30 December 2007

Dishonoring the Game

By all accounts, Tony Dungy is a class act, a gentleman on and off the field. But what his Indianapolis Colts committed Sunday night was a fraud, and a disgrace.

Sure, the Colts had already advertised that they planned to play mostly backups. True, the Cleveland Browns have only themselves to blame after blowing a key game last week against Cincinnati and thus leaving their fate in someone else's hands. Yes, Indy has an obligation to make sure its injured players have enough rest to be ready for the playoffs.

But the Colts also have an obligation to the National Football League, the game itself, to do their very best. What happened on the RCA Dome floor Sunday night was a sham.

The Tennessee Titans were not capable of winning in Indy, if the Colts actually tried. Even with Indy playing primarily backups for the better part of three quarters, the Titans barely eked out a 16-10 win. In short, Tennessee is not a playoff-caliber team.

The game became such a farce that at one point NBC's John Madden quipped that it would be in the Titans' best interest to keep Indy backup QB Jim Sorgi in the game because Peyton Manning would have to return if Sorgi was hurt. Except that it was no joke.

Yet the Colts did not have enough respect for the integrity of the league to play their best. It would be understandable for the Colts to do what they did had the game been a meaningless one for their opponent. But it wasn't. In essence, with the Colts' blessing, the Titans made the playoffs with a 9-6 record plus an exhibition win.

Indy really should've taken its cue from bitter rival New England. Besides the Patriots' pursuit of a perfect regular season, their Saturday night game against the Giants was essentially meaningless. Yet, both teams played hard from beginning to end, with their best personnel. The Patriots honored the game by insisting that being 16-0 means something. The Giants, in turn, validated the Patriots' perfection by not handing it to them on a platter.

The Colts, however, failed to see how their actions might stain the game. Really, with the NFL's constant and maniacal effort to distance itself from gambling, it's ironic that one of its best team just threw a game in broad daylight with absolutely no consequences forthcoming.

No penalties from the league, that is. But the football gods will have other ideas. The Colts lost a lot more than a game Sunday night. They lost their honor.


rickcr said...

Seriously, was this your first year watching the NFL? You do realize 99.99% of the teams do the same thing as the Colts when the game is meaningless. The Pats/Giants game was an exception - and I'm sure a lot of it had to do with the pats trying to go 16-0. This really was an ignorant post.

You can be upset that teams don't start the starters when the game doesn't matter and a playoff game is the following week, but the ignorance is in you singling out the Cotls and even acting as if "Dungy should be ashamed." You'd probably be the same type of blogger that would then bash Dungy for keeping Peyton in the game, if Manning ended up getting hurt. "I can't believe Dungy didn't sit him, when the game didn't matter and there was a playoff game the following week! What an idiot."

The Zookeeper said...

Uh, Rick, I wasn't born yesterday and I can assure you that I've seen thousands of NFL games, eithe in person or on TV.

I don't have a problem, per se, with the Colts resting some starters. But in a game with playoff implications, to pull Peyton Manning out after two series and then make no effort whatsoever to win the game is callous at best.

And the fact that, according to Kerry Collins, Tony Dungy indicated that the Colts wouldn't burn their final timeout, thus allowing the Titans to kneel down on the last three plays, only bolsters my argument that the Colts basically played an exhibition game.

rickcr said...

I didn't know about them not using their final timeout. I have no problem with a team playing all their scubs to rest the starters, but they definitely should try their hardest to win with the players that are out there.

Sorry, I didn't mean to sound so harsh. It just sounded like you were upset that Dungy was doing something unusual that I see all the other teams do as well - rest starters.

I wasn't aware of the timeout thing, that's sort of lame, but I doubt that the rest of the team during the course of the game wasn't 'trying' to win (a lot of those guys filling in have to prove themselves for the next year, so typically I'm sure they are fighting pretty hard.)

The Zookeeper said...

Rick: I am enjoying this conversation. And no offense taken.

I normally am a big Dungy fan, but I was very disappointed with what he did in this game. While you're correct in saying that the players tried as hard as they could to win the game, they were not necessarily put in a position to succeed.

Here's the link about the whole late-game conspiracy:


And I don't buy Fisher's explanation that the Titans would've been up by 9 if the Colts called a timeout. It's possible that they could've blocked the FG and might've scored a touchdown to win the game. At least they should've tried.