Now, point shaving NBA referee scandals aside, sports are completely unscripted. Bizarre things happen. Games that everyone expects to be low scoring affairs wind up as offensive shootouts. And vice-versa. Superstars make boneheaded plays. People that nobody except their families have ever heard of make the big play to win the game. You never know what is going to happen next, and even sure bets sometimes aren't-- case in point, even the Detroit Lions are showing signs of being a legitimate NFL team!
A less snarky example is yesterday's painful, but incredibly entertaining, Packers game. This would be the script if it weren't an actual, live sporting event:
Team A commits several boneheaded errors early in the game, allowing Team B to jump out to a big lead. Team B is driving for another score, one that will pretty much put this game away early in the second quarter, then-- BAM! Team A forces a fumble and recovers. Not quite dead, yet. Time for scrappy Team A to counter-punch.
Showing plenty of grit and determination, Team A scores a touchdown and begins to chip away at Team B's lead, a challenge because not only are they already down big, but their defense is having a terrible time slowing down, much less stopping Team B. But they go into half-time down 14 and still hanging in there.
The second half is a crazy shootout. Touchdown Team B-- 21 point lead, game over? Not even close. Touchdown Team A. Onside Kick! Team A recovers! On fourth down, Touchdown Team A! Now it's only a 7 point game. Momentum is on Team A's side, right? Maybe not. Team B scores a touchdown in a minute and a half. Team A responds, goes 80 yards and scores a touchdown in 3 and a half minutes.
Finally, Team A stops Team B from scoring and gets the ball back, early in the fourth quarter, down by a touchdown. Three plays and less than a minute later, touchdown! Game tied! But wait, there's more!
Team B takes the ball and scores again, this time an extended, 11-play, 6 plus minute drive. Less than five minutes left. Team A takes the kick and goes 71 yards, touchdown! But, oh no! They did it too quickly. Team B still has nearly 2 minutes left and only needs a field goal. Bing, bang, boom-- they've driven it down to the 16 yard line with 14 seconds left, leaving only a chip shot field goal for the victory. Boom goes the kick and it's... NOT over! Team B's kicker pulls it wide left! Overtime.
Would anybody buy that? A TV exec would read that script and probably laugh out loud at the absurdity of it all. No way Team A converts an onside kick AND a fourth and 5. No way the teams combine for 56 points in the second half. And ABSOLUTELY no way that Team B's kicker misses from point blank range to keep this craziness going into overtime. Maybe, if the kick were a long one-- 52 yards or some such-- but not a little 34 yard job. It's just too improbable.
BUT... if it all played out that way in a TV or movie script, you just know that Team B is now toast. After struggling all the way back from 17-0 down, nearly 24-0, Team A is now destined to win. They just have to-- it's what the script dictates.
And lo, so it seems it will happen. Team A wins the coin flip, and the play is there. First play in overtime: a deep middle post to Team A's big play receiver, who has two steps on his defender and is gone for the touchdown! Except that the pass was just a little off the mark, incomplete. Two plays later, sack, fumble and touchdown Team B!
Phew. Would anybody write it that way? Would anybody believe it if it wasn't actually happening? It was crazy, and nearly unbelievable. Sports is the best, and really the only reality TV. So-called reality shows have a goodly dollop of reality to them, but they are edited, and even directed in many cases. The people on the shows are selected by the creators of the show and many of the twists and turns that impact the people in the "reality" show are known and planned by the creators of the show. Not so sports. You never know if you'll get an epic upset (NC State over Villanova in 1983 anyone?) or boring old blowout (Florida destroying Cincinnati in this year's Sugar Bowl). Sports rule!
Now, since in the above example Team A was my beloved Packers and Team B was the "I'm okay with them, but not a fan" Arizona Cardinals, this was a deflating loss. But, I am curiously philosophic about the game-- it was the Packers' first post-Brent Farve playoff game. They are very young, learning a new scheme on defense, playing on the road against a team lead by a likely hall-of-fame QB who played one of the best games of his career. And they were THIS close to winning. They could easily have folded up their tents and slunk away into the off-season after two early turnovers and a 17-0 hole. They didn't. Rodgers played great, setting a Packers' post-season record for yards, and we should have a playoff contending team for several years now, hopefully longer if we can improve our offensive and defensive lines (they went from bad to mediocre over the course of this season, but mediocre still isn't good enough).
So, bravo to the 2009 Packers who played better than I expected and showed a lot of heart and talent despite losing yesterday. And I now become a New Orleans Saints fan and also look forward to March Madness. Go Saints, Go Badgers, Go Golden Eagles!