Arena: NFL Thursday not delivering intended result

Published 11:45 pm Friday, October 3, 2014

Do you guys remember that old school WWF Superstars show that came on Saturday mornings? No? You’re NOT as nerdy as I am? Meh. 

Well, let me jog your memory if you’re a little foggy, or clue you in if you’ve never seen it: in the days before live Monday night wrestling, we saw our heroes or hated villain wrestlers come out to compete every Saturday morning, usually against faceless, no-name “contenders” who were already in the ring with no pomp, circumstance or dramatic theme music announcing their arrival. The latter gentlemen won few matches (re: zero), got in nearly zero offense and the hype for these contests consisted of a graphic reading “Coming up next … Jake “The Snake” Roberts … in action!”

That’s Thursday Night NFL Football. Thursday night was “Aaron Rodgers … in action!” A week prior it was “Eli Manning … in action!” And a week before that? “Matt Ryan … in action!”

With seven minutes left in Thursday’s game (hey, I stuck it out … I had fantasy players going!), CBS flashed a graphic denoting Green Bay, leading 42-10, had moved to 3-2, while Minnesota had fallen to 2-3. When do you ever see a network chalk up a victory with SEVEN MINUTES left? CBS doesn’t even care to pretend anymore that Christian Ponder could even dream of a comeback effort. “Sandy Beach” isn’t beating Earthquake this time, folks!

The most humorous/disturbing part of it all is it’s driven commentator Phil Simms to implore the losing team to quit on a weekly basis. Three weeks ago, he’s advising the Buccaneers to punt against Atlanta so this 35-0 second quarter game “doesn’t get REALLY embarrassing!” (It ended 56-14). With 12 minutes left of the Redskins’ 45-14 loss to the New York Giants, Simms derided Kirk Cousins for a downfield interception with a “You can’t win this game, so why take chances with the football?” On Thursday? Fifty seconds left in the first half, the Vikings down 28-0 deep in their own territory … guess what Simms advocated? “Just take a knee … why take a chance here?”

Then again, the Vikings handed off, then called a timeout just so Ponder could take a sack. “Bet they’re glad they called that timeout,” a now clearly surly Simms quipped. 

I guess you win this round, Philip. 

The sad part of Thursday’s game was, in my estimation, it could have been a really interesting game had the Vikings been able to keep Teddy Bridgewater in the lineup at quarterback. Alas, Minnesota deactivated him due to a bad ankle, noting he likely would have been ready to go if the game were on Sunday. The short rest leads to some really awful Thursday game situations, and you get the feeling these days that if a team gets a couple scores down, mentally and physically weary players might be a little more inclined to roll over. 

The winner in all of this, perhaps? Major League Baseball! The NFL gets sports fans in front of the TV on Thursday night, fails to deliver, and what’s there when you go channel surfing? A playoff game between the Royals and Angels tied 2-2! 

For you fellow fantasy players next week, the Thursday Night Superstars matchup is the Colts at Texans. Just understand that on one side, it’s been a points-scoring bonanza every week; for the other, you just haplessly watch Christian Ponder stink for three quarters, then hoard the only garbage-time touchdown for himself. Colts or Texans … choose wisely, my friends. 


On the MLB note: I’ve been more into these playoffs than I have been in years past. My stance on the new Wildcard/“play-in” format is mixed. I don’t like that a team can outplay another for 162 games, finish with a better record but be vulnerable to a one-and-out to that less-accomplished team — not that I’m bitter about my Indians getting “David Price’d” out of the postseason last year or anything. 

But essentially starting with two Game Seven scenarios is a heckava way to hook viewers at the start of the postseason, I have to admit that. 

The Royals kind of have the look of America’s newest underdog sweethearts here. They won in 12 innings over the Athletics to “play in” a few days ago (by the way, what a fall from grace for Oakland, who looked like a favorite to win it all at the All-Star break), then bested the Angels in 11 innings Thursday night. 

These days, with such a premium on taking walks and swinging away, you don’t see as many teams utilize small ball in the majors and the Royals are a fun throwback. 

When the A’s had stud closer Sean Dolittle in on Tuesday with a one-run lead, it was a given that it would be hard to string together hits on him to tie the game. Josh Willingham singled, then speedy pinch runner Jarrod Dyson came on and took over, reaching second on a sacrifice, stealing third and soon scoring to tie it up on a sac fly. An overpowering closer can be a heck of an end-game hammer, but once a speedster is on, there’s not much he can do.