The opening line on the Big Game was 14 points. That means that in initial Vegas action, anyone that bet on the Patriots believed that they were two touchdowns and two extra points better than a Giants team that has won on the road in three straight weeks and mounted an effective pass rush against the Patriots the week before. I don’t think I’d take that bet.

The line has come down since then, but the Pats are still favored by a touchdown, a field goal and some change. I still don’t think I’d take that bet. I, and most of the western world, do believe New England is going to win. But by twelve? Thirteen? That’s a fairly tough thing to do. In the past five years, only one team has won by a touchdown, a field goal and some change. And that team wasn’t the Patriots, though they’ve played in three of those games. Granted, this Pats team is far different than the XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX versions, but in a game this big, I’m not going to give the points.

In fact, I challenge someone to tell me why I should. That’s right. I challenge someone!

There, a gauntlet has been thrown down. In the meantime, I believe I still have more mailbag to get to:

Dave L (Somerville, MA) – Do you think baseball will ever have a salary cap? (in say… the next 30 years) why/why not?

I think we’re going to see a “salary floor” of some sort before we see any salary cap. When the luxury tax was introduced, MLB set a precedent that they’d prefer to soft cap to a hard cap. I think a similar “soft floor” could be, and should be, put into place. In 2006, the Devil Rays had a team salary of $35 million, received revenue sharing of $30 million, and then dropped their payroll to $24 million. I think that’s most disgusting than big market teams spending big money to bring in superstars. It’s shameful, and I feel that it’s a bigger problem than overinflated New York and Boston sports salaries. As such, I think we’ll see revenue sharing get capped at a percentage of a team’s base payroll. It would create a soft floor in the same way that a luxury tax creates a soft ceiling. We’ll see what happens from there.

Ryan S (Untamed West, MA) – Why aren’t there more black quarterbacks in the NFL?

-I could spend either a short paragraph or a long day on this. Due to time constraints, I’ll stick with the former. There are thirty-two NFL teams. Of those thirty-two, only seven started black quarterbacks in Week 17: Washington, Minnesota, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Miami, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Of those seven quarterbacks, three are regarded as “entrenched starters” (Jason Campbell, David Garrard and Vince Young), two are nearly gauranteed to lose their job next season (Tarvaris Jackson and Cleo Lemon), one was playing for an injured starter (Charlie Batch) and one was Donovan McNabb. The reason why we don’t have more black quarterbacks is the same reason why we don’t have more black Senators or black astronauts. Because America isn’t moving in that direction fast enough. There’s nothing that would physically or mentally prevent a black quarterback from competing at the highest level. It’s all perception. If a high school coach puts the best athlete on the team (who happens to be black) at safety instead of quarterback (for whatever reasoning he uses), that athlete might go to college on a scholarship as a safety and perhaps one day get drafted to play as a safety in the pros. It starts at that level, and bubbles all the way up to the professional game. There are parts of this country where a black quarterback wouldn’t be suffered by the local population. We have to realize as Americans and as sports fans that this is still the case, as wretched and backwards as it is.

Lynn (Boston, MA) – Why are performance enhancers in professional sports such a big issue? I mean, technologically advanced equipment, slo-mo play reviews, etc.; why is artifically enhancing the athlete’s body bad, but artifically enhancing everything else is helping the sport?

-There’s an agreement between the fan and the athlete. It is a subtle thing, and easy to miss , but it forms the foundation of sport. An athlete competes using his god given talent, the skills he has learned and the equipment he has been provided to determine if he is better than a competitor. It is a quintessentially human struggle. Who is stronger and faster of the two of us? Beneath all of the advanced equipment, and under all of the slo-mo play review scrutiny, it is still a human struggle. When athletes begin chemically altering their body to produce muscle mass than no food of vitamin could provide, the human element of the struggle begins to vanish. It no longer becomes one man in pads against another man in pads, or one woman with a basketball against another. It becomes augmented competitors battling in such a way that no other corn-fed naturally raised human could hope to. That agreement between fan and athlete shatters, and it is no longer sport.

Katie (The Not Too Distant Future, MA) – The black paint under football players’ eyes, I know it’s supposed to reduce glare or something, but does it really do jack squat besides looking a little badass?

-The original purpose of eye black, as the story goes, was to reduce glare. Nowadays, few players actually wear the black grease that is the most effective, and instead opt for black stickers that serve more as fashion statements than performance enhancing technology.

Dea (Chicago, IL) – Why did women’s soccer never take off? Where is the future Bend It Like Beckham promised me, where hot girls care more about sports than boys, and eventually have their hesitant parents fully support their athletic goals, while also crossing racial and cultural divides?

-There’s still a stigma attached to watching and enjoying women’s soccer if you’re a man. Heck, there’s a stigma attached to watching and enjoying men’s soccer too. There just isn’t the money being spent on women’s soccer or women’s basketball. We’re not seeing too many corporations buying luxury seats or season tickets to the WNBA, but we see all of them pick up NFL tickets. When I’m at Fenway, I see men and women enjoying a man’s sport. When I went to Boston College Women’s Basketball games, I saw mostly girls, women and parents. Women’s sports aren’t drawing support from across the aisle. I’m not sure if they’re going to soon.

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