NFL, you've got my interest
Justin Schuver, Sports Editor
I'll admit it. I'm not the biggest fan of professional football. I also really really like ice hockey. I am like the anti-Joe American-Sports-Fan.
The NFL, outside of the Atlanta Falcons bandwagon that I will jump on from time to time, has never really held much interest to me. I much prefer watching the college game with its pageantry and emotion.
I'll watch the Super Bowl, of course, simply because it's an American institution. But I'm not very likely to watch either of the conference championships, unless the aforementioned Falcons are participating.
At least, that was the case. This year is totally different. I can't remember a season in which any league, let alone the NFL, had two more-compelling matchups for its conference championships. The subplots and stories are immense.
Let's look a little closer at them, and why I will be watching this weekend.
First, in the NFC Championship you've got the Bears and the Saints.
In Chicago, you have a team that is trying to return to its glory years and in New Orleans you've got your old-fashioned Cinderella.
You've got a pair of young hotshot coaches locking horns in Chicago's Lovie Smith and New Orleans' Sean Payton – Smith won the Coach of the Year award in 2006 and Payton won it this year.
You've got two teams with worth-the-price-of-admission players in Chicago return specialist Devin Hester and New Orleans' Reggie Bush. You've got two fanbases that would put some college partisans to shame- a devoted group in Chicago that has been waiting for a winner since Ditka left and a group in New Orleans that is more used to thinking about the No. 1 draft pick rather than bye weeks this time of year.
And I haven't even gotten into the entire Hurricane Katrina angle, with the New Orleans Saints taking the mantle of an entire city and geographic region still trying to bounce back from that natural disaster. Speaking of nature, it will be interesting to see how a dome team like New Orleans will deal with the harsh Chicago weather.
If none of that interests you, then you can always just check in to see if and/or how Bears quarterback Rex Grossman screws up.
The AFC Championship isn't lacking on hype, either.
You've got the Indianapolis Colts, who have become the new Buffalo Bills of the NFL, the team that is always a bridesmaid but never a bride. Then you've got the New England Patriots, who have only won three of the last five Super Bowls and treat the postseason as if they own it.
You've got a pair of grizzled veteran coaches in Indy's Tony Dungy and New England's Bill Belichick. Combined, the two have 22 years of head coaching experience in the NFL.
You've got the best two quarterbacks in the NFL in New England's Tom Brady and Indy's Peyton Manning. They've both got the talent and the marketability to be the face of the NFL, but Brady has three Super Bowl rings (and a 12-1 record as a starter in the playoffs) and Manning has the label of "choker" (a 5-6 record in the playoffs will do that). Oh yeah, and Brady's Patriots are 6-2 against Manning's Colts.
The coaches and the quarterbacks are the two main stories, but you've also got some other interesting subplots. Imagine Indianapolis kicker Adam Vinatieri kicking a last-second field goal to win a game against his old team?
I've always liked Manning, and I always like cheering for an underdog like the Saints, so I'm hoping for a New Orleans-Indianapolis Super Bowl. But regardless of who makes it to the big game this year, there will be two great conference championships this weekend. And for the first time in a long while, I will be watching.