by Rick Rockwell
(Your semi-friendly editor teed off against NASCAR culture in the last entry. Ironically, there is a sports culture he admires: the entertainment of the NFL. Are these sports cultures really that different? Perhaps not. But he revels in the football experience anyway.)
Every year my favorite sportswriter Norman “The Couch Slouch” Chad picks his Team of Destiny. For the third year in a row he expects the Arizona Cardinals to break from the losing pack and go to the playoffs. (See his article in The Washington Post.)
As a sports columnist, Chad is erudite, self-depreciating, funny and dead-on with his satire of pro sports, often mixing socio-political points about the Middle East or the Bush Administration with his sports commentary. He admits though, his Teams of Destiny lately have not lived up to their billing.
Sorry to say, even though he compares the Cardinals (favorably) to Hezbollah, he’s off again this year.
The Cardinals play in perhaps the weakest division in pro football, the National Football Conference (NFC) West. And the St. Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks (remember they went to a little game called the Super Bowl last season?) are still at least a step or two better than the Cardinals. Sure, the Cardinals have an inventive coach in Dennis Green. Their quarterback Kurt Warner can still light up a scoreboard and he has great receivers in Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. Don’t forget Edgerrin James at running back, a Pro Bowl addition, who defected from the Indianapolis Colts. But do they have an offensive line? A defense?
I admire Chad’s loyalty, but in my rulebook your Team of Destiny or Hero Team or whatever you want to call them should be different from year to year. Last year, I had my heart set on the Kansas City Chiefs, and they almost slipped into the playoff pool. But in the end they didn’t have enough. The Chiefs are my pick to win the toughest division in football, the American Football Conference (AFC) West this time. But they aren’t my Hero Team. That would be a repeat.
My Hero Team for this season: the Miami Dolphins. No, they won’t win the AFC East. The New England Patriots are still too good (perhaps the best in the league) to relinquish that crown. But the Dolphins have been on a solid run since mid-season last year and should contend for a wild card spot while making some noise and scaring the bigger contenders. Coach Nick Saban, in his second year, has brought this team back from the desolation of the poor decisions of the team’s owner and the revolving door management team. Plus, the Dolphins have a new quarterback in Daunte Culpepper, who has Pro Bowl experience and the team’s defense, anchored by linebacker Zach Tomas, can shut down opponents.
Look for the Dolphins to knock off the World Champion Steelers in the NFL opener this week. That would be a great start for the Hero Team of 2006.
by Rick Rockwell