"After sex, all animals are sad." (Post-coitum omne animal tristis est.)
—Roman saying, second century B.C.
"After the regular season, most fans are sad." (Postseasonum, plerusque NFL fanaticus tristis est.)—TMQ, 2001
It's the playoffs, the whole purpose the NFL exists—the monster contests for which an entire year of maneuvering and hype have prepared us. And already lots of fans are losing interest.
One peculiarity of sports is that the moment the postseason starts, people begin to tune out even though the postseason is the ostensible point of the whole exercise. This happens because most fans are primarily interested in their favorite teams, and the majority of teams are now dark for the year, with more shutting off the lights each weekend. No matter how horribly your favorite team plays during the regular season, there's always next week and the hope of an improved performance. (Technical note: unless you are a fan of the Cardinals.) But once the playoffs start, there is no next week for most teams; the bubble has officially burst. In two weeks we'll be down to the pair of Super Bowl contenders, and though all America and many ships at sea will watch them play, most fans won't care a hoot about the Super Bowl contenders. They'll be wondering about next year for their teams.
Already football sites such as CNN-SI and CBS are running as much offseason speculation as playoff coverage. Already the Sporting News NFL site is prominently promoting draft articles—the draft isn't till April, with the Chargers on the clock—while Sportstalk.com has an entire area devoted to draft speculation, including links to more than 25 mock drafts already running.
Maybe it's modern fast-forward syndrome, but Tuesday Morning Quarterback cannot understand why there is so much focus on what might happen next season when we still haven't figured out what will happen this season. Why should anyone care in January whether the Chargers will take Michael Vick or Deuce McAllister? We can care very, very intensely about such matters later. For now, put away your mock drafts and free agent sheets. Watch the games.
Best Plays of Wildcard Weekend: Best No. 1. Saints coach Jim Haslett letting novice QB Aaron Brooks throw deep despite his lack of playoff experience and an early injury to one of the New Orleans' WRs. Brooks responded with four TD tosses. Journeyman WR Willie Jackson, pressed into service, caught three of them.
Best No. 2. With the score Bucs 3, Eagles 0 and Tampa's ball on its 33 late in the second quarter, on first down Philadelphia coaches called a run blitz—blitzers press the line but do not proceed to the QB. Loss of five. On second down, Philadelphia coaches called a fake run blitz. Loss of four. For third down, see Worst No. 3.
Best No. 3. Jamal Lewis knocking over four Broncos on his game-clinching TD run. Ouch.
Worst Plays: Worst No. 1. Trailing New Orleans 17-7 early in the fourth, the Rams had the Saints facing third and long at midfield. It's a blitz! Six gentlemen including a DB cross the line. Brooks threw 49 yards to Jackson for the touchdown that allowed the Saints to pull away.