ESPN's "Monday Night Football" broadcasts (just as they did when they were shown on ABC) usually turn out to be one of two things: a blowout or a sleep aid...and unless you're a fan of one of the teams involved in a blowout, they're often both. The latest matchup, before it began, appeared to be an exemplary case for more of the same, pitting the seemingly unstoppable New England Patriots, deep into a quest to become the second team in NFL history to go undefeated in a season, against the Baltimore Ravens, well out of the playoff race and losers of their previous five contests.
Lo and behold, the lowly Ravens didn't just "hang in there" against the Pats, they played like the better team for the majority of the game, controlling it on both sides of the ball and putting themselves in an excellent position to pull off an inconceivable upset...until the final minutes, when a freaking cartoon broke loose. Multiple botched chances by the Ravens to win simply by converting late in the fourth quarter...the Patriots getting do-overs on would-be game-losing failed fourth-down attempts--one of which came courtesy of a Baltimore timeout...Tom Brady being his ridiculously calm-under-pressure and handsome self all the way to a review-inducing touchdown with 44 seconds left to play...bizarre penalties from the Ravens that they're going to be kicking themselves about for a while because--even with the yardage it cost them at the start of their final possession--they came three yards short of winning the game on the very last play with a Hail Mary pass (y'know...like in Tecmo Bowl)...it was madness on a level one would not believe if it were scripted. End result? Patriots won, 27-24. And I didn't even mention the part where Ravens head coach Brian Billick blew angry kisses at Patriots safety Rodney Harrison.
As a Patriots fan (a real fan, for the record--one who still bears (pun accepted) the emotional scars of winning his third grade class' "Squish the Fish" (re: Dolphins, in the AFC championship) picture-drawing contest only to see his team be humiliated in their first-ever Super Bowl by these jackasses), I'm obviously happy with the outcome. But even if you're one of the rapidly-growing number who hate the still-perfect dominant force from Foxboro, I've got to believe that every football fan--every sports fan, even--is at least a little bit happy to have seen that, in these days of ever-compromised and disappointing professional sports, a game as dramatic and unpredictable as Monday night's can still take place.
(Ravens fans probably aren't feeling that way right now, though. They're probably going to be pissed for a while.)
UPDATE: I have no qualms whatsoever about saying I told you so, ESPN.