Monday, September 07, 2009

Wouldn't Peyton Manning and Sandra Bullock make a cute couple? (Nonsportsmanlike Conduct 1)

What's a Nonsportsmanlike Conduct!, you ask?

Nothing! What's a Nonsportsmanlike Conduct! with you?

Ha! I crack me up. But if you want to know what this is all about, click here. Or, you know, just read it. What else are you doing today? Nothing, that's what. Certainly nothing better than this, that's for sure.

I can say that with certainty because I know what this is and you don't yet know what this is. If you want to catch up with me, just read the next sentence and you'll know what I know, at which point you'll agree with me that this is way better than watching some dumb Law & Order marathon or cleaning the garage (which is likely what Sweetie and The Boy are up to even as we speak)... but, enough of that, because it's time for you to read that next sentence, which is:

It's Time To Predict The NFL Season... by Looking At What Summer Movies Tell Us To Expect From The Upcoming Football Season...

I told you this would be good. Anyone who knows me knows that if there's one thing I firmly believe, it's that pop culture is the most accurate predictor of the future, if, like me, you know how to read the tea leaves. (So to speak. I'm not actually reading tea leaves, because tea is gross, and tea leaves are more gross.)

This is the time of year, a week before the NFL season, that everyone is looking at all the teams in the league and predicting what each will do. Why, Sports Illustrated has even gone so far as to predict not only who would be in the Superbowl, but also to predict the exact final score of the Superbowl. (They predict it'll be Patriots 30, Bears 27, but bear in mind that they do so in the same magazine where one of their columnists writes about how they're always wrong and consults a psychic who says that the Jets will win the Superbowl.)

They're all crazy, of course, because the only way to predict the NFL season, the only surefire, bona fide, 100% accurate method of saying what's going to happen this year in the NFL is to ask me. That's the case because only I have my 100% Patented, Sure-Fire Nonsportsmanlike Conduct! Method Of Predictions, which is to look at pop culture (in this case, summer movies) and see what they say is in store for football fans.

Let's begin, shall we?

The hottest new offense this year will be the Two Quarterback Set. Every football year features some "new" offense that NFL coaches stole from high school coaches. Last year it was the "Wildcat" in which something-or-other blah blah blah. (I hope I'm not being too technical there.)

The year before that it was the spread offense, the key to which was having reporters repeatedly write headlines about how impossible it was to defend the spread offense, which headlines would be read by defensive players during the week, causing them to mentally crumble long before game time, thereby sparing coaches from actually having to come up with an offense; at game time, they simply handed the ball off 30 times.

Before that, the NFL was all afire with its Let's Score Lots Of Points offense, until that was effectively offset by defensive coordinators coming up with the creative Let's not let them score at all defense.

As a longtime sports analyst* (*"analyst" means I usually fall asleep midway through the third quarter, as the Pizza Nachos (TM) kick in) I've looked at what offense will be hot this year and decided it's the 2 Quarterback Offense. I've decided that by looking at what was the number one movie over the summer, Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen. I've selectively quoted from the Wikidiotpedia Plot Summary as follows:

It is revealed that thousands of years ago there was a race of ancient Transformers... in 17,000 BC, one brother... something about the Matrix of leadership... did it really say that "Sam Witwicky" thought something was dangerous, so he gave it to his girlfriend and went off to college? ( Yes, it did.)(It also said that the plot description is overly long. It's amazing: It took a couple hundred words to start this country, but it takes 13 pages, with footnotes, to describe the plot of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.)

(Pictured: Peyton Manning)

I give up on that. I mean, he thought it was dangerous, so he gave it to his girlfriend. That's what passes for boyfriend-ry these days? Standards sure have fallen.

Instead of going by what Transformers has to say, I'll just tell you why I think 2 Quarterbacks, One Ball will be the hot new trend, and I'll pepper my commentary with vaguely-Transformer related words.

Here's why I think the 2 Quarterback Offense will be big this year: Because teams have more good (i.e., highly-paid) quarterbacks than ever and need to justify that kind of money being spent. While the Packers have only two on their roster (thanks to ever-more-brilliant leadership from Packers GM Ted Thompson, who will be fired January 9, 2010), other teams are carrying not only more quarterbacks but also more starting-caliber quarterbacks. The Eagles have 3 QBs on their roster, but at least two are starter-caliber quarterbacks, the Titans have two starters, the Cardinals have two starting-caliber quarterbacks. The Detroit Lions (still technically a pro football team, despite all odds) have their number one draft pick plus Daunte Culpepper (still technically a pro football quarterback, despite all odds). The Vikings have 73 quarterbacks on their roster, counting Brett Favre as 72 quarterbacks because he's so good (and counting Tavaris Jackson as -1 quarterback, because he's the exact opposite.)

A player of starting caliber, like Vince Young, or Matt Leinart, gets starting-caliber money, and paying those players all that money means pressure to get them on the field, and the best way to get an NFL player on the field... stay with me here, it's complicated... is to put him on the field.

That's where The Transformers, etc. etc. comes in: Pop culture teaches us that changing... transforming... keeping the enemy guessing, is hot right now, and that means the NFL is going to try to keep teams guessing by transforming (see?) their offense. Put two quarterbacks in the backfield and the defense will never know who's going to get the snap, where the handoff will be going, who might throw a pass, when your 40-year-old quarterback might pretend to run out on a pass route and then illegally block someone to "shake the rust off..." -- a phrase I'll count as another Transformer reference just to wrap up this prediction and move on.

Bet On The
Old Guys & Re-runs: Every year, some news organization talks about a 'youth movement' or a sports writer hacks up a column about some young quarterback doing something or other or a hot new coach who's only 23 reinventing the very concept of football. (Sample quote: "As a 23-year-old, I don't know any better, so I said to myself, 'why do we need a ball at all?'")

Well, I say this as an old guy (so you know where my bias lies): Young people are dumb. (So are sports writers.)

I'm going with old people and reruns, just like the United States did with its movies this year. 6 of the top 10 highest-grossing movies this year so far are remakes or sequels. Four of them feature stars who are over 30, at least, if not over 40. (Or, in Sandra Bullock's case, secretly over 60 but very well-preserved.)(That doesn't count the dinosaurs in Ice Age or the monsters in Monsters v. Aliens, and it doesn't count Ryan Reynolds, who is, technically, a robot.)

(Pictured: Peyton Manning.)

There's a reason the US, and pop culture in general, prefers older people and reruns. We're boring. We can't stand the idea of anything new or unique or interesting or novel and so we constantly have to repackage stuff using the same old brand names. Got a new soda flavor? Better call it Mountain Dew Something-Or-Other. Got an idea for a space movie? Forget Firefly. Just name your protagonist Captain Kirk and you'll make $256,000,000... in a down economy.

And if you've got a football team that you want people to buy tickets to (selling tickets and merchandise being the number one goal of all sports franchises, remember. They don't want to win, they want to sell stuff to you. If winning helps that, then they'll try to win, but if it's winning or selling you stuff, sports franchises will always opt for sell you stuff), if you want people to buy tickets, it's far better to go with a rerun or old guy than a new, unknown guy. That's why Favre is in Minnesota, and it's why Matt Cassel was brought in by Kansas City. It's why Denver and Chicago traded ineffective quarterbacks; unhappy with their current guys, each opted to get the other's current guy instead of starting someone unknown.

The way quarterbacks are treated now, it's only a matter of time until we actually have Mountain Dew Brett Favre.

But there's an upside to this, and it's that being old or a rerun generally gives some indication of quality, or, if not quality than at least competence. There's a reason that Star Trek hangs around forever while The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai fades away, and that's because predictability and dependability count for something, both in the NFL and in things that actually matter. Sometimes, you don't want to try a new fancy restaurant, you just want a Denny's burger, and sometimes you don't want to be risky and so you decide to just put Kurt Warner in there to start. Old guys and reruns have proven they have what it takes to not lose football games, and, more importantly, to sell you jerseys with their names on them.

In fact, I've already bought my Favre Vikings jersey. (Well, Sweetie bought it.) I'm going to wear it to see Star Trek XIV: Night At The Museum of Transformers. In 3-D.

Look For Passing To Be UP! This Year: God, I hope I'm right about this. Every year, sports writers talk about the need to "balance" the attack, to focus on running the ball, to "stick to the ground game..."


And wrong.

You're expecting some kind of Peyton
Manning joke, here, right? Well, sorry to
let you down, but I'm not that predictable.
(Pictured: Sandra Bullock.)

NFL teams -- football teams in general -- don't need to "stick to the run" or "balance the attack" or any of that garbage. It doesn't matter if a team runs the ball only 3 times and passes the rest of the time (as Oakland once did in a playoff victory.) What matters is that they do whatever they're doing well. If they're a good running team, they can run the ball up the middle on play after play after play, even if the defense knows what's going to happen, and still score a touchdown to put the Superbowl out of reach of the Buffalo Bills (as Dallas did in The Rematch.) If they're a good passing team, they can pass on every single down and still win the game.

Balance is bunk. Remember that. Coaches and players and sports writers won't remember it and won't live by it, but they should, because "balancing the attack" and "establishing the run" is all a load of garbage. "Balancing the attack" would mean that if a team has passed the ball a lot already, they should call a running play -- even if the defense looks susceptible to the pass. "Establishing the run" means a team should keep trying to run the ball even if that's not working. (You know what you never hear? You never hear a sportscaster say this team is running the ball too much. They need to balance it out. Why does "balance" only count when you're balancing too much passing with more running, and not vice versa?)

("Vice versa," by the way, is Latin for The Houston Texans won't be very good again this year.)

If I were a coach, I wouldn't worry about balancing the attack or establishing the run. I'd just worry about winning. Yards are yards and points are points. It doesn't matter how you get them; just get them. If you're a good passing team, pass a lot and tell the sports writers to shut up.

Even with all the talk of "balance," I expect there will be more passing this year than ever before. Why? you'll ask... and probably just did, and you'll expect that I'll say something like statistical trends... or rules changes... or something, but, really, I'm just saying that there'll be more passing because I want there to be more passing, since without that, most of the football games on TV this year will be boring, as most of them always are, made boring by coaches trying to run the ball, constantly, over and over, into the line, to establish the run, when they could be throwing passes and having spectacular catches and diving grabs and long plays and touchdowns. But they won't. They'll run the ball, over and over, and make the games even less interesting than they should be. That's why I always fall asleep by the third quarter. (That and the Pizza Nachos. Recipe available on request, for a fee.)

Or, if I don't fall asleep, I decide that instead of wasting three hours watching some dumb football game when I can see the highlights later and have the same thrill in 2 minutes instead of 3 hours, and so I turn off the game and watch a DVD instead. Something like Up!...

You won't, I bet, see any boring-handoff-running-into-the-pile plays in that. Dinosaurs, maybe, but no running plays. Given a choice between a football game and this movie, I know what I'll be watching on Sunday afternoons.

But I'm still making those pizza nachos.

Next week: The arbitrary picks! return, and I'll fire up my rivalry with Jerry Greene again!

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