By Steven Keys

Swing Time, the Big Shift, Meltdown City, whatever you label it, the NFL game is becoming a very strange one indeed.

— — —

Top hoofers Astaire & Rogers were hip to it, now Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the rest of the reigning NFL champion Patriots are discovering swing time, a devolutionary trend in football that comes by way of the rise in the colossal and inalterable shifts in game momentum.

The typical swinger plays like this: First he orders a martini…wrong swinger (ba-dum tish!): In the first half, team #1, the eventual loser, charges out to a commanding and seemingly insurmountable lead, only to lose all traction and watch helplessly (?) as its once dormant opponent awakens from its doldrums and begins to play like gangbusters (See; SB51).

I first noticed the oddity back in the early part of NFL 2012-13.

Peyton Manning was in year one with Denver who was off to an inauspicious start at 2-3. In San Diego (MNF), however, Mustangs caught swing time, roaring back from a 24-0 halftime deficit to score 35 unanswered for a head-spinning win.

..........AstaireRogers.FDTR.1933.RKO.L.Brock.47kAnd that ’unanswered word is key. When used in a football context, it’s synonymous with the word, defense, both the good (NE) and the ugly (ATL). Every stop the Pats D made of the Falcons offense after their 28th point was like a B-12 booster shoot to their own offense while at the same time demoralizing the A-Birds.

Back in the day when a team built an early lead, especially if aided by points off a turnover, you could pretty much put the result in-the-books by the middle of the 3rd quarter. The betting window is closed!

In SB1 it was Cantonese safety Willie Wood who intercepted fellow Hall member Len Dawson’s 3Q pass to stave off any thoughts the Chiefs had of besting NFL juggernaut Green Bay in ’67.

Reliable outcomes were the standard in earlier Super Bowl (Championship) play as sad sack clubs like Minnesota (4L), pre-Shanahan Denver (4L), then Buffalo (4L) would usually fall behind fast and never catch up. Bills almost broke the trend in 1991 when scapegoat Scott Norwood’s late field-goal try went slightly wide (20-19).

Hotly contested affairs like the memorable Steelers – Cowboys (76, 79) and 49ers – Bengals Bowls (82, 89) were the exceptions to the rule, i.e., game over early.

Come the 2000s, opening with Rams v. Titans (23-16) and then every Patriots Super Bowl since where the point differentials have averaged 3.7 per (7), the championship game began to see some serious competition throughout.

..........SB47-coin.1.28.13.A.Kirk.4.2mThen came Super Bowl 47 (2.3.13), pitting the Ravens against the 49ers. A watershed event in football history for it’s the first time a swinger took center stage, and I don‘t mean the halftime pseudo porn-fest (ugh). It’s true, a massive power outage at half swung momentum San Fran’s way but then the same emotional ups & downs that define swing time were triggered, too.

Football teams have been losing leads since Melbournian turned Madisonian Pat O’Dea was kicking for Wisconsin (1898-99) and Walter Camp fueling the forward pass. But today’s player is clearly subject to mood swings like no generation before.

Why so? Why one team goes near catatonic while the other rises from early ashes like phoenix? It’s a puzzler. “Monsters from the id (fear, etc.)?” Maybe not enough monsters (anger, greed, etc.). I’ll take a stab at another answer.

Most males today under the age of 45 were weaned on rap, most lyrics of which dismiss rules, teach converts that might makes right, to act with impunity and then portray women are chattel. It’s a boyish arrogance that can’t cope with loss and learns nothing from mistake. And though it thrives in an era that‘s seen advances (desegregation), it’s also one where every participant gets a trophy and athletes get coddled from the minute they suit up in junior-high.

A little false bravado (machismo) won’t typically upset the apple cart and might even help with the digestion. But to saturate one’s mind with rap from age eight (8) onward can create a dysbiotic state that’s hard to change.

.........Mathewson.wc.1904.C.Conlen.160kIt would follow then that when a team starts to fall behind, especially after having been in firm control, that those players whose constitutions have been forged with a composite (cheap) mettle, would then be unable to muster the confidence, the resilience to bounce back when their opponent begins to make in-roads.

You never stop thinking you can win. Tom and Bill didn’t.

But what about the Patriots, you ask, it’s likely most of them grew up hip-hoppin’ too. Maybe more of them just outgrew their childhood mindsets. I don’t know. What I do know is that having Tom Brady at your offensive controls is like having an IV of confidence flowing through the veins of every man on his team, including and defense who may’ve been SB51’s real MVP, collectively speaking.

What I also know is that psychology, not just pep talks and sideline pad-smash, must now be a serious and integral part of team training and game strategy.

New York Giants pitching great Christy Mathewson (1880-25) said it well: “You can learn little from victory, you can learn everything from defeat,” i.e., “winning is (not) the only thing.”

There’s a whole semester of learning just waiting for the Atlanta Falcons this off-season, and 30 other teams. And while they’re at it (Dan Quinn will get ‘em at it), they can ditch the ditties, or better yet, jump a new music train:

♫ Climb every mountain,
Ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow,
Till you find your dream (Rodgers & Hammerstein) ♫

Final record: 88 – 93 – 3 (8 – 3)

Steven Keys
Straight Shooter
Photo credit: NFL-symbol, wikiproject, Ixnay-Beao; Astaire-Rogers, RKO, Fly Down to Rio, 1933, wc, L.Brock; SB47-coin, wc, A.Kirk, 1.28.13; ChristyMathewson, wc.cca, C.Conlen, 1904; Straight-shooter produce label
Posted: 2.9.17 @ 4:43pm EST; Copyright © 2017

Filed under: Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, NFL

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