By Bob Gaydos
When you played pickup football as a kid -- in the street, the school yard or the park -- some things were understood even if you didn't know some of the players on your team before the game started. A major thing was that the best player -- usually easy to know -- had final say on the plays, even if he wasn't playing quarterback.
So, for example, if Billy, the best player on the team, is playing halfback, and it's almost the end of the game and your team is losing and needs a touchdown to win and you happen to be on the other team's one-yard line and Joey, your quarterback, says he's going to throw a jump pass over the middle to that tall, skinny kid -- Lenny, or something -- who was just hanging out and got to play only because you needed one more guy, Billy says, "Give me the ball!"
Which your quarterback obediently does. Billy barrels over three players on the other team for a touchdown and you win the game. Yay! That's how it's supposed to happen.
Even in the Super Bowl.
Only it didn't this time and the Seattle Seahawks lost a game they should have won because their coach, Pete Carroll, got cute at a time when all he needed to do was let his best player win the game for him. The Seahawks were losing to Tom Brady and company, but had moved to the New England Patriots' one-yard line with 20 seconds left in the game, thanks in large part to a circus catch in which the ball bounced off the receiver's hands and legs before he caught it.
What now? Simple. Give the ball to your best player and let him win you a championship. Billy, watching the game at home, sets down his chicken wing and screams, "Give the ball to Marshawn!" Joey, at a Super Bowl party, says, "I think he should give the ball to Lynch."
Surely, Seattle, a team built on toughness and a strong running game, would give the ball to Marshawn Lynch, the star running back who speaks with his legs. Lynch never loses yardage. He runs over, around and past opponents with ease. Give him the ball, everyone but Patriots fans tells their TV sets.
Instead, Carroll tells his quarterback, Russell WIlson, a supposedly savvy kid and also a pretty good runner, to throw the ball over the middle to that tall, skinny kid, Whatsizname? Oh, to be in the huddle when that play was called. Oh, to see the eyes of the other 10 players go wide with amazement. Oh, to hear Marshawn Lynch says, "Give me the damn ball!" And, oh, to see him barrel over three Patriots, into the end zone. Touchdown! Seattle goes wild. Brady looks sad.
That's how it's supposed to happen.
Oh, would that it had.
Lynch, who spent the week of hype before the game telling reporters he wasn't going to talk to them, apparently carried his silence into the game. Wilson called the play his coach says he wanted for reasons no football fan will ever fathom. But instead of his own skinny receiver, Wilson threw the ball to some short, skinny kid on the other team. Not even their best player.
Game over. Seahawks lose the Super Bowl.
Billy can't believe it. Neither can Brady. His coach, Bill Belichick, says that's just how he planned it.
Now, I'm no fortune teller, but I'm thinking the next time the game is on the line and their coach gets too cute again, Lynch looks up in the huddle and says, "Bullshit, Russell. Give me the damn ball." And Wilson, if he's half as smart as they say he is, will.
"Shudda done it in the Super Bowl, you morons!" Billy yells at the TV.