The Wise Guy: Why the CHANT determines the CHAMP

If art imitates life, the world of sport is the ultimate canvas.  Movies, television, and even music teach us the one undeniable truth about winning the big game: it cannot be done without an inspiring pep talk.

Ever since those iconic words, “win one for the Gipper,” were uttered by Ronald Reagan on his deathbed in the 1940 Knute Rockne classic , the entertainment world has been going to the well over and over and over (and over) again to show us that athletic events are won solely on the basis of heart.  There’s no way those ragtag misfits and ex-cons, who were built to lose so their owner can move the team to Florida, take the American League pennant without the inspiration of Coach Lou Brown.  And you’re telling me the Average Joes take down Globogym without Vince Vaughn’s speech before the final match? No way.

Now you might be saying to yourself, “those examples are completely unrealistic.  Professional athletes succeed on the basis of talent, practice, and strategy.”  But you’d be wrong.  Exhibit A, The Blind Side, the 100% accurate biography of Michael Oher, the starting left tackle for the Baltimore Ravens.  Were it not for Sandra Bullock’s ability to connect the dots that QB = family, Joe Flacco’s blide side, well let’s just say it would not be very well protected.

Based on my completely unscientific analysis, I have determined the eight remaining teams in the NFL playoffs are there solely on the basis of either their rituals, their fans, or, even their scoreboard department’s ability to motivate.  What’s more, I believe I can predict the outcomes for the rest of the playoffs based solely on the quality of those teams’ motivational abilities .

Super Bowl Champ: New Orleans Saints

Team chants are a well-worn pregame routine, but they have never been performed with the combination of passion and precision as done by this years’ Saints, led by the quarterback (the quarterback!), Drew Brees.  Not since  James Vanderbeek’s famed Johnny Mox in Varsity Blues has a team been so inspired by the exultations of its QB.  Brees’ devotion is so great that he embedded himself with the U.S. Marines in Guantanamo Bay, just to emerge with a secret chant that would take his team to the Super Bowl this year. It’s hard to believe these guys didn’t go undefeated.



Super Bowl Runner-Up: Baltimore Ravens

Ray Lewis practically invented the modern pregame chant and still maintains the intensity of a 23 year old at the ripe old age of 34.  I mean, seriously, what is this guy taking? (Actually, don’t answer that.)  I predict a great Super Bowl based on how evenly these chants stack up, but it’s a passing league now, so the Saints edge one out in a squeaker.



NFC Championship Runner-Up: Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys are the hottest team in the NFL right now, led by the emergence of its secret weapon, Keith Brooking.  While Donovan McNabb was showing off his me-first attitude by air-guitaring through the entrance to Cowboy stadium, Brooking, a 12-year veteran at Inside Linebacker, unified his team to greatness.  If the Cowboys do make it to the Super Bowl against the Ravens, it would set up the greatest duel of aging veterans since Balboa and Creed in the old gym at the end of Rocky III (ding ding).  But I just don’t see how this guy can keep that level of intensity up for three straight weeks.



AFC Championship Runner-Up: New York Jets

The Jets are our first team to make it to the Championship game solely on the basis of its fans.  Not since the days of Ken O’Brien has Fireman Ed been this focused on firing up the team with his famed J-E-T-S, Jets Jets Jets! chant.  Though the Jets are on the road this week, you can take it to the bank that Fireman Ed will be in San Diego to give a rousing locker room speech.  You’re telling me Fireman Ed didn’t have an effect last week on Mark Sanchize, whose dad so happens to be a fireman?


NFC Divisional Losers: Minnesota Vikings

So disappointing.  Such a promising season, such a legendary, and stylish! quarterback, such a seemingly complete team.  But there’s a reason Minnesota has been called the land of 10,000 runner-ups (see Mondale, Walter; Humphrey, Hubert, ’69, ’73, ’74, ’76 Vikings).  Supposedly the Vikings perform some type of war dance before its games, but I could find no evidence of such.  Even if the Vikings did utilize some type of team-building, this monstrosity, which is played on the Vikings Jumbotron before games, is the biggest buzzkill I’ve ever seen.  How is a flying ship set to music that was probably stolen from some sort of S&M porn supposed to motivate a team to greatness?  There’s one thing and one thing only that can save the Vikings’ season….wait for it….Jesse Ventura.



NFC Divisional Losers: Arizona Cardinals

At first glance, you figured the Cardinals would be a shoe-in for the Super Bowl because, unlike other teams, God is on their side.  But, contrary to popular belief, God rarely gives pep talks, and when he does it’s in that low, mumbling voice that really only inspired Charlton Heston in Ten Commandments.  I found no evidence of anything remotely motivational relating to the Cardinals, but I did find this clip from a Pop Warner coach for a team named the Cardinals berating some poor kids.  Karma works in mysterious ways, and I think it’s the Eastern religions’ turn this year.


AFC Divisional Losers: Indianapolis Colts

Speaking of karma, is there anything more de-motivating than giving up a chance at history by not playing your best players the final two games?  But I’m not here to talk about the past; I’m here to turn the page to future pep talks.  And Peyton Manning, with his deadpan humor, not to mention throwing his offensive line under the bus after previous playoff losses, is the Anti-Brees.  With no Tony Dungy to balance out all that negativity it’s one and done for the Colts.


NFC Divisional Losers: San Diego Chargers

The video is fuzzy, but the Chargers do have some type of pregame dance ritual.  What’s noticeably missing from the video, however, is a leader.  Whether it’s Phillip Rivers yelling at opposing players, Shawne Merriman’s “Tequila” problem, or LT complaining about playing time (not to mention that horrible electric glide video), the Chargers are a classic case of great individual talent, but the absence any team cohesion or likeability.  They’re the classic sports antagonist, your Globogym, your Clubber Lang, your Shooter McGavin, if you will.  And those guys lose every time.