Sunday, January 10, 2016

Composure In the Clutch

LB Vontaze Burfict (r) prepares to cheap shot Steelers' WR Antonio Brown
It's a balmy 63 degrees outside here in Hamilton, New Jersey today, with the occasional gust of wind and glimpses of the sun peeking through the overcast clouds - perfect January football weather on the east coast for the Redskins-Packers playoff game today at 4:40pm in Landover, Maryland - which I'm preparing to go watch (on TV).

Have I mentioned that I'm die-hard Washington fan? I think I have.

Well I am.

Anyway, no politics today.

It's nice to have all the windows wide open to let some fresh air into the apartment for a change after a pretty chilly week - it was mighty chilly in Cincinnati last night too, and I'm not talking about the weather.

The 2nd half of the AFC playoff game between the Steelers and the Bengals at times seemed more like a blood feud than a professional football game as two division rivals with absolutely no lost love between them slugged it out in a light rain for the chance to face the Denver Broncos in the next round.

After a low-scoring first half, the Steelers took a shaky 15-0 lead into the 3rd quarter when the Bengals found offensive life and came back to take the lead 16-15 late in the 4th quarter with the help of what I felt was some pretty crappy officiating - there was a stretch where the refs threw about five to six straight flags against Pittsburgh on some really sketchy calls.

Far be it from me to accuse the refs of doing everything in their power to keep a nationally televised football game interesting, but it seemed as if they were doing everything they could to help the Bengals stay in the game.

But ironically it would be two penalties thrown on the same play against the Bengals that would turn the tide back for Pittsburgh.

The flagrantly illegal hit that Bengal's linebacker Vontaze Burfict (#55) laid onto the helmet of Steeler's wide receiver Antonio Brown (#84) with under two minutes to play in the 4th quarter was about as blatant a cheap shot as I've seen - and I played Division I football at Penn State for five years and two and half years in the NFL.

Antonio Brown after the Burfict cheap shot
Brown was streaking across the middle of the field going after a totally uncatchable ball that would have been an incompletion for Pittsburgh and left them stranded at least 14 yards out of field goal range.

But with the game all but won for Cincinnati, Burfict lost his cool, lowered his shoulder and purposefully laid it right into the side of Brown's helmet - it wasn't helmet-to-helmet contact which is expressly forbidden, but it was blatant as the play was already over.

Brown suffered a concussion on the play.

The hit earned Burfict a personal foul (15 yard penalty, automatic first down) and then to cap it off Bengals defensive back Adam "Pacman"Jones (he of the troubled NFL behavioral history...) earned another 15 yard penalty on top of that after a brief melee broke out on the field and Jones lost his cool with Steelers outside linebacker coach Joey Porter who was on the field to check on Antonio Brown.

The two penalties resulting from the Bengals meltdown put Pittsburgh in field goal range and Chris Boswell booted a 35-yard field goal to seal it 18-16 Pittsburgh.

If you watch the games today or go online, there's some debate about whether Burfict's hit on Brown was a penalty, but it was and Burfict is facing a possible suspension and fines.

I got pretty fired up watching the game and I'm not even a Pittsburgh fan, but it did get me even more excited for the Redskins game today.

Football offers valuable lessons for life and I think this game, especially Burfict's hit on Brown are an example of the consequences of loosing your cool and forgetting your composure in a crucial situation.

For young athletes male and female, it's a teachable moment  no matter what sport they may play - loose your composure on the field, on the court or on the ice and it's going to cost the team.

And may cost you the game, an injury, your reputation - or more.

You gotta have composure in the clutch.

Well I just wanted to vent about that. I've got playoff football coming up shortly and the National Championship game between Alabama and Clemson tomorrow night at 8:30am so I must be off.

Whatever happens today I promise to stay composed.

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