This week is football's traditional week off between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl. A number of years ago, the NFL decided that it would move the All Pro game (football's all star game) from the week after the Super Bowl to the week before the big game in order to increase the number of viewers and give the players more of an incentive to play in the game. While it is unclear to me why the players would need an incentive to take their families to Hawaii for a week long all expenses paid vacation, the change in schedule does seem to have increased the game's Nielsen ratings.
As a result of the change in schedule, the original All Pro game rosters (which are selected a few weeks prior to the end of the regular season) are subject to tweaking based on the participants in the Super Bowl. The reason for the late substitution of players is simple. The All Pro game is an exhibition and the score and statistics do not count. Players who will be playing in the Super Bowl the following week are kept out of the game to avoid an injury which might prevent them from playing in the Super Bowl.
Because the game is truly an exhibition, yesterday's All Pro game included the bizarre sight of a player lining up for the other team. Late in the First Quarter of the game, Jeff Saturday who plays for the NFC's Green Bay Packers, played Center for one snap for the AFC team. The reason that that Saturday was "loaned" to the AFC was for sentimental reasons - Saturday had played most of his career as Peyton Manning's Center with the Indianapolis Colts. As Saturday had announced that he would be retiring at the end of the year, he was "reunited" with his old QB, Peyton Manning for one last play.
The upcoming Super Bowl also will feature two teams who made unconventional moves during the season. Most teams who have Super Bowl aspirations do not change QBs or fire Offensive Coordinators during the season. The reason these types of moves are not generally made is that teams have planned and worked with certain personnel since training camp and it is difficult to develop the chemistry and familiarity required for success when changes are made in the middle of the season.
Notwithstanding the general tradition of not changing horses mid stream, both the SF 49ers and Baltimore Ravens made controversial mid season moves. After the ninth week of the season, 49er QB Alex Smith had a record of 6 wins 2 losses and 1 tie. Smith got hurt in that last game and the 49ers were forced to use Colin Kaepernick - their backup QB who had little NFL experience. Once Smith regained his health, he was unable to force his way back into the lineup and the 49ers stayed with Kaepernick.
Although slightly less newsworthy, the Baltimore Ravens fired their Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron in the middle of the season. This is not a headline making move, but it is not generally done and almost never by a team which is trying to make the playoffs. Indeed, these moves are usually made on the Monday after the regular season ends (aka Black Monday) because it is difficult for a new coordinator to teach a new offense in the middle of the season.
The decision to act based on instinct and forego the conventional wisdom can also be seen in this week's parsha. Prior to Moshe's birth, Yisro was one of Pharaoh's chief advisers. However, when Pharaoh began to implement his own "final solution", Yisro ran away to Midyan because he could not agree with Pharaoh's plan. to the land of Midyan. After Yisro arrived in Midyan he became the high priest of the idol worshipers, but eventually abandoned this honored position when he recognized that Hashem is the only true G-d. Both of these decisions were not popular and one must wonder whether Mrs Yisro truly approved of her husband's actions. Still, these unconventional decisions were the right choices and it is for this reason that the story of the giving of the Torah can be found in the parsha named for Yisro.
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