This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.
It-s just past half time for the NFL season and I-m here on the sidelines, a rah-rah cheerleader for the whole shoulder padded, end zone dancing show. Come February 6 and the Superbowl in Jacksonville, millions of people all over the world will gather to partake in chili contests and throw five dollars into the game pool and most likely stop watching by the third quarter. The NFL is the one sport where the regular season is intense, clearly defined, riveting competition whereby the season-ending championship becomes more of a party than a grand athletic moment.
Like a lot of people, I make the NBA post-season appointment television-or radio. Same with Major League Baseball. But for most of the 80-plus games of the NBA season, and the 160-plus games of the baseball season, I rarely tune in. The NBA now starts in early November and doesn-t finish up until after Memorial Day. What used to be a winter season sport is now a long, dragged-out 7 1/2 months and the players seem to waltz through the first four months, or they waltz until the last two minutes of the games of the first four months. All the while, they-re compiling a meaningful record that will count toward post season positioning and home court advantage, but those first four months sure do cast an illusion of meaninglessness.
The sixteen games of the NFL season are distinctly scheduled as once-a-week smack-downs. Unlike baseball, where you check endless box scores for April, May, June, ad nauseum looking for game stats for every day of the week, the NFL works as a weekly drama. Anticipation builds all week for Sunday (or Monday night) showdowns. And what is really compelling about the NFL is the incredible parity among the teams. A small market in baseball has little hope any more. When-s the last time you Pittsburgh fans dreamed you might be traveling to the World Series to root for your Pirates? The week before the NFL season kicks off, even the most erudite football afficianadoes can-t tell you which teams are going to be standing come February. Yes, the New England Patriots were so sublime last year and retained enough of their starters to make for another exemplary year this time around. But the New York Jets? And the Steelers? And the Giants? And the Eagles? The Falcons, the Broncos, the Chargers? We could easily see any of these teams in the Superbowl in three months. Who would have thought that the downtrodden Detroit Lions, halfway into the season, would be in the thick of things behind the big arm of their junior quarterback Joey Harrington and the rest of his young posse? I remember the days when maybe two or three marquis quarterbacks stole the spotlight each week. Joe Montana and Dan Marino days. Today, week by week, the quarterbacks in this league are dazzling in both talent and leadership. Kurt Warner, a nobody banished to the European league comes back to be THE MAN for the Superbowl champ Rams. Then he spirals down to oblivion again and this year finds his salvation, yet another chance, and leads the Giants to a winning streak. The Steelers, who lived and finally died so many years on the hopes of the talented yet underachiever Kordell Stewart, suddenly are flying high behind the rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger who has come into his own before even his coaches expected it of him. The Vikings- Daunte Culpepper, the Eagles- Donovan McNabb, the Jets- Chad Pennington, the Colts- Peyton Manning, the Broncos- Jake Plummer, the Falcons- Michael Vick, the Chargers- Drew Brees, the Titans- Steve McNair (when he-s healthy) ---- each one with awesome, superlative, thrilling moves.
For my money, the sixteen games of the NFL regular season are, week by week, the best and brightest sports entertainment on the planet. Will somebody, please, get me a pom-pom?
This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that-s The Score.