Every September when Michigan and Notre Dame play each other in football, Michigan State fans jokingly root for stadium implosion, as cheering for one of their rivals is just not going to happen. The same thing happens with Michigan fans a week later when the Spartans play the Fighting Irish. Michigan fans don't want to see MSU win, but they don't want to see Notre Dame win either. It's a case of there being two evils with neither being the lesser.
With four teams left in the NFL playoffs, I'm experiencing that September feeling all over again. The NFC title game will be between the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers, two division rivals of the Detroit Lions. In the AFC, the Pittsburgh Steelers will take on the New York Jets in a game between two teams that are almost impossible to root for unless you're a fan of them.
Every year in the playoffs I root for certain teams and against others for a variety of reasons. Some teams with former Michigan players will get my support during a playoff run just because I like seeing ex-Wolverines do well. I will root for an underdog story like the Saints last year or the Cardinals a couple years ago. And I will especially root against teams like the Steelers and Jets just because. Perhaps I'm a bit jealous of other teams consistently doing well in the playoffs when the Lions haven't even been in the postseason in so long, but some teams are just tough to root for.
Unfortunately, the 2011 NFL playoffs have turned into a situation where I find it nearly impossible to pull for any of the final four teams. I don't exactly have anything against the Packers aside from them being division rivals, so I suppose they might be the lesser of four evils, but screw the Bears, Jets and Steelers. Chicago wouldn't even have made the playoffs had Calvin Johnson's catch in the end zone in Week 1 actually been ruled a catch, and there is no way I'm rooting for any team whose quarterback is Jay Cutler. The Jets are a team of loud mouths (e.g. Bart Scott, Rex Ryan, etc.) that are beyond unlikeable. I know some enjoy the brashness of the Jets, but I do not, especially considering what happened in their game against the Lions this season (yes, I'm still bitter over that). Finally, the Steelers' unlikeability comes down to the fact that Ben Roethlisberger is their quarterback and they've been such a successful franchise. Yes, I'm jealous of their success. After all, I'm a fan of a franchise that has never been to Super Bowl and hasn't even been to the playoffs since I was a kid.
While simply skipping the championship games and the Super Bowl and fast forwarding to the draft would be a much nicer proposition than rooting for any of the final four teams, it's not all that difficult to root against some of them. In the NFC title game, for example, I'd much rather see the Bears lose than the Packers. I will never pull for a Chicago sports team in anything (I even rooted for the Philadelphia Flyers in last year's Stanley Cup final), especially the Bears. While I wouldn't want to see the Packers end up winning the Super Bowl in any other year considering they are a division rival, I'd much rather watch Aaron Rodgers, Charles Woodson and a team that the Lions beat just last month hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy rather than Jay Cutler, Rod Marinelli and the Bears. Plus, I wouldn't mind seeing the reaction to the Packers winning a Super Bowl without Brett Favre, as that would undoubtedly be brought up quite a bit in the weeks following the big game.
On the AFC side of things, I don't think there's any doubt that rooting against the Jets is the most appealing option. The Steelers, as previously mentioned, aren't a likeable team by any means, but the Jets are even more unlikeable despite accomplishing much less. I do not want to see Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan and Bart Scott anywhere near the Super Bowl, let alone think about them actually winning one. Yes, the Steelers have experienced a lot of success and normally seeing another team get to the Super Bowl would be more appealing, but I will put it like this: give me Dick LeBeau coaching in another Super Bowl rather than Rex Ryan any day of the week.
When it comes down to it, the most appealing (or should I say the most tolerable) Super Bowl matchup for this Lions fan is Green Bay vs. Pittsburgh. It still would be a lot like trying to pick between Michigan State and Notre Dame if you're a Michigan fan, but I suppose it's better than the Bears and Jets making it to the Super Bowl. That would be like watching Ohio State's spring game and trying to root for the scarlet or white team. In that case give me the stadium implosion option every time.