Here is a free tip, from me to you, aimed at all the people who know about sports everywhere, but especially at the amazingly-high number of people in Middleton, Wisconsin, who recognize a 1990's-era Buffalo Bills' Bruce Smith jersey:
Assume that the person wearing such a jersey is aware that a game is on, and that since he opted to be at a public park with his kids anyway, he might just be taping the game.
I tape any football games I'm interested in watching, because that way I can actually spend some time with my kids and do things like fix the sink or read, and then watch the games uninterrupted later on. So Sunday, I was taping the Bills-vs-Jets fiasco, and was, accordingly, at the local playground at 1:15 p.m. when not one...
but three different people came up to me and began telling me how the game was going.
SCENE: A devastatingly handsome man, the kind of man who might be created if you took all the best genes from George Clooney and Simon Baker and combined them and then put the result into a Buffalo Bills' Bruce Smith jersey [look, I'm directing this, I'll cast who I want] is helping a five-year-old into a swing and pushing him.A man approaches:Man Approaching: Hey! Buffalo Bills! All right! Did you know the game is on and they're...Handsome Guy: Whoa! Whoa! I'm taping the game. Please don't tell me how it's going.Man Approaching, with confused look: But they're...Handsome Guy: Taping the game...Man Approaching [Looks Sad, Shakes Head:] Okay, but I thought you'd want to know.Handsome Guy [loses all faith in humanity, wonders how people even manage to survive to adulthood]: Taping...
That happened often enough that I had to take off my jersey, which I figure occurred roughly about 1:30 central time, which is just about when the Bills defense decided they only had to play for one half, which was longer than the Bills' offense bothered to show up for, which meant I was in for a disappointing Sunday evening.
But I did watch the game, and I was also aware that there were other games played, and I've even got time to do an entire post, here, I think, so it's time for The Return Of SNAP! Judgment, and I'll begin with The Team That's Dead To Me This Week. Remember, that's not a team I dislike, or even a team that's bad, but a team that's so boring, so not worth the time it takes to talk about them, that I'm not going to bother caring about them in this post anymore.
Previous dead teams are, right now, just the Atlanta Falcons who, in their breathtaking humdrumosity, exemplify the type of team that ought not to be mentioned, and I'm sorry I did because I dozed off for a second just typing the name.
This week's dead-to-me team: The Tennessee Titans. Why bother talking about them? Not good enough to take advantage of the complete absence of football in Indianapolis, not bad enough to be entertaining, nobody interesting on the entire team, and I already forgot their new coach's name. So you won't see them discussed in this post for the remainder of the football season.
Now, on with the alphabetical review of all the remaining living teams.
Arizona Cardinals: Kevin Kolb was out with an injury; I heard he sprained his hand repeatedly high-fiving Larry Fitzgerald on being the most overpaid combination in the NFL.
Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco won! Also, he's still awful.
Buffalo Bills: Jim Kelly, about a week ago, commented on Obi-Wan Fitzpatrick's contract extension (which includes $24 million in guaranteed money; does your boss guarantee you'll get paid even if you don't show up for work?) by noting that Fitzy had earned the right to that kind of money.
The fact that even a great guy like Jim Kelly thinks it's a right to be paid $24 million in guaranteed money, in a city where half of all households bring in less than $24,000 per year -- that's right, 50% of the families in Buffalo live on less than $2000 a month -- shows just how screwed up America's priorities are.
Earning obscene amounts of money isn't right or a right.
Obi-Wan, by the way, who stunk against the Jets yesterday and appeared befuddled all day long, is ranked 9th in QB rating, 5th and 4th in TDs and completion percentage respectively, but 18th in yards per game. Most analysts believe that Buffalo's success this year was due to their leading the league in turnovers and the resultant short fields, and that stat says it's true. But did Bills' leadership give raises to the entire defense? They did not. And if you watched the Bills-Jets game yesterday, you saw an offense that appeared to be entirely one-dimensional and not very creative. And you also saw why I was so hesitant to get excited about the Bills this season.
Carolina Panthers: Didn't play, but that didn't stop the NFL guys from mentioning Cam Newton, when one of them said something about Cam and Deion Sanders, who might be the most annoying man on the NFL Network, said "Don't do that to Cam." I didn't understand the exchange at all, but it was worth mentioning: Deion Sanders has a secret crush on Cam Newton.
Chicago Bears: Originally, when I started writing this on Monday morning -- it takes a long time to write this post, especially in the mornings when I haven't had 73 cups of coffee yet -- I thought Chicago didn't play this week. It wasn't until Monday night, which I spent jogging and tweeting about Herman Cain, that I realized that the Bears indeed were going to have a game this week. But here's what I wrote on Monday:
Earlier in the week I heard two guys on sports radio talking about how Jay Cutler is one of those quarterbacks whose facial expressions on the sidelines is terrible, and that's true. Cutler, like some other players, have loser face -- watch them on the sidelines when things aren't going so well. You can actually see them quit. Which, by the way, I saw on Obi-Wan Fitzpatrick's face yesterday, as well as Fred Jackson's: about the second quarter, they put on their loser-faces. Right about the time Chan Gailey decided to punt from his own 40 or so, probably because he was going to be late for his other job as an assistant manager at Arby's.
I was then going to read up on the game and say something about it, but I went to NFL.com, which might now be the single-most annoying website on the Internet, given that every single page on that site has some sort of automatically-playing video and that you can not stop them and so when I clicked over there I stopped the videogame ad but then got an ad for something featuring Mr Bill and that crashed my Chrome browser so screw you, NFL.com. If I want sports recaps, I'll go to Deadspin.
Cincinnati Bengals: I was going to say something about how everyone last year was afraid to draft Andy Dalton because he was a redhead and because NFL executives are dumb but lucky, which is how they hold on to jobs, but then I bothered to look at how the Bengals got to 6-2. They beat, in order, Cleveland, Buffalo, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Seattle, and Tennessee. Not exactly a Rogue's Gallery. That set-up of lineups, if it was a group of supervillains, would be the enemies that regularly squared off against Hawkman. In short: the Bengals are not a good team, either. They're just not as bad a team as those other guys are. Beating up Gorilla Grodd ought not to get you invited to the JLA's satellite.
Denver Broncos: In Tom Stoppard's play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, there is a constant reference to coin-flipping, with the results of a coin toss indicating whether the play is taking place in one sort of world or another. It's quite clever, actually, once you catch on to it, even more of an obscure literary device than Vonnegut's so it goes.
Here in this world, we know which set of rules applies by whether Tebow wins or not. Tebow won this week, so the Christian God is in charge for 7 days and this will be a good week to seek social justice.
Maybe next week, Thor.
Detroit Lions: Didn't play, but watched TV instead and hoped that the Colts or Dolphins wouldn't win so that there is a chance that they won't always be the only 0-for-everything team in NFL history. Discuss: Do you want to see another team go 0-16, or would you like to see Detroit be the only team to ever unachieve that feat? Some records can't be broken, like the record for lowest-scoring college football game (0-0, Army-Notre Dame), and some ought not to be, like Detroit's 0-16.
Green Bay Packers: I skipped watching this game because who wants to watch Philip Rivers live down to being the worst/most-overrated quarterback in football? NFL Fans rated it a 75+ on the "interesting meter".
I'd tell you more, but, again, the NFL doesn't have a way to shut off that stupid video player on their site, and it slows down my computer. Let's just auto-text in "Aaron Rodgers threw for a lot of yards, Green Bay's defense continues to not be as great as people think it is even though a lot of people will get mad reading that and say "But they had those turnovers and Clay Mathews and whatnot" and will forget the Packers were playing San Diego."
Houston Texans: Look, I know the Colts are down. But Houson. Will. Not. Win. The. Super. Bowl. That's not me. That's the Immutable Rules of Football. They're. Not. Good.
Indianapolis Colts: So it really was all Peyton? Looks like Caldwell's controversial decision to rest Peyton for the entire regular season in order to keep him fresh for the playoffs isn't working out. Shouldn't have taken your foot off the pedal, Jim.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Did they play? Eh, who cares?
Kansas City Chiefs: Going to be hard to fulfill my prediction that you beat Green Bay in the Super Bowl this year if you don't even make the playoffs, Chiefs. And you lose to Miami? Fun fact: This game was made up almost entirely of castoffs from the Patriots* front-office. And it showed.
Minnesota Vikings: Didn't play, which makes this week no different than any other. Ba-dum bum! Don't forget to tip your waitress.
New England Patriots*: Man, I hate this team. Brady looked good in the press conference though, didn't he? The only time he looked good all day.
New Orleans Saints: Brett Favre legacy update! Drew Brees tied Brett Favre for most consecutive games with a touchdown pass (36), making him and The Greatest Ever second on that list behind "some guy only your dad cares about."
New York Giants: Eli Manning pronounced himself an elite quarterback back in August, on a par with Tom Brady. But watching highlights last night, I saw exactly one shot of Eli, and exactly one shot of Peyton. When you don't get more coverage than a guy on injured reserve, you haven't made it yet.
New York Jets: It was amazing, watching the Jets-Bills game, how many different ways Nantz and Simms found to say "Mark Sanchez sucks" without actually saying "Mark Sanchez sucks." Phrases like "this is the style of game the Jets want to play: Run and tough defense" and "Schottenheimer is managing to give Sanchez throws that get the ball out quickly" were in heavy rotation. If this game had gone any longer, they'd have had to resort to saying
Which is "Mark Sanchez sucks" in Chinese. But you got that, didn't you? His best throw of the day was the end zone interception thrown directly to Byrd on the opening drive. It was beautiful. If you're a Bills fan. And you didn't watch anything after that.
Also, I don't know what this is, but I googled "American Football In China" and found this image:
Which seems like it should be a set-up for a TV show, doesn't it?
Oakland Raiders: Speaking of overrated USC quarterbacks, Carson Palmer threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns. The Raiders had more yards and were more efficient (marginally) on third down than the Tebow-led Broncos, but Palmer also threw three interceptions and the Raiders fumbled twice, losing one. Remember all that hype about the Raiders being better? And the emotional boost they got from Art Davis dying? The Raiders are 4-4, but only have two tough games remaining, versus Chicago and Green Bay. You could see an Oakland-Cincinnati playoff game, but it'll be one that has no actual impact on who makes the Super Bowl.
In that respect, is the NFL really so different than the NCAA Bowl system? If the test of a playoff system's viability is (as I say it is) how many meaningful games the playoff system creates in the league, then the NFL's is fair-to-middling at best: Teams now need to win only seven games to make the playoffs in the NFL. The AFC West has three teams with 4 wins, one team with 3 wins. They play a lot of division games over the final 8 weeks, so the winner of that division is likely to be 8-8, making 8 games more or less meaningless to the fans.
On the flip side, the 49ers have a 5-game lead over their nearest division rival, with 8 games to play. Three more wins, and they've iced the division, making their last 5 games meaningless, as well (I'm leaving out home-field advantage, which doesn't really matter that much anymore in the NFL).
In the NCAA, every game counts. When Wisconsin lost to Michigan State, that ended their hopes for a national title. Boise State not only can't take a game off, they can't take a quarter off. Why? Because losing counts severely for NCAA teams, far more than it counts for NFL teams (and NBA teams.) And losing hurts worse because in the NCAA, the popularity of a team matters -- so teams that win, but win badly -- a close game played poorly, say -- can fall in the polls anyway.
Then there's the NFL playoffs, where increasingly some of the games appear to be bowl games with no real impact on the outcome of the Super Bowl. Last year's Seahawks series didn't really affect who made the Super Bowl: it kicked out the Saints (who wouldn't have won in Chicago) and gave Chicago a warm-up for Green Bay, but Chicago-Green Bay was almost foreordained.
I've proposed it before: The Fan Vote Wild Card: Let fans vote in the number 6 wild card after week 17, giving teams that start out horribly (like Miami) a reason to keep playing in the second half, and letting entertaining-but-bad teams (like Denver) into the playoffs. Either way -- the current system or the fan-vote system, a bad team can make the playoffs, but under my system, that bad team is at least one the fans want to see playing.
Philadelphia Eagles: Last night, on ESPN's pre-game coverage, I noted two things: 1. Every "highlight" ESPN shows of Dog Killer Michael Vick these days involves him "performing" against an inferior team. You don't see great Dog Killer plays against the Packers. Or the Steelers. Or any good team. Most of the "highlight" roll last night shows Vick playing against the Redskins, and they haven't been good since I got married. (I know you don't know my personal history, so I'll just say it's been a long time.)
And 2. ESPN treated it as news that not a single player was willing to say bad things about Andy Reid. I personally like Andy Reid as a coach, aside from his predilection for playing a guy who electrocuted puppies. But the rumors around the league are that he's unpopular and maybe headed for Miami. So ESPN went investigatin', and surprise! They couldn't find a single Eagles player willing to go on camera and say he didn't like the coach!
Imagine that! A company where nobody wants to go on the record as hating the boss! News! Newsy news news!
The existence of paid sports reporters is probably the best sign that our civilization is due to collapse.
Pittsburgh Steelers: I sure liked those uniforms they wore. I sure can't get past how the Steelers' image seems to be tarnished. I sure can't bother caring about a Ravens-Steelers game the way everyone in the NFL seems to.
San Diego Chargers: "Philip Rivers sucks" stats of the week: Rivers has thrown 14 interceptions, leading the league. He's been sacked19 times, tied for 8th with "Blaine Gabbert," which is not a real name, and Joe Flacco, who is likewise a terrible quarterback. He is ranked 20th in quarterback rating, which measures efficiency, just ahead of that guy who temporarily quarterbacks Miami. He also fumbled once against Green Bay, but he recovered that, so YAY!
San Francisco 49ers: The story of the week! They're 7-1! I saw, briefly, an interview with Alex Smith on the NFL network and all I could think is "He's really a handsome man."
Seattle Seahawks: Lost to Dallas, in a game about which I couldn't decide who I wanted to lose more. I settled on Seattle, and they did indeed lose, which means (a) I can control things with my mind, and (b) there's no (b) here. I just began labeling things before realizing I didn't have a second point and was too lazy to go change it.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: I get so lost, every year, in whether this is the year the Buccaneers become good again and take the NFL by storm. So was it this year? Or last year? Or every year? Let's face it: The Bucs had one good run, engineered entirely by Tony Dungy, who then got ousted before he could get credit for the Bucs' Super Bowl win, which was entirely him and not Jon Gruden. They're not going to be great again unless they've got a clone of Tony Dungy in a tank somewhere.
Washington Redskins: Lost to the 49ers. What good was it replacing Rex Grossman, who at least is entertaining, with this guy "John Beck?" You know what the only significance of that was? Sportscasters now get to make references to Beck, the singer, when they talk about Washington. That proves that Beck, the singer, is no longer cool, cements my point about what paid sportscasting says about our society, and serves as a good ending point for this post.
You thought I was going to go with Loser, didn't you? I'm nothing if not unpredictable.
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