It Won’t Surprise Anybody


So, another Super Bowl is on us. No. XXX.

Well, been there, done that. Let me tell you what will happen in old triple-X. What happens in one form or another in almost every Super Bowl.

1. A team will punt out of bounds on the other team’s one-yard line and its fans will go delirious with joy. Prematurely, as it happens. Because the other team will march downfield for a score, probably a touchdown.

This is because your one-yard line is great field position in the pros, the most dangerous place to defend because the defense has to be spread out to cover 99 yards of unprotected territory. The team with the ball will exploit this loose defense.


Happens nearly every Sunday in the NFL and will probably happen Super Sunday too. Remember, it happened in the NFC championship game when the Cowboys marched 99 for a go-ahead touchdown against Green Bay. The “coffin corner” kick is overrated.

2. A quarterback, on an obvious pass play, will see everyone covered and take off with the football, helping himself to 10 or 15 yards every time. Defensive players will be running furiously backward to stop the pass and before they can put the brakes on and reverse themselves, the quarterback will have his first down, maybe his touchdown.

3. A team that has managed to hold the opposition to, say, nine or 10 points in 57 minutes of football with a relentless pass rush and blitzing linebackers will suddenly shift into a “prevent” defense--alternately dubbed the “nickel” or “dime,” in which everybody goes the wrong way and looks skyward for the pass that never comes and puts up a pass rush that looks like two drunks on an ice floe.

The other team, which had great difficulty scoring against that pass rush, will enthusiastically greet its absence and begin completing passes and scoring.

Coaches forget the oldest axiom in the game: No quarterback can complete a pass flat on his back. But, conversely, any quarterback, even a bad one, can complete a pass if you give him eight or nine seconds to get rid of the ball. And a good quarterback will not only connect with a receiver, but put the ball through a keyhole for you with eight seconds to aim.

4. A team that marches the ball downfield employing a wide-open, hard-to-stop offense mixing passes and wide running plays, will suddenly turn to head-knocking, turn-of-the-century football when it gets to the two-yard line.


A running back will get the ball and dive into the center of a massed line of defenders weighing an aggregate two tons. It’s the one place where a straight line isn’t the shortest distance between two points.

The team trying to score will finally pass on third down, but it will be expected by then and batted down. If the offense had tried an end run on first down, the ballcarrier would have been able to walk into the end zone. But that won’t be called.

5. A big flap will occur when TV replays show a touchdown pass that was caught by a guy with his big toe over the end line.

Never mind that the guy ran a brilliant pattern, faked the cornerback or safety out of his Reeboks and otherwise did everything a Hall of Fame receiver should do. He will be held to have scored an undeserved touchdown because, while 99.9999% of him was in bounds, a quarter of an inch wasn’t.

The idiocy of the rule is, if he catches the ball while reaching out beyond the end line it’s perfectly legal as long as his feet are in bounds.

6. Conversely, the ref will allow a touchdown when a running back is met at the line of scrimmage by a wall of tacklers and thrown back five yards because his outstretched hands “broke the plane,” whatever that means. The touchdown will count even though maybe only his thumb and little finger got into the end zone.


They should have to play the way we did on the old playgrounds--you put the ball on the ground in the end zone, baby! Or no touchdown. The way it should be.

7. A guy will fumble and the other team will recover. But the officials will rule no loss of possession because “the ground caused the fumble.”

Well, of course the ground caused the fumble. Because the guy got tackled and thrown to the ground and didn’t have the ball securely tucked into his midsection.

Try saying the ground caused the fumble in the old neighborhood and the response would have been, “Oooh, didums mommy’s little darlin’ dwop the nasty old football hitting the ground? Poor baby! Now, give us the football and go sit down and nurse your poor pinkies!”

8. A player who has been in the league for 10 years and should know better will draw a stupid penalty for throwing a punch at an opponent. And he’ll be throwing that punch at a guy who is wearing a facemask, a helmet, shoulder pads and 10 pounds of other plastic protection.

For hitting that he will get a 15-yard penalty and a busted finger.

9. A player who tells the press 50 times all week he is going to “stay focused,” will misplace his helmet and miss four or five critical plays trying to focus on where he left it.


10. One team--the Steelers, in this case--will announce a strategy of ball control to “keep the other team’s offense off the field.”

It’s a nice idea, but it calls to mind the time Oklahoma Coach Bud Wilkinson warned a Michigan State coach facing a ball-control UCLA team in a Rose Bowl game, “You ain’t gonna see the ball much.”

To be told sweetly by Duffy Daugherty, “We ain’t gonna need it much.”

Neither will the Cowboys. Just enough to win, 30-10.