Old-school adages updated just in time for the 2000 NFL playoffs:
Everything that goes around comes around, even if it takes 32 years and leaves you two cities removed from the first time around.
December 1968: The Chicago Bears eliminate the Los Angeles Rams from playoff contention in bizarre fashion, 17-16, with a referee's mistake costing the Rams a down on their last drive, forcing them to relinquish the ball on what should have been fourth down on the Chicago 47-yard line in the closing seconds.
December 2000: The Bears escort the St. Louis Rams into the playoffs in bizarre fashion, beating the Detroit Lions on their home turf, in a game the Lions had to win to reach the playoffs, 23-20, on a lifetime-best 54-yard field goal by a rookie named Paul Edinger. The Lions' upset defeat, coupled with the Rams' victory in New Orleans, enables St. Louis to heist the sixth and final playoff berth in the NFC.
Ram defensive tackle D'Marco Farr jokingly invited "the whole Chicago Bears' organization" over to his house for Christmas dinner, but then Farr was born 2 1/2 years after the infamous lost-down game and didn't join the Rams until after they'd moved to Anaheim and probably is unaware that this finally evens the cosmic ledger between the Rams and the Bears, meaning Farr doesn't owe the Bears' organization anything. Kids today.
Sometimes it's not over even when it's over.
Thirty minutes after defeating New England to capture the AFC East title, the Miami Dolphins are in their locker room, in a state of euphoria and partial undress, with Coach Dave Wannstedt in mid-victory speech, holding the game ball aloft before presenting it to ... uh, Coach, the ref's knocking on the door and he wants to speak to you.
Ref informs Wannstedt that it appears there are still three seconds left on the clock and that he'd better pull some defensive players out of the shower and get them suited up and on the field again because the Patriots have one more play.
Wannstedt tells the ref to have a Merry Christmas, or something very close to that, and then orders the $%&$! media to get those $%&$! television cameras out of the $%&$! locker room and soon, incredibly, the Dolphins are toweling off and heading back out onto the Foxboro Stadium field.
Good things come to those who wait, unless they root for the Patriots.
By the time the Dolphins and the Patriots reassemble at the New England 40, only one fan is left inside the stadium, a solitary true believer named Jeff McBride, a Patriot diehard from nearby Rehoboth.
"I'm not going to go until somebody tells me the game is over," McBride tells the Associated Press. "I don't care if they're 0-16 or undefeated, I'm going to stay."
So McBride sits and waits and watches Michael Bishop take the snap -- presumably because Bishop got dressed faster than Drew Bledsoe -- and throw his only pass of the game, a desperation wobbler that falls to earth far short of the target.
This time, it was finally official: Miami 27, New England 24.
"That was the stupidest thing I've ever seen," said one Dolphin, already in street clothes, as his teammates headed to the locker room for a second time.
And the meek shall inherit the home-field advantage
in the NFC.
A few preseason prognostications for the New York Giants:
-- Street & Smith's: Fifth place, or last, in the NFC East.
-- The Sporting News: Fifth.
-- Sports Illustrated: Third.
-- Lindy's: Fourth.
-- Pro Football Weekly: Third.
-- Sport: Fourth.
In 2000, the Giants proved that you can fool all of the people all of the time, beating Jacksonville, 28-25, Saturday to finish the regular season at 12-4, the best record in the NFC, giving New York the home-field advantage throughout the playoffs for as long as the Giants last.
Which, according to the consensus, which is evidently buying none of this, will be: One game.
"We're just going to keep playing hard," Giant defensive tackle Keith Hamilton said, "and they can doubt us all the way to Tampa."
That is the site of Super Bowl XXXV, where the actual sight of Giants running through the tunnel will bring forth the following telegram: "The Pete Rozelle estate regrets to inform that Mr. Rozelle didn't think this parity thing all the way through."
Even Wellington Mara, the Giant owner, admits he's surprised. Mara was asked if the 2000 Giants are as good as his 1986 and 1990 Super Bowl champions and Mara, smiling at the overloaded and locked question, could only reply, "Well, I don't know. They say they have exceeded my expectations. But not my hopes."
No news is good news when you're visiting New Orleans
and the Saints have control of the scoreboard operation.
On the same day that Oakland returned to the top of the AFC West, the New Orleans Saints were borrowing a page from the Al Davis playbook for their home game against NFC West rival St. Louis.
Knowing the Rams needed the Bears' help in Detroit, and assuming the Rams would wilt once they learned of Bears' bad news, Saint management ordered the scoreboard operator to show updates from the Chicago-Detroit game only if it was discouraging news for the Rams.
So with 5:33 left in the first quarter in the Superdome, the Rams saw that the Bears were losing, 10-0, and responded with an emotionally listless three downs-and-out.
After that, as the Bears rallied and eventually won, the Superdome scoreboard was strangely silent.
Ram officials were livid, but the underhanded tactics amused Ram lineman Farr, who rightly assumed the sounds of silence were golden for St. Louis.
"As you know, I got that quality Pac-10 education," said Farr, who attended the University of Washington. "So if they weren't flashing the score up there, we knew it was something good for us. As long as we didn't see it, we felt it was good news."
Because the Bears and the Rams won under the shroud of the media blackout, the Rams and the Saints get to do it all over again Saturday in the first round of the NFC playoffs.
If so, the Superdome scoreboard operator ought to plan ahead now and just take the weekend off.
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