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Statistics are deceiving

"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles CEO, The Sports Network

Qualcomm Stadium, Super Bowl XXXVII field
More money will be wagered on the Super Bowl, in one fashion or the other, than any other sporting event this year.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -- Well, the big weekend is upon us. The world will stop rotating on its axis, cloning will cease until Monday, George W. is likely going to lay the 4 as a better bet than war, grown men with a semblance of intelligence are paying unheard of monies to watch others clad in protective football armament beat one another up for four hours, and we hope we will not be subjected to a half-time extravaganza of unintelligible lyrics voiced by people of less talent than the Osbournes as exhibited of late during half time of the AFC and NFC Championship games.

It is the American spectacle of sport and ABC is shamelessly promoting it as the most highly anticipated football game of the last century?only because this one is so young.

The Oakland Raiders against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and, as every media outlet of the civilized world has trumpeted on an hourly basis, the fellows clad in silver and black have been installed as a four point favorite to walk off with the title of best football team in the galaxy. Corporate networking began in San Diego earlier this week and there is more money flowing than one would encounter at a political fund raiser. Commercial time on television is being touted at $2.1 million per 30-second spot to reach zillions of people that will, at the moment the advertisement is displayed, be flushing, looking for food or pouring a drink. And, the economy continues its downward spiral.

Office pools are the order of the day and they are not the sort that are filled with water. More money will be wagered on the Super Bowl, in one fashion or the other, than any other sporting event this year. Gaming is the stimulant for most who will be watching the game and, yet, the NFL rejects advertising from Las Vegas as a vacation destination (the number one stopping place in the nation) because of some distorted and unfounded notion about their having gaming there and the association with professional football would be negative. How hypocritical can they be? But, no surprise. The NFL hierarchy are, as always, kings without clothes. There might be two players in the NFL that have never been to Nevada or indulged at the tables. Might be. Maybe only one, and that includes owners as well.

On to the game.

The weather will be great, it will be an Oakland crowd and the officials can be expected to be at their occasional best, countered by their usual ineptitudes. Accepted and allowed for.

Over the course of all Super Bowls, with rare exceptions, the winning team has put up points?thirty plus. Yes, the Patriots won by a mere 20-17 margin and it was St. Louis over Tennessee, 23-16 before Baltimore opened it up on the Giants, 34-7, in the second half. But, check the records. Go all the way back. Do not be sucked in by "defense wins games." Sounds good, does not work.

Super Bowl XXXVII field
Jon Gruden answers questions during Super Bowl XXXVII Media Day. Gruden's coaching abilities made an enormous difference in Tampa's NFC Championship Game win against Philadelphia. And, he certainly knows the Raiders.
The team with the talent to post points wins. Duh! Not the way it sounds. Oakland has that advantage. Tampa Bay does not. The Bucs have to keep the Raider offense on the sidelines to win this one and that means running, not passing. The Raiders are not the Eagles. Most of the journalists with a penchant for quoting erroneous observations will tell the masses waiting for their pearls of wisdom that "defense wins games and championships." They, and many of the purported prognosticators that predict results, will inform us that Tampa Bay has the best defense in football and belongs among the elite of the game over the years.

It is time to lay all that to rest with a resounding thud as it enters the ground.

Has anyone evaluated comparative schedules and the caliber of quarterbacks and teams confronted by Oakland and Tampa Bay this season? Let's just look at the last few games, when teams are in stride, around the final turn, heading to their respective championship encounters. Tampa Bay killed Atlanta, a one man team?just made it past Detroit, a disaster walking?lost to Pittsburgh, which proved it is not exactly a juggernaut?laid out the Bears 15-0, a team that went into early hibernation, befitting its name?beat a totally disabled San Francisco club?and then bested an over-rated and poorly coached Philadelphia aggregation.

Examining the last six games for Oakland, they took apart San Diego, Denver, Kansas City, New York (Jets) and Tennessee, losing only to Miami in Florida by a touchdown. Care to compare levels of competition faced and quality of quarterbacks on the other side of the line?

Jon Gruden made a difference against Philadelphia, an enormous one. And, he certainly knows the Raiders. He taught them a lot but Bill Callahan has improved upon that and taught them more.

Bill Callahan
Bill Callahan answers questions during Super Bowl XXXVII Media Day. Callahan, the present head coach at Oakland, is there because of his relationship with Gruden.
The Raiders are capable of putting up 350-400 yards passing and rushing in any game, while the Bucs will be happy with 275-300 when their totals are tallied. Will the bigger numbers win the game if you can't take it into the end zone or put the ball between the uprights? Of course not. But, Oakland can.

On that note, it is interesting to see that, of the Raiders' last ten games of the regular season, nine were under the total number put forth by the folks in Las Vegas. Looks like their defense might have had something to do with that. So, defend and score points. It is a dual commitment to excellence, not just defense alone. With much lower total numbers, Tampa Bay was under the figure six times and over it four.

Super Bowl XXXVII. The Gruden game. Contrary to what is being said, it is about him in many respects. He is the link. It is the first time that a head coach brings a team to this encounter to face a team he not only coached before, but built. Bill Callahan, the present head coach at Oakland, is there because of his relationship with Gruden. There is no denying that. Al Davis, who walks around with subpoenas for the NFL in his coat pocket, refused to let Gruden out of his contract until Tampa Bay gave up most of the farm, at least the north forty with a few prize head of cattle thrown in. The departing coach designed their offense and Callahan took it to the next level. It is the best in the league.

Rich Gannon, the maestro of the offense, questioned the lyrics and music written by Gruden last season and is now the league's MVP. The orchestration has changed.

The highly anticipated classic match-up just might not be. Defense will not dominate offense unless it is the Raiders shutting down the Bucs.

Awards are even with Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks walking off with the league's defensive player of the year trophy. But, he, Ronde Barber, Brian Kelly, Warren Sapp, John Lynch and the rest of their number-one rated defense will be tested by Rich Gannon, Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, Jerry Porter and Charlie Garner. Waiting to give Garner a breather are Tyrone Wheatley, Zack Crockett and Jon Ritchie.

Brad Johnson to Keyshawn Johnson, Keenan McCardell and Joe Jurevicius with Mike Alstott barreling up the middle is just not enough against a defense that is as good as, if not better than, what the Bucs bring to San Diego. Bill Romanowski, Rod Woodson, John Parrella, Sam Adams, Charles Woodson, Anthony Dorsett?what are you missing here?

NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue will choke on the words but he will have to congratulate Al Davis when he hands him the Lombardi Trophy after the game. Both will probably have legal counsel present, just in case.

All those statistics about most things are totally meaningless when all is said and done, since very few who analyze the game attempt to understand how they were achieved. They just note the final tally and prattle on from there. They are deceiving.

Oakland. Under. Bucs one TD and two field goals. A mortal lock? You gotta be kidding!