Scooter Hobbs column: Can’t help but watch a train wreck

Published 9:17 am Thursday, January 19, 2023

By Scooter Hobbs

No, it doesn’t mean the NFL is rigged. It just looks like it sometimes.

See, that was already quite a wild-card weekend the league cobbled together, yet they’d upped the ante with its first “Monday Night Football” playoff game.

Sometimes it does seem the NFL doesn’t like to leave much to chance.

Fade back to Monday morning.

So I imagine the suits behind the scenes were sitting around the NFL, Inc., offices trying to come up with a plan that would make it worth giving the 49ers two extra days rest over the Dallas-Tampa Bay winner when the festival resumes this weekend.

Maybe there was a lull in the discussion on the morning before the Bucs-Cowboys …

I’ve got an idea.

Let’s make the extra point interesting again.

The who?

The extra point. You know, that formality we do after touchdowns.

We already pushed it back to field-goal range. You know they miss them occasionally now.

Occasionally, yes. Still not exactly “man bites cat.”

Dog. You mean man bites dog — D-O-G.

Whatever. Not exactly riveting TV.

We already gave the viewers a 27-point collapse — and it didn’t involve the Falcons.

Chargers. Same thing, right?

Maybe we should focus on the positive, the upstarts, the Jaguars, and sell that one as 27-point miracle comeback.

No, no. People like failure. They can relate it to their own lives.

Such as?

Here’s something. How about let’s make Tom Brady look human — better yet, make him look like a 45-year-old humanoid?

It’s been done. Only works for three and half quarters, then the Fountain of Youth kicks in and it’s SOB — Same Ol’ Brady.

But the extra-point thingie, Still think that one has promise.

Whatever. Go with it. But there still needs to be a Brady angle.

Now fade back to reality.

Brett Mahler, the Dallas kicker, became national hero, of sorts, or at least one we can all identify with.

A highly trained, well-paid professional in his craft, he looked more like he was kicking at halftime of a high school game with a chance to win a month’s worth of free pizza.

He missed the Cowboys’ first extra point. OK, it happens.

Then he missed the second one. Not blocked. Just missed. Shanked. With a perfect hold.

Two in a row.

Elias, the sports stats conglomerate, was put on high alert.

Meanwhile, Brady himself looked like somebody who’d been brought up off the practice squad. As soon as Tampa Bay finally threatened, ESPN mentioned that Brady had not thrown an interception in the red zone in something like his last 410 attempts. And that’s where the steak ended, with a pick in the end zone.

Then the Cowboys scored again and — you already guessed it didn’t you? — yet another flubbed extra point, this time overcompensated for with a duck hook.

It was all harmless fun. No real effect on the game.

With Brady playing and looking his age, there wasn’t much reason to watch the second half.

But I hung around. By then I’m just there for the extra points. Morbid curiosity, I guess they call it.

Mainly, I was wondering if the Cowboys and their kicker might milk this gag too far.

And danged if the Cowboys didn’t score yet a fourth touchdown early in the third quarter and … doink! — right on cue, right off the crossbar.

Four tries, four in a row missed.

Elias had likely short-circuited its computer banks trying to find three in a row — it had to go back to 1950, back when offensive linemen doubled as kickers for that — and shortly afterwards declared Mahler’s 0-for-4 collar as an NFL first — regular season, postseason, anytime.

Brilliant entertainment. Must-see TV.

And Brady was suddenly aging, getting older by the minute.

So now this show heads to San Francisco and a date with the 49ers.

The Cowboys’ Jerry Jones might just promote himself to owner/general manager/placekicker.

— Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at scooter.hobbs@americanpress.com