Way back in 1993, I remember during the Chiefs playoff game with the Oilers, Joe Montana cut loose with a long pass. I cannot remember (though I think it was J.J. Birden) to whom the ball was thrown. It was a perfect pass, and it was dropping right into the hands of the receiver. The defensive back covering (I think it was Steve Jackson), running stride for stride with Birden, popped his hand under the outstretched receiving palms and knocked the ball free.
"Wow," I exclaimed, "a perfect play."
My girlfriend at the time looked at me, frown on her face, and said, "What do you mean? He didn't catch the ball."
"True," I replied, "but everyone did their job perfectly. The line blocked, the quarterback threw the ball just right, the receiver ran his route and was right in position for the catch, and the defender kept the play from coming to offensive fruition. Perfect."
I often think back to that particular play and game as I think that was the first time I remember noticing, let alone articulating, that a good defensive play is not only as beautiful as a good offensive one, but when both come together, the result is rarely appreciated for what it is: a great play.
Most games are usually peppered with such plays, along with a bunch on bad moves, rough calls, tough penalties and such to comprise the whole of the game, and that, it seems, is how we judge a good game.
I tend to be pretty non-disciminatory about such things, much like I never regret reading a book, or trying a new recipe, neither do I ever think of a bad or good game, per se. True, there are boring games, and exciting ones, and the exciting or special ones are the contests I consider good ones.
Which brings me to a discussion I had with mates Scott Pianowski and Paul Sporer over Twitter this past weekend, as they lamented that the Wild Card games were shit. I disagreed and a discussion ensued which in the end proved much ado about nothing.
I get that, for example, if one is a Panthers fan, there were few halves as much fun as the first 30 minutes of the Sunday morning game. Conversely, the Houston loss to the Chiefs was a nightmare to Texan lovers.
So, clearly that factors in how we process a game and whether or not it meets our approval. Again, I prefer to try and objectify to the extent that I may have been in favor of the Seahawks winning, and they did play a good second half. But for me, whether the team won or lost was secondary to whether the game was good or not.
In my brief discussions with Scott and Paul, it was that three lumpy quarters and then a tight exciting final 15 minutes does not necessarily mean the game was good.
But, I tend to disagree with that, as the sloppy three quarters point to the tension we generally see in the final 20 minutes or so of a game because that is what sets up the time crunch that makes the finish a thrill.
As an example, the Broncos/Steelers game was very low key until Fitzgerald Toussaint fumbled, setting up a very tense final set of drives.
But, I also think that as much as coaches might try to orchestrate plays like the Joe Montana pass I started with, the plays I found the most exciting--and impacting--this last playoff weekend were the broken pass plays--Alex Smith to Albert Wilson, Aaron Rodgers to Jeff Janis, Carson Palmer to Larry Fitzgerald--which were all exciting, but also not particularly pretty in a playbook sense despite the outcome.
In the final year of the old Yankee Stadium, I managed to get tickets to a June game against the Royals. Diane and I met our friend Trace Wood at the yard with his family and we all went so we could go to the House that Ruth Built before it went away.
It was a hot day, and arguably a sloppy game, won in the tenth by a Johnny Damon single--his fifth hit of the day--12-11. This was after Mariano Rivera blew a save, allowing a homer to David DeJesus in the ninth on a day when Jose Guillen clobbered a pair of dingers, including a slam off Andy Pettitte.
At one point during the game, I said how much fun I was having, and my dear friend Trace--as practical, principled, and smart a man as I know--shuddered, suggesting how sloppy the contest was.
Maybe, but it was still a lot of fun, full of great and bad plays, along with a tight finish and all the drama that makes sports so incredible to watch.
Kind of like life.