Sports fans who talk in absolutes (in other words, all of us)

Andrew H. Walker

Did you know the Steelers would have won more Super Bowls had they selected Dan Marino in the 1983 NFL Draft? That and several other sports "absolutes" from the past.

One thing I've always found fascinating while following the people who follow sports is when they talk in "absolutes." For example, the NFL Draft will be held in about one month's time, and several teams will fill a positional need with their selections--it's absolutely guaranteed.

Those guys on ESPN and the NFL Network will say so: "(Insert team here) filled a need at corner, and (insert team here) is feeling pretty good about themselves right about now. CHAMPIONSHIP!"

Of course, anyone who's ever followed the NFL Draft for more than a year will tell you there's a big difference between addressing a need and absolutely filling one. Like for example, when the Steelers drafted Limas Sweed in the second round in 2008, they might have addressed the need for a big, athletic, productive receiver, but man, they absolutely didn't fill that need.

Speaking of absolutes, apparently, the 80s absolutely would have been filled with more championships had Pittsburgh selected Dan Marino in the first round of the '83 NFL Draft (you see, he grew up in Pittsburgh, so the Steelers ABSOLUTELY should have selected him). Forget that 25 other teams also passed on Marino (including the team that selected Todd Blackledge), and forget that his being drafted by the Dolphins near the end of the first round was mocked pretty heavily by the "experts" at the time. Had Pittsburgh selected Marino, today we'd be able to mock fans of other teams by holding up way, way more than six fingers.

Hey, I'm not saying the Steelers shouldn't have drafted Marino--they absolutely should have--but can you picture Harvey Clayton holding up a Super Bowl trophy? What about Weegie Thompson or Walter Abercrombie?

Yeah, me neither.

Fans don't just talk in absolutes when it pertains to past drafts, either. No, they more famously talk that way when discussing old NFL games.....at least the ones their teams lost (watch any Youtube video of any football game, ever, and then read the comments).

For example, did you know the Raiders absolutely should have won the Immaculate Reception playoff game in 1972? Why? Because Terry Bradshaw's pass intended for Frenchy Fuqua ABSOLUTELY touched Fuqua before landing in Franco's mitts. Forget that after 40 years there still isn't definitive proof either way, Oakland didn't win, so therefore, Oakland was robbed.

The Cowboys absolutely would have won Super Bowl XIII if tight end Jackie Smith didn't drop the game-tying touchdown pass near the end of the third quarter. Forget that the Steelers went on to score two more touchdowns after Smith's drop, so even if he would have caught that touchdown, at best, the score would have been 35-35 at the end of regulation following Dallas' late comeback--assuming the Cowboys still went for an onside's kick late in the game, trailing 35-28 instead of 35-24.

The following postseason, the Houston Oilers absolutely would have defeated the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game and advanced to Super Bowl XIV if Dan Pastorini's pass to Mike Renfro was ruled a touchdown instead of an incomplete pass. Fine, maybe it was a touchdown, but the game would have simply been tied with over a quarter to go. Forget that the Oilers didn't score again, while Pittsburgh closed things out with 10-straight AFC-clinching points.

Today, with the popularity of social media, fans can speak in absolutes on a game-by-game basis (Monday Morning Absoluting).

"The Steelers should have continued with the ground attack in the final period. Sure, they only accumulated 48 yards through three quarters, but a few more runs absolutely would have worked."

"Charlie Batch was absolutely not ready to play in Cleveland because he really sucked. The coaches ABSOLUTELY did a poor job of preparing him for that game."

One week later.........

"Starting Charlie Batch against the Ravens was ABSOLUTELY the right call."

I'm guilty of it, too. Do I think the Steelers would have won that one playoff game in Tennessee many years ago? You know the one where kicker Joe Nedney took a dive after Dewayne Washington made slight contact with him? Sure, the game still would have been tied had the official kept his flag in his pocket, but I know for certain Tommy Maddox was going to march the offense down the field to score the winning points.

Absolutely.

Do I think the Steelers would have won the Super Bowl last season if it wasn't for the rash of injuries?

Absolutely!

Do I think Pittsburgh will make the right selection in next month's NFL Draft? I'm not sure right now, but give me a decade or two, let me see how the draft pick does, let me evaluate who the team could have selected instead, and I'll give you an absolutely correct answer.

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