Welcome to last season. And all the seasons before that.
As another football season dawns, we will soon hold that the same truths are self-evident. TV’s football experts are no wiser and no more qualified to enlighten us to realities we can’t miss.
The circumstances-driven nature of football will again be lost, confused, ignored and misapplied in a statistical and percentile gumbo that reflects total misunderstanding of the game. We will again be encouraged to believe that umbrellas cause rain, thus stats make games when games make stats.
1. Pregame shows
There’s a reason none has distinguished itself as the best: They all stink. They lack creativity, applicable insights, worthwhile content and a genuine grasp of entertainment.
We’re presented with the same, lame content: Crowded panels reliant on sharing disingenuous belly laughs, silly-time insults and who-cares game predictions — time better filled with something, anything, else.
2. Football as baseball, continued
Now every game includes QB win-loss records, as if we’d debate who we’d rather see starting at QB for the Giants, Daniel Jones or Warren Spahn.
As Ben Roethlisberger pleaded, “It’s not tennis!”
Also, scoring totals still will be credited to the offense — and offensive rankings — even if the defense scored or placed the offense in a strong position to score. It’s as if a baseball player ran from first to home to score a run.
But it’s too late to swap stupid for see-it sense. The toothpaste is out of the genie. Football is always conflated with baseball’s add, divide and conclude statistics as if every play begins with a pitch thrown from 60 feet, 6 inches.
3. Simplistic conclusions
Any out-of-the ordinary special teams play will be followed by a sideline closeup of one or both team’s special teams coach. They will be the reason, good or bad, why what we just saw occurred.
4. Easy targets
Those at highest risk of feeling the wrath of the commentators are relatively anonymous game officials.
Those players who imperil their teams with acts of selfish post-play misconduct will be given, at most, mild rebukes — as the voices attached to the game would never want to invite the criticism of knuckleheads who rationalize, excuse and explain unsportsmanlike behavior as evidence of players’ “enthusiasm for the game.”
It’s otherwise known as pandering, and it serves no one’s best interests, quite the contrary. But that’s not going to change.
5. Misapplied and unexplained terminology
The NFL decided to call teams’ weeks off “bye weeks” — a totally erroneous term, as byes allow a team or person to advance in a tournament without playing — and the media dutifully followed.
If the NFL sold a sponsorship to call off-weeks “Drake’s Ring Ding Breaks” they’d be called Ring Ding weeks.
Then there’s the sustaining lunacy of red-zone stats. Now, 15 or so years in, they’re presented as crucial stats. Yet, still no one knows when red-zone possessions start — first down through fourth — or when they end — if the offensive team is penalized to the opposition’s 22, is it still a red-zone possession?
All we know is what we’re not told — that bad teams can have some of the best red-zone stats, and that teams “fail” in the red zone by kicking a field goal to win the game, thus losing red-zone status. All red-zone stats are the same, be it third-and-10 from the 20 or first-and-goal from the 1. Got it? They’re all the same!
6. Virtue signaling
All football networks now must provide conspicuous on-camera commitment to diversity by hiring women — especially attractive young women — to patrol the sidelines in the quest to deliver pertinent info that could’ve been seamlessly delivered to the broadcast booth such as, “He has gone to the locker room for X-rays.”
Then there’s the standard postgame question to college coaches, “What does this win do for your program?”
This transparent process is presented as social progress, yet is so absurd as to serve as hollow, as a waste of time, money, and flagrant tokenism. But, shhhhh, don’t tell the networks that they’re fooling no one.
7. Crowd shots and slow-motion replays
Shirtless drunks with their faces painted and those who accept TV’s prompts to pound on the down-low padding near the goal lines stand the best chances of being rewarded with “best kinds of fans” closeups — even if the directors calling for these shots would never want their families seated anywhere near them.
Not even before the most important third-down plays will TV choose to stay on the field rather than cut to multiple crowd shots, with the emphasis on displaying those who remind well-comported viewers that they acted judiciously in not renewing their expensive season’s tickets, with or without PSLs.
Meanwhile, bloody booze brawls have become a standard sideshow at NFL games as Roger Goodell and the NFL’s partner networks have silently indulged this.
As for slow-motion replays, skilled football is too often lost to giving post-play attention to those in excessive displays of self-aggrandizement. Why? That’s another good question to which there is no good answer. The upside, beyond appearing in Subway sandwich commercials, escapes me.
8. Find or copy any long-form, faux-hip wordage to substitute for plain, simple and immediately applicable football terms
A first down? “They moved the sticks/chains.” A loss of 2? “He ran for negative yardage.” Good throw? “Arm discipline.” Bad throw? “He lacked eye discipline.” He scrambled out of the pocket? “He extended the play.”
And Pop Warner forbid anyone call a fumble “a fumble.” If you don’t have a silly substitute for that, you’re just not trying. Even, “He put it on the ground!” is passé.
He was open? “He was open in space.” By the way, how can one “make a tackle in space” when there wasn’t enough space to avoid being tackled?
9. Verbal jukes to avoid controversy
As big-time televised college football worsens as a financial, academic and young criminal-indulging fraud, TV commentators will be no more moved to say so beyond a quick, obligatory, cover-our-butts sentence or two at the top.
Those will be prefaced with, “It has been well-documented” or a lament for the multi-millionaire head coach who is allowed, if not encouraged, to recruit misanthropes, with, “He has had to deal with distractions.”
Reader Peter Dowd: “How could Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh be in violation of NCAA recruiting rules when there are no longer any rules?”
Harbaugh has suspended himself for Michigan’s first three games, all non-conference, pay-to-slay home numbers: versus East Carolina, UNLV and Bowling Green. But what seems an obvious con will not be spoken during Michigan telecasts.
10. Game announcers
We’ll put this delicately: Shut up and let us watch!
This epidemic of whistle-to-snap gab has not only been left untreated, it has worsened, as if production execs think we love what we can barely endure. “Find me the next Moose Johnston!”
Not one network has distinguished itself as the one that best televises football. And, if you could bet on it with any of the NFL’s partner gambling sites, none will.