"You can't script October"
So said the Fox Network in promoting the MLB playoffs—and the statement is no less true three months later, here in a January that's been overrun by underdogs. It started with Florida in the BCS National Championship game, and the upset party hasn't stopped since.
Don't believe me?
Just as the Hokies, the Colts, the Saints, and the Patriots.
Virginia Tech Hokies
Chris Leak and friends are no doubt still picking the Buckeye out of their teeth...but their colleagues on the hardwood are gearing up for a title fight in the ACC. Virginia Tech, hardly known as a hoops powerhouse, has shocked both Duke and North Carolina this month, thereby earning a spot in the AP Top 25. Although most experts have the Devils and the Heels pegged to duke it out (pun alert) in March, the boys from Blacksburg seem to have other plans in mind. And who knows—maybe the ol' Fairy Godmother will let Cinderella stay out past midnight for once.
Peyton Manning has done it all in his NFL career...except, you know, the one thing. The one thing Tom Brady has done several times. The one thing Kurt Warner did after he spent three years bagging groceries. The one thing Ben Roethlisberger did last January—in his second pro season, no less. After a win against the vaunted Ravens defense in Baltimore last weekend, Peyton's got to be thinking that 2007 might finally be his year...but he's still got the Patriots to deal with, who have a long history of sending Indy home for the winter. Look for another epic Manning-Brady showdown this Sunday as the Colts try to finally get that damned monkey off their backs.
New Orleans Saints
A year ago, the Saints were homeless. They were also 3-13, smack at the bottom of the NFC South. Enter Sean Payton. Enter Drew Brees. Enter Reggie Bush. Enter a refurbished Superdome, and a resilient New Orleans fan base. The improbable result: a winning record, a division title, and a trip to the NFC Championship Game against the Chicago Bears. What a difference a year makes. A few more wins and the Saints might just stake a claim to the title of Best Underdogs Ever.
New England Patriots
It's pretty much the law these days: You can't write a sports column without at least mentioning the Pats. Think Tom Brady is ticked off about Michigan losing a shot at the national championship? Given the way he's been playing lately, you don't want to be on his bad side. And who better to pull off a great underdog story than the man who won the Super Bowl in his first season as a starter? Philip Rivers and LaDainian Tomlinson learned that the hard way in San Diego last weekend, where the Superchargers faltered on what was supposed to be an easy run into Miami. Which kinda makes you wonder: How do the Chargers keep clinching playoff berths if they can't win when it counts? (Sound familiar, Peyton?)
Of course, the best thing about underdogs is that you never know what they're gonna do next—which means that we've got plenty of questions to answer before the end of the month. Will the Hokies keep knocking off the heavies in the ACC, or will the odds finally catch up with them? Will the Saints march into Miami, or does the national goodwill tour end in Chicago? Will the Colts break the Brady curse, or will the Patriots remind everyone why they've got three championship rings? And, most importantly of all—
Who's bringing the beer to this year's Super Bowl Party???
Come on, right?:
Priorities are priorities.