Yeah, I know this column is in itself a contradiction, but whatever. Sue me. It’s “Big Game” week.
It’s the most exciting time of the early sports calendar. The NHL has it’s All-Star break, the NBA continues to suck in the regular season and the Pro Bowl barley registered on the scale as something worth watching. At the very least we got to see a media frenzy as we do every year to kick off the second week leading up to the Super Bowl. It’s simply too much. Catch up on last week’s column before we take off in this one.
1. I’ve had more than enough with the extra week leading up to the Super Bowl
As I said in my brief introduction, I recognize that what I’m writing about is exactly what I’m bitching about. But, there’s no way for me to vocalize my anger toward this subject without putting it in print. So, here we are.
I’ve had enough of this preview leading up to the Super Bowl between New England and Atlanta. First we have the sendoff rallies, then the arrival in Houston, followed by the Media Day (in a goddamn baseball stadium with seats selling for $50 a pop for some unknown reason) another day of media bullshit and then maybe 2-3 days of practices (continuing with media palooza) before a walk-through and then finally the game.
They say you can never have too much of a good thing. And yet, I’ve had more than my fill of content regarding the Super Bowl not including post-game analysis and game recaps. There’s so many examples of repetitive stories just floating out there from countless sources that are saying the same thing but just worded differently.
Enough already. We don’t need this spectacle. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and every media outlet in the goddamn country is spewing the same garbage to the readers about non stories. Do I really care about Matt Ryan’s experience at BC? Or Martellus Bennett chiming in about the White House? Or even Kel Mitchell reprising his role from Good Burger? Absolutely not. I’ve had enough of the prelude. It’s boring, it’s repetitive. It serves one purpose – bang the drum of how mightier than thou the NFL is. Cut the shit. Let’s play football.
2. What happened to the NHL Skills Competition of my childhood?
I’m an asshole for watching Skills competitions in all of the sports. They’re useless and often don’t reveal anything that the average fan doesn’t know. And yet every year, I’m either watching live or DVRing the Home Run Derby, NBA Skills Competition, NHL Skills Competition or now the newly rebranded NFL Skills Competition (more on that later). And last Saturday, the NHL dropped a big old steaming pile on my face.
Brendan and I have discussed this ad nauseum – about how the NHL always, without fail, manages to get in its own way every goddamn time. For the past two years, the Breakaway Challenge offered a different way for players to express some individuality and creativity. Goalies may not have been a fan, but they were good sports about it as Alex Ovechkin, PK Subban and Brent Burns dug into their bag of tricks for some fun moments.
And of course, the NHL scrapped it for the four-line challenge. Take out creativity, hands and speed… and replace it with guys standing still and shooting into a net with a shooter tutor in the way. That’s more about luck than skill. Add in the fact that besides Mike Smith nailing a rink-long shot, that competition absolutely blew.
Follow that up with some less-than-stellar hardest shot battle and some meh shooting accuracy and you get a pretty lackluster skills competition. I watched it, and I’ll continue watching it, but holy shit were large portions of that really fucking boring. I’m sucked in and always will be. But if the NHL wants to expand the game and let the players have some more say in the sport, let’s put things in to do just that.
Editor’s note: I love hockey. It’s fast, it’s exciting, it’s physical, it’s often even beautiful. The skills competition, however, is as bad as it gets. It just isn’t that much fun to watch someone take a standing still slapshot on an empty net, no matter how hard they shot it. I’ve been to these kinds of competitions before, and after the fifth one, it’s impossible to tell how fast anyone is shooting. Unfortunately for the NHL, it does not have an individual elemnt that can be turned into an exhibition, the way baseball has the Home Run Derby and basketball the Slam Dunk Contest. Just bow out gracefully and let players wear weird masks already.
3. I want Charles Barkley to put LeBron James in his rightful place
In one of the strangest back-and-forths that I’ve seen in the past couple years, watching Charles Barkley and LeBron James battle is right up there. We’ve compared the NBA to WWE plenty of times, and I think this fits the bill pretty well.
Barkley criticizes James for his bitching to management about not helping his struggling team. Correct me if I’m wrong, but as a talking head on NBA coverage, isn’t it Barkley’s job to have an opinion on the biggest star in the game? When James comes out like a whining baby in the media, he should get criticized for it. Kudos to Barkley for calling it pretty straightforward.
So when LeBron comes back at Charles and brings the championship aspect into the equation, I get pretty pissed off. Sir Charles is a Hall of Famer and one of the best to never win a championship. He’s outspoken, but I don’t recall him really airing out his franchise bitching that he needs more help. LeBron does that, and then can’t take any criticism for his arrogance.
Well done Charles Barkley. I hope he continues to tear apart James for being an asshole. Call it like you see it. That’s all I ask. Nicely done Chuck.
Editor’s note: Plenty of sportswriters pointed out something that, to their credit, was true: what LeBron said was technically correct. And I’m sure that LeBron is more than tired of hearing all the criticism, even after he’s won rings in multiple cities, ended a title drought, draped himself in MVPs, all while avoiding an off-the-court scandal. But, all that said, this sure did make LeBron seem small. LeBron, wolves don’t lose sleep over the opinions of sheep. Start acting more like a wolf, dammit.
4. Some “bulletin board” material from the Atlanta Falcons?
I know this is a super stretch, but I’m doing it. Are the Falcons really ready for the shining light that’s coming on Sunday? First you have Devonta Freeman saying that the Falcons can do whatever they want offensively. Then he follows that up by complaining about his contract on Media Day. And then you wrap that all up with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan leaving his backpack with game tickets and gameplan somewhere in the media room, and it brings me to my larger point.
Do the Falcons really know what’s coming in the Super Bowl? I’m not even talking about the Patriots. That’s a major battle in and of itself. I’m talking the 100+ million viewers. The extended pageantry of the National Anthem & halftime show. The expansive list of ticket and media requests, along with jampacked sidelines come game time.
Yeah sure, Dan Quinn has been there before. But correct me if I’m wrong, but he won’t be lacing up the pads come Sunday evening. Super Bowl rookies like Matt Ryan, Freeman, Julio Jones and nearly the entire Falcons roster will be the ones doing the work between the lines in search of the Lombardi Trophy.
This may or may not give the Patriots an edge, but it shows some cracks in the Atlanta armor. Let’s see how this plays out.
5. For as bad as the NHL Skills Competition was, I actually enjoyed the NFL reincarnation of it
Call me a loser, I deserve it. I recorded not one, but TWO skills competitions this past weekend. I’ll try to save face and inform you, the fantastic reader, that I did not watch the Pro Bowl. Just the NHL All-Star Game. But anyways, I digress.
Where the NHL failed to really showcase some skills, the NFL did just the opposite. The multiple catch challenge was fantastic, especially with Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry battling back and forth. The dodgeball game was kinda weird, but the obstacle challenge and drone drop were pretty exciting to watch. And, the quarterback accuracy drill reminded me of how they used to do it back in Hawaii.
As long as they aren’t playing beach football I’ll be ok with these competitions. The players celebrated and really got into it. There was some juice and actual competition in it, and that’s all you can really ask for. I can honestly say I hope they bring it back and add in some kicking challenge in the future too in order to make it completely inclusive. For all the NFL does bad (too much exposure, horrible on-field officiating/product, CTE denial, military payoffs, etc.) this was actually a pretty good one.
Editor’s note: Tim likes watching people play catch. What a time to be alive.
That’ll do it for me. Unlike Tardiff, I do believe in jinxes. And with that said, I’ve already wrapped up the Chin Music Pod Playoff Pick’ Em. I don’t even need to pick a Super Bowl winner. I’m already that good. Follow Tim on Twitter@culvey13 and Brendan @murraysporttalk for more.