So I’ve gotta be honest, and I know this doesn’t become me as a progressive, but: I hate change. It’s sad to say for a 33 year old man, but my life has been built on a solid foundation of routine. My mother is concerned that I’ve become too “set in my ways” and that’s why she doesn’t have any grandchildren from this particular branch of the family tree. (More on that later…actually, how ’bout less on that later?)
For those of you who have faithfully followed this space, you’ll know that my closest friends and I have followed a tradition for the last several years: we get together on Sundays and spend the day watching football and making fun of everything we see, including each other. The host for this particular event works on a rotating basis, each of us taking a turn every four weeks, usually with one week a year interrupted by a visit from my parents. It works out rather nicely. Each of us hosts four Sundays every fall and nobody has to feel particularly put upon. It’s been this way for several years and its worked out great.
So you can imagine how annoyed I was when my friends wanted to make a slight change to the arrangement. They wanted to have each of us host a Sunday, then take the show on the road to a local bar (most likely The Tav, our preferred watering hole.) I hated the idea. It would remove the symmetry of each person hosting four weeks, force someone to host an extra week and, most annoyingly, commit the time-honored sin of trying to fix something that isn’t broken. But I let it happen because I was outvoted 3-1 and I was offered the fourth hosting slot. Carol’s place is great, but the idea of spending one less week at Mike’s place (with his beanbag chair and his No Farting poster) or Lars’ (with his pawn shop decor and insistence on playing the sitar whenever the game doesn’t hold his attention) definitely put it over the top. So, since we’ve already had the missed week due to my parents’ visit, this week was the first time we took the show on the road.
It was not a massive success.
I thought things might be a little quiet because of the Vikings’ bye week, particularly because Freddy, the giant Samoan gentleman who serves as bouncer, night manager and primary Minnesota sports fanatic, would have no rooting interest. Unfortunately, I found out Freddy, like most Vikings’ fans, is as virulent a Packer-hater as he is a Vikings fan. So he spent the afternoon pacing in front of the big screen TV and cheering on the Cowboys in a voice that was just quieter than someone lobbing artillery at an exploding volcano as it’s being hit by a nuclear bomb. Meantime, Mike repeatedly strike out with our server. (How badly? He not only struck out, he lost control of the bat and it flew into the stands and killed a nun.) Carol ordered a pitcher of Long Island Iced Teas and didn’t notice that she was the only one drinking from it. At one point, it was 50-50 as to whether the cab we called for her was going to take her home or to the ER. Lars kept exchanging insulting texts with his buddy, Chuck, but was forced to sneak out through the kitchen when Chuck arrived in the parking lot, claiming he had a gun. (Not sure if it was true. They did go out for drinks later that night.) For a minute, I thought I might be the night’s big winner, as I actually got the server’s phone number. As we were leaving, she pulled me aside to thank me.
SERVER: I really appreciate it. It was the only way I could think of to get your friend to leave me alone.
ME: Oh. So you didn’t really…
SERVER: (Laughing, taking back the piece of paper with her number on it.) No, no, no. Sweetie, really. I only date men. (Walks away, crumpling the paper.)
In other news, I now have irrevocable veto power over any changes to the Sunday gathering.
AWARDS FROM THE COMMISH
FANTASY OWNER OF THE WEEK: (tie) Robbie, Lars and Hal
It was a strange week in the league. Everybody’s lineup was feast or famine (except for T.J., who was strictly famine. I really can’t believe I thought he’d win the league.) At any rate, nobody made any particularly brilliant moves, but the gentlemen listed above all made ONE change to their lineups that made all the difference. Robbie added Brandin Cooks (150+ yards and a TD), Lars got Jonathan Stewart back (75+ yards and two TDS) and Hal put David Johnson back in the lineup (just in time for three TDs and over 100 total yards.) Robbie gets bonus points for handing Carol her first loss and keeping the league competitive. (Did I say competitive? I mean, putrid.)
FANTASY PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Odell Beckham Jr.
ODJ has become a permanent fixture in the Notes. He’s not only the most exciting player in the league, but possibly its most rock-headed (and the competition is stiff in both those categories.) This week, to the good, Beckham torched the Ravens’ D for 222 yards and two TDs, the killer being a 66 yard catch-and-go late in the game. Beckham pretty much cannibalized all of the Giants’ fantasy points and seemed to single-handedly win the game. Until…
DUMBASS PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Odell Beckham Jr.
Beckham celebrated his game-winning TD by pulling off his helmet and running back to the bench to propose to the kicking net (for once, I didn’t make up any of that for comedic effect.) The celebration cost the Giants a 15 yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, enforced on the kickoff. The Ravens took advantage of the shortened field and drove to the Giants’ 24, forcing the Giants to breakup a pass in the end zone to preserve the win. Beckham’s boneheaded celebration (seriously, the flag for taking your helmet off has been around for nearly 20 years) nearly undid all his good work. Much as I enjoy watching him, nothing about Beckham’s work this week changes the “Million dollar talent, two cent head” narrative about him.
(By the way, the thing with Beckham and the kicking net is getting a little creepy. He just “proposed” to something he punched out a few weeks ago. You really think the NFL is thrilled with THAT narrative?)
DUMBASS OWNER OF THE WEEK: Mike
Mike is threatening to take up residence in this space. This week, he opted to sit Lamar Miller in favor of Carlos Hyde and Kenny Britt in favor of Jordan Matthews. That little bit of strategy was basically trading 29 points for 5. And 24 points was his exact losing margin this week. For his next great trick, Mike will be trading two dimes for a nickel until he can’t pay his rent.
ASSCLOWN OF THE WEEK: Cam Newton
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Panthers suffered a crushing defeat and Newton pouted his way through less than 2 minutes of his press conference before walking out. I’m not certain who deserves the criticism more: Newton for acting like one of the children he claims to be a role model for or all the columnists who enable this crap by calling Newton “a competitor”. I’m not certain when “competitor” became synonymous with “miserable S.O.B.” but I find it a weak excuse. If sports has anything to teach us, it’s teamwork and the ability to maintain grace in the face of defeat. So please don’t bother showing me the footage of Cam bringing young kids to a Panthers game and all that. It’s a nice gesture, but if he’s not going to show them how an adult behaves, a gesture is all it is.
Still, much as I hate that man right now, you gotta love that suit…
HORSESHOE UP ASS AWARD: Stoner
For much of Sunday, Stoner and I fought a battle that was the fantasy equivalent of a UFC match between two 80 year old dudes in need of a hip replacement. The work of Ezekiel Elliot and Terrance West on my side and Tom Brady and Julio Jones on Stoner’s at least perked the game up a tad. By Monday night, I just needed 12 points out of Carson Palmer to pull out the win. Something of a tall order, but against a declining Jets D, not an impossible one. Instead, Palmer went full Carson Palmer on me, tossing a single TD and collecting just over 200 yards passing before leaving with menstrual–excuse me, hamstring–cramps. Needless to say, I came up well short of the points I needed to defeat Stoner, who refuses to show me the contract he made with the devil.
Unless, of course, Stoner IS the devil. Hmm…
And finally, in honor of Jon Stewart (whenever he chooses to show up, the funniest man on TV) I give you…
YOUR MOMENT OF ZEN: NFL ratings plunge
Most of the news around the NFL this season has been less about a breakout team or player and more about how fewer people are tuning in. Ratings in general are down 11 percent and Monday Night Football is down 21 percent (as if ESPN didn’t have enough to worry about.) The NFL was concerned enough that its media executives, Brian Rolapp and Howard Katz, recently sent a memo to all 32 teams addressing the issue. Their conclusion? Tom Brady definitely deflated those footballs, sank The Lusitania and ordered the hit on Luca Brazzi. (I kid, I kid…)
What Rolapp and Katz actually did was try to calm owners’ fears and theorize about the decline. In terms of simple logic, their conclusions were a mixed bag. Here’s what they’ve got:
We’re Still Number One. The memo was quick to point out that, despite the ratings recession, the NFL is still the number one media property in the country (not simply among sports, among ALL forms of entertainment.) And that is absolutely correct. NOTHING that’s regularly on TV equals the pull of the NFL. But you’ll pardon me if I still find this argument lacking. Because I’ve heard it before. So have you, probably. Every time a popular show faces a decline a ratings, the producers are quick to point out that it’s STILL the number one show on television. Which is perfectly true…until it isn’t. A decline is a decline and humming Don’t Worry, Be Happy throughout the day is not going to change that trend.
That Darn Presidential Election. The memo pointed out that NFL ratings last fell during the hotly-contested 2000 Presidential election and said a similar thing was happening this time. While there’s no denying the impact of the first two debates (held on a Monday night and a Sunday night) this seems more coincidental than anything. The 2004, 2008 and 2012 elections weren’t exactly landslides, but they didn’t bother the NFL’s ratings. While the two debates certainly had an impact, that doesn’t explain why Thursday nights and Sunday afternoons, as well as any non-debate night, would be affected. It’s not as if the whole country’s turned into Jack Bauer on 24. I’m as anxious about this election as anybody, but I’m not pacing the floor, going, “I can’t possibly watch football. THERE’S JUST TOO MUCH AT STAKE!”
Concussion Concern. Not surprisingly, Rolapp and Katz saw no correlation between negative coverage of the NFL’s concussion issues and the decline in ratings. Did we really expect the NFL’s media executives to break with the Shield’s party line? Neil Pilson, a sports marketing consultant, had this pithy take: “The NFL is still a warrior sport. I liken it to the gladiators in ancient Rome. Just because you’re not a gladiator doesn’t mean you’re not interested in seeing the gladiators perform.” Uh, Neil is THAT really the metaphor you want to go with?
The Anthem Protests. This, and perhaps the concussion issue, is where I have to admit that I feel out of step with the general NFL fan populace. According to a recent Rasmussen poll, a third of NFL fans are less likely to watch because of the anthem protests. While the phrasing of the question could factor in (“less likely” doesn’t mean “absolutely won’t”) I have to admit that’s kind of stunning. The only time most of us see the national anthem is if we’re actually at the game. Beyond that, you get the opening Thursday, the conference championship games and the Super Bowl. So you’re telling me people are going to tune out the NFL due to a protest they never actually see? Then again, I suppose these are the same people who oppose gay rights just because they know it’s going on…and have a large collection of gay porn in their basement (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
Now, I’m not going to tell you the NFL is going away anytime soon. That would stupid. Skip Bayless stupid. I mean, in a month, we could be talking about how quickly the NFL ratings have rebounded. But I will tell you that the NFL is starting to feel like one of those family businesses that a couple generations put on solid footing, only to have some stupid kid come along and run it into the ground. It’s conducted its business in a selfish, short-sighted manner for longer than people care to remember. States and municipalities are held hostage to provide new stadiums or lose their teams (and sometimes lose their teams even when they’re willing to provide a new stadium.) Catastrophic long-term health concerns are downplayed. A clearly incompetent commissioner is kept around for the sole reason that the league is still making money on his watch. While it may not be soon, the time WILL come that the NFL will realize what the drive for more, more, more has cost them. And then it might too late to recover.
You’re welcomed to call me silly and you might be right. I’ll just mention this: Enron, American Idol and boxing as a mainstream sport. All of them were supposed to be too big to fail. All of them did.
Brian’s Song (Carol) 5-1
Teddy’s ACL (Robbie) 4-2
War Machine (Jack) 4-2
The Rat Pack (Me) 2-4
The Winter Soldiers (Mike) 1-5
The Electric Mayhem (Hal) 4-2
The Dropkick Murphys (Stoner) 4-2
The Jock Sniffers (T.J.) 3-3
The Flaming Envelopes (Lars) 2-4
Chuck (Chuck) 1-5