Saturday, March 12, 2011

Why the NFL better not
miss any games

By Mike Batista

I'm not going speak legalese here.

The facts are that the NFL Players Association and the owners couldn't come to an agreement before Friday's deadline. Now the owners have locked out the players, the union has decertified and blah, blah, blah ...

It's too early to tell if we're going to lose any regular-season games because of this mess. But has anyone looked at a calendar and seen when the first Sunday of the NFL regular season would be?

If the NFL maintains its recent pattern of starting the regular season after Labor Day, there would be the Thursday night opener hosted by the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers (which I say through clenched teeth) on Sept. 8. Then the first Sunday of the regular season would be on Sept. 11.

That would be the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, the day known simply as 9/11. If the start of the NFL season is delayed by just one week, there would be no football on Sept. 11.

The first Sunday of a new NFL season would be a welcome diversion as America mourns the most solemn day in its modern history. Teams hosting games that day would have a chance before kickoff to honor those lost, thank those fighting for our freedom and celebrate the American way of life in a spectacular manner.

It would be a shame if stadiums were empty that day because of greed.

OK, so Polamalu was hurt

When I finally got around to reading Sports Illustrated's account of Super Bowl XLV, I didn't believe it when I read that Troy Polamalu was hurt during the postseason.

When he came back for the regular-season finale in Cleveland, he was all over the field in the first half. And even though he was largely a non-factor against the Ravens and Jets, I remember one play in which Polamalu was at least 20 yards downfield and ran all the way back to make a tackle near the line of scrimmage.

I didn't buy the theory that Polamalu was hurt. I just thought he had a bad Super Bowl.

Now, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says that Polamalu was battling an injured Achilles tendon throughout the playoffs.

Of course I do need to employ a healthy skepticism here. This could be excuse-making. But the story uses unnamed sources, so this wasn't something Polamalu came out and announced himself. He's a private person and doesn't strike me as the type to make excuses.

But the revelation that Polamalu was injured doesn't make me feel any better.

Now I've gone from a "wtf?" mentality about Polamalu's disappearing act in Dallas to an "if only" mentality. A healthy Polamalu almost certainly would have been enough to tilt that tight Super Bowl in the Steelers' favor.

Considering how hobbled Polamalu was, it's amazing how close the Steelers came to another championship.