There’s a scene in “The Princess Bride” (one of my favourite movies), where Westley, still wearing a mask as “the man in black” catches up to Inigo, and they engage in an epic sword battle. At one point during their fight, Inigo is so impressed by the skills of “the man in black,” that they have this exchange:
Inigo: (incredulous) Who are you?
Westley: No one of consequence.
Inigo: I must know.
Westley: Get used to disappointment.
(Note: If the preceding made no sense to you, it’s entirely possible that this might not be the right football column for you. Best keep reading, though, just to be sure.)
In life, things can always go wrong. All you can do in any situation is your best. In any situation, you have at least some level of control over whether or not you are satisfied with the outcome. Being a sports fan is not like that, especially if you root for a particular team. We like to think we have control, but we don’t, and no amount of yelling at the TV, no lucky jersey, no prayer, no bargain with unseen forces, is going to change that. As the fan of a team, you are relying on what other people do to decide your happiness. Sure, a spectacular catch, a great tackle, a breathtaking run, can bring you to the heights of ecstasy. However, a dropped pass, a missed kick, an injury, can just as easily bring you to the depths of despair. And these are just instantaneous incidents. There’s also the satisfaction of cheering for a team that has a tremendous run of success, or the flip side, the crushing disappointment of being a Cleveland fan.
When you rely on yourself for your own fulfillment, to some extent, you get out of it what you put into it. When you rely on other people’s actions for your fulfillment, people who don’t know you or care about you, you get what you get. Sometimes, you get disappointed.
As a sports fan, you get used to disappointment.
There are players I like, or at least like to watch. I enjoy watching a good, well-played contest, competitive, skillful, and fair. I appreciate good defense as much as offense, sometimes more. I don’t root for any particular team, though. It’s not my thing. I’m not knocking anyone who does. In fact, most of the people I know who watch football are die-hard fans of a particular team. Not me. The simplest way for me to put it is that I find the whole idea of rooting for a particular team too “complicated.” I could go into more detail, a lot more detail in fact, but that would be its own thing, and this isn’t that.
Not rooting for a particular team, not liking the league itself, having no faith in the sycophantic media that covers the league, and my general dislike of human behaviour, particularly in groups, pretty much insulates me from disappointment when watching football now.
Take Thursday’s kickoff game between Houston and KC for example. If you read my column the other day, you know that there were a bunch of things I was curious about regarding the telecast of the games:
The things I’ll be most curious about will be how much time is spent during the broadcast talking about “issues.” Will the network people talk about social and player protests in this and other sports? Will they mention KC’s new ban on the racist regalia that has been de rigueur at their games for ages? Will they mention the backlash from KC’s “fans” regarding the ban interfering with their racist “fun?” Will they talk about Kaepernick? Will they mention George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and/or any of the myriad other names of people who have been unlawfully killed by police? Will they mention Black Lives Matter? Will they actually say that Black Lives Matter? And, with only 17,000 expected to be in attendance due to social distancing rules (a fraction of what a typical crowd would be), will we be able to hear the vile, racist chanting that was so embarrassingly, disgustingly prevalent during the broadcasts of KC’s run to the championship last season.
Now, anyone who’s read my columns before knows how loathsome I think KC fans are. So, when these garbage people boo the players as they gather for a moment of unity, I’m not disappointed. When Al and Cris ignore the booing, I’m not disappointed. When I can’t find any mention of the booing on the league’s official website, I’m not disappointed. And when I hear them play the music in the stadium to encourage the fans to begin their vile, racist chant-n-chop (in the stadium where the KC organization hypocritically and meaninglessly banned racist costumes), while Al and Cris sit with their thumbs up their asses and spew meaningless drivel about “supporting the players” and “social justice,” I am not disappointed. I expect nothing better.
It occurred to me the other day, as I was reading what was supposed to be my last football column ever, that I expressed my thoughts about what would happen in the AFC, but did not do the same for the NFC. Now, I hate leaving something unfinished, and I do have some stray thoughts kicking around in my head, so…
It says something that Washington got rid of the racial slur, removed the logo, and is still one of the worst organizations in the league. That’s Dan Snyder for you. Last place is theirs.
I’ve seen where NYG has been pegged as one of the worst teams coming into this season. I disagree. I see them as more of a middle-of-the-pack team, but with lots of potential upside. I thought that Daniel Jones proved last season that he belonged as a starter in the league. With plenty of receiving talent, and of course the superb Saquon Barkley, there’s lots to like about the offense. Jason Garrett, finally free of Jerry Jones’s meddling, will run the offense. The big question mark will be the OL. New York used the 4th overall pick in the draft on T Andrew Thomas, on their way to spending three of their first five picks on O-linemen. The defense will need to improve a lot as well over last season’s poor performance. The team added LB Blake Martinez, a very good, very smart player who should help the defense become a more cohesive unit. Though Big Blue might not contend for the division, they should definitely improve on last year’s record.
I don’t like Philadelphia. I don’t like Carson Wentz. I still think they should have kept Nick Foles and gotten what they could from a QB-needy team for Wentz. Wentz is an injury waiting to happen. If he stays healthy, they have a shot at winning the division again, but mostly because Dallas is their main competition.
Last season, we saw two Dallas teams; the one that blew out the bad teams, and the one that lost every time they played a good team. From a talent standpoint, they should have won this division easily, but instead they finished 8-8, despite outscoring opponents by 113 points (so much for stats, eh?). Talent-wise, they should win this year, but who knows. Mike McCarthy is the coach this season. Will he look at all the offensive talent and be reborn as an innovative play-caller, spurring his charges to glory, or will he take one look at Ezekiel Elliot, and revert to the same boring, predictable play-calling that got him bounced out of Green Bay? (Aside: On a personal note, I think that Dak Prescott is a hero for speaking out about his emotional difficulties, and any high-profile broadcasting assholes who want to say anything different can fight me. #SickNotWeak)
Detroit is a hard team to figure. Matt Stafford’s talent and character are unassailable at this point, and if he’s healthy, he has enough talent surrounding him for Detroit’s offense to be really good this season. For some reason, the defense can’t seem to get it together. This season will see some new faces on the defensive side of the ball. If Matt Patricia can’t get enough out of them to make a decent showing in the North, he’s probably going to get canned before the end of the season.
Chicago will have Akiem Hicks back, and they picked up Robert Quinn, so Kahlil Mack will be much happier than opposing offenses. That’s all well and good, but Trubisky is still the starting QB, and even if he gets hurt or benched, Nick Foles will quickly find out that this team doesn’t have a lot to work with on offense.
Kirk Cousins seems to have all the physical tools to be a successful QB, and by all accounts he’s a hard worker. There’s just something about him that’s always bugged me, a lack of a sense of urgency maybe, that makes him less effective, and more likely to shrink from big moments. It was only due to some recent public comments that he made that I figured out what’s been wrong with him all this time: he’s fucking stupid.
Aaron Rodgers doesn’t strike me as a very happy guy, and he certainly doesn’t seem like he likes very many people. Not to get personal, but he hates his family (apparently), he can’t sustain a romantic relationship (apparently), he has a reputation for embarrassing coaches and teammates (publicly), and he holds onto old grudges against former coaches, and all the teams that passed on him in the draft (FIFTEEN-FUCKING-YEARS-AGO!). Last season, Green Bay went 13-3, largely due to the fact that they fielded their best defense in years. Rodgers played well, but despite having a good running game to rely on, the team had no depth at receiver. So, after getting thrashed in the conference championship game by San Fran, Green Bay used their first pick in the 2020 draft on… Rodgers’s replacement. Aaron, buddy, I think they’re trying to tell you something. Green Bay will probably win the division again, then find themselves escorted out of the playoffs yet again.
I can’t fucking stand Drew Brees. He’s such an asshole. He just does one shitty thing after another, but none of the shit ever sticks to him. He’s the NFL’s perfect poster boy, the white, Christian, family man, capital-Q Quarterback. He’s abused animals. He’s hawked bogus supplements. He partnered with a shady, LGBT-hating religious group to force kids to read the bible in school, then refused to condemn the group when asked about its anti-LGBT agenda, which includes promoting conversion therapy. And only recently, he stuck his foot in his stupid mouth yet again by spouting some nonsense about “disrespecting the flag” in response to the killing of George Floyd and the resulting protests. Anyway, New Orleans is stacked, and returns most of its high-octane offense from last season, and with continuity being such a key to getting off to a good start, they’re odds-on favourites to win this division. Yuck!
Carolina probably won’t do much this season. With Teddy Bridgewater and Christian McCaffrey, the offense might be able to do a bit of damage, but the loss of retiring Luke Kuechly is too big a blow to just shrug off.
Atlanta has been touted as a dark-horse contender, but I have my doubts. Matt Ryan to Julio Jones is still one of the best bets in the league, but there’s not much else to bank on with this offense. The addition of Todd Gurley could be huge, but I’m doubtful that he can return to the form that made him arguably the best back in football only a few short seasons ago.
The biggest wild card, and perhaps the most intriguing story in the league, is Tom Brady in Tampa. Though many thought that Brady had a bad year last season, I was impressed with how well he played, considering how many injuries New England experienced on the OL and at WR. In Tampa, Brady will have no shortage of offensive talent around him. Also, Tampa’s defense is better than it looked last season, when it was over-taxed due to a big-play Tampa offense that turned the ball over 41 times. Tampa’s front seven is loaded with talent, with the likes of Vita Vea, Lavonte David, and last season’s Sack leader Shaq Barrett. All hype aside, this is a team that can beat anyone.
San Fran had a 10-point lead in the Superb Owl, before losing. I guess that’s Kyle Shanahan’s thing now. Their defense is good enough to win the division again. I’m not as high on the offense, which is pretty thin at WR.
LAAries crash-landed last season. I don’t expect them to be much better this year. They’ve lost too many players on both sides of the ball. Jared Goff and Sean McVay are a well-matched pair; both highly overrated.
Arizona looks intriguing. Kyler Murray showed that he had the stuff in his rookie campaign, and the team went out and got him DeAndre Hopkins. The great Larry Fitzgerald returns. The defense looks a little suspect, but the offense will make Arizona a dangerous opponent for any team.
Let’s face it: Russell Wilson can do it all, and he wins games. He has an excellent complement of receivers to work with. The addition of superb S Jamal Adams gives the defense the kind of dynamic, versatile player that improves the whole unit. This could very well be Seattle’s year.
Since I concluded my previous column by picking (correctly) the Thursday night game, it only makes sense that I give my picks for the remainder of this week’s games.
Week One Picks
Winning Team in Bold:
Philly at Washington
Miami at NE
GB at Minny
Indy at Jax
Chicago at Detroit
LV at Carolina
NYJ at Buffalo
Cleveland at Baltimore
Seattle at Atlanta
LABolts at Cincy
Arizona at SF
Tampa at NO
Dallas at LAAries
Pittsburgh at NYG
Tennessee at Denver
Well, everyone, I’m glad I got a chance to finish properly. It feels great, and I enjoyed myself tremendously. If you read to the end, I thank you.
Good day, folks. This will most likely be my last football column.