Thursday, October 30, 2008

Congrats Titans! You're So Good, You're About to Be Overrated

Something occurred to me watching the Tennessee Titans beat up on a suddenly frail Indianapolis Colts team. That is, why America loves football so unconditionally.

Look at the rap sheet generated by the National Football League and the lunatics running its asylum just in the week leading up to the game. Steroids, As the Cowboys Turn, Larry Johnson, etc.

Pull back to the larger picture and you have to include names like O.J. Simpson, Rae Carruth, Ray Lewis, Pacman Jones, the Dallas Cowboys of the 1990s, and the current incantation (the Cincinnati Bengals). It should make us all sick and drive us from the game as fast as our atrophied legs can move.

But it doesn't and we don't. Football starts its siren song early in the week and, by the weekend, we come running with painted faces and costume jewelry.

It basks in America's pale imitation of the radiant European passion for soccer. Perhaps it shouldn't because of the criminals it seems to breed and reward. But we forgive its sins for the most traditional of reasons: football is beautiful.

Picasso painted nothing as lovely as a horse-from-a-burning-barn streak through human projectiles bent on destruction, all for the immortal glory of six little points.

Mozart composed nothing as moving as a bone-rattling de-cleater that beckons forth smelling salts from the sidelines, just so the human bruise can recollect the pieces and do it once more.

Michelangelo never sculpted a more perfect abstraction of the human condition than what takes shape between the forces of have and want on a football field.

I have the Tennessee Titans to thank for this realization.

Their thorough execution of the Colts announced a significant moment in the NFL's human condition. Indianapolis has divisional supremacy and Tennessee wants it. Monday night was a small but important step in that direction. And you know what? I don't think I was the only one that noticed.

That is why the Tennessee Titans are about to become really, really overrated.

That is not a championship football team. Not with Kerry Collins at quarterback. It is a team with an awesome running game and a smothering defense. It is a team assembled keep points off the board, offensively and defensively. It is built to beat Peyton Manning, the Indianapolis Colts, and any cheaper imitations.

But it is not a Super Bowl team.

I don't know all that much about football. What I do know is that a team with an absolute void in one major area of the game will not win a championship. And that is what the Titans have in their passing game. I don't know if Vince Young would improve the situation, but Collins will not be the diamond-and-gold encrusted answer.

Sooner or later, a team will just put eight men in the box (shoot, some team could probably do it with nine) and force Tennessee to win by taking flight. Indianapolis didn't have the dogs to do it for whatever reason. I know they're secondary had been good to that point, but it certainly looked pathetic against the Titans (and not because the receiving corps and Collins were carving it up).

It probably won't even be a team anyone expects. That glaring weakness makes the Titans vulnerable to very good teams, but also a bad team that just matches up well. Say a team with no offense, a great secondary, and an adequate run defense. If a team like that catches the Titans at the right time, they could easily win.

Nonetheless, the Tennessee Titans have yet to lose a game. That means the chattering and empty heads will flood the airwaves with debates about their Super Bowl chances, shot at running the table, and we'll start to see puff pieces focusing on the individual players (what's the action on Inside the NFL touching on Collins' battle with alcoholism?).

And it's all ridiculous filler. Don't believe the hype.

Believe that Tennessee is the best team right now and a very dangerous team going forward.

Believe that the season is long and there are many a slip twixt a 7-0 start and the Super Bowl.

Believe they have lots of room for improvement and the pieces to do so.

Believe that this, too, makes football a beautiful game.

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