BY MIKE FEIFEL
The end of the baseball and beginning of NFL seasons have been remarkable, and sometimes, not for the best reasons.
Rather than beating the negatives like the 'replacement referee' debacle to do death, I would like to focus on a couple of people – a pair of innovators – that really are the ones responsible for this excitement.
The two are Steve Sabol and, yes – dare I say Bud Selig.
The passing of Sabol a little over a week ago received some notice but it was not the homage I feel he deserves. In a way, Monday night's game that resulted in the Packers-Seahawks controversy was a fitting tribute to the man behind NFL Films.
I believe I can pinpoint this man as the reason I love football so much and continue to make the game a part of my life, long after I stopped playing, as a coach.
Cable television was not as readily available as it is today and if it was, ESPN still had not aired. That left the fan of an out market team with little chance of seeing their team play. They had to play the Eagles or, if it was a good weather day, the Giants to watch their games.
In most cases, fans had to wait until halftime of the Monday Night Football contest to see if your team would be blessed with Howard Cosell's overdub. A few days after that, you may be able to see select highlights on NFL Films "This week in Pro Football" or if you were really lucky, your team would be featured in the "Game of the Week".
That was the treat. Sabol and NFL films wanted to bring a cinematic quality to the game that was second to none. With all of the film angles and the resonant voices of John Facenda and Harry Kalas, even the most ordinary game became an epic struggle for survival.
Such was the case Monday night as Seattle's 'hail mary' pass floated through the air and into the hands of – well, that is left for debate.
The top view, the side view, the back view, along with a view from the front; every possible angle has been dissected and analyzed by nearly everyone across the country from the water cooler to the TV studio.
It has been replayed over and over on our droids, IPads, and all other personal media devices all across the country. Access to NFL moving images has never been greater. As the controversy swirled around all of those different angles of the fated final play, we can thank one visionary for seeing long ago what the NFL could be. Thank you, Steve Sabol.
It is hard for me to say 'visionary' and Bud Selig in the same sentence. I do not like his leadership and pray for the day the steps down as the commissioner of Major League Baseball.
With that, the man surprised me as the season started. He did something that was very unpopular and controversial – he added a playoff team. I still feel in the minority when it comes to liking the addition. But let me tell you why I do.
Adding the one-game wild-card playoff has done a number of great things for the game.
In addition to adding an annual "sudden death" quality to the baseball postseason, it eliminates any advantage a wild card team would have over a division winner by throwing a curveball to their post-season rotation. No longer will the wild card team, that starts out with two home games, have the advantage over a division winner.
Second, and more importantly, it increased the number of teams still in the playoff hunt. With a little over a week to go there are five teams in each league that are still vying for playoff spots, including the Phillies.
Although the Phillies may not make it, this point is key. With more teams in the race, there are fewer sellers in late July and August. Therefore, the weaker teams still keep their better players rather than dealing them to the good teams. Parity achieved!
This means Selig's controversial addition has allowed the Phillies, as we know them, to stay intact. It is a nice springboard to the future with a solid core. Thank you, Bud!
It is time now to sit back, watch the leaves fall, the NFL kick into high gear, and watch the fall classic in all of its glory.