Billy Beane: Man, I've been doing this for… listen, man. I've been in this game a long time. I'm not in it for a record, I'll tell you that. I'm not in it for a ring. That's when people get hurt. If we don't win the last game of the Series, they'll dismiss us.
— "Moneyball," Columbia Pictures, 2011
The college football bowl season has its detractors, but I've always liked it, because in an amateur sport, it gives 30-35 teams the opportunity to be champions of something.
In pro sports the world only cares about the team that wins the last game of the year, and everyone else is diminished or forgotten. Great competitors like Dan Marino, Ernie Banks and Charles Barkley are remembered by some as failures because they "never won the big one." Jimmy Kelly and Peyton Manning have their legacies tarnished by "failing" in the ultimate game. Critics discount all the effort and sacrifice it took to reach one.
The party gets started: Right tackle Russell Okung has no fear of germs and no limit to his happiness in the moment. The Seahawks are Super Bowl Champs (Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports).
Thing is, it's a team game. Dan Fouts and Marino were as good as anybody, but it takes a coach, a running game and a defense to win a title. Trent Dilfer has a ring and no one is calling him a great player, and I don't believe Joe Flacco is either. Joe Namath has one and he's busy being an aging parody of himself.
Then again, how can anybody be called World Champions of a game 6.2 billion people have never heard of? Duane Thomas, a former running back with the Cowboys and Redskins, once asked the media during Super Bowl week, "Why do they call it The Ultimate Game when they play it again next year?"
Over the last few weeks, we've examined the issues and answers of Duck football from a critical perspective, even taken some shots at players and coaches we deeply respect. It's never personal. Dreaming of excellence and the pinnacle of achievement, the standard has to be high and hard questions have to be asked, particularly in a world as competitive as Division One football.
At the conclusion of the team banquet November 30th, Mark Helfrich told his team,"Continue to ascend. There's only two ways to be happy, and that's to get better or lower your expectations. And we will never lower our expectations in any way, shape or form."
Win or lose, I love the Ducks. I wouldn't work on this blog as hard as I do if I didn't. In the same way we love our kids, but we never stop expecting the best from them. You could hardly say you loved them if you didn't.
My son had a traffic accident on Thursday. He's a grown man now, but I asked him what happened, if he was all right, if he needed a ride home. Turns out he was rear-ended when the car in front of him stopped short. He's okay, the pickup has a slight ding, but the other guy's car is smashed.
The accidents, scrapes, and mistakes of life come along and we all suffer our share of damage, even wreckage. In Seattle tonight they are burning couches and acting like fools, and next year it will happen in another city. Ultimately (that word again) sports are a currency for our passion and the opportunity to bond and forget about our troubles for a while.
Somebody once said that he read the front page to read about men's failures, and he read the sports page to read about men's successes. I believe that. The most enduring, interesting part of sports is the courage and sacrifice, the bonding and dedication that makes a great team. It's impossible for me to root for Pete Carroll, a former USC Trojan who once mouthed "f@#! you to Mike Bellotti from the sideline on national television, but I have to admire the intensity and enthusiasm with which he coaches, and the way he instilled that in the Seahawks. They dominated the Broncos today, and deserved to win their ultimate game.