Posts tagged NFL
Posts tagged NFL
Barely-coherent ramblings about the last Super Bowl until next year’s, which will go off without a hitch… The Green Bay Packers show the Minnesota Vikings yet again how to build a champion… Where are all of those Steelers fans now who hated their quarterback during the preseason?… The owners charged more than $2.5 million per 30 seconds of commercial airtime, but want to force a labor stoppage to jam more sweaty cash into their already bulging pockets…
I sat among about a dozen men and women of various ages, 18 at the youngest to mid 50s at the oldest, perched in our temporary living room around a white wall, watching a DVD-projection of Super Bowl XLV. Weeks after the game itself, it gave the assembled Americans and Canadians a chance to take in the festivities they were only able to read about online weeks earlier. I sat back, impressed with the quality of the projection, but aware that I wouldn’t be watching much of the game. The hour stretched far too late and if I was going to be sleep-depraved tomorrow, the excuse couldn’t be that I was watching a replay of one of my least-favorite teams make history yet again, especially at the expense of the hapless Minnesota Vikings, my hometown team.
It’s one thing to watch a National Football League game, which I typically enjoy very much. It’s quite another to watch a football event, where people who typically think football is about as entertaining as I do the opera, get excited to watch. They are interested in the spectacle of it all, of who is singing the National Anthem, what celebrities or former presidents are in attendance or what song the halftime entertainment will sing first. One of our Candiandian visitors tried to talk up the CFL, as if it was more than a minor leagues for American football, her chatter complete with the CFL’s novelty rules like the longer field and no fair catch on punts. Still, she ignored the league for what it is, a foreign version of the failed XFL and a larger version of the aracadey-Arena Football League.
As curmudgeonly as this makes me sound, I enjoy the actual football and not the event — the slant patterns that catch a blitzing defense by surprise, the running back plowing over a linebacker, an otherwise no-name defensive back grabbing an easy interception, thus guaranteeing themselves an overpaid contract in the offseason from some owner like Al Davis. That part is what I enjoy; I don’t much care for the false pageantry of cheering for laundered history or hyperbolic assertions that one football game can save a town or transcend it’s residents to a higher place. The closed Rust Belt factories in Pittsburgh will not once again churn to life if Ben Roethisberger hooks up with Mike Wallace on a deep fade route; just as the Ninth Ward in New Orleans didn’t magically sprout new affordable housing once Drew Brees perched the Vince Lombardi trophy over his head.
So it’s not with much surprise that I don’t care much for the Super Bowl, unless a team I follow happens to be playing. I generally tune into the results and catch parts of the game, but the put-on “This Means So Much More Than Just a Football Game” part inevitably loses me each time.
Watching the Super Bowl, the most sure bet in sports is that some non-football fan will exclaim that “the commercials are the best part of the Super Bowl!” — this would be a prop bet online if it wasn’t a sure loss for the oddsmakers — which is about as brainless of a statement as, “I love to watch Nascar races just to see the different car logos!” I do not care what company has bought the rights to call themselves the “official female napkin of the 2011 Super Bowl.” Other than the 1984 Apple commercial, just how many good ones can you recall from the past few years? Maybe the Budweiser clydesdales kicking an extra point? Maybe I have blocked it out to recall Janet Jackson’s inspired halftime and I’m being unnecessarily harsh. Who knows?
At any rate, the commercials are by far the worst part* of the entire experience and even though I know that is going to make my friends in advertising seize up with rage, it’s true. While the advertising has allowed the game to truly become America’s Pastime, it has also allowed idiot oil men like Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to stamp every piece of concrete, plastic and toilet paper associated with his team with a commercial stamp of approval. As an example, a friend of mine was able to sell the branding of the entire San Francisco 49ers season to the perennial bridesmaid computer giant Hewlitt-Packard.
The big-time TV and advertising money has allowed players to be compensated, but it has also slowed the game to a crawl, as we pause for TV commercial interruptions that seem to be growing longer and longer. A Wall Street Journal study last year found that a three-hour telecast involves less than 10 minutes of real, actual, action. Part of that comes from the herky-jerky, stop-start nature of football, but more of it comes from the need to “take a quick break to remind you that whenever Player X needs a boost, he grabs a bowl of Campbell’s Chunky Soup” (and apparently not the green amphetamines that are rumored to hide around locker rooms as abundantly as grass-stained jerseys). Comparatively, the 2010 World Cup was jarring in the lack of commercial interruption. A game set to last 90 minutes lasted almost just that, except with a short half-time and a few minutes of injury time at the end of each half. That isn’t to say advertising hasn’t encroached on the soccer world — club teams wear not their team names but companies across their chests — but the game itself has not been impacted. Earlier this NFL season, the Vikings once kicked an extra point twice, not because of an on-field infraction, but because the TV cameras didn’t return in time to film the first version.
The NFL’s owners have created the perfect sports business in American football. For the consumer, it’s the perfect one-day-per-week diversion that the average male with kids can get away with. Most man can’t honestly look at their wife while they hide out on the golf course for four a week, multiple times. The Sunday football scenario is perfect in that no one misses a game for their normal Monday to Friday, nine-to-five job; and moreover, one needs to only dedicate one day a week to catch all of the stats, records and highlights from that week. In baseball, teams play several times each week, even during the afternoon. Basketball has a similar schedule.
For the lazy sports fan, he of the reclining sofa persuasion, watching several games at once on Sunday is the perfect embrace of passive activity. In three hours the fan knows all of the plays to criticize at work on Monday and all of the strategies that the coach should have employed. Who can argue against our three-hour armchair quarterback, coach, general manager and owner? Hindsight is crystal clear.
Since the teams are all bound to a salary cap, giving certain parity to small market teams like your newest Super Bowl champions, there are no Kansas City Royals or Cleveland Cavaliers-type franchises in the NFL, where you will groom prospects only to watch them leave for 50 cents on the dollar, just before they entire their athletic prime. While this business strategy weakens some larger markets, it indubitably makes the league as a whole much stronger, allowing for large profits across the entire league. Still, it’s a macro-economics concept too foreign for the aforementioned Jones, who like a four-year-old is only concerned about the size of the cookie directly in front of him right now. Instead, he would like to blow up the NFL’s parity like the old Texas Stadium.
That’s what makes things so frustrating for those who pay attention — the NFL in its current incarnation is even better for the owners. They have found a way to repeatedly gouge these consumers by way of rising ticket prices, personal seat licenses for those tickets (that’s right, they charge just for the RIGHT to buy tickets) and a veritable hodge-podge of team licensed memorabilia, allowing the lazy fan from above to show all of his friends that — even though he watched all of the games at home and not at the stadium — he cheers on the team with the Official NFL-Approved Team Lamp, blanket, pillow cover and can coozy.
Even a better magic trick is that when the owners get tired of trying to count that money in the work to compile assets for new stadium construction, they simply go back to the public and blackmail those same people to finance hundreds of billions of dollars for a new publicly financed stadium. Yet NFL apologists will point toward the rising contracts as a sign that the sport is doomed, that draft picks receive more guaranteed money than proven commodities and future hall of famers like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. The draft pick salaries are out of control, but more out of control is that when a greedy owner can’t help himself in oversigning an aging superstar to a multi-million dollar deal, he can simply cut bait, rip up the contract and release the player with little monetary loss.
The player contracts, which are run in ALL CAPS on ESPN’s bottom-line ticker, promise wages of $59 million and such, even though in reality the contracts aren’t worth their weight in the paper stock they are printed on. This is why I will never understand why a-players agreed to the current collective bargaining agreement or b-why owners felt it was inequitable, simply on the thought that the player excepted it so it MUST be unfair. They say the greatest compromises leave both sides unhappy and while both sides say they are unhappy now, they must realize that they are faring much better in this economy than either the other major professional sports or business as a whole.
But on the actual game, Aaron Rodgers ascended into the Next Great Echelon of Quarterbacks, only six years after 22 teams (the Vikings twice, sigh) surprisingly passed on him in the NFL Draft. I wonder if his agent will call up teams like Oakland, Minnesota and Detroit and ask them if they would still rather stand put with Fabian Washington, Troy Williamson, Erasmus James and Mike Williams. Or maybe even the 49ers, if they still feel like Alex Smith was the right choice.
Anyway, the Vikings this year tried to double-down on last year’s glimpse at success, even trading back for Randy Moss in a bit of hoped for deja vu that turned out much worse than the first time around. While the Vikings lost a cornerback and a few other players to injury, the Packers lost no fewer than 15 players to season-long injured reserve. (That’s an entire side of the ball. It was so many players that the team had to take the Super Bowl team photo without all of the injured players because they couldn’t fit all of them without reducing the faces into the photo to specks of brown and pink.)
Through shrewd drafts and consistent coaching, the Packers proved that the way to the Super Bowl isn’t “adding one final piece.” It’s adding several smaller pieces through the draft and shrewd free agency signings, that winning a championship has more to do with developing a system, finding players who fit into that system and tailoring your system when those players get hurt or can’t be found, than it does with flying to Blioxi, Miss., with a Zero Halliburton briefcase filled with $10 million.
How often has a team added one more player at an exorbiant price, thinking they were the “final piece?” Surely it happens every year. It was Brett Favre last year. It was any number of players who the Redskins, Cowboys or Raiders signed to exorbitant deals in recent years. But we’re dragging the corpse of the Vikings season here and it shouldn’t matter much anyway, when they sign Donovan McNabb, fail to draft a solid quarterback and the same problems emerge.
But what about the Peter Kings of the world who have opined that the Packers won’t get a true chance to repeat next year? I wouldn’t lose much sleep over it. We should know better, that the NFL owners will try to grab another buck from the players and fans, but will eventually realize that without any games, there’s no way to cash in anything, that the billboards of Cowboys Stadium don’t mean squat if there aren’t 120,000 people stacked sideways like stowaways on the Titanic inside.
Here’s to Week One of 2011.
* - Well, other than being reduced to hearing Green Bay Packers fans brag for another five years about winning the Super Bowl.
This Sunday, I’m picking against an emotional pick, a journeyman quarterback who is starting for the Jacksonville Jaguars and also graduated from St. Cloud State University.
My suicide pick for Week 7 is the Kansas City Chiefs over the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are starting the briefly capable and well-traveled Todd Bouman at quarterback.
Should I feel like I’m betting against my home country? I don’t. For the record, I’m betting against the Jaguars as a team; I like Bouman much more than Trent Edwards.
Except for hockey players, Todd Bouman is pretty much the only recent athlete of note that has graduated from St. Cloud State, technically my alma mater (Yeah, Jim Eisenreich played for SCSU, but he also had Tourette’s Syndrome and really didn’t emerge until he got treatment for it years later. I tried to find a picture of Bouman on the Internet from his SCSU days, but go figure, there’s nothing online.)
While there are dozens of hockey players from SCSU, collegiate hockey really isn’t that big of deal comparatively, since most of the international guys don’t play in the U.S. and the ones that do play collegiate hockey rarely play through their senior year. For example, SCSU was ranked No. 1 nationally in collegiate hockey for a period when I was a student. Most people in Minnesota — the supposed state of hockey — couldn’t have cared less.
Sure, the greatest coach in the history of the world Herb Brooks coached at SCSU for a year, but that was really only to bring SCSU’s hockey up to division one and Brooks has a much more endearing legacy at the U Of M. So, he really doesn’t count in our discussion, even though I AM SICK AND TIRED OF HEARING ABOUT HOW GOOD OF A HOCKEY TEAM THEY HAVE. SCREW ‘EM. (That speech will always make me want to run through a brick wall.)
In a fact I’m not all too proud of, I graduated from SCSU. I went there because they have a strong journalism program and as a state school, it was much cheaper than the University of Minnesota. Also, as an 18-year-old, I didn’t want to go school about five miles away in Dinkytown. It seemed too close.
I met an amazing group of people in college — really I did, there are about a dozen guys who will be lifelong friends — I think all of us would have rather attended an even bigger university. (SCSU is Minnesota’s second largest.)
SCSU has battled a so-called “party school” reputation, which compared to schools like University of Wisconsin and University of Minnesota is obscene (and simply incorrect). Once in the late 1980s, as I’ve written before, some kids at SCSU lit some couches on fire. Since, the SCSU administration and police force have decided to launch an oppressive attack against student drinking, as if they forget that without the college, St. Cloud would exist as only a gas station for people traveling to and from cabins. The residents who live near the University often complain about the students, which makes about as much sense as a deep sea diver covering himself in Lady Gaga’s meat suit only to complain about the nearby presence of sharks.
At SCSU, Bouman was, of course, a cult hero. We spotted him next to us buying tickets at the Target Center once, said we were SCSU students and that we were in town for the game.
“Nothing wrong with that… Not a DAMN thing wrong with that,” Bouman said in an almost southern drawl, which must have came from his rural southwestern Minnesota roots.
He played for the Vikings at the time and even played some extended time in 2001 when Daunte Culpepper got injured/had a prolonged case of fumblitis. During one particular reel of highlights on SportsCenter, Chris Berman and Tom Jackson even did the: “Todd Bouman, from?” routine. The half-dozen of us packed in my neighbor’s dorm room shouted “St. Cloud State!” like army privates to a commanding officer. That was the highlight of the Bouman era and of SCSU collegiate football as a whole.
Mainly, we would have liked to cheer as alumni for a university that plays Division One basketball — football would’ve been icing on the cake. In fact, my friend 2tall said as much in a brilliant rant that seems to have faded off into the ether (I’ve looked for it for 45 minutes this morning and can’t find it, although I did read some funny e-mail chains about college basketball from two years ago.)
Colleges like Northern Iowa have a division one basketball program and every few years, those fans are able to follow along as their team makes the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Last year, that team of course beat Kansas and was the talk of the country for a few weeks. Contrast that with St. Cloud, which has 7,000 more students than Northern Iowa, but SCSU only makes the news when some idiot decides to draw swastikas on buildings around town.
To understand the ineptitude that is the SCSU administration, they tried to float the idea earlier this year that they were considering eliminating football, not five years after they constructed a multi-million dollar, on-campus stadium for said program. Also, they bulldozed the one downtown grocery store and liquor store to build a “welcome center.”
So this is screed is why — I’m stealing from my friend — I’ll continue to say I went to college “somewhere in Minnesota.” And because of this, I’m taking the Chiefs to beat the one SCSU grad who has started at quarterback in the NFL.
Onto the picks (winner in CAPS):
In the interest of brevity, this week we’re looking at a fantasy football match-up in each of the NFL’s games.
Keep in mind my Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Ray Rice-led fantasy team is 0-3. Felix Jones and the absence of a second running back has killed me. Also, having Austin Collie on the bench hasn’t helped too much. At this point, I’m a sort-of Charley Lau of fantasy football so far this year. I’m not happy about it.
Onto the picks (winner in ALL CAPS):
Thousands in Arizona wanted to see Kurt Warner dance last week. Then they wanted him to possibly trip, maybe fall and definitely stumble his way out of “Dancing with the Stars” and back onto a gridiron.
Deliriously, Arizona Cardinals fans figured that Warner was still burning to get back on the football field after retiring earlier this year. (They are delirious if they are fans of the Cardinals to begin with.) They dreamed that if he twirled the wrong steps, he would be voted off and gladly run back to the Cardinals to play quarterback.
Sadly for those fans, he isn’t and they are stuck with Derek Anderson.
Anderson plays quarterback like he thinks he can slice a man in half with a football, like a Shogun does with a samurai sword. He throws a football the same way Rex Grossman throws a football in Drew Magary’s head. He thinks he can throw though grown men who are covering his receivers, double covering his receivers, triple covering his receivers.
Anderson throws like he can throw a football through all of these men.
Alas, he cannot.
Warner, meanwhile, took control of the Cardinals offense and turned them into THE BUZZSAW (a nickname given to the Cardinals by Deadspin founder Will Leitch some 10 years ago). At 34, Warner arrived to a 5-11 team. By 38, they were 10-5 and runners up in the Super Bowl. Suddenly, they had a potent offense with Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald and ended up a few passes short of a Super Bowl championship.
A good quarterback in the right situation can make that huge difference. Anyone who watched the Vikings prior to Brett Favre’s arrival saw Tarvaris Jackson throw three-yard speed balls into the turf or 40-yard bombs 10 yards past his receivers.
Then Vikings fans watched Favre take the Vikings within a pass of the Super Bowl. They watched one quarterback almost get his coach fired and then watched another get a previously unknown receiver into the Pro Bowl.
It’s why most Vikings fans didn’t blame Favre for throwing that pass at the end of the game. They hated that he did it, but everyone knew the alternative. Without Favre, the Vikings would have been hard pressed to make the playoffs, even with last year’s easy schedule.
Favre made the Vikings relevant again. Driving home from Denver last weekend, I picked up the Vikings-Dolphins game on AM radio. The only reason that game makes it to a AM station outside of Denver is because of Favre’s involvement, whether we want to admit it or not.
In the offseason, Minnesotans didn’t care if Favre stayed at home during training camp. I know I only cared that he was there once the games started to count, because without him — as tough as it might be for some to admit — the Vikings games didn’t really matter. Cardinals fans are experiencing the same thing right now.
Without Warner, it doesn’t matter who is running routes or is set up in the backfield; Derek Anderson makes the Cardinals irrelevant.
Speaking of irrelevant, on to the picks…
Ines Sainz is not Lisa Olson.
Sainz, a swimsuit model now posing as a talking head for Mexican TV network TV Azetca, was reportedly greeted in the New York Jets locker room with hoots, whistles and catcalls while trying to interview quarterback Mark Sanchez. She apparently didn’t hear the comments herself, but other media members did and told her about what happened.
It reminds many of when Olson was harassed by members of the New England Patriots. To a point, that issue is still a problem.
But comparing the two issues is like lining up Peyton Manning versus a flag football QB. Calling Sainz a journalist is offensive to every woman who has and is currently paying dues to compete in a largely male-dominated medium.
Now we have a spiraling debate about whether or not women reporters should be in locker room, which is hitting the target of the issue about as well as Sanchez hit his receivers last Monday night.
Locker room access for credible journalists isn’t the issue at all.
The problem is a scantily-clad woman playing up her sexuality in a testosterone-fueled environment through flirty questions and half-naked attire. (A picture of her on assignment is pictured above. Not exactly “business casual.) Sainz doesn’t deserve to be disrespected, but she is already disrespecting herself.
She’s clown shoes.
This is how I felt after benching Wes Welker before Sunday’s games.
I felt like this hit on Joe Flacco was bigger than the Lewis hit later in the game, but both were pretty amazing. [Photo credit: AP Photo/Frank Franklin II]
It’s a NFL picks column! Just like everyone else! Yes, this is nowhere near an original idea, but writing a list of the upcoming NFL games is simply fun to write. It’s pure selfishness.
I don’t even gamble, but when your wife works on a weekend and you don’t know anyone else in town, you write a NFL picks column. Picks to win are in BOLD, except for Vikings/Saints, which already happened. (I didn’t use the spread this first week because honestly, who cares? You’re not using these picks to
call your bookie log onto sportsbook.com or whatever gambling site people use.)
This is a lengthy, unedited 2,800-some words, but the site is mobile friendly, so feel free to peruse it while you’re in the bathroom. (Unless you have a weird thing about using your iPhone in the bathroom. You shouldn’t, it’s awesome.)
Minnesota Vikings at NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Watching the pre-game celebration — seriously, some NBC executive better have gotten canned for booking Dave Matthews Band — and the touching tributes to post-Katrina New Orleans, I had a thought.
Can we stop acting like the Saints have rebuilt New Orleans? Seriously, there are still boarded up homes and miles of vacant lots. Don’t pull out the “Misson Accomplished” banner like everything is fixed because a guy with a birthmark on his face threw a bunch of touchdowns. The city still needs help and while the Saints provide a nice story, Robert Meachem and Co. scoring a bunch of points isn’t putting nails into boards and affordable homes back where they should be.
Anyway, on the purple side, a lot of Vikings fans are acting like the sky is falling and all hopes are lost. But really, the Vikings didn’t play that terrible, considering that their quarterback is working with a much different receiving corps, the aforementioned receiving corps needs to adjust and the defensive backfield is dealing with injuries. Oh and they were on the road against the defending Super Bowl champs.
The Vikings will be OK.
Probably. If Favre doesn’t get hurt. And at least one of the receivers emerge.
And - FINE, I’LL STOP - there are some questions with the Vikings.
Wow - to think there was a time when the above quarterback was nearly an NFL MVP. Anyway, cheers to the NFL season getting underway.