The magic carpet ride ended Sunday for Carolina and Jacksonville. An expansion bowl was not to be as both teams fell in games that did not quite live up to their billings. The zone blitz was nowhere to be seen in Lambeau field, and not a single touchdown was scored through the air in the AFC title game.
Perhaps neither team had created enough in just two years to take it all the way. But these two stories brought excitement to an otherwise embarrassing season in the NFL. The year began in much the same way that it would be plagued week by week — in controversy. Last year’s MVP Brett Favre admitted to having spent the off-season in drug rehab. Not soon later came the charges of cocaine use laid against Michael Irvin. Lowlight after lowlight followed, including numerous other drug charges, star players going down to injuries, and even a player getting stabbed trying to play catch with a kitchen knife.
Each week, the winners were decided not by who was the superior team, but by who could survive attrition and block out the distractions. We saw the Colts, featuring Captain Comeback himself, flounder without Siragusa, Faulk, and a parade of other missing starters. We watched our quarterback heroes go down to age and injury. Steve Young, Warren Moon and Jim Kelly at times looked positively like they should have retired long ago. Dallas routinely played without Lett and Irvin, and were lucky just to be in the tournament. People were beginning to question the NFL — if it was running out of talent, if the players were too spoiled.
Out of the mess rose two teams whose lights far outshined the dark moments. They were teams more committed to winning, than to earning a paycheck. Teamwork suddenly became more important than individual achievements. Have you even heard anyone on either team complain like Ricky Watters about not getting enough plays? What a refreshing breath of air.
Some may say that free agency and salary caps has killed the ‘great’ teams. What it has done is created equity. Any week, the team that wants to win the most now has a greater chance of success. Even if Jacksonville and Carolina couldn’t quite pull it off, they showed the league, and more importantly its fans, that with heart and devotion, anything can happen.
Who needs endorsements? In virtually no time whatsoever, Tiger Woods has earned a million dollars with yet another victory yesterday. And he did it against the 1996 Player of the Year, Tom Lehman, no less. The way Tiger handles himself out on the course is nothing short of unbelievable. He goes out there every week not to just compete but to win. This determination, combined with his ability, has brought him far more success than even his most prominent predecessors. He’s earned a million dollars faster than anyone on the PGA Tour. With such astounding achievements, he makes me wish I could say, “I am Tiger Woods.”