Pizza? War? Pizza war? Indeed, the absurdities abound as there is apparently a pizza war in effect now, raging for the soul of the National Football League. The short version goes like this: Self-made Evangelical Christian millionaire and insufferable prick Papa John Schnatter, whose underpaid and uninsured employees make the official pizza of the NFL, has apparently decided that players kneeling during the national anthem have somehow hurt his business. This was an overtly deflective excuse for last Tuesday’s dreadful third-quarter earnings report, and rooted in a larger falsehood perpetuated by President Toddler. Given that it makes no sense, Schnatter’s shareholders immediately used their public forum to make clear that they weren’t buying it. So ultimately, it was an outright lie told to a closed group of people who didn’t believe it anyway, and thus it wasn’t news, unless of course this clown act somehow became a thought leader in the eyes of the American public.
Nevertheless, Papa Johns warmed-over second-hand newspeak prompted misguided *sigh* woke types to exalt deceased Little Caesar’s owner Mike Ilitch online, thus pitting the legacy of a multimillionaire real estate speculator who oversaw the transition of downtown Detroit from metropolis to hell-adjacent parking lot and back again against an anti-healthcare Trump lobbyist who, it must be said, makes marginally better bad pizza. Good luck with that one, Ms. Zawistowska. Anyway, Pizza Hut wasn’t about to pass up free ink, so they managed to passively endorse free expression by bragging about five straight quarters of profitability because that is a thing that is possible in a world gone mad. More Dominoes fell (Get it? Get it?) and sooner or later some social media intern kid at DiGiorno got to sit in the big chair for an hour, too. Even cardboard-and-ketchup factories like Elios and Celeste (holy hell there is still a Celeste?!?!) got into the act, functionally landing punchlines atop a miasma that began as the protest of the killing of Black Americans by police officers.
I can’t stand it. I really can’t. I know I’ve quoted myself saying [f]ootball and greed are two of the few remaining things most of us still agree on before, but I only do it to illustrate just how wrong I was. Of course, differentiating between wrong and right, true and false, left and right, and victory and loss is rapidly becoming an outdated concept elsewhere, but that won’t fly here, nor should it. The score on the board when time expires is still of paramount importance to you, and by extension to me. This is not a fantasy football column. Its real money, both yours and mine. I take the privilege and responsibility seriously, and will continue to do so until I get too fat or feeble to dive under the maid cart when I see Goat circling the office with pink paper in his hands.
So the president-president can go suck up to the global warming hoax-enabling King of China and lie about whatever he said last week and the week before that, but I sure as hell can’t chicken out and obfuscate last weeks picks or fall back on abstractions (well, when you think about it, what is a touchdown, anyway) when we lose. So when he turns football into a political football it matters to us, because it isn’t just football, its food, or a well-deserved vacation, or a weird looking skinny dishwasher.
As of press time there are stories circulating that indicate that he might have caused the (forthcoming, just you wait and see) ouster of commissioner Roger Goodell. Seriously. Because of nonsense like that, I have to pay attention to what this clown says. Repugnance aside, I don’t want to read what the president said about a game that doesn’t concern him. Hell, if Bernie would have won I still wouldn’t want to have to track his opinions, especially since he thought that the 2016 Redskins, who wound up finishing 8-7-1,were a very good football team.
So I admit it, the Pizza War had me at the end of my rope. The camels back was trembling. I was Lloyd Bridges without my precious model airplane glue. Then it hit me out of nowhere, like model sportsman and class act Mike Evans. I remembered that JFK said that thing about the Chinese word for crisis incorporating the symbol for opportunity. But then I remembered that he made that up. Still, open every door for you know not when the dawn comes, right? We as a nation are in the throes of the Pizza War, and I live in Queens! The pizza capital of the United States! A war breaks out and I, a reporter entrusted with the public’s thirst for truth, sworn to objectively present the facts, lay down my head at night in the theater of war!
A scoop for Ruthless. A firsthand account from the battlefield. I can become the Alexander Shimkin of pro football gambling columnists! The lines drawn, I exit my door and find myself in the heart of the conflict. Head on a swivel, I look for trenches, foxholes, landmines, and most importantly a place buy a 12 pack of Natty Light. War is hell, after all.
I cross field and stream, in darkness and light, taking it all in with the minds eye. The modern war correspondent, a hybrid of The World War I Flying Ace and Private Joker, I arrive at my preordained coordinates, the Gettysburg, Kursk, and Monte Cassino of the great Pizza War all rolled into one: LaBellas on Greenpoint Avenue.
TRIGGER WARNING: The raw, unfiltered firsthand account of a life spent as a front-line Pizza War grunt follows.
[First-generation old-world Italian pizza chef] Rashid Hassan Ahmed: Hello my friend. You want pineapple, rice ball too yes?
Me: Sir, I’m here to ask some questions about the pizza war currently raging in the NFL.
Rashid Hassan Ahmed: Yes, is warm.
Me: No, war. Pizza war. Have you heard anything about the pizza war associated with the NFL? Like, American football?
Rashid Hassan Ahmed: Sorry my friend. Customers watching football. *points to television playing MX Liga soccer as scores of neighborhood guys drink Modelo tall boys, obscuring view of ABSOLUTELY NO OUTSIDE FOOD OR BEVERAGE sign, whilst eating no pizza* No American football now. When Jets play?
Me: They played on Thursday, but no, I don’t want to watch the Jets play. I need to speak to someone on the cusp of the pizza war.
Rashid Hassan Ahmed: Crust is warm. I say pizza is warm. You like pineapple, right? You want rice ball too?
Me: I know its warm, Rashi. But I’m not here to eat. I need to ask you actually, okay, can you do two for five on the ri…
Rashid Hassan Ahmed: *to staff* TWO RICE BALL, ONE PINEAPPLE! Why you write I am become death on Mets cap? Is nice cap, no?
*conversation continues in much the same vein for approximately 20 minutes; Lobos BUAP defeats Monterrey 2-1 after Julian Quinones scores go-ahead goal at 80:44* HEY LOOK FOOTBALL!
New England -7.5 at Denver
By this point you know how much glee I get from taking swipes at Mr. Bundchen, but last week made it clear that I am a pathetic amateur next to Bomani Jones. You know by now that St. Thomas of Foxboro just published The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Peak Performance with his fitness advisor and business partner Alex Guerrero (nee Dr. Alejandro Guerrero until the a Federal Trade Commission settlement mandated that he could never refer to himself as a doctor ever again). Guerrero is of course the latest in a long line of medicine men dating back to the beginning of language and stretching through Ron Popeil, 70s paperback fad diet authors, and of course the credit card scam artist they put back in prison for another ten years.
Honestly, there is probably room for a nuanced discussion here. Guerrero has endorsements from a small army of elite athletes, including Julian Edelman, Willie McGinest, Wes Welker, Matt Cassel, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Danny Amendola. Hes probably, in all actuality, a great trainer. But he also sells this crap to the general public, and to the most desperate among us at that, since those people are in the market for cures for cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease, among other morbidities.
So all the props in the world to Jones, who is under contract to ESPN but still had the balls to refer to Guerrero as a quack on his podcast, adding that Tom Brady as of right now has a multi-level marketing scheme, without the multi-levels. The whole damn thing feels like a con. Jones, Le Batard, Van Pelt and Bob Ley are the last bastions of actual journalism on the station, and should be celebrated when they speak the truth on a network that is so otherwise intertwined with the business interests of the players, leagues, and entities that they are assigned to cover that the ads and the games tend to run together after a while.
As it regards the night game set for this Sunday, Brock Osweiler returns under center for Denver and that shellacking paid out just fine. Osweiler was the nightmare we said he’d be, completing exactly 50% of his passes and averaging 5.4 yards for a total of 226, one touchdown and two picks. I don’t have an agenda here; there is no bias because we already got paid, and there weren’t even enough any bright spots to create a straw man. I guess Denver is at home, so Osweiler can at least be booed by his own fan base. This is easy money. Take it.
New Orleans-3 at Buffalo
Good thing we kept that Bills pick as unofficial last week, eh? To be fair I was right about Tyrod Taylor, who had another perfectly serviceable game and even appeared to be trying to put the team on his back with two late TD’s. However, the defensive effort was atrocious, as they let a team led by Josh flippin McCown to score more points on them than any other team had this year, including Cam Newtons Panthers and the NFC champion Falcons.
Meanwhile, the Saints picked up their sixth in a row and are in a real groove right now. They absolutely smashed Tampa, and the final score really should have been 30-3, as Tampa’s only TD came about in garbage time with a lot of D starters on the bench.
The aforementioned defenses should make all the difference on Sunday. The Saints rushing D is middling, but they’ve kept their opponents to double digit ground yardage in half of their wins, and when Taylor and McCoy (TayCoy? LeRod?) combine for less than 100 the Bills are 1-3, whereas they are undefeated when they break 100. On the other side of the ball, the Bills pass defense ranks 22nd in the league. Unfortunately for them, passing is what Brees does.
Giants -2.5 at San Francisco
As you can probably tell, dear reader, there are not a lot of sexy lines this week. Above and beyond the fact that its been a crazy year from the jump, and might I add one hell of a year to be a rookie pick columnist, this weekend brings a lot of cross-conference match-ups, weather questions, and new fronts as the trade deadline guys get settled into place. Except for Jay Ajayi of course, who looked for all the world like he’d been playing in Philly since before that little punk Jaworski showed up. And that, my friends, is how we wind up gambling on a game involving teams that are a combined 1-16.
No sugar-coating here. Tumult reigns in East Rutherford. The family Mara, with the likely exception of Kate, spent the first half of this week whispering to every sycophant with an inch of column space that they’re clearing the building at the end of the season, and this apparently includes Eli, whose numbers are demonstrably dwindling.
The thing is, the Giants are at least a disappointment. The 49ers cant even claim that. Iowas C.J. Beathard got heaved out onto the field to sink or swim in week six and has thus far thrown for two TD’s and four INT’s in four games. The small, square numbers make for easy math but don’t exactly inspire confidence. Mind you, that’s not his fault – his only real weapon is Carlos Hyde – but hes got a long way to go in this sustained, painful trial by fire.
The Giants are terrible but not open-up-as-a-dog-to-San-Francisco terrible, and the line has since corrected itself to favor the Giants. The core of this team, plus Odell Beckham, went 11-5 this year. True, they’re underperforming, and they probably will blow up the team at the end of the year, but they’re not going to go 1-15. Much to the chagrin of their fan base, they will pick up a couple of draft-crippling wins between now and Christmas, and they will come against tomato cans like this Niner’s team. Bet small, but bet on blue.
That’s it, gang. Don’t look now but we are damn near profitable. Had Oakland not taken their foot off of the gas on Sunday night, we would be in the black, but at least that was a legitimate backdoor push, whereas if Lane Kiffin had pulled this crap and knocked us under the magic number, I’d be driving to Florida right now in a pair of adult diapers and my astronauts uniform, as one does. In any event, we are currently 13-12-3 and 52% excluding pushes, a measly one percent under the line of demarcation, and I’m hoping we’ve weathered the eye of the storm. Grab a strong drink, put on the worlds greatest gambling song, and celebrate for the sake of keeping the momentum.