I engage in the same thing (as I’m sure we all do) every other year around this time: the tuning out of election ads. I spend the first two months of the season keeping the remote handy in case one of those things comes on. This year, I’ve resorted to just muting the sound when the commercials start and ignoring the TV until I notice the football’s back on. This past week, I was openly fantasizing about two weeks from now, when we enjoy the first Sunday free of political ads, leading to this exchange:
ME: The problem is, it takes a few weeks to realize I don’t need to know where the remote is at all times. I’m practically twitching, waiting for an ad to come on.
LARS: It’s like you’ve got an STD.
ME: (after thinking about that for a second) You mean PTSD?
LARS: (after thinking about that for a second) No. I’m pretty sure I got it right.
Maybe I should just reconsider Sundays altogether…
AWARDS FROM THE COMMISH
FANTASY PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Carson Palmer
Palmer was a fantasy cash machine this week. Not only did he throw for over 300 yards and three TDs, but he was nice enough to get sacked 8 times, throw a pick and cough up a fumble that was returned for a TD. If you had both Palmer and Carolina’s D, you were in the money.
FANTASY OWNER OF THE WEEK: Me
Guess who had both Palmer and Carolina’s D?
CHICKENS COMING HOME TO ROOST AWARD: Carol
Play fantasy football long enough (and it doesn’t have to be real long) and you start to notice certain things recurring from year to year. There’s always an owner who panics and makes trades and pickups willy-nilly, so that by the end of the season their “fantasy” team resembles a car that’s been stripped to the struts and left on blocks. There’s the deadbeat owner who apparently leaves town halfway through the season and his team is eventually composed of guys with catastrophic injuries, CFL players and retirees. (By the way, this owner will never pay the admission fee and his team will somehow win a late season game to screw up someone’s playoff chances.) There’s the team who should be dominating the league, but somehow isn’t. And the team that keeps winning games when you can’t possibly figure out how they’re doing it. In this last bucket, we find Carol’s team.
While I’m not so bitter as to say Carol’s team hasn’t had a good game all season (it’s had one) it’s managed to uncannily produce JUST enough points to win week after week. It’s like a black hole swallowing all light and gravity from everything it runs across. This week, the tables were turned slightly. In playing Lars (whose team is suddenly looking powerful…I say that only to jinx him) Carol had a very solid week, racking up 57 points. It was enough to beat all but three teams in the league…and she happened to be playing one of them. I would’ve engaged in a tad more schadenfreude, but if Carol caught me, it would mean the loss of a few vital organs. Even in writing this, I’m taking my chances, so let’s move on…
ASSCLOWN OF THE WEEK: NFL Coverage
I talked about the NFL’s ratings decrease a few weeks ago. Said decrease reached it’s nadir this past Sunday when Game 5 of the World Series scored a ratings win over a pretty good Sunday Night NFL match up. Now, the NFL spinmeisters and their tame media are going to be quick to make excuses, talking about how there’s an unusually high interest level in this year’s Series. And they’re not wrong. There was a lot at stake in Sunday’s night Game 5. Either the Indians were going to close it out and win their first World Series in almost 70 years or the Cubs were going to stay alive in their quest to give the franchise its first title since the Roosevelt Administration…the THEODORE Roosevelt administration.
But c’mon, seriously? That’s Major League Baseball. This is the NFL. A couple years back, the NFL didn’t schedule a Sunday night game out of deference to the World Series. It seemed like an act of charity. If it wanted, the NFL could’ve said, “Hey, F.U. We’ll play the game in centerfield DURING your game. What are you gonna do about it?” Now, with a match up between two surprisingly resurgent teams with good young QBs, they can’t beat MLB in the ratings? That can’t be viewed as anything but disturbing for the NFL.
Certainly the number of new media options out there have cut into the NFL’s ratings (Red Zone, mobile apps, DVRs, etc). But the NFL isn’t helping its cause with its own coverage. When you are, as I mentioned above, sensitive to the content of commercials, you can’t help being aware of the NUMBER of them. Remember the days when not EVERY kickoff, not EVERY stoppage of play, was an excuse for a commercial? The league has so saturated their coverage with ads that the game itself has slowed to the point where a baseball game seems like a track meet by comparison. They’re cutting their own throats in the attempt to squeeze more dimes out of what has heretofore been the most lucrative proposition in entertainment. It still is, but if they keep turning off their own viewers, how long is that going to last? Maybe Mark Cuban was right a few years back when he predicted the NFL’s demise by pointing out that pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered.
TREND OF THE WEEK: The Fantocalypse
The NFL’s schedule-makers were certainly in line for the Assclown Award, given that SIX teams had a bye week. After a few weeks of one or two teams getting a bye, we were treated to nearly 20% of the league kicking back (to say nothing of Jacksonville and Minnesota, who showed up but decided to spend the game updating their MySpace pages.) Needless to say, this utterly wreaked havoc on our league’s fantasy football lineups (many of which utterly reeked.) I hope the schedulers enjoy the large box of dog turds I’m going to have Fed Exed to their offices.
HUBRIS AWARD: Vikings’ fans
Some of you may remember that I renounced my Vikings fanship a few years ago when the team decided to continue employing a bigoted homophobe named Jack Priefer as their special teams coach. (Of course, the whole country may be hiring a sexual predator as it’s Chief Executive, so this looks like small potatoes. But I digress.) I should make it clear that I don’t regard myself as a former fan so much as a fan in exile. Since the employment length of your average NFL coach is roughly equivalent to the attention span of your average 8 year old on a sugar rush, I’m certain the offending parties will be gone at some point and I can return to rooting for the team of my youth.
But my time in Football Fan Elba has given me an interesting perspective on Vikings’ fans (and not just my liberal friends who claim to support LGBT rights out of one side of their mouths and root for the Vikings out of the other.) For a fanbase as tortured as this one, it’s awfully quick to get chesty at the first sign of success. Now, I don’t want to fall into that same tired “Yeah, but we’ve won a Super Bowl” comeback employed by most of your braindead Packers or Bears fans (which is actually most of them.) Instead, I keep looking at the Vikes’ history and think, “WHY would you want to mock the football gods with such blatant hubris?” A 5-0 start, particularly when you’ve lost your starting QB and your future-Hall-of=Fame RB, is pretty amazing. But it’s not exactly reversing the curse of 4 Super Bowl losses, the Drew Pearson Hail Mary, Darrin Nelson’s dropped pass, Gary Anderson’s shank in the Great Atlanta Chokejob, Brett Favre’s pick against the Saints or Blair Walsh’s wide, Wide, WIDE left against Seattle. But to hear Vikings’ fans tell it, they’d strolled right down Vince Lombardi Avenue, dropped a steamer in front of Lambeau Field and there isn’t a damn thing anyone can do about it.
Well, the football gods, apparently, cannot brook such nonsense. The last two weeks have seen the Vikings get destroyed by the Eagles and trounced by a Bears team that could wind up going 2-14. Vikes fans have at least temporarily returned to a mix of grumbling and radio silence. In other words, the status quo. Now, that doesn’t mean the season is doomed or that head coach Mike Zimmer can’t get this thing turned around (I despise his choice of special teams coordinators, but beyond that, he’s a hell of a coach.) But either way, Vikings fans, I believe that Cubs, Red Sox and Cleveland fans will all tell you this: until or unless your team is hoisting a trophy, a little humility, please.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Rex Ryan
After getting stomped by the Patriots (and having a sex toy thrown at him) the coach of the second place Bills had this to say: “I think it’s unrealistic to think you’re going to win your division … How many games are they up now? Three? That team is three games up on us and at the halfway point they’ve lost one game. And No. 12 is back. So yeah, I don’t see that happening.” Way to give ’em the old pepper there, Sexy Rexy. BTW, Rex has also been given The Onion “Man Loses Cowardly Battle With Cancer” Award.
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: Tie-palooza
Last week, I wrote at length about the Seahawks-Cardinals Debacle in the Desert that ended in a 6-6 tie. Not content to let those teams have all the fun, Cincinnati and Washington treated the fans of London to a round of good ol’ American incompetence by refusing any and all attempts to win the actual game. It was a masterful display of dropped passes, turnovers, temper tantrums, dumb penalties and questionable coaching decisions and it produced the second incident of kissing-your-sister in as many weeks. Later in the day, Raiders QB Derek Carr tossed a 41 yard TD with a 1:45 left in OT to spare us the second tie of the day and the third in two weeks.
Until recently, not everyone could agree on the best way to fix the NFL’s OT rules, but most everyone agreed they sucked. (Yes, you’d get knobs who made the Defense is part of the game, too argument, but most of those guys were Tony Dungy.) I figured there must be a happy medium between Get to the 35 and kick a field goal and college football’s Line up on the 25 and match scores until someone can’t score or starts puking all over the field. And I was pretty certain the NFL found it in the current rules: if the first team to possess the ball scores a TD, they win automatically. If they kick a field goal, the other team gets a possession. After that, we’re playing sudden death.
The unforeseen (at least I think it was unforeseen) problem is that if teams each get a possession and trade field goals, you may have used up half (if not more) of the OT quarter, meaning you’ve got an even shorter version of sudden death. While I’m willing to call this sudden spate of ties an anomaly, there are others who won’t think so. Let’s face it, some people don’t embrace change. The NFL had an instant replay system, ditched it, then brought it back again in a better form. And there are STILL people who want to get rid of it. (These people who would have opposed player helmets if they’d been around at the time.)
My fear, of course, is that more ties will give traction to those who want to go back to the old, boring system. This means for the rest of this season and maybe the next, people like me, who like the new rules, will be developing shpilkis in our collective genechtagazoink every time an OT game gets within the last five minutes. If there’s one rule about the NFL, it’s that nothing is untouchable. Replay works, but they keep tinkering with it. Twelve playoff teams is way plenty, but some want it to be fourteen. A 16 game season is really all you can expect out of the players, but some owners keep pushing for 18 games. If there’s one thing about the NFL braintrust, it’s that it has no brains and cannot be trusted.
Then again, it is better than a tie…
Brian’s Song (Carol) 6-2
Teddy’s ACL (Robbie) 6-2
War Machine (Jack) 4-4
The Rat Pack (Me) 4-4
The Winter Soldiers (Mike) 1-7
The Electric Mayhem (Hal) 5-3
The Dropkick Murphys (Stoner) 5-3
The Flaming Envelopes (Lars) 4-4
The Jock Sniffers (T.J.) 3-5
Chuck (Chuck) 2-6