I’d like to open by giving myself the “Should Have Kept My Mouth Shut” Award. If I had said nothing about Carol’s scant playoff chances last week, had I allowed her to wallow in ignorance and then surprised her with the playoff possibilities ONLY if she made it in, our weekly football gathering would have been much more pleasant. However, Carol, suddenly aware that she had something to play for, was as pleasant to be around as a Mike Ditka Type A Christmas Special. And when those hopes came crashing down, who did she blame? Robbie, whose team picked the worst possible time to find its collective pecker? Herself, for mismanaging her team on a Becky DeVos level? No, friends, you probably already know: it was the guy who made the mistake of telling her she still had a shot at making the playoffs. I would like to thank Lars for carefully positioning himself between me and Carol at all times, thus ensuring she did not throw her smartphone at my head.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not disappointed to see the end of the Fantasy Football regular season.
AWARDS FROM THE COMMISH
FANTASY OWNER OF THE WEEK: Lars
Sometimes, the key to Fantasy Football success is to keep your s**t about you while all others are losing theirs. And as I’m fond of saying, I don’t anyone more full of s**t than Lars. This week, he could have hit the panic button and benched Alex Smith. Yes, it would mean his lineup would be approximately 75% Pittsburgh Steelers, but when they’re playing the Cincinnati Bengals, why not? Instead, he stuck with Smith. Yes, the Chiefs are sinking faster than the Lusitania and Alex Smith will not likely be an NFL QB after this or any other season. But none of that matters in fantasy football, particularly when you throw for 4 TDs and more than 300 yards. The avalanche of points not only made Lars the high scorer in the league, it gave him the margin needed to defeat Chuck. I’ve got to give the man credit. Push come to shove, he’ll choose to do nothing. (Which is Lars’ specialty, really.)
TOILET BOWL: Mike vs Jack
Let me first get this out of the way: my annual explanation of why I don’t have a Toilet Bowl, by which teams that don’t make the playoffs can participate in a loser’s bracket. I’ve always considered the Toilet Bowl a depressing exercise. Nobody wants to be in it. And some leagues actually give money to the a**hole that wins it. Giving money to a loser that does nothing more than beat other losers? That’s not America. That’s not even Mexico. (It’s a Simpsons reference, everybody. Please relax.)
Anyway, the closest thing we’re going to get to the Toilet Bowl this year was this clash between two star-crossed teams. Mike, who’s sucked for the second year in a row, largely due to another draft in which he went all-in on a couple players who did him wrong, and Jack, who largely made the mistake of showing up week after week (we’ll have a full rundown of Jack’s horrible luck when we do the year-end awards in a few weeks.) In true Toilet Bowl fashion, they went out with a 30-27 game that might have set the Fantasy Football movement back a generation. Our…congratulations? To Mike? (Let’s never speak of this again.)
ASSCLOWN OF THE WEEK- Rob Gronkowski
The Patriots TE/Idiot Man Child contributed to the general brutality in the NFL with what amounted to a Superfly Splash on Bills’ CB Tre’Davious White. Let’s let the video do the talking.
Even Pats’ coach Bill Bellichick was moved to apologize to Bills’ coach Sean McDermott in the post-game handshake, telling him, “It was bulls**t.” I’d love to go into a whole “Gronk feel bad” sort of comedy bit, like I always do. But given what I’m going to talk about further down the column, I don’t find anything funny about Gronkowski at the moment. So let’s just say I agree with Bellichick and think that Gronkowski should have gotten more than a one game suspension for what he did.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Joe Thomas
Again, in the form of a Tweet: “College football needs to go to an 8 team playoff. The winner of the power 5 conferences is an automatic berth and then 3 at large teams. Would settle most of the issues we have these days.”
Yep. You knew it would take all of about three seasons and one power 5 conference winner getting screwed out of the playoffs before this argument started to get some traction. Unlike the current playoff, I don’t think it’s going to take 75 years of bitching to get this one done.
MIDAS TOUCH AWARD: Jimmy Haslem
My favorite revelation of the week: the Browns’ owner is ALSO a major booster of the University of Tennessee, whose football program is conducting a head coaching search with a competency that rivals Monty Python and The Holy Grail. Fun fact: UT coach Butch Jones was fired with a record of 4-6. That’s as many wins as the Browns have had the last two-and-a-half seasons. (And no one’s optimistic that the Browns are going to pass UT before the season’s out.) As Mike is fond of shouting to boxers, just before they get knocked out, “You got ’em right where you want ’em, buddy!”
NFL MAN OF THE WEEK: Ben McAdoo
The Giants’ head coach has struggled this season, leading a team that’s 2-10. This week, McAdoo, in the manner of all bold leaders, stood up and took full responsibility…by pretty much blaming Eli Manning. Eli’s streak of 210 consecutive starts was ended so that McAdoo could start Geno Smith. Yes, the same Geno Smith who got fired from the team across town. After getting his jaw broken by a teammate. So, not exactly the wave of the future here. Still, McAdoo’s move managed to galvanize the people around him. Although, in this case, it was Giants’ fans, former players and other players around the NFL, most of whom diplomatically called the decision “bulls**t”. Even Giants owner John Mara said he was disappointed with the way it was handled. McAdoo stood firm, saying his relationship with Mara was solid. You have to hand it to McAdoo. He had his thumb firmly on the pulse of the situation. The Giants lost and Mara fired him on Monday, getting rid of GM Jerry Reese just to clear further stench from the nostrils.
“You got ’em right where you want ’em, buddy!”
And finally, in honor of Jon Stewart (we still need you, brother) I give you…
YOUR MOMENT OF ZEN: The Steelers-Bengals game, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Death of the NFL
I hesitated to turn this game into this week’s Moment of Zen and go on about how games like this perpetuate the Warrior Mentality that leads to life-damaging concussions and will be the undoing of the sport (only after it ruins countless lives.) Because I’ll be honest: I go on it about it so much, I get the feeling people are bored and no one’s listening. And if that’s how I feel, imagine how people like Bennett Omalu and Chris Nowinski, who are very publicly trying to make a difference, must feel. But if you’re bored, feel free to skip to the bottom or move on to any cat videos you deem necessary.
At any rate, the Bengals-Steelers game from this past week resembled a motorcycle gang rumble more than an actual sporting contest. Steelers’ LB Ryan Shazier was carted off the field after a clean hit, unable to feel anything below his waist. While horrifying, it was at least a legal play, making it the “high point” of the action. In the second half, both teams went full assclown (you never want to go full assclown.) Steelers WR Juju Smith-Schuster (the most unlikely name you’re ever going to hear for what’s about to follow) delivered the cowardly blindside hit to end all cowardly blindside hits to Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict (himself not exactly a model of good citizenship.) Just to make sure his intentions were not misunderstood, Smith-Schuster stood over Burfict’s carcass and taunted him. Burfict was carted out on a stretcher. In retaliation (you have to assume), Bengals safety George Ikola mugged Steelers WR Antonio Brown. Brown managed to hold on to the ball and what passes for his marbles. Although, he did look like this after the game…
Assclown Hall of Fame recipient Ben Roethlisberger dismissed the violence by saying, “It’s AFC North football.” (By the way, am I the only one offended, particularly with what’s going on with revelations of sexual misconduct, that announcers insist on referring to this guy as “Ben”. I hear it as, “Hey, I’m buddies with a guy who very likely raped a woman. Look at that nice tight spiral.”)
This is the part where I need to come clean on everything. Lest someone think I’m getting up on my high horse, I’m actually a huge part of the problem. Because I deplored the violence I saw on Monday night and shook my head at the mentality that created it. And went on watching the game. And I’ll be back the next week and the week following. I’ll watch these guys bash each other and scramble each other’s brains and deplore the violence and keep on watching. Wash, rinse, repeat. But if you asked me if I would ever let my (theoretical) son play the game, I’ll tell you, “F**k no” or words to that effect. (Actually, those exact words.) And I get the feeling I’m not alone in this. The filled stadiums, the multi-million dollar contracts, even the TV ratings (down, but still higher than anything else) all mask the fact that the concussion issue is eating away at the sport like dry rot (or some kind of rot. I’m not much of a rot expert.) And none of the stewards of the game (the owners, the players, the commissioner or a very large segment of the fans) seem impelled to make any kind of meaningful change. Assuming one can even be made. Think I’m being an alarmist? Let me give you some food for thought.
In 1976, 30,000 people stepped into Yankee Stadium to watch Muhammad Ali and Ken Norton finish their trilogy of matches. At this point, boxing had been one of America’s most popular sports for closing in on a hundred years. Every heavyweight title fight was an event. While Ali was the most popular athlete on the planet (and probably for all time), he was another in a line of popular boxers that started with John L. Sullivan and included Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, Rocky Marciano and Joe Frazier. It was probably inconceivable that boxing would ever reach a point where it was considered a fringe sport. But six years later, Duk Koo Kim died after a brutal fight with Ray Mancini. And a few years after that, Ali began showing the effects of Parkinson’s Disease, likely brought on by his years in the ring. Thirty years later, being a boxing fan feels like being a fan of cock fighting. While we seem to be heading toward the latter days of the Roman Empire, there’s still enough decency left that we don’t want to see people beat each other to death (the last time I looked.)
And when the fecal matter hits the cooling unit, who’s going to fight for the future of football? The owners will pull up stakes and get the hell out. The fans will have moved on to something else. The players might regret their playing days, but will not be mentally capable of remembering what it is they’re supposed to regret. Football will simply move to the fringes and be largely forgotten. The only question is how many brains it will leave scrambled in its wake. Maybe, for the sake of decency, I need to make the step I haven’t wanted to make and simply walk away from the sport. I don’t know if I can watch more people get hurt.
Except Ben Roethlisberger. You can concussion the hell out of that guy.
-xThe Dropkick Murphys (Stoner) 9-4
-yThe Rat Pack (Me) 8-5
-yChuck (Chuck) 8-5
Brian’s Song (Carol) 4-9
The Defenders (Mike) 4-9
-xThe Jock Sniffers (T.J.) 11-2
-yThe People in the Band (Lars) 7-6
-yThe Electric Mayhem (Hal) 5-8
Rodgers Blows (Robbie) 4-9
Lethal Injection (Jack) 3-10
JOE DAVIS is the main character in a series of mystery novels by Randall J. Funk. Mr. Davis and Mr. Funk are delighted by the shocking similarities in their opinions and writing styles.