But as the years have passed and my understanding of the social impact of football has improved, I've acquired reservations about the harm football does to health, education and public finance. I don't see football as the new cigarettes, as some people say -- I see it as a fantastic sport with many positive social roles but also with many negatives that require substantive reform. (The core topic of The "King of Sports" is how to reform football.) Sportswriters and sportscasters tend to steer clear of the reform needs, giving football the smile-and-wave treatment. Pundits and intellectuals seem to scoff at football or give all athletics the "harrumph" treatment.
How many commentators extol football as a sport but also are advocates for substantial reform? A few to be sure, but only a few. I'd like to think that TMQ's ability to love the game and also sound the call for significant change has become the best aspect of the column.
Single Worst Play of the Season -- Final Edition: The highest scoring offense in football history trailed 29-0 when the Broncos began their first drive of the second half. With a fast-paced attack, Denver's hopes were not foreclosed. The Broncs moved quickly from their 23 to first down at the Bluish Men Group 38. The most important Seattle defensive series of the night then occurred, though without any flashy play -- incompletion, incompletion, loss of a yard. Now it's fourth-and-11 on the Seattle 39, and in trots the punting unit.
Not only was Denver punting when down by 29 points in the second half of the Super Bowl, not only was the No. 1 offense in pro football history punting when down by 29 points in the Super Bowl, a team trailing by 29 points in the second half of the Super Bowl was punting in opposition territory.
Who cares if it was fourth-and-11? The Broncos absolutely had to score on that possession. As the punt team trotted in, Peyton Manning trotted off with his head hanging, not protesting the decision. There is no way on God's green Earth that Tom Brady, Drew Brees or Brett Favre would have trotted off passively in that situation. They would have gone to their coaches agitated, demanding a try. This play, not any of the interceptions -- trotting off without trying -- was Manning's worst down in any of his many postseason flameouts.
In the NFC title contest, Seattle's low-voltage offense faced a similar choice -- fourth-and-7 on the San Francisco 35 -- and went for it. Result of the play: touchdown. Was John Fox saying Denver's offense could not do something that Seattle's offense could do? Or had Fox simply quit on the game with nearly a half remaining? That is: Did Denver head coach John Fox quit on the Super Bowl?
As the punt boomed, your columnist thought, "This is the single worst play in all of football history." And yea, verily, you don't need to know anything about the remainder of the game.