Friday, January 31, 2014

Gong Hay Field Goal! Wacky theories, China vs. the NFL and Super Bowl XLVIII

We, as a society, with our Snowpocalypses, sitcoms, literotica and Branjelina just love our silly portmanteaus. This got ramped up into overdrive last fall when my beloved Festival of lights fell on the third Thursday of November and gave us the gift of Thanksgivukkah. With these prior examples it would seem there is almost no end to the possibilities nor the appetite of ridiculous combined names, but all of us -- ALL OF US -- appear to be missing the boat when the biggest game crosses paths with world's biggest population.

Yeah, that's right, kids. Chinese New Year happens to fall on this very weekend, which, at the same time, just happens to be the weekend of Super Bowl XLVIII. My good friend Michael, who will not be watching the Super Bowl with me because he is a Chinese American who will be ringing in the new year with his family, coined the most appropriate terminology for this weekend, and that is:

"Gong Hay Field Goal!"

It makes perfect sense, but it also begs the question of why hasn't this particular portmanteau caught on with the public? Is it because no Chinese citizens currently play in the NFL? Is it because the NFL has blatantly ignored the growing population in the East in terms of marketing?

It's probably none of those things and certainly not the last one. After all, the NFL, knowing the potentially massive fan base in China, has done its best to make in-roads, setting up Super Bowl parties and putting together youth clinics. Hell, there's even both an English and Mandarin version of NFL.com programmed specifically for a growing Chinese fan base. Despite an enormous China-specific online store and a China-specific Twitter feed, the League does not appear to have gained quite the foothold it is hoping for.

And so I am but left to wonder: Is the NFL scheduling Super Bowl XLVIII on the weekend of Chinese New Year one last gasp effort to co-opt the world's next superpower? After all, the NFL has already conquered the North American sports landscape and, for at least this weekend, New York City. Just ask someone who lives here. If the NFL's growing popularity and power continues to expand we may well be hurtling toward a Rollerball-esque future of sports representing corporate power and stabs at global hegemony a little faster than we anticipate. And it might just bring the real death we were anticipating.

All of that is kind of silly of course, but perhaps we are headed for a global conflict between the NFL and China in which the control of the entire globe is at stake. Call me crazy if you must, but many questions could soon be answered. Will American football overtake soccer as the world's game? Will a security force of helmet-and-shoulder-pad-wearing men roam the streets? Can Roger Goodell take Li Keqiang in an arm-wrestling match? Could Pete Rozelle have defeated Mao Zedong?

These questions in the global conflict to come will all be answered in due time, but for now the NFL appears to be taking its first shot over the bow.

The Chinese, however, have their own plan afoot and that is where the intrigue -- as well as why you need to know that for this weekend -- lies. For you see, China's effort to defeat the NFL in this impending global war is far more manipulative and clever. To defeat the NFL, the Chinese have found a way in filtrate and control its major event.

(Spoiler alert: Take the Broncos and the points)

Here's why. As we ring in the Chinese New Year of 4712 (or possibly 4711 or 4651, it's unclear), China has pulled out its trump card. This impending year, is the Year of the Horse. If that doesn't mean the Broncos are likely to be victorious, frankly, I don't know what does. Add into that the fact that 11 players on the Denver roster, including such luminaries as Deymarius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker and Peyton Manning, have uniform numbers that include an 8, a digit known for its significance in Chinese cultre, and things get even clearer. The Seahawks? They only have nine.

Need more flimsy circumstantial evidence? Animals of the Chinese Zodiac align with a rotating set of five elements and this New Year is not just the Horse, but the Wooden Horse.

Is there no clearer sign of someone inflitrating an organization and destroying it from the inside?

So it seems pretty clear China has managed to use its power to dictate what will happen in the NFL's biggest event, but one must ask, "Why the Broncos?" Is it because of the random rotation of the Zodiac just coincidentally falling on the combination of the Broncos reaching the Super Bowl during the Year of the Horse? No, that would be too easy an explanation. Rather, one must assume that there is vengeance at play here. China is settling two scores, not just against the NFL at large for the inevitable clash over global dominance, but against the organizations within the NFL that have wronged China as well.

Seven years ago the NFL, in its first stab at courting the Chinese fan base, planned for a Beijing-based preseason game to be known as "The China Bowl." After some initial confusion the League opted to postpone the game until 2009 and then, as a result of the U.S. recession, the game was eventually canceled altogether. China had been robbed of a taste of NFL football in its own backyard and the bitterness settled in.

To right the wrongs, not only is China predetermining the outcome of this year's Super Bowl, but it's also taking vengeance at those participants of the defunct-China Bowl, a game that was to include the New England Patriots, losers to the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game, and, yep, the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahwks will face China's ultimate supernatural retribution this Sunday. One by one, China will have its satisfaction, with the Denver Broncos an unwitting pawn in the opening salvo of global domination's first battle.

And there you have it. Because China, the Year of the Horse and the number 8 have said it shall be so, the Denver Broncos will win Super Bowl XLVIII.

Ok, on a serious note: the Broncos and Seahawks are relatively evenly matched, albeit on opposite sides of the ball, with Denver featuring the League's top offense and Seattle the League's top defense. Because of Seattle's dominant secondary on should expect the Broncos to opt for more under routes and crossing routes. Thomas is likely to be there purely as a decoy to stretch the field and pull cornerback Richard Sherman, as well as Seattle's safeties away from the soft middle so Decker and
Welker can eat up the field in the 10-15-yard range. Expect a healthy dose of Knowshon Moreno to keep Seattle off balance as well with Monte Ball getting carries inside the five yard line. That said, Seattle's defense might be one of the few in the League up for the task, and the Seahawks' offense, with its Marshawn Lynch-led power running game and a rejuvenated passing game with Sidney Rice back in the fold to spread Denver's secondary thin and open up things for Golden Tate, should be able to put up points against a Broncos defense that allowed the 11th most points in the NFL this year. Seattle, with the top overall and passing defense in the NFL this season, allowed just 14.4 points per game this season compared to Denver's 24.9. That's quite a difference, and while the Broncos' offense is tremendous and I have a soft spot for them because former Northwestern cornerback Marquice Cole is on the defense, well, let's just say I like the Seahawks' defense a little bit more, and I like defense in general. Because of all this, I like Seattle, international conspiracies and China be damned. Plus, I've always had a soft spot for the Seahawks since they sent me that autographed Chris Warren poster 19 years ago. My nagging cousin Geoff would also like you all to know that Seahawks kicker Adam Hauschka went to Middlebury like Geoff did. Given Middlebury's rich football history of winning championship games in front of literally 10s of fans, I can see why Geoff is so proud.

So yeah, Seattle 27, Denver 23.

Gong Hay Field Goal, everyone. It's a pretty good portmanteau when you get down to it. Enjoy the game, the New Year and the horses.

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