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Devon O’Neil: Feeling a little 1996 nostalgia for NFL playoffs

What a terrific postseason to be shopping for an NFL bandwagon to join. You’ve got the Patriots, of course, the 17-0 steamroller with its cool-as-a-cucumber QB Tom Brady; the Chargers, who started 1-3 and upset the defending world champions with a host of hungry backups Sunday afternoon; the Giants, who made T.O. cry; and then you’ve got the Packers.

There sure seems to be plenty of magic in Green Bay, Wis., these days. I can’t figure out if Brett Favre is more Johnny Unitas or Paul Bunyan. His legend grows every time he takes the field. Quite simply, he’s the most root-for-able athlete in professional sports.

Which brings us to championship weekend. I hope you haven’t been betting your money based on my picks the last two columns. If that’s the case, two cents might be all you’ve got left.

This week, however, I’m getting a whiff of nostalgia. Like, 1996 nostalgia, when Favre ran around the field grinning like a lottery winner as his Packers beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Not saying that’s how it’ll all end up this time around, but I do think we’ll see Green Bay and New England playing for it all.

Scores: Packers 22, Giants 18 (still don’t think Eli’s got what it takes to protect a victory); and Patriots 31, Chargers 30 (in a strange twist, Belichick smiles a lot at the post-game press conference). …

Love this name: Guy Whimper, a 6-foot-5, 302-pound offensive tackle for the New York Giants. …

Don’t know how this went overlooked in this column all season, but better late than never. Michael Crabtree, a 20-year-old redshirt freshman receiver for Texas Tech, put up some almost unbelievable numbers this year. In 12 games, he caught 134 passes for 1,962 yards and 22 touchdowns ” including 17 TD catches in his first six games. All of his season totals led the nation. …

Ever notice how the commonplace misbehavings of the modern pro athlete have spawned a new profession? You might call it “the rise of the legal sports reporter.” …

On that note, our Headline of the Week, from SI.com: “Virginia Tech RB Ore takes stand in crack trial.” (He wasn’t the one on trial, but still.) …

Alexander Ovechkin, the sensational young Russian left wing, signed a 13-year, $124 million contract extension with the Washington Capitals last week. Great move by the Caps, considering Ovechkin is a wunderkind, but I just don’t see why a player would do such a thing in the free agency era.

He’s obviously talented enough to never have to worry about money, so why commit to a franchise for such a long time when there’s no way of knowing whether that franchise will be a contender all those years? (The Caps, by the way, are currently 13th out of 15 teams in the Eastern Conference, which makes Ovechkin’s move akin to Carlos Beltran signing a 13-year deal with the Royals.) …

Bode Miller repeated his win on the Lauberhorn Downhill track Sunday, tying Phil Mahre’s record for the most World Cup wins (27) in U.S. history. Hypothetically speaking, do you think his on-snow success will be enough to upstage his off-snow ways 20 years down the road? I gotta think it will. …

Don’t overlook what Frisco’s Jake Fiala is doing on the World Cup circuit, either. It’s no longer the alpine tour, but Fiala fared quite well this weekend in a ski cross event in France, finishing ninth after qualifying third. He’s looking more and more like a serious threat to make the Olympics in 2010.

And lest we forget, he’s doing it 11 months after he broke his back. …

With regard to the Marion Jones case ” she was sentenced to six months in prison for lying to investigators about her performance-enhancing drug use ” among a number of pathetic pleas she made to avoid jail time, one stood out. She claimed she shouldn’t be sent to prison because she was still nursing one of her children.

Sort of gets at the root of it all, doesn’t it? If nothing else, it’ll make one hell of a lesson in consequences for the mother to teach her kids someday. …

In parting, our Quote of the Week comes from an AP story I read on a born-blind marathoner named Steve Gokey. The 55-year-old has run nearly two dozen marathons in the past 11 years. He trains on a treadmill. When asked why he does it, he said: “It never gets old. Finishing and the idea of finishing, and getting my medal and wearing my medal for a week, it never gets old.” Right on, dude.

” Breckenridge resident Devon O’Neil’s $0.02 column runs on Tuesdays. He can be reached at devononeil@hotmail.com.


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