Best sports stories seem to write themselves

Best sports stories seem to write themselves

With utmost respect to all distinguished sports writers past, present and future, this epistle falls under my acquired mantra: “The best stories aren’t written. They actually happen.”

That’s what I’ve learned from a decades-long career in journalism that — no lie — dates back to the sixth grade when I was sports editor of the Sixth Grade Gazette that was “printed” on the school’s lone mimeograph machine.

Thank you, Mrs. McCoppin, for the guidance and for the privilege of creating a publication that smelled like nothing else, especially when the paper was fresh off the mimeo and still a wee bit warm and moist. (Budding scribes these days have no idea what they’re missing.)

Not only do the best stories actually happen (they miraculously write themselves), they sometimes happen when few, if any, are watching. They sometimes happen long after the game clock itself has ticked down to nothing but zeroes.

So kudos to those who kept their eyes open and cameras recording after this past Sunday’s NFL playoff game between the Buccaneers and Saints. Hats off to those who captured one of the most poignant moments in the history of the league.

Back on the Superdome field in street clothes following what many presume to be the future Hall-of-Famer’s last game, quarterback Drew Brees put aside the sting and disappointment of defeat to embrace his wife and frolic with their children. That, in itself, was a sight to behold.

Then rival/friend Tom Brady ambled into the picture, putting his duffel bag down on the turf to shake the hand of his longtime, fierce competitor yet again. They smiled and exchanged hugs and pleasantries. Brady fist-pumped the youngsters and then floated a perfect spiral into the corner of the endzone to one of the kiddos, who rolled on the ground in celebration.

Moments later, Brady picked up his bag and casually strolled toward Lambeau Field, the Packers and another living legend: Aaron Rodgers. More toil on the tundra looms. And we wonder: What will the next postgame images be?

The story will write itself.

Rules, rules, rules

The fumble-through-the-end zone/touchback rule, it may have helped doom the Browns and receiver "Hollywood" Higgins in Sunday’s AFC divisional loss to the Chiefs — again is under heavy scrutiny. It’s a head-scratcher, for sure, labeled by many as “the dumbest rule in sports.”

Valid or not, it isn’t a rule that’s likely to be changed any time soon, if at all. Remember, this is the NFL, not NASCAR, which changes its rules almost as often as it waves the yellow caution flag for debris on the track.

The origin, the intent, of the NFL’s controversial fumble rule, seems to be the most disputed. Many say it’s a form of punishment to an offense simply trying to achieve the goal of scoring a touchdown. Why should possession of the ball change hands when it goes out of the end zone without being recovered by the defense?

Well, for one reason, the NFL apparently thinks of the end zone as hallowed ground, and that the rules are different whenever that patch of real estate comes into play.

One justification for the rule seems to be largely unmentioned: A player must be discouraged from intentionally fumbling the ball forward into and through the end zone, and doing so in such a fashion that the defense has no opportunity to recover the ball before it goes out of bounds. That logic kind of makes sense.

Yet make no mistake: Higgins wasn’t trying to fumble forward intentionally. He lost possession just inches shy of the goal line when he was pummeled — perhaps illegally — by a defender who led with his helmet.

By rule, they said, the play was not reviewable.

Another head-scratcher, for sure.

Two final thoughts

—If Urban Meyer wants to coach again, let him. It’s his choice, his health, his life and his career risk. Why all the fallout?

—Odell Beckham, Jr. once said he was unfairly targeted by the NFL when he was fined because his uniform pants didn’t cover his knees. Geez oh Pete, have you watched the games of late? Half the guys on the field look like they’re just out there mowin’ grass while kickin’ mass.

Looks to me like OBJ might have been right.

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