What did we do to piss off the folks at ESPN and Monday Night Football?
I mean, c’mon! Two weeks ago we were forced to suffer through Patriots-Bills. I’m fairly certain that the Patriots won that game despite not having their players return to the field following the halftime show.
Last Monday saw mediocrity wrestle itself to the ground, as the bland Titans bested the confused and overmatched Cowboys. That the Titans could appear to “overmatch” any team in the league, I suppose, was interesting, but the game? Not so much.
And this week, we get the New York Football Giants traveling to the Bay Area to take on the San Francisco 49ers. There was a time when this was a game fans circled on their calendars. Fierce, cross-country rivalry, featuring some of the biggest stars in the game. Mark Bavaro posting the signature moment of the Giants 14-2 Super Bowl run in 1986, carrying what seemed like the entire 49ers defense (led by Hall of Fame Ronnie Lott, no less), on his back down the field as the Giants won a close one.
On Monday Night Football.
I suppose back when the schedule makers constructed the Monday night slate, this week’s Niners-Giants game could have been expected to entertain us. Hopes were high among fans of both teams, as bounce backs (in the case of Big Blue) and next level ascensions (the Garoppolo-led Niners) seemed to be plausible scenarios for 2018. But a funny thing happened on the way to Week 10, and now we have two terrible teams, with a combined record of 3-14, squaring off in a game that doesn’t matter. At all. Over/under on empty seats at Levi’s Stadium has to be about 20,000 for Monday’s contest.
Poor Jason Witten (speaking of overmatched), sweating through that suit of his that remains at least two sizes too small every week (“Wardrobe!”), while some guy named Booger talks over him with the only enthusiastic commentary fans will get from MNF’s new and dry as a bone, three-man “team,” must be wondering why he hung up his pads for this.
I’m sorry, but we are ten weeks in and ESPN’s new and improved format and announcers both remain god awful, matching the train wreck of a schedule the Sports Leader delivers to us seemingly every Monday. But this week, it’s not just MNF that threatens to send us yawning prematurely to reruns of the Big Bang Theory (BTW — is that show on every hour, on every cable channel, or what?).
Nope, lame matchups are becoming an epidemic. Take a look at this week’s slate of games. I scan the schedule each week to get an idea of what games are likely to prove to be the most entertaining, so I have remote control flipping options all lined up for that moment when I tire of watching the Jets try to win their game by a score of 3-0.
This week we literally don’t have a single game I’m looking forward to. However there are plenty of clunkers, starting with my Jets taking on the hapless Bills in New Jersey, a game that won’t begin until tomorrow afternoon, but that already neither team deserves to win. Can I get excited about Falcons-Browns? Meh. Double-meh for Saints-Bengals. And those are the two best I’ve got my eye on!
What’s a fan to do? Well, not unlike last week, we can try to take our mind off the ho-hum nature of this Sunday’s matchups and try to salvage a bit of football adrenaline by harkening back to those nostalgic, sacred days of our NFL youth, back when kickers wore black hightop shoes and kicked straight away. Back when tear-away jerseys were still a cool part of the game, and some of the older QB’s in the league sported helmets with a “face mask” that was really just one thin silver bar that protected very little across their scarred, bleeding mouths.
And yes, if all else fails, of course there is still a point spread available to us, certain to enliven even the most mundane of Sunday contests, especially if we have a few U.S. Federal dollars riding on the outcome.
So in an effort to rescue this Sunday’s collection of uninspiring contests, we’ll approach NFL Six Picks in a new, unique, and altogether retro fashion — with no discussion of the present day participants. Instead, we will focus our discussion on one star from yesteryear who suited up for one of this week’s combatants.
And we are going to shun those obvious, glamor names in favor of the more obscure, and thus eminently more interesting, “blasts from the past.” Here we go (as always, home team in ALL CAPS):
RAMS (-10) over Seattle — Remember John Hadl, Rams fans? Yes, the quarterback who didn’t wear a QB number. This guy travele up the coast from the Chargers for the 1973 season and led the high-octane LA offense of the ’70’s, often connecting deep down the sideline with speedy Harold Jackson for a long one. In ’73, Hadl led the Rams to a 12-2 record, throwing for 22 TD’s in the “three-yards and a cloud of dust” NFL of that time. That Rams team boasted a stout defense, solid running game behind Lawrence McCutcheon, and Hadl throwing TD’s to Jackson and Jack Snow. This was going to be the year the Rams finally broke through in the NFC. Then the playoffs hit, and despite hosting the Cowboys at home in L.A., Hadl threw a pick on the game’s first play leading to a Calvin Hill TD, and McCutcheon coughed up a fumble that led to another Dallas score. The Rams never recovered from the early deficit and went home division round losers, where they got to watch the Vikings get their ass kicked in yet another Super Bowl. Hadl didn’t make it all the way through the ’74 season, sent packing to Green Bay midyear after stumbling out of the blocks 3-2. (Rams, 27-13)
Lions (+7.5) over the BEARS — Remember Bobby Douglass, Bears fans? The ’70’s were a pretty dark time for the Monsters of the Midway. Gale Sayers never recovered from his devastating knee injuries, Butkus got old, and they never could find the right QB to lead them. But for one year they found a guy, who while certainly not the smoothest pocket passer you’ve ever seen, could make the NFL Films guy with that awesome baritone raise his pitch an octave or two week after week. All Douglass did in 1972, was amass 968 yards rushing, a record for quarterbacks that would stand until Michael Vick broke it over 30 years later (with the aid of two extra games), for the 4-9-1 Bears. The lefty signal caller would never be confused with Unitas (in ’72 Douglass completed only 75-198 passes for 9 TD’s and 12 INT’s), but for that one season he gave Chicago fans something fun and exciting to cheer for every week. (Bears, 24-23)
New England (-7.5) over the TENNESSEE TITANS — Remember Sam Cunningham, Pats fans? Known mostly as a blocking back (and the big brother of a future Eagles QB) at USC in the early-’70’s, Sam “Bam” Cunningham was a first-round pick of the Patriots (#11 overall), back in 1973 (when we didn’t all hate New England yet). Known for his incredible leaping ability that made him unstoppable in short yardage and goal line sets, Cunningham blossomed into a punishing feature back in New England, crossing over 1000 yards once (back when it meant something in a 14-game season) and earning one Pro Bowl bid. At 6’3 and 226 pounds, Cunningham combined speed and size to lead the ground game for some strong Patriots teams of the mid-’70’s that could never quite get over the top because they happened to coincide with the heyday of the Steelers and Raiders. (Patriots, 28-13)
CHIEFS (-17) over the Cardinals — Remember Otis Taylor, Chiefs fans? Man, I loved this guy. Hauling in what appeared to be impossibly overthrown balls at full speed for tie-breaking TD’s against the Raiders? Yup, that’s how I remember him, too. Those Chiefs teams of the early-’70’s featured some super cool guys of the old AFL and post-merger AFC — guys like Buck Buchanan, Willie Lanier and Lenny Dawson. Not to mention one of the earliest soccer-style kickers, Jan Stenerud (took me awhile to figure out that it was pronounced “Yahn”). But Otis was the coolest. Consider this: in 1966 he totaled 1297 yards (22.4 yards a catch — 14 game season) in his first Pro Bowl year. He would earn those honors two more times, while also posting seven scoring catches during the Chiefs’ championship 1969 campaign that culminated in their Super Bowl IV demolition of the Vikings (who else?). (Chiefs, 31-10) SportsAttic note: Careful here, smells like a sucker bet point spread.
Dallas (+8.5) over the EAGLES — Remember Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson, Cowboys fans? Of course you do. We all do! There are so many colorful characters to choose from when we look back on the ‘Boys storied history, but we’re going with Hollywood. He was a man before his time. Flamboyant, outspoken (could you imagine Hollywood with a Twitter handle today?) and always aware of where the cameras were pointed, Henderson was easy to hate if you weren’t on the America’s Team bandwagon in the mid- to late-’70’s. Ultimately his big mouth and taste for nightlife and hard living got him tossed from the Cowboys and soon out of the league entirely, but he will live on in infamy for perhaps the greatest line of the old NFL, when he had this to say about rival QB Terry Bradshaw of the Steelers: “He couldn’t spell cat if you spotted him the C and the A.” (Eagles, 23-16)
Giants (+3) over the NINERS — Remember Howard Cosell, Monday Night Football fans? To me, MNF will always be Howard, Dandy Don and Frank Gifford in those awful, mustard yellow blazers that ABC insisted they wear. Cosell shamelessly talking over both of his booth mates, with Gifford too much of a gentleman to take exception, and Meredith oblivious to it all. If you really want an entertaining throwback this Sunday, hit pause on the Jacksonville-Indianapolis game, and pull up on YouTube the old Odd Couple episode where Cosell does a cameo as Oscar Madison’s nemesis, only to have Felix try and save the day up in the booth. Still laugh out loud funny to this day. (Giants, 28-10)
Last Week’s Six Picks Ledger: 5-1 (26-20-2 on the year)
And now it is that time again — the LUCKY 7 Guest Prognosticator of the Week feature, with a celebration still raging over Pradeep the Numbers Guy’s colossal, unexpected, on-the-nose prediction of the Steelers victory in Baltimore last week. Pradeep’s correct call halted a multi-week streak of disastrous efforts, one worse than the next, of Guest Prognosticators crashing and burning here on SportsAttic.
So this week, fully expecting to build on last week’s positive momentum, is Florham Park Kenny, a proud Rutgers football supporter (yes, there are still a few of them out there), who compounds his college rooting misery by owning the distinction of being the lone San Diego Chargers fan in the entire state of New Jersey.
As this week’s LUCKY 7 Guest Prognosticator, Florham Park Kenny will attempt to inch our Guest Prognosticator full season ledger another notch toward the still-mediocre .500 mark. Here’s Florham Park Kenny:
Chargers (-10.5) over the RAIDERS — Hello good people of SportsAttic Nation. I’m Kenny and my Chargers are on a mission this season. The Raiders, meanwhile, are blatantly tanking, and in all out teardown mode. After missing the playoffs by a game last year, the latest in a history of near misses, Philip Rivers and company know all too well about lost opportunities. This season Lady Luck has swung the other way as they’re coming off two wins where last second dropped end zone passes could have doomed their season. Rolling in confidence and exorcising the ghosts of failures past, the Bolts don’t leave things to chance this week against a wounded, depleted Raider team who lost any swagger they had weeks back. The Black Hole crowd gets taken out early with Derek Carr good for a couple of picks as the Chargers roll big. And speaking of big, Louie Kelcher will be smiling somewhere watching his Bolts sweep the Raiders. The big tackle was on the wrong end of both blowouts and heartbreakers to the Silver and Black throughout much of his career. Payback time for San Diego. (Chargers, 31-17)
SportsAttic Take: Chuckie’s thinly veiled plan to position his Raiders for success in their future home two years from now has been killing me all year, so I have to agree with Florham Park Kenny on this one. Oakland may not win another game this year, and the Chargers are taking on the appearance of a Dark Horse AFC contender. Plus, you’ve gotta love Kenny’s Louis Kelcher reference! (San Diego, 31-14)
And that’s a wrap on NFL Week 10. Here’s hoping that the schedule makers shine a bit brighter on us all now that the season is heading toward winter, and the playoff races are taking shape.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend everybody (and credit for the encore placement of the John Riggins/mohawk photo above to Nightman, who was the only SportsAttic fan to comment on what is unequivocally the best look in the history of organized athletics).