Friday, January 2, 2009

The NFL playoffs are upon us...

Yet our friends in Minneapolis don't seem to have got the message. The Vikings are desperately trying to move the remaining tickets so the game will not be blacked-out in Minneapolis.

Did I miss something? Are Vikings fans spoiled from too many playoff appearances? This year, the team secured its first playoff berth since 2004 and first division title since 2000. If the team can sell out eight regular-season games, it surely can sell out one post-season game. These are the games fans wait all year to attend.

I was at the 2001 Bears game when the team clinched its first playoff appearance in what seemed like forever with a win over the Buccaneers. The announcement came over the loud speaker and the place went nuts. There was no question the playoff tickets would be gone in a heart beat, even though the team lost to the Eagles.

The Vikings face a good team in the Eagles, but they still have a good chance to win. Running back Adrian Peterson can beat teams by himself.

The Arizona Cardinals also risked black-out until Friday, when they finally sold all their playoff tickets. That team has been a perennial doormat for most of the decade, last appearing in the post-season since 1998. This year, the Cardinals won their first division title since 1975.

Fans in Phoenix don't seem to have an excuse, since the only post-season action that has happened there in recent memory is last year's Super Bowl, which was a neutral field. It has been mentioned Cardinals faithful may not be interested in seeing the team lose to the Atlanta Falcons this weekend. What kind of rationale is that? If that were the case, no one would buy playoff tickets to watch the Cubs play anyone in the MLB divisional playoffs.

Let's show a little faith, or, dare say it, a little heart. Somebody out there has to remind Minnesota and Arizona that "You gotta believe."

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A hard lesson for a Michigan fan

It's New Year's Day, a day that always is circled for Michigan football fans. Too much drinking the night before is not advised, because you would not be in the proper condition. The Wolverines almost always had a bowl game on New Year's Day. Until this year's debacle, they had appeared in 30-some straight post-season games. But this year, they are sitting at home and some fans may be hoping they see a good prospect announce he will head to Ann Arbor in the High School All-American Game this weekend.

For me, and all Indiana football fans, watching New Year's Day football without the Hoosiers is common, and frankly, expected. But I remain interested in most of the games, particularly those involving Big Ten teams. Like now, I'm watching Iowa dominate South Carolina early in the Outback Bowl. I'm interested not because I'm an Iowa fan, but because I'm a Big Ten fan. If our conference does well in the bowl season, we all gain a little more respect. And in my mind, maybe I can rationalize some of the Hoosiers' 9 losses. Like now ... Iowa thumped IU 45-9 in Bloomington and now they're beating an above-average South Carolina team, maybe we weren't as bad as I thought.

If Penn State can upset USC later today in the Rose Bowl, then the IU 34-7 loss to the Nittany Lions appears justified and their first half performance in that game looks all the more impressive. The Hoosiers trailed 10-7 at halftime.

This is a new concept for my wife, who is a Michigan alum. She is used to looking forward to a big bowl game, the last few years the Rose Bowl, on New Year's Day. I had to explain why I root for the Big Ten during bowl season and I think it's starting to rub off. When the Hawkeyes scored a touchdown, I heard a "Go Big Ten" from the couch next to me.

She won't root for Ohio State during the Fiesta Bowl, however. I guess I can allow that.