By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) The wait ended up being worth it, after all.
We knew it would be a week, after learning of the tantalizing matchups for the rare NFL semifinal Sunday: no weakling merely taking advantage of some quirk of scheduling or seeding, no unlikely appearance from an interloper after some kind of questionable outcome. Four teams, all real, all really good, and with storylines out the wazoo.
This was the kind of hurry-home-and-turn-it-on television appointment so rare in our time-shifted era. It involved constant watch-checking as a 12:40 p.m. youth hockey game wound down, the fastest removal of goalie equipment ever recorded, and a grudging few minutes of flip-backs to the Blackhawks-Bruins shootout before it was time to savor the day that many of us prefer easily to the usual Super Bowl.
And the first three hours had me hoping for more snow just so I could do something thrilling, like shovel my front porch again.
The opener for our anticipated feast was a dog, let’s be honest.
I’m a Peyton Manning fan, but his typically-precise performance was efficient enough to be boring, even up against the latest, best designs of nemesis Bill Belichick. The silly, presumptuous questioning of Manning’s career validation now resets and carries over for another two weeks, as passing this version of immortality’s litmus test will be conveniently ignored by those determined to make fools of themselves.
Tom Brady had nobody helping him stress the defense. One of the pair of dynamic, playmaking tight ends is injured, and the other seems to be facing a new murder charge every day, tied to some unsolved case. I won’t be surprised if Aaron Hernandez ends up placed on the grassy knoll in Dallas. Or somehow exonerating OJ.
For pure entertainment, those watching in our house may remember most the play of Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton. And by “play,” of course, I mean “prominently-displayed butt-cleavage.” Granted those on this couch are either nine-year-old boys or their rough intellectual equivalents, but for a split second I wondered how and why Aretha Franklin had become stuck in that poor man’s pants.
Thankfully, redemption arrived shortly thereafter, in the form of 49ers-Seahawks. Exuberant, violent, messy and expressive, the NFC title game more than saved the day.
That’s the real stuff for those who care to confront what the NFL product really is, and it had all of it.
Anybody complaining about the flags wasn’t paying attention to what caused them. Over-officious calls these were not, instead the result of punishing play from both two teams out to get after one another, playing to the echo of every whistle, forcing some of us to flip pages in the rule book to remember the exact definition of defenseless player after whatever next targeted attack.
It was laid out this afternoon for us: the technical brilliance of an all-time great quarterback still at the top of his game in carving up a storied opponent, or two teams led by less polished athletes, but who just can’t wait to beat the holy hell out of each other for our amusement.
The difference was audible, with our table-setter’s soundtrack the amplified, arcane Manning. “Omaha! Set hut!” “Hurry Hurry!” “He’s the Mike!”
The NFC game was the glorious crunch of humanoid beasts — particularly the Seattle secondary and the San Francisco linebackers – amid frenzied fans starved for a title. And the injury to NaVorro Bowman recalled a sound I heard in my own knee twelve years ago, only without the spectacular athletic accomplishment and the subsequent screwing from the refs and bad replay rules.
A nice, perfunctory affair gave way to the nasty crackle of something mean and loud. Even after the game had ended, when Richard Sherman terrified Erin Andrews by channeling Clubber Lang.
All that’s left, now, are the two top seeds.
I have little tolerance for outsized Super Bowl hype, with broken-down old quarterbacks hawking tumescent drugs, harried publicists stalking the sad denizens of radio row to pitch c-list action-movie co-stars, and grandstanding cretins using “Media Day” to present non-sequiturs to bench players. It’s never worth it.
But after a day that didn’t quite live up to expectations, the thought of Broncos-Seahawks has me hungry all over again.
Dan Bernstein joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995, and has been the co-host of Boers and Bernstein since 1999. Read more of Bernstein’s columns, or follow him on Twitter: @dan_bernstein.The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM (or you can listen online).
Listen to The Boers and Bernstein Show podcasts »