Some thoughts for the New Year, now that the NFL playoffs are set and the only real bowl game is just days away.
Atlanta Falcons finish 9-7: This is something of a consolation prize, given that the team reached the playoffs in 2008. However, it marks the first time in franchise history that the Falcons have had consecutive winning seasons, and it’s just two fewer wins than the previous year despite a tougher schedule and some key injuries. And at one point the team was under .500 (6-7). So Mike Smith’s team showed some grit by winning three straight to close the season, two of them on the road. And I’ve always said that there are no breathers in the NFL. Consider that last year’s Super Bowl winner, Pittsburgh, also missed the playoffs in 2009. So there’s something of a new tradition at work in Flowery Branch.
Saddleback Church raises $2.4 million in a week: The power of religion still amazes me sometimes, as well as the persuasive power of Rick Warren, renowned pastor of the Orange County, CA-based megachurch (14,000 members). Warren’s famous book, The Purpose Driven Life, is one of the top non-fiction sellers ever, and it presents its case well. I’ve read it, though I do not consider myself a practitioner. And I’ve attended several events at Saddleback, which is near my former home. It’s essentially a mini-city, with several buildings and scores of programs for the hordes that come through there all week. You may recall that Warren hosted Barack Obama and John McCain in a forum at Saddleback during the ’08 campaign. And it also shows that there’s a lot more wealth out there than what some media types and politicians would have you believe. Then again, $2.4 million breaks down to $171 per member, not such an imposing sum. But Warren got people to respond in a way most people can’t.
Alabama vs. Texas for BCS title: Nick Saban evokes memories of Bear Bryant, with his hard-nosed demeanor and smashmouth style of play by the Tide. If Alabama wins, Saban will have won two national titles with two different teams (also LSU in 2003). By my check, no college coach has done that, at least in recent times. The Tide also has had back-to-back undefeated regular seasons, also a remarkable accomplishment. With the right coach, winning doesn’t take long. (Updated 1/7/2010: Alabama beat Texas, 37-21, giving Saban his second national title and the SEC its fourth straight.)