I just watched the Spanish thriller mini-series “Money Heist.” It was actually pretty good, although it would have benefited from some editing and the excision of a couple backstory subplots. Plus, while no one will ever accuse me of being a polyglot, I know enough Spanish to know that the translations in the subtitles weren’t always accurate.
Wow, going back and reading what I just wrote makes me think that maybe it wasn’t as good as I thought. All I can say is that it’s better than anything on TV that starts with NCIS.
Anyway, in “Money Heist,” there’s a scene where they show a gigantic printing press that is turning out hundreds of thousands of Euro notes every hour. When I watched that scene, I thought, “That’s the NFL, just printing money.”
It wasn’t always this way. A few decades ago, the NFL was deep in the rearview mirror of Major League Baseball. But then baseball got stodgy and steroid-y at the same time and the NFL zoomed past and hasn’t looked back. The NFL is a year-round attention grabber. It’s headline news when the next season’s schedule is announced, prompting media pundits and analysts to pore over the data and say stuff like, “That week 14 matchup between This Team and That Team is quite tantalizing.”
And then there’s the absolutely bizarre obsession with the NFL Draft, which is the oddest phenomenon in all of sports. The day after the Super Bowl, people start talking about the draft, which won’t happen until April. Then, you have guys who make huge bank and their only job is to predict which teams will draft which players. I usually don’t begrudge people their money, but these guys have become rich doing the NFL Draft and they are never right! Sometimes they don’t even get the No. 1 pick correct.
But now we have the actual season, which means that the weather that two weeks ago was unbearable, now really doesn’t matter. It’s football time.
Here are a few things that are guaranteed to happen this NFL season:
The Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals will break our hearts. They always have. They always do. They always will.
In the early days, Phoenix was just happy to have a team and the Cardinals were just happy to be out of St. Louis. They played afternoon games in September in Sun Devil Stadium and it was an absolutely awful experience. They didn’t even try to do things right.
After they moved indoors in Glendale and started improving, it was still heartbreaking. Remember when they got to the Super Bowl and it went down to the wire? They trailed the Steelers, but then Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald hooked up on one of the greatest touchdowns in Super Bowl history. All they had to do was hang on for a couple minutes and Eternal Glory would be theirs. But the Cardinals let the Steelers nickel and dime their way down the fields and score in the final minute.
Last year, the Cardinals were, for a time, the only undefeated team in the entire league. Then they remembered that they were the Cardinals. They barely made the playoffs and went out with a whimper.
They start this year with their best player out for six games and on the You Shouldn’t Have Taken That Drug list. Their quarterback has one of the biggest contracts in the history of the NFL, but still hasn’t shown us anything. He’s a highlight reel machine, but is he a winner?
Dallas Cowboys fans will prove to be insufferable. That’s in the same category as the sun will rise tomorrow in the east.
At least one team (and maybe more) that finished last in its respective division last year will make the playoffs. The NFL does a great (but not always perfect) job of scheduling. Teams that struggled the previous year are given easier schedules, while division champs get more challenging slates. Note how the Super Bowl champion Rams had to open the season against this year’s favorite, the Buffalo Bills.
Down to the wire
The playoff hunt will go down to the wire and the NFL will have another ratings bonanza with a couple must-watch games coming on the last day of the regular season (Jan. 8). Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey once said that luck is the residue of design. If that’s so, the NFL has tapped into the spirit of Coco Chanel, Christian Dior and whoever it is who made that Nike swoosh.
Change the channel
Sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, a guy will walk into a sports bar and ask the proprietor to change the channel away from the NFL so he can watch the soccer World Cup. Because it’s the holidays, he probably won’t be thrown out into the cold completely naked.