Friday, January 31, 2014

Metro, ZipCar and a Hilariously Sad Twitter Fail

If you have spent any amount of time in Washington, D.C., this following bit of news will not surprise you: There was a massive Metro meltdown.

I know, I know, I’m as stunned as you are. While it wasn’t the rare full bingo, four of the five lines were delayed. The Metro was batting .200 on getting people to work on time, which isn’t even good enough to play for the Mets.

So that’s not really newsworthy. Why am I bringing it up? Because at 10:35 a.m., presumably when most Metro riders were finally getting to work, the official @wmata account sent out this beauty of a Tweet:


Wow. Where to start?

Okay, let’s start with the obvious – the hashtag of #ditchyourkeysDC. Now I have used the Metro since I moved back to DC in 2011. My last job was across the city in Friendship Heights so driving every day would be even worse than taking the Metro – that’s how bad traffic here is.

But there were times that the Metro was so terrible, so delayed and so awful that I needed my car to make it to the office for an important meeting. I didn’t drive every day but the thought losing my car never once crossed my mind.

However, I now work in Virginia and every Metro delay makes it all the more likely I will ditch the Metro.

So who in their right mind would ever get rid of their car to rely on Metro? It hurt my brain to comprehend someone not only choosing the Metro over their car, but also getting rid of their car entirely!

Thankfully, no one has publicly admitted to committing such an act of stupidity. Check out the tweets for #ditchyourkeysDC. Yep, just about complete silence – outside of the various Metro accounts and event planners telling me the show up.

There was this tweet:
And this one:

Further confusing matters for me is that the program is being co-promoted by ZipCar. What the hell?

So Metro wants me to ditch my car keys for other car keys?

If driving my own car to work isn’t good enough, why the hell would it be good enough for me to drive another car to work?

Again, and this cannot be stated enough, who would ditch their car keys to rely on Metro? Why would anyone rely on Metro?

The hashtag is a fantastic example of the wrong way to use social media. It’s too long. It’s not easy to remember. It makes no sense. It’s easy to mock.

Compounding this error is the insistence of the parties involved to getting the hashtag over. It’s sad-clown-ville to see these corporate accounts, multiple Metro ones, pumping a hashtag that no one cares about. It’s not working.

There is also the issue of being completely and totally tone-deaf to your customers – in this case, the millions of riders who complain almost literally every single morning on Twitter about crappy Metro service.

Twitter is not a good forum for Metro. They need to accept that. You’re just giving people an excuse to mock you even further.

It also shows a questionable lack of forethought by ZipCar. The only entity that has a lower approval rating than the government here is Metro. Why on Earth would you partner with them on anything for anything?

There is nothing to be gained for ZipCar – all the promotion is doing is dragging down its brand recognition in DC. Partner with Metro? Randomly kicking people in the groin would do less harm.

The most important thing to take from this is one you probably already know:
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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Roger Goodell: Modern Day American Tyrant

Roger Goodell hates you. Yes, you.

Unless you are one of the select few that own an NFL franchise, Roger Goodell has no use for you.

evil roger goodell
If you are a football player, he does not care if you die at 45.

If you are a fan, he does not care what you think.

If you are an American, he does not care if your taxes go up.

Yes, Roger Goodell hates America.

This is not hyperbole – this is fact, as you’ll see below. While the Occupy Wall Street movement took on Wall Street and other leaders of industry, Goodell got a pass. While outrageous executive pay is scrutinized in all sectors, Goodell gets a pass. While Bud Selig was dragged to Washington, D.C. to answer for the drug sins of his players, Goodell gets to celebrate a Super Bowl that will be played with multiple drug offenders. He’ll get a pass.

And that, in short, is the problem. Roger Goodell will get a pass because he always gets a pass. Like any self-respecting tyrant, he has insulted himself to the point where there are no challengers.

The NFL is too big to fail because it means too much to too many. There is an army of folks – any good tyrant needs an army – whose livelihoods depend on protecting the shield. I’m not talking about just the players and coaches. There are thousands upon thousands of men and women who make a living because of the NFL.

The reporters. The announcers. The camera men. The analysts. The production teams. The advertising folks. On and on the list goes – every single person who works at the NFL Network to nearly everyone at ESPN.

With that type of protection, who cares what anyone thinks? Any opposition is snuffed out before it can gain any momentum.

In any other line of business, competition is encouraged. Where would personal computers be without Steve Jobs refusing to lay down to Microsoft? What if no one else but Henry Ford built an automobile? What if only MGM made movies? What if only ESPN televised sports?

Monopolies are bad for America. In fact, they are illegal in America. Yet on Sunday, we will gather around the television and pay homage to America’s most valuable and prominent monopoly. Even the mere mention of an NFL competitor is met with derisive laughter.

Like a North Korean election, there is no choice on Sunday. You watch the Super Bowl, or you watch nothing.

But Roger Goodell hates you, each and every one of you. Here’s why:

Obstructing Billions of Dollars and Millions of Jobs from Americans
How much money is bet on football in a given year? The number is almost impossible to determine because the NFL has led a crusade against sports gambling since its formation.

In 2011, $3.2 billion was gambled on sports in Nevada. Of that total, $1.34 billion was wagered on football. One state, one billion dollars.

It is believed that Nevada could account for 1-5% of all sports gambling in the United States. Is football gambling a $50 billion industry in this country? $100 billion? And that’s just for football – could sports gambling in total be worth $500 billion?

The numbers belie the true point – the American economy needs help. It needs job. It needs revenue. And yet every year, those billions upon billions of dollars go to the underground and offshore gaming houses.

Why? Because Roger Goodell hates America.

I have yet to figure out a legit reason why the NFL still opposes legal sports gambling when it is legal in Nevada and the sport hasn’t died. The NFL doesn’t hide from gambling – fantasy football is another billion-dollar industry with weekly shows devoted to it on seemingly every cable network.

Yet when New Jersey took the lead and tried to legalize sports gambling – estimating that it would add instantly $100 million to its tax rolls in year 1 – the NFL put its foot down. Yes, the NBA, MLB and NHL* joined in, but the NFL was driving the bus and you don’t mess with the NFL.

*Why would the NHL be against sports gambling? Shouldn’t they be begging for any sort of additional attention to its sports? Besides, who the hell would bet on hockey?

The NFL’s only argument against is the sanctity of the game and the same “protecting the shield” bullshit they like to trot out to defend inane policies. Remember, gambling on the NFL is already legal in Nevada and they would be the ones who would discover any discrepancies in betting that would lead to game-fixing.

We’ve seen in Europe that the match-fixing scandals in tennis and soccer have been uncovered by the gaming houses, essentially those leagues’ best ally in curbing it. Have the betting houses on street corners in London somehow ruined soccer?

Instead, Goodell and company have hunkered down in a position that is diametrically opposed to what this country needs. Imagine a world where sports gambling is legal. Think of the added tax revenues to states and how that could help alleviate desperate budget shortfalls. Think of the added jobs, which would reduce unemployment rolls and stimulate the economy.

If Goodell pulled his objection, sports gambling would be legal in this country. But he will not.

No one will fight the NFL on this. It’s criminal, which is par for the course for Roger Goodell.

Holding Cities Hostage for Ransom
The definition of extortion is, “the practice of obtaining something, esp. money, through force or threats.”

Oh how I have waited to use that as a lede! And it is so very, very appropriate.

During the first week of the NFL Playoffs, Goodell and company exemplified the definition of extortion to the letter. They threatened three cities – Green Bay, Indianapolis and Cincinnati – with the lack of local television coverage for a playoff football game unless every ticket was sold. Yes, games played in three stadiums built and/or renovated with taxpayer money were going to be blacked out unless the taxpayers paid more money.

This is extortion!

cold green bay
Yet all week on ESPN and other media outlets, that word was never uttered, not even once. In fact, most of the discussion centered about the heartache and tragedy – yes, I heard the word “tragedy” used for unsold football tickets – of a Green Bay home game being blacked out. Nevermind it was going to be one of the coldest games in NFL history, nevermind that the NFL clears 9 figures from television for every playoff game, those 5,000 seats needed to be sold!

It is still extortion. And it worked. The tickets were sold. The games were televised. Everyone moved on with their lives.

The NFL is a monopoly that extorts taxpayers and no one gives a shit. It’s an amazing racket.

Holding cities hostage for ticket ransom is nothing compared to the money cities have to fork over to build coliseums of sport for billionaires. Minnesota is the latest city to be swindled, with the state chipping in nearly $400 million and the city forking over $150 million. And the club still wants more! Here’s a quote that Deadspin so aptly pointed out:

"We only have $975 million in the budget, and there's only so many things you can get under that number," said Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley.

There will never be an NFL team in Los Angeles – there will be one in London before that. Why? Because that is the NFL’s leverage against a city like Minneapolis when it plays hardball. You either give us money or we’re moving your football team.

Extortion? Just another day in the office for Roger Goodell.

Free Player Development, Shifting Blame to Universities
If you’re a qualified 18 year old in America, you can be employed by anybody. You can vote. You can die for your country. You can play professional hockey, baseball and basketball.

You cannot play professional football.

Yes, Jadeveon Clowney was more than ready to make millions in the NFL as an 18 year old freak of nature. Yet the only professional football league in the country said he couldn’t.

While every other sport in the world – literally, every single one – employs a minor league system to develop talent, the NFL relies on colleges to develop talent. Even the NBA, which could similarly rely solely on colleges, has developed the D-League for young talent, instead of forcing athletes to spend three years making zero dollars.

While colleges get hammered for not paying athletes, the NFL is absolved from using it – at zero cost – as a veritable scouting service. Even when Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany suggested the NFL create its own minor league, he was lambasted in the press.

People like Delany and other college commissioners – despite the recent news of a player union for college players – recognize the cognitive dissonance between what athletes get and what they receive. In fact, the rumblings of a Division 4 started because the revenue-generating goliaths like the Big Ten and SEC wanted to give their players more money, the full cost of attendance.

The NCAA, as they are want to do, have blocked moves like this through its own protecting the shield-like bureaucracy. Throughout this entire discussion on football players being played, no one has brought up the major reason for this – the NFL’s rules against players entering the draft before being three years removed from college.

So the NFL profits off of a system for which it pays zero, while the colleges and universities act as its minor league. This is not to say the NCAA is absolved of blame – Lord knows it’s a farce of an institution as well – but the NFL skates by with nary a mention.

In fact, there were many who believed, quite rightly, that Clowney should have not played last season for South Carolina because it would do him no good. As a sure-fire top 5 pick, only bad things could happen to Clowney if, and when, he played.

When the best option for the best college football player in the country is to not play football, something is wrong.

Do you think Roger Goodell cares one bit about Jadeveon Clowney’s future?

The Death of Players Yields No Significant Changes
Pro wrestling in 2014 looks a lot different than pro wrestling in 2004. Why? Because the fans and media were sick and tired of their favorite stars dying young. Due to a combination of drugs, overwork and head injuries, a slew of pro wrestlers died in the early to mid-2000’s, culminating in 2007 when Chris Benoit murdered his wife and his son before taking his own life.

While the mainstream media latched onto the tried and true “wrestlers take steroids!” angle, the real story came when months later when it was revealed he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Benoit’s brain was destroyed by wrestling.

Whether you like or dislike the WWE’s current storyline direction – I’m definitely the latter – you cannot argue the company hasn't taken great strides in protecting their performer’s health. There are no more chairshots to the head. There are no more piledrivers or other unnecessarily dangerous moves that could cause head or neck trauma. There are honest to goodness drug tests. There are real concussion tests – just this month, white-hot Daniel Bryan was kept away from the ring due to one.

Just this month, an NFL player returned to the field during a concussion test. The situation is so absurd that the player – who had a concussion! – was facing a possible fine.

While CTE and deaths caused pro wrestling, an industry once stuck in the Stone Age, to adopt change, it has done little in the NFL. Actually, it’s done nothing.

17 NFL players have been diagnosed with CTE post-death, including high-profile cases like with Junior Seau.

In pro wrestling, these cases caused mainstream media outcry and a demand from fans that changes happens or they will stop watching – as many viewers tune out the WWE in 2007 after Benoit.

junior seau funeral
In the NFL, these cases are causally mentioned, if at all. Ratings are going up. Fans don’t care – they don’t care if a football player dies at 45. Since they don’t, Roger Goodell doesn’t. And with the above-mentioned army of media depending on the NFL for a salary, they don’t dare upset the apple cart.

“League of Denial,” the PBS Frontline special on the NFL and concussions, was a damning account of the NFL in its 21st century role as Big Tobacco. They knew. They knew for 20 years what concussions could do. They did nothing.

ESPN pulled their support from the documentary, obviously influenced by Goodell. Imagine if ESPN, the most popular sports media outfit on Earth, ran that documentary on its airwaves. Instead, the show went largely unwatched, drawing only 2.2 million viewers.

Goodell has done little, if anything, to prevent future CTE diagnoses. The concussion policy remains a joke. While college football instituted a radical new and innovative “targeting rule” penalty, the NFL instituted rules that are uneven and lead only to calls of “this is flag football!”

There have been no safety improvements, no changes to the uniform or the padding players wear on a weekly basis – nothing but lip service. One of the most interesting parts in League of Denial is when Bob Schieffer, legendary CBS newsman, pressed Goodell during his annual pre-Super Bowl interview on concussions. Goodell deftly avoided the questions like a guilty man should.

Schieffer deserves praise for trying. Everyone else deserves scorn for failing to continue the fight. The bullshit from Goodell’s mouth about player safety continues unchallenged, despite his insistence on more regular season and playoff games.

By failing to institute new rules that properly remove headshots from the game; the sport has hoodwinked fans into calling for “true” football and changing the discussion entirely. It’s PR 101 and maybe as a Communications Director I should be impressed instead of being thoroughly disgusted.

The NFL Propaganda Machine Rolls On
Every good tyrant needs a photo op to show he is a man of the people. So it should come as no surprise that Goodell’s pseudo-PR division, ESPN, broke the news – through “sources” at first, of course – that he would be sitting outside during Super Bowl 48.

It would be comical if it weren’t presented so seriously. Yes, this news was presented without a trace of irony prior to the AFC Championship Game.

The propaganda machine will roll forward on Sunday, as Fox airs a one-hour special produced by the NFL about why America loves football, featuring celebrities and former players talking about how much they love the game and how much the game loves America. I’ll pass on the Joseph Goebbels comparison, because liking football is so not that serious but it’s still a solid piece of brain-washing.

Even NFL Films, once used to document the sport, has become the propaganda arm for the league. Have you watched an NFL Films production made in the past five years? It is a far and disturbing cry from what it was 30 years ago.

In The End, Nothing Will Ever Change
I could go on and on, but what’s the point?

The league is swindling the country again by double-charging for Thursday Night Football – everyone in America pays for the NFL Network for football games that will now be on broadcast television. This is lauded by the sports media.

A landmark settlement with former players over concussions is woefully unfair and struck down in court. How many times do you think ESPN or Fox will address that this week?

The Seahawks have dealt with a string of drug suspensions, including for the media’s new favorite Richard Sherman, and it took until Wednesday for Pete Carroll to be asked about it. How did NFL.com describe the situation?

“[T]he coach weighed in Wednesday about how this otherwise overachieving organization is dealing with the issue.”

Those damn, pesky drugs! The Seahawks are in fact, the best thing ever except for all those stupid drug suspensions that would land Bud Selig before Congress but merit only one question during Super Bowl week.

Even as I’m writing this, the NFL has announced a new digital network – NFL Now, and it’ll be “stocked” with ads – that will further integrate the NFL into people’s lives.

I love football. But in the past few years, my attention has increasingly been focused on the college game as I can’t stomach or tolerate Roger Goodell anymore.

But I’m still a Jets fan. And I still watch. And that annoys me.

Without anyone holding the NFL and Goodell accountable, nothing will change. Players dying hasn’t changed anything. Taking money out of taxpayer’s pockets – even those that don’t like football – hasn’t changed anything.

With a monopoly on football in this country and an agreement with every major American television entity, there is no impetus for change or challenge.

Together, we make football?

Hardly.

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Super Bowl 48 Means Nothing for Peyton Manning, and That’s A Good Thing

A Google news search for “peyton manning legacy” will turn up just north of 3,000 results. A lot of words have been wasted on a meaningless topic and I think I may be adding a few more.

Win or loss, Sunday’s game will have little if any impact on Peyton Manning’s legacy, his career or his personal life.

peyton super bowl 48
There are so many variables to a football game that it seems foolish how a Super Bowl ring has become a pre-requisite for discussions about the greatest. Dan Marino is the poster child – does anyone doubt he is one of the all-time greats? As a Jets fan, he ripped my heart out on multiple occasions.

So is Joe Montana automatically a better quarterback? What if Marino played with Jerry Rice, John Taylor and Roger Craig?

Those are stupid questions meant to be unanswered but they prove the idiocy of placing so much on a ring in a sport like football. Besides, Peyton Manning already has that ring.

So what does Sunday’s game really mean for Peyton Manning?

This is why I believe the Broncos will win on Sunday. There is zero pressure on Peyton, save for same intense scrutiny the man places on himself each and every week, from September through January. He has his rings, his records and his legacy secured. A victory Sunday would be another notch in his belt, but not much more.

But that doesn’t make for good copy, does it? This is the Super Bowl, dammit! It’s the biggest Super Bowl ever! There has to be something on the line for the game’s most recognizable face, right?

To be fair, he could win a second ring and become the first quarterback to lead two teams to a Super Bowl victory. That would be a cool footnote and a nice record for Peyton to accomplish.

The bottom line, though, is that this week should not be a discussion of Peyton Manning’s legacy – it should be an appreciation of the man’s career. What happens Sunday is largely irrelevant to his story.

To make the Super Bowl a mere afterthought when it comes to your legacy? Now, that’s a legacy.

It is remarkable to think how many of us disliked Peyton early in his career, or how many in SEC country took such glee in his inability to beat Florida or win a national title. It fit the narrative when Tennessee won the National Championship after he left, as if it was proof that Manning was holding the program back. It makes me laugh now to think sane individuals, looking at a Volunteer roster full of guys there because of Peyton Manning, gave him no credit at all.

How has the Tennessee program fared post-Manning?

When he joined the Colts, the Colts were awful. Save for Captain Comeback and the thoroughly entertaining 1995 team, the franchise was basically a miserable vortex of suck since it moved from Baltimore. By his second year, the team was 13-3 and hosting playoff games. The Colts have become one of the league’s standards.

As the playoff losses mounting in the early 2000’s, the same complaints that Manning couldn’t win the “big one” percolated and he reached Phil Mickelson territory. Will he ever win? Then he pulled of an 18-point comeback against the Patriots, won a Super Bowl and finally put those doubters to bed.

Even in his weakest moments, he was the model for what we want in our athletes. When a neck surgery threatened his career and the Colts careened toward the #1 draft pick, he handled the situation the grace of a President as he smoothly and deftly stepped aside, handing the keys of the franchise over to Andrew Luck.

In other words, he was the complete opposite of professional glory hound Brett Favre in Green Bay.

Manning’s accomplishments the past two years are just as impressive – turning around a stale, moribund Denver organization and making them the best team in football for two seasons straight, likely and possibly only a secondary breakdown away from a second title in a row.

What more could Manning possibly do on Sunday that could burnish his legacy? Oh, he could throw for six touchdowns and make it a little bit better – but it’d just be the cherry on top of the sundae.

Most amazingly – people now root for Peyton Manning. And yes, that was the case before Richard Sherman turned heel after the NFC Championship Game.

The majority of the 100+ million that tune in Sunday night – the casual viewer there more for nachos, ads and Bruno Mars – will root for him. A majority of football fans – even the ones that mocked his college failures and Belichick-induced interceptions – will likewise want him to win another Super Bowl.

We get caught up too much these days about trying to place current superstars in the context of history. It’s foolish but helps ESPN kill 24 hours of programming every day and 8 hours of daily SportsCenter shows.

At a moment like this, we need to step back from the debate and take a moment to admire. Is Peyton a better quarterback than Tom Brady or Joe Montana or Johnny Unitas?

Who cares?

Peyton Manning will answer a lot of stupid questions this week about his legacy  and thankfully, he cares less about it then I do.

“I’ve been being asked about my legacy since I was about 25 years old. I’m not sure you can have a legacy when you’re 25 years old, or even 37. I thought you had to be like 70 to have a legacy. I’m not 100 percent sure what the word even means.”

Peyton’s legacy is secured. Sunday may be a coronation. It may be a rude awakening. It ultimately won’t matter.

Peyton Manning is one of the best football players in the history of the sport. Nothing on Sunday will change that.

And for good measure, he also crushed it in one of the best SNL skits ever. If you can’t root for a man throwing a football at the head of a child, who can you root for?

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Vince McMahon Is Not This Stupid, Right?

The most stunning part is that I was stunned at all.

We have been down this road so many times before. I knew it was coming. So why were my hopes up? Will I ever learn?

daniel bryan royal rumble
Being a wrestling fan over the age of 15 in the 21st Century is akin to being an addict. You try to step away. You tell yourself you’re all grown up and you have better things to do with your life. But then you’re like Pacino in Godfather 3, watching the 2014 Royal Rumble on your laptop because maybe tonight’s the night.
Maybe tonight’s the night they get it right. It’s when Vince McMahon finally listens to the fans. It’s when the company eschews the old standard and goes with the next big thing.

They didn’t. Daniel Bryan never even entered the Royal Rumble match. The glory in our heads never played out on our screens.

The ballad of Daniel Bryan has been told many times. Last summer, Bryan took the wrestling world by storm. Thanks to the bloated, three-hour format of Raw, there is a lot of airtime for the WWE to kill every Monday night. In Bryan, they struck gold.

For the summer of 2013, every Monday night featured Bryan going out there and delivering a four-star classic that warmed the hearts of wrestling fans. Hell, it even made me watch WWE again.

As with CM Punk two summers’ prior, it felt like the WWE was finally going to go against the grain and give the fans – the smarks, as the WWE office likes to derisively call the fans who know too much – what they want.

As with CM Punk two summers’ prior, that didn’t happen. Within months of being the hottest thing in wrestling, Punk was feuding with an ancient Kevin Nash.

When Bryan got his big moment at SummerSlam, it lasted for all of 60 seconds before Triple H turned on him and Randy Orton became champion. For the rest of 2013, the WWE proved how much it hates the fans but repeatedly not giving them what they want – Daniel Bryan as champion.

The coup de grace came late in 2013 when Daniel Bryan – still the company’s most over performer – joined with the evil Wyatt Family.

Imagine, if you will, Hulk Hogan in 1988 bypassing a match with Andre the Giant and shaking Bobby Heenan’s hand? In a pre-Internet era, the entire world would have melted down to nothing.

To be fair, it was pretty obvious that whatever angle the WWE had planned for Bryan and the Wyatt Family, it was going to end with Bryan emerging from their clutches and fighting the family’s leader, Bray. The problem was, well, no one wanted to suffer through the angle to get there.

See, despite the WWE booking Bryan to look weak – Triple H infamously dubbing him a B+ player – the crowd didn’t care. If anything, it made their resolve greater. Daniel Bryan was their guy and they were going to keep cheering for him.

Daniel Bryan is the 21st Century superstar – even if no one in Stamford, Connecticut will admit it – because he appeals to the two groups of fans watching pro wrestling in 2014. The kids who still believe love that Bryan is overcoming the odds – beating men twice his size. The adults who have long stopped believing love that Bryan is overcoming the odds—getting over on men twice his size.

In short, Bryan resonates because he is the wrestler we would be if we wrestled. Bryan works his ass off no matter what. He took a throwaway partnership with Kane into one of the most unlikely – and most over – tag teams in recent memories. He makes everything work. He delivers 100 percent effort in the ring. He fights the WWE “machine” in the most crowd-pleasing way possible – he works harder than everyone else.

Of course, Bryan needed help. And he found it in the strangest, most random place possible – East Lansing, Michigan.

The Michigan State football team, fresh off of an epic, program-defining Rose Bowl win, celebrated that victory during an ESPN-televised, top 10 basketball matchup versus Ohio State. As millions watched at home, the football team led the arena in Daniel Bryan’s “YES!” chant at halftime.

The timing could not have been worse for the WWE.

They were about to announce the launch of their long-awaited WWE Network. They crave mainstream attention, practically begging for it with a stream of B-list celebrities. Who can forget Snooki or Maria Menounos “wrestling” at past WrestleMania events?

Yet, this time, the WWE could do nothing. Daniel Bryan had been “brainwashed” by the Wyatt Family. Kayfabe might be dead but you can’t piss on its grave. As SportsCenter played the clip, as Twitter blew up, as sports websites posted the clip, the WWE had to sit back and watch a mainstream moment pass by unattended.

The Wyatt Family angle was dropped. Daniel Bryan got his comeuppance on an episode of Raw that, again, set the social media world on fire. As in the summer of 2013, people I follow who never discuss wrestling – the closeted fans like me – couldn’t contain themselves. They had to let people know about the awesome.

So the rumors flew fast and furious last week that the WWE was going to change plans again. Even though Batista returned after four years away, that Vince McMahon and company couldn’t ignore the chants any longer. Bryan would enter the Royal Rumble match. He would win. All would be forgiven.

During the Randy Orton/John Cena match prior to the Rumble, the crowd in Pittsburgh let everyone know where they stood. They chanted for Daniel Bryan. They chanted, “This is awful!” and “You both suck!”

When the Royal Rumble match started, the crowd was hot because they felt like it was going to be special. Every superstar has their big Rumble-winning moment, from Hogan to Shawn Michaels to Austin, the Rock and John Cena.

By the time the match reached the 20th entrant, two-thirds of the way home, the first Daniel Bryan chant start. The crowd was getting restless. Where was he?

By the time Batista entered, the crowd was actively agitated. If Daniel Bryan wasn’t #30 and the last man in, they were going to be ticked off.

batista sucksBy the time Rey Mysterio entered at #30, the crowd was done. They booed Mysterio. They booed Sheamus. They booed Batista.

As if to provide one final kick to the groin, the crowd unexpectedly got behind Roman Reigns – another up and comer in the vein of Punk and Bryan who has gotten over by putting on great matches and working hard – and he was summarily tossed by Batista.

Batista, the conquering hero and supposed new #1 star of the WWE, was booed out of the building during his post-match celebration.

Why was I stunned? Why did I tune in? What did I expect?

The problem is that wrestling fans always say they’re going to stop watching, but they never do. There’s nothing else to watch because the WWE is a monopoly. You watch what Vince McMahon tells you to watch or you watch nothing at all.

Well, there is finally an opportunity for WWE fans to fight back. That precious WWE Network launches in a month, aimed specifically at the fans who booed Batista Sunday night – the allure of every single wrestling pay-per-view from WWE, WCW and ECW, past, present and future, on-demand for your viewing for the low, low price of $9.99 per month.

The fans that the WWE actively pissed off Sunday night? They will determine whether the Network is a success or not.

It’s time for wrestling fans to send a message – don’t buy the Network. Vince McMahon doesn’t know he’s being stupid because they’re still selling out arenas and getting 4+ million to watch Raw every week, if we hate ourselves for doing so.

Vince McMahon will only learn when his wallet suffers. 

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

My Nuanced Take on Nuanced Takes to Get Page Views

At the moment Erin Andrews put a microphone in Richard Sherman’s face, there were more than 60 million Americans watching Fox.

jackass richard sherman
The NFC Championship Game – or AFC Championship Game, whichever is in the late time slot – is the second-most-watched television program of the year, behind only the Super Bowl. No matter what Richard Sherman said in that moment, it was already beyond viral – a nod to the mass-consumption culture that we once were.

So when Sherman delivered his now-famous rant, there was no need to tell your friends about it. They probably watched it with you. Unlike most “viral” videos in today’s culture, the social media world did not light up with YouTube videos. Instead, the viral-ness – is that a word? – came from the reaction.

It must be a sign of the times or we just have too much time on our hands because Richard Sherman’s rant became a cause célèbre that had literally every single writer, sports or otherwise, contributing their two cents.

What did Sherman’s outburst mean? What did it say about America? What did it say about race? What did it say about gender roles? What did it mean for us?

There were no right or wrong answers to these pointless questions but any writer worth a dime knew that putting “Richard Sherman” in a tweet or a headline meant extra page views. I mean, 60 million people saw that interview – that’s 60 million potential readers. And no one whores themselves out better than a sports writer desperate for attention and today’s page view culture is begging to be tamed.

The sports media world, particularly online, has developed a cottage industry from writers trying to out-write each other about what a sports moment meant to the larger culture. A game is not merely a game; it is a reflection of our society. A player is not just an athlete, but a vessel of change and hope. Everything says something to someone.

Everyone is wrong.

Sports are, in the end, meaningless. I love sports. I love writing about sports. I am in a position where I can waste 30 to 60 minutes a night on my couch or desk, typing out the sports-related thoughts that bounce around my head when I’m stuck in another endless Metro delay or taking a shower.

But that doesn’t make the sportswriters happy because they don’t like to be confronted with that harsh reality. Now, instead they like to deliver nuanced takes. And people like sharing nuanced takes. You know, like:


Is there a more infuriatingly elite phrase than “nuanced take”? I mean, seriously, what the fuck is a nuanced take? Does that mean you thought about it more than us dumbasses? Is your take somehow more relevant because it’s nuanced? Are simple takes not appropriate? Do I have to be nuanced to be taken seriously?

In fact, the “nuanced take” is so important to a site like Grantland that they run a regular feature in which they slaughter the “simple take” by mocking it. I’m surprised the author of that piece doesn’t put his IQ or SAT score next to his name. We get it – you’re soooo smart, right?

In the week following Sherman’s rant, the discussion about what he said has violently run off the rails. The word “thug” was used to describe Sherman by many and this opened up a discussion on race and how the word thug is now a corollary to the n-word*.

*Sherman, showing off impressive obliviousness, pointed to hockey players and asked why they aren’t called thugs. Of course, anyone who watches hockey knows that the word thug is used all the time. But what’s the fun in pointing out facts? More nuanced takes, please.

Is there any American institution as far behind when it comes to race, gender and sexuality than sports? Ah, time for more nuanced takes.

Sherman was compared by some to Muhammad Ali, as absurd a comparison as I’ve ever heard in my life. As if by being a loud black athlete made them similar. Ali was the heavyweight champion in the world, growing up in a segregated society, avoiding the draft, changing his name and literally shocked the world. Sherman is a cornerback who went to Stanford and grew up in the 1990’s.

Others congratulated Sherman for speaking his mind, for breaking free from the stereotypical post-game interview by sharing his real, inner thoughts. No matter that those thoughts were selfish and childish – it was different, dammit! Dez Bryant, who also breaks from the script, did not receive the same congratulations late in 2013, nor did he receive any defense when most of Twitter likewise called him a thug.

I guess that Oklahoma State degree is worthless, eh? If only he went to Stanford – certainly can’t be a thug if you go to a good school like that. Is this where I mention where the biggest thug in NBA history – white dude Bill Laimbeer – went to school?

Ultimately, the problem with nuanced takes is that they imply the writer is smarter than you. It’s also bullshit. Nuanced is a word that carries with it the implication that you thought about it more than I did and, thus, my take is less than. A word that carries unintended implications? Maybe nuanced is the “thug” of the sports media world.

The issue I have with nuanced takes stems from the fact there is nothing truly nuanced about your reaction to Richard Sherman. In fact, it is the opposite.

You either saw the guy as a jackass or you found a reason to root for him. I fell into the former group, but plenty of people I know fell into the latter. And that’s okay. We can disagree. But let’s not get caught up in taking 5,000 words to decipher and deconstruct a post-game interview as if it is shining an illuminating light into our country’s race relations.

Richard Sherman and Michael Crabtree play football for opposing teams and they do not like each other. Sherman let the world know that. That’s all.

And you know what? Richard Sherman was being a jerk. And he knows it – that’s why he apologized.

Is that take nuanced enough for you? Or does the lack of nuance means it’s not enough? Or do you need another nuanced take to balance out this and other nuanced takes for the sake of being nuanced?

There’s no reason why I should ever have to read a headline that says, “What Richard Sherman Taught Us About America.” Hell no, I’m not linking to that garbage.

All he taught us is that way too many are way too desperate for sports to mean something more.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Why The Myth of Cable Cord-Cutting Continues to Persist

The easiest story to write is the trend story.

I know from experience. Though it happened more while at a weekly business journal than my daily reporter days, it took place at both. It’s one of the easiest, go-to, paint-by-numbers stories of the newspaper media – find a trend, find a couple of quotes to back it up and, voila, trend story!

cable cord cutting
The easiest threat to make is the idle one.

“If things don’t change, I’m going to quit!”

“If you don’t empty the dishwasher, I’m leaving you!”

We’ve all been there. We may have even done it during serious negotiations – like when NBA players threatened to play en masse overseas during the last lockout. Some low-level players did but the overwhelming majority did not. Why would they?

That is how we have ended up at the mythical cable cord-cutting trend. It has been percolating and bubbling for the past few years, eventually ransacking my blog after I posted about why the streaming WWE Network will be a failure.

This is the definition of a trend story that has gone mainstream. Here’s an excellent example of how the story usually goes – the author puts out some facts from a consulting group no one has ever heard of and concludes it with, “I cut the cord in 2008” as if his personal experience is validation.

Here’s another example of “validation” that furthers both the trend story and the idle threat theory – 2.7 percent of cable subscribers are “thinking” about cutting the cord.

2.7 percent of American males also dream of being Johnny Football. That doesn’t mean it will happen.

There is no doubt a growing resentment toward big cable companies and that makes sense. Times are tough. The middle class is getting squeezed out of every last penny and cable seems like a gigantic waste of money.

I know that before I moved to DC in 2011, I whittled my cable bill down. I stopped getting HBO. I cancelled my extensive sports package. I focused only on “basic” cable. I wasn’t cutting the cord, but I was at least reducing the strain of that cord around my neck.

But for me, I can’t cut the cord. I love sports too much, as anyone who has read anything I’ve written about college football is likely aware of.

If I was writing this 10 years ago, or even five, then maybe cord-cutting would be an option for a sports-lover. But that ship has long since sailed. Think of the major events that have migrated (or will migrate) to cable – the Rose Bowl, the future college football playoff, the British Open, the US Open tennis tournament, the NBA Conference Finals, MLB postseason games, NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup and potentially NFL playoff games.

So for the majority of cable households – i.e., those with sports fans – cord-cutting is simply a non-starter. I won’t argue that cable is appropriately priced – I loathe paying for channels I don’t watch – but it has yet to reach the point where I’m going to give up sports.

Even if I do want to watch sports online or through my laptop, I still need my cable subscription to gain access – think WatchESPN or the NCAA Tournament online offerings.

But what if you don’t like sports – and there are plenty of folks out there that don’t. Does cord-cutting become more realistic?

Yes, and no.

Yes because there are ways to watch most of your favorite shows through alternative methods, whether that’s through Hulu or Netflix or Amazon. The trend of binge-watching your favorite TV shows when they come out on DVD has become far more prevalent – yes, I’m subscribing to one trend while knocking another – and that gives people an out to watching TV.

But the no remains because it still costs you money. It’s not like Hulu Plus or Netflix are giving away their content for free, ya know?

And that is the essence of why cord-cutting is a myth – there is no way to get entertainment for free unless you’re stealing it. Maybe you’ll feel better giving Netflix $10 a month instead of giving ESPN $5, but you’re still paying something to somebody.

Is Netflix or Amazon somehow a less greedy corporate entity than Comcast? They are all in the same business of trying to take your money.

However, I must credit the streaming services because they have successfully positioned themselves as the “good guys” while Comcast and Time-Warner remained firmly implanted as the “bad guys,” usually of their own doing.

In the end, though, you can use facts to prove anything and the facts prove people are not cutting the cord.
In November, Business Insider ran an article with this headline: TV Is Dying, And Here Are The Stats That Prove It.

When I clicked on the link, I thought my thesis would be disproven. I was worried that the 1,000 word diatribe floating around my head. As I quickly scanned the article, I saw a lot of charts and fancy graphs that seemed to reveal that the TV audience is receding and that television is really dying.

Buried in the pretty pictures is this nugget: “All the major TV providers lost a collective 113,000 subscribers in Q3 2013.”

I did a triple take. That’s it?!? In fact, the industry added more than 200,000 subscribers in Q1!

In a world of roughly 112 million cable subscribers, the entire industry lost 0.1% of its base in 3 months.
If you made $50,000 in 2013, that would be the equivalent of losing $50. Would you consider your income “dying” if that happened?

In fact, the cord-cutting trend stories are actually obscuring the real story – people are leaving major cable companies for other, new-age distributors. Comcast and Time Warner are losing subscribers, while Dish, DirecTV, Verizon Fios and AT&T U-Verse are gaining customers.

Cable television is not dying – if it were ESPN wouldn’t be the world’s most valuable media brand.

Cable television is changing – and that’s the story  we should be tracking. Why are people moving to DirecTV? Why is AT&T U-Verse doing so well while Comcast is doing poorly?

Are there people out there cutting the cord? Yes. But there are not enough of them to be even statistically relevant. Switching from Comcast to Dish is not cutting the cord, it’s simply  buying a new one.

Will this end the cord-cutting phenomenon stories? Of course not. The easiest story to write is the trend story. 

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Is Pete Carroll the Best Football Coach of This Generation?

Pete Carroll is on the precipice of history, even if few are talking about it.

Lost in Richard Sherman’s audition for the upcoming WWE Network is what Carroll could accomplish with a victory in Super Bowl 48. He would join Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer as the only men to coach a college national champion and an NFL champion. Of those, Switzer never gets full credit – and maybe he shouldn’t – since he was driving the keys of the car Johnson built.

cool pete carroll
And the tie with Jimmy Johnson makes sense because Pete Carroll is essentially the 21st Century version of Johnson. During “The U” documentary, Dan LeBatard astutely pointed out that Johnson should’ve coached “with two middle fingers in the air” because of his arrogance.

Is Pete Carroll that much different?

Johnson told his players, both at Miami and with the Dallas Cowboys, that if they won, he would take care of everything else. Carroll’s players have been under similar scrutiny. While the Cowboys of the 90s famously had their “White House,” Carroll’s Seahawks have played under a cloud of drug suspicion.

While this doesn’t seem to be a glowing recommendation of Carroll, it is. A good coach goes to bat for his players. A good coach defends his players. A good coach gets the most of his players. And there is no doubt that for the past 13 years, no coach has had his players play harder for them than Pete Carroll.

Who is the best coach of this generation? Many will point to Bill Belichick for his Super Bowl success. Others will point to Nick Saban for his BCS success. I’d listen to arguments for Chip Kelly, who has essentially revolutionized offensive football.

What stands out about Pete Carroll? His USC teams won game after game by being better than their opponent. They played a traditional, pro-style offense. There was no flashy sets – just continually dominance.

With the Seahawks, Carroll hasn’t taken the game by storm like Kelly or focused so aggressively on one side of the ball, like Jim Harbaugh and his monster defense.

Carroll doesn’t do anything special or exciting when it comes to coaching football. He is simply relentlessly positive and the results seem to follow.

But that positive attitude and the power of optimism is revolutionizing football the same way that Chip Kelly is doing in Philadelphia or the Tampa 2 changed defensive football.

As a Jets fan, I have a longing sense of regret when it comes to Carroll. While Patriots’ fans despise the Carroll era, his time with the Jets left nothing but questions. In 1994, as the Jets were still terrible and still trying to create a winning culture, the team was 6-5 and on the verge of making a playoff run when the Dolphins and Dan Marino came to town.

The Jets took a lead. They did not hold on. I am not reliving it for you but “fake spike” should suffice. The Jets wouldn’t win another game that season, Carroll wouldn’t be back in 1995 and the Jets replaced him with…let’s just move on.

So when USC hired Carroll, the national reaction was a shrug of the shoulders. I was intrigued. There was this notion – turned out to be accurate – that Carroll’s personality would fit more in the college game. USC was a dead program, regardless of what the hindsight columnists say. It was not a sleeping giant – it was done. Save for on Keyshawn Johnson-led season in 1995, the program was a national afterthought.

Under Carroll, they won 2 national titles and four Rose Bowls while playing in 7 straight BCS bowl games. If not for the arguably the single greatest performance by a quarterback in college football history – Vince Young’s mind-altering performance in the 2006 Rose Bowl – Carroll’s Trojans would be remembered as the undisputed greatest dynasty in college football history.

Instead, they are merely in the discussion. The Reggie Bush fiasco followed and Carroll hightailed it out of town again. And again, there were skeptics.

This time, I was similarly intrigued. While veterans on the Patriots rejected Carroll in the late 1990’s, things were different in Seattle. The majority of players had grown up respecting Carroll for his USC success – he was a proven winner. The Seattle franchise had no history of success. Would Carroll’s act have worked at a traditional winner like Green Bay or the New York Giants? Who knows, right?

But it is working in Seattle. It is working far better than most outside of Washington state could have imagined. The skeptics believed Carroll succeeded in college because he had better players and that advantage would be removed in the pro’s. Instead, Carroll has used his eye for talent to develop a roster that is still superior than most of its opponents.

Remember, another NFL team took a punter before Russell Wilson was drafted. And that punter was not Ray Guy.

As Carroll stands on the precipice of history, his legacy is unfinished and debatable. Is he a cheater – the man who was caught by the NCAA and whose players have been suspended and fined routinely by Roger Goodell?

Or is Pete Carroll the archetype for the future of football coaches? Think about today’s college football coaches. While the old-school firmly remains in place thanks to people like Nick Saban, there are more and more coaches that utilize fun as a recruiting and coaching tactic.

No, Pete Carroll isn’t the first coach to use optimism and positivity to get the most out of his players, but he is arguably the most successful.

In the week leading up to the NFC Championship Game, I read more about the game’s possible impact on Jim Harbaugh’s legacy than Pete Carroll. Maybe in the upcoming fortnight, Richard Sherman’s rant will fade – okay, not likely – and the focus will rightfully turn to Carroll.

In my opinion, Pete Carroll is criminally underrated when it comes to the game’s greatest coaches. Maybe it’s due to his past, maybe it’s due to the lingering questions and maybe it’s due to the fact many think his act is shtick and not genuine – but it won’t matter for long.

If the Seahawks win Super Bowl 48, there will be no further doubt that Carroll should take his place among the sport’s very best coaches.

If the Seahawks lose Super Bowl 48, the questions will continue and Carroll will find a way to use the loss to motivate his team next season.

As long as Pete Carroll is coaching the Seahawks, they will be an annual contender. Maybe we should get ready for them at Super Bowl 49, and Super Bowl 50, if his USC track record is any indication.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Top 9 NFC Championship Games Since 1990

The genesis for this list – and why I ranked the AFC Championship Games – is how good this week’s games look on paper. But as I compiled the list, something pretty remarkable dawned on me.

The NFC Championship Game is probably the most consistent sporting event in American for delivering a great game. Since 1990, there have only been five true blowouts in this game. And even the blowouts have been compelling.

Think about how the Bears/Saints game from 2006 was actually a four-point game going into the last quarter. The Giants 41-0 thrashing of the Vikings in 2000 is as memorable as blowouts come. The blowouts for the Packers (1996) and Eagles (2004) were significant in that they returned to the Super Bowl for the first time in a long time.

There is only one truly unremarkable NFC Championship Game since 1990 and that was Seattle destroying an overmatched Carolina team in 2005. That’s it. With the exception of The Masters, I can’t think of another annual sporting event that delivers a classic almost every year.

*Links on the score goes to the best highlight videos I could find

49ers cowboys
Honorable Mention: 49ers/Cowboys trilogy, 1992, 1993, 1994 seasons
Think about it – the list of great, close games is so good that these classics are relegated to Honorable Mention status. Is that fair? Probably not. But we’re ranking these games on their in-game merit and excitement. There is no doubt all three of these games were great to watch but none of the three came down to the final play or the final minute. I mean, there are FOUR overtime games on this list.

What made these games memorable and why they’ll be discussed as long as people discuss pro football is the magnitude of them. As Pat Summerall famously said before the 1994 version (the YouTube clip has sadly been taken down):

“In one week, we’ll play the Super Bowl. In two weeks, we’ll play the Pro Bowl. Today, we’ll play them both.”

Yep, that’s how big these games were. And Summerall was right – the winner of this game won three straight Super Bowls and none of the Super Bowls were even remotely close. With the onslaught of parity and free agency, it is likely we will never, ever, see two teams tower so mightily over the rest of the league – in any professional sport in America. Its closest doppelganger in today’s sporting culture is Real Madrid and Barcelona in La Liga.

9) Rams 29, Eagles 24, 2001 season
A forgotten game that gave everyone their money’s worth. The 2001 Rams were the “Greatest Show on Turf” and a budding dynasty, which never happened due to the Tom Brady-led Patriots. But we really should have seen the chinks in the armor here, as the Rams struggled to put away the Eagles, who were just rounding into form under Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb. This was a week after the Rams had exposed Brett Favre as an aging QB – and yes, that is full eight years before Favre would reappear deep in the playoffs.

Overall, this was a really good game that showed why the Eagles were about to become (almost) the NFC’s best team for the next five years and why the Rams dynasty never happened.

8) Rams 11, Bucs 6, 1999 season
Such a weird game that I can’t remember if it was awesome or terrible. This of course was year 1 of “The Greatest Show on Turf” and they were coming off of one of the most impressive offensive displays in postseason history, when they obliterated the Vikings.

The Bucs, like the Eagles mentioned above, were ascending toward the top of the NFC but weren’t quite there yet. Their defense played an incredible game, but was ultimately done in by a controversial Ricky Proehl, game-winning touchdown catch in an era that was somehow both post- and pre-Instant Replay. It set the stage for an amazing Super Bowl and kicked the Kurt Warner myth-making into overdrive.

giants 49ers
7) Giants 20, 49ers 17 (OT), 2011 season
When I was making this list, I was torn on where to place this. On one hand, it was a very memorable, tight, back and forth game. On the other hand, it was boring. Sometimes low-scoring affairs are due to excellent defenses (see #3 on this list) and sometimes it’s due to offenses being terrible. This was a combination of both, leaning toward the latter. Clearly Jim Harbaugh blamed the offense as Alex Smith would be jettisoned a year later.

Fun sidenote: I was not feeling good the day of this game – maybe why I think it’s boring? – so I watched the game while lying in bed. Having recently moved to Washington, D.C., I did not have cable yet in my bedroom so I watched it old-school via antenna. Why is this noteworthy? Because Comcast inexplicably inserted ill-timed commercials during the second-most watched television program of 2012 and many in DC missed important portions of the game.

Remember that the next time Comcast, or another cable giant, balks at paying for retransmission fees of broadcast. For $0, I watched every second. If I had gotten my act together and gotten my second cable box installed, I would not have been able to. Go Comcast?

6) 49ers 28, Falcons 24, 2012 season
This just happened last year so maybe time will bump it up the list, but it was an excellent back and forth game that was rocking and rolling for three-plus hours. I would rank it higher but, as I mentioned Monday, the prior week’s Seahawks/Falcons game was far superior. I can’t bump it up to the Top 5 if it wasn’t even the Top 1 2012 playoff game that took place in the Georgia Dome.

If it were the AFC Championship Game, it easily would’ve been #2.

5) Giants 23, Packers 20 (OT), 2007 season
Everything from here is pure awesomeness. If you want to circle a moment when the NFL went from a really big deal to the biggest possible deal in American television, Championship Sunday 2007 is a great place to start. Buoyed by the Patriots’ run at perfection, there was added media attention to these games, as if that was even possible.

To top it off, this was Favre’s last game as a Packer, in Lambeau, in one of the coldest games ever played against the upstart team from the world’s biggest media market. Any wonder nearly 54 million tuned in? It was also a taut thriller that featured missed field goals, overtime and one last crippling Brett Favre interception. Or so we thought…

4) Cardinals 32, Eagles 25, 2008 season
Quite simply, the most entertaining championship football game I can ever remember, with Kurt Warner and Donovan McNabb hucking it all over the field in a wild, back and forth game that was only topped by the Super Bowl. Man those Cardinals were fun!

Many people forget that it was 24-6 at halftime and it looked like Arizona was going to cruise. Then shit went cray and the Eagles stormed back to take a 25-24 lead, before Kurt Warner did his Kurt Warner thing and led the comeback. My memory of this game is just taking a big, deep breath when it was over. I didn’t move from my couch yet I was exhausted.

Yeah, I wasn’t in good shape in January 2009. Too many Tostitos.

49ers giants 19903) Giants 15, 49ers 13, 1990 season
The antithesis of the 2011 title game between these two same teams as the 49ers and Giants smacked the living crap out of each other for three straight hours. The Giants knocked out Joe Montana – in the process, basically ending his 49er career – and didn’t score a touchdown, settling for five Matt Bahr field goals, including the game-winner. The last of which came following a Lawrence Taylor strip and Giants fumble recovery as the 49ers were trying to run out the clock.

The 49ers, do not forget, were big favorites and everyone was already counting on a 49ers/Bills Super Bowl, as the latter had put up 51 points, including 41 in the first half, on the Raiders to make their first of four fateful Super Bowl trips. The Giants, led by The Hoss, produce two stunning upsets in a row and cemented Bill Parcells as a Hall of Fame coach.

2) Falcons 30, Vikings 27 (OT), 1998 season
I struggled with which game to rank #1 – and both are horror shows for Vikings fan. No complaints from me if you flipped the order.

Everyone knows the story here as the Vikings were 15-1 in the regular season, riding rookie Randy Moss and basically destroying everything in its past. The whole world was ready for Broncos/Vikings in the Super Bowl. Then Gary Anderson missed his first field goal of the year that would have made it 30-20 late. The Falcons tied it up. They won in overtime. We got this all-time classic and an all-time stinker in the Super Bowl. Oh what could have been…

1) Saints 31, Vikings 28 (OT), 2009 season
I know the Seahawks set the Guinness World Record for loudest stadium or whatever, but no crowd has ever felt as loud as the Superdome on this night.

This was an amazing game with amazing subplots and ESPN should start working on the 30 for 30 now. Adrian Peterson was a man amongst boys – running for 122 yards and three touchdowns – but had two critical fumbles. Brett Favre was on the verge of returning to the Super Bowl after getting pounded to a pulp – against Peyton Manning, could you imagine the hype? – before throwing a crippling late-game interception.

As for the Saints, they had the feel-good story of helping the city heal post-Katrina. However, we would find out later that this game was part of BountyGate and the pounding Favre took was borderline criminal and will never be seen again in professional football.

Or maybe, we’ll see it Sunday between the Seahawks and 49ers. One can hope, right?

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