I make a lot of predictions in this column, most of them wrong, some of them really dumb, all of them exclusively for your entertainment. Well, and mine too. You already know that I'm picking the Patriots to win the Super Bowl, and I'll keep picking them until someone beats them in the postseason, I don't care if they're playing some kind of intergalactic, time-traveling all-star team that cannot possibly be beaten.
But even I, who will predict the sun rising in the West tomorrow if I can get a laugh out of it, who has picked the Patriots over the Eagles without benefit of a single second of analysis or thought, find myself amazed at the confidence with which people seem to be picking New England.
A few samples from the e-mails that started coming in as soon as the Pats had disposed of the Steelers Sunday evening, some obviously from Patriots fans, but not all of them:
To be fair, this last one was followed up by "Now watch the Eagles win, 40-10."
But I don't think I've gotten a single e-mail picking the Eagles. Even Eagles fans are just sounding sort of hopeful. And it isn't just my in box. The air waves, the Web and the papers are filled with ruminations about how the Eagles scarcely have a chance.
How quickly we forget.
Last year the Panthers had no chance to even stay in the game against the Patriots. New England won on a field goal at the gun.
Two years ago the Buccaneers vs. the Raiders was touted as one of the most evenly matched Super Bowls in history. The Bucs were up 34-3 before Oakland got going, eventually losing 48-21.
The year before that, the Patriots were huge underdogs against the Rams, given virtually no chance to win. They won.
Are you detecting a pattern here? Me neither, but come on, folks. NFL games are unpredictable in general, or did you not notice that one of the Patriots' two losses this season was also one of the Dolphins' four wins? Super Bowls, with the off week, the incredible hype, the crazy atmosphere, the championship pressure and the neutral field, are just plain weird.
The only thing you can predict with confidence on Super Bowl Sunday is that the halftime show will be too long and not very entertaining.
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Let it snow on the Super Bowl [PERMALINK]
It looks like I have an ally in my hopeless cause to have the Super Bowl played in cold weather. Don Banks of Sports Illustrated writes, "Look, I might as well wish for world peace in our lifetimes, but after watching Sunday's Philly-Pittsburgh doubleheader being played in the harshest of winter cold, is it too much to ask for the Super Bowl to occasionally factor in the challenge of dealing with the elements?"
It is, Don, but go on. I'm digging that crazy beat.
"Deteriorating weather conditions are so much a part of the season's second half in the NFL, and then the first three rounds of the playoffs, but never in the biggest game of the year.
"Why? For the comfort of the fans -- read, the fat-cat corporate types who took over the Super Bowl years ago. I don't suspect anything will be changing on that front any time soon, but football is just more fun to watch when it's played in the cold."
Banks doesn't come all the way over to my view that the Super Bowl should be played on the home field of one of the teams, and if that means cold weather, it means cold weather, as it would in either park this year. But I'm happy to have someone aboard at least one of my crusades.
By the way, Banks on the game: "Sorry, but I don't think Super Bowl XXXIX will even be close."
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Lennox Lewis says no [PERMALINK]
Over the weekend I had a glimmer of hope that one of my more longshot predictions might actually come through. The Sunday Mirror of London reported that former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis would come out of retirement for a rematch with WBC champ Vitali Klitschko.
A year ago I was willing to make this wager: "A box of Mallomars says Lewis fights again before [Maurice] Clarett plays a down in the NFL."
Since Clarett is eligible for the 2005 draft and the reported fight was to be in November, something was going to have to keep Clarett off the field for a few months, but how unlikely is that? I was liking my chances.
But alas, Lewis quickly denied the report on his Web site. "I want to reiterate what I said when I retired in February 2004 that I was fortunate to leave the sport on my own terms and that I will be one of the few heavyweight champions in history to retire on top and stay retired," he wrote.
Good for the 39-year-old Lewis' health, but bad for my cookie-eating prospects.
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Mike Williams, former student-athlete [PERMALINK]
If you think big-time college athletes consider the free education they get fair payment for the huge profits they help create, consider Mike Williams, the standout wide receiver at USC who was made eligible, then ineligible for last year's NFL draft as Maurice Clarett won, then lost a court challenge to the league's minimum-age rule.
Williams declared for the draft when a judge ruled in Clarett's favor that the NFL couldn't bar players less than three years out of high school. Since Williams, two years out of high school, then legally and logically hired an agent, he became ineligible with the NCAA too.
When the Clarett ruling was overturned on appeal, the NFL again barred the door to Clarett and Williams and, incredibly, the NCAA denied Williams' petition for reinstatement -- though, again, he'd broken no rules -- forcing him to sit out the 2004 season.
I've never met or interviewed Williams and only know him through the media, which means I don't know him at all. But I've never seen a report describing him as anything but a solid kid, a hard worker on the football field who has notably refrained from whining publicly over his situation, though he has good reason to do so. He's taken personal responsibility for the decisions he's made, blamed no one and taken his bitter medicine.
What I mean is he doesn't seem to be the classic spoiled superstar college athlete, a crybaby with a sense of entitlement. I might be wrong about that, but that's the image he's projected.
But you won't find Williams on campus this school year now that he can't play for the Trojans. He withdrew from school in November to go home to Florida and prepare himself for the draft. There's certainly no shortage of facilities, coaches or pleasant winter weather in Southern California, so Williams could have prepared for the draft while continuing to go to class. But he didn't.
That's because the top college athletes in the revenue-producing sports aren't in college to get the education that's offered as payment for their services, but because the NCAA is the only available minor league for the NBA and NFL, a minor league that has a salary cap of $0 for the players.
I know that, you know it, the kids know it, the schools know it, the NBA and NFL know it and the NCAA knows it. Some of us admit it. Williams' decision to continue working diligently toward his future career without having to perpetuate the fiction that he was at USC to go to class is, like the other decisions he's made, perfectly logical.
I'm a college graduate myself and I enjoy seeing kids getting their education as much as the next guy. But I like it more when vicious fictions are laid bare.
Previous column: Eagles, Patriots win
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