Promises to Keep 

Here are some resolutions to go all around

Here are some resolutions to go all around

I’ve thought short and not hard about this. That’s the best way to approach New Year’s resolutions. (It’s the way legislators approach all congressional resolutions.)

For 2001, I resolve to refrain from cynically suggesting in this space that NCAA Division I football is a media-controlled leviathan whose dominant interests (money, power, and entertainment marketing) align with the NCAA’s stated ideals about as often as Jupiter aligns with Mars.

Accordingly, I resolve not to watch any college football games in 2001.

I resolve to refrain from cynically suggesting that NCAA men’s basketball is a media-controlled leviathan...(see above).

I resolve not to profess surprise or outrage when the next glamorous baseball savant (perhaps Derek Jeter or Bernie Williams) signs a contract that makes Alex Rodriguez’s quarter-billion-with-cheese deal look like Pork Chop Womack’s meal allowance.

I resolve to stop inviting strangers on the street to “have a Jim Dandy day.”

I resolve consistently to turn in this column with more than 15 minutes to spare before the final, absolute, turn-into-a-pumpkin deadline.

I resolve henceforward to say only positive, uplifting things about the Belle Meade Country Club.

I resolve to stop making fun of Katherine Harris’ appearance and to stop claiming that her makeup application (base, Jurassic, Triassic, Cretaceous, Tertiary) could be used to help teach college geology classes.

Above all, I resolve to spare myself the damage to self-esteem that would inevitably result from attempting to keep poorly considered or unattainable resolutions. Thus liberated, I feel emboldened to offer some additional, subjunctive-case resolutions, on behalf of the sports figures in our midst. For example:

If I were the athletic poobahs at Alabama, Ohio State, and Georgia, I’d resolve to remind the boosters that Bear Bryant and Woody Hayes are dead and unlikely to return before I fired any more football coaches. (Vince Dooley, though technically still alive in Georgia, seems more intent than Al Gore on overstaying his usefulness.) As long as the memories of the Bear and Woody remain the stuff of sacred legend (and as long as Vince is around to remind his successors of his own legendary accomplishments), coaches at those schools face a Sisyphean task. Not only that: As Georgia discovered, and Ohio State soon will, it’s difficult to attract an experienced, big-name coach to work in a viper’s den, no matter how lavishly they’re compensated.

If I were the national baseball writers, I’d resolve to spare everyone the mind-numbing mathematical calculations regarding how much A-Rod will earn per game, per strikeout, per spit, and per groin pull.

If I were A-Rod, I’d use some of my newfound zillions to pay researchers to learn how few dates and how many double young scotches the average baseball writer enjoys each month—and threaten to publish the information unless the writers throw away their calculators.

If I were Darrell Royal, Frank Broyles, John McKay, or someone else who hadn’t coached a football team in 20 years, I’d resolve to contact Pepper Rodgers and see if I had made his short list of candidates for the Washington Redskins job.

If I were the Redskins’ blunderkind owner Daniel Snyder, I’d resolve to look up the word “empowerment” before interviewing any prospective head coaches.

If I were coach Tony Dungy, I’d resolve to move the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ training camp to Nome, Alaska, where my team could at least practice doing something right in sub-freezing weather.

If I were Bobby Knight, I’d resolve to stop wondering why my old team mysteriously began playing well after my departure and begin scanning the classifieds for coaching vacancies in the smackdown-friendly XFL.

If I were Kobe Bryant, remembering that my 340-pound MVP teammate invented the martial art known as Shaq Fu, I’d resolve not to selfishly refrain from passing him the ball down the stretch in close games.

If I were Ray Lewis, I’d resolve to spend every Super Sunday in an all-day, all-night church service unless I were actually playing in the Super Bowl.

If I were Vanderbilt’s pro-athletics Chancellor Gordon Gee, I’d resolve to pull out a few million bucks from the Ingram bequest and hire Ted Olsen and David Boies to figure out how Tennessee’s apparently unending series of wins over my football team might form the basis for a lawsuit.

If I were Jeff Fisher, I’d resolve not to ask my quarterback to throw end zone passes to Bruce Matthews anytime in the foreseeable future.

How it looks from the La-Z-Boy

Titans 17, Ravens 13

The Tennessee Titans represent Control. They like to use Eddie George as a battering ram to wear down defenses, dictate the action, and keep opposing offenses off the field.

The Baltimore Ravens, who play to an opposite strength, embody Chaos. They lead with their defense—perhaps the best since Pittsburgh’s legendary Steel Curtain of the late 1970s. As a unit, they sow disorder. They wreak havoc. They revel in mayhem. They seek to disrupt opposing offenses completely, then draw upon just enough offense to win.

So when these two teams intersect, they generate all the nastiness of a collision between a cold front and a warm Gulf air mass. They’re like Roman legions vs. a Vandal horde. A phalanx of makeup artists vs. Katherine Harris.

Not surprisingly, the Ravens are the least attractive of all the AFC playoff matchups for Tennessee. They may be the only team that Control can’t control. They seem rather to enjoy the prospect of trying to wrestle down an oncoming Eddie 25 or 30 times in a game. And they’re certainly not intimidated by playing in Adelphia Coliseum, where they have been the only visitor in two seasons to walk out with a victory.

Now, here’s a scary thought. The Ravens are better now than they were when they eked out a win on their last visit. Jamal Lewis has helped them establish a dependable running game they previously lacked. As a whole, they’re playing with the kind of confidence that’s worthy, well, of a Super Bowl team.

On the other hand, there’s no one like the Ravens to help the Titans avoid falling victim to any sense of complacency brought on by their guaranteed home-field advantage and position as anointee of the national media. To win, Jeff Fisher’s team will have to play one of its best games of the season (translation: turn the ball over four times in the first half, as they did against Dallas, and the Titans will watch the Super Bowl on TV like the rest of us).

They won’t be able to dominate Baltimore physically, as they did the teams of the NFC East. But that doesn’t mean they won’t continue to try. Don’t look for Fisher, who’s nothing if not stubborn, to morph his offense into the Rams. He’s likely to pound away with George (with perhaps a little more passing than usual in hopes of spreading the Ravens’ defense), play a field-position game, and seek to capitalize on mistakes.

In other words, like most other Tennessee-Baltimore games, this one will win no prizes for beauty or congeniality. And it could be close enough to turn on a single miscue or the final possession. Our money—well, our mouth anyhow—says the extra week of healing and rest and the noisy Adelphia crowd will provide the Titans with just enough of an edge.

Raiders 23, Dolphins 16

Giants 20, Eagles 14

Saints 24, Vikings 21


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