A Momentary Lapse Of Season

Miami Dolphins

We learned something about ourselves inside that darkest of nights. We learned that the cause was not lost, and that it hadn’t even been missing. And once seen, it could not be unseen. It possessed us with a most magical ability. We believed in tomorrow . . .

What a difference two months makes.

Exactly two months ago in this very spot, I penned a bad romance of a love letter to my favorite team in the world, the Miami Dolphins. There was no need to read between the lines since I was as brutally honest as a Jim Bob Duggar paternity test. The Dolphins were all set to rewrite history . . in crayon, and the only reason I wasn’t doing somersaults is because I am on a strict somersault diet. But I was all chips in on a losing hand because I was under the impression that less would equal more in the long run.

A funny thing happened on the way to NFL ignominy. The Dolphins stopped sucking.

By winning their third game of the season, the Dolphins would basically have to get Tony Soprano to serve as their draft point man in order to score a top three pick right now. Say adios to quarterback Joe Burrow and defensive end Chase Young- the top studs at their respective positions. A couple more wins and not even Tony Soprano will be able to un-fuck the situation.

And guess what? I’m kinda loving the zeitgeist of these formative moments that are busy trashing the temporal sensibilities- like standings and draft positioning. Because what Brian Flores is coaching up in South Beach is a bulldog mentality that doesn’t give a blessed fuck about gutted rosters and tank jobs.

Because maybe all this worrying I was doing about getting a top name in the NFL draft was for naught. Maybe it doesn’t matter one little bit whether we draft first or fifth . . or wherever. Maybe what matters more than that is what’s going on, right now. What Brian Flores is doing with the skeleton crew of a band that started the season 0-7 but has gone 3-2 since. He isn’t winning coach of the year, but he’s damn worthy of getting someone’s vote, out of principle. It would be a fitting apology, after Flores got trashed for presiding over what many sportswriters were calling the biggest sporting abomination of all time. Which is hyperbole at its most hypocritical when you consider all the real world shit the sports world has thrown at us.

This might sound strange, but this team is the most fun I’ve had in a very long time. Because that country club mentality which had worked its insidious vines into the heart and soul of a franchise for the better part of two decades is withering just a little bit. It’s by no means dead and gone, but it’s no longer being allowed to retrench itself. Because maybe they’re figuring out that most prized possession of all; more vital than a blue ribbon prize in the NFL meat market. Maybe they’re figuring out a culture that transcends big names and splashy acquisitions.

Ask the Steelers what culture means, because they pretty much wrote the book on it. They lost their star quarterback, running back and wide receiver in one calendar year and yet they’re standing at 7-5 after beating the Browns today. The Steelers have had three head coaches in the past fifty years. In that same span of time, there have been five Popes. Enough said.

And look at those Browns, with all their big name talent- including quarterback Baker Mayfield, who oh by the way . . was the first pick in the draft a couple years ago- who are busy making vacation plans for January after falling to 5-7.  If ever there was a cautionary tale when it comes to falling in love with top picks and big names? They are it.

If I had to choose one word for this season, it would be perspective.

Lamar Jackson beat the stuffing out of us in the opener, but he’s done that to a lot of really good teams since. And it’s worth noting that thirty teams overlooked him in the draft. And okay, putting up a thirty seven burger on this Eagles team isn’t nearly as impressive as it might have seemed back when everyone- including yours truly- was penciling them in as a playoff team. But it still counts.

And so what if they’re not the worst team of all time, destined to take home the top prize for their futile efforts? And so what if they’re light years away from having a legitimate shot at knocking off guys like Mahomes and Jackson? All that really matters is their allergy to the canvas, because they refuse to lay down on it. And it’s not much, not really.

Not yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The NFL Double Issue Edition!

 

Football Players in Action

The NFL season is more than halfway cooked and the more things change, the more the Patriots still look like the favorites to fuck up a lot of Super Bowl parties come January. I mean, does anybody else see the irony here? A league that prides itself on parity has the most prolonged dynasty in sports history.

Despite the specter of that long national football nightmare moving into yet another decade, it’s been a fairly entertaining NFL season to this point. The Cleveland Browns are winning . . on TMZ.  The Oakland Raiders are actually winning on the field. The Titans, Seahawks, Steelers, Colts, Panthers and Lions have been plucky. The Packers, Cowboys, Eagles and Bills have been lucky. And the Jets? Still suck.

If sports ain’t your thing, here’s an alphabetized list of teams complete with a cocktail party anecdote or observation for each. You’re uh . . welcome?

Arizona Cardinals- Investing in semiconductors is the same difference.
Atlanta Falcons- There is a Chick-fil-A in Mercedes Benz Stadium. Chicken Jesus doesn’t do business on Sundays, and this year? Neither do the Falcons.
Baltimore Ravens- Lamar Jackson is to quarterbacking what Jimi Hendrix was to acoustic guitars.
Buffalo Bills- The fan base is known as “Bills Mafia”. They guzzle beer, smash tables and have a guy named Pinto Ron who has a condiment fetish.

Because . . sports fans!

Carolina Panthers- The peeps in South Carolina take great pride in the fact that the Panthers play in North Carolina.
Chicago Bears- True story. Bears fans traveled to Nashville once, and drank the town dry.
Cincinnati Bengals- If Kandahar ever gets an NFL team, they’re perfect.
Cleveland Browns- The NFL version of Apple TV’s “Morning Show”- flashy, big name cast with little payoff.
Dallas Cowboys- Sugar Daddy Jerry Jones, built them a $1.2 billion dollar crib (Arlington taxpayers forked over $325 million). The Boys have a grand total of three playoff wins there since 2009. Only Congress offers up a weaker bang for the buck.
Denver Broncos- Unless you live in Colorado, the Denver Broncos will never come up in casual conversation. If you live in Colorado, just use lots of four letter words.
Detroit Lions- Motown legend Marvin Gaye once tried out for the team.
Green Bay Packers- They are the only publicly owned franchise in the league.
Houston Texans- They became only the second expansion team ever to win their first game when they defeated the Cowboys in September of 2002. It remains the high point.
Indianapolis Colts- In 1983, the franchise packed their shit on Mayflower vans and left Baltimore in the middle of the night. It doesn’t get any more Paul Simon than that.

Jacksonville Jaguars- Like the car, they’re expensive and rarely worth it.
Kansas City Chiefs- They have more offensive weapons than the US Army and a weaker defense than the French Army.
Los Angeles Chargers- Most peeps don’t realize they left San Diego. And most of those peeps live in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles Rams- Warren Beatty remains the coolest player to ever don a Rams uniform. And I know it was a movie, but it still counts.
Miami Dolphins- They’re not the worst team in football.
Minnesota Vikings- Unless you live in Minnesota, the Vikings will never come up in casual conversation. If you live in Minnesota, just bring the sausages, cheese curds and beer. 
New England Patriots-
 Before the Russians started rigging elections, they re-calibrated a middling football coach named Belichick and created a cyborg named Brady. The idea was to create a hatred of the red, white and blue. Those Russians are crafty.
New Orleans Saints- Charlton Heston starred as an aging Saints player in the film Number One. 
New York Giants- 
Jimmy Hoffa wouldn’t be caught dead in the Giants end zone.
New York Jets- Haven’t appeared in a Super Bowl since Joe Namath was wearing pantyhose on purpose.
Oakland Raiders- Will relocate to Las Vegas next year . .  move back to Oakland in 2030 . . relocate to Germany in 2035 . . . move back to Oakland in 2042 . . . relocate to Mars in 2050!
Philadelphia Eagles- Their former digs- Veterans Stadium- housed jail cells. And if you ever attended a game there, you understand why.
Pittsburgh Steelers- They haven’t returned to the Super Bowl since Bane blew up their fictional stadium in Dark Knight Rises. Not a coincidence.
San Francisco Forty 49ers- Joe Montana was chosen with the 82nd pick of the 1979 NFL draft. It worked out alright.
Seattle Seahawks- They aren’t the first pro football team to go by the name Seahawks. That would have been the Miami Seahawks, who did their business back in the ’40s.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers- See my suggestions for Broncos and Vikings. After which, feel free to mix and match.
Tennessee Titans- The designers of their uniforms imagined Masters of the Universe having sex with Ross Department Store.
Washington Redskins- No team matches its locale so perfectly. They’re corrupt, inept and divisive as fuck. 

As for the NFL season, there’s still time for the resistance to thwart the Evil Empire. And if Sam Rothstein were to ask me for a top ten best bets to take down Darth Vader Inc., Imma go with these . . .

1- Ravens: They kicked the shit out of New England last week so they get the top spot.
2- Chiefs: They’ve got Patrick Mahomes.
3- Packers: They’ve got Aaron Rodgers.
4- Seahawks: They shouldn’t be doing what they’re doing, but they’re doing it anyway.
5- Texans: They’ve got Deshawn Watson.
6- Eagles: Because they kicked the shit out of New England in the Super Bowl . . what, five minutes ago? It seems like it. And I still love Carson Wentz, even if I think he’s got to step up big time.
7- Browns: There’s a better chance Drew Carey plays center for the Cavaliers and leads them to the playoffs, but hey . . this is a top ten and I need warm bodies.
8- Cowboys: Yes, I put them below the Browns because they piss me off and I’m not even a fan. All that talent and they can’t beat Kirk Fucking Cousins . . at home?
9- Raiders: Because Jon Gruden deserves some props from those clowns (me) who said he was a mistake. His Raiders play hard, they came together after the Antonio Brown debacle and they’re fun as hell to watch. And while I really don’t think they’ve got a chance to sustain over the rest of the season . . who wouldn’t want to see Gruden and the Raiders back in New England in January? Almost twenty years hence from the “Tuck Rule” game that began the Patriots dynasty.
10- Dolphins- Again, this is a top ten list and since I can only come up with a legitimately serious top fourish, why not Miami to put a cap on it? Because I believe they have as much a chance to win it all as the Vikings and Bills. And that might be none at all, but that just makes it equal. And I cannot and will not include the Saints on any list after how they carried on after the NFC title game last year. The same franchise that brought us Bounty Gate . . . railing on about a bad call? Nope.

Up until a couple weeks ago, Miami was destined to go down as the worst pro football team of all time. I even wrote about it, somewhat excitedly at that. Because I wasn’t so much interested in the ignominy of a possible 0-16 season, as in the idea that my team actually had a brain trust in place that wasn’t an oxymoron.

History is toast now that the Dolphins are on an actual winning streak. And maybe we blew our chance to score Joe Burrow in the draft- a kid who happens to be the latest QB du jour. And I don’t care right now, because all I know is that Brian Flores has a gutted roster playing as if it’s the Super Bowl. So let the Jets and Skins, the Bengals and maybe even the Falcons dog it out for the top spots in the draft. Because maybe my team has something they don’t have.

A plan.

 

 

 

 

 

When Sacrificing Everything Gets You Paid

Los Angeles Rams v San Francisco 49ers

How ironic is it that in a league that tinkers with its overtime rules in order to minimize the chances of a tie, its biggest story becomes just that. Because that’s how I’m feeling after the Kaepernick/Reid settlement with the NFL. It feels a hell of a lot like a tie to me, and here’s why.

On the one hand, the dudes got paid. And by virtue of the gag order attached to this, the NFL has admitted to some form of collusion. Granted, we might never know to what extent and who the major players were, but still . . the league lost.

Or did it?

Because this settlement shakes out to where each owner will pay out about a million and a half bucks a year. That’s sofa cushion money in a league where the average franchise is valued at more than two and a half billion dollars. Chalk it up as a loss for the league owners, but call it what it is: Hush money.

The league doesn’t lose high profile cases very often, not without means that protect their rear ends they don’t.

In 1982, Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL when they blocked his proposed move to LA. Davis won the suit and moved his team to LA, after which he kept right on going after the NFL. Davis sued for LA market rights, after which he sued for the right to move everywhere from Sacramento and Inglewood to Kilimanjaro. He lost every time and eventually became an eccentric ‘renegade’ millionaire while the league just kept getting bigger and stronger.

The NFL is an entity that has navigated every kind of shit storm, and has always come out smelling like a rose. Consider . . .

  • Gun scandals (Plaxico Burress, Adam Jones, et al)
  • Political scandals (Eddie DeBartolo)
  • Spy-Gate (Patriots)
  • Bounty-Gate (Saints)
  • Michael Vick dog fighting ring
  • Ray Lewis’s obstruction of justice plea in a murder trial
  • Ray Rice arrest on assault charges
  • Ben Roethlisberger suspension on alleged rape charges
  • Aaron Hernandez murder conviction
  • CTE

Those are only some of highlights of the league’s off the field ‘business’ since the turn of the millennium. And yet, league revenue is at an all time high with expectations that legalized gambling will send profits into orbit.

If a league can’t be tarnished for covering up brain injuries, do you really think it’s losing sleep over a national anthem protest? Me either. The NFL has already paid out more than half a billion dollars in its concussion settlement, and nobody is talking about it. So this anthem protest settlement is all about sating Kaepernick and Reid without having to divulge more sensitive information. An insurance policy, if you will.

As for whether Kaep gets another shot in the NFL, that’s as much on him as it is on an NFL owner. If he wants to be a starter who demands starter money, it’s going to be tough sledding. In his last season, he finished with 16 touchdowns to just 4 interceptions. His quarterback rating, however, was only 49 percent. Rival coaches and GM’s believed they had figured him out.

Two years ago, I argued that my Dolphins should have signed him. Instead, they blew 10 million on a washed up QB. At the time, owner Stephen Ross claimed that to sign Kaep would have been an affront to the city’s Cuban population. This was in reference to the quarterback’s glowing opinion of Fidel Castro and Che Guvara. But what of the ticket paying population who were laying down big league money for a minor league product? Spare me the politics and give me some sizzle, not to mention a halfway decent shot of being competitive.

Again, what happens from here is mostly up to Kaepernick. His compadre in the anthem protests, Eric Reid, has an NFL job. If Kaepernick really wants back in, he would be wise to invest that settlement money wisely whilst being reasonable as per his value to a team at this point.  I don’t doubt a team would sign him, if he was willing to take less money and maybe even go in as a backup. Get in the door first, then show them what you got.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a team like Washington or Carolina signed him as a potential starter or integral backup, respectively. And don’t count out the Patriots, who ain’t afraid of controversy. The particulars of a Kaepernick contract are almost as fascinating as finding out whether he has anything left on his fastball. Would it be incentives heavy? Would an owner dare put a no kneeling clause in his contract? The possibilities are endless.

Personally, I didn’t have a problem with a peaceful protest in which Kaepernick consulted a Green Beret on how to go about it. I wanted my team to sign him, not because I’m all about social justice, but because I honestly believed his talent far outweighed any off the field criticisms. I wasn’t down with his take on butchers like Castro or Guavara, but I respected his right to feel that way. And I sure as hell wasn’t in agreement with his support of Assata Shakur, a convicted cop killer.

When the anthem protests and resultant backlash began to reach a boiling point, I wrote about how Kaepernick was just a kid who didn’t understand the gravity of the cause he was undertaking. I felt he was skimming his toe in the pool of social progress, rather than diving in. I cringed at the idea that he was being mentioned in the same sentence with names such as King and Ali. His decision to take the NFL money proves I was right to think the way I did. That whole Nike ad campaign about sacrificing everything didn’t include taking over a hundred million dollars in sorry money from the NFL. King didn’t do it that way, and neither did Ali. Kaepernick isn’t a civil rights icon. He’s just a kid with cool hair who may or may not have something left in the tank.

And maybe he’s not who his most fervent supporters thought he was. But he’s also not stupid. Because a hundred million bucks is a hundred million bucks. And he has a right to have any fucking opinion he wants to have, even if I don’t agree with it. And a league full of billionaires who made their bones by taking risks should grow a pair. Talk to him, give him some what’s what. Sign him. Because right now, this whole episode has no winners.

And I hate ties.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Deja Vu, All Over Again

Fucking Patriots.

They make me want to dabble in communism. They make me feel like the Brits were misunderstood. They make me want to subvert the steeple chase of a nut that Thomas Paine broke bread with once upon a time. The one that made babies with capitalism and stirred up tasty drinks in the form of monthly baby daddy payments to Uncle Sam’s house of rocket fuel.

This ain’t bitterness talking. It’s . . . wait for it . . . common sense.

How do we find ourselves here for the third time in five years? Because the Patriots are more buttoned up than Luca Brasi on a Smith and Wesson bender. While rival clubs engage in trade demands, holdouts and the kind of drama that would make Meryl Streep get all hot and bothered, the Patriots simply are. They are not exciting like the Chiefs, they do not possess the soap opera twists and turns of the Steelers and they are nowhere near as pretty as the Rams. All they’re good at is winning the last game of the year. And to that end, they are really, really good.

I’ll take Marco’s loose thoughts for a dollar, Alex . . .

  • Tony Romo is a maestro when it comes to calling a football game. And you know why that is? Because the dude is unpretentious, that’s why. He refuses to chime and dime on the dilly of the current template. Where “running north to south” and “going vertical” are downhill slang terms used by the so called experts who feel the need to justify the Armani. Until they’re cut loose for being nickels on a dollar’s worth of investment. Romo is different. He’s bright, he’s real, he’s effusive and he knows what is going down. On a Buffalo Springfield level of expertise.
  • Sean McVay didn’t lose his smarts overnight. But its funny how a dude twice his age kicked his ass in the biggest game of the year. Convincingly. Will rival executives have an “oh shit!” moment as a result? Because there were a lot of dudes hired because they worked under McVay or they were FB friends with McVay or they rode an elevator with him once. Moral of the story? Winning organizations act. Everyone else reacts.
  • My silver lining in Sunday night’s shit show was Brian Flores, the brand new head coach of the Miami Dolphins. His defense looked like the ’85 Bears. Now, he goes from a team that does its business the right way to the South Beach Social Club. I believe he’s up for the challenge, but time will tell.
  • Someone please tell Adam Levine that showing your nipples ain’t worth the price of admission unless you’re Janet Jackson.
  • Price of admission is Gladys Knight. She is velvet to the senses when her syllables take flight. I remember seeing her in Vegas and marveling at how she turned every single song into Friday night.
  • Remember back when everybody was bemoaning the lack of defense after that 54-51 game the Rams and Chiefs played earlier in the year? Peeps insisted the game had morphed into the NBA. Welp, the Vegas books put the over under for total points scored in the Super Bowl at 56 points . . to which these offensive juggernauts answered with 16 points. I guess defense still matters, after all.
  • Tom Brady looked like Mark Sanchez for most of that game. But for a couple passes in the fourth quarter that were bread basket perfect. Some players, such as Jared Goff, find it damn near impossible to face up to the big moment. Brady lives for it.
  • I dunno if the Saints would have been able to fare any better than the Rams against that suddenly tenacious Patriots defense. But I do know they could have done better than three points. Hell, the Dolphins could have done better than three points.
  • It’s pretty sad when, up until the fourth quarter the highlight of the game was a punt. I believe it was a record setting one, but I forget and you know why? Because it’s a punt . . .
  • It almost looked as if the Patriots D knew what was coming before the Rams snapped the ball. Which, if you’re a follower of the NFL, is always going to make you wonder, given the organization’s rap sheet.
  • Bravo to the Swiss Army Knife known as Julian Edelman for being the MVP not named Brady. Edleman missed the first four games of the season due to a PED suspension. If this were baseball it would have been a major story but in football, it’s an accepted fact.

And my one final thought on the national nightmare that is the New England Patriots.

They’re gonna have to be taken out the way Luca Brasi was taken out. By a band of young turks that wield knives on a doctorate level of Dante. The end of this reign must be certain, swift and surgical. And make no mistake, they will not surrender until the throne is taken from their cold dead hands. The team that slays this dragon is gonna have to do what the Patriots coaches are doing right now, as we speak.

Start planning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

635 Reasons to Love Cleveland

GTY 1036977084 S FBN SPO USA OH

Remember that girlfriend you had in high school who was constantly pulling you around by the leash? She’d break your heart one week only to pick up all the pieces inside the next? And every time you thought you’d finally learned your lesson, every time you’d talked yourself into never going back to her, she would make the scene, flip your script and play you for the fool again?

The Miami Dolphins are that high school girlfriend.

They are my harmful chemical of a romance gone full metal jacket. They are my cholera on cleats, my seasick Orion . . . my Orwellian O’Brien. When I ask for ‘mo they give me Poe. They promise me the world, and they give me Hoboken.

I’m not being a dick about this. I realize there are other fan bases that have it much worse than me. Like Beliebers, and QVC speed dialers . . . and oh yes, those peeps who insist on seeing Kelly Ripa live even though it’s a known fact she is the Goddess of the undead.

As far as sports goes? There ain’t no team in any professional sport that has done less with more than my Dolphins. They have money, J. Lo and an area code that can sell mango flavored snow cones in the middle of winter. Imagine the Dolphins were Vera Farmiga with the mind of Stephen Hawking and the bank account of Bill Gates. And then imagine, if you will, that this perfect specimen plays the cymbals in a Winger cover band.

Since the aughts of this millennium, Miami has proven less potent than an octogenarian who’s all outta penis pills. And never mind they’re 2-0 to start this season, and never mind I picked ’em to make the postseason, and never mind they play the Raiders. At home. My Dolphins are still going to find a way to fuck up this football equivalent of a glass of water.

So what?

The Cleveland Browns won a football game Thursday night! For the first time since Christmas Eve . . . of 2016. Basically, almost two calendar years have passed since Cleveland had something to boast about that didn’t rhyme with LeBron James.

Cleveland’s Browns are bringing the fun; something my Dolphins have been lacking ever since Dan Marino stopped pitching masterpieces. In a league where men behave like crybabies, dynasties become TMZ curiosities and marginal talents like Isaiah Crowell of the Jets choreograph embarrassing touchdown celebrations in losses, and then are not man enough to own up to their stupidity, the Browns are content with just playing football.

They’ve got a young brash quarterback with balls of steel, who seems to really dig the big moment. And in spite of his bad boy past, Baker Mayfield has thus far handled the dupes in the media with more aplomb than veterans such as Antonio Brown could dream of. In a post game interview on ESPN, Baker laughed off Scott Van Pelt’s suggestion that the quarterback get himself some free beer and party hardy.

It didn’t occur to the interviewer to pump his frat boy brakes, in spite of the fact the Browns have been Team Rehab (See Johnny Manziel and Josh Gordon) over the last few years. And that’s because Van Pelt is a tone deaf goof, as are too many of his peers at the four letter. It was obvious that the kid out of Oklahoma was the adult in the room inside that moment.

So this Baker Mayfield kid’s got poise, and his team has ups. And in a best case scenario, the Browns use this year to get somewhere much better than middle of the road. That’s where the Dolphins have resided for the last couple decades, and it’s no fun. At all.

Maybe there will come a day when the Browns will behave like most of the other teams out there; comprised of divas and crybabies whose intrigue has nothing to do with football. But for right now, the Browns are more satisfying than free beer.

Drink up, Cleveland.

 

 

 

Mostly Fearless NFL Predictions!

Ref Punch

I decided not to play fantasy football this season, because I don’t feel like cursing players I don’t even know. Besides, I finished first in my league last year and I’m fucking tired, yanno? You might wonder why I wouldn’t want to defend my title, and to that I answer with this. By not playing, I am defending my title.

Anyways, I have my annual NFL predictions at the ready. I’m not sure if I even do this annually, but it sounds more official that way. As a public service, I must add that I’m not a professional and as such, you shouldn’t wager based on my predictions. Cut out the middleman and send the money right to me, because you obviously have no clue how to manage shit.

Enjoy!

New England Patriots Super Bowl appearance is akin to a Spider-Man reboot. They show up just about every year. Tom Brady didn’t lose the Super Bowl last year, his coach did. The Man Named 12 did everything he could, scorching the Eagles D for half a thousand yards after which he had consolation sex with Giselle. He should definitely consider a Presidential run, seeing as how even when he loses . . he wins. Rumor has it that one day Tom Brady will lose his superpowers and return to his Fortress of Solitude. Until such time, Team Apple Stock is an odds on favorite to get back to the big game. I ain’t buying it . . not this year. Because this year, it’s gonna be . . .

The San Diego Los Angeles Chargers. Unlike the Patriots, the Chargers always find new and exciting ways to fuck things up. They are the Hilary Clinton of the NFL playoffs. Too soon? Anyways, this is the year they break through and make it to the big game. Which doesn’t make up for the fact they switched out their sweet crib in San Diego so they could be just another team in LA . . . but hey, making it to the Super Bowl is good too. And the crown they’re looking to grab belongs to . . .

Browns Meme

The Philadelphia Eagles. Who used to find new and exciting ways to fuck things up, until last year when they actually won it . . with zero help from the Russians at that. After which the Eagles took to chirping about how they were a fun bunch compared to Tom Brady and the Matrix. Which conveniently ignored the fact that the Patriots have booked passage with the last week of the season eight times in the last seventeen years. The Eagles should be mindful of the fact that uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. They’re still gonna be plenty good, and they’re still gonna come close, but in the end, they’re gonna lose in the NFC title game to the . . .

Dallas Cowboys. Back in the day, the ‘Boys used to be hated the same way the Patriots are hated now. This was during a simpler time known as the Clintonian Era. Things just ain’t the same any longer. Soul has been replaced with algorithm and the whole world is ordering out. Well, the Cowboys are gonna steal all that gritty, seething fan hatred back from the Patriots this year and make it all the way to the big game.

Cowboys Cheerleaders

As for my predicted score in Super Bowl LIII, Imma have to come back to that after my predictions blow up and the actual participants make themselves known next January.

As for the rest of my NFL predictions . . .

  • The Browns will win more games than they did last year.
  • Jacksonville will not make the playoffs. My accountant can throw better than their quarterback, and that ‘vaunted’ defense? It gave up more points last postseason than a tricked out pinball machine. And ESPN loves them, which means this is more about style than substance.
  • The NFL will continue to fuck up the meaning of a catch, a peaceful protest and a legal hit.
  • Baker Mayfield will be entertaining, Josh Allen will be mostly awful and Josh Rosen will have the best season of all the rookie QB’s.
  • Deshaun Watson will finish behind Aaron Rodgers and Ezekiel Elliott for MVP honors. Watson is style and substance, and he’s coming fast.
  • The Miami Dolphins will exceed expectations. Kenny Stills (receiving) and Kenyan Drake (rushing) will surpass 1,000 yards. Ryan Tannehill will have a breakout season and Minkah Fitzpatrick will shine. And . . . there’s no punchline. Yet.
  • The Bucs and Bills will vie for the number one pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
  • The Vikings, Falcons, Saints, Panthers, Steelers, Chiefs and Rams will join forces in the NFL’s version of Infinity War. Didn’t they learn anything from the movie?
  • To the peeps who say the NFL’s bottom line was hurt by the anthem protests, I give you Jon Gruden. He hasn’t coached in ten years . . his lone Super Bowl win was with another coach’s players . . sixteen years ago . . which happened to be his last playoff win as well. That dude scored a 100 million dollar contract with the Raiders.
  • And oh yeah . . Gruden will be a disaster in his coaching comeback. I predict he’ll be off the sidelines within three years, after which he’ll move upstairs. He’ll become the NFL version of Sam “Ace” Rothstein, with revolving titles as Vegas boss.

On a completely related note, I wasn’t aware last night was the season opener until I received a text from a friend informing me the Falcons were beating the Eagles early on. Thursday night football is the worst idea since the Captain of the Titanic tried making a hairpin turn around an iceberg. NFL players should take a knee in protest to these midweek debacles.

This shit never would’ve happened if Burt Reynolds had been commissioner. Rest in peace, Bandit.

 

Dear Sports: I’m Just Not That Into You

When did sports become so unlikable?

It used to be that sports was a respite from the everyday; a temporary form of escapism that was fun and legal. It was a snow globe fascination whose import was clear as life and death but whose suspension of disbelief allowed us to dream like children. It was a gloriously forgiving province where loss was temporary, victory was forever and next year was a sweet promise.

Being a sports fan these days is like being stuck in a marriage that went too long.

Major League baseball used to feel like summer. A day at the ballpark was like a picnic on steroids (pun intended). Now, the early and late season games feel like Stalingrad, and they last just as long. Home runs are no longer celebrated, they’re investigated. I’m just thankful the emphasis on analytics wasn’t around back in the day or it would’ve killed those moments supplied by Bucky Dent, Bill Mazeroski and Kirk Gibson.

The NBA has become a three point shooting contest that feels like a two and a half hour commercial for licensed product. Defense is optional and humility a foreign word. There’s no Jordan-like presence to provide stability and a rooting interest for Association fans. We know LeBron is the greatest player of his time because his Instagram page says so. And Kevin Durant went from darling to dickhead faster than a WWE wrestler.

I feel sorry for the NHL, because they seem to be doing things the right way. But truth be told, it doesn’t feel like hockey when Canada has gone twenty four years without a Cup and we have clubs in Tampa, Nashville, Anaheim and Las Fucking Vegas.

And that brings me to the NFL, whose wild popularity says more about us than it does about them. Love of this sport feels increasingly narcissistic, as the actual games seem to have taken a back seat to gambling, fantasy league and social commentary.

The new normal for keeping score includes police logs, contract disputes and TMZ-like reports detailing every aspect of the players’ personal lives. None of which feels like escapism, in the least bit.

Ask the casual fan about pro football and their response will probably have something to do with the anthem protests. And is there a better example of much ado about nothing than those protests? Colin Kaepernick became the face of a movement to which he never quite understood the gravitas. His gesture- to kneel during the national anthem in protest of the inequities of a country that purports to be all about equality and fairness- was a righteous one. Kaepernick meant well, and he did donate over a million dollars out of his own pocket to various causes in the aftermath. But his message was mitigated by failed optics that made him look as if he was more interested in symbolism than substantial change.

On the other side of all that, the irony is that he was right on about the double standards that exist in our power structure. Because he and several of his peers who kneeled with him are still looking for work; in a league that has been filling roster spots with lesser talent in a transparent blackballing effort.

Meanwhile, the San Francisco 49ers (Kaepernick’s former team) are holding serve on whether or not to cut linebacker Reuben Foster. They’re going to let the courts play out first as Foster faces two felony domestic violence counts and a felony weapons charge for possession of an assault weapon. Basically, Foster beat the shit out of a woman but his team won’t cut bait just yet because he can help them win.

How many fans are going to ‘quit’ watching games over the Foster story, the way they vowed to quit when Kaep took a knee? And why isn’t President Trump railing on about how the NFL will employ dog killers and men who batter women . . just as long as they don’t kneel.

Sports used to live somewhere else, far from the worries and troubles of our every day lives. Nowadays, it’s like a pain in the ass neighbor who throws a party and trashes our property. And while I still dig the games, I find myself increasingly detached from the box scores and standings I used to know by heart.

If this truly was a marriage, I’d file for divorce.