Wednesday, September 19, 2018

2006 Playoff Musings

by G'Bre (writer), Pico-Union, Los Angeles, January 19, 2007

So, the best final four in sports is set to play on Sunday, with the familiar, if unexpected this year, match-up between Peyton's Colts and Brady's Pats in the AFC Championship, and the never, ever ex

The playoffs have been a hell of a ride so far, but for me a cloud has hovered over them. This cloud descended on the day after the regular season ended.

December 31st, 2006- The last day of the regular season. The Denver Broncos need to win in order to be in the playoffs. They're playing the imminently beatable San Francisco 49ers and they're playing them on their home field, so things look good for the home team. Unfortunately for Denver, the 49ers don't cooperate with their plans and beat the Broncos in overtime. It was the last day of 2006, and of the 2006 regular season and now it was the last day of the Broncos season as well. What no one knew was that this would also be the last day of Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams' life.

January 1, 2007- The reports came in as the New Year began. Darrent Williams was shot in the limo that he and friends had rented. He died instantly from a neck wound and fell into the lap of teammate Javon Walker. The team that thought that they knew despair the day before when they lost the chance to pursue their Superbowl aspirations was introduced to true despair when they lost the chance to do anything again with one of the most popular and most promising players in their locker room. The Broncos would not take the journey into the playoffs, and now the Broncos couldn't care less.

Januray 2-5, 2007- The Patriots, Jets, Chiefs, Colts, Cowboys, Seahawks, Eagles and Giants prepare to face off while the Bears, Saints, Chargers and Ravens enjoy a week off as their reward for being the really good teams during the regular season. As those team's coaches and players field questions about their upcoming match-ups and hopes to go all the way to Miami, the Broncos players and head coach Mike Shanahan talk about the player, man and friend that they knew and that they lost. The team invited Darrent's family in on Wednesday to share their memories and love for him with them. For most of us, Wildcard Weekend would mean the beginning of the most exciting month of football. Wildcard Weekend for the Broncos would mean a flight to Fort Worth, Texas to bury their teammate.

January 6-7, 2007- Wildcard Weekend is here. While the Colt's horrible run defense wakes up on Saturday and decides that they'll shut down Larry Johnson, the second leading rusher in the league, the highlight of Saturday's games goes down in Seattle. The location seemed to be the only advantage for the Seahawks. Both teams came in with a limp 9-7 record, but the Seahawks were limping so bad that they signed an insurance adjuster off of the street to play cornerback in the week leading up to a game where they were set to face the explosive (in many ways) Terrell Owens and the underrated Terry Glenn at receiver. Add super-hyped Tony Romo to the mix and the Seahawks looked to be in big, big trouble. Cowboy domination never occurred as the game went back and forth until the end, when the Cowboys were all set for a last second, game-winning field goal. There was just one lil' problem, Tony Romo couldn't hold the snap and couldn't run the ball in once the play broke down. The Seahawks won by one point and moved on by the hairs on their chinny-chin-chins (if Seahawks have hair on their chins).

Sundays highlight game was again the second one of the day, as Bill Belichick and his Patriots dispatched his protege Eric Mangini and the Jets in the early game. The late match-up was an NFC East battle between the hot-Eagles (winners of 6 straight) and the not-Giants (losers of 6 of their last 8). The hot team won, but just barely, making the last second field goal that the Cowboys couldn't execute the day before. The Eagles went on to finish filing out the divisional playoff slate and the Giants started cleaning out their lockers. The Broncos were busy too, adding an $100,000 bonus to the reward for info leading to the capture of their teammate's killer.

January 13-14, 2007- The best weekend in football began with the Indianapolis Colts going to their birthplace in Baltimore that they abandoned over two decades ago to face a rabid and angry crowd, and more importantly, the best defense in the NFL. Baltimore's "new team's" defense didn't disappoint, as the Ravens held Manning and co. to 15 points, all off of kicker Adam Vinatieri's foot. The Colts defense just happened to be even better, holding the Ravens to an anemic 6 points. The Colts were on to the AFC Championship to face the winner of Sunday's New England- San Diego contest.

Circumstances favored the Chargers: they were 14-2, had won 10 in a row and had the advantage of the bye week while the Pats had to travel cross country the week after slugging it out with the Jets. The Patriots had the advantage of history: Belichick and Brady were 11-1 in playoff games together, while the opposing coach, Marty Schottenheimer was 5-12 in playoff games, with a five game playoff losing streak. History beat circumstance, with an assist from Martyball. Schottenheimer made costly decisions, going for it on fourth down early in the first quarter when he could have used his pro bowl kicker to make a field goal. In the fourth quarter he wasted a time-out by challenging a call that clearly would not be overturned. The Chargers could have used that lost time out to get the team further down the field to be closer then 54 yards away for a last second field goal (that they missed). The first quarter field goal that Marty passed on ended up being the three point margin of defeat. The Pats said "thank you!" to Marty, danced on the Chargers lightning bolt logo and made reservations for Indy.

The first NFC ticket was punched on Saturday night in New Orleans. In a city still ravaged by the emergency un-prepardness of the Federal government and in a stadium that was seen by the world for all the wrong reasons during the aftermath of Katrina, the Saints and Eagles battled for that first ticket. Just like it did in a close regular season contest between the teams, the game ended with a score of 27-24 with Deuce McCallister putting on a sensational performance to lead the Saints to the first NFC Championship game in franchise history. Sunday's other NFC playoff game ended with the same 27-24 score, but it took overtime for Sexy Rexy Grossman to shut up his critics and take the Bears past the again "overmatched" Seahawks. The Bears made just enough plays to not have to go home. Now they stay at home, to play another day.

So that's how we got to Championship Sunday and the match-ups of the Bears vs. the Saints and the Colts vs. the Patriots. The 21st Century Monsters of the Midway vs. the team of Destiny in the NFC followed by the best current rivalry in the NFL going at it again for a shot at the ultimate prize in the AFC. In the week leading up to the games every angle of the match-ups have been analyzed and each potential Superbowl pairing has been anticipated. There's the chance for two Black head coaches to walk the sidelines for the first time in the big game if the Bears and Colts make it. If the Colts make it, and face the Saints, Peyton Manning will face his hometown team and the one that his father played for. Then there's the opportunity for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick's Patriots to solidify their standing as the next great NFL dynasty with a fourth Superbowl victory. The game's look well matched and I can't wait to grab some snacks and head to the nearest friend's house with HDTV to see what enfolds. Before I do though, I suspect that my thoughts will drift one more time to somebody that I only saw once in an interview, representing a team that I despise. Watching that interview, I couldn't despise Darrent Williams though; his enthusiasm for the sport that he played and for life itself was so clear that it jumped out of the screen and made me a fan. I tried to find out when his contract was up, so that I knew when the Raiders would have their first shot at making him ours. Then, just like that he was gone, the way so many Black youths have gone before him, and will go after him.

Darrent Williams wanted to work to help kids find alternatives to violence back home in Texas, but never had the chance. He wanted to give his two children a great life, a life that would have been assured by the rich contract extension that was coming to him in the years to come; a contract that he'll never get to sign. The Broncos and NFL Players Association have set up funds to take care of his children’s future educational expenses, and William's family intends to honor Darrent's memory by doing the youth work that he never got to do, but none of them can do what they all want to do most, bring back a life that never got to flower into it's prime.

We can honor Darrent some by enjoying the game that he loved so much this Sunday, but we can honor him so much more by finding a way, some small way, to make this world a little less violent so that one more mother gets to enjoy her son's adulthood, one more child gets to grow with a daddy in his life, and so that a football team's "despair" remains limited to losses on the field.

About the Writer

G'Bre is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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