There are a few names that every American student born in the last 50 years, no matter where you grew up, will know of. These are the icons of American history.
Martin Luther King, Jr, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, to name a few. Then there are the notorious names like Al Capone, Billy the Kid, and foreign enemies such as Adolf Hitler. Also there are the names that get altered by pop culture, such as John "Herbie" Hancock. Or the fictional characters such as Private Ryan or Jack and Rose. Then there are the geniuses like Albert Einstein and the greatest inventor of all-time, Thomas Edison.
Every student knows Edison and he's probably been credited in our memories with at least twice as many inventions and patents as he actually had, and he had quite a few already. Edison, the father of modern electricity!
Except, that's not quite true, is it?
I realize that there are many knowledgable historians on the issue of The War of Currents (that's electric currents, not Syria current) so allow me to tread lightly, but I believe it goes a little something like this: Edison and General Electric represented the side that was fighting for direct current while Nikola Tesla and Westinghouse fought for alternating current. Edison's DC was more reliable and a bit stronger, but Tesla's AC could go longer distances.
Extremely longer distances. Hundreds of miles longer distances. It seems like a no-brainer now, but Edison fought hard for his DC and went as far as electrocuting and killing animals in front of large audiences just to "prove" that AC was too dangerous. He executed Topsy the elephant (Warning: Sad) and even though he opposed the death penalty, he still aided in the invention of the first electric chair to kill inmates and used AC to do it to show how dangerous it was.
However, his efforts were hopeless. Tesla's AC was better and it's the widely-used method of distributing electricity around the world today, making Tesla and Westinghouse the true winners of The War of Currents.
But wait... Tesla is not the name we hear in school. Westinghouse Electric isn't the $230 billion (an estimate I read) powerhouse (pun intended) that GE is. How could this be? Tesla won, not Edison! Tesla was better!
Because when it became apparent that AC was going to win the war, General Electric switched over to that. They abandoned direct current and hired a man named Charles P. Steinmetz, a man who's place in history gets even more lost than Tesla by a longshot, who upgraded AC power to be even better and it wasn't long before they were the leaders of the technology.
Tesla won many battles in his lifetime, going as far as to remain celibate until his death (at which point he became quite the ladies man) but he lost the war. Edison absolutely destroyed him in the war. Maybe you can take solace in knowing that you changed history, but how much of that pride can be salvaged when so few people know your name?
When the Seahawks play the 49ers on Sunday night in what could be the highest-rated Sunday Night Football game of the year, it's going to be hyped up as a significant blow in the race to win the NFC West and possibly the Super Bowl. The winner of the game could be propped up to the number one spot on almost every power ranking outside of Denver, the loser will have to climb back up if there's any hope.
Though many will determine that the loser simply isn't as good as the the victors and still has some things to work on. Maybe next year.
Okay, that too could be an exaggeration, but the battle for pride among the head coaches, the quarterbacks, the defenses, and the fans, will shift swiftly after Sunday. If the 49ers beat the Seahawks in Seattle, having already taken a win over the Green Bay Packers, nobody will question that they're the best team in football. I don't think that even another seven touchdowns from Peyton Manning could change that. If the Seahawks beat the Niners, a team that's the talk of the town after huge performances from Colin Kaepernick and Anquan Boldin in the win over Green Bay, then maybe our time has finally come.
Except that there are so many more games to play. This is just.. television hype.
Don't get me wrong, the game should be good, it should have more compelling drama on Sunday than Breaking Bad, but is it more important than a game against the Rams at home? Is it worth 1.5 wins? Does the losing quarterback have to shave an entire eye off and lose depth perception for the rest of his career?
2012 - The 9-2 Baltimore Ravens lose to the 6-5 Pittsburgh Steelers, cutting their lead to two games and letting the Bengals get closer. The Ravens lose to the Bengals in Week 17, but luckily still hold on to their division. Both teams make the playoffs, but the Bengals look like the superior team after Baltimore had lost four of their last five games.
The Ravens won the Super Bowl.
2011 - The New York Giants lose their opening game of the season to the Washington Redskins. They would lose both games that year to the Skins. Though Washington fell apart after a 3-1 start to the season and ultimately the Giants won the Super Bowl. Admittedly, New York won two games that it absolutely had to during the year: They played the Cowboys twice in the final four games and won both, otherwise Dallas would have gone to the playoffs and the Giants would have stayed home.
2010 - The Green Bay Packers started 2-0 and had a "huge" game at 2-0 Chicago in Week 3. Bears 20, Packers 17. They got their "revenge" in Week 17, beating the Bears 10-3, though Chicago won the division anyway. The Packers took a Wild Card spot, then won the NFC Championship game in Chicago a few weeks later, and then the Super Bowl.
2009 - Eh, the Saints and Falcons wasn't much of a rivalry that season and New Orleans won the Super Bowl. Smaller victories perhaps to point out: The Jets went to two straight AFC title games, further than the Patriots could get those seasons (including one playoff loss to New York), though New England still had the useless regular season crowns.
2008 - The Ravens got swept by the Steelers in the regular season but still faced Pittsburgh in the AFC title game. All they had to do was win that one. Well, they didn't. But they could have!
2007 - The New York Giants got swept by the Cowboys during the regular season and Dallas went 13-3 to win the NFC East easily. But the Giants were banking on a quarterback that could help them win the Super Bowl: Tony Romo in January. New York beat the Cowboys in the playoffs, then beat the Packers (a team they lost to in Week 2) and then beat the Patriots, a team they lost to in Week 17.
2005 - The Steelers lost to the Bengals during the regular season, lost the AFC North, had to go to Cincinnati in the first round, beat them, and then I don't know what happened after that. But it was winning in the playoffs that matters.
It's always winning in the playoffs that matters, and let's not forget that.
Let's not forget beating the 49ers 42-13 last season just as much as we don't forget that San Francisco was the team that went to the Super Bowl. It would have been great to get that third game against them for the NFC, but the only responsibility for losing that game to the Falcons is on Seattle. (And Pete Carroll.)
Winning on Sunday would be great, but it doesn't guarantee the Seahawks the division. Winning the division would be great, but it doesn't guarantee you a Super Bowl. Winning a Super Bowl would be great-
And that's it.
I'd love to make a mark on the history of the National Football League, but legends aren't made in the beginning of stories.