Wild Weekends: Tragedies Of All Kinds

Thank god he might walk again.

That was the collective reaction to anyone who witnessed or knows about the Kevin Everett situation. Everett was the victim of a helmet-to-helmet hit opening weekend that caused him to slump to the ground seemingly lifeless. He has yet to get up. Everett had surgery and was upgraded from possibly fatal to the likelihood that he’ll never walk again. A few days later when asked about Everett possibly walking again, one of his doctors responded, “I wouldn’t rule it out.” For a game that has seen plenty of these scenarios, this is definitely a good sign.

And then there’s Spygate. On the opposite end of the news spectrum, in a story that does seem incredibly trivial compared to the Everett story, the New England Patriots were caught videotaping the New York Jets’ signals during a 38-14 rout at The Meadowlands. Coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000 by the league, the team was fined $250,000, and they lost their first round pick in ’08 upon reaching the playoffs and their second and third round picks if they don’t. A very confusing story considering it involves a team with three Super Bowl titles in the last six years and is a team that appears to be near earning the dynasty tag, and a team that has seemed to embody everything good about pro football.

Big Games Don’t Offer Big Thrills
This was the first week of the season that college football offered high-profile games between ranked teams, but the whole week seemed to feel flat. The main reason for that was because none of these big games were very close and did not offer the excitement that many hope to find in games like these. Number 21 Boston College downed number 15 Georgia Tech by 14, third ranked Florida downed number 22 Tennessee in embarrassing fashion, as did number one USC to fourteenth ranked Nebraska in Lincoln Saturday.

Considering how things went, it is interesting to think that Nebraska actually held a lead at one point; that point was just over five minutes into the second quarter at 10-7. After that, the Trojans would score 35 unanswered polishing off the Cornhuskers like they would just about any other opponent these days. Stafon Johnson had a breakout game with 144 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, but it was simply a matter of forcing Nebraska to go the pass all the time that proved their downfall. With only 31 yards rushing to USC’s 313, Nebraska was forced to become a one-dimensional team with that dimension being inferior to John David Booty’s passing ability.

The Cornhuskers had more first downs, more passing yards, held the ball longer, and had fewer penalties than the Trojans, but still lost by 18—a total lightened by two late Nebraska touchdowns. So how did this happen? If one team was statistically better than the other like Nebraska was to USC on Saturday, how could they have been manhandled to the degree they were? To put it simply, USC may be that damn good. It’s scary to think, but it’s no secret that they possess all the weapons necessary to win a national title (they nearly did last year) and seem to be able to use them to perfection. Then again, when you score on six of your first eight possessions, you’re probably going to win a game no matter the stats.

In the case of Florida and Boston College’s big wins, the answer was much simpler: their quarterbacks were simply doing their jobs better than any other. Tim Tebow erased any doubt that he could lead the Gators throwing for 299 yards while running for 61 yards and being responsible for four of Florida’s touchdowns (two running, two passing) while being especially accurate at 14/19 through the air. B.C. quarterback Matt Ryan may have joined Tebow in Heisman hype category with his 30/44 435 yard performance in giving Boston College a much needed big-game win and the momentum in their division as conference play officially begins next week.

Battle of Ohio Produces An Instant Classic
If ESPN Classic (damn them) were to run NFL games as instant classics, this game would surely be on the air right now. It is still possible to be surprised in the NFL and the Cleveland Brown (yes) did just that this past Sunday with a 51-45 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. No, none of that last sentence was a typo.

This was a game that saw five lead changes, a valiant, but fruitless comeback and over 1,000 yards of total offense. There was 1,085 yards of offense to be exact and of those yards, 722 came through the air—401 from Carson Palmer and 329 from Derek Anderson. Anderson’s performance was more amazing as nobody had really heard of him before this game. That apparently didn’t faze Anderson as he tied the Browns record with five touchdown passes, and he wasn’t the only Brown to have a big day either. Jamal Lewis, a man who had scorched the Browns so many times in recent years, finally helped Cleveland by running for 216 yards, and Braylon Edwards finally had a huge NFL game with 146 yards receiving and two touchdowns all in a winning effort.

For the Bengals, this was a game that their defense threw away, as their offense was able to put up enough points to usually clinch a game, but somehow just couldn’t do enough. Carson Palmer outgunned Anderson to the tune of six touchdowns and 401 yards passing with two of those touchdowns and 209 of those yards going to “Ocho Cinco” Chad Johnson. Rudy Johnson had another great outing for Cinci with 151 total yards (118 rushing, 33 receiving) and a touchdown. Glenn Holt and T.J. Houshmandzadeh caught Palmer’s other touchdown passes, the last going to Holt with 3:39 remaining, enough time to get that winning score, but Palmer’s second interception throw of the day sealed the Bengals’ fate.

FINAL THOUGHTS
It is quite sad because the Patriots have embodied the best in pro football during their run and still can. They’ve drafted well, they’ve traded and released well, they’ve had no over-the-top personalities getting in the way, their well coached (three current NFL coaches have come from the Patriots in recent years), they’ve played well more consistently than any team over these past six years, and they have clutch players. It never crossed my mind that they would need any type of an advantage in the manner of which they were penalized. However, when the question of the legitimacy of their Super Bowl wins comes into play, that’s when this argument goes from legit to plain ludicrous in my eyes. If the Pats had been doing this for six years and got away with it, then the competency of the league must come into question. This team should be looked back on as one of the greats when their time at the top is done, and I’m confident that that will happen. Considering this weekend’s 38-14 trouncing of the San Diego Chargers—a team that many touted as the pre-season favorite to win the AFC—it seems clear that this team might just be good. Of course, they could’ve had cameras on the sidelines for this one, but doing that just days after the penalties were handed down seems pretty ballsy even for a guy like Belichick.

Kevin Everett is a much sadder matter and one that I really can’t add a whole lot to what has already been said. The hit itself did not look as brutal as the highlight reel hits we’re used to seeing, but the damage was evident. I have watched a couple similar events like these—on T.V. of course—and they have always seemed eerie. The quiet hush of the crowd, the almost eerie silence of the men calling the game from the booth, everything about an event like this. Thankfully this story, unlike most of this type, may have a more positive ending. Kevin Everett didn’t die, his condition has better from what it originally was thought to be, and there’s hope that he may be able to walk again somebody. That hope is what makes this a more positive story, and why the commercial featuring Christopher Reeve able to walk that aired a few years ago was so powerful.

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