Maybe it's my East Coast bias, or tolerance for cold weather, or memories of running across the street to the park with a football anytime we got a decent snowfall in Baltimore. I readily admit to all of the above. And, yes, I do love New York (even in the wintertime).
But all that aside, I still firmly believe that awarding the 2014 Super Bowl to the Big Apple was the right thing to do. Sure, there are some risks involved, but the potential gains far outweigh them, and I'm already excited to see how the media and entertainment capital of the world will put on what has become undoubtedly the biggest sporting extravaganza in North America, if not the world. New York knows how to do a party and, with three-and-a-half years to plan, I like its chances of putting on one of the most memorable Super Bowls of all time.
First, let's deal with the drawbacks. Yes, it will be cold. And it's also really cold in October and November with World Series games being played at night, especially in places like Boston and New York. Still, I think we all would agree that football is by far the sport most conducive to winter elements. Heck, it's intrinsic to the game and part of its very fiber. Get over it.
Some will complain that it's not fair to pass-first teams in what is becoming an increasingly pass-happy league. And, well, so what? Coaches and players will have two weeks to game plan and prepare. By this point in their lives, most should have been exposed to enough frigid environments to be able to withstand three hours of cold in what will be for most the biggest day of their careers and one of the defining moments in their lives. Doesn't seem too much to have to overcome given all that is on the line.
There is always the possibility that a massive Nor'easter, the kind of storm that ripped through the East Coast several times this past winter, could blow through and dump enough feet of snow to bring the city to a standstill and jeopardize the game itself. But the odds of that happening are relatively small -- decades can pass without that sort of storm gripping the area -- and no league or city will be better prepared to endure it than the NFL and New York City.
I'm confident they'd find a way to handle the situation. A hurricane could blow through South Florida, too. There are things you cannot control -- Mother Nature chief among them -- but there will be a nonstop Doppler-palooza for weeks leading up to this game and every contingency will be in place. In Goodell we trust.
I'm with Jets owner Woody Johnson on this one. I hope it snows. Not a blizzard or anything, but a nice steady snow will help make this one of the most memorable games in the history of the sport. (And I say this with the full knowledge that we'll probably end up doing a 12-hour pregame show on NFL Network, with me bound to the sidelines and trying to stay bundled up the entire time. Bring it on!)
We all know the pomp and circumstance and parties will be top notch. Nobody does that like NYC. And aside from the game itself, everything else can be easily held indoors.
Give Roger Goodell and the NFL credit for being willing to take a gamble, for not staying stoic or complacent despite record ratings. There will be plenty more Super Bowls for Tampa and Miami. The easy thing to do would be to keep riding the Florida gravy train. I applaud the effort to push the boundaries and break from the norm, and in the process rewarding an area that was devastated by 9/11 less than a decade ago and one that has rebounded as we all hoped it would.
If this game is as successful as I believe it will be, then don't be surprised if other cold-weather games follow. Not with the regularity of the Florida/Arizona/California rotation -- and that would spoil part of the fun, anyway -- but once a decade or so. As always, the almighty dollar will play a hefty role in this, and teams that have recently invested in new stadiums will be at the front of the line.
You can count me a fan of both.
A different 'enhancement'
In the coming months, prepare to hear more and more about the "enhanced" NFL schedule, as the league is calling it. It's going to be a buzzword and talking point, and the momentum within the league for an 18-game slate is going to mount throughout the 2010 season, perhaps the last year of the 16-game docket.
I'm not nearly as enthused about this development. I have serious concerns about the injury ramifications. It would create greater statistical imbalances between eras. I'm all about reducing the preseason, and I enjoy the fact that a long season would even further reward franchises that are able to acquire the most depth and find the best bargains.
But a lot would have to change to make this work. Roster sizes would have to swell, with practice squad changes and alterations to the game-day inactive process (personally, I wouldn't mind seeing all 53 players eligible to play on Sundays right now). The process of how teams get byes might have to be adjusted and playing a longer season should probably have some ramifications for the postseason as well (like, say, if a wild-card team has a better record than a division winner, over 18 games, then you have to reward the wild card with a bye and/or home game.)
Player contracts and the salary cap would have to be recalibrated. Obviously, the current format for how the schedule is comprised would have to be tweaked.
All of that is conceivable. There is no denying that Goodell is a staunch proponent of this concept. And while I anticipate a steady pushback from the NFLPA through this process, as they engage in CBA negotiations, I also foresee this change coming -- if not in 2011, then not far beyond that.
The topic was discussed quite a bit at the just-completed NFL Spring Meeting in Irving, Texas. When the owners gather again, on Aug. 25, it will most definitely be a focal point again. Goodell said expanding to 18 regular-season games was a part of the initial negotiating session with the NFLPA last year, and he expects it to comprise much of the upcoming session in June.
"Enhanced schedule" is going to be part of the football lexicon in 2010, and very well might be the new norm sooner than many expected.
Don't hurry Dez
The rush by some to declare Dez Bryant a starting receiver in Dallas is a little baffling. I'm hardly a Roy Williams supporter -- had a bad feeling about that trade from the moment it went down -- but I am also a realist, and there are a lot of factors that indicate the Cowboys won't thrust Bryant into anything.
Chief among all of this is the Super Bowl-or-bust scenario. Expectations could not be higher with the Super Bowl in Dallas. This is all about winning, and let's not forget how explosive this offense was last season. It didn't always result in as many points as it should have -- and that's where Bryant will likely contribute most right away: in the red zone. There's also a deep group of pass catchers already in line for the ball.
Miles Austin is the clear top guy, and Williams should have every motivation to finally be a factor for the Cowboys. There are two tight ends who command the ball, solid backup receivers like Patrick Crayton and Sam Hurd, who also contribute on special teams, and backs like Felix Jones who can dominate catching balls in space.
Bryant is very raw coming from a spread offense in college that doesn't always translate to the pros. He missed essentially a year of football. He will need some time to develop and expect it to be granted. They don't need him to be a Pro Bowl guy immediately, and let's try to remember how long the learning curve generally is for rookie receivers. Very few broke into the league like Randy Moss; many more took time like Roddy White or Austin.
Tony Romo is gonna have a lot of guys calling his name. Bryant's rookie season should be all about putting him in the best position to succeed, while also working diligently to keep him on the right path off the field.
As much as Williams has been a bust in Dallas, don't go handing his job to Bryant just yet. May and June football can be deceiving, and while I expect Bryant to be an elite receiver for a long time to come, his first few months in the NFL could look more like Michael Crabtree's than Moss'.
Big week for Rams
This is a big week for the Rams. They continue to negotiate a long-term deal for safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, while knowing he could very well become an unrestricted free agent June 1.
The club has not yet decided if it would place a high tender on Atogwe on June 1, should the Rams be unable to a reach a multi-year agreement. That would require the team to pay Atogwe 110 percent of his 2009 salary -- when he was a franchise player -- and thus give him around $7 million -- guaranteed, since that provision was part of his deal last year.
My gut is they won't go that route, but a league source indicated it's a decision they have yet to finalize.
The Rams were the first team to bring him in for a visit, way back in April, and I wouldn't rule them out of it.
Figured I'd glance into my crystal ball here and make a few predictions. I'm not reporting that any of the following is happening, or will happen. But here are a few hunches:
» Stan Kroenke's proposal to assume full ownership of the St. Louis Rams, with his wife the principle owner, is voted on and passed at the league meeting Aug. 25.
» Chris Johnson is not present for the first day of training camp (this is obviously a long way off, and a lot could change between now and July).