The potential Super Bowl recipes for Sunday's conference championship games are less than delectable. On the AFC side, we have the Oakland Raiders, and the Tennessee Titans, who have committed the following sins, venal and mortal, according the Professional Church of Football, Reformed.
Right off the bat, the Titans are an orphaned franchise with a real butthead for an owner, Bud Adams. They abandoned Houston, yet the plight of Houston fans was largely overlooked in the aftermath of that big fat Browns fan guy who cried while testifying before Congress. It's hard to make a case for the Oilers being a more illustrious franchise than the Browns, but they were a pilot AFL team, founded in 1960, ten years before the AFL-NFL merger. Then again, Houston does have a new team. But screwing America's fattest city out of its NFL franchise couldn't have done Herr Adams any good on the karmic kalorie scale.
Neither can being from Tennessee. Do any of the three (!) professional franchises acquired in the last seven years by the Volunteer State have any fans? Are the Nashville Predators aware that there are, as of the 2000 Census, no saber-toothed cats of any type in Tennessee? And if there are, NONE of them are paying taxes! While there may be several "grizzlie" bears, none of them play basketball. Now, there may be some tall, fat, semi-muscular people who might be classified as "Titans" somewhere in the state of Tennessee. But they're called the Titans, as I recall (foggily, from a stoned high school 6 am viewing of SportsCenter) because Nashville used to be called the Athens of the South. Huh. I always thought Athens, GA was the Athens of the South, or maybe Athens is the Memphis of the South.
Other problems for the Titans, unrelated to our personal prejudices, include the fact that this team is a certifiable choke factory. Since the Music City Forward Pass, Tennessee hasn't won a single money game. Their current hot streak is the first thing resembling good football anyone has seen from the Titans since the Ravens embarrassed them in home in the 2000 playoffs. They blew the Super Bowl the year before against a clearly fake-good Rams team that needed the help of horse-addled refs to defeat the Bucs, who had NO OFFENSE AT ALL, in the preceding NFC title game. History is against the Titans: No team since the 1973 Miami Dolphins has come back from losing a Super Bowl within the previous four seasons to win the Super Bowl.
On a more concrete level, the Titans are certifiably Banged Up after outlasting the Steelers last week. Steve McNair, who really wants to be good, can probably beat a good but slow Raiders pass rush. He could do that, if any part of his body wasn't strained and/or fractured. Same goes for Jevon Kearse. And if Eddie George shakes off last week's concussion, he's still never showed up in a big game since high school.
For Tennessee fans*, things don't look too good. They're hurt, they're morally reprehensible/missing a soul or souls, and from Tennessee. But they're still more likeable than the Raiders. More on that in a minute. First, let's take a look at Oakland.
Things that are good about the Raiders: other than Green Bay's Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, they have the only active football player who actually is a beer in the person of tackle Sam Adams (apologies here to All-Pro Detroit Lions linebacker Thomas Beer, who retired in 2002). Also, Charles Woodson is basically just a good guy who pretty much deserves to be on a different team so that he doesn't have to be on the Raiders.
Things that are bad about the Raiders will not occur in list form, because Bill Romanowski's resume alone is enough to make any goodhearted person cry, not to mention fill up the entire space currently devoted to the internet (more about this later). These are dark days for the AFC Championship game. The lesser of the two evils seem to be the Titans, who are not totally un-evil. If anyone in America is rooting for the Raiders, he/she is probably really, really drunk and wearing some kind of costume, which may or may not be purchased from The Cult Store on 10 Creepy Avenue on the south side of I'mtoodrunktoremember-ville.
About Bill Romanowski being an arsonist: Bill Romanowski likes to set fire to buildings, particularly if they house/serve a good purpose for small children. Okay, he's not really an arsonist. I really actually don't want to write down the things that Bill Romanowski has provably actually really done in real life and not in the made up accusatory pages of this newspaper, or in its online edition. It's a testament to something unholy that Bill Romanowski has not been deported. This is gnawing at our insides... Look, sometimes good things happen to bad people. Example: Bill Romanowski has been paid millions of non-counterfeit money to play football. We're grown-ups. Let's admit it happens. Now, let's pick that coin up and look at the other side. Occasionally, bad things happen to good people. Once, someone spat in J.J. Stokes' face simply because he was black. Once, someone broke Kerry Collins' jaw with a brutal helmet-to-helmet hit (while Collins was defenseless after following through on a pass) in a meaningless exhibition game. Once, someone's wife sold illegal diet pills, read dealt drugs, to nice people. Presumably, that someone countenanced and likely aided in his wife's actions. Here's the funny thing: BILL ROMANOWSKI DID ALL THESE THINGS. Bad things happen to great people, to good people, to OK people, and Bill Romanowski is there. He's the guy(1) behind the guy(2), the guy(2) in question being some rich fictionalization of Jack Tatum, Roger Clemens, Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs, John Rocker, John Wayne Gacy, and Bump Bailey (would that Romo would run into the wall at Conseco Field and die trying to save a child choking on a hot dog).
The Titans have a few things going for them, namely coach Jeff Fisher, who has refined his look from NASCAR hick with the mullet, adult entertainment industry-grade moustache, and Oakleys to a more Tennessee-moonshine-drinking-informed hillbilly beard of a look. He now looks like one of the Darians who would come down from the Greek mountains in the guise of a centaur and try to destroy Thessalonika, which is, of course, the Nashville of Greece. Fisher, in fact, may be rescuing the word "beard" from the realm of "women who accompany gay men to firm parties" and returning it to the realm of "things that can guarantee a seat at the Super Bowl all-you-can-eat jackhammer of a smorgasbord of money, honey, and some huge guy with a record as long as an arm named Bunny.
In the NFC, we have the Bucs to contend with. "No" Warren "Iraq" Sapp has started playing both sides of the ball, which is a nasty little euphemism. The Bucs occupy a circle of hell obviously some distance removed from the really nasty one where the guy's head is just sticking out of a bed of ice and Dante kicks him. But the point, if we may call it that, is that they occupy a circle in the Hell. As in the opposite of Heaven. They are after all pirates. Just like the Raiders, natch. (The Titans's nicknamed is actually shortened [like the Knicks for Knickerbocker] from Titan-sized Pirates). Jon Gruden is a workaholic. So was Jefferson Davis!
Warren Sapp is a pot-smoking jerk who enjoys paralyzing offensive linemen. Keyshawn Johnson is the least likeable Johnson on the Bucs, which is impressive, given the presence of Rob "I make more than your entire extended family ever will just for being better than Shaun King" J., and Brad "Most people with chronic back problems are likeable, friendly old people and not losers like me" J. On top of all that, the team is from Florida. The Florida.
All of which leaves us with the Eagles. They have Donovan McNabb, which makes them our favorite to win the Super Bowl. You should know that before we say what we are about to say. Just for your safety.
Duce Staley dropped the letter "e" on the sidewalk while he was going to the "I want to pretend to be good at running but actually be very fragile and probably an arsonist" store and filling his cart. The Eagles are from Philadelphia, which, as an institution, has done maybe three and a half things right ever in its existence since the American Revolution. They threw batteries at J.D. Drew. Check. Portions of Twelve Monkeys were filmed within the city limits. Check. They have Iverson. Check. And let's give them a half a point on charity for the Liberty Bell and the Penn Bowl. It would have been a full point if they hadn't cracked the silly thing. Let's be honest: not cracking a sturdy metal bell: a responsibility a child could fulfill.
*The concept of "Tennessee fans" is a purely hypothetical notion, much like the "quark" in physics. All the evidence points to the existence of Titans fans, yet we see none.