Each week, during college football season DPB’s Kyle Magin and Andrew J. Pridgen pour on the prose with Pints and Picks™. Who to wager and (sometimes) what to drink while doing it. This week: #randynewmanisalwaysright
This was the week we found out how deeply the NFL’s TV ratings have cratered.
The league has long been viewed as infallible–a goliath wrapped in red, white and blue–during this age of fractured viewing audiences. It was the great American campfire, the last place we could all be found in the same place at the same time.
I don’t think I’m alone in celebrating the fact that the league is coming to Jesus. It’s a cesspool of woman-beaters, corporate welfare queens, flag perverters, brawlers and latter-day Gordon Gekkos. The place is essentially sports’ Sarlac Pit–you sit around watching it with your decadent friends for long enough and you’ll get sucked in.
(It’s also probably, maybe arguably, as clean or slightly cleaner than our favorite sport, AJ, but I’m on a roll here.)
The NFL strutted, forever, over the women, vets, taxpayers, players and fans who have helped it become America’s favorite sports league. I rail all the time about its galling attempts to rob cities of their taxes so they can internalize all the profits from the most expensive ticket in town. These off-the-rack suit-wearing goons have sent generations of players to hobbling retirements and early graves and then barely acknowledged their complicity in the matter. Real low-life robber barons like Zygi Wilf, Dan Snyder, Dean Spanos and Mark Davis are allowed to wrap themselves in the flag and the flags of their teams and rob their fans blind because they put on a show every week that’s pretty fun to watch. They gave jobs to guys we watched knock women out on TV only after they tried to cover it up. Nevada’s legislature—representatives of a profoundly poor state which is usually No. 50 in any national educational metric due to many factors but chiefly funding—just sent a $750 million bill to Governor Brian Sandoval in hopes that he’ll sign it to use state money to fund the construction of a stadium in Las Vegas for the Raiders and the NFL.
They get to do this, get away with all of it, because they are able to use a rhetorical argument they’ve employed since grade school: point up and say ‘scoreboard.’ In a time when TV ratings–especially live TV ratings for 18-49 year olds–are a certain kind of God, it was all the argument they needed.
Now that the tables are turning, the NFL may have to change its tune and find a little grace and humility. In the best case scenario, the league will learn to live within its owners’ means and start to conduct its business in a little more humane manor.
In a more realistic world, the NFL will find its partners and enablers less willing to put up with its macho, strongarm, fat-cat bullshit. Its following will be less valuable and it’ll have to find its way in a less hospitable world, like the rest of it.
AJ, I’m not pouring one out for the NFL this week. As this piece winds its way to the betting section, I’m wagering that Roger Goodell and Co. are in for a cold future.
On the turn, we’ll take a look at Tennessee and Alabama and the ALCS.
Wow. I am so impressed, it’s tempting to just let you have that mic drop moment on the NFL.
…OK, that passed.
A league that has been so-much-wrong for all the reasons you mentioned plus its inability to come to grips or take any accountability with the why of Junior Seau standing on his La Jolla condo balcony after a round of golf and shooting himself in the chest so his head could be saved for science that finally, FINALLY some kind of down-ratings karma seems to be catching up to it.
I think it’s important to note the the league’s spin doctors are trying to blame the players’ choice to kneel during the National Anthem as the reason why viewership is down, which I think would be like blaming Coca-Cola as the reason you’ve become addicted to coke (you know, the kind you snort, like Republican presidential candidates do prior to a debate).
To me it seems America’s changing attitudes toward the NFL are probably much more deep-seeded and not-temporary.
You may remember a few years back, on this very site, I vowed to quit the NFL in the wake of Ray Rice treating his fiance like a wack-a-mole in a Vegas elevator. Though at the time I was still involved in a pair of fantasy leagues and had some waning interest in my growing-up squad the 49ers (though it was more in a macabre way to see how badly the glass menagerie of a public funded stadium in Santa Fucking Clara constructed at the behest of corporate overlords and shithead tech bros who wanted to dangle yet another lanyard with which to be spirited above the common ticket-paying proles), I still found it Brokeback difficult to quit the league… at first.
At the time, I pledged one dollar to a local women’s shelter for every time the NFL crossed my path that season, including every time I consumed one of its title sponsors (Budweiser, Coke, Toyota, Visa etc.) It wasn’t an easy boycott and in the end over the last 10ish weeks of the season, I ended up somehow in the league’s clutches 121 times.
It wasn’t cold turkey, but it was enough to set the stage for last season, which I bowed out of my fantasy leagues (hellllooooh work productivity skyrocketing) and don’t remember even catching more than a snippet of league action aside from maybe passing by while ESPN was on mute in a hotel bar.
This year, I’ve all but forgotten the NFL exists (but, you know, for entries like this.) You can imagine, then, my surprise when I saw Calvin Johnson in the final six at Dancing with the Stars. It is like my NFL life is frozen in time, as if I’m the Encino Man (<– quick admission: I’ve watched this 1992 classic at least twice in the last week on CMT…which may answer your question of what do I do with all my post-NFL time…)
But stepping back from the league entirely and focusing on other activities has made me realize a few things:
- The brutality is too much to bear: I understand now the game on a professional—and just slightly less so on the collegiate level—is just too punishing. Look at old NFL Films, even from the ‘80s and ‘90s and the hardest hits were cringe-worthy and often resulted in someone spinning for a second in dead air. But for the most part, whether it was Lawrence Taylor coming at you from the blind side or Richard Dent straight to the gut there was a civility to it all. Basic breakdown tackling with a lineage that could be traced directly to rugby. Now it seems guys just dart around like spears with giant helmets, ready to deliver crushing blows to kidneys and necks. It’s not a beautiful game to watch and methinks the bloodsport stature is starting to appeal only to the authoritarian class that’s still hanging in there/identifying with Trump, in spite of thought, reason and basic humanity.
- Similarity: Kyle, you brought this up to me in a text, but there is a singular gameplan in the NFL. A couple runs and then see if you can sneak one past too-fast-corners. Like most automakers’ crossovers these days, it’s impossible to tell one team from the other besides the emblem on their helmet. Science and analytics are impossible to ignore and all sport has been affected, but there is also a very human statistics-busting component to baseball (and to a lesser but notable extent, hockey and basketball) that doesn’t happen in football. Football, after all, is the ultimate chessboard/xs and os activity so as the scientific method takes over the game, it’s easy to see why the right play to run at the right time—and at the professional level if everyone does the right thing—that it’s going to turn out a certain way. Predictability has never been the reason sports appeal to our psyches. We like sports as a reflection of life. Never know what’s going to happen one day to the next, that’s why we get up and play the game.
- The fans: This is kind of a continuation of the end of point 1, but have you SEEN NFL fans lately? Fuck. Growing up, my dad and his buddies would throw on ridiculous red 49ers cowboy hats, crack a couple cold ones and get the grill going. They were fun-loving, patient and warm family men/career men. Maybe they weren’t in the best shape ever, but they certainly weren’t slouches either. Now it’s tough to see the camera pan to the stands as the average NFL fan looks like he’s about to regurgitate an entire fucking rotisserie chicken that he just chased down with two dozen Lime-a-Ritas. It’s conspicuous consumption breaded and deep-fried and draped in a throw-rug-size XXXL jersey. One wonders where it went so sideways and whether this is the true reflection of this country.
I know I may be speaking only for my tiny echo chamber on the West Coast, but I have literally zero buddies who don’t relish their Sundays as a time to go for a run/hike/bike/swim, work in the yard or spend it with their kids at the beach, on trail, or perhaps at one of their games/recitals etc. For an active, regular family in the 2000s, sitting around and getting as fucking close to black-out as one can by kickoff seems as arcane a choice as vinyl siding.
…As a final aside on the NFL, on this site’s early days, NFL op-eds were the main traffic drivers. We haven’t run an NFL-centric piece in more than a year and the numbers have done anything but suffer because of it.
Back to gambling Kyle, because if there’s anything better than spending a Sunday outside, it’s Saturday at the window. I’ve already gone on too long on for this entry, but I’ll bring you home with some NLCS picks as well as USC/Arizona and UCLA/Wazzu.
I think we’ve said everything that’s worth saying about the National Football League, so let’s get to the games…
Toronto +135 @ Cleveland
AJ, I think Tito Francona has gone clear. The Tribe’s manager is using his closer in the highest-leverage late-inning scenario rather than just waiting until the ninth, and marshalling a team on the basepaths that led the league in steals this year. Typically—and maybe in the rest of this series—that type of focus on run manufacturing and prevention would sway me to pick the Indians. But, tonight, I think the Blue Jays have the edge based on the pitching matchup. Indians ace Corey Kluber was unconvincing in two starts against the tribe this season, getting chased after just three innings in a July matchup when he surrendered five runs on seven hits, and after 6 innings in an August matchup that saw him cough up two runs on six hits in a no-decision. Jays ace Marco Estrada has been on fire in the postseason, with a 3-1 record and 2.6 ERA and a 1-0 record so far this postseason. He and Russell Martin—who isn’t the circa 2013 baserunner-stopper he was but is probably more valuable as a receiver and pitch-caller—form a battery that won’t allow the Indians much for free in Cleveland. Throw in the fact that Josh Donaldson is playing well (.538/.571/.836 with 4 doubles and 3 RBI) and is a career .600 batter against Kluber and I see Game 1 going to the other Second City.
Alabama -13 @ Tennessee
AJ, you and I really haven’t touched Alabama Crimson Tide football this year, and I suspect that’s due to the following reasons:
- We don’t particularly have any connections to OR affinity for the SEC.
- It’s as exciting as covering any other established, unbeatable powerhouse (you’ll note there are few tomes about Team USA basketball.)
- Outside of their USC tilt, ‘Bama’s kill list is a collection of Ole Miss and a bunch of dixieland wannabes.
This week, I was sorta looking forward to breaking down Tide-Vols if only to vary our regular West Coast/Third Coast bias in reporting. I was excited to see what ‘Bama was up to. What I found in researching this pick is that what Tennessee has been up to is a helluva lot more interesting. The 5-1 Vols have managed a No. 9 ranking on the strength of wins over some name programs under statistically unusual circumstances. On Rocky Top, they’re -3 on turnovers, including fumbling the ball a frankly jaw-dropping 21 times. To their credit, they’ve managed to corral all but 8 of those, but still. Butch Jones’ crew invariably breaks in the red zone, giving up scores 91 percent of the time an opponent enters it, as opposed to Nick Saban’s players, who allow scores just 77 percent of the time. When ‘Bama does let somebody in, the opponent only scores touchdowns on 30 percent of their tries, where Tennessee’s opponents find the end zone for six 65 percent of the time. Tennessee must have had some magic before it lost by a touchdown last week to A&M, and I think it’s safe to say that Alabama specializes in bringing end end to those sort of acts. The Tide covers on Rocky Top.
Ohio State @ Wisconsin +10
Much like every Wisconsin basketball game over the past two decades, the Badgers’ goal should simply be to slow Saturday’s game to an excruciatingly slow pace and wait for the Buckeyes’ to make a mistake. Wisconsin (4-1) has succeeded at that goal in every matchup they’ve had, even their 14-10 week 5 loss to Michigan. Ohio State isn’t nearly as battle-tested as the Badgers, who have gone through LSU and Michigan State when both of those wins meant something. They’ve allowed just 4 red zone touchdowns all season, because opponents have been inside the red zone just 10 times. Will the Buckeyes, who have gained 87 rushing first downs against 41 passing first downs, have the patience to take what they can get through the air when the Badgers’ front line slows or shuts down their rushing attack? I’m betting—and you should, too—that Wisconsin can put the brakes on a 5-0 Buckeye team just enough to stay within the line.
Colorado State @ Boise State -31
With Houston bombing out against Navy last week, 5-0 Boise is the outsider with the prettiest potential playoff resume. The keyword in that sentence—outsider—means Boise needs to attract the attention of Condi and the rest of the playoff committee. That means turning up the heat on every remaining opponent, starting with the lowly 3-3 Rams. CSU converts just a third of their third downs and allows 96 percent of opposing trips to the red zone to result in scores. The Rams are permissive, and the Broncos are ready to take advantage. Boise covers a huge number.
You’ve written at length in both this column and the parent site about the misdeeds going on down Waco way in Baylor. To summarize for readers unfamiliar, the school’s football program was involved in a sexual assault scandal last year that led to the nation’s largest Southern Baptist university to demote its president and fire its football coach in a massive coverup by coaches and administrators.
Though the Federal Education Department’s Title IX department, in charge of vetting and investigating such matters, has been woefully neglecting opening a case, the culture of the school which is one of wrapping itself equally in the flag and around the cross, has been shaken.
And yet instead of coming up on federal charges, former Baylor coach Art Briles instead was very publicly seen at the Cleveland Browns’ practice Wednesday, decked out in the NFL’s worst franchise’s finery. Cleveland, a franchise so embroiled in a culture of losing, (with the exception of GM Kevin Costner’s tenure) its union with an unsavory type like Briles almost seems like a natural fit if not laughable if it not for the fact that Briles protected and continues to face little backlash for harboring sexual offenders and predators, not to mention bringing that culture with him wherever he slithers.
Relating it back to the GOP nominee and the hundreds of thousands of women this week who’ve come forward with stories of their own about being fondled, groped, attacked ….and then made to feel like they’re the ones to blame for it all and I can’t help but think the misogynistic white-boy-entitlement club that the ridiculous all-bark/no empathy culture of football coaching promotes and drips down through our society is at least partly to blame for the fact that one entire gender basically has to roam the streets afraid and silent.
If there’s any problem this country must fix, it is taking these voices with the utmost seriousness and sincerity right about fucking now. Don’t think Michelle Obama wasn’t dead-ass serious when she addressed this issue in a campaign stump Thursday for Hillary, voice cracking as she spoke, think again?
Trump Nation may dismiss the concerns of women, blacks, Latinos, Muslims as a means of bucking political correctness, but haven’t they had a seat at the table long enough to get bloated enough? I can only think that when this vitriolic moment of crisis in our nation’s history passes and the truly ugly and misshapen culture of whatever white men have been able to get away with for two-and-a-quarter centuries, personified by zero-consequence juggernauts like the NFL falls,we will, indeed, be headed for a brighter day.
Unfortunately, we are far far far away from that place. A man like Art Briles walking free if not about to get a promotion, is living proof of that.
To the picks:
USC -7 @ Arizona
USC pushed for me last week so I neither gained nor lost ground at the behest of Tommy Trojan. I guess you could say that the LA schools are my true gamblers achilles. I will continue to chase and until I end up on the right side of the line with one of them this year. Fortunately for me, and the loyal reader, I believe the buck indeed does stop vs Arizona. USC has a travel problem. Since Clay Helton became USC’s full-time coach, the Trojans are undefeated (3-0) at the Coliseum but are 0-5 on the road. Turnovers, penalties and…Alabama, have all plagued USC on the road. Newly mined SC savior QB Sam Darnold has a 150+ passer rating in three starts and averaging three touchdowns per game. He’s also getting the ball to Keyshawn heir apparent JuJu smith-schuster whose average yards per game has skipped up almost 80/game since Darnold started swinging it…not bad for a run-first QB. The Wildcats like to bring heat from the corners, but Darnold has proven he’s more effective on the run. And Arizona has yet to offer much on offense this year. The spread is single-digits because of SCs stumbles away from the Coliseum, but that should be remedied in week 7…and then I can go back to thinking about Mountain West action next week after I have my revenge. I also think the Trojans/Cats will just barely nick the over of 57.5 but if you’re unsure, skip the o/u.
Final prediction: USC 34, Arizona 24
Washington State -1 vs. UCLA
What did I just say about being done with LA schools? OK, last one for you and the betting public Kyle. Washington State picked apart the hapless Oregon Webfoots two weeks ago in Pullman and followed it up with a surprising drubbing of Stanford last weekend, handing Stanford its first oh-fer Washington schools this decade. In fact, it’s Washington and Washington State on top of the standings in the PAC-12 North. UCLA, on the other hand, is tough to get a read on this year. At 1-2 they’re just a notch above Arizona (0-3) at the bottom of the conference’s southern division and the telltale come-from-ahead loss at the Rose Bowl against Stanford three weeks (= a lifetime) ago, allowing the tree to score a pair of touchdowns in the last thirty seconds after leading the entire game still haunts them. Josh Rosen, who started the season at the top of Mel Kiper’s board is looking to come back for a junior season to bolster his plummeting stock which is somewhere south of where Zynga is on the NASDAQ. Rosen, it sees, may not even play as he suffered injuries to his lower body and throwing shoulder last week against ASU. While UCLA’s defensive front seems bigger and faster than their Cougar counterparts, Wazzu has found a way to improbably score lots and lots of points even when mismatched this year. Expect a shaky UCLA coming back from Pullman with another loss and a text from the Vegas Bowl on Jim Mora’s phone, “We’d love to see you down here in South Henderson come December.” Wazzu may cover the over 54 on its own.
Final prediction: Washington State 47, UCLA 23
NLCS: Dodgers 4/1 to win
For the first time since Kirk Gibson rounded the bags pumping that right arm in 1988 the Los Angeles Dodgers, winners of four-straight NL West titles, are making it out of the LDS consolation round and one series away from being in the show. The problem is, baseball’s best and most lovable team on paper stands in the way. While Dave Roberts’ Dodgers have found a reasonably compelling combination of overpaid vets, rookie star power and one tough-to-love but easy-to-admire Cuban outfielder, the Cubs showed this week in San Francisco that the playoff magic that has eluded them for generations may have just been passed to them as recently as Tuesday evening.
The series,, I believe, will go seven games if only because Roberts seems unafraid to pitch Clayton Kershaw at least three of those. Kyle, I know your heart is set on a Second City vs. Fernwood Tonight, Bill Murray vs. Rick Moranis, Alan Thicke vs., um, Andrew Bird …but I still believe Los Trolleys Doyers will win one for vin and the Cubbies victory parade to be crashed by Mathew Broderick and a bunch of dirndl-wearing apple-cheeked Midwestern girls will have to wait one more year.
I say all this not just because of Julio Urias’s pick-off move or because my friend shook the hand of Tommy Lasorda after our sojourn to Chavez in August…I say this because LA, simply put, is the greatest city in America to spend 36 hours. I know you’ll take Chicago and its deep-dish secrets any day over swaying palms and endless cartoon backdrops of liquor stores and car washes, but you know where I stand…
We will have to table this for a week, but I’ll end this on a cliffhanger question, why Kyle do you prefer a North Side party?
…The answer, and more, next week. Till then, have a great weekend!
Last Week: 2 for 3
Overall: 10 for 20
Toronto +135 @ Cleveland (FRIDAY)
Alabama -13 @ Tennessee
Ohio State @ Wisconsin +10
Colorado State @ Boise State -31
Last Week: 1-2-1
Overall: 16 for 26
USC -7 @ Arizona
USC @ Arizona (over 57.5)
Washington State -1 vs. UCLA
Washington State vs. UCLA (over 54)
NLCS: Dodgers 4/1 to win