December 30, 2010 12:15 am

    Around the football nation, assorted grumpy bloggers, pundits and fans are trying to take the fun out of the nationally televised Rams-Seahawks pie-eating contest to settle the NFC West championship.

    A 7-8 team (Rams) will throw down with a 6-9 outfit (Seahawks) for a claim on the division title and the right to advance to the NFL postseason. This looming collision has been met with genuine outrage, mock outrage, ridicule and general disbelief.

    It's the NFL's version of a play-in game, with St. Louis and Seattle playing the roles of Arkansas Pine-Bluff and Winthrop dueling for the honor to qualify for the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament and a beatdown from Duke.

    The threat of a losing team participating in the NFL tournament has prompted calls for banishment and exclusion, demands for changes in the playoff system. I'm surprised that no one is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.

    Really, now: Why are we getting our jockstraps all twisted up over this?

    I would concede that it would look bad to have 7-9 Seattle in the playoffs. But this has happened before, in other leagues. As my friend John McGrath of the Tacoma News Tribune helpfully pointed out, the 1938 Stanley Cup was captured by the Chicago Blackhawks, who went 14-25-9 in the regular season.

    There have been multiple losing teams in the annual NCAA basketball tournament. In college football, the BCS system has given Connecticut, the hound-dog champion of the Big East, a spot in the prestigious Fiesta Bowl.

    We've seen mediocre teams invade the baseball playoffs. The San Diego Padres won the NL West with an 82-80 record in 2005. And who can forget the 1987 Minnesota Twins? They went 29-52 on the road but climbed the Metrodome's trash-bag outfield walls to reach a World Series championship over the Cardinals.

    (As some of you have pointed out to me, the 2006 Cardinals finished five games over .500 and won a World Series. You questioned why I excluded them from mention and accused me of being a homer, among other things. Please. I watched that team all year, and they played good baseball until getting ripped apart by injuries late in the season. The 2006 Cardinals were 15 games over .500 as late as July 27, and were 11 games over .500 as late as Sept 3. Jim Edmonds and David Eckstein were banged up and combined for only 38 at-bats on the final month. Scott Rolen's shoulder was barking; he hit .225 in September. The Cardinals were also transitioning at closer, going from the injured Jason Isringhausen to the rookie Adam Wainwright. As we know, it worked out great. But at the time no one knew if Wainwright could handle such a critical role, and that uncertainty was a significant cause for alarm. In Sept. 2006 the Cardinals were still trying to sort a lot out. There was also the Jeff Weaver Factor; he was still searching for his form under pitching coach Dave Duncan after being picked up from the LA Dodgers. There was a lot of instability and moving parts to that team late in the year.

    ( Playing shorthanded, the 2006 Cardinals faded down the stretch. But with the roster healthy and largely restored by the start of the postseason, the "real" Cardinals showed up again. Weaver and Wainwright were money. Eckstein returned and was World Series MVP. Edmonds returned and led the team in postseason RBIs. Rolen, after struggling terribly, got hot during the World Series. Also keep in mind that the 2004 Cardinals won 105 games, and that the 2005 Cardinals won 100. The 2006 team was an extension of 2004 and 2005. Not entirely, of course, but the credibility of the core nucleus already had been established. And for whatever flaws that '06 team had, they sure as heck didn't go 29-52 on the road. I don't think the 2006 Cardinals deserve to be lumped in with other mediocre playoff entrants. That's just my opinion. And I wouldn't hesitate to put them in that group if I thought they belonged.)

    Anyway ...

    If Seattle beats the Rams, then I'll let everyone else stew over the consequences. I don't think it's a big deal. The four-team NFC West is in a collective state of rebuilding, and this is a fluke occurrence.

    I don't see much difference between the 2010 NFC West and the 2008 AFC West. The 2008 AFC West had a combined record of 23-41. Going into Sunday's final regular-season day, the 2010 NFC West is 23-37.

    The NFC West has done OK for itself since the start of the 2000 season, with three different teams making it to the Super Bowl. Only one other division, the NFC South, has had three different Super Bowl representatives since 2000.

    So this is a down year, yes.

    Well, get over it.

    And if the Rams win at Seattle and finish 8-8, then what's the problem?

    Those 2008 San Diego Chargers won the AFC West with an 8-8 record. Not only that, the Chargers hosted an opening-round playoff game and whacked Peyton Manning and the 12-4 Indianapolis Colts. I don't recall any tantrums being thrown over the unfairness of it all.

    NBC has drawn some criticism for optioning the Rams-Seattle game for a prime-time Sunday viewing. But NBC made the right call. Why not televise a bonus-playoff round? This really is a playoff game; the winner moves on and the loser is finished. It's sudden-death football. It's the NFC West championship game.

    It may not be handsome, it may not be the ideal matchup of NFL elites, but we will have an important and meaningful NFL game at Seattle's Qwest Field. And what's wrong with that? How many times have we complained about meaningless regular-season games in all sports?

    This certainly is more appealing than a late-season farce in which a comfortable first-place team having already secured home-field advantage for the playoffs rests key regulars.

    The 2009 Indianapolis Colts essentially forfeited their final two regular-season games, preferring to lose to Buffalo and the New York Jets rather than compete and put star players at risk. The Rams and the Seahawks won't be resting any players.

    The Rams may be raw and inexperienced and still evolving in other words, the very definition of a work in progress. The Seahawks are flat-out ugly now, having lost seven of the last nine games by an average of 22 points. But come Sunday night, these two imperfect teams will be fighting like mad, competing like crazy. And that's never a bad thing.

    And the Rams are a heck of a story that, if nothing else, should inspire some curiosity. And I'd say that even if I were an NFL fan living in New Hampshire or New Mexico.

    This was a lost franchise. The Rams won three games in 2007, two in 2008 and one in 2009. The Rams were the Jim Marshall of the NFL standings ... running the wrong way.

    New owner, new GM, new coach ... the Rams were searching for the way back. And with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft, the Rams drafted a quarterback from Oklahoma, Sam Bradford. He had shoulder injuries at OU. He was a risky pick. Rams fans were nervous. Goodness. One brutal hit and the rookie could be in a sling, with his career in doubt. Why even take that chance?

    Well, we've seen why. Bradford has taken all of the hits. He doesn't flinch. He continues to stand firm and confident in the pocket. He keeps throwing the rock, keeps moving the Rams forward, keeps rebounding from his few rookie mistakes, keeps altering the image of an entire franchise.

    An 8-8 record in 2010 would be disappointing for, say, Indianapolis or New Orleans. But when your pitiful team is 6-42 over a three-season period the worst three-year stretch by a franchise in NFL history then 8-8 looks swell.

    It isn't the realization of the ultimate goal, but the Rams have come a long way in a short time to defy every preseason prediction. They've gone from 1-15 to the brink of a division championship with a rookie quarterback who hasn't snapped. But he has taken every snap.

    "Sam has gone out and beaten Peyton Manning's rookie (completion) record," Rams running back Steven Jackson said Wednesday during a conference call with Seattle media. "And he's come in with the pressure of being a Heisman Trophy winner and turned the team around, going from 1-15 to possibly fighting for the NFC West (title). He's done a great job. It's just unbelievable how poised the kid is. He's become a leader. These are all things you don't expect from a first-year guy, and he's only going to get better.''

    Again: Please tell me why the Rams winning the NFC West would be such a gruesome, look-the-other-way disaster? Is there no room, no appreciation for an underdog in a league that's increasingly obsessed with fading celebrity players (Brett Favre) and also-ran celebrity teams like the Dallas Cowboys?

    "The Rams are a David vs. Goliath story," said St. Louisan Dan Dierdorf, the Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive tackle and CBS broadcaster. "I'm sorry, because I must have missed it. But when did David vs. Goliath stop being a good story?"


  2. #2
    laram0's Avatar
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    Re: Bernie: It's A Game Worthy Of Prime Time

    As Bernie put it "This is an extra Playoff Game for the NFL" putting it on in the spot light was a no brainer.

    GO RAMS!!!!!

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    KoaKoi is offline Registered User
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    Re: Bernie: It's A Game Worthy Of Prime Time

    wow. by far the best bernie article ever

    i've given B boy a lot of grief for some of the grime he's offered as newsworthy reports but i've seen a lot better articles this year AND now he comes out with this right before the last regular season game. well thought out, researched, and explained.

    it's almost as if his writing has improved in conjunction with the Rams' improvement. coincidence?

    well anyways, if i'm quick to blast the guy for sludge; i figured i should give him props for when decent material is offered.

    Go Rams!

  4. #4
    r8rh8rmike's Avatar
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    Re: Bernie: It's A Game Worthy Of Prime Time

    Again: Please tell me why the Rams winning the NFC West would be such a gruesome, look-the-other-way disaster? Is there no room, no appreciation for an underdog in a league that's increasingly obsessed with fading celebrity players (Brett Favre) and also-ran celebrity teams like the Dallas Cowboys?
    Damn good question.

  5. #5
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    Re: Bernie: It's A Game Worthy Of Prime Time

    I watched that new show on NFL network called "No Huddle" (which is pretty good btw) and they were having a few chuckles at the expense of the Rams. After seeing crap like that I would love nothing more than to see the Rams whack one of the elite teams in the 1st round. That would shut them the hell up. Unforunately, even Kurt Warner was getting in on the bashing. Kurt, man, just don't do it.

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    Re: Bernie: It's A Game Worthy Of Prime Time

    Honestly it came across as if they hadn't watched any of our games all season.

  7. #7
    Holt Your Horses's Avatar
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    Re: Bernie: It's A Game Worthy Of Prime Time

    BERNIE! BERNIE! BERNIE!

    The critics love to hate us.
    Defence Wins Championships

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