There is a tendency in the modern sports media environment for, shall we say, necessary hyperbole. As the capability for saturated instant reaction has gone from solely a capability to expected enterprise, it has become largely impossible to avoid the temptation of overstating the processes we absorb as fans.
Robert Griffin has a phenomenal performance on Thursday, and he becomes your immediate Heisman front runner. Cam Newton leads Auburn to a national championship and wins the Heisman and is therefore automatically coronated the #1 overall pick in the draft. We abhor a deeper understanding of sports in the wake of "the moment" simply because it is too visceral.
How do we remain rational in the face of the irrational? How to translate the unbelievable into words that are not just understood but acceptable?
Our tendency to play up performances or moments or operational proceedings is based on the end game. Every NFL fan wants his or her team to win a Super Bowl, preferably the next one, and everything (yes, everything including changes to the employment status of a tenured equipment manager) relates to this. So it is with the effort to whittle down a roster to 53 players.
On the surface, there is certainty with roster cuts. Young, budding stars like Sam Bradford, James Laurinaitis, Chris Long and Bradley Fletcher are as assured as can possibly be of making the team. Necessary veterans, including Jason Brown, Steven Jackson and new addition Quintin Mikell, are required to provide knowledge of the game, an understanding of how to translate the desire to win into a yearlong commitment to a greater effort that requires something of the physical, the mental, the emotional and the spiritual.
And yet, that leaves more than 80 men who have put on the uniform for the St. Louis Rams this preseason whose status with the team come today was anything but certain. Youth versus experience. Specialty versus diversity. Athleticism versus technique. There is never a right answer without hindsight. The only right answer is whichever combination of decisions and sacrifices produces the most competitive team, and the attempt at that right answer will always, always fall short.
Whichever team will win the Super Bowl in early 2012 is being criticized by its fan base right now. Every franchise makes decisions on players who are popular, who produced on big stages during their college careers, who flashed those instances where the factors of a play supercede innate talent. Letting those players go is never easy, and always hard to understand.
We look at George Selvie and Fendi Onobun and Donnie Avery and Mardy Gilyard and Thaddeus Lewis with confusion, the promise of potential fulfilled now broken. We see people like Hank Fraley and Bryan Kehl and question the sanity of our front office and coaching staff. The core problem is that there is no sanity in this process. Trying to identify which 53 players beyond your top 15 or so is an insane proposition. The factors involved are both myriad and unidentifiable. It is an exercise in futility, but one that every team must undergo. It is a league-mandated cutting off of the nose to spite the fans' faces. But like the guillotine, it ends quickly.
The hardest part is behind us. We now have the answers to questions we've asked for the larger portion of 10 months. Wide receivers. Linebackers. Defensive line. For all the attention in the world, we could not have predicted this roster. And that's what makes it fun. It's impossible to predict what roster we'll see year in, year out and just as impossible to know what will happen afterward.
Napoleon's famous words upon his retreat from Moscow can apply to anything that occurs in the realm of the liminal. The line between the champion and the loser is unbelievably thin. A week from today, the Rams will play the Eagles. I hope that the moves we have made this weekend have not hindered us from winning that game and many more this season, but I can't say whether or not that's the case.
The only thing that's left when the guillotine drops is uncertainty. And a head.