Spielman and the Lions were losing, 45-0, to the Washington Redskins in Week 1 of the 1991 season. And yes, it was as bad as the scored indicated. Maybe worse. But as bad as that butt-kicking was, it didn't compare, in Spielman's mind, to what happened toward the end of the game.
The 'Skins were driving again, and had the ball inside the Lions' 10-yard line. There were under two minutes to play. Then the humiliating part.
The Redskins took a knee. Then they took another knee, draining the clock of its remaining time. All while Spielman, the tough-as-nails middle linebacker from Massillon, Ohio, wished the Earth would open up and swallow him whole.
"When they [took the knee], I was embarrassed, humiliated. No one has ever taken pity on me or my teammates on the field before," Spielman said afterward in the quiet of the Lions' locker room.
The Redskins didn't want to run up a 45-0 score to 52-0, which to a casual observer would appear to be a good, proper thing. But not to Spielman, who competed every week as if his very life depended on it.
"If they score, they score," Spielman continued. "That's better than feeling sorry for me!"
Spielman comes to mind in the wake of the Minnesota Vikings' 34-3 win over the Dallas Cowboys yesterday in the Divisional Playoffs. Seems some of the Cowboys, notably veteran LB Keith Brooking and head coach Wade Phillips, have accused the Vikings of running up the score---aggressively driving for a touchdown in the final minutes, already leading 27-3 and with the Cowboys devoid of timeouts. Brooking screamed at Vikings coach Brad Childress, and later called the final touchdown "classless."
I can see both sides of the coin here. Like most disputes, the answer lies somewhere in the middle.
I think the beef the Cowboys have is with the Vikings' play selection, read: too many passes. The Vikings took the ball over at the Dallas 37. There was 5:26 remaining. A couple first downs would have pretty much salted everything, if it wasn't already salted to begin with.
Which brings me to the mother of all questions here.
WAS the game salted away when the Vikings took over? If the Cowboys held them to a three-and-out, could they realistically have had a shot at tying the game---something which would have required THREE touchdowns and THREE two-point conversions? Oh, and at least two successful onside kicks?
Tony Romo is good, but he's not David Copperfield.
Yet I also see the Vikings' side. The game is meant to be played for 60 minutes. These are men on the field, not high schoolers or college students. Brooking is 34 years old. He ought to be able to take it.
Was the last touchdown necessary? Of course not. It occurred with less than two minutes remaining, on a 4th-and-three. The Vikes could have kicked the field goal and called it a game. In that scenario, I doubt you'd have heard much from Brooking, if anything at all.
So for four more points, there's a big issue here? Is 34-3 that much worse than 30-3?
Broach that question to Chris Spielman and see what you get from him in reply.
I suppose I should take sides here. What fun is it to skewer a writer who's fence-sitting?
OK, you want it, you got it: I'm in Spielman's camp.
The Vikings didn't need to score another touchdown, but the Cowboys needed a defensive stop in the worst way, and they couldn't get one. So what were the Vikings supposed to do? You could argue that they could have run more---which is also good clock management strategy. But they didn't, and the Cowboys couldn't stop them. Don't the defenders bear some of the responsibility, too?
Bottom line: these are men on the field. They ought to take a little butt-kicking from time-to-time.
And this is coming from a guy who has hated the Minnesota Vikings since being a youngster and growing up a Detroit Lions fan.
But I don't see all that much wrong with what they did yesterday. And I know Chris Spielman wouldn't, either. Of course, Spielman went to Ohio State, whose coach not only ran up the score on Michigan one year, he did it with venom.
Someone asked Woody Hayes why he'd gone for a two-point conversion, late in the Buckeyes' 50-14 win over Michigan in 1968.
"Why did I go for two? Because I couldn't go for THREE!" Woody snarled.
Now THAT'S running up the score, folks.
The Cowboys ought to take their butt-kicking back to Texas like men and exact revenge on the field, which is always the best place for that kind of stuff, anyway.