Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and his Seahawks won the NFC West with a losing record.
  • Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and his Seahawks won the NFC West with a losing record.
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Monday morning...pick up bottle caps and scoop up bean dip from living-room rug. Looking back, I had a hunch the weekend was going to go badly. There was something about Saturday ante meridiem that had a sluggish, walking-through-molasses quality to it.

The day started simply — another ordinary weekend. Shall we attend the symphony or drive up to L.A. and buy drugs? Shall we gather friends and go rock-climbing or stop by the bowling alley and drink cheap vodka from a cup? Shall we spend the day at La Jolla art galleries or use that precious time in pursuit of tawdry sexual gratification?

Choices...same old choices, same old life. Oh hum. Still, I noticed — arising from my bed, attending morning toilette, preparing a breakfast of Raisin Bran cereal and tap water — that it was taking much longer than usual, and so, as a consequence, I arrived in front of my TV 15 minutes late.

And then...and then...the sky cracks, and the world is made new. I’ll never know why, I know only that the world, in one instant, for good or ill, had changed when Seattle beat New Orleans 41 to 36.

Singing, glory, hallelujah.

Look at it this way: if Seattle beats Chicago this Sunday, the Seahawks roll into the NFC championship game with a .500 record ready to show the rest of us just what that means. More better, if Seattle beats the Bears and Green Bay beats Atlanta, the Seahawks will take their .526 winning percentage and play for the NFC championship and the right to go to Super Bowl 45 on their home field. And, further more better, if Seattle wins the Super Bowl, they will be World Champions finishing the year with a winning percentage of .578, good enough for fourth place in the NFC South.

Over in the AFC, the Jets won, setting up Jets-Patriots III. And the Ravens won, setting up Ravens-Steelers III. Altogether, a satisfying weekend of NFL TeeVee action. The proper teams won, and in a shocker, all the games were exciting, save for Kansas City–Baltimore, which I’d already deemed unwatchable earlier in the week.

Life is good when you can spend an unlimited amount of someone else’s money. This happy condition has long been known to the NFL. Every year at this time that rapacious monopoly provides a safe house for thousands of mercantile parasites who feed on the bloated, beached whale known as the NFL Postseason. There is no toilet-bowl manufacturer, no snack-food distributor, no automobile liquidator who will not buy the last morsel of Super Bowl flesh in the hope of extracting one final dollar from the besotted sports public.

For the NFL, there is no such thing as too much money. Media reports say ESPN is set to sign a nine- or ten-year deal with the league at $2 billion per year, give or take. ESPN signed an eight-year deal with the NFL in 2006. But that deal settled on a lousy $1.1 billion per annum, which, all sides agree, is inadequate in this day and age. FOX, CBS, and NBC are in the cattle chute getting ready to re-up at market rates, which will be far more then the paltry $720 million, $620 million, and $603 million a year they’re paying now.

The NFL has been preparing for a lockout after the current collective-bargaining agreement expires in March. They’ve set aside $900 million for their strike fund and arranged to have TV networks pay them whether or not there is an NFL season. This, long ago, went beyond ugly. Indeed, we have sunk two clicks below sordid.

The NFL says it’s going broke, and in order to make sure owners continue to live in the style they are accustomed to, the League demands that players make do with 18 percent less of the revenue they receive under the current contract. An 18 percent pay cut. The players’ union wants to look at the books and verify billionaire poverty. The NFL refuses to open their books.

And why should they? Yes, that sentence looks and sounds out of place — like Dianne Feinstein wearing a French bikini and lecturing teenage boys on sexuality — but there it is. Why should billionaires open their books to hired help?

Didn’t the NFL bring home the bacon, slap it in the frying pan, throw in some collard greens, onions, pound of butter, and cook it up? Saturday’s Seattle–New Orleans contest was the highest-rated opening Wild Card game in 20 years. The New York Jets–Indianapolis game had the highest overnight ratings (20.8), ever. You don’t need to open no stinking books with that.

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