Thoughts on Week 1

by Brian Clarey

Every year I pledge to watch more football.

Not as much as I did when my reverence for NFL Sundays took up most of my free time and financial resources, but enough to be current on the standings, aware of the goings-on around the league, enough to make most games interesting, able to anticipate playoff contenders.

I have yet to live up to that oath. But I’m working on it.

I probably should have stopped watching football altogether after last season, when my favorite NFL team, the New Orleans Saints, won the Super Bowl for the first time in its less-then-storied history, because I don’t know if it can get any better than that.

“Improbable” hardly describes the path my beloved Saints took to the big game, which wended its way through a 13-0 start, a late-game interception in the NFC Championship match against Brett Favre’s Minnesota Vikings and the most dramatic Super Bowl victory I have ever seen, including a crazy onsides kick and another late-game interception, this one returned for a touchdown.

I mean, can it get any better than that? Probably not. But still I hunkered down on the couch Thursday night to watch the Saints play in the season opener in a rematch against the Vikings, where once again Favre was denied a win against his favorite team.

What, you didn’t realize? Favre, a native of Kiln, Miss., about 50 miles west of New Orleans, most certainly was a Saints fan when he was a kid — he admitted it to a USA Today reporter before last year’s big game — though it’s possible his love has abated somewhat. But probably not: Once a Saints fan, always a Saints fan.

It’s true. Especially for those of us who lasted through all those lean years in the Superdome — and that number includes Peyton Manning, the Indianapolis Colts quarterback who, I’ve argued, was genetically incapable of beating his hometown team in the Super Bowl.

But I digress. Favre’s old team, the Green Bay Packers, faced the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. I’ve always hated the Eagles because I grew up a New York Giants fan, and throughout much of my youth the Eagles, known in their hometown as the Iggles, pretty much had the Giants’ number.

Now that they kind of suck, I find I can watch them without hate in my heart. And this week I found myself rooting for them — against the Green Bay Packers, no less, a team I’ve liked since I made a small fortune behind the bar during Super Bowl XXXI, when Favre led them to victory against the New England Patriots in the Superdome. I also hit the bar pool that night with the unlikely numbers of 5 and 1 for both the third- and fourth-quarter purses.

The reason I went against the Packers on Sunday: quarterback Michael Vick, back in the spotlight after serving 18 months in federal prison for his role in a dogfighting ring.

Vick came in late in the first half, after starter Kevin Kolb took a big hit from Clay Matthews, who is a genuine monster, and left the game with a concussion.

Vick always provides good footage, particularly when he’s moving on the ground, and I felt good for the guy when he tore off a few big runs and zipped a few tightrope passes.

What the hell… the guy has done his time, and I’m pretty sure he’s off the dogfighting circuit for good.

Besides, character has never been a prerequisite to play in the NFL — particularly in Philadelphia, where the fans are easily the most loathsome in all of professional sports. Yes, even worse than Dallas — Phillies fans were the first to throw D-cell batteries at players. Ironically, it was one of their own: Dick Allen, the team’s first black player.

Nice. Vick may be able to thrive in Philadelphia. He’s clearly still comfortable on the football field, and he certainly has reason to accomplish something, even if it’s just to make people forget about that doggie rape chair.

Of course, Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid prefers Kolb for the starting job— he said so shortly after Sunday’s loss. But Kolb should miss another week with his concussion, giving Vick another shot to shine.

One thing the NFL and the people who gamble on it respect is results.

And if Vick can run for another 100 yards next week, throw for two or more touchdowns and get a win for Philly — which is likely, considering they’re going against the lowly Detroit Lions — we’ll be seeing a lot more of him this season, no matter how many PETA protestors show up for the games.