I write this on the thirtieth anniversary of the death of John Lennon, and it has a connection to the world of football.
The night of Lennon’s murder in New York City, the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots were squaring off on Monday Night Football. Most people only know this because legendary sportscaster, the late Howard Cosell, announced Lennon’s death during a field goal attempt, which served as the first newsflash of the incident to millions of Americans.
Oddly enough, one of the other commentators present, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Don Meredith, passed away just three days ago at age 72.
It’s hard to really gather all the thoughts here that I want to convey, but it’s amazing how much Monday Night Football used to mean. One of the most iconic moments in the show’s 40 year history was a world-renowned artist’s death, and the way it criss-crossed into the world of sport, interweaving a pre-eminent sports program with the loss of a rock legend.
When I look back on the history of Monday Night Football, it’s eerily similar to the musical zeitgeist, in that it reflects the time period that it was in.
In the 1970’s, music reflected protest, anger, free will, the need to be an individual, and the condemnation of corrupt leaders. In football, you had anger (Jack Tatum and Mean Joe Greene), true individuals who would become icons of the game (Joe Namath, Terry Bradshaw, Walter Payton, and the like), as well as an explosion of imposing free will (rampant drug use and harder, slicker hitting).
Music today no longer rewards the smart, individualistic, open-minded lyricist, and instead promotes precocious teeny-boppers and sneering young adults, coating them with an ‘image’ that was concocted in a boardroom, auto tunes their voice all to Hell, and pushes them onto TV with their sampled, mixed beats on loop while they sing their way to fame and grace the cover of every Hollywood and tabloid rag.
Meanwhile, since ESPN presents MNF currently, and they’re the same network that ran the “Who’s Now?” poll, as well as a Miami Heat awareness page on their website to overhype LeBron James even more (it’s called, you ready….The Heat Index!), it makes sense that they would turn MNF into a lame, pandering extension of its increasingly Access Hollywood-like programming.
Mike Tirico is forced to tell stories about the big stars in the game (Favre, Romo, Manning, Brady, TO, Chad, etc) with add enough fluff to serve dessert at a crowded banquet, as opposed to interjecting a personal opinion or two, the way Howard Cosell would have. Thankfully, the practice of bringing unrelated celebrities into the booth for a quarter has stopped, though I’ll always get a kick out of Christian Slater sitting there in front of millions of viewers, and admitting he doesn’t follow football.
Just makes ya love ESPN that much more, no?
Monday Night Football, like music, has gotten too safe.
Cosell adding blunt opinions, Don Meredith drunkenly declaring the game over before the final whistle, and Frank Gifford trying to hold everything together was the opposite of safe. It was dangerous.
John Lennon allowed the most famous band of all time to break up, openly opposed the Vietnam War, and had a carefree attitude that the pinheads at ESPN would chew their nails at.
He was dangerous.
No wonder the modern game is less John Lennon and more Justin Beiber.
Speaking of Justin’s, I’m increasing the ol’ win percentage, despite a few setbacks this week, like my near upset of Tampa Bay over Atlanta. Eh well. As another ESPN pinhead, Tony Kornheiser, may say, “I’ll do better the next time”.
WEEK 13: 11-5
FOR THE YEAR: 124-68
16. Pittsburgh over Cincinnati
Sounds like a no-brainer. Ben Roethlisberger playing through a broken nose (with a bloody jersey that’s also too “dangerous” for ESPN), and capped off an amazing win Sunday night with Isaac Redman staggering into the endzone like a crossfire victim, that’s the embodiment of a team that’s going to fight until late in the playoffs. Contrast that with a Bengals team who lost their tenth game of the year Sunday because a defensive lineman flinched. My only interest in this game is seeing if Troy Polamalu or James Harrison can embarrass “T-Ocho” one last time before the team blows apart like dynamite.
SCORE: Steelers 31, Bengals 7
15. Atlanta over Carolina
The no-brainer train rolls on. The Falcons may be tops in the NFC right now, but New Orleans is nipping at their heels on the ladder, so they better keep climbing. The Panthers have a worse rotation than the 1995 Phillies in their quarterback depth, so I fail to see how they could best the Falcons, barring Atlanta not trying. I still somehow believe the Saints will claim the division in the end, but I’m not sure how. All I know is that this week, John Fox’s collection of mediocre offensive players isn’t a part of that solution.
SCORE: Falcons 34, Panthers 10
14. Green Bay over Detroit
A couple of months ago, whether I was out of overestimation, or bizarre sympathy, I actually had the Lions reaching beyond their grasp and doing alright for a team that was 2-14 last year. They’re 2-10 now, but I was thinking more along the lines of finishing 5-11 or 6-10. Since I appear to be WAY wrong, I now clearly see Green Bay throttling them, and likely in grisly fashion. The Packers need to keep pace with the Bears, who barely hold onto first place, so Aaron Rodgers will make very few mistakes en route to victory.
SCORE: Packers 38, Lions 17
13. Baltimore over Houston
The Ravens are smarting after letting Pittsburgh take over the latter portion of Sunday night’s game, and I always find the biggest thrashings in football to come a week after a team took an embarrassing loss on the chin. The Ravens actually did a good Houston impression this past week, by being unable to close out a probable win. Unlike Houston, however, Baltimore has the temerity to bounce back the following week and take out their humiliation on someone else. The Texans may have had 10 days off, but it won’t save them from what’s coming.
SCORE: Ravens 27, Texans 10
12. Indianapolis over Tennessee
“Injurynapolis” needs a good reversal of fortune. Tennessee does as well, since they’ve lost five straight and have flushed away all of their early momentum, but only one team can win. Peyton Manning’s freaky streak of so many picks in so few games is certainly an eye opener, but after letting one slip away from him in overtime against Dallas, I get the feeling that Peyton’s hit his “mistake ceiling”. Jacksonville’s getting ready to take off with the division, so look for Indy to begin a chase sequence by muddling a Tennessee team that’s worse off than they are.
SCORE: Colts 31, Titans 17
11. New Orleans over St. Louis
I’m actually hoping not, since I’d like someone to win the NFC West with a dominant record. The Rams, for as good as they’ve managed to play, are too inconsistent to take serious against the world champions, in spite of how many clowns the Saints have let in there late in games. With the battle with Atlanta on their minds, I don’t see Drew Brees falling into the margin of error. In fact, the team’s quiet defense has a chance to make up for the lacking season and make Sam Bradford’s day a living hell.
SCORE: Saints 34, Rams 14
10. New England over Chicago
This might be a little high on the ladder to go against the Bears, but since Bill Belichick just orchestrated the emasculation of Rex Ryan’s Jets, I feel like it can happen again. The Bears’ narrow victory over Detroit Sunday may have the makings of a trap game, looking ahead to this one, but it doesn’t mean they have enough saved to actually take down Tom Brady. The Bears have the speed offense, but New England has the smart one, and all it’s going to take is Wes Welker making them look foolish a few times, while BenJarvis Green-Ellis Danny Woodhead and Rob Gronkowski finish the job.
SCORE: Patriots 27, Bears 14
9. New York Jets over Miami
That emasculation of the Jets I mentioned? Oh, you know Rex is making them practice in the bitter North Jersey cold this week. After all, the Jets were a sexy Super Bowl pick, and we just watched that vaunted defense allow the Patriots to crush them by 15 times as many points. Thankfully, Chad Henne’s something of a wish-granter, and he can certainly give the Jets a ‘novice-level’ performance to re-find their mojo with. If the Patriots somehow lose to the Bears, and the Jets do as they should, it’s all tied up again in the East.
SCORE: Jets 24, Dolphins 7
8. Tampa Bay over Washington
It seems that Tampa, considered something of a pretender at 7-5, can’t get a win over a truly good team. The good news is that the overhyped Redskins aren’t a truly good team, so Tampa can keep faint playoff hopes alive with a win here. The Skins suspended Albert Haynesworth for the year this week, and here’s hoping the fat turd never plays another NFL down, but it’s a sign of a team that can only do the right thing when it’s too late. The Redskins’ hard luck will continue, giving Mike Shanahan the motivation to go “St. Valentines’ Massacre” on half the roster this offseason
SCORE: Buccaneers 24, Redskins 13
At 8-4, I reserve the right to be biased. Asante Samuel will likely be back in uniform, and Mora-almighty knows how the Eagles have suffered without his ability to dissect a quarterback. The Eagles are in too close of quarters with the Giants to take anyone lightly, and because I think Dallas’ resurgence is due to just that, teams taking them lightly, the Eagles won’t make that mistake. Dallas can put up some points, but as long as Michael Vick stays off his butt, the Eagles can too. Unlike Donovan McNabb, Vick will, should DeSean Jackson get tough coverage against Dallas, find other options.
SCORE: Eagles 27, Cowboys 14
6. Cleveland over Buffalo
An article I found believes that Cleveland has to win out and go 9-7 for Eric Mangini to keep his job. I think even 2 wins should be enough to save him, especially since his last two are against Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Tall order, so I think some leeway is in order for a coach who’s getting smarter with how he runs the ship. Buffalo’s given better teams fits, but since Cleveland needs the win more, I’ll go with them here. A loss could sink Mangini’s chances at returning, but with Peyton Hillis bowling over defenders, the Man-Genius can breathe deeply.
SCORE: Browns 21, Bills 13
5. Seattle over San Francisco
Alex Smith is back! I really shouldn’t have to elaborate any further, since my argument has been locked up in one statement, but I’ll try. Seattle’s a two-faced enigma at best, but at 6-6, have a reasonable chance to win the division. I pray they and/or St. Louis get at least two more wins if they’re going to capture the West, so they need a win like this here. As long as Mike Singletary’s losing the confidence of his players by not making adjustments (so the rumor goes), then they’ll lose to teams like Seattle who have a winning attitude.
SCORE: Seahawks 20, 49ers 14
4. Kansas City over San Diego
December is supposed to be the Chargers month, but I’m confused, because on Sunday, Oakland played them like fools. So here’s KC’s motivation: a win here knocks the Chargers back three games, and all but about gives the Chiefs the AFC West, depending on what Oakland does in their game. I was tempted to go Chargers here, since this is a game they absolutely have to win, but I figure their reign of futility has gone on far enough. Todd Haley needs to hit the gas pedal and not look back.
SCORE: Chiefs 24, Chargers 17
3. Denver over Arizona
I’m basing this on two trends: interim head coaches are undefeated in their debut games this season at 2-0, which Eric Studesville can build on, and Arizona is hasn’t scored but one touchdown in their last three outings. A Denver team that just watched “Bill Beli-suck” go down in flames can certainly be rejuvenated, and it’ll come against a Cardinals team that’s spinning its tires. Here’s my rankings of the 6 quarterbacks on both teams: Kyle Orton, Derek Anderson, Tim Tebow, Max Hall, Brady Quinn, John Skelton. Find me a fantasy league where at least four of them aren’t in the free agent list.
SCORE: Broncos 21, Cardinals 15
2. Jacksonville over Oakland
A must win for both teams. If the Jags lose, the walking-dead Colts could stagger closer to them. If the Raiders lose, any hopes of the AFC West or a wild card may be dashed. In a push-vs-shove game, I’d take the Jags. David Garrard’s playing his best football, like he has a chip on his shoulder or something. I wanna pull for Oakland, because Jason Campbell leading a playoff charge would be a nice “screw you” to Daniel Snyder, but I don’t see the Raiders playing as consistently as Jacksonville at this later stage. If Oakland loses, which I say they will, then they’re going down swinging.
SCORE: Jaguars 27, Raiders 21
1. Minnesota over New York Giants
The Vikings chances at a playoff run are as slim as they can be, but since they’re not quite “clinically dead” yet, why not wreak some havoc? After all, Leslie Frazier would like that head coaching job to be all his next year, and he knows that if he can navigate that Giants pass rush, he’s got a good case. So, do you play Brett Favre, who may be able to outwit the D if he’s given time, or do you go Tarvaris Jackson, whom the Giants may not be prepared for? I see a run-heavy game from the Vikings, and whichever QB they end up using, I think we have the makings for a narrow upset. Especially if Eli Manning has one of his “pick happy” performances.
SCORE: Vikings 24, Giants 21
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