Outside Oberlin

Super Bowl XXXVI Greatest This Writer Has Seen
by Colin Smith

Warning: the column you are about to read is biased.

There. Glad I got that out of the way.

Hi, Iím your new sports editor, and as you may hear me mention a few times (just a few) over the next couple months, Iím from New England.

So was that just the greatest Super Bowl ever, or what? (Correct answer: yes.)

Okay, maybe not ever. I have to admit, I havenít seen all 36 of them. But definitely the best one in my lifetime. (I turned 20 this week, by the way. Happy birthday to me). Hands down. No questions asked. You can make your arguments for Super Bowl XXV with the Giants and Bills, or Super Bowl XXXIV with the Rams and Titans, both of which went right down to the wire. But for last minute finishes you canít beat what you just saw on Sunday:

Rams score a touchdown to tie the game at 17 at 13:30 in the fourth quarter. After a short kick return, the Patriots start their drive at their own 17, with 1:21 to play and no time outs. No time outs! The two minute warning has come and gone; the only way to stop the clock is to spike the ball and lose a down. We see Tom Brady, a 24-year-old quarterback who had never started an NFL game before this season, lead his team 53 yards in 74 seconds to set up a 48-yards field goal attempt for Adam Vinatieri. And he drilled it to keep this from being the first Super Bowl to go to overtime. Instead, it became the first Super Bowl ever to end with a winning field goal as time expired.

If that drive isnít enough to seal it, here are some other reasons why this Super Bowl was the best in at least 20 years:

Big Plays:

Okay, thereís the 48-yarder to win it (not exactly a chip shot). Then how about that huge 23-yard pass to Troy ďMr. OpenĒ Brown? Did you see the coverage? Nothing but Rams around him and he manages to find the foot of open space and Brady gets it right to him.

If the excitement of that drive wasnít too much for you, you probably remember that Kurt Warner pass to Ricky Proehl that tied the game. Proehl turned a 15-yard gain into a 26-yard touchdown reception with some great moves eluding tackles.

The sweet catch by David Patten on a pass from Tom Brady at the end of the first half. The hit that Antwan Harris put on Proehl to cause a fumble and set up that pass.
And of course, thereís the play that got the ball rolling for New England. Mike Vrabel went right through the Rams offensive line to hit Warner and set up his touchdown pass into the hands of Pats cornerback Ty Law.

As an added bonus, we got a big play that wasnít. Early in the fourth quarter, fourth and goal from the three for the Rams, Kurt Warner starts to scramble. BANG! Roman Phifer nails him, fumble, and Tebucky Jones runs it back 97 yards for a touchdown. Too bad about that holding penalty, but itís really something to think that the Pats were one penalty away from a blowout, huh?

Score Changes:

The Rams had a 3-0 lead, the Pats werenít looking so hot, then an interception-touchdown later the Pats were ahead 7-3. It looks like itís still going to be close at half-time but another Rams turnover and Patriots touchdown later itís 14-3 at the half. It was looking good for the Pats, but when have the Rams ever been out of it? So of course they were going to come back with two unanswered touchdowns to tie it after being down 17-3. And then Vinatieriís field goal... oh yeah, youíve heard about that already.

Shock Value:

A.k.a. UPSET. Fourteen points? Okay, the point-spread was ridiculous, but this was still the greatest upset I can ever recall. Any sport. Other sportswriters have proclaimed it the second biggest Super Bowl upset in history, second only to the Jets over the Colts in Super Bowl III. Iíll buy that.

Some people, including one of the Rams, have said that the better team didnít win this game. But theyíre missing the point. The better team did win. The Patriots played as a team in every aspect of the game. They passed up on individual introductions all season long to come out onto the field as a team. They all acted with one goal, under one game plan. They didnít have the big stars or the big hype ó can anybody outside of New England name more than five Pats? ó but every player knew his role and played it for the team.

Ahhh. Greatest Super Bowl in 20 years.

Did I mention that Iím from New England?

My team just won the Super Bowl! My team is the world champion!

Youíll forgive me for gushing. This has never happened to me before. We New Englanders are long-suffering fans, so we might be acting a little crazy for awhile. The sports portions of our brains are filled with words like ďcurseĒ, ďBambinoĒ, and ďBuckner.Ē The Patriots were the oldest professional sports team to never win a championship. Forty-two years after their inception theyíve won the first New England championship in my memory. Damn, itís a good time to be a sports fan.

Greatest Super Bowl of my life.


Sports: They Are Not Just Fun & Games Anymore
by Channing Joseph

Lately, Iíve been considering whether I am psychologically prepared for a world where sporting events have been transmuted into political statements. If I had my druthers, I would be comfortable with seeing them as a source of fun and friendly competition. Yet, sadly, this no longer seems to be the case.
As I think about it, the nation we live in, for reasons most of us are tired pondering, seems to have been changed in some fundamental and all-encompassing way. Therefore, there is really no good reason anyone should expect the sports realm to be the only thing untouched.
In spite of this, I was recently a bit shocked while reading somewhere that the sold-out Super Bowl crowd was being unbelievably patient with the long lines and Orwellian level of security at the New Orleans Superdome. When asked why, they replied that they were determined to go on living courageously in the face of the terrorist threat, that regardless of the team they were rooting for, they all felt like real ďpatriots.Ē
Now granted, this is quite an inspirational stance to take, and I think few people would deny feeling a small swell of patriotism in their hearts at such a resolute cry of American determination.
Unfortunately, this is exactly my problem with it, because I donít want to feel patriotic right now. I donít want to automatically feel like solidarity with my team means that I am somehow making a statement about my resoluteness with my country. Because honestly I am feeling quite disgusted with my country, more specifically my government. I donít want to think that rooting for my favorite player suddenly means that I am proud to be an American.
Now, itís granted that sports have always been associated with patriotism. That overwhelming feeling of collective agitation or excitement that one might feel during a large, crowded game is virtually equivalent to the emotion of national pride. This, Iím sure, has more than a little to do with the ritual of singing the ďStar-Spangled BannerĒ at games.

I learned a bit more about this relationship between sport and nation when I attended a soccer game in Costa Rica a few years ago. It was the official Costa Rican menís team against the United States menís team, and I was actually relieved that the Costa Rican competitors were victorious. On walking out of the stadium after the game, from the snickers and insults the Costa Rican attendees threw at our rather large group of Americans, I felt that things may actually have gotten violent with us had our country taken home the win.
This strong sense of patriotism is also an undeniable element of the Olympic games. The teams and players represent their individual countries of allegiance, though the ultimate idealistic intention of the whole
event is to foster cross-cultural understanding and respect.
Unfortunately, itís also granted that, despite this ideal, sporting events have for some time had a mild association with so-called terrorism. From the 1972 attack by Black September members on the Munich Olympic games, to the explosion at the 1996 Atlanta games, to the plot to blow up an antiquated nuclear reactor in Sydney, Australia in 2002, violence during sporting events has been a concern for some time.

Yet despite the fact that these connections between sport, patriotism, and violent attacks have existed for quite some time, they have now reached a point at which they are inextricably tied. Consequently, I think we live in a world now where the on-going Salt Lake City Olympics has the potential to reach a level of national significance for Americans unlike much of anything that has preceded. If the games go by uneventfully, it may be taken as a redemptive statement about United States national security, unable to foresee even such large-scale and fastidiously-planned events as those of Sept. 11. If all does not go well, this may serve to aggravate Americaís already inflamed xenophobia, making its citizens even more overwhelmingly suspicious of anyone perceived to be an outsider or foreigner, a terrible side-effect for immigrants as well as for those people who just ďlook different.Ē

My opinion is simply that this sense of newly-enlarged national pride that Americans are feeling as a natural reaction to a recent national tragedy is understandable and human. Yet, my ultimate concern is that this pride potentially blocks many of the citizens of this country from being able to step outside of their imaginary bubble of dogmatic belief in the American governmentís infallibility. Americans are already known around the world as arrogant fools.

Last semester, while traveling through Southern Africa, I was quite heart-warmed at the support and sympathy most people showed for my being an American during a time of nationwide mourning. I was also surprised and shocked by the few people who expressed a sentiment that we had had it coming to us. I felt lucky to have been away from the country at the time because I was able to hear opinions that were not being presented on the cable news stations. In the end, I my belief is that this international notion of Americans as arrogant fools may have been a significant factor in the making of the events of recent months.

It is terribly regrettable that these events have merely served to make Americans a bit more arrogant and intolerant than they already were before.
And thatís the story of why I long for the days when the Super Bowl was just an entertainment event, and not a political statement of international implications.

February 8
February 15

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