A week into this season, the NFL’s and mass media’s message is clear: If you don’t have a bet — or six, or 20 — on games and/or the players, you can’t possibly be a football fan; it’s none of your business.
Ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages, welcome to the latest desperate depth of degradation and deregulation. Have your swipe cards ready and use your designated code prompt. First one’s free! No more false pretense! Football is now reliant on a business that wouldn’t be in business unless “fans” lost their money on games played with balls pointed at their ends.
This is, we’ve been told by our lawmakers, what we wanted, and a long time coming. So here we are. Get rich quick, sonny boy — even if the hidden sell is predicated on lousy payouts and losing your money. Appearing Tonight: Ancient Rome in concert with the Nero Fiddles League.
Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln …
The home version remains indigestible.
Fox’s early game Sunday, Jaguars-Giants, was 40 seconds old when filibusterer Ronde Barber challenged the good senses to a duel. Or was it a FanDuel?
He declared the Jags’ receivers “weak” and “without a lot of credibility … this team is all about running the football.”
On the next play Blake Bortles threw a 31-yard completion to wide receiver Keelan Cole. Barber then said Coles is very underrated, adding, “Last season he led the league in yards per catch.” But he’d just said …
Soon, the Giants had third-and-23 from their own 1 when Eli Manning hit tight end Rhett Ellison for 16 yards.
Kenny Albert: “That will give some breathing room to punter Riley Dixon.”
Barber then explained what Albert meant. And Albert was once tethered to Moose Johnston!
The game was ragged, with 17 accepted penalties, more stop than go, played for field goals. But with 54 seconds left, Jags up, 20-15, the Giants forced a punt and Barber forced an insult: “How good has this game been!? We couldn’t ask for a better football game, the way this one has played out!”
Next on Fox, Cowboys-Panthers. Early, we heard vague comments pointing to Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott as a victim of circumstances. Troy Aikman noted Elliott’s “saga” from last season. Joe Buck said, “He’s focused after getting last year’s situation behind him, suspended for six games.”
The “saga” and “situation”? Elliott, Ohio State man, was suspended for domestic violence.
And his “focus” was such that after running for a first down, he walked upfield, signaled that he’d made a first down, then made that tired, immodest “feed me” gesture. He’d already been “fed” plenty, for yardage seen as footage.
That was in the fourth quarter, with Dallas losing, 16-0.
Although Elliott’s “focus” was hard to miss, let alone stomach, neither Buck nor Aikman said a thing. Now there was a TV past performance bet we’d have won.
Serena turns wrongs to ‘women’s rights’
From the moment Serena Williams completed her latest indefensible nationally televised tantrums, I knew this would be spun into something else — something other than right from wrong — thus ignore what we saw and heard.
Ignore, too, that she has never suffered from past unsportsmanlike misconduct. To the contrary. Endorsements and selective accolades have flowed. She even was named Sports Illustrated’s “Sportsperson of the Year,” her sense of excessive self-entitlement fueled at every station.
And so, as she berated chair ump Carlos Ramos for having had the calm audacity to enforce the rules, shaking a menacing finger in his face while calling him a “thief” and a “liar” — as if Williams would calmly suffer such abuse — the crowd cheered her on. Yeah, play by Serena’s rules! Sad.
Then, when the glory should have belonged to 20-year-old Naomi Osaka, USTA head Katrina Adams joined Williams to further steal the kid’s moment. Even on a night when Williams did such conspicuous dirt to her sport, Adams took the microphone to proclaim her, “A champion of all champions!” She even complimented Williams for, ugh, “her grace.”
Then Adams shamelessly added more of what obviously was untrue: “This mama is a role model, respected by all!” Why say that unless the issue was in doubt? Or would Adams counsel all players to behave that way?
The pathetic pandering continued. ESPN’s on-site panel claimed to be “shocked.” Really? These experts were unaware that Williams has long been a rotten loser and winner?
Chris Evert: “I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire career, commentating or playing, and I feel so sad for Serena, and for Naomi, too. I hope this doesn’t take away from the biggest win of her career.”
But it already had, Williams ensured it. We’re to believe Evert doesn’t recall the U.S. Open when Williams threatened a lineswoman with, “I swear to God, I’ll take this f—king ball and shove it down your f—king throat!”? But some indisputable truths are assiduously avoided.
Next, Williams explained she was fighting for women’s rights and against sexism, as if her behavior had been on behalf of anyone but herself. But many bought it.
So let history record that the lineswoman Williams previously cursed out, and now U.S. Open champ Naomi Osaka, were not victims of Serena Williams, but victims of her battle for women’s rights.
Can’t tell if ‘Mike’s On’ a big seller … or a flop
Mike Francesa is such a relentlessly transparent jackass. Naturally, he’s not going to disclose the number of subscribers to his app — if it’s doing poorly.
Otherwise he’d order John Minko to give the latest numbers in updates.
At the start of Sunday’s second half, Eli Manning was forced to change helmets. Reader Mark Dantonio: “Think he told the equipment man to make sure it’s marked ‘Game Used’?”
The YES broadcast team of former catcher John Flaherty and former pitcher Al Leiter made for an easy, breezy, pay-attention team throughout the Yankees-Twins series this week — even if Flaherty went Mike Mayock on us when he said, “[Minnesota catcher] Mitch Garver is a good thrower of the baseball.”
HR or K Game of the Week: Angels 1-0 over the White Sox. Totals — 10 hits, 10 pitchers, 28 strikeouts, lasting a near-biblical 3:17.
While reader Mike Millet of Cleveland is now often told by TV folks about “downhill runners,” he’d like to know who they regard as “uphill runners.”
The Yankees, who refer to customers as “guests,” are charging — with $6 tack-on fees — $132 per ticket to the AL wild-card game, should they qualify. That’s for a seat in the bleachers. Seriously.
Acclaimed social activist Colin Kaepernick next week will lead a protest of the meager pay and poor conditions for Nike’s workers in Third World countries.
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