Isn't it time we made the Super Bowl a national holiday? Let's face it, no matter how much non-sports fans try to downplay the importance of sports, Super Bowl Sunday is one of the biggest days of the year, along with Christmas and Thanksgiving. And do we have to go to work the following day after those two holidays? No, we don't. We honor many great men, traditions and institutions with our yearly national holidays, but has George Washington and Abe Lincoln really done more for our country than the NFL? (Ok, maybe that's not the best example.) We celebrate the Pilgrims and Native Americans coming together and breaking bread 400 years ago, so can't we honor the truce between the NFL and AFL as well? Wasn't that an important moment in American history? Shouldn't we pay tribute to the memorable Packers-Chiefs get-together in Super Bowl I? And maybe I'm getting my elementary school facts wrong, but wasn't the very first Thanksgiving held at the LA Coliseum just like the initial NFL-AFL Championship Game?
The possibilities for the holiday are endless. School pageants can be performed with kids dressing up like Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke, Len Dawson and Otis Taylor, reenacting that premiere championship game. And Super Bowl Day can have its own traditions, but with nods to our present holidays. A family meal can be served before the game, but in place of a Thanksgiving turkey, there can be a Vince Lombardi-shaped meatloaf with pies baked in the image of Hank Stram, and instead of giving thanks, we can go around the table with each family member making a Joe Namath-like guarantee. A morning parade would be welcomed, with floats honoring David Tyree's helmet, Lynn Swann's catch and Garo Yepremian's comical pass attempt, with Joe Montana or Terry Bradshaw playing the role of Santa Claus at the end of the proceedings. Shouldn't we honor true heroes like Phil Simms, Matt Snell, Drew Brees, Doug Williams, Jack Lambert and John Elway? Maybe a Fourth of July-like fireworks display of each legend's likeness would be in order. Shouldn't we have a month of TV specials leading up to the new holiday -- A Charlie Brown Super Bowl, The Grinch Who Stole the Playoffs, A Year Without the Lombardi Trophy and Rudolph the Red Zone Reindeer?
In a Halloween-like move, kids can go door-to-door in Jim Plunkett, Ottis Anderson, Jim O'Brien, John Riggins and Larry Csonka costumes, and, instead of begging for candy and shouting "trick-or-treat," America's youth can ask for Gatorade and do the Super Bowl Shuffle. We can write new seasonal carols, such as "Just Keep Matriculatin' the Ball Down the Field, Boys" and "Oh, Belichick's Hoodie." And we can add an Easter egg hunt element to the special day, with children recovering fumbles in backyards and church lawns all over the United States. So let's get together as a nation and make it happen. Democrats hate Republicans. Republicans hate Democrats. The country is in turmoil. But there's one thing we agree on -- we all love football. And let's face it, we're either too happy, too depressed and, more importantly, too drunk to go to work the next day anyway.
And now on to the top stories of the week in the world of New York sports.
Are There Any Answers? Do the New York Knicks just need a little more time to get themselves together with much-needed chemistry coming sooner rather than later? Or are the players uncoachable? Or is the problem that their coach can't coach? Do they just need a real point guard to pull them all together? Is Baron Davis the answer to all their problems? Is it all really management's fault for constructing this disjointed, depthless team? Is Carmelo Anthony to blame? Or is it all of the above? There were no answers, only questions, in the Knicks' first two games of the week. They didn't have a chance on Friday in the 99-89 loss to the Miami Heat, with Isiah Thomas jinxing them by sitting in the front row and Anthony sitting out the first of his two games missed. Things were so bad in the 97-84 loss to the Houston Rockets on Saturday that Jeremy Lin played big minutes, as Mike D'Antoni desperately seeks a point guard. But on Tuesday, with the return of Anthony, they blew out the Detroit Pistons, 113-86, when they got back to spreading the ball around on offense and playing the selfless brand of basketball that they've only been able to do on a sporadic basis. Of course, it helps if Anthony pours in 25 points, while shooting an efficient 9-for-14, and dishing out six assists. With no true point guard to run the team, the offense flows through Anthony, so it's really up to him whether the ball keeps on rotating or is sucked into his vortex as his teammates stand around and watch him perform solo. On Thursday, against the Chicago Bulls, the offense was better once again, with Anthony getting Landry Fields and Amar'e Stoudemire involved early, but, if there are no answers to all the questions facing the Knicks, the Knicks had no answer for Derrick Rose, who dominated the fourth quarter, with his Bulls winning, 105-102. Amid all the turmoil at the Garden, though, Anthony was voted in as a starter in this year's All-Star Game.
Eight Is Enough: After defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers, 99-96, on Friday (with Deron Williams again being the dominant force in crunch time), giving them consecutive wins for the first time this season, the New Jersey Nets got a collective swelled head and were brought back down to earth by the Toronto Raptors on Sunday, who taught them a small lesson in humility by beating them 94-73. The Nets lost again on Tuesday to the Indiana Pacers, in a rematch of the 1972 ABA Finals (why wasn't there an old-timers' game beforehand to commemorate the 40th anniversary of that event?), but then the Pistons came to town, and as was the case with the Knicks, Detroit is the cure for any basketball ailment. With MarShon Brooks shelved with a broken toe and other assorted Nets out with injuries and illnesses, New Jersey was only able to dress eight players (half of them named Williams), but Deron Williams led the way again (26 points, nine assists) in the 99-96 victory, giving them four wins in their last seven games.
Team Chara 12, Team Alfredsson 9: The players who represented the New York Rangers and New York Islanders made a splash in this year's NHL All-Star Game festivities. On Saturday night, Henrik Lundqvist co-captained his team to a 21-12 win in the skills portion of the weekend, highlighted by Carl Hagelin's victory in the fastest skater competition. Lundqvist was the starting goalie (and part-time on-ice color commentator) for Team Alfredsson in the game on Sunday, but he quickly let in a pair of Marian Gaborik goals, and was given the Artem Anisimov rifle-shooting treatment by his teammate to boot. Besides being the fifth Ranger to win the All-Star Game MVP (Don Maloney in 1984, Mike Gartner in '93, Mike Richter in '94 and Wayne Gretzky in '99), for scoring three goals and adding an assist, Gaborik was fined $1,000 by John Tortorella for his flamboyant post-goal celebration (at least that's what the Ranger coach claimed would happen). Gaborik's the 16th player to notch a hat trick in NHL All-Star Game play, and he was the only local player to be on the winning side, but Dan Girardi picked up an assist in the game (though it might actually have been a goal), and John Tavares impressed in his first All-Star Game, scoring a goal and assisting on another.
Back to Work: One crazy carom and one CD-DNP completely changed the outcome of the Rangers-New Jersey Devils game on Tuesday, a 4-3 shootout win for the Devils. Tortorella chose to rest Lundqvist, who rarely loses to New Jersey, for one more day, with Martin Biron playing in his stead. Advantage, Devils. And with the game in hand for the Rangers and time winding down, one unfortunate bounce off the end-board glass, with the puck ricocheting right in front of New York's goal and right to David Clarkson who rifled it between Biron's legs, gave the Devils two points, with the Blueshirts only getting the loser's point. It was a "What can you do, that's the way the puck bounces" outcome for the Rangers. They didn't lose any sleep over it, though, and got right back down to business the following night, with a 1-0 shootout victory over the Buffalo Sabres, with Lundqvist earning his sixth shutout of the season. One man's misfortune is another man's good luck, though, as the Devils didn't care how it happened, when they secured two points by beating the Blueshirts in a shootout, as they need all the points they can get. And the puck bounced their way once again on Thursday, when, after overcoming a 3-1 deficit to tie the game against the Canadiens, an Ilya Kovalchuk slap shot was blocked, but the puck squirted right to Zach Parise, who shot it into an open net for the game-winner. It wasn't all good news for the Devils, though, as Adam Larsson was leveled by P.K. Subban in an act of vengeance for what Montreal thought was a slew-foot by Larsson on Louis Leblanc. It remains to be seen how long Larsson will be out or if any suspensions will be handed down. Meanwhile, it was a short week for the Islanders, as they defeated the Carolina Hurricanes, 5-2, in their lone game of the week, with Tavares picking up where he left off in the All-Star Game, with two goals and a pair of assists.
Pro Bowls & Locker Rooms: No locals made a splash in this year's Pro Bowl, though the New York Jets' AFC won the game, 59-41. Darrelle Revis didn't pick off a pass but he did make five tackles, though he (and everyone else) had a little trouble with MVP Brandon Marshall. And the nonstop Jets locker-room unrest continues to trickle in, with Plaxico Burress, sounding like he's one-and-done with the Jets, commenting on his season with Gang Green, "It went as it went. . . . They used me the way they wanted to use me. . . . The Jets locker room is the Jets locker room." Dustin Keller added, "It was just a bad situation. Things just fell the wrong way. It's the worst-case scenario."
Groundhog Day: Punxsutawney Phil didn't see his shadow on Thursday but that doesn't mean we have to wait six weeks for spring training. The New York Yankees made some minor moves as they gear up for the 2012 season. They signed reliever Manny Delcarmen to a minor-league deal. He hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2010 but the more the merrier when it comes to the bullpen. The Yankees also hired former Cubs GM Jim Hendry as a special assignment scout, and Steve Donahue will replace the legendary Gene Monahan as the team's head trainer. The news for the New York Mets: They announced that their first Banner Day since 1996 will take place on May 27th, when they face the San Diego Padres. But the team neglected to send out a press release on whether Jeff Wilpon saw his shadow, which would forecast six more weeks of boneheaded decisions.
And that's the New York week that was.