Another year, another Big Game?
Or, is it a battle for a country’s soul?
America, you look tired to me. For years, I’ve watched as partisan politics have divided the country more and more, year after year. In 2008, you elected Barack Obama president, and it looked like there might be hope for your future. However, the Republican Party exploited Obama’s desire for change, and America’s complicated history with racism, and worked overtime to undermine Obama’s presidency and foment division among the nation’s citizenry.
In 2012, Obama was re-elected, and the Republicans redoubled their divisive and harmful efforts.
The results were disastrous; in 2016, the country elected what is essentially a failed human being as its president.
The time since the 2016 election has been disastrous for the country. Scarcely has the media and the public had time to process one monstrous act committed by the president, but a fresh new outrage has occurred. In the ensuing three years, following the lead of the president, the Republicans have become arrogant and lawless, basically doing whatever they want, no matter how their actions fly in the face of morality, decency, legality.
This week, we saw the culmination of this, as Republican Senators essentially wiped their asses with the constitution, and threw away any illusion of duty to the public and to justice.
I wish I could say that I’m shocked. I’m not.
They’re just protecting their brand.
I’m tired, too. Tired of football. Tired of the NFL.
The past few years, as the end of the season approaches, I find that, unlike when I was younger, I’m ready for it to be over. I love watching football, but I hate the NFL.
The more the league promotes itself as changing for the better, the more things stay the same. They tinker with the rules. They bring in new helmet designs. They trumpet their commitment to player safety. They say they take social issues seriously. And what do we get? Colin Kaepernick is still out of the league. There’s still Thursday football. A convicted woman-beater is recorded threatening a woman, yet he escapes punishment. The Washington team name…!
The league does whatever it wants. It promotes itself as a force for good while rewarding or ignoring bad behaviour. It’s all a façade.
Look at New Orleans, and its golden boy, Drew Brees. New Orleans is a marquee franchise. Their great season after Hurricane Katrina was a feel-good story, and God-fearing family man Brees was the face of it all.
From where I sit, New Orleans is garbage, and Brees is a little weasel.
Remember the New Orleans bounty scandal? Huge embarrassment to the team and the league. Instead of refusing to comment, and despite copious evidence, Brees insisted on offering up snivelling answers where he denied all knowledge while defending the perpetrators.
A few years ago, Brees, the multimillionaire football champion, appeared on some stupid TV show, where he stabbed a crocodile to death. What a hero.
Did you know that Brees endorsed a multilevel marketing company that hawked junk supplements, and that which was later determined to be a pyramid scheme?
Earlier this season, Brees was criticized for making a video for a “Bring a bible to school” promotion. The video was made by a religious group notorious for its anti-LGBTQ stance, as well as for promoting “gay conversion therapy.” When questioned, Brees professed that he had no problem with LGBTQ people, but refused to denounce the group, and blamed the media for the whole controversy. Nutless wonder, that one.
Just recently, the New Orleans organization has come under fire for apparently providing assistance to the local Catholic Church archdiocese, which is being sued for failing to protect someone from being abused by clergy. (You can read all about it here.) Why a football team would be helping the Catholic Church evade punishment for protecting abusers is beyond me, but such is the level of gross, arrogance that exists with the league and its teams that they can get away with anything.
(The Catholic Church; there’s an organization that knows about protecting its brand.)
Oh, and Drew Brees: Republican.
And this is just one franchise. There are many more stories, under-reported or ignored by a mainstream sports media that values access over integrity.
Did you watch the AFC Championship Game? Watching the commentators hype the game, while that vile racist chant was going on in the background was sickening. Don’t think the chant is racist? Remember that incident a year ago when a group of students from a Catholic High School (Catholics!), who were wearing MAGA hats, mocked an indigenous man at the Lincoln Memorial? The students mocked him with that same chant and chopping motion that is promoted as fervent fan behaviour by the league. Even kids know it’s racist.
San Francisco is in The Big Game for the first time since Kaepernick QBed them there. How many times have you heard his name on TV during the playoffs?
The league is so rich, so powerful, that it basically does whatever it wants, even if what it wants flies in the face of decency and morality.
The NFL is the Republican Party.
So, which team are you rooting for on Sunday?
We have a team from a Blue State, against a team from a Red State, playing in a swing state.
San Fran has characters, but little controversy. Nick Bosa was dubbed a MAGA idiot in college because of some social media posts, but he’s toned it down since entering the pros.
KC has Tyreek Hill, and if you don’t know his story by now, then you’re being willfully ignorant. They also have Frank Clark, who has hit women and threatened female journalists in the past, and who showed up to a media appearance this week with a picture of Trump on his shirt.
I’m tired. You’re tired. America is tired.
Is this just a game?
Wouldn’t that be nice?
Sunday, February 2, 2020
Superb Owl LIV
San Francisco at KC, in Miami, Florida
A few times over the past two weeks, I’ve had people ask me what I thought about The Big Game. Each time I’ve been asked, I’ve confidently answered the same way. When pressed, I have gone into detail as to why I think the game will go the way I think it will. For two weeks, essentially since it became apparent that San Francisco would be the team meeting KC in Miami, my mind has been made up, and nothing that has happened since then has managed to change my mind one iota.
So, what’s my pick?
I’ll get to that. But first, let me talk a bit about these two teams, and how they got to Miami.
I did not pick San Francisco to be here. I did not even think that they would be a playoff team this season. When they got off to a hot start, I thought it was a mirage, and that they would cool off.
They never did.
I feel comfortable saying now that they are the most complete team in the league. There are some things that they do extremely well, and other things that they do reasonably well, but they have no real weakness.
Watching San Fran this season, I saw a team that could win in a variety of ways. There were weeks where they just overwhelmed inferior teams with superior talent. They split a couple of close games with division-rival Seattle. They kicked the crap out of Green Bay. They battled through injuries to key defensive personnel, like Dee Ford, Kwon Alexander, and Jaquiskie Tartt. Down the stretch, they started to look beatable. They lost a close matchup at Baltimore. They won shootouts at New Orleans and at home to another division rival, LA. They lost to a resurgent Atlanta squad. Their final five contests were one-score games, but they won their last two, and entered the playoffs as the number one seed.
In the ensuing two weeks, San Francisco rested and got healthy. In their two playoff games, against quality teams Minnesota and Green Bay, San Francisco has looked dominant again. I watched both games, and neither ever really looked to be in question.
KC started the season with pretty high expectations after last season’s breakout year, for both the team and for Patrick Mahomes. They got off to a good start. Then they struggled a bit, barely beating a banged-up Detroit squad, then losing consecutive games at home to Houston and Indianapolis. In a game against punchless Denver, Mahomes got hurt, and sat out the next two games, a loss to Green Bay, and a close win against Minnesota. Upon returning, a gimpy Mahomes lost a shootout against Tennessee, then KC reeled off six-straight wins to close the season, including an absolute steal in a horribly-officiated game in Foxborough. That season-ending winning streak looked impressive, but it came against a series of teams with offensive woes.
With KC, you know what you’re getting. Their offence is incredibly well-equipped. Their receivers are a track team. They have one of the best receiving TEs in the league. Their vertical passing attack leaves lots of room for the running game. And everything goes through the best and most complete QB in the league. Their much-ballyhooed defensive resurgence, talked about incessantly by the mainstream sports media, is largely a myth, bolstered by those final six regular season games. KC has a decent pass rush, but nowhere near the best. Their secondary play has been improved mostly due to the presence of the spectacular Tyrann Mathieu. The type of versatility and playmaking ability that a player like Mathieu brings to a defence can’t help but improve everyone else’s play. KC’s LB corps is middling at best.
Thus far in the playoffs, KC has managed to overcome slow starts (including a staggering level of initial incompetence against Houston), largely due to an offence that is built to score quickly and often. However, much like in the regular season, KC has been the beneficiary of luck, in this case the largesse the opposing teams’ coaches. After going up 24-0, dum-dum Bill O’Brien’s baffling decisions essentially handed the advantage to KC, which proceeded to take the ball and run with it. Though not quite as egregious, Tennessee made some dubious play calls against KC after taking an early lead. The result has been a KC team that has scored prolifically, but has been almost as lucky as it has been good.
San Francisco’s offence is well-balanced and incredibly efficient. Kyle Shanahan’s play design has proven phenomenal at scheming players open and exploiting mismatches. Jimmy Garoppolo runs things coolly, and he has a lot to work with. The OL is sound, George Kittle and Kyle Juszczyk are tremendous blockers as well as essential pass-catchers. They have some good playmakers at WR. They should be able to exploit KC’s defensive shortcomings, particularly KC’s weakness at LB, to great effect. I expect that San Fran’s offence will have its way with KC’s defence, and that way will be to sustain drives, control the clock, and keep Mahomes on the sideline as much as possible.
With his ability, and all the weapons at his disposal, I think it’s unrealistic to expect any team to completely shut down Mahomes. Teams with good defences like New England and Indianapolis have been able to limit his effectiveness, though. San Fran has great pass rush talent. If they can win battles up front, while being disciplined enough to not overrun Mahomes and keep him from scrambling, then the secondary is good enough and physical enough to keep the WRs from getting open for big gains. The LBs will be integral in limiting KC’s running game and keeping Travis Kelce off balance.
The three variables are always weather, officiating, and turnovers. The weather should be a non-factor. Officiating is the great unknowable. Turnovers happen.
All things being equal, I think San Francisco wins this one by at least two TDs.
Final Score: San Francisco 46, KC 31