Luckily, not all of us are cursed to be Bears fans, or cursed to allow alcohol to destroy our best-laid fantasy plans. So let’s get the 2010-2011 NFL season rolling properly. Here are the eight storylines we’ll be tracking as pro football makes its annual return, after the jump.
8. The Anointed One
Timothy Richard “Tim” Tebow has arrived in Cowtown, and he’s brought his love for Jesus and his hatred for abortion. Colorado is traditionally a swing state, so we’ll have to see how all the pilgrims that followed Tebow to Denver affect the November elections.
Even more importantly, Tebow has joined Facebook and Twitter. OMG! Quoth Tebow’s manager:
“We want to be the American Express Black Card of the sports marketing industry. We want to be able to hand pick that one guy that has that ‘it’ factor that Timmy has. And he’s has to be a guy that is the same character that Timmy is on and off the field.”
Newsflash to the manager: You cannot promote someone as the world’s most exclusive endorser while calling him “Timmy” in the same sentence.
7. Which Coach Gets The Axe First?
The Browns’ Eric Mangini is the odds-on favorite, given that Mike Holmgren is running the show now. Or Tom Cable, assuming that Al Davis isn’t legally dead. But don’t sleep on the NFC North — Brad Childress has undermined his credibility with players, and Brett Favre clearly hates him. Meanwhile, Lovie Smith is in the last year of his contract, and has underperformed consistently since the Bears’ surprise 2006 Super Bowl appearance.
6. The Ginger Executioner
Roger Goodell will not rest until every NFL player walks the line.
Goodell has seen fit to expand the powers of his post, like Theodore Roosevelt if he were a fiery redhead. The commish has shown that he has no regard for the law or due process; he’ll suspend people based on suspicion, opinion, or an uneven tone in their voice. Goodell wants everyone to know that there’s a new sheriff in town, that that pussy Tagliabue ain’t runnin’ thangs no more.
While Goodell hasn’t implemented a policy quite as silly as David Stern’s racist dress code, he has shown that he’ll use the hammer often and with great force. Get into a fight at a strip club? Go see the Ginger Executioner. Get a little rapey in a bar’s bathroom? Go see the Ginger Executioner.
One of the most intriguing stories of the 2010 season will be seeing who falls afoul of Goodell next, and for what. It’s like a game of Clue — I’ve got Brandon Marshall in a Vegas nightclub with a hooker.
5. How Will Peter King Do in his Half-Marathon?
The world watches. And waits.
4. Football Outsiders Vs. The World
Advanced statistical analysis is slowly creeping into the NFL, and Football Outsiders are leading the way.
Football isn’t as easy to break down with stats as baseball, because baseball can largely be broken down into individual matchups, but the geeks are making progress. Unfortunately, the football media is even more difficult to enlighten than the baseball media, what with their obsessions with toughness, hustle and other things white guys are good at.
This year, Football Outsiders’ playoffs odds projections seem to have drawn a line in the sand. They defy common sense and experts’ predictions in several areas, and they’re right there in black and white so we’ll able to track their accuracy. A few of the more unconventional predictions:
- The heavily hyped Jets will finish 3rd in the AFC East, missing the playoffs. Are the Jets the team that finished in the final four last year, imported even more talent in the off-season, and are ready to takeoff behind an improved offense? Or are they the team that went 9-7, backed into the playoffs and will falter as their second-year quarterback takes a step backwards?
- Kansas City will win the AFC West, beating out an 8-8 Chargers team.
- The Cowboys will finish last in the NFC East.
- David Simon Cowell’s beloved Bears will finish ahead of Minnesota for 2nd in the NFC North. I think Kristen Cavallari might have a little something to say about that.
3. When Will Tony Dungy Go Away?
The NFL’s most irritating moralist, its very own Emily Post, loves to insinuate himself into situations where he’s not wanted. He’s like a super-Christian Al Sharpton. Dungy’s latest cause is Rex Ryan’s foul mouth.
Despite not even watching Hard Knocks, Dungy has criticized Ryan for extensive use of profanity (he’s “heard reports”), claimed he would never hire a coach with a potty mouth, and asked Roger Goodell to speak with Ryan about this vital issue. I have several reactions to this:
- Fuck that douchefucker bitch Tony Dungy in his ugly fucking cuntface.
- Dungy know this is football, right? Professional football? I’m not sure there’s another setting on Earth where profanity would be so accepted, so welcome, so appropriate.
- To review: dog murder = OK / saying “shit” = call the commissioner.
- Let us never forget that Tony Dungy hates gay people.
- I sympathize more than ever with Dungy’s dead son.
- I understand more than ever why the Colts only won one Super Bowl in the Dungy Era, despite having the most dominant team virtually every year.
- God bless Bart Scott: “If you don’t want your kids to see Andrew Dice Clay or Bernie Mac, tell them to go see Bill Cosby. You can’t suggest for somebody to tone it down or say, ‘He wouldn’t coach for me’ and ‘I wouldn’t hire him.’ Why are you farming someone else’s land? Farm your own land.” Farming? Land? How did Brett Favre get involved in this?
2. The End of the World As We Know It
According to the forthcoming Shia Labeouf vehicle Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps, “greed is good.” Greed, however, also is about to erode the sport we love in two different ways.
Greed is leading us inexorably toward an 18-game regular season. According to crazy old Jerry Jones, a longer season “has the chance of enhancing the player’s financial benefits because it does grow the pie. The more the pie grows, the players get the majority of the money when the pie grows.” Umm…what??
How is the “pie” going to grow, exactly, ol’ JJ? How will two more games generate significantly more revenue? Television networks are dying, and don’t have the ability or desire to pay even more than they’re already paying for broadcast rights. We’re in the midst of a recession (possibly the dreaded double-dip recession), so corporations and fans alike are a little short on cash right now. No one is going to want to spend more money on more games, whether for shitty 500-level seats or well-appointed luxury boxes. So where exactly is this pie-growing revenue coming from?
Moreover, an 18-game season will lead to more injuries, depriving fans of watching beloved stars in a sport that already suffers from an injury problem. More games also means less meaning per game, and one of the NFL’s greatest strengths — a vital regular season in which every snap matters — will start to atrophy. Other than that, though, great idea.
Greed is also bringing the chill wind of a lockout after this season. Maybe it’s all posturing and everything will work out fine, just like with the Jets and Darrelle Revis. Maybe it’s too soon to panic. But the players’ union seems to determined to prove its not run by the pandering pushovers of the past, while the owners are divided among large- and small-revenue teams, not unlike the situation leading to the 1994 baseball strike. Which obviously worked out well for everybody.
No league is invincible, though the NFL has certainly seemed so over the past two decades. If football’s leaders don’t learn from the mistakes of the NBA, NHL and MLB, there will certainly be consequences. They may not be direct, they may not be immediate, but there will be consequences. And if Roger Goodell and his band of merry men aren’t careful, a lockout and an 18-game season could be the first steps toward the end of the NFL’s reign as America’s dominant sports league.
1. Mrs. Dilemma Begins Following the NFL
In the past, Mrs. Dilemma has been the Last Great American Football Holdout, treating the sport with something between disdain and grudging acceptance. Now, thanks to Hard Knocks, the charisma of Rex Ryan, World’s Greatest Football Coach, and a certain handsome Mexican quarterback, she’s all in. At least until the Jets start off 1-4. I even considered waking her up at 2:30 a.m. on Monday when I learned that Darrelle Revis had signed. This is a major development in my life.