Owners blow it with OT rules change

The new NFL overtime rule has some intrigue, I’ll grant you that. Rewind to January. The Saints, with a little help from the officials, drive down the field against the Vikings. They’re in field goal range. Do they push for the end zone to win the game without allowing Brett Favre and the Vikings a chance to touch the ball? Do they kick a field goal to take the lead but kick off to the Vikings and give them a chance to score?It’s a coaching dilemma, and it’s one that coaches should have a chance to review during preseason and regular season.

That’s the biggest flaw of this new rule. It’s for the playoffs only. Imagine a special rule for extra innings that says you have to win with a home run, but it’s only in effect during the World Series.

Three playoff games in the past 10 seasons have been decided by a field goal on the first possession of overtime, which is the scenario that is affected by Tuesday’s vote of NFL owners. Just three games. Twelve playoff games between 1970 and 2000 went into overtime, and 10 more went into overtime since then. All those games, but it really comes down to one. The Vikings-Saints game in January.

Ironically, the team that lost that game voted against the rules change. Ziggy Wilf, the Vikings owner, said he voted against the change because it should be implemented in the regular season and not just the postseason. Totally agree.

This new rule is a prop, a circus act. It may make for some fun debate and second-guessing, but it’s not football. It forces a coach to make a decision that he otherwise would not have to make. It takes too much away from the players. That’s the argument against the coin flip. Don’t let the coin decide who gets the ball and thus has a 60% chance of winning in OT.

The best option for putting the game back into the hands of the players is to play it like the NHL, not college football as many have argued. In college, teams alternate starting on the opponent’s 25-yard line. Each team gets the ball, which is great, but the kickoff and punt teams are taken out of the game this way. In the NHL, teams play a frantic five minutes of overtime with regular rules, then go to a shootout if necessary in the regular season. In the postseason, they play by regular rules until someone scores.

My proposal for the NFL is to play a 10-minute overtime. Both teams would have at least one possession, and all aspects of the game would be relevant. The period is five minutes shorter than a regular quarter. It’s enough time to make it relevant, and it’s quick enough to make a dramatic ending just as you just witnessed in the fourth quarter. If there’s still a tie after 10 minutes, let it remain a tie in the regular season. If it’s the postseason, play another 10-minute overtime. Only one of the 22 playoff games since 1970 lasted more than 20 minutes past regulation – a divisional playoff game between Miami and Kansas City on Christmas Day, 1971.

The new rule addresses the issue of the coin flip and quick drives for winning field goals, but it doesn’t tackle all the issues. For that, the NFL owners have come up short on fourth down.


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Opening Ceremony should focus on great music

Alas, the world will hear what I have known for many years — the musical talents of Canadians.

Tonight’s Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver is sure to feature the talents of Sarah McLachlan, Bryan Adams, Nelly Furtado and Rush. You’re likely to hear loads of Michael Buble in the coming weeks, not to mention Shania Twain, Avril Lavigne. OK, you’ll probably hear Celine Dion, too. Even Canada slips once in a while.

You might also get tastes of some bands you’ve never heard before, such as The Tragically Hip and Blue Rodeo.

As for the torch … my money is on Wayne Gretzky to light the giant torch to cap the ceremony.

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How ’bout that, Cowboys!

There’s only one thing better than a playoff victory by the Minnesota Vikings — a playoff victory by the Vikings over the Dallas Cowboys.

Take that, Dallas.

The win was even more sweet a day later when the Cowboys fans whined about the extra touchdown that Minnesota tacked on in the last two minutes. It will never make up for the 1975 pass interference on Drew Pearson that was never called by the officials, but it’s still fun nonetheless.

Minnesota did almost everything right Sunday. The offensive line gave Brett Favre time to throw. Sidney Rice is proving to be one of the best receivers in the game. The defense came up big all day. Six sacks was great; 16 would have been even better. Down goes Romo! Down goes Romo! And the special teams played inspired football. Big tackles and no big plays allowed.

There was only one omission Sunday — no breakout run by Adrian Peterson. He hasn’t had an individual gain of 40+ yards or a game of 100+ yards since Nov. 15 against the Lions. Where’s the explosion? Are he and the o-line not in synch or are defenses so geared to stop him that he can’t find the open gaps? They had better find the answer before next Sunday if they hope to beat dem Saints.

Last thought on Mr. Favre. I wasn’t a fan when he work green and yellow or green and white. I was not happy when the Vikings pursued him nor when they signed him. Even after a 6-0 start, I wasn’t convinced. Minnesota should have been 6-0 without Favre with that lame early schedule. I am not converted, but I am happy he’s on our team now.

Skol Vikings!

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No INTs, Brett, please

This is a quickie … The other day I’m watching SportsCenter and they flash a stat about Brett Favre and how he’s thrown only three interceptions all year and there have been individual games in his career when he’s thrown more than three. It gave me a flashback and chills. Go back 11 years, the season the Minnesota Vikings should have won the Super Bowl. Gary Anderson hadn’t missed a kick all year, not a field goal, not an extra point. The Vikes were 15-1 and pounded Arizona in the first round of the playoffs. But Anderson missed a FG in the fourth quarter that would have given Minnesota a 10-point lead late in the NFC Championship Game against Atlanta, and we all know what happened after that.

So while the ride so far this year has been fun, and 1998 was a blast until the Falcons game (which was played in January 1999, by the way), let’s hope we don’t see an eerie resemblance. It could happen — Favre throws four picks against the Saints, Darren Sharper returns a couple of them for TDs, and the Vikings lose their fifth NFC Championship Game.

Chills. Brrrr.

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Go see The Hip

Capital Region folks looking for some fresh music to enjoy need to go to The Egg on Oct. 15 to see The Tragically Hip.

The Hip, as the group is fondly known in its native Canada, have been around for about 20 years, but only the true Hip lovers in this area have heard of them. They put on a kick-a$$ show, having played at Northern Lights in the past.

So while they play small venues here, they sell out places like the Bell Centre in Montreal.

Listen to some Hip tunes

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Limbaugh: He’s what’s wrong with health care

Rush Limbaugh is a hypocrite and a poster child for what’s wrong with the American health care system.

First, why he’s a hypocrite. As a conservative radio talk show host, he constantly spouts (no doubt with saliva flowing all over his fat chin) that Americans need to be responsible for their own actions. Government and the public’s money should not pay for your problems. I agree with him on that point. We are all responsible for the decisions we make. He’s a hypocrite because he doesn’t want a health plan that works for all Americans, but he wants one that helps him when he weighs 300 pounds and can’t get out of his own chair. Sure, he’s lost 90 pounds in six months and is down to 210, but he’s lost weight before and he’s zoomed past 300 before, too.

Second, why he’s the poster child for what’s wrong with the American health care system. The two biggest problems are our country’s obesity (look up Limbaugh for starters) and our overdependence on prescription drugs. Limbaugh was arrested for prescription drug fraud three years ago.

From CBS News: “Prosecutors’ three-year investigation of Limbaugh began after he publicly acknowledged being addicted to pain medication and entered a rehabilitation program. They accused Limbaugh of “doctor shopping,” or illegally deceiving multiple doctors to receive overlapping prescriptions, after learning that he received about 2,000 painkillers, prescribed by four doctors in six months, at a pharmacy near his Palm Beach mansion.”

If we as a country didn’t use so many prescription drugs and didn’t weight so much, the pharmaceutical industry wouldn’t be making such a killing and the fraudulent weight-loss industry would be shut down. Doctors could concentrate more in preventative measures for a healthy society instead of prescribing drugs and weight-loss clinics for a country that too often follows the footsteps of Mr. Limbaugh.

Take responsibility for your own actions. You, too, Mr. Limbaugh. Stop telling Americans what to do when you can’t even live a healthy lifestyle. Your way of life is what’s wrong with our health care system. It’s not the doctors or the insurance companies. It’s people like you and the pharmaceutical companies.

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Time for NYS to open the primaries

Now that the New York State Senate is going back to work, it’s time to make several changes in the state’s political process. Let’s start with the how the primaries are operated.

New York is one of 25 states with closed primaries, which means that you must be affiliated with a party to vote in that party’s primary. Registered independents, which by all accounts helped decide the majority of political races in 2008, are shut out of the primaries. Meanwhile, 17 states have open primaries, which means that you can vote in just one party’s primary but you don’t have to belong to that party to vote. Eight states are classified as “other,” including New Hampshire, New Jersey and Massachusetts — all nearby states to New York — where Democrats and Republicans vote in their own primaries while independents choose one side and vote in the primary.

As it stands today, independents in New York are not allowed to vote in primaries. Re-read part of that sentence. “Independents in New York are not allowed to vote.” This is highly anti-democratic, un-American, and if I can find the right lawyer to help me, un-Constitutional.

What happened in the New York State Senate between June 8 and July 10 highlights the crippling effect that closed primaries have. With a closed primary, there is added emphasis on party loyalty. You can vote only if you’re registered to that party, so when the politician is elected (and in NY that means re-elected over and over until you resign, move into national politics or get caught having an affair) that politician is beholden to the party leaders. They are paralyzed. They cannot vote their conscience. They cannot vote for the normal constituents, the men and women back home who are struggling with bills to pay, layoffs of their friends and co-workers, kids to send to college and so on.

When Sen. Pedro Espada of the Bronx and another Democrat flipped affiliation to become Republican on June 8, the Senate came to a standstill. The balance of power had changed from 32-30 Democrat to 32-30 Republican. The Republicans, having long held power in the Senate, just as quickly lost it when Sen. Hiram Monserrate of Queens flipped back to the Democrats, making it 31-31. Stalemate. No business was conducted in the Senate chambers, except for a flurry of bills passed by Democrats in late June when a Republican senator passed through on his way to get some coffee.

On July 10, Espada agreed to re-join the Democrats and was immediately named majority leader. If these events had unfolded on an episode of “Survivor,” all the contestants would have voted Espada off the island. In the New York State Senate, however, he’s the majority leader.

One of the clear messages that New Yorkers must understand from all this is that with a tie in the Senate, nothing gets done. No one in the Senate can vote the way they want to or the way their constituents want them to. They are resigned to a tie, so don’t even bother going to work. Just hire a lawyer so you can get paid when the state comptroller threatens to hold back your paycheck. They are resigned to a tie simply because it’s 31 Democrats vs. 31 Republicans. Every vote? Every bill? Give me a break. Grow some you-know-whats.

With open primaries, registered independents would have more say in what sleazy politicians get to advance to the general primary. Perhaps then we could clean out some of the corruption that plagues New York politics.

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