Tuesday, 26 September 2017


As many of you know, I work on the NFLlive every Sunday night and the NFL show Tuesday nights, both for Talksport radio. The host is Nat Coombs, who has also been my partner on Channel 5, Channel 4, the BBC and of course in the Americarnage podcast. Last week, before the kneeling story broke, the NFL office in London asked us to offer some thoughts on the 2017 season, to appear in the programme for this Sunday's Wembley game between the Dolphins and the the Saints.

I wrote my three and passed them over to Gnat, who added his and sent them along. A few days later, the editorial director informed him that the essay wouldn't appear in the programme after all; there would be just a short piece about our shows on Talksport.

My part of the piece was concerned mostly with the macro-level of the game; I was looking for what I thought might be longer term trends recognizable this season. So I thought I'd post my part of the story here, while it still has some relevance. You can check for yourself to see whether the points make sense, and more importantly whether they actually do establish themselves as trends.



It's actually a more complicated issue, because it's really more of an offensive shortage. A lack of quality QBs is exacerbated by a lack of road-ready offensive linemen, running backs who can't pass block, and receivers who burst on the scene because they can win one-on-one match-ups, but can't necessarily read defenses or run the complete route-tree, though as the NFL does move toward a more basketball-like one on one downfield game, more rookie receivers can make an impact. And linemen playing in some pass-happy systems have trouble adjusting to the complexities of NFL line play; often they've played almost no time in a three point stance.

This is down to the growing gap between concepts in college football and the NFL. Although the pros have adapted some of college's recent offensive innovations, spreading the field to find one-on-one matchups, the NFL is too balanced, and teams too talented, to go lock stock and barrel to the various spread systems eliminating from college, just as the NFL never went wishbone when that was all the rage in college 40 years ago. But what is happening is college offenses are featuring offenses whose quarterbacks don't learn the complex reads and don't need arms as powerful and more importantly accurate as the NFL demands. There is a need for quality quarterbacks; there are not 32 quality starters, and there are precious few quality back ups. Yet Colin Kaepernick remains unemployed.


Given item one above, the concept of parity seems to be changing. Teams who can build long-term, develop players while they are on the roster and fill their rosters with role-players who fit their system have a huge advantage. What do the Steelers, Ravens, Seahawks, Packers and Patriots, to name the most obvious year-in and year-out contenders have in common? Relative stability in the front office and coaching front. You need to understand your system, coach your system, and play the salary cap game well, but it gives you a huge advantage. You also need to have the security to make some mistakes.

The other huge advantage, of which Seattle and Dallas currently can take advantage, is being able to get a rookie quarterback who can deliver play worth $20 million per year on a rookie salary cap budget. Paradoxically, this works against the idea of parity, because it makes the concept of bringing a QB along within the system more wasteful of financial resources with each year your rookie QB doesn't start. So the impetus is to throw your rookie, who may give you a better chance of winning anyway when your starter is a journeyman, into the breach before he's been coached into readiness, and risk, on a bad team, his developing David Carr syndrome, bad habits if not gun shyness after taking beating after beating.


Between Madden, Fantasy Football, and Red Zone, the NFL in the digital age offers a much wider set of entertainment options than just the game at the stadium or on television. But it has, to some extent, changed the sense of what the audience expects from its football. Watching the amazing 49ers-Rams shootout on week three's Thursday Night, a combination of the usual Thursday short-week sloppiness and tiredness, combined with some remarkable throwing from the two unheralded passers, and bullish running from both teams, I thought immediately how this was the best advertisement, in a way, for the 2017 season, and an answer to the many critics who were already trying to write the year off after the first two weeks. Yes, in their colour rush jerseys, the Rams looked like animated bananas, and at times the game looked like Arena ball, so in one sense it was like a Madden game played out in full. But it offered sceptics everything the NFL promises in a game, not just on Red Zone, on any given Sunday. Or Monday. Or Thursday.

Monday, 25 September 2017


I've written a small essay for the TLS on Donald Trump's call for owners to fire any son of a bitch who kneels during the playing of the national anthem. You can link to it here. There may be a little too much background detail about the situation, but we had to assume the audience was not very NFL-savvy. And I did explain that Don DeLillo's End Zone makes the point that while football is like warfare, only warfare is really like warfare, which why, in end, we were in Vietnam. But that didn't make the cut.

I thought about mentioning that Trump's speech came at the Wernher von Braun Research Hall in Huntsville, named after the former SS Sturmbahnfuhrer who masterminded the US space programme. But that would have been a cheap shot. Bad.

Sunday, 10 September 2017


I've been quiet on IT the past two weeks, mostly because I returned to the UK and went right into a job voicing highlights of the US Open tennis, which involved working in the middle of night. Hence I have remained effectively jet-lagged for the past two weeks, and formulating coherent thoughts about things (other than the NFL, where I continue to pick all the games for nfluk.com, and am now doing a twice a week --Friday and Monday--betting and general column for Betfair) has proven difficult.

Except when I am provoked, especially on the political side. Hence I've produced a couple of longish moans on facebook, which might be considered curmudgeonly by the cruel-minded, but which I will share here just to let you know I am still engaged....

The most popular hook for media coverage of Hillary Clinton's book about the 2016 election has been her blaming the loss on Bernie Sanders.Well toast that on the log fire. I posted a link to a November New Yorker article which detailed how actively Bernie campaigned for Clinton; only Bubba and Chelsea were out there more for her. So here was my reaction:

On behalf of Bernie Bros of all genders (and Barack Boys, or don't you remember when she tried that one briefly in 2008, until someone pointed out the ambiguity of using 'boy' in the Bog O context?) can we all now please woMAN up and accept that Hillary deserves at least some of the blame for losing to the most unelectable candidate since Barry Goldwater? Or George Wallace?

Blame Russians, blame a Republican Party whose success relies on disenfranchizing voters, blame Comey, blame Comey again, but it is time to STFU about Sanders. He was out there campaigning while the Perezes and Wasserman Schultzes were hiding from voters they drive away because it's so obvious who they don't give a shit about. And yes, it's true, Bernie walked the walk for Clinton...


Then I unluckily caught a few moments of Any Questions on Radio 4, and heard a Brexit 'debate' where the central issues were issues that are non-issues, but no one, on any side mentioned it.  I had suffered through a few minutes of another edition of it, or Question Time, or Ask Dimbelby or whatever they call it, the previous week, as I mentioned in my last post, about the self-parodying Jacob Rees-Mogg and the nepotistic BBC and its Dimbelbies. Of course Rees-Mogg, son of the editor of the Times, qualifies just as much as a legacy. But this week the real affront was the fraudulent Brexit con job....

How many times do I have to repeat this? There should be no debate about EU migration. Under Schengen, UK controls EU migration. Any EU citizen unable to show means of support after 3 months can be sent home. BUT the UK is too lazy, like its work force, to enforce a policy which isn't abused on large scale AND the politicians, particularly on the right, don't want to sacrifice their wrapped in union jack Little England xenophobia and appeals to bigotry.

As to the economic advantage for low-paid hard-working British families (TM).  Do you really think British companies will rush to hire British workers at high wages? Is there any single point in history, including the massive need for wage slaves during Industrial revolution at its peak, when this has EVER happened in GB? Name one. Right, I knew you couldn't. Listening to Dumbelby and panel 'debate' immigration is a painful joke. Are they ignorant? Or do they prefer an ignorant electorate?

Sunday, 3 September 2017


Yesterday on BBC Any Questions, David Dimbelby trotted out the BBC's next Funny Tory PM Hopeful. Not content with having given Boris Johnson a platform, and paying him, at every possible opportunity, the Beeb has now turned to Jacob Rees-Mogg, another Etonian with the shuffle and the stammer who as usual drew chuckles and smiles but no serious challenging from his host. Not even when he stated, with a cloud of persiflage, that the UK had no legal obligation to pay anything to the EU; an echo of Bojo's dare for them to whistle. I was stunned how even his political opponents simply let that one by; one doesn't expect Dimbels to do anything.

But it was funny later when one of the audience asked a question about having many children, clearly a light-hearted attempt to draw more humour from the new Tory clown. I would have liked one panelist to ask a hypothetical to the chair: what if Richard Dimbelby had had, say, eight sons? Would any of the current BBC news presenters actually have jobs?

Then I was listening to BBC's World This Weekend today, Mark Mardell hosting the show from the Ambrosetti Forum, a Davos-like conference sponsored by the major 'consulting' firm on Lake Como. They were concentrating on Michel Barnier saying he was 'warning', not blackmailing, the UK, rather than concentrating on his explanation that the Brits owe money they committed to in 2014 through 2020, and they needed to meet their obligations. Was Rees-Mogg listening? The current Brexit 'debate' is, like the issue and campaign itself, being conducted not for negotiation purposes with the EU, but for party political positioning within the UK, which is why it is doomed. And when it falls apart, as it surely will, the Brexshiteers will rachet up the bellicosity, wrap themselves in Union Jacks, and boast of battling for Britain against Johnny Foreigner.

But more worrying was the programme's last twenty minutes, a calculated symphony of far-right propaganda which segued cleanly from Geert Wilders cheering on the Brexshiteers, to Niall Ferguson (not a huge leap as segues go), who was given a huge chunk of time to proselytize for the far-right with his usual exercise in disingenuousness, to use a polite word.

Asked about Trump, Ferguson built up a clever comparison with John Kennedy. Kennedy, it turned out, was the one with the chaotic presidency who rushed to the brink of war. There were little twists and glib half-truths littered around as character assassination, none of which Mardell challenged, but the essence of the argument was this: Kennedy's mindless aggression nearly launched nuclear war on the planet. Trump, on the other hand, while he signals craziness (remember Kissinger's advice to Nixon, about acting crazy so the Commies won't dare do anything? Forget not that Ferguson is one of Kissinger's hagiographers) is not actually crazy, but in reality being well-served in the serious stuff by advisers like General Mad Dog Mattis and General McMaster. Thus we should watch what they do rather than what Trump says.

Now Ferguson presumably knows full well that during the Cuban Missile Crisis Kennedy had to fight like Ali against Liston to hold off the generals and admirals of the Joint Chiefs, led by Gen. Mad Dog Curtis LeMay, all of whom wanted to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the Soviets. If he doesn't know he can read the transcripts, not only of their meetings with the Presidents, but a revealing transcript of their discussions among themselves. They uniformly excoriated Kennedy for his weakness.

As we know, Kennedy steered us away from the brink, and soon exiled LeMay to NATO where he couldn't cause more trouble. And as we remember, Ferguson is not an historian as much as a propagandist who cloaks his militant far-right world view in the trappings of twisted history. But what was even more spectacularly fraudulent was his conclusion: that he wished, in a way, Trump would be MORE like Kennedy, and send the carriers to Korea. Which made his entire false comparison of the two men meaningless, except as a flashy and hypocritical false equivalency.

Mark Mardell offered no recognition of this. He didn't question any of Ferguson's 'history' of JFK. He didn't notice the oxymoron. He didn't show any awareness of history or current events. He was in Como, lunching with the heavy hitters of world business and their well-paid acolytes, and became yet another victim of Davos Syndrome, a well-fed variation of Stockholm Syndrome which seems to afflict those fronting BBC shows from such resorts especially hard. The canteen at Broadcasting House offers little to match.