One of my favorite Bill Simmons’ creations was the Tyson Zone. Named after the ever-unpredictable former heavyweight champion, the Tyson Zone is the state a celebrity reaches where ANY headline about them seems normal. Mike Tyson reached the point where you could read a story about him being tased by police after they discovered him having sex with a tiger on the roof of the MGM Grand and you’d just go, “Yep, that’s Mike for you.”
On Sunday, I watched the season nine premiere of Curb Your Enthusiasm. SPOILER ALERT! SERIOUSLY, GET THE F**K OUT NOW BECAUSE I’M GOING TO SPOIL THE WHOLE DAMN THING! I LIVE TO SQUEAL! In the episode, Larry David has just completed his magnum opus: Fatwa, a musical about the fatwa (death sentence) that the Ayatollah placed on Salman Rushdie after the publication of The Satanic Verses. In promoting it, Larry goes on Jimmy Kimmel Live and makes a few jokes about the Ayatollah. He wakes up the next day to find the current Ayatollah has placed a fatwa on HIM. In reading a review of the episode, the producers of Curb realize there’s a risk of having a fatwa placed on them as a result of this storyline. So to recap, Larry David may get an actual fatwa for joking about a fake fatwa that came about as the result of a fake play about a real fatwa.
This is the world we live in. We’re all in the Tyson Zone now.
Oh, and there was some football…
AWARDS FROM THE COMMISH
FANTASY PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Anyone playing the Indianapolis Colts
Unless you’re the Cleveland Browns, this season’s Colts team is the equivalent of a Fantasy ATM. This week’s beneficiaries were the Seattle Seahawks, who ran up 46 points, got two TDs out of their defense and featured a world class performance from QB Russell Wilson. Colts’ Head Coach/Dead Man Walking Chuck Pagano is now openly slugging from a bottle of gin on the sidelines. In Pagano’s defense (which is the only defense you’ll see around Indy these days), the Colts are without star QB Andrew Luck. Luck had off-season surgery and Indy had such a strong back up plan, they’ve spent four weeks going from Scott Tolzein to Jacoby Brissett to Iggy, the Bud vendor in Section 202. On the bright side, Luck should be back in the next few weeks. Unfortunately, the rest of the team will be there as well.
KICK IN THE NUTS AWARD: Chuck
As I’ve pointed out many times in the past, the Fantasy Gods and I have a complicated relationship. They gave abundantly my first few years in the league, but have made a habit of crapping on my doorstep the last several seasons. So you’ll have to pardon me if I don’t really trust them. But that’s probably nothing compared to how Chuck feels right now. Chuck had a four point lead heading into Monday night and I had only Kansas City’s D going. That lead held up right to the end, as the Chiefs hit a last second field goal and were in position to finish the game. Only the kickoff remained. Washington handled the kickoff by doing one of those Hot Potato Schoolboy moves involving roughly three hundred laterals. One of those wound up in the hands of Chiefs’ special teamer Justin Houston, who took it back for a TD. Boom. 8 fantasy points to me and a victory on literally the LAST play of the weekend. I’m waiting for Chuck to proclaim a fatwa on everybody involved.
BIZARRO QB AWARD: Jay Cutler
While the various owners claim they haven’t colluded to keep Colin Kaepernick out of the NFL, there is one rather glaring piece of evidence to the contrary. No, not Mike Glennon. Okay, there’s TWO glaring pieces of evidence to the contrary. Faced with losing QB Ryan Tannehill for the season, the Dolphins could have signed Kaepernick, a readily-available, likely very affordable QB who once took a team to the Super Bowl. Instead, they chose to throw a ridiculous amount of money at a guy who’s never been to the Super Bowl, has a career record of 68-71 and spent the off-season preparing for a broadcast position, having retired the previous May. Yes, the Dolphins and Raybert Productions present…SMOKIN’ JAY CUTLER!
And yet the Fins seem surprised that, with Cutler at the helm, they’ve produced a total of 6 points the last two weeks. Take a knee? Kaepernick should take a dump in the middle of Hard Rock Stadium (yeah, apparently that’s what they’re calling it now.) On the other hand, we have the return of…
(So glad I didn’t throw these images away…)
ASSCLOWN(S) OF THE WEEK: NFL fans
While there was a general vibe that protesting Donald Trump’s attack on freedom of expression was SO last week, some fans chose not to let it go. When the Baltimore Ravens knelt for prayer prior to the Anthem, they were roundly booed. One fan had the temerity to hold up a sign that said “Play Ball Not Politics”, conveniently forgetting that this whole thing was STARTED by a f**king politician! A poll released by CNN said that 62% of respondents were “less likely” to watch the NFL as a result of the protests.
Let’s take the last part first. Since last November, I haven’t put a lot of faith in polls. Second, opinion polls are generally the worst. You can massage the results simply by how you phrase the question (38% of all people know that.) In this case, “less likely” does not mean people will stop watching altogether. Also, this whole thing is really just a kerfuffle. It will be forgotten about, as kerfuffles generally are, and remembered only as a kerfuffle. (I’m not saying that simply because the word “kerfuffle” makes me giggle. Okay, maybe I am.) But the point is that fans want their football and the NFL is the only professional league in town. NFL fans are welcomed to check out the Canadian Football League for a few weeks or, worse, spend time with their families on Sundays. Believe me, they’ll be back.
But the most disheartening part of this whole thing is the use of the Anthem as the reason to turn away from the NFL. You can show fans study after study laying out the effects of CTE, remind them that they’re essentially watching these guys kill themselves week after week and they won’t give two s**ts. Watch an African-American player kneel because he doesn’t feel a lot of loyalty to a country that’s progressed only a bit from the time when African-Americans were treated as glorified farm animals and, hell, them’s fighting words. In short, NFL fans are completely okay with players scrambling their brains as long as they don’t bother to use them.
And finally, in honor of Jon Stewart (we still need you, brother) I give you…
YOUR MOMENT OF ZEN: The Los Angeles Chargers of San Diego
For the last couple decades, Los Angeles has acted as the Death Star for NFL fan bases everywhere. “Well, you can fund a new stadium for us,” some fat cat owner would tell a state legislature or city council, “And if you don’t, L.A.’s just sitting there, empty.” While this worked with a goodly number of fan bases (I’m sitting in the heart of one) the league’s luck eventually ran out. San Diego and Oakland were willing to play ball, but not be blackmailed. Stan Kroenke, the Rams owner, ignored the state of Missouri’s willingness to give him a new stadium, a prime location, favorable tax breaks and Jefferson City. This resulted in THREE teams suddenly showing up on L.A.’s doorstep. This is the same Los Angeles that carved a reputation for not caring about any sports team not named the Lakers, Dodgers or Trojans (and even then…) And yet, L.A. suddenly had an abundance of riches because a) it’s the nation’s second-largest TV market and b) this is the NFL we’re talking about.
Obviously, the NFL had a situation on its hands. They couldn’t have three teams in L.A. So they decided to cap it at two, even though the market had never been able to sustain ONE. (Remember this in a few years when the NFL ramrods a team into London, despite the Brits considering American football to be Rugby for Pussies.) Kroenke, willing to build a palace the size of a space station as long as it got him the hell out of Missouri, was an easy choice for one of those slots. In deciding the other team, the NFL went with the Chargers because the Spanos family have been stalwarts in the league for nearly 35 years and there’s every chance that Raiders’ owner Mark Davis is clinically insane. Davis responded to the snub by deciding to move his team to Las Vegas after he couldn’t get funding for his original choice: Alpha Centauri. The Chargers, meanwhile, decided to set up shop at the 27,000-seat StubHub Center, home of Major League Soccer’s L.A. Galaxy. This is the sports equivalent of “If I told them once, I told them a hundred times: put Spinal Tap first and Puppet Show last.” Fortunately, the situation is only temporary, as the Chargers will soon move into the Rams’ new stadium and become the NFL’s version of the 35 year old guy who moves back into his parents’ basement.
The situation reached its (possible) nadir this past weekend when the Chargers played a home game that was a home game in name only. For the second week in a row, the visiting team (in this case, the Eagles) had a significantly louder and more boisterous group of fans than the alleged home team. Estimates put the figures at 70-80% Eagles fans. Eagles’ tackle Jason Peters talked about the Chargers basically playing 16 road games this season and no one on the Chargers really disagreed with him.
I’m not the first and sincerely doubt I’ll be the last to question the Chargers’ move to Los Angeles and the NFL’s willingness to let it happen. To be clear, the situation in San Diego was not ideal. Qualcomm Stadium, despite some minor upgrades, is slightly older than Betty White. San Diego pols and voters continually shot down stadium proposal after stadium proposal. Chargers chairman, Dean Spanos, can be fairly said to have exhausted his options in San Diego before deciding to move the team.
But “To what?” is a fair question to ask. Yes, the Chargers spent the first season of their existence in Los Angeles, but that was in 1960. Calling this any kind of homecoming is like returning to a room you sublet for a few months some thirty years ago and calling it “the old homestead”. The Chargers had, and have, no natural constituency in a town that doesn’t give a rip about NFL football in the first place. And Los Angelenos are not likely to embrace the lesser of their two unwanted tenants. The situation is abysmal and not likely to rise above that level, well, ever.
Yes, Qualcomm Stadium was a dump. But at least the Chargers were WANTED there.
The Rat Pack (Me) 3-1
The Dropkick Murphys (Stoner) 3-1
Chuck (Chuck) 2-2
Brian’s Song (Carol) 1-3
The Defenders (Mike) 0-4
The Jock Sniffers (T.J.) 3-1
Lethal Injection (Jack) 2-2
Rodgers Blows (Robbie) 2-2
The People in the Band (Lars) 2-2
The Electric Mayhem (Hal) 1-3