Know what goes up our ass sideways? (And we mean that only in the metaphorical sense of being irritated beyond belief, not in the "I saw this on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy once and it seemed like it might be fun" sense.)
We're irritated by the "dome teams can't be beaten on the fast track" myth that makes the rounds every time an indoor team fields a high-powered offense and goes on a great run. It seems particularly relevant following a day in which Indianapolis, an undefeated dome team playing on the "fast track" at home, lost to an outdoor team that plays on real grass (San Diego, 26-17).
The 1998 Vikings, 1999 Rams, 2001 Rams, 2004 Colts and 2005 Colts are arguably the five greatest dome teams in the history of football. They count among them the greatest offenses ever to step on the field: The 1998 Vikings had the No. 1 scoring offense in NFL history. The 1999 Rams, 2001 Rams and 2004 Colts all scored more than 500 points. The 2005 Colts stand as one of the most dominant teams in NFL history
Every single one of those teams – the greatest dome teams of all time – lost at least one game on the "fast track" of a dome. Only the 1999 Rams went undefeated in their home dome, but they lost on the road to another dome team (Detroit). The 2001 Rams, 2004 Colts and 2005 Colts all lost at least one game in their home dome to teams that play outdoors on grass.
We started applying a little Preparation H to this irritating anal cold sore of a myth back in 2001, when the St. Louis Rams were seemingly unstoppable in a dome – at least according to the "pundits."
Back in 2001, EVERY "pundit" – and we mean absolutely every single one – said the mighty Rams could not be stopped in Super Bowl XXXVI, which was played in the Louisiana Superdome. After all, said the "pundits," St. Louis was built for football on the carpet and was just better on the "fast track" of a dome.
Basically, you can encapsulate the myth like this: Dome teams are built for speed. And playing on a carpet in a climate-controlled dome only serves to accentuate their speed. Their opponents suffer by comparison.
The myth is so pervasive that nobody even stops to question it. Of course, that's why we were put on Planet Pigskin, to rub some soothing salve called the Cold, Hard Football Facts on this festering anal sore of stupidity before it becomes an open, cancerous lesion of global gridiron ignorance.
Hey, we thought St. Louis would win Super Bowl XXXVI, too. But not because they were "unstoppable" on the "fast track" of a dome. We thought the Rams would win because they were the better team that year when they played an upstart New England team.
But we also knew that the "pundits" had their heads up their asses when it came to their analysis of the game (maybe that was the source of initial irritation) and that there was a glimmer of hope for the underdog Patriots in that Super Bowl.
After all, a quick look at the Rams' 2001 schedule back then – an easy exercise that seemed beyond the scope of the pigskin "pundits" – revealed three interesting Cold, Hard Football Facts. The 2001 Rams:
- Had lost just two games all season (New Orleans, Tampa Bay)
- Had lost both those games in a dome (both at home)
- Had lost one of those games to an outdoor team that plays on grass (Tampa Bay)
Of course, with the loss to New England in Super Bowl XXXVI, the mighty Rams, who possessed one of the greatest offenses in NFL history and were universally acclaimed as unstoppable on the "fast track" of a dome, were in fact:
- 5-0 (1.000) outdoors
- 4-0 (1.000) outdoors on grass
- 8-2 (.800) in their home dome
- 11-3 (.786) in all domes
- 4-2 (.667) in domes against outdoor teams that played on grass
In other words, the notion that dome teams with high-powered offenses are unstoppable on an indoor carpet is bullshit. But apparently we – and now you – are the only ones in the world to know this.
All of which brings us to the hype that surrounded the 2005 Colts heading into yesterday's game against San Diego. Last week, Indy locked up home-field advantage in the playoffs. It was like pre-boarding the Colts on the Super Bowl express, according to the "pundits." They insisted that the problem with the Colts in past years was that they had to play outdoors in the postseason. Sure, it's a problem. All teams play better at home and find it tougher on the road.
But, as we discovered yesterday, dome teams are vulnerable at home when they play other good teams – even if those other good teams play outdoors on grass. In fact, one might argue that these dome teams are especially vulnerable when playing at home against good outdoor teams.
After all, the bogus "fast track" myth has one major and rather obvious flaw: It assumes that only one team benefits from the "fast track" of a climate-controlled dome.
But for anyone with two brain lobes and a couple functioning synapses, it stands to reason that both teams would be speedier on the "fast track" of a dome. In fact, teams used to playing on grass (or mud or snow) might find it most beneficial.
It's kind of like swinging a weighted bat in the on-deck circle and then stepping up to the plate with what seems like a toothpick of a 34-ounce Louisville Slugger.
Are the Colts still the team to beat in the NFL? Yes. But they're the team to beat because they are 13-1 (5-1 against quality opponents
) and remain dominant on both sides of the ball.
They're not the team to beat because the carpet of a dome somehow makes them faster than their opponents. In fact, it stands to reason that a top team that's accustomed to an occasionally "off track" at their outdoor home field might find the cozy confines of the climate-controlled dome particularly inviting.
San Diego certainly seemed to enjoy the "fast track" of the dome more than the hometown team did yesterday.