Saturday, December 13, 2008

The impact of one play

If Deshea Townsend starred in It’s a Wonderful Life, Clarence would show him the Dallas Cowboys winning Super Bowl XLIII, the Pittsburgh Steelers not making the playoffs, and a Halliburton CEO winning $1 million from ESPN.

As the NFL regular season winds down to the playoffs, it’s clear that one play by Townsend will affect the destinies of several teams—and it’s changed the life of one UPS worker in Miami.

Steelers fans know what happened—Townsend picked off a pass by Tony Romo with 1:40 left to give the Steelers a 20-13 comeback win over the Dallas Cowboys—but the ramifications of that play have been felt far beyond the top row of Heinz Field.

That play kept the Steelers in line for a first-round bye in the playoffs and hurt the Cowboys’ chances of making the playoffs at all. It has also kicked off a meltdown in Dallas.

The pass was intended for Jason Witten, which has led Terrell Owens to make public statements that Romo favors Witten over him. As he did at San Francisco and Philadelphia, T.O. is being a destructive influence in the locker room—which is just fine for fans of any team other than the much-hated Cowboys.

As yet another soap opera unfolds in Dallas (Who shot down T.O.?), several other teams suddenly have a better chance at the NFC wild card spot to which the Cowboys are clinging by their spurs as I write this. Just judging from the remaining schedules, don’t count out Philly.

The win also kept the Steelers one game in front of the even more-hated (at least in Pittsburgh and Cleveland) Baltimore Ravens and brought them even closer to clinching a playoff spot.

As the NFL millionaires fight over the chance to make even more money, Townsend’s play has made Samuel Louis-Charles a millionaire, too. Louis-Charles, or Bigsam1122 as he’s known at, predicted the winners of 25 straight sports events correctly to win $1 million in ESPN’s “Streak for the Cash” game. Louis-Charles, who had stopped watching the game and gone to work when the Steelers were behind 13-3, has said he will send gifts to Townsend and Romo. I’m sure Romo will be just thrilled to get his.

Other Steelers have had more impact on the season, and there are more likely Pro Bowl candidates.

But when the 2008 season goes in the books, it will be hard to think of a play that’s had the impact of Townsend’s interception.

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