Rats! Who bears the brunt of the guilt for ruining our would-be payout last weekend? Under normal circumstances, I would either curse the Falcons for giving it away, or hammer the Bengals for stealing it. Fortunately – or, unfortunately I guess – there is enough blame to spread around. Last Sundays fourth quarter in Atlanta was an agonizing slow bleed, where you could just sense that the last team to score was going to win, and sure enough they did. Atlanta also handicapped themselves with ill-timed penalties on Desmond Trufant, Brian Poole, and Cordy Glenn, the last coming with 57 seconds left and giving the Bengals the set of downs they used to win. Cincinnati defenses can usually be counted on the exhibit sportsmanship and self-restraint on par with the Diaz Brothers, but I guess the Falcons wanted to upstage them.
I will give the politics a rest this week if you promise to read the boss review of Fahrenheit 11/9. I know a con when I see it, so I stopped watching news before the Thursday game, but even still I can’t help but be a little disappointed in the fact that when the UB40 story broke, not one media outlet picked up on the fact that their most well-known song, at least in America, is about blacking out! I suppose it doesn’t matter anyway. Like I said, I shut it all out. Trump could have nuked Vancouver by now for all I know, in which case people on the west coast are gonna have to shuffle their drug tourism plans. Just kidding Vancouver. Ruthless loves you!
A lot of this weeks gambling fervor wasn’t directed at the NFL. Conor McGregor just lost the UFC lightweight title to Khabib Nurmagomedov after – to my knowledge anyway – becoming the first professional athlete to use the commission of a crime as a promotional tool for a sporting event. And how did it end, you might ask? With Nurmagomedov picking up on the rather obvious cue and leaping over the cage and attacking a guy in the crowd, prompting someone else to jump in and take seemingly futile swings at McGregor.
What does this say about us as a society? Nothing we haven’t said about ourselves in the last two weeks *rimshot* (I know, I know, sorry). But UFC needs to seriously consider the message they are sending to hungry MMA fighters currently earning a small percentage of the gate when UFC uses that sort of footage to hype a fight that just might have broken their all-time PPV buy record. Before long, some no-name flyweight is gonna knock over a bank and then remove his ski mask, CB4 style, in order to challenge an opponent, or SWAT Demetrious Johnson during a Twitch stream just to make a name for himself (NOTE: this is a punchline, please, for the love of God, do not do this).
I get using quarrels to generate or perpetuate meaningless, manufactured rap beef. There are enough allusions and instances of plausible deniability in that world. I would, however, prefer to draw the line at legitimate sporting events, which remain some of the last cultural touchstones that many of us share with people we would otherwise disagree with. I know how stupid this sounds – how dare they incorporate uncontrolled violence into the controlled violence that entertains me! – but its hard not to equate crap like this with our ever-present spiritual malaise. Especially when two fighters referenced Trump in their post-fight promos. Not counting Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who went to a draw with one of those Parkland kids on the undercard.
This is not a myopic plea to be excellent to each other. I get it. These antics sell pay-per-view buys. In combat sports, personal issues draw money. I’m just sticking up for the Renaissance (Wo)Men out there, many of whom are in the Ruthless wheelhouse. If the fingerprints of Hellworld have to smudge everything, can we at least have sports as a respite? If the people who lord over us no longer have to follow any rules, can we at least still enforce them on gridirons and in octagons? HEY LOOK FOOTBALL!
BALTIMORE -3 v. CLEVELAND
Even though we got hosed by the Pats and Chiefs last week, we were still up as of Sunday afternoon, and then the stupid Ravens screwed me over in the Sunday night game by handily beating the Steelers. I used to think that the whole LeVeon Bell thing was an excuse, but maybe I was wrong. It might just be an identity issue. LeVeon Bell is such a Steelers running back name, his absence may be hindering them on an existential level. After all, if Whistlin Arthur Skolnik, Barney Fudd, or Fat Pete McGarnagle were holding out, no one would care, but this is LeVeon Bell were talking about!
Seriously though, how do the Ravens dominate the Steelers and then come into Cleveland as a field goal favorite? The Browns-Steelers tie in week one and a so-so four-point Thursday night win over the Jets don’t combine to make First Energy the new Clink. Joe Flacco is no longer leaning on Crabtree for everything now that he and abolitionist hero John Brown have gotten into a rhythm, and Lamar Jacksons wildcat crew are doing the impossible and making the Ravens offense fun to watch. I see the Browns chances lying a-moulding in a grave as the season marches on.
TENNESSEE -5.5 v. BUFFALO
Again with these Bills lines! I will concede that the Minnesota game proved that Josh Allen can, in fact, throw a football in the proper direction, but the guy still has quality control issues on par with No Limit Records. The guy went 16 of 33 for 151 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions against a half-asleep Packers defense for Christs sake.
The Titans are hardly perfect. However, they did beat the Eagles in overtime last week and Mariota has thus far managed them to a very respectable 3-1. Their new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur promised to spread the ball around, and that certainly seems to be working, while Harold Landry might be a sleeper Rookie of the Year candidate with the way hes hassled QB’s and tailbacks. Expect him to make Josh Allen’s Sunday a nightmare.
OAKLAND v. L.A. CHARGERS -5
Last Sunday L.A. caught themselves in a bit of a dogfight with C.J. Beathard of all people, but still came away with a win at home, though they weren’t able to cover. Bad though their showing might have been, they had nothing on the Raiders, who needed some garbage calls, an unanswered 20-point run, and 45 points on the board to beat the Browns, at home, in overtime. I think we can all agree that Baker Mayfield is good, but he ain’t that good. Not yet anyway.
Philip Rivers, on the other hand, is playing to expectations. His 75.2 QBR through four games is a bit underwhelming, but from what Ive seen, hes been forced into making brick without straw due to some terrible special teams. The numbers back me up, as he is 100 for 147 for 1156 yards, with 11 touchdowns versus two interceptions.
Melvin Gordon is still something of a secret, as he only rushes 69 yards per game, but his total carries give him a 5.1 yards per attempt. That’s because Rivers still relies on his arm, and fortunately for him Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Antonio Gates round out the offense pretty well. The Chargers may need this game later in the season, for a win at *cough* home against a divisional rival will count for more than a squeaker against the 49ers. Yes, the Raiders need it more, but their ludicrously overpaid coach seems hellbent on exploiting his own weaknesses.
I hope this is a long weekend for you. Even if it isn’t, lets just take some time to chill and watch some games together. Hell, at this point, if no one on the field punches a spectator, hides $400 million in tax fraud, or lies about sexual assault, lets take what we can get.