Thought with the international break be a good time to take a look at something different. That’s me now recovered from the emotional exhaustion of watching The Gers past week’s efforts in one of the deepest, darkest corners of the globe. That trip to Central Russia was no picnic either.
H&H is updating us on football from everywhere now from the EPL to Luxembourg, Hungary to Greece. Honestly for my part i’m more into some alternative sports than obscure football leagues and I figured some other Heart and Handers may be too so I’m going to take a wee look at what the good people over on this side of the pond call Football. A bastardised version that might be more appropriately named Handegg but for the purposes of this blog going to attempt to refer to it as Football from here on in, hope you can keep up.
I’m no expert by any means but do keep an eye on things. Will keep it pretty broad here and assume anyone that’s lasted this long has a fair to middling interest. I take it you know the basics. Downs, plays, scoring, positions and all that. The league and conference set ups and also the transition of the players from the College game to The National Football League.
We are all very fortunate to be Bluenoses. But if you were born and raised elsewhere it’s natural to be influenced by the society you’re brought up in and for the most part be of the opinion “The Sports Team From My Area is Superior to the Sports Team From Your Area.”
College Football started last weekend passed. Towns & Cities of all shapes and sizes collectively lost their shit. This is where future pros get their feet wet. There’s no reserve league or Under 21’s like in proper football or farm system like in baseball. It’s College, then if you’re good enough, you’re old enough and you’re drafted, into the fucking NFL.
Some good staunch teams to follow include Boise State who have a blue pitch, yes an artificial turf playing surface … That is BLUE! California Golden Bears, Tennessee Volunteers, Michigan State (Go Blue) and Florida State, who Burt Reynold (RIP Burt) attended for two years on a scholarship in the 1950's. However, his promising career as a running back was cut short after he suffered a knee injury in a car accident. I mind seeing Bandit giving it laldy at the title clincher v The Sheep in ’91 with a Ter Centenary Bucket Hat on. He was a good bear.
For baddies, be looking out for Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Boston College and of course, Penn State. An surreptitious institution who despite being fully briefed failed to notify the authorities about a nonce coach who was engaging in nonce behaviour. In their twisted minds, they felt the reputation of the team was more important than the welfare of abused children …
In a lot of smaller towns and cities, in lieu of a professional team, College Football takes priority. I live in a small town and was out walking my wee dug last weekend, out of nowhere about a dozen police cars flew by at a vast rate of noughts, thought some cunt was robbing the local jeweler’s only to realize it was the Colorado Mesa Maverick’s season opener. 3 and a half thousand punters paid in to see a bunch of 20 year olds running about like headless chickens.
These college games can attract up to 100,000 fans. The player’s aren’t compensated (apparently) but the Head Coach of the State College Football team is often the highest paid public employee in that particular state, making millions of dollars. It’s a big deal. The coaches often cross over to the NFL and vice versa. Every April the NFL holds a draft of the best college players, the worst team from the previous season gets the first pick. It’s all surprisingly socialist but then the capitalism kicks back in and the players start getting paid fat stacks. The other way NFL teams freshen up the squad is through free agency, when the players current contracts expire.
This Week sees the kick off of another NFL season, actually the curtain raiser was Thursday, Atlanta Falcons taking on last years champion Philadelphia Eagles. I watched a bit of it the other night, Philly’s own Boyz II Men butchered, sorry sang the National Anthem. American pageantry is a big part of the experience and a good military recruitment tool.
I was drawn to American sports at a young age, I first recall watching ‘Football’ on Channel 4 in the mid 80’s around the same time Scotland were qualifying for Mexico ’86. I went out for Halloween one year with a Houston Oilers helmet, a Chicago Bears top with few cushions under it and without much regard for the lower half, joggy bottoms, white gutties and a John Menzies bag for the swedgers.
It’s usually better to have a team to root for, my own leanings are based on the 2 places I’ve resided over here, Colorado & Northern California. Personally I’m a Denver Broncos fan. Orange, blue and a big white horse, can’t go wrong there. The team of John Elway, who ironically looks a bit equine himself. The mascot is a live Arabian horse, that runs the length of the field when they score a touchdown. It’s a spectacle. Imagine Broxi was an actual Bear and got to charge about the pitch? I’d have it hang around outside the away dressing room. Be fucking magic. I also look out for the San Francisco 49ers having lived in that neck of the woods too, they could be a sleeper this year. Watch out!
If you’re UK based and fancy seeing some action, there’s 3 games in London this year, at Wembley in October. Seattle Seahawks vs. Oakland Raiders on the 14th, Tennessee Titans vs. Los Angeles Chargers, the following Sunday and Philadelphia Eagles vs. Jacksonville Jaguars on the 28th. Tottenham’s new stadium was meant to host one but due to delays it’s been switched back to Wemberley. At least one EPL fixture has been affected by the NFL as Man City’s trip to Tottenham has been moved to Monday the 29th. The match, originally scheduled for Sunday 28th October, has been changed because the opening of the new Spurs stadium has been delayed and Wembley is booked on the 28th for the Eagles Jags game. So when you’re enjoying that match as the night’s are fair drawing in, thank the old Handegg.
Wembley is a wee bit bigger than your average NFL capacity but the stadiums are generally huge, Football has been America's numero uno spectator sport since the 70’s. The numbers don't lie. Millions turn out to live games every year. In 2017, the NFL had an average attendance of 67,405, which beats the average number of every other professional sports league in the world, the SPL during Sell Out Saturdays got close but fell short. There are 32 teams in the NFL and 31 stadiums in use (the New York Giants and Jets share one) with an average seating capacity of 69,444.
I’ve been to a few games over the years. The game day experience is very entertaining. If lucky enough to attend, I love that you can get a beer, or 10. But at $15 a pint, it’s more the dent on your wallet than your liver you have to concern yourself with. Try put on a line though, with it’s restricted gambling laws there’s no bookies on the concourse. I’ll take a few beers over a flutter any day of the week mind.
TV ratings are down a wee bit though as Donald Trump just reminded us. You’d think the leader of the free world would have other things to prioritize but he likes to offer his two cents, in typical measured form he tweeted the other day … Just like the NFL, whose ratings have gone WAY DOWN …(Blah, something about Nike, blah) … As far as the NFL is concerned, I just find it hard to watch, and always will, until they stand for the FLAG! … Aye, cheers for that ya madman.
This is in reference to perhaps the biggest news just now and it involves a dude who’s not even going to play this season, Colin Kaepernick, he had the temerity to use his status to draw attention to social injustice. Cue everyone from extreme left to extreme right ramming their opinion down your throat. Snowflakes? Pot, Kettle, Black.
The TV viewership is down for a number of reasons, no doubt including the controversy over the standing for the National Anthem issue for some folk but also not helping matters last season: Teams with larger fanbases not being very good. Aaron Rodgers' collarbone, a poor New York Giants squad and a Dallas offense that may be charitably called pish, but they’re not even that good. Poor showings by many of the teams that were expected to make deep runs into January - looking at you Raiders—ate into the playoff ratings as well. The Cowboys, Packers, Giants, 49ers and the Redskins all missed the postseason.
A lot of the buzz this preseason has been big contracts or perceived lack thereof. Not many of these guys would survive the scrutiny of their staunch-o-meter on FF.
Le’Veon Bell, Running Back for the Pittsburgh Steelers had the franchise tag applied (Google it) A mere $14 Million compensation not enough for the last year of his contract. A kind of Dedryck Boyata, but good, in fact he’s awesome, he’s already with a good team, already making a fuck load of cash, refuses to play anyway. He’s still absent. Team mates are in uproar "In the ultimate team sport, we've created a league of individuals,” guard Ramon Foster said. "I know the league is all about get your money, get paid, I love it. But at least let us know you weren't coming’’ … Bell did not report to the Steelers before Saturday's 4 p.m. ET deadline, meaning the star running back officially will surrender his Week 1 game check worth $853,000. Seriously that would pay off my mortgage 4 times over and still have some left for a jolly boys outing to Vegas.
New York Giants Wide Receiver Odell Beckham Junior signed a new contract, The three-time Pro Bowler can receive a maximum $95 million over the course of the deal ($90 million base value plus $5 million in incentives), with $65 million in total guaranteed money, including $41 million fully guaranteed at signing.
Aaron Rodgers, Quarterback of Green Bay Packers, signed an extension to his previous contract that includes nearly $103 million total in guarantees, another record amount, and has an annual average value of $33.5 million. The total maximum value of the deal is between $176 million and $180 million, based on $4 million in incentives tied to helping the Packers make the playoffs and finishing top three in quarterback rating.
The defensive guys do alright too after the market was reset by LA Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald getting a six-year, $135 million contract with $87 million guaranteed. Pass-rusher Khalil Mack was traded to Chicago Bears from Oakland Raiders and will make $150 million. Mack is now the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history. The deal, which averages $23.5 million per season, includes $90 million in guaranteed money and $60 million at signing.
The money getting flung around is INSANE! It must be all those $15 beers they’re selling.
There’s been a lot of furor over player safety the last few years, Scottish refs take note. It is one of current commissioner Roger Goodell’s prime concerns. Concussion protocol is the main issue. In fact the number of kids playing high school football is in decline, some believe it’s due to increased awareness of head injuries. High schoolers now having more sports to choose from too but football participation is not going away anytime soon. Another thing. In light of recent debate about the standard of refereeing in our football, interesting to note there’s 7 officials in American football, even at college level. Alas between the 7 of them and all the instant replays, camera angles, and review booths in the world they still find ways to get shit wrong.
So anyway, the 2018 NFL season is now underway. Thursday’s season opener ended Atlanta 12 Philadelphia 18, The Eagles 2 Touchdowns were scored by their Running Back, a guy called Jay Ajayi who was actually born in London and is apparently a big Arsenal fan. He is one of a few English born players in the NFL at the moment and there’s at least one Scottish born player currently plying his trade. Graham Gano, the Kicker for the Carolina Panthers. He just signed a new contract in the off-season. 4 years, $17 million, making him the 2nd highest paid Kicker in the league. $4.25 million a year to run on and toe bash the baw a few times a game. Sign me up.
Never a dull moment. Here’s this season’s odds if you fancy a punt on the Super Bowl …
- Arch Bastards New England Patriots 6-1
- Los Angeles Rams, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Minnesota Vikings 10-1
- Green Bay Packers 12-1
- New Orleans Saints 14-1
- Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons, Los Angeles Chargers 16-1
- Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders 20-1
- Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans 25-1
- Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers, Carolina Panthers, New York Giants 30-1
- Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts 40-1
- Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions 60-1
- Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals 80-1
- Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins, Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, New York Jets 100-1
- Buffalo Bills, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 200-1
I’m ‘definitely not a tipster’ but I’ll throw in a prediction for the Super Bowl this year. How about a repeat of the very first one 50 odd years ago. Green Bay Packers from the NFC and the AFC’s Kansas City Chiefs, who at 20-1 seem like a good outside bet for a cheeky 10 spot. The Chiefs have a young, highly rated albeit unknown at Quarterback in Patrick Mahomes II and with the offensive talent around him they should be in a good place to succeed. An excellent defense as well. This is a playoff team, one that I reckon should win a very tough division, and it wouldn't surprise me to see them get a first-round bye come the playoffs.
So there you have it, hard to keep it short and sweet, there’s a ton of stuff I didn’t get close to touching on but aye across the generations, amidst the quarrels, disputes and politics of it all a 4 hour TV commercial with some football in between continues to prevail and capture the imagination of the many different cultures of America.
The Lambeau Leap, The Black Hole, Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, Gatorade Showers, Terrible Towels, Thanksgiving Day before your turkey. From President Trump, to woke AF Kaepernick, to Boyz II Men to Gooner Jay Ajayi to Graham Gano fae Arbroath.
The Bling of the NFL is undeniable but it takes all sorts so I’m giving the last word this week to the Cleveland Browns and specifically their old school offensive line coach, Bob Wylie who just came away with this belter “Stretching’s way overrated. We won two World Wars without stretching. You think they were worried when they were running across Normandy about fucking stretching? Gimme my rubber band to stretch so I can run across that fucking beach, You gotta be kidding me”
Footnote. The Browns have lost 31 of their last 32 games.
The NFL remains Situation Normal: All Fucked Up.