- The Season's Over -

On Mushy Brains and the Excessively Commercial Nature of NFL Broadcasts

December 29, 2010

bleachers

Photos Credit: Icon SMI

By Brian Spencer

You can do better than this, NFL. A lot better.

I’m referring to the NFL Viewing Experience, which has become somewhat insufferable and nearly demanding of DVR usage. I understand that commercials and corporate sponsorships have regretfully become an accepted part of pop culture, and that all of those god-awful advertisements that are pounded into our heads every Sunday and Monday are, to a degree, a necessary evil: I don’t especially want to pay anything extra to watch football on FOX, CBS, ESPN, and NBC, and I’m guessing you don’t either. (Of course, commercials still run even if you buy the NFL Sunday Ticket.)

That said, the commercial breaks have gotten out of control and are seriously distracting from the on-field product; I’ve never spoken with anybody who disagreed with me. It’s even gotten to the point where corporate entities, like ESPN, have allegedly interfered with the organic flow of the game–or as organic as it can be with plenty of unnecessary commercial breaks already baked in–by asking coaches to use all of their time outs, regardless of the score.

That’s insane. Again, for whatever reason Americans, in particular, have come to accept commercials–and now even celebrate them, which is something I’ll never understand–but enough is enough.

Last night I used a stopwatch to time all of the advertisement time during NBC’s primetime broadcast of the Philadelphia Eagles taking on the Minnesota Vikings. I started with the first commercial break once the game began, and included any and all ads that ran without any mention of football or without the camera on the field or in the broadcast booth; in other words, I kept the timer running when, for example, it cut back to aerial shots of Lincoln Financial Field as Al Michaels ran down a list of the commercial sponsors.

This was a painful endeavor that required heavy usage of the mute button. After all, one can only watch and listen to, for example, Hyundai’s dreadful pair of quirky hipsters dance around and shill for a mega billion-dollar company so many times… and, believe me, if you watched the entire game you had about 100 opportunities to see the ad. If you’ve watched any amount of football since mid-November, you’ve probably seen it 1,000 times.

Eyeballs Rolling Back in Head

I think that’s what gets me more than anything: the sheer volume of ads that are dominated by a very small number of companies. We see the same ads over and over and over again, sometimes within the same commercial break; it’s not good for my blood pressure. After awhile, the repetition lulls you into a semi-comotose state–you’re of course already there if you happen to be watching a Cardinals or 49ers game for some reason–and by the time the third quarter rolls around, your brain feels mushy, useless, a sponge ripe for the pitching.

I guess that’s the point: don’t think, just buy. Buy our products, and buy into the terrible cliches we attach those products to. I know I’m just another voice in the well-established chorus that sings the evil of commercials, but it’s disgusting, it really is, and it impacts society on more of a subconscious level than most realize. That’s a bigger discussion than what I purport to tackle here, so for the purposes of this piece, it comes down to this: we shouldn’t have to feel so fucking dumbed down every time we watch sports.

Maybe you can turn off that aspect of the broadcast and ignore it, but I can’t.

I Cannot Watch

The Eagles-Vikings game kicked off just past 8pm and lasted until 11:20, so including halftime it was roughly a 3:20 broadcast. By the time all the ads touting expensive cars, piss-grade beer, fatty foods, overpriced diamonds, and the new shows on NBC bound to be canceled by the end of spring (Harry’s Law, starring Kathy Bates? Really?) were over with, viewers had been exposed to just under 47 minutes of commercials and advertisements. NFL games last for 60 minutes, at least in terms of the running clock, so technically we only saw 13 more minutes of football than we did commercials.

This is unacceptable, and though primetime games are notoriously dragged on longer than they should be, running over 45 minutes of commercials is not atypical for your average NFL broadcast. I’d assert that this was about average given that there were fewer injury time outs than usual and just a handful of challenges.

Think about that: 47 minutes of commercials. I don’t know how many individual spots that comes out to, but most ads are only 15 – 30 seconds long, tops. Again, I’m not pretending that totally eradicating commercials is a viable action, but the NFL and the networks that broadcast their games are hugely popular and profitable entities, and probably always will be. The advertisements are excessive, insulting, and have much too much impact on the game.

I watched parts of Super Bowl XLII between the New England Patriots and New York Giants from my hotel room in Berlin, Germany. In the United States, millions of people actually can’t wait to see the Super Bowl commercials; it’s not just the super bowl of football, it’s the super bowl of advertising. But guess how many commercial breaks I endured during the broadcast in Germany? Zero until halftime. Zero. It was amazing, the most sedate, enjoyable half of football I’ve ever seen.

Give Us a Break

We don’t need extended stoppages of play and commercial breaks after every fucking punt or kickoff; we definitely don’t need them after the extra point is kicked and after the ensuing kickoff. The camera should stay on the field between most changes of possession, during which the announcers should regale us with interesting facts and stats about the two teams we’re watching; I realize that with guys like Matt Millen, Joe Buck, and Troy Aikman in the booths, that’s a stretch. A coach’s challenge should not always equal a commercial break; an injured player on the field should not always mean an injury commercial break.

These little things add up over the course of an entire game and bring us to that 47 minutes number. What’s a reasonable amount? 30 minutes would be a step in the right direction. That might still seem like a lot of commercials–and it is–but that’d roughly translate to “just” 5 minutes or so of ads per quarter if allowing for more to run during halftime. Something tells me the NFL and its partners would still be pulling a handsome coin if they cut their ad time by 17 minutes. Advertisers would have no choice but to get over the fact that their ad–the same one we’ve already seen all season long–is only going to run 10 times instead of 25 times.

Is this too much to ask, NFL?

For all of your sport’s inherent flaws, rulebook inconsistencies and banalities, etc., god help us we still love the on-field product. We might not always like how it tastes or how it smells, but we live it and breathe it and often obsess about it for months. The commercial nature of the game, however, and the impact you allow it to have has grown tiresome. You can do better, and we deserve better.

9 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Dec. 29, 2010 at 3:47pm in ETB Articles, NFL, NFL Fantasy News

To Start or Not to Start the Philadelphia Eagles Team Defense, That Is the Question

December 28, 2010

Philadephia Eagles Defense

Philadelphia Eagles Photo Credit: Icon SMI

By Brian Spencer

I’m faced with one of those difficult decisions that makes you look brilliant when it works and like a total maroon when it doesn’t: think a head coach going for it on 4th and 2 at their opponent’s 40-yard line late in the game, leading by a field goal.

Heading into this evening’s make-up match between the Eagles and Vikings, I hold a narrow 2.79 point lead over my opponent in our league’s Fantasy Football Super Bowl. (Though the rosters have obviously changed since these team previews were written, if you’re interested this is my team, and this is my opponent’s team.)

Here’s the catch though: his starters are all done. He can’t score anymore points… unless, that is, there’s a stat correction later this week that either takes points away from my team and/or adds points to his. The possibility isn’t that far-fetched; I’m sure it’s happened to somebody out there reading this, and in fact it happened to ETB’s very own Mr. Thell last year. He of course still brings it up through bitter, gritted teeth every chance he gets, and I have no interest in suffering the same fate.

That brings me to my ace in the hole: the Philadelphia Eagles Defense. At home against an anemic Vikings offense led by a “quarterback” in Joe Webb that was drafted as a receiver and has practiced all season long as a receiver until a few weeks ago, the Philly DEF is projected to rack up 14.57 points on the night. Logic says that sacks, turnovers, and very few points scored by the Vikings are in the cards… but what if they aren’t? This is the game we call football, after all: it’s unpredictable and stupid and mindnumbing and exhilarating and beautiful and maddening all at once. You truly never know what’s going to happen (unless you’re Vegas, in which case you know almost everything).

In passing, the casual NFL fan would probably say the Eagles field one of the league’s better defenses, and certainly one of the best in the NFC. They’d be kind of wrong. Though the Iggles do lead the NFC in interceptions with 23 (one behind the league-leading Patriots) and are fifth in their conference in sacks (35), they’re allowing over 24 points per, which puts them near the bottom of the NFC. In their last four games they’ve surrendered 113 points, or 28 per. Granted they were playing a number of high-powered offenses, but still… considering the stakes, it’s enough to give me pause.

What if the Vikings come out and control the clock behind a rested Adrian Peterson, limiting turnovers, avoiding sacks, and scoring a few touchdowns? What if Michael Vick throws a pick-six (or two), and/or what if LeSean McCoy fumbles the ball twice and Jared Allen returns one for a touchdown? Points scored by opposing defenses and specials teams still count against Team DEFs.

In our league, -3 points are assessed to a Team DEF when it allows 28 – 34 points, and – 5 when allowing 35 points or more. Could the Vikings put up, say, 31 points while not turning the ball over and not allowing any sacks? I don’t think so–I’m sure most people don’t think so–and that’s why I’m rolling with the Philly DEF. As SCLSU Mud Dogs said this morning, “Definitely play your defense: if your D ends up in the negatives vs. Joe Webb, then you don’t really deserve the title anyway.”

I’ll never hear the end of it if I bench the Philly DEF and lose later this week due to a stat correction; then again, same thing if I start ‘em and they fall flat on their face, finish in the red, and there are no changes to the current scoring. I’ve made my decision: tonight, I’m a hardcore fan of the Philadelphia Eagles defense. Kick some ass, boys.

**UPDATE** Like I said, this is pro football and you never know what’s going to happen: the Minnesota Vikings kicked off the game as 14-point underdogs and walked off the field as 10-point winners. The defense battered and bruised and confused Michael Vick all night long, while Joe Webb earned the “gamer” tag with a controlled, effective performance at quarterback (17-26 for 195 yards, 31 rushing yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs).

As for that Philly Defense? They had me worried there for a minute in the fourth quarter with the Vikings threatening to hang 30+ on the scoreboard, but 2 sacks and a fumble recovery were my saving grace. That, and the fact that apparently touchdowns scored by opposing defense don’t count against Team DEF in our league (Antoine Winfield scooped up a Vick fumble and took it into the endzone).

It’s been an up-and-down fantasy football season, as usual, but after 5 long years without a Fantasy Super Bowl win, I’m happy and fortunate to walk away from both of my highly competitive leagues this year as the league champ.

I clearly owe a thank you to the all-powerful fantasy gods.

No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Dec. 28, 2010 at 3:36pm in NFL, NFL Fantasy News

Get Ready to Meet the NFC West Champ, aka Worst Team in NFL Playoff History

December 27, 2010

Sam Bradford Rams

Sam Bradford and Matt Hasselbeck Photos: Icon SMI

By Brian Spencer

It’s almost time, friends, to bid adieu to the 2010 NFL regular season and the rubbish we know as the Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, and the entire NFC West.

Actually, check that, one team from the bumbling, boring NFC West promises to stick around for one more week, despite our reasonable objections. Somebody has to win that ugly division, and the ever-puzzling NFL rule book states that no matter what somebody has to represent their division in the playoffs, so get ready, national TV audience, for the St. Louis Rams (7-8) or the Seattle Seahawks (6-9) on Wild Card weekend! Fuck yeah!

Hi, I’m the Seattle Seahawks: you might remember us from such NFL comedies as “We Were Beaten By 17 Points By the Denver Broncos” and “Oh No! We Were Outscored 74-10 in Weeks 8 and 9 Combined!” You might also remember Pete Carroll’s Hawks as the squad that has dropped 5 of their last 6 games, or 7 of their last 9–take your pick. They’re led by veteran QB Matt Hasselbeck, who has the fourth-lowest QB Rating in the NFL (ahead of Jimmy Clausen, Derek Anderson, and, of course, Brett Favre). Well, they were led by Hasselbeck: he’s likely out with an injury this week and will be replaced by Charlie Whitehurst, who’s played in 5 games this season, racking up 315 yards passing, 2 TDs, 3 INTs, 5 sacks, and 2 fumbles. Gallant knight riding into battle on a white horse he is not.

Matt Hasselbeck Seahawks

The Seahawks sport the NFC’s second-worst defense, which allows nearly 27 points per and has collected just 11 interceptions. Yes, they’ve been a punching bag for almost the entire season, and yet, thanks to the Rams’ in-division ineptitude (3-2), all they have to do is beat St. Louis at home on Sunday to punch their ticket to the playoffs and count themselves amongst the NFL elite, at least officially.

Speaking of the Rams, they’ve become a feel-good story this year in posting a respectable 7-8 record just one season after finishing 1-15. They have a promising young franchise quarterback in Sam Bradford, a workhorse running back in Steven Jackson who does deserve a glimpse of the limelight after so many years spent toting the rock for a terrible team, and… well, there aren’t a lot of household names on this roster, but they’re obviously turning things around and moving in the right direction. That doesn’t mean they deserve a postseason berth, though they certainly deserve it more than the Seahawks.

Aside from a three-point win over the San Diego Chargers (now 8-7) back in Week 6, the Rams have not beaten another team with a winning record all season. They beat up on the hapless Cardinals, Panthers, Redskins, and Seahawks, and squeaked by the Broncos and 49ers. That’s it. Along the way they were also pummelled by the Detroit Lions 44-6, by the New Orleans Saints 31-13, by the Kansas City Chiefs 27-13, etc. The offense averages less than 19 points per, and their leading receiver, Danny Amendola, a promising possession receiver built in the mold of Wes Welker, has just 680 yards receiving. They don’t have a true WR1 or WR2, just a bunch of guys with “upside.”

There you have it, football fans, so step right up and pick your poison. It’s winner take all in Seattle on Sunday: in this corner, one of the absolutely worst teams in the NFC, and in the other corner, an up-and-comer that has no business making the postseason (yet). Whichever one stumbles past the other takes home a nifty NFC West Championship hat and the opportunity to get blasted on national television. Just imagine the frozen carnage on the field should one of these candy-ass teams be sentenced to a trip to, say, Lambeau.

So let’s go Whitehurst, Hawthorne, and Lynch! Sock it to ‘em Hoomanawanui, Amendola, and Atogwe! The playoffs are at stake, baby, and I can’t wait for America’s Game of the Week.

No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Dec. 27, 2010 at 8:01pm in NFL

Toronto’s Trio of Most Impressive Afterthoughts

December 8, 2010

By Andrew Thell

DeMar DeRozan Flashing His PotentialThe Toronto Raptors have quietly acquired a dynamic young trio of retreads and afterthoughts in Jerryd Bayless, Amir Johnson and DeMar DeRozan. Amir and Jerryd are two players we’ve discussed often here on ETB, while DeMar is a kid who is just starting to show flashes of the talent that made him a lottery pick a summer ago. In fact, all three players began their careers with slow starts and don’t get any publicity, but they’re heating up north of the border.

He’s bounced around the last few months, but let’s not forget that Bayless, still just 22 years of age, was the 11th overall pick in 2008 (and the Summer League MVP that season) and has continued to show plenty of upside in fits and spurts over his short career. He’s got the kind of natural talent and scoring ability that an NBA team can always use. The Blazers gave Bayless up for a conditional first round pick back in October and just a month later the Hornets essentially gave him away to the Raptors along with Peja Stojaković and some cash considerations in exchange for Jarrett Jack, Marcus Banks, and David Andersen – not exactly the haul you would expect for a guy I’ve always thought could be an extremely productive combo guard in this league (he was among my Players I want to See More Of a year ago).

He’s not a pure point, and he may never be, but Bayless’ quickness is elite and with his athleticism the guy can slash into the lane and finish around the basket. Bayless can shoot the ball, but he’s inconsistent and it’s an area he needs to work on. His quicks also mean Bayless can be a very good defender on the other end when he focuses himself, but that focus hasn’t always been there either. Jose Calderon is the starter in Toronto, but he seems better suited to man the point for a more established team that can play off of his passing skills and compensate for his lack of defense and inability to create his own offense.

This Sunday Bayless flashed his full arsenal, dropping 23 points, 7 boards, 6 assists and 5 threes on 8-16 shooting in just 27 minutes of action. To be fair, it was the Knicks, but it was still an impressive showing and with the Raptors sitting at 8-13 with little hope of competing it’s time to see how much more there is where that came from. I think he could settle in around 18 points a night in the right situation, and his per-36 numbers back that up: last season in Portland Bayless averaged 17.4 points per 36 minutes and in his first seven games as a Canuck he’s put up 20.6 points along with 7.6 boards and 6.3 assists per 36.

As the 56th pick of the 2005 NBA Draft Amir Johnson doesn’t quite have the pedigree of lottery picks like Bayless or DeRozan, but the 6-11 23-year-old’s ceiling may be the highest of the trio. We’ve thought quite highly of the kid for quite some time. It’s true that Johnson didn’t do much in his first five seasons in the league, but a long gestation period should be expected with a preps-to-pros prospect as completely unpolished as Johnson was when he came into the league. It’s also worth noting that Johnson has never been given much of an opportunity to flash his skills, topping out at 17 minutes a game last season. Johnson is another guy who has been efficient with his minutes though, racking up highlight-reel blocks and dunks and per-36 career averages of 12 points, 10 boards, 2.4 blocks and 1 steal on 60% shooting from the field. Not bad for his age 18-22 seasons.

The minutes have always been limited by foul trouble, defensive lapses, matchup issues, poor decision-making and various other inconsistencies, but this season in the Raptors games I’ve watched Amir has shown dramatic improvement in all areas. With the injury to Reggie Evans (and after a brief, foolish experiment with Joey Dorsey) Johnson has been handed a starting gig for the foreseeable future. In five games in the starting lineup Amir has posted 14 points, 8 boards, 1.4 blocks and 1.2 steals on 65% FGs (!) with just 1 turnover a game. That’s efficiency. He’s even hitting 84% of his free-throws on the season, and I think he’s poised to turn a corner over the next month or two as he settles into finally being a valued, consistent contributor. The ingredients have always been there, and while he could still stand to add quite a bit of bulk to that lanky frame, the pieces are starting to fall into place for Amir to be a productive, explosive complementary player for years to come.

The final young piece of the Raptors’ pie I’ve been tuning in to get a taste of the last couple of weeks is DeMar DeRozan, the youngest and most highly-regarded of the three, but a player who has been overshadowed by more prominent fellow 2009 draftees like Tyreke Evans, Stephen Curry, Blake Griffin and Brandon Jennings at every turn. DeMar is a quiet dude, and it’s been a quiet start to his career, but at 6-7 and 220 pounds with huge hops and a healthy dose of athleticism DeRozan has the body to make some noise as a prototypical NBA wing. On top of the physical tools he’s a good kid who works hard on and off the court. But, like the other two Raptors above, he needs to continue improving if he’s ever going to cash in on his vast potential. Last year was a slow start to the 9th-overall pick’s career as he put up just 8.6 points and 3 rebounds a night with not much in the way of peripherals, but watching games you could see his shot selection improving and general basketball IQ growing each month.

DeRozan is still a project, but one undeniably showing more maturity and polish than he was a year ago despite the continued mediocre numbers. It’s true he’s been inconsistent again this season, but he’s also thrown together three strings of nice games between hamstring tweeks and looked good doing it. He’s playing more confident basketball on both ends, and confidence is something that can be an issue with DeMar. I’ve been especially impressed with his willingness to be assertive and get to the line more; that should be his bread and butter with his tools. It doesn’t show up in his block and steal totals, but DeMar works his ass off on defense and his performance on that end is something that could eventually be a calling card for him. He still needs to work on rounding out his game in terms of his jumper and ball skills, but DeMar DeRozan is finally looking like the long-term three on Toronto.

So the next time NBA League Pass sticks you with a Raptors game on the only HD channel, don’t despair. Have a seat and pay attention to these three kids. I think you’ll be entertained.

3 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Dec. 8, 2010 at 12:01am in NBA

Derek Anderson Will Never Live This Down

December 2, 2010

I’ve admittedly soured some over the past few years on Dwight Howard, a once-generally likeable guy whose on-court demeanor has steadily become irksome and a little hard to watch. He blames the refs for calling him differently becauase of his size, still hasn’t bothered to learn how to shoot free throws (this season’s 54% is actually the worst of his seven-year career), still hasn’t developed a repertoire of moves outside the dunk… it’s almost like he’s content to be Shaquille O’Neal 2.0, without the rings and with slightly less narcissism.

Still, this one got me. In case you somehow missed it, following his team’s shellacking–and his laughably bad individual performance–on Monday Night Football this week against the San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals QB Derek Anderson had the kind of memorable meltdown we haven’t seen in years. Howard couldn’t resist the opportunity to pay homage to it. Make sure to watch the whole clip to catch the original performance, too.

(Hat tip to our friends at Ball Don’t Lie)

1 CommentPosted by Brian Spencer on Dec. 2, 2010 at 4:48pm in NBA, NFL

Wesley Matthews Blazing a Trail

December 1, 2010

By Andrew Thell

Wesley Matthews is Blowing UpThe Blazers turned a lot of heads when they handed Wesley Matthews a front-loaded, 5-year deal worth $34 million this summer. When a guy plays essentially the same position as your franchise player, you generally don’t give him that kind of money, particularly when the player in question is a second-year, undrafted swingman who scored in single digits as a rookie and was best known as the son for former NBAer Wes Matthews. It was a curious move that indicated the Portland brass must have been more concerned about Brandon Roy’s knees than they let on.

Sure enough, just a few weeks into the season it came out that Roy had undergone several procedures to drain fluid from his troublesome knees already and that Roy was playing with literally no cartilage in his knees. That means he’s playing bone-on-bone, and it’s a situation that doesn’t figure to get better any time soon. Roy is toughing it out for now, but I don’t see how he can keep playing on those gimpy knees all season.

Matthews came out of the gates slowly, but starting with a career-high, 30-point outburst (just barely topping his father’s NBA career high of 29) in a game Roy sat out on November 16th he’s taken advantage of his opportunities and this week earned a spot in the starting lineup even when Roy plays. On Tuesday it was announced that Matthews will push talented and defensive-minded youngster Nicolas Batum to the bench. I’m a Batum fan, and with his versatile game and considerable long-term potential at the three spot I think it’s a questionable move by Blazers coach Nate McMillan, but it shows just how much confidence Portland has in Matthews. Since that breakout game on the 16th he’s averaged 20 points, 4 boards and 1.3 steals a game on 49% FGs with just 1.5 turnovers a game. It’s been quite a showing for a guy who played four years of college ball and didn’t show much in his first three seasons at Marquette before being ignored in the draft last season due to quickness and size concerns.

Matthews’ volume of production is one of the more surprising developments of the season thus far, but we shouldn’t be too surprised by the efficiency. Last year as an undrafted rookie Matthews earned 24 minutes a night and played in all 82 games for Jerry Sloan’s Jazz, which is no small feat. His efficiency played a large role in earning Sloan’s trust, as Matthews shot 48% FGs, 38% on threes and 83% from the line – that adds up to an effective FG% of .539, which would have been good for 18th in the NBA had he qualified. On top of that, while Matthews may be a step slow and at 6-5 not of ideal size at the three, he’s acquitting himself respectably at the other end of the floor with blue-collar, physical defense. It’s safe to say he’s quickly playing his way out of his father’s shadow. We haven’t seen a large enough sample size with Matthews featured in the offense to know if he can keep this kind of production up, but I do firmly believe with Roy’s health issues he’ll get every opportunity to do so from here on out. If Matthews keeps playing like this, the guy everybody was shocked to see signed to that contract back in July could turn out to be one of the biggest breakout players in the NBA this season and the biggest bargain of the offseason.

Wesley Matthews photo credit: AP

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Dec. 1, 2010 at 9:43pm in NBA

     

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