Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Not Every Team Bucking Fate This Season

If I have one weakness when it comes to sports, I play the numbers a little too much. I look into the matchups for statistical gaps, check quality of opponents, check style of offense and defense, look at individual playmakers and how they will complement what the opposition throws at them. From all of this I try to make a determination on who will win- as though you could give me some film with all the logos blurred out and I could make an unbiased prediction. But sometimes you need to remember the names on the jerseys, the logo of what teams are playing, the coaches on the sidelines and who, when it comes right down to it, will just win it.

As you can imagine, that was going through my head right when Peyton threw his third touchdown pass of the day over the heads of Ravens defenders in every sense of the word. I’m not mad, clearly the Ravens weren’t “who we thought they were”- and who could expect them to be? They are not an upper echelon team. They can beat the bottom dwellers and might be able to take a heavyweight to 12 rounds now and then, but they are not ready just yet to contend- not after that performance.

The Colts appear to have the Ravens’ number, and it is naïve of us perhaps to assume that Peyton was not going to get back on track sooner or later. While appalling (I think Windsor’s report card covers it), we have to consider other issues in sports this year that have revealed that regardless of the circumstances, some teams are just supposed to lose…

The Cubs. Allow me to let that sink in a minute… the Cubs. #1 in the National League, with 3 potential aces in their staff perfectly set up for a 5 game series. The Dodgers, while a hot team over the last 2 months of the season, were being carried by a single player in Manny Ramirez and were using a brand new lineup for the NLDS, one they had not tried all season. Additionally, the Dodgers squeaked into the playoffs in a division that was the only one in baseball not to have more than one team above .500. Even the Dodgers weren’t consistently above .500 until September! But we all knew in our hearts that somehow the Cubs would lose this one- no Bartman to blame this time…

Cincinnati Bengals. Can we start calling them the Bungles again yet? No matter what I am pretty sure we can start calling Marvin Lewis “fired”. He should have been gone after last season, but he most certainly will be gone after this one. Don’t blame Carson Palmer’s injury either, the team wasn’t winning with him in there either. The Bengals, to their credit, did push the Cowboys and the Giants to the brink. In fact, they have come close to winning on several occasions this season. But that is exactly what the Bengals do. They lose, no matter what seems to happen. I am not sure that it will be a permanent return to the cellar for Cincinnati (with Palmer under center for years to come I doubt it), but one gets the sense that a return to normalcy might be in order along the Ohio River. Unfortunately, normalcy is tough on Bengals fans.

And then, sometimes teams don’t care if they are supposed to lose or not…

Who thought the Rays would be here? If you are raising your hand, you are lying. The country it seems is pulling for them (myself included) and after last night’s 9-1 whomping of would-be ace Jon Lester, the Rays might legitimately have a shot. Their rise this season has defied all numbers, all predictions, all possible logic of sports. No playoff experience, no history of success, the toughest division in baseball, fade down the stretch- all of it either hasn’t mattered or hasn’t happened. At this point the Rays hold a 2-1 series advantage against the reigning World Champion Boston Red Sox, and while all logic indicated that Boston still has the edge, you feel as though the sports gods are bending the world just a little to let David hit a walk-off home run against Goliath.

Photo Credit: [Chicago Tribute: Nuccio DiNuzzo]

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