MINNEAPOLIS — At the risk of being rude, I think it’s time the AFC took its marbles and went home. This is not its game, this Super Bowl thing. The AFC has about as much fun here as the guy in the sponge toss who gets dropped in the water. Splash! Down goes this year’s AFC sacrifice, the Buffalo Bills, in embarrassing fashion, 37-24, to the Washington Redskins. Don’t let Sunday’s final score fool you. Here was another Super Bowl so lopsided that Washington was ready to dump Gatorade on coach Joe Gibbs — at halftime.

Remember 24 hours ago, when this was supposed to be a “classic” matchup, the two best teams in football? Uh-huh. And I’m Ethel Merman. It only goes to show you that the two conferences must be playing with different sized balls. This wasn’t a game, it was a beheading. It was a pit bull against a poodle. Dick Butkus against Dick York.

Just before halftime, when the writing was already on the wall, quarterback Jim Kelly pulled his line together and screamed, “WE HAVE GOT TO WIN THIS GAME!”

They were too embarrassed to ask the obvious question:

“HOW?”

The answer is nohow. No way. No chance. When the Bills weren’t killing themselves with interceptions or seeing their passes batted into the air, when they weren’t fumbling, dropping, tripping or missing tackles — or in Thurman Thomas’ case, forgetting where they put their helmets, which he did, I am not lying — then they were watching Air Washington execute flight patterns over their heads. Not only did the Redskins win playing Redskins football, they won playing Buffalo Bills football, too. It was Washington who used the no-huddle offense most effectively, it was Washington that put the meanest pass rush on the quarterback, it was Washington that scored enough points for a month — all things Buffalo was supposed to do.

Meanwhile, the Bills were having a nightmare only John Elway could appreciate. Speaking of Elway, wasn’t it his team, the Broncos, which lost three of the four Super Bowls that came before the two in a row that Buffalo has now lost? Throw in Cincinnati, New England and Miami, and you’ve got eight years straight that the NFC has left the AFC for dead.

I don’t know. If I’m the AFC, I say “Fellas, I’m outta here. Go pick on someone from the World League.”

A convincing title march

But OK. Before some congressman calls me on his hot line, let me add that this is not meant to take anything away from the new Kings of the Hill, the Redskins, who are to their opponents what bad lighting is to an aging movie star; they make you look even worse than you are. They show every wrinkle, every blotch, every imperfection. Standing next to the Redskins, Hercules would need a health club membership. Their passing game is frightening, their running game is dominant, their defense can smother you on the ground and in the air, and they win every battle on the offensive and defensive lines.

I mean, it says something about a team when three of its easier games are 1) its playoff opener, 2) the NFC championship game and 3) the Super Bowl.

Doesn’t it?

“I’m just happy to be part of this football team,” gushed Mark Rypien, the quarterback voted MVP for his impressive two- touchdown, 292-yard passing performance. Oh, the Bills managed to touch the hem of his garment a few times
— something the Lions were unable to do in the NFC championship game — but even when they knocked him down, he seemed to complete his passes. His finest moment was surely in the third quarter, when Buffalo burped its only real burst of effort, closed the score to 24-10 (if you can call that closing the score) and Rypien responded with a third-down, 30- yard missive smack into the hands of Gary Clark. Touchdown! End of story. That sound you heard was the cash register ringing up Rypien’s new contract for next year.

“HOW SWEET IT IS!” hollered cornerback Darrell Green in the locker room. Sweet — and complete. Let’s remember that the Redskins had their first touchdown erased by an instant replay reversal, and blew their first field goal try by muffing the snap. Let’s also remember that they played most of the second half on cruise control, just waiting for the clock to run out. And the second half was when Buffalo scored all its points.

“We knew we had to get to Jim Kelly quick,” said Redskins defensive end Charles Mann. “I think we confused him early.”

Confused? Kelly, who suffered a mild concussion, thought the field smelled liked napalm. He was intercepted four times, sacked five times, knocked down 10 times and hurried 14 times. Here are some pictures that won’t make the Buffalo highlight reel: Kelly opening the second half with an interception; Kelly catching a pass he had thrown — after it was batted back in his face; Kelly having the ball — and almost his arm — stripped by blitzing Alvoid Mays.

“It was kind of like, ‘What’s going on out here?’ ” Kelly admitted.

As you can see, the Skins not only put the Bills on the carpet, they put them on the couch. You thought Buffalo had mental quirks before? Kelly, Mr. Cocky, now will be wandering around the house looking for his swagger. Thomas, who complained all week about being unappreciated, began by misplacing his helmet and ended by disappearing all together — 10 rushes, 13 yards. Hey, Thurman, it was a game, not a press conference. Bruce Smith, who tells people he is the best in the business, will have to hand out his business cards again. And coach Marv Levy, who everyone calls a genius because a long time ago he spent a little time at Harvard, will have to work hard not to become the next Dan Reeves.

After the game, Levy summed things up by quoting Winston Churchill.
“Defeat,” he said, “no matter how explained or excused, is still odious.”

Yeah.

Huh? A new alignment needed

Well, whether it be odious, or in Sunday’s case, just odorous, it still leads us to the same conclusion: We need to do something about this AFC-NFC thing. I mean, if they’re going to give us Saturday night TV shows, a three-hour pregame show, a ridiculously opulent halftime show complete with grand pianos, fireworks and ice skating champions, the least they can do is give us a good game. With the exception of last year’s nail-biter between the Bills and the Giants (and remember the Giants were a long shot coming in and still won), these “Super” games have generally been super bad for the AFC.

“I can’t really believe it,” said Thomas, wearing dark glasses.

“It’s frustrating,” said Kelly.

“To be honest,” said Smith, “I’m still in dismay.”

See what I mean? You call this fun? You call this a reward for having the best record in your conference? To come out and get embarrassed in front of the world? To spend the next year asking yourself, “What’s it all about?” To finish games by quoting Winston Churchill?

Nuh-uh. We need to do something. While the Redskins were tuning up with two games apiece against the Giants, Cowboys, Eagles, Lions and Falcons, the Bills got to play doubles against New England, Indianapolis, Miami and the Jets. No wonder we had a blowout. This is apples and oranges.

Clearly, we need to send the AFC out for additional training. Find its teams some tougher opponents. Here’s an idea: Send Philadelphia and Chicago over to their side. That’ll toughen ’em up. Or drive ’em crazy.

But something, we should do something. Otherwise, they might as well give the rings out after the NFC championship. We are creating another Denver Broncos here with these Buffalo Bills, a new AFC whipping boy, and, believe me, nobody wants that. One was bad enough.

“I can’t remember all of the game,” said Kelly, as he headed for the exit,
“but the parts I remember, I didn’t like.”

You’re remembering all of it, Jim.

That’s the problem.

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