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FROM THIS EPISODE

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.

A Super Bowl-dimension game is scheduled tonight. The Packers and Cowboys, both on fire at 10-and-1, would guarantee at minimum 30 million viewers, IF the game were to be broadcast over free air waves. But the NFL is dangling this big game as cable television bait. They're going to limit the broadcast to their own network which will probably mean only 4 million or so fans will get to watch it, in addition to folks with DirecTV or those who get out to local sports bars tonight. The NFL says, "Hey, if you are steamed about your cable provider not carrying the NFL Network, or making you pay an extra $5 a month to get the NFL Network, drop them NOW. Drop them and switch to one of the outfits that does offer us as part of your basic package."

The popularity of the NFL was built largely on offering free TV coverage. Well, tonight, some 25 million fans will be in the dark. I know I'd be hopping mad if I couldn't watch Favre and Romo, Driver and T.O. tonight. The NFL has got to be the one to budge on this one. With their billions, why stiff their fans to squeeze play yet one more deal under their expansive roof?

Thinking about Favre and Romo, I've been wondering about just how tough a skin these guys have to have, when it comes to crucial losses. Brett Favre is lit up like a Christmas tree this year. But how was Favre feeling in recent years, when he was misfiring a string of interceptions and the Pack was consistently packing at the end of the regular season? Was he dying inside? Favre is wearing a Super Bowl champion's ring. He realizes a loss is not a devastation. Even a loss at his own hands. He knows another day will come. Look at this spectacular season. Other days did come.

Last year, Dallas' quarterback, Tony Romo, made a colossal last-second blunder that ended his team's season in a heartbeat. Romo's mistake loomed so large that it instantly wiped out the entire game. There was nothing else. No runs, no passes, no tackles. Just his butterfingered flub. When he walked, head low, to the sideline, you couldn't help but empathize for him. He shouldered the burden of knowing his teammates would be heading into the excitement of the post-season, if not for his fumble. But Romo summed it all up by stating if the biggest mistakes he makes in his life are on the football field, he figures that will be a life well-lived.

So veterans such as Favre and stars in the making such as Romo do seem to have thick skins. But what about the players who aren't starters, who wind up in a game-saving situation but don't really know if another day will in fact come for them? My heart went out to A.J. Feeley last Sunday night as he writhed in obvious emotional pain on the bench. The Eagles starting quarterback Donovan McNabb was out injured on the night and Feeley stepped in to try to accomplish the seemingly impossible: find a way to beat the unbeaten New England Patriots. Feeley threw an interception early on but he settled down and played out of his mind. He led the Eagles to a clock countdown position that nobody, but nobody, could have predicted. The Patriots had been favored by a whopping 22 points! And now, at crunch time, the Eagles are poised for this big-time upset. All Feeley needs to do is continue his plan, execute those eight-yarders up the middle, eat some time off the four-minutes left. But he throws long. It's not an accurate throw. The Pats intercept and go on to win the game. Watching Feeley suffer on the bench was literally uncomfortable. He was deep in mental distress. Unlike Favre and Romo, Feeley won't be coming out week after week, year after year. He's the back-up who had a chance of a lifetime and has no reason to believe he'll ever have that chance again. It will be a long, long time before he forgets that interception, if ever.

But back to Favre and Romo. Let's hope neither has reason for regrets and tough skin after tonight's game. The biggest game that relatively few fans will be able to enjoy.

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.


Banner photo of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback A.J. Feeley: H. Martin

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