By Bruce Garlinghouse
Monday morning, ESPN anchor Chris Broussard said, "there is nothing like football played at the highest level," as he was preparing to show highlights for Sunday night's nail biter.
Joe Flacco, who has been criticized in recent weeks for his inconsistency, orchestrated a brilliant 13-play drive that ended with a game-winning 26-yard touchdown pass, sealing a season sweep over division rival Pittsburgh.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh cut his chin after he was dropped by Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome in a postgame celebration and gave a fiery press conference defending his quarterback.
Grown men acting like kids. Games that mean something. Professionals performing at the highest level.
The NFL got it right.
The NBA is getting it wrong.
Who knew that through all the arguing, analysis and pleas for some shred of basketball, that shred would make that point more apparent.
Not because watching 20 NBA basketball players terrorize the rims at the Chiles Center wasn't enjoyable. It was.
Not because it wasn't refreshing to see the Chiles Center sold out for something other than men's basketball games against Gonzaga or St. Mary's. It was.
And not because the $100,000 LaMarcus Aldridge raised for his various charities didn't serve a good cause, one greater than ending the lockout. It was.
It is because that money raised was an afterthought, and the game was just a show.
Hip-hop music played throughout the whole game while a couple of guys provided running commentary consisting of "oh damn!" and "whaat!?" Late in the 3rd quarter Nate Robinson committed the most blatant "NBA Street Vol. 2" goal tend ever seen.
The game was more lacking in defense than Isaiah Thomas is in height.
Lamarcus Aldridge took 21 shots in the first half.
Seven-foot center Spencer Hawes played point guard at times.
Kevin Durant scored 47 points. (Ok so that's pretty standard.)
Yes it was basketball. There were two teams, four quarters, two halves, a winner and a loser.
But it didn't come close to the level of basketball of the basketball that could have been played that night.
That night, instead of watching Aldridge, Matthews, Jeff Pendergraph and Raymond Felton play a pickup game, Blazer fans could have instead watched them face Steve Nash and the Phoenix suns, a team they faced in the first round of the playoffs two years ago.
Defense would have been played, players would have been paid and the game would have mattered.
In the 3rd quarter, a sobering chant filled the arena.
A resounding "Let's go Blazers!" which doubled the standard three repetition limit, could have been mistaken for a pleading cry of "sign the damn deal!"
These weren't their Blazers. These weren't real teams. They were individual athletes with incredible ability that was being wasted on this night because players who make millions think they have some sort of leverage over owners that have billions.
A 51 percent cut of the revenue to the players, remains on the table until Wednesday. And they will begin to go lower. Everyone knows that.
No one received their basketball fix and they won't until it is the Rose Garden that is filled with "Let's go Blazer" chants.
On Sunday night, two professional sports leagues held games. One dealt with a lockout and the other is dealing with one.
One was played at its highest level. The other was a circus.