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September 6, 2002

by Bill Hogan


The grass is still green, the air is still warm, the sun is still up when you get home from work and your favorite football team still has a shot at the Super Bowl. That's the beauty of the opening weekend of the NFL season.

And no matter how low the so-called 'experts' place your team in the pre-season rankings, you can be secure in the knowledge that they are usually wrong.


In the first week of September optimism runs high in Cincinnati, San Diego, the Carolinas and – perhaps most of all – in Houston.

There are people in Baltimore scoffing at the predicted demise of the 2000 NFL Champions. And more in New York dusting off their green and white number 12 jerseys, eager for the start of the Jets best season since 1969.

Bostonians are talking repeat. Washingtonians are hailing their new commander-in-chief. And the folks in the Motor City are downright giddy over the potential of their new quarterback from Oregon.

In Jacksonville, people are asking "why not the Jaguars?" And in Indianapolis, there's a new coach and a new attitude.

Football fans from Miami to Seattle are gloriously happy. Because the start of the season is upon us, and because no team has been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs!

Damn the prognosticators. This could be the year of the Bengal, the Lion or the Panther. Predictions are for the birds. Who can really say that this season won't produce a championship for the Falcons or Seahawks or the Eagles or Ravens?

And what makes these same football-fortune-tellers think that Steve Spurrier is the second coming of Vince Lombardi? The man has yet to win a single game and they're already engraving his name on the "Coach of the Year" plaque.

This isn't the first time Spurrier left the college ranks to become a star in the NFL. A quarterback at Florida, he won the 1966 Heisman Trophy and became a first round draft pick of the San Francisco 49er's.

Long story short, his playing career was a bust. And having won only a single national championship through all his "successful" years as head coach at Florida, I'm not sure all the high praise is justified.

Of course, I'm no expert.

But let's face it, if any of these 'know-it-alls' really knew it all, they'd be sitting poolside at a Vegas casino sipping frozen strawberry daiquiris and cashing in their betting slips.

You only have to go back to last year to assess the worthlessness of 'expert' pre-season analysis. Nobody outside the greater Boston area gave the Patriots even the slightest chance to make it to the Super Bowl.

The 2000 Ravens, coming off an 8-8 season in 1999, would have had to jump ten spots in the pre-season rankings just to qualify as an afterthought.

And the 1999 St. Louis Rams rebounded from a dismal 4-12, last-place finish in 1998 to claim the game's most coveted prize. Show me the alleged football wizard who penciled that team in as Super Bowl Champions in September.

So until my team's record proves otherwise (that fateful day when they are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention) , I'm going to believe that they have as good a chance as any to play for all the marbles on January 26, 2003.

I hope you feel the same way about your team. Don't let the dogmatic opinions of a few self-proclaimed football authorities quell your enthusiasm.

And don't get too full of yourself if your team happens to be the one they are predicting will take home the Lombardi Trophy. Remember, these guys are usually wrong.

It's September – so wear your David Carr jersey with pride. You can always put it back in the closet come October.

And put that lightening bolt on the driver's side door like you always wanted to – just use a paint that will easily wash off.

Call the Pontiac Silverdome box office and reserve your tickets for the Minnesota game December 29. It could be for the NFC North title – as far as you know right now.

Brush up on the words to "Hail to the Redskins". If the team is successful, you can be sure the new regime will change the official team fight song to "Hail to Steve Spurrier".

It'll be at least two months before any of us are absolutely certain that our favorite football team has no chance of winning Super Bowl XXXVII.

So enjoy the good weather and the optimism – it’s a safe bet that at least one of them won't last the season.


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