A barbecue restaurant in Miami has banned National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell from eating in the establishment, going so far as to post an oversized photo of the commish with the tagline “Do not serve this man.” No, the NFL’s head man didn’t skip out on a tab or get into a drunken bar fight (although we’d pay good money to see that aired on Sunday Ticket). The restaurant’s owner is outraged at the way Goodell has harshly treated the New Orleans Saints as a result of the “bounty gate” scandal, which saw several player and coach suspensions including year-long bans for head coach Sean Payton, general manager Mickey Loomis, and linebacker Jonathan Vilma. As it turns out, however, the restaurant in question is part-owned by Vilma…
So the move appears to merely be a statement by Vilma, who has taken the NFL to court to try to fight his season long suspension in proceedings which are still ongoing a few weeks ahead of the start of the season. We’re no fan of players intentionally injuring each other above and beyond the rules of the game if that’s really what was going on in New Orleans, but we’re not exactly fans of the way Mr. Goodell has acted as judge, jury and executioner in the matter. Mainly we’ve got to give style points to Vilma for coming up with the very funny poster and having the guts to actually put it up in his restaurant. Goodell is still his boss, after all. Suing your boss over a labor dispute or an employee rights dispute is one thing. Publicly making fun of him takes real guts…
Just to add to the richness of the story is that it was reported by OCNN (not a typo), which is apparently an news outlet owned by Chad Johnson, who just got fired by the NFL’s Miami Dolphins for let’s say unfortunate reasons. And the co-owner of the restaurant with Vilma is DJ Williams of the Broncos, who is also currently fighting a suspension of his own. So we’re guessing DJ had no issue with the statement that Mr. Vilma is trying to make here. So much drama. And to think, the NFL season hasn’t even started yet.
by Bill Palmer
Even as the NFL makes preparations for the return of pro football to Los Angeles under the guise of not having any specific team in mind, the writing appears to have been on the wall all along: the San Diego Chargers and the St. Louis Rams, both former LA teams, are unofficially set to return home once the proper stadium has been built to house them both. The writing on the wall appears to have been in place for both franchises for at least a few years now – but the relocations weren’t going to happen until the league finished milking the situation to its advantage. It’s not that the NFL wanted both of the Los Angeles teams to vacate the city in 1995; the Raiders moved back to Oakland simply because they wanted to, while the Rams moved to St. Louis because the owner was in financial straits and pounced on the sweetheart deal being offered by the city. But once those moves happened, the league took its sweet time rectifying the situation. Over the course of the next seventeen years, every NFL in need of a new stadium used the threat of moving to Los Angeles as a method of forcing its current city to build a new stadium and fund it with taxpayer dollars. The gambit worked. With the Minnesota Vikings having finally secured municipal funding, the last domino has fallen. There are only two teams which never did force the stadium issue with their current cities: the Rams and the Chargers. It’s as if they had both been planing to move to LA for awhile and were merely waiting for the greenlight from the league. But even with the apparent onset of two NFL teams in Los Angeles, there are questions as to whether anyone in LA actually wants them…
The unique nature of Los Angels is that most people living here are from somewhere else and moved here in order to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. Most bring their existing football allegiances with them. Visit a Hollywood sports bar on a Sunday afternoon and you’ll find that it’s chock full of people – pro football is huge here – but everyone is rooting for a different team on a different television screen. There are huge chunks of fans for successful teams like the Cowboys and Steelers, but all thirty-two teams attract LA football fans to some degree. Adding a local NFL team to Los Angeles wouldn’t necessarily impact the landscape much. The sheer number of people living in the area would mean that one or even two teams would have no trouble selling out eight home games a year, whether the team is a winner or not (even the LA Clippers, who have been pitiful for most of their existence, draw more fans to their forty-plus home games a year than many other NBA franchises). But for the NFL, real revenue comes from the television deals. And there is little reason to believe that Chargers or Rams games would be a big television draw in Los Angeles. The best evidence of that is already in place…
The NFL has been promoting the Chargers as a quasi-home team in LA for years now, airing most of the team’s games as if they were “local” games in the LA television market (and suggesting that the league has been planning for the Chargers to move up the freeway for awhile now). In reality the 120 miles between San Diego and Los Angeles can be a four or five hour trek by car in rush hour traffic, and few make the round trip without an overnight stay being involved. But the supposed “two hour proximity” has given the league an excuse to push the Chargers in LA nonetheless. The problem? Despite the fact that the Chargers usually field a winning team, there are very few people in Los Angeles sports bars watching Chargers games. That doesn’t mean they’re not watching them at home. But there’s little to suggest that anyone in Los Angeles cares about the Chargers one way or the other.
The Rams may be a different story. While the Chargers played in Los Angeles for only a single season in 1960, the Rams played in Southern California from 1946 all the way through 1994. Among those who moved here and sought a new favorite team, and among the minority of LA residents who grew up here, there still remains a vocal (if aging) contingent of Rams fans in LA who would like to have their team back. It helps that the owner who moved the Rams to St Louis passed away four years ago, leaving the team in new hands. And in a curious move, the league announced this year that it had chosen the Rams to begin playing one home game a year in London for publicity purposes. It’s an odd choice on the surface, both because the Rams are in rebuilding mode and because St Louis isn’t a big enough city for Londoners to take particular interest in. But if the Rams are about to become the Los Angeles Rams, representing the second most famous city in the United States, then the London tie-in makes sense.
The NFL is now stating that it wants any new stadium built in Los Angeles to be capable of housing two teams simultaneously, as is the case with the New York Giants and Jets at the New Meadowlands. The identity of the two teams seemingly couldn’t be more obvious. But the difference is that New York has plenty of natives who want to watch New York NFL teams on television, including many who’ve left New York in favor of warmer climates and want to retain their allegiances. Los Angeles has few natives, and even fewer former residents who’ve moved elsewhere. Local television ratings for the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers would seem to be questionable, and nationwide ratings even more so.
But the local ratings in LA couldn’t be worse than what the two teams are currently drawing in their smaller local markets. And with a new stadium in place for both teams, the ongoing saga of stadium funding battles would finally come to a close – at least until the current generation of stadiums becomes obsolete. While nothing is guaranteed, it would be more of a surprise if the Chargers and Rams aren’t playing home games in Los Angeles by 2013 than if they are.
by Bill Palmer
It’s a Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles, and a sports bar on Hollywood Boulevard is filled with football fans beyond capacity. The San Diego Chargers, the team the NFL would like to move to Los Angeles in a year or two, airs on a small television near the door. In the second quarter, the Chargers game feed goes poof as the local blackout retroactively kicks in. The four people in the building who are paying attention, two of whom are rooting for the opposing team, are outraged. The hundreds of other football fans in the building fail to notice, as they continue rooting for their favorite teams on the larger screens. Now that San Diego no longer wants the Chargers, it turns out LA never wanted them either. NFL, you have a problem…
Los Angeles is an NFL town, but far from a prototypical one. Almost no one who lives in LA is from LA, making the longtime lack of a local NFL team irrelevant. Fans who move here from around the nation to chase their entertainment industry dreams tend to retain loyalty to the hometown teams the originally grew up rooting for. Sports bars fill up with fans decked out in gear supporting every team in the league, with no one set of team colors seeing anything approaching dominance in the crowd. Some folks still seem to remember the Raiders used to play here for awhile before moving seven hours back up the coast fifteen years ago; fewer seem to recall that the Rams also once called Los Angeles home. No one cares that the Chargers play their home games a mere hundred and twenty-five miles the the south; the more pertinent question would be whether folks in LA can so much as find San Diego on a map. San Diego is a beautiful city where nothing much of interest happens by LA standards. LA is a bustling rundown place where the kind of magic happens which would scare the crap out of most San Diegans if they ever came to visit. There’s no interstate rivalry. Culturally, functionally, the two cities aren’t quite in the same universe. And that’s before the supposed two hour driving distance between the two turns into a five hour trek in each direction thanks to legendary SoCal traffic. Visiting one city from the other is generally considered an overnight trip…
But traffic isn’t the NFL’s primary problem here. Pro football is failing in San Diego for a multitude of reasons, but the unwillingness of those in LA to drive down for the games isn’t among the most glaring. San Diegans may be weary of one too many first round playoff exits, one too many years of Norv Turner keeping his job for no good reason, one too many instances of Chargers management inexplicably extracting mean spirited vengeance against the team’s best players like Vincent Jackson. The stadium is nearly half a century old, and locals have no interest in paying for the construction of a replacement. Attendance has fallen off even amid modestly winning seasons. Perhaps it’s the old standby “it’s the economy” excuse. Maybe it’s just that San Diego is too small for an NFL team. No worries, however, because an NFL stadium is being built right here in Los Angeles county for a team to be named later. Teams like the Vikings, Jaguars, and Bills each look like they may need a new hometown eventually. The NFL hasn’t stated a preference, but the nearby Chargers would be the easiest choice.
Except that means the league would need to sell football fans in Los Angeles on the idea of giving up their original hometown allegiances in favor of the Chargers, or at least latching onto them as secondary team. The potential might be there. Long suffering fans of perennially losing teams might enjoy taking credit for the LA Chargers when they turn in a typical 10-6 season. The Lakers, one of the better run NBA franchises, have proven that LA can be a hometown sports bonanza under the right circumstances. The Clippers, who manage to survive in LA despite being one of the worst run franchises in the history of sports, might make for an even better case. The Pete Carroll era at USC shows that LA can also support a hometown football team, again, when the circumstances are right.
But the NFL doesn’t seem to have any viable gameplan for selling LA locals on the idea that this Chargers team, which plays a hundred-some miles down the road in an alternate universe, is the answer. The league has been attempting to do just that for some time, airing San Diego Chargers games in the local LA television market as if they were home games. A quick glance around the local sports bar, however, shows that’s not working. Now that Chargers home games are being sufficiently poorly attended in San Diego, those games are disappearing from that same local television feed. Again, the glance around the local pub today shows that doesn’t matter either. Hundreds of sports fans in the bar. Four of them watching the Chargers-Dolphins game. Two out of the four of them rooting for the opposing team. Rather than continuing to try to force Chargers games down the throat of LA football fans, the NFL is now going passive-aggressive by taking those games away from them. No one in Los Angeles cares either way, except now the Chargers go from being a nuisance whose games are broadcast locally at the expense of more interesting national games to a forgotten team which no longer airs on LA television one way or the other. How that translates to the “Los Angeles Chargers” playing their home games in downtown LA to anything more than a modest crowd in 2013 is anyone’s guess. NFL, you have a problem.
Today was the end of the road for some NFL teams today, and new life for others – or at least a chance to begin looking forward to next season. Here’s what comes to mind:
- Fair or not, the league will be accused of moving the would-be Sunday Night Eagles – Vikings game to Tuesday night instead of Monday night simply to keep NBC and ESPN from having to compete head to head for viewers, as opposed to the claim that the weather might not clear out by Monday. But then, with every move the NFL makes these days seemingly based on PR reasons, who can blame the skeptics?
- If Jerry Jones really wanted to fix his Cowboys, he’d replace the General Manager. Of course that would mean firing himself from that position, which gets to the heart of the problem.
- Speaking of that Philadelphia – Minnesota game, you can’t blame this latest bit of drama on Brett Favre, unless you believe that on top of everything else, he also secretly controls the weather.
- Actually, in hindsight the Vikings and Cowboys both managed to have great (if cringe-worthy) seasons, as they finally put up ugly enough records to shed themselves of incompetent head coaches whom they were never, ever going to contend under. At this point, Chargers fans have to be wondering what it takes to get rid of Norv Turner.
- The Jets lost a game stupidly but somehow rode into the playoffs on a Redskins field goal anyway. Has there been a luckier team in football these past couple years?
- Peyton Manning’s decision to slide and kill the clock rather than scoring himself a cheap touchdown just goes to show that the great ones A) don’t care about stats, and B) manage to rack them up over the long haul anyway.
- Mike Shanahan pretty clearly benched Donovan McNabb so interception machine Rex Grossman could lose the final three games, giving him a better draft position for acquiring a new quarterback. And then Grossman goes out and wins today. Shanahan can’t even get losing right. This is the same guy who won two Super Bowls?
- You had the feeling Mike Singletary would have been fired even if his sub-.500 squad had won the division and lost a playoff game.
- Who the hell is John Skelton?
- If Tony Sparano still has a job in Miami by this time next week, expect Dolphins season ticket holders to consider becoming Heat season ticket holders instead.
- Speaking of Miami, when Bill Parcells inexplicably retired at the start of the season, you heard it here that it was because he knew he’d screwed up by hiring his buddy Sparano and didn’t want to have to be the one to fire him when the season was over. As such, it’ll be up to new Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who has thus far spent his reign adding celebrity co-owners and glitz, to finally make his first football related decision.
Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, the two best quarterbacks of their generation and arguably any generation, are facing strange times as they face off today. Brady’s New England Patriots, once a dynasty, suddenly haven’t won a Super Bowl in too many years to count. And Brady’s best weapon Randy Moss is suddenly two teams removed from his roster, even as Brady and Bill Belichick are likely wondering what might have been if they hadn’t let Deion Branch slip away in the first place. The scary part for the Pats is that they may no longer even be the best team in their division.
Manning’s Indianapolis Colts, meanwhile, are fresh off an AFC Championship and should have been in prime position to head right back there but have instead been ransacked by the most dumbfounding collection of injuries in recollection. Indy’s offense is almost literally Peyton and the practice squad, with the Colts burning through receivers faster than the Dolphins have been burning through quarterbacks.
So who wins today, the team in transition or the team in traction? That’s better predicted by the oddsmakers. But just because neither franchise is in quite its usual top form this season doesn’t mean Brady and Manning can’t have one for the ages today.
Brett Favre returns to Green Bay as his Minnesota Vikings face his old team the Packers tonight on Sunday Night Football. And with controversy hanging over Favre this month to the point that Saturday Night Live took him to task last night in a sketch which blatantly mocked accusations of him exposing himself by portraying Favre promoting “open-fly jeans” for the sake of making it easier to expose himself. The question now is whether the open-fly joke will make it onto the Sunday Night Football broadcast. SNL and SNF (how’s that for acronyms?) are both on NBC, which means tonight’s football broadcast has the option to feature the sketch if it wants. In fact it did just that last week, when SNL had mocked Sunday Night Football’s opening segment featuring an overlong musical introduction. But tonight may be a trickier call, as it’s a far trickier subject – particularly when the entire Favre mess is still under investigation.
Remember Trend Edwards? The last time his name was in the news was when the Buffalo Bills, the worst team in the NFL, fired him a few weeks ago after having been their starting quarterback for a few seasons. The last thing anyone expected would be for him to be playing on Monday Night Football, yet here he is, subbing for an injured David Garrard. Few were likely even aware that Edwards had landed in Jacksonville via the waivers process, and yet now he’ playing for a national audience.
Meanwhile, the Tennessee Titans also have their backup quarterback in the game, as the ageless Kerry Collins is subbing for a limping Vince Young. Collins is in his late thirties and has played for too many NFL teams to count, while Trent Edwards is still in his mid-twenties after having been drafted by the Bills in the second round a few years ago.
Detroit Lions linebacker Zack Follett, who was carted off the field today after an injury which appeared to have possibly left him paralyzed, has announced that he’s “ok” via Twitter. The Lions LB, who goes by Zakarian Follett on Twitter, posted the following after the game:
“Heaven was bombarded with prayer request and they were heard! Thank you and much love to all you showing your support. I’m ok. Thank God”
The seventh round draft pick is in his second year with the Lions after playing college ball at the University of California.
The Washington Redskins did something on Sunday Night Football tonight that no team ever does: they kicked to Peyton Manning by choice. After winning the coin toss, the Skins decided to go ahead and defer to the Indianapolis Colts, giving the ball to Manning right from the get-go in exchange for getting the ball themselves at the start of the second half. And the move worked, as the Colts were quickly stopped and after a near-interception had to punt the ball away. But just as Donovan McNabb and company were getting things going, they lost track of the ball – and Manning came into the game and promptly burned them for a long touchdown pass. Just like that, Indianapolis 7, Washington 0.
The Redskins were reminded that there are few better in the league at making a team pay for its mistakes than Peyton Manning. After having clearly claimed the early momentum by stopping Manning on the first drive, the game swung completely on the turnover; after the quick Colts touchdown, the Redskins offense just didn’t look the same, perhaps knowing they’d blown their best opportunity to take an early lead. But it’s still only midway through the first quarter, and this one is still close.
The Miami Dolphins and Green Bay Packers face off today in a game which sees the teams going in two different directions – health wise, at least. While the Dolphins are set to finally have linebacker Channing Crowder available for the first time all season, the Packers are looking at playing without linebacker Clay Matthews or for that matter Ryan Grant, Jermichael Finley, or Nick Barnett. The good news for Green Bay is that it will likely have quarterback Aaron Rodgers available despite the concussion he suffered in last week’s game.
While Rodgers has become essentially a proven commodity in the few years since he took over for Brett Favre, Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne is still trying to find his place. The young QB managed to look as brilliant as he did confounding last week in what ended up being a blowout loss to the Patriots. But most of New England’s forty-one points game from what was one of the best (or depending on your point of view, one of the worst) special teams performances in the history of professional football. Just how bad were the Dolphins special teams in their last game? The team fired special teams coach John Bonamego during the bye week.
In a season in which no one team looks even close to being bulletproof, both Miami and Green Bay are difficult to figure out. The Dolphins are undefeated on the road yet winless at home, which means they might be relieved to be on the road. The Packers, at their best, look like strong Super Bowl contenders. But at other times they’ve looked just as vulnerable as the Dolphins.
Potential key matchup: Dolphins rising star cornerback Vontae Davis against Packers veteran star wide receiver Donald Driver (if he even plays, as he’s also on the injury list). Then again, the rash of injuries on the Packers side means that the performance of their backups could be more pivotal than anything either team’s starters do.
Here’s a bit of Sunday afternoon musing. For all the talk about the need for the iPhone to come to Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile in the U.S. in order for the iPhone to continue its dominance, there are those who say, no, the iPhone is doing fine with AT&T. I’ve been happy to play both sides: I’ve long argued that those who really want an iPhone should just shut up and switch to AT&T to get their hands on one. But I’ve also been arguing for just as long that the iPhone should be available on multiple carriers because not doing so is just plain stupid. And after having spent the afternoon (trying to) watch some NFL football, it’s hit home just how much of a mistake Apple is making by continuing on with its AT&T exclusivity. See, the NFL is doing something just as stupid.
Even though Jacksonville is so far away from here that it’s not even really considered to part of the same state, the NFL (or CBS, I’ve never been able to get a straight answer) has decided that it’s going to try to create some new fans for the long-forgotten Jaguars franchise even though A) Jacksonville is nowhere near here, 2) they’re an uninteresting, subpar team, and 3) the Jaguars don’t even have any fans in Jacksonville, as evidenced by their perennially empty stadium on gameday. So instead of showing the highly anticipated Jets – Patriots game today, which the rest of the country is seeing, we’re being treated to a horridly unwatchable game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the San Diego Chargers. And it’s not just Jets-Pats, easily the game of the early NFL season, that’s been booted in favor of this Jaguars shlop. After the Dolphins – Vikings game ended a bit early, the local CBS affiliate decided to air the nail-biting ending of the Steelers – Titans game, which came down to the last play of the game. Well, I suppose it did for everyone else. With thirteen seconds and literally one game-deciding play remaining, the local CBS station announced that it was shutting that game off for “contractual reasons” and instead switching over to the start of its precious Jacksonville game. That’s right, they cut off the last play of a national-interest close game in order to air the start of a game that no one outside of San Diego cares about – and San Diego, while a beautiful city, is three thousand miles from here. But wait, what does this have to do with a Verizon iPhone? I’m getting there, I promise.
So with the NFL having somehow managed to put itself in a situation where networks are switching off the final play of a close important game in favor or some game no one wants to see, I’m reminded again that I’d be more than willing to pay the (high) price for the NFL’s Sunday Ticket package, which allows you to watch any game you want instead of the irrelevant garbage the TV affiliates are airing. Except there’s just one problem: the Sunday Ticket is only available if you have satellite television, which I don’t and likely never will. It’s not out of stubbornness, as I hate my cable company as much as the next guy; but when it rains here literally every day this time of year, you don’t go out and get a satellite dish unless you enjoy pain. When I visit the houses of people around here who have satellite dishes during rainy season, well, let’s just say I get to hear a lot of swear words. Again, this has something to do with an iPhone or a cellular carrier? Yes, and I’m almost there.
Whatever kind of idiotic deal the NFL has with the TV networks, it’s only made worse by the fact that owning a satellite dish is the only you’re allowed to pay lots of money in order to watch any games other than the ones the networks force on you. I’ve learned that the NFL does offer a waiver program in which you’re allowed to pay large sums of money to watch NFL games online, but only if you can prove that you’re not eligible for satellite television. You actually have to provide them with a provable reason why you can’t give them your money in one manner, before you’re allowed to give them even more money for the same product in a different manner. And apparently, “Because satellite television is shit in bad weather” isn’t among the acceptable reasons.
Is all of this starting to sound familiar now? A company has an immensely popular product, yet refuses to take your money because a satellite dish isn’t a valid option – or because a certain cellular carrier isn’t where you dare to tread. The NFL situation is made even worse by the fact that it does offer some kind of mobile way of watching games on a device like an iPhone or iPad – except that the deal is exclusive to Verizon, meaning that no one can watch NFL games on the only mobile devices anyone cares about.
The lesson here is fairly straightforward: the wrong long-term exclusivity deals, while making you wealthy in the short term, can absolutely destroy you in the long term no matter how popular your product may be. It’s a lesson the NFL has already decided it’ll willfully ignore all the way to the bitter end – and it’s why the NFL is headed for a big, big, big crash whether there’s a lockout or not. The question is whether Apple is just as ignorant and wants to continue watching the marketshare lead of its massively superior products get chipped away at by junk-like competing products which just happen to be available in a manner in which potential customers are willing and/or able to consume them.
Literally the only option for me to tune in for the Jets-Pats game today was to pay the NFL money so I could listen to an internet live-stream of the local radio broadcast of the game. And I even tried that, but it’s not the same thing and I eventually got frustrated and turned it off. I also turned off the Jacksonville dumper game because, really, who would want to watch that?
So here I am, cranking out a frustrated blog post and wondering what I’m going to have for dinner, while the NFL fails to get my money either in terms of the hundreds I would have gladly paid for Sunday Ticket, or in terms of the TV advertising revenue they would have made from me if there were a real game on right now (for the record, the local affiliate for FOX, the other network which airs Sunday afternoon NFL games, is airing – and I’m not making this up – an informercial for PokerStars.net right now instead of a game).
The NFL may still be on top of the sports world, but it’s already circling the bowl in terms of irrevocably heading down a path in which potential customers are all but forced to tune out and give up. For reference, see the decline of boxing once it switched to the short term profitable, long term suicidal model of pay per view exclusivity. Boxing’s dominance is long over now because of it, and the NFL’s dominance will be gone in a decade unless the league somehow wakes up and completely changes course. The question is whether Apple, which is still on top of the world with the iPhone despite all the geek-fueled Android overhype, is content to keep getting rich off AT&T’s exclusive money while destroying the iPhone’s potential for continued dominance in the future, or whether Apple is just as tired of flushing its own potential down the toilet as we are of watching it do so, and has plans to launch a Verizon iPhone (and a T-Mobile iPhone and a Sprint iPhone) as soon as it can, and merely hasn’t told us about it yet.
For the record, I have no interest in switching my iPhone to any other carrier, even if that does become an option. I just want to see others who, for whatever (valid or invalid reason) refuse to switch to AT&T, have the opportunity to enjoy an iPhone as much as I enjoy mine. Keep that in mind, satellite TV lovers, before you consider telling me to just suck it up and suffer through life with a satellite dish in Florida during the rainy season.
Football is back. Almost. Most of the top college football teams are playing their opening game against an obscure overmatched team which they’re expected to blow out, and NFL are at least finalizing their gameday rosters today. From having watched the college action on television today, and having followed the NFL “action” on the internet this afternoon, here are some thoughts…
- There are fewer letdowns in sports than preseason NFL games, as any sense of competitiveness (along with the presence of any recognizable names on the field) has typically disappeared by the end of the first quarter. But after watching some of the mind bogglingly sloppy opening day college games today, it’s a reminder of just why the NFL actually has a preseason. University of Florida, one of the top teams in the game, had ten or twenty bad center-quarterback exchanges (I lost count), which is startling considering that it’s somewhat rare to even see as much one or two bad snaps in a game. Good thing for the Gators, then, that they were playing against lowly Miami University of Ohio rather than the University of Miami.
- When did the NFL become a suicide league? For all the talk of building for the future, teams sure seem to be more eager than ever to dump any player that isn’t doing anything for them right now, regardless of how talented the player or how much potential they presumably have. How else to explain that Arizona’s Matt Leinart and Seattle’s TJ Houshmandzadeh are unemployed today, with no imminent landing spot? Half the teams in the league don’t have quarterback with Leinart’s potential, and the other half don’t have a wide receiver on their roster who will rack up as many yards this season as Houshmandzadeh did last season. Teams have reasons for dumping players. It’s the fact that neither may find immediate employment elsewhere that’s bizarre.
- Speaking of TJ (I’m not typing “Houshmandzadeh” again – oops I just did), talk about your classic case of a guy destroying his own career by leaving a good situation where he was making millions of dollars in favor of bolting for a terrible situation so he could just a little bit more money. If he had stayed in Cincinnati he’d still be there, still be employed, still be on a contender, and still making his millions. As it turns out, after this season, the rest of the money his Seattle contract goes up in flames because it never really existed. Is it pure greed or pure stupidity that causes athlete after athlete to destroy his career and his profitability by bolting for a few dollars more that he has to know he’ll probably never see anyway? Or are the agents advising these players just that evil?
- Speaking of cuts, Miami sportswriters can barely contain their glee today as the Dolphins cut quarterback Pat White just one year after taking him in the second round. Why? Because on the day of the draft, they all said that it was a bad pick. And today they’re all gloating about how they were right. But were they? In sixteen games last year, he was on the field for perhaps five plays. In the preseason this year he was on the field for a whopping total of four plays – and actually looked pretty good in that game. Sure, coaches see things in practice that we don’t see on gameday. But the mistake isn’t in taking a non-prototypical guy so high in the draft. The mistake was taking him and then never actually putting him into a game. Same thing goes for third round pick Patrick White (not a good day to be a Dolphins draft pick named “Pat”), who was dumped today after having never made it onto the field last year. To his credit, Dolphins coach Tony Sparano admitted that he made a mistake by not letting Turner play last season, even after his team had faded from contention. But again, the mistake was not necessarily in drafting Pat and Pat. It was in drafting Pat and Pat, two player which major potential but who were obviously going to need some work to develop, and then never giving them the chance to develop.
- Notre Dame won handily today, but it was playing against who, again? Purdue? Okay then. Notre Dame hasn’t been a competitive or relevant team in at least a decade, and there’s no reason to believe that’ll turn around. At least last year they had recognizable names Charlie Weis and Jimmy Clausen (who for the record both accomplished nothing while they were there). This year, Notre Dame and Purdue could have exchanged uniforms at halftime and no one but their families in the stands would have noticed. So here’s the question: why is the long-irrelevant, boring, thoroughly uncompetitive team known as Notre Dame still managing to garner a nationally televised broadcast of its games on NBC every single week? The answer, of course is ratings. But the real question is why so many millions continue to tune in to watch Notre Dame, a third rate team, play an irrelevant game against its fourth rate opponents. Are these people tuning in simply for religious reasons? Is there any other explanation?
- At the time I’m typing this, 21st ranked LSU is tied with 18th ranked UNC, which makes sense until you realize that more than a dozen of UNC’s players aren’t playing tonight due to a massive investigation of possible inappropriate off the field activities. So what does LSU’s offense do to take advantage of the obvious mismatches and the fact that it’s playing against a bunch of second stringers? It reins the gameplan and plays even more conservatively than usual. I guess some coordinators will use anything as an excuse to go with an ever-more conservative gameplan. And as I’m typing this, under-manned UNC just took the lead over the overly-conservative LSU. LSU may end up winning. But based on the gameplans, I can’t say I’m surprised at the score thus far. You’ve got to want to win. It’s not enough to want to not lose. [Update: LSU has since opened up its gameplan, and LSU is now winning. Again, no surprise.]
- Yes, I’m a cranky football fan this weekend. The regular season NFL games are still a week away, with all the pro headlines being about money in one way or another – today’s college football games have mostly been sloppy messes which rightfully should have been preseason games. But have no fear, real football games on both the college and pro level are just a week away.
It’s become extremely clear this month that the iPhone has come into its own as a gaming platform. At the same time that Sony is releasing ads criticizing the quality of iPhone games, EA has released its second iteration of its flagship Madden franchise for the iPhone. Last year’s Madden game set the bar very high, but as with any Madden game released on a platform after the first, the question remains whether this year’s version is any more than a roster update compared to last year’s version.
If you don’t own any Madden games for your iPhone and you’re wondering if Madden measures up to the console versions, it does, with some limitations. You’re not going to confuse the iPhone version of Madden with the 360 or PS3 versions, but it’s definitely at least as good as you might expect the iPhone version to be, if not better.††Don’t hesitate to pick this up, even at the current price of $8, if you want a football game for your iPhone and don’t yet have one.
If you’re considering upgrading from Madden 10, however, that question is a bit more complicated. Most of the gameplay in Madden 11 is fairly identical to Madden 10 (rosters aside, obviously), which, on the whole, is a good thing. For instance, passing is still done by tapping on the receivers, and the Action Control system that lets the player slow down the action temporarily, a highlight of the original iPhone Madden, returns for Madden 11. However, what device you own and your play style could make the difference between a purchase and a pass when it comes to this year’s incarnation.
The most obvious change in this year’s version is the GameFlow system, which replaces the old Ask Madden system for having the computer suggest plays (which was missing from Madden 10 on the iPhone anyway). With GameFlow turned on, you are never even presented with a play calling screen; the game just advances from play to play automatically, while continuing to provide the option to either change the play entirely or draw hot routes for your players on the screen to adjust the play. Turning GameFlow on and off is as easy as flipping a switch on the screen in between plays.
In theory, GameFlow is fantastic, especially on the iPhone where you likely don’t have a ton of time to play in the first place. I also like it a lot more on defense, where I’m less confident with/interested in strategy than I typically am on offense.††In practice, however, it seems to skew very heavily toward running plays, which makes sense for some teams but not others. For instance, I play as the Patriots, and giving the ball to Laurence Maroney instead of Tom Brady for three out of four plays would have the fans in Foxborough screaming for blood. What’s more, I found scrolling through plays with GameFlow off on the sluggish side, which can be frustrating. That said, if you really just want to play Madden like an arcade game, GameFlow is a great addition to the game.
On the defensive side, Madden 11 adds Total Defensive Control, accessible by a button in the bottom center of the screen once the play starts. Pressing this button pauses the game and allows the player to either direct each player on the defense either where to run or queue up a button action (jump, swat, dive for a tackle, etc.). I do like this feature, because the standard Madden style of defense (switch to the closest player and then try to intervene in the split second before they get the ball) has never really worked for me. It can be kind of overwhelming to try to decide what eleven people should do on every play, but I do like having the additional option, and it does add a bit more realism on the defensive side.
The graphics are improved to take advantage of the iPhone 4′s Retina Display, and the difference is very noticeable. The player models are much clearer (if a bit on the blocky side) and you can even see individual fans in the stands instead of just a multicolored animation. I actually fired up Madden 10 to see how it looks on my iPhone 4 and it hurt my eyes in comparison. So for iPhone 4 owners, upgrading is worth it for the graphics alone.There are still some issues with the animations, though; it often seems like the players don’t quite collide properly on tackles, and some of the reception animations aren’t clear whether the ball was caught or not.
The sound is still a weak point of Madden, unfortunately. Though the game has supplemented Madden and Cris Collinsworth with Gus Johnson, the commentary still is really inadequate. You’ll hear the same few lines over and over again, even within a single game, and it’s even wrong, occasionally. Play by play is understandably difficult to do at all, and even more difficult to do well, especially given the space constraints of the iPhone. That said, however, it’s jarring enough in its current incarnation that it’s almost worth just leaving it out altogether if it can’t be done better than it is currently.
So should you buy this first “roster update” version of Madden for the iPhone? Again, if you don’t own Madden 10, absolutely; this is a full featured football game to rival those on other portable gaming platforms for one third of the price of a comparable version on the DS or PSP, and you don’t even need to carry around a separate device to play it. Similarly, if you own an iPhone 4 or are a casual player, then the new features (Retina graphics and GameFlow, respectively) make this version of Madden a giant leap beyond its predecessor. If you don’t fall into any of these categories, then it’s really a toss up. But even just as a roster update, you’re still getting a current, full version of Madden for less than you would pay for last year’s version on other gaming platforms, so it’s not nearly as bad as, say, a $60 roster update on the 360 or PS3. If you didn’t like last year’s version of Madden for the iPhone, this year’s version won’t change your mind, but otherwise, Madden 11 improves on the formula enough to be worth a purchase for more than just this year’s rosters.
Madden NFL 11 for iPhone is in the iTunes App Store for $7.99
Football played in heavy snow isn’t football, it’s a slip and fall comedy routine. And the National Football League knows this, which is why the Super Bowl is never played outdoors in cold weather cities – until now, with the announcement of a 2014 Super Bowl in New York City, or actually, in neighboring New Jersey where the new joint Giants-Jets stadium is located. The NFL is a fall league with a season full of mild weather games, and while there’s little the league can do about the fact that many of its teams are located in cities have pity-inducing winters, as playoff games have always been played at the home stadium of the team who did better in the regular season, league officials have always gone out of their way to protect the season’s most important game and keep it from being one of those atrociously unwatchable games in which pro athletes are trying to play football in the blinding snow and are reduced to looking like players who couldn’t make a minor league football roster. Each season invariably sees at least one would-be great playoff game ruined by heavy snow, in which fans of both teams cringe at how seemingly untalented their favorite players have suddenly become, and viewers with no team preference bide their time waiting for the next playoff game to start, occasionally checking the schedule to make sure that it’s not also being played in a city with sub-human winters.
That’s what makes the New York SuperBowl such a head scratcher. It’s a move obviously based on money, as serves the dual purpose of rewarding the the New York franchises for figuring out how to get their hometown to build them a new stadium (and motivates other teams to work harder at getting their hometown to do the same), and it puts the season’s most important game in America’s most important city which amounts to a non-stop cash register for the league leading up to the game. But while the rainy Super Bowl in Miami a little while back caused the NFL to publicly hint that it won’t give South Florida residents another shot at hosting the title game unless they pay to build a roof on top of Dolphins Stadium because of a few raindrops, the league is perfectly willing to risk the 2014 being an unwatchably awful abomination of a championship game in which the players might as well as all be watching blindfolds while on the field.
And that’s when you realize that neither move had anything to do with the weather. South Florida residents are being punished for not paying for upgrades to their local stadium, while residents / season ticket holders in New York / New Jersey / whoever paid for that new stadium in East Rutherford are being rewarded for having done so. Doesn’t matter who paid for it, bottom line is it got built, and now the NFL is willing to do something as bizarre as risk throwing away a Super Bowl just to reward the locals – and reward itself.
The NFL’s annual draft in April cuts both ways. It opens the pro football season for business for a few days with a kinetic level of energy which not only involves every team, it involves every fan getting to see his or her team getting presumably better through the addition of young new players. But just as the NFL’s annual anti-season gets underway, the lights go out within a couple of days and fans realize that it’ll be a good three or four months before they even get to see their teams square off in preseason games – to say nothing of the sinking feeling that sets in after draft day euphoria wears off and fans of the league’s non-contending teams realize that the addition of a few talented players won’t likely keep their team from continuing to stink once the season does get underway.
If you’re also a fan of one or more other major team sports, then it’s not a bad time of year overall. NBA basketball and NHL hockey are in that early stretch of the playoffs in which half the teams in the league have been invited and few have thus far been eliminated, so most fans can find some rooting interest. And MLB baseball is still getting underway such that the teams with minor league budgets are still technically in contention, and even those big budget contenders who’ve gotten off to a surprisingly bad start still have plenty of time to turn it around. So it’s a good, enjoyable, non threatening stretch of the year – at least for football fans who actually find interest in other sports.
For the rest of us, it’s not just Sundays that leave a void in the meantime. Turning on the morning sports talk radio or tuning in for ESPN’s afternoon sports commentary shouting matches is no fun when all they’re talking about is other sports. And it gets even worse when they do get around to talking about football stories, but there are none but that doesn’t stop them from injecting a few anyway. The Lawrence Taylor story is unfortunate all around, but it doesn’t involve anyone who’s participated in pro football in any way in the last fifteen years. And then you get to the biggest headlines about actual current NFL players and they’re along the lines of JaMarcus Russell getting cut by the Oakland Raiders, or injured New York Jets quarterback Marc Sanchez running on a treadmill – the latter being humorously non-newsworthy in addition to the fact that both of those stories could have been written a month ago and set on a timer.
So while the 2010 NFL Draft served to remind us that football is king, in that a series of names being read from cards made for more interesting television (for football fans anyway) than any of the actual games being played that same weekend in other sports, the draft’s subsequent quick disappearance from the sports radar has also served to remind football fans that August isn’t coming up all that soon, and there won’t be all that much pro football news in the mean time.
Read between the lines, and Brett Favre has told us two things this weekend: he’s going to play quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings in 2010, and he’s not going to confirm it until the last minute possible. The Vikings seemingly already knew he was coming back, seeing as how they failed to draft a quarterback last month despite high caliber prospects Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy both being available in the middle rounds. But Favre’s latest missive, in which he confirms that his ankle would require minor surgery for him to continue playing football, he said that he doesn’t believe major surgery would be required. Read into the phrasing. He’s not talking along the lines of “I’d need surgery to keep playing.” What he’s really saying is more like “I don’t need major surgery to keep playing.”
In other words, he’ll be back. He’s already listing potential obstacles to his return in such a manner which will allow him to easily cross them off that list when the time comes. He’s not retiring. He may not yet have convinced himself that he’ll be the starting quarterback for the Vikings in the fall – but he’s convinced the Vikings of that fact. And now he’s convinced us as well.
Although the newly revealed “my dad was a pimp” context in which the question apparently turns out to have been asked in makes it a lot less inappropriate than if it had come out of the blue, there’s still no defending an employer asking a potential hire whether his mother was a prostitute, no matter the context – which is why there’s no way to go about defending the fact that Miami Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland asked that question of wide receiver Dez Bryant earlier this year. And it’s good that the issue has surfaced, because it’s about time the NFL got around to dealing with this kind of thing. It’s not that the intentions of GMs aren’t logical when these questions are asked, of course. Once a player gets on the field, players from the opposing team are going to say every insulting and offensive thing that they can, as soon as the ref is out of earshot. That will include slurs, family insults, you name it, and a team needs to know that in that situation, the player being insulted isn’t going to snap and beat the snot out of the guy delivering the insults and get his team penalized in the process. It’s one of those dirty underbelly aspects of football that most of us as fans would just as soon pretend didn’t exist, along with the money-fueled disloyalty that teams and players show each other so routinely.
Now that the issue is out in the open, the league will likely lay down “good taste” guidelines for all teams to follow when interviewing potential draft picks (and perhaps even employ league emissaries to monitor such interviews), and that’s good thing. But the NFL has been a little too trigger happy of late when it comes to punishing its employees just to try to get on the right side of the public relations equation. The league’s suspension and resulting financial punishment of Ben Roethlisberger for merely having been accused of a crime without evidence was illegal in itself, and he could have gotten his suspension overturned (at least the “unpaid” part of it) in about five minutes if he’d filed an injunction in court; the only reason he didn’t was that he likely knows the Pittsburgh Steelers would cut or trade him if he tried (which would also have been illegal on the part of the team, yet unprovable – but that’s another conversation for another day). If Jeff Ireland is fined, the Dolphins will likely tell him to swallow it as well so that the situation can be put to rest. But if the league gets uppity again and decides to punish the organization in terms of draft picks, don’t expect the Dolphins to stand for it; despite the tactlessness of Ireland’s question, he was breaking no rule and was not deviating from what was – until this week – considered the norm for these kinds of interviews. So while it’s a good thing this came out in public and will now be fixed on a permanent basis by the league, expect Bill Parcells and company to launch a holy war if the league tries to make some kind of example out of the Dolphins that goes beyond making Jeff Ireland’s wallet a little lighter. Even that kind of “message” delivered by the league would be over the top (unless they’re going to go back and fine every other GM who has asked a potential draft pick a similar question in the past month), but the team would likely swallow it. But even the NFL should know better than to come between Parcells and his cache of future draft picks.
Just weeks after being traded from the Pittsburgh Steelers to the New York Jets, wide receiver Santonio Holmes was busted (although not arrested) during a recent flight for refusing to turn off his iPod as the plane was getting set to land. After the flight landed safely despite Holmes’ best efforts to crash the plane using the power of his iPod from his seat, police greeted the former Super Bowl MVP at the gates to remind him of
the multitudes of airplanes that have crashed because someone forgot to turn off an iPod FAA rules which require behavior while in the air that would make no sense in any other societal situation.
Holmes wasn’t charged for the violation, but he is already facing a suspension for part of the upcoming NFL season for reasons we can’t remember. No word on whether the league will tack on extra games to his suspension due to this latest revelation that he’s a
terrorist big fan of music.
Myron Rolle might be the smartest guy in the NFL – if he can get into the league. The former Florida State University standout, who took last year off in the pursuit of postgraduate education, still hasn’t been drafted as of the end of the fifth round. The only plausible explanation thus far is that he’s either considered “too smart” for the brutish game of football, or that his pursuit of a medical degree means he’s not fully committed to having a full length NFL career. The notion that a player could be too intelligent to be successful in the league is not likely the kind of public relations sentiment that the league is looking for, even as it revamped the draft to turn it into a prime time event.
Rolle is likely to land with a team even if he doesn’t drafted, as he can always sign as a free agent with a team that wants him. But the fact that he’s lasted this far into the draft without finding a team might well be one of the draft’s biggest surprises.
Update: the Tennessee Titans just selected Myron Rolls with the final pick of the sixth round.
University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, who won both the Heisman Trophy and the National Championship during his college career, was spotted on ESPN talking on his iPhone while at home during the NFL draft. While pundits have speculated where Tebow, who doesn’t fit the traditional mold of an NFL quarterback, will be selected in tonight’s draft, we do know that the phone call informing him of his new National Football League destination will pass through AT&T on its way to Tebow’s Apple-made cellphone.
No word on what Tim Tebow’s favorite iPhone apps might be (perhaps some of these NFL apps are among them), or whether he’s also sporting an Apple iPad.