SPORTS FOCUS: Quick hitters—playoffs and more

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When I think of the NFL playoffs, I think about the Purple People Eaters, the No Name Defense, the Hogs and the Steel Curtain.

I don’t think about individual players. I think about the units (the defensive and offensive lines, the secondaries) that enabled the skill players to do what they do.

Take away the Hogs, and players like Joe Theisman, John Riggins and the Smurfs would not have three Super Bowls.

While most of the talk on sports shows centers on individual players, the game of football is an 11-on-11 game, not 1-on-11.

Which is why I like the dark-horse teams, the ones with no-name players with nothing to lose except their self-respect by not showing up and playing like they have everything to lose.

It’s great to have both Pennsylvania teams in the playoffs. In 2008, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia nearly played each other in the Super Bowl, but the Eagles lost to the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship.

It probably won’t happen this time around, either. Both have tough outs, with the Steelers playing on the road against two-time defending AFC champion Kansas City. Philadelphia faces defending Super Bowl winner Tampa Bay on the road.

If you’re not playing a home game in the playoffs, playing in Tampa isn’t a bad place to play. It won’t matter for the Eagles or the Steelers, who will have to win three road games to make it to the Super Bowl.

The College Football Championship between Alabama and Georgia might have resonated strongly with partisan followers of each team, the game failed to live up to what college football is all about.

Like it or not, major college football, with nearly 130 teams, is about all 130 teams, not just a few. The obsession over polls, individual awards and an expanded post-season tournament widens the gulf between the haves and the have nots.

It used to be that the goal of each team was to win its conference and play in an affiliated bowl game that served to showcase the accomplishment of winning that conference. A trip to the Rose Bowl was the zenith of a college football player’s season. Same with the Sugar Bowl and the Orange Bowl.

I doubt that the essence of the game will ever be restored. Rather, the rift that began with conference realignments and expansions will continue to foster the emergence of college football super-powers.

Nobody likes when politics interferes with amateur athletics. Such is the Winter Olympics. There’s much controversy about the games being played in China. But, no matter what, the attention of every American should be on the athletes themselves.

They are the ones who deserve our unconditional support. After all, they sacrificed four years of their lives preparing for a dream. Now that it’s time, it’s time to tune out the distractions and enjoy the amazing display of talent and dedication by the hundreds of athletes from all over the world.