NFL 2014 Week 5: Back to the Past
The National Football League has demonstrated over and over again during the 2014 season they don’t deal with surprises very well. At least, not if it’s not the right kind of surprise. The NFL is looking for good surprises, the kind no one saw coming but which everyone can enjoy (or at least watch). For the League, a bad surprise destroys the carefully-controlled narrative preferred as a marketing tool. Ray Rice? Bad surprise. Adrian Peterson? We’re talking Michael Jackson bad. As the 2014 season has listed from one PR nightmare to the next the NFL has sought the traditional stability to sell its story.
The fifth week of the season saw the emergence of the kind of storylines the League prefers and needs. Chief among these has been an unforeseen return to excellence by the Dallas Cowboys. Long known as America’s Team, guaranteed to draw fans around the country like few teams not named the Yankees could manage, in recent years the Cowboys had been brought low. A weak offensive line combined with a defense that reminded no one of the team’s famed “Doomsday” defenses of old made the Cowboys a bit of a joke. No one was laughed at harder than the team’s quarterback, Tony Romo. A practice-squad backup from a small college in Illinois, Romo’s rise to starter for one of this marquee franchises was the kind of Cinderella in cleats story the League loves. Too bad his team was not very good. Even though the Cowboys got to the playoffs a few times, Romo usually could not pull the game out. He got the tag of choker and became a bit of a laughingstock.
In 2014 the Cowboys finally achieved a goal they had worked on for several seasons. Faced with an aging offensive line that forced Romo to run for his life and throw hurried, inaccurate passes, the team drafted a new wall of protection every year. Now, a solid, young line in place, the Cowboys look ready to become America’s Team once more. After losing their first game the team has won all their others. Although there are plenty of games left, the NFC East championship looks likely to be won by the Cowpokes. Even the fact that the team has as many detractors as fans thrills the NFL. The more people argue about the Cowboys the less they discuss other things. You know, like spousal abuse, child abuse and all the other less than charming extracurricular activities that the public has been introduced to for the past few months.
Other traditional NFL powers reemerged last week as well. The Indianapolis Colts, having started the season 0-2, look ready to win yet another AFC South title. Ditto the New England Patriots, who began 2014 with what appeared the worst team coached by Bill Belichick and quarterbacked by Tom Brady; that team has settled down and looks on track for another AFC East championship. Other recent Super Bowl champs rebounded from slow starts to look like playoff contenders again: the New York Giants; the Green Bay Packers (whose tiny hometown is traditionally known as Titletown for their many NFL champions) and the New Orleans Saints, whose Super Bowl win four years ago forever destroyed their image as the League’s lovable losers.
In the spirit of so many old things becoming new again, the League’s WOW (Weasel of the Week) was a player expected to compete for this dubious honor every week. A man who apparently idolized every loudmouthed, over-the-top pro wrestling villain of his childhood, his many feuds with other players the stuff of ridiculous legend. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the WOW, defensive back Richard Sherman of the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.
If you’re not familiar with Sherman and his works, here’s a sampler: he came to the attention of the wider public after last January’s NFC Championship game. Once the Seahawks won, he declared himself “the best corner in the game” and that one of the receivers he had covered that day, Michael Crabtree of the San Francisco 49ers, was a “sorry” pass catcher. In the moments just after the game he screamed “Don’t you ever talk about me!” He later confirmed he was talking about Crabtree. The previous season, after a great game against the Patriots, he tweeted a photo of himself yelling at Brady with the caption “U mad bro?” He carries on feuds with various NFL players, usually through Twitter but also in interviews. Few considered it an oversight when he failed to be selected for the Pro Bowl after his breakout 2012 season. Despite his inspiring story of coming from a childhood in inner-city Compton, California to earn a communications degree from Stanford, Sherman seems determined not to be likable.
This week’s Monday night game saw the Seahawks defeat the lowly Washington team (since the Federal Communications Commission is discussing fines for any broadcasters who mention that team’s nickname, I am dropping it for the duration). Afterward, Sherman communicated as only he can, saying Washington receiver Pierre Garcon “doesn’t matter in this league.” He refuses to say this about the pass catcher he will cover this weekend, Dallas’ Des Bryant. One wonders if he will be able to contain himself afterward. For now, to help him remember how tiresome his temper and feuds can be, Sherman can enjoy his WOW. An honor richly deserved.
– Louis Burklow (aka, Hollywood Country Boy), Senior Staff Writer, Phoenix Genesis
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