I don't just follow the American code of football in the States. I follow it in places beyond North America that embrace this game. I have a precept in my family: if more countries around the world participate in the development of American football, I'm gonna be dying man when I'm in my 80's (if I get that far).
One of those countries is Japan. And a team that I am mystified by is a semi-professional side called the Panasonic Electric Works Impulse. They are a corporate-sponsored team hailing from Osaka (the home of Panasonic), and they compete in the Japan X-League, their equivalent to the NFL here in the US.
One of the interesting wrinkles to the postseason is the fact that not only are there collegiate and professional championships, but there is a championship that pits the best of these two together.
On Saturday, January 3, the Impulse, who are based in Tokyo, will be taking on the Panthers of Ritsumeikan University, from Kyoto, in the Rice Bowl.
That's the name of the game. The Rice Bowl. No joke, either.
Another bit of trivia: the Impulse are the defending Rice Bowl champions (as the Matsushita Denko Impulse), defeating Kwansei Gakuin University, 52-38.
As the Impulse prepare for the last game of their season, I ask myself this question: Could they beat the Detroit Lions?
It is a question that some will laugh at, and others will look with an expression that reads, "Do you have any clue what you are talking about?"
And I respond, "Yes, I do." The Lions this season are winless at 0-16, while the Impulse are 7-1. Sure, the Impulse have played half as many games as the Lions, but they have been impressive in the limited action they have had.
On average, their victories have been by about 45 points. The Lions have averaged only 15.4 pts. per game in their defeats, while the Impulse have averaged 41.9 points per game. The Detroit defense has only given up 30.4 points per game, but the Impulse aren't expected to have any difficulties scoring if the two teams faced each other.
The Impulse has players like RB Masahiro Ishino, and they have an athletic quarterback in Tetsuo Takata. They were both instrumental in their 28-14 victory over the Kajima Deers in the 2008 Japan X Bowl on December 13. Even the likes of Takata would give Dan Orlovsky a run for his money. Ishino and Takata also compete on Japan's national team, which lost to the USA last year at the IFAF World Cup.
Of course, it's a given that an absolute majority will say, "This is a game that Detroit can ACTUALLY win. Correction: it's not gonna be close. It's a farce that will deliver the same type of dominance they had in the preseason, where they were perfect."
But I'm a skeptic by nature, and while an exhibition between the Impulse and the Lions is a pie-in-the-sky afterthought, fans might actually be surprised, if not shocked, by the outcome.
We may never know, if ever. But it's something for football fans to think about. It's something to chew on, aside from the off-season post-mortems that ponder what could have been for the first-ever 0-16 team in NFL history.
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