Friday, January 17, 2014


Baseball is a dead issue for the next two months. A-Rod’s suit is filed in federal court and will languish there. The Dodgers signed Kershaw for a mountain of money for seven long years joining the Yankees and Angels as the dumbest franchises on the planet. Instant replay has been expanded for 2014 so we’ll lose one of the most entertaining aspects of the game – arguing about the ‘would'a, should'a, could'a’ impact of blown calls. Sooo… since Super Bowl MMMMMMMMMIV is coming up, it’s time to pay at least a little attention to our beloved contemporary gladiators in the NFL.

I’ve been watching the NFL since 1955 and was a devout NY Giants fan who watched Y. A. Title pass for seven touchdowns against Washington and watched the Bears open up his noggin in the 1963 championship game; heard announcer Chris Schenkel excitedly yell on national television, “He (Del Shofner) faked him out of his jock!” on a touchdown scoring pass play; watched Johnny Unitas snatch victory from the Giants in 1958 and watched Rosie Greer meet Jim Brown head-up at the line of scrimmage and end the great one’s day – and also watched Brown torment the Giants more often that not.

The only thing I liked more about the NFL was Julie London’s Marlboro commercials. Julie brought the phrase ‘smokin’ hot’ to life vamping carcinogens in a black stiletto gown during NFL broadcasts. Time outs with Julie’s commercials beat the hell out of the bozo-come-lately Marlboro Man. But I digress.

Things, as they will,  changed. After 1963 the Giants were lousy for 20 plus years and I did not have the stamina of a Cubs fan. During the 1982 strike I found that there is life on a Sunday afternoon outside of a football stadium equally or more satisfying that watching  the NFL blood sport. After taking almost 25 years off after the Giants 1987 Super Bowl win I got sucked back in, and... quite the scene.

Notwithstanding Chuck Bednarik’s 1960 tackle that nearly killed Frank Gifford, bigger, faster, stronger roiders are routinely blowing up people with increasingly more violent hits. Former players are suffering from severe brain injuries and the debilitating effects of repeated injuries and long-term addiction to pain medications.

Players shooting themselves while carrying concealed weapons. Players murdering others with weapons not quite so concealed.

Asinine on-field behavior from primping players smooching with their own biceps, dancing, and prancing, spastically gyrating in the end zone, and imitating Superman have become a league staple. No doubt the 2015 Super Bowl will feature as much vaudeville and hideously rendered national anthems as football .

Receivers made an art form out of whining, begging for a flag for holding, pass interference or being called a bad name on every play.

Officials reside in the Land of the Hopelessly Lost. Blown and missed calls have now determined who goes to the playoffs and who does not. There is little consistency from crews about high hits, targeted hits, helmet-to-helmet hits, who infringed on the neutral zone or was drawn off sides. Challenges are made by the high tech process of throwing a small red rag on the field, sometimes seen, sometimes ignored. When seen, and a play is in fact subject to review, an official huddles beneath a hood on the sidelines to interminably review video and render a unilateral decision. Smooth.

The quality of the product basically stinks in many cities: Atlanta, Buffalo, Cleveland, Houston, Jacksonville, New York, Oakland, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, and Washington. Add in the mediocre .500 teams and you have a total of 17 teams, more than half the league, that cause consistent visual trauma.

And Fantasy Football. This may be the saving grace of the NFL. With the emergence of ubiquitous fantasy football leagues with drafts, trades and sophisticated statistics, there is absolutely no need to support a given team. All that matters is the individual performance of players on your fantasy roster. Tony Romo becomes the favorite of a Giant fan who has him on his fantasy roster? How post-modern!

Apparently what remains the same is the attraction of commercials. While Julie held my rapt attention, Super Bowl commercials now have their own shows providing breakdowns, analysis and interactive viewer polling. Back in the day, water consumption from toilet flushes spiked during commercials. No longer. More than ever, the NFL is a commercial delivery system.

This weekend, proving there is no accounting for taste, I’ll watch  New England at Denver where Brady and Manning will more than likely act like adults on-field before watching San Francisco at Seattle, a game that includes Colin “I Am So in Love with My Bicep” Kaepernick and Pete “To Dirty to Coach in The Corrupt  NCAA” Carroll.

In both cases I’ll click out of all commercials. Without Julie, what’s the point of watching?

V - 

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