Despite the NFL's overwhelming success, pro football's future is uncertain due to the growing undercurrent of concern about head trauma and the long-term effects of concussions caused by the sport (and yes, a $765M settlement is still an undercurrent in a multi-billion-dollar business). There's a cottage industry in reporting and reacting to news of football's ties to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), from the well-publicized PBS documentary League of Denial to conference speakers lashing out against the supposed War on Football.
But here's the thing: even the people making documentaries about how football disables and kills people still love the sport. In August, I spoke to Sean Pamphilon, director of the excellent United States of Football, and asked him about bridging the gap between loving the sport and realizing the damage it causes to those who play it.
"I don't know if I feel guilty, but I feel like a complete hypocrite when it comes to this," he said. "I look at football like it's physical poetry. If you look at the intricacies of the game ... the choreography and athleticism of the game is incredible."
And that, I think, is what's truly intoxicating about the NFL: not the big hits, but the feats of athleticism that stretch the boundaries of our imagination. To wit:
MEGATRON IS UNREAL OUT THERE BY THE WAY!! AMAZING TO WATCH HOMIE— LeBron James (@KingJames) October 27, 2013
That is LeBron James, Greatest Basketball Player on the Planet (and perhaps Greatest Basketball Player in History of Mankind), expressing all-caps wonder at what Calvin Johnson can do on a football field. LeBron James: four-time NBA MVP, two-time NBA Finals MVP, two-time Olympic gold medalist, thinks Calvin Johnson's physical feats are unreal. LeBron James, three inches taller and 15 pounds heavier than Calvin Johnson, can't believe Megatron's athletic feats.
If there's an argument to save football from whatever devastating future awaits it -- be it toothless defenses or financial ruin -- Calvin Johnson is Exhibit A that the sport is worthwhile, even beautiful. It may be hard to love a sport that cripples the men who play it, but it's even harder to turn my back on the physical poetry of Calvin Johnson.
"Marge, we're missing the cook-off!"
(GIF via @xmasape)
I had a whole thing about Dez Bryant: GIFs of his awesome touchdown catch and him yelling on the sideline, links to eye-roll-inducing Hot Takes, the audio that accompanied his wild gesticulations on the sideline, and more.
I deleted it all. Felt great.
I did a Twitter search for "Golden Tate" after his egregious taunt on the 80-yard touchdown that proved to be the difference in Monday Night Football's impression of Cold War-era Soviet architecture. NOT RECOMMENDED. It was an approximately even split between "BOOOO more like Golden Tasteless" and "Golden Tate do your thing I started you in fantasy." With that in mind, here are tweets from people who were ahead of the discussion curve (plus some shameless self-promotion):
EVEN PETE CARROLL THINKS YOU'RE BEING A DICK, GOLDEN TATE. EVEN. PETE. CARROLL.— sir broosk (@celebrityhottub) October 29, 2013
(for the record, i don't think taunting should be a penalty, but "being golden tate" definitely should.)— sir broosk (@celebrityhottub) October 29, 2013
What we really need is a photoshop of Golden Tate taunting Brian McCann.— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) October 29, 2013
I've said it once and I'll say it again you should be shot for celebrating anything in football ever.— SPECTER HELL (@edsbs) October 29, 2013
They should be shot, too. RT @vegas_leslie This issue is not celebrating after TD, it's celebrating it before you even get the TD.— SPECTER HELL (@edsbs) October 29, 2013
Celebrate like Belichick. Write your dead lover's name on a piece of paper. Give it to your pet falcon. Have them drop it on her grave.— SPECTER HELL (@edsbs) October 29, 2013
Golden Tate: still Seattle's best defense against bandwagon fans.— Matt Ufford (@mattufford) October 29, 2013
Perhaps the best commentary on Twitter, though, came from those who remembered Tate's dive into the Michigan State band while he was at Notre Dame:
Remember this dive, friends: Golden Tate treated a group of human beings like the ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese. He is not governed by the strictures of common decency or the store hours of his local donut shop. He will do as he pleases regardless of moral code, American law, or NFL rulebook.
But go ahead and tut if it makes you feel better. Do it. You know you want to. Say it: "This is what's wrong with America." YES. Doesn't that feel good? (The judgment means that you're a better person than he is.)
I'm calling it. Chip Kelly's offense may not revolutionize the NFL.— Christopher Harris (@CHarrisESPN) October 27, 2013
Sick insight, bro. Write it in your notebook and pat yourself on the back: you can close the chapter on Chip Kelly's offensive innovation after two games that were mostly in the hands of Matt Barkley, the third-string rookie quarterback drafted in the fourth round. We don't want perspective, patience, or enough time to watch the system with healthy players; we want TAKES, and they must be HOT:
COLLEGE INNOVATOR CAN'T GET IT DONE IN MAN'S LEAGUE.
With both Eli and Peyton's teams winning this week, Manningface has the week off. Please enjoy this GIF in its absence.
Let's take a moment to salute Mike Tunison, who -- aside from making many of the GIFS regularly featured here -- also documented the Cardinals fandom on display in the Edward Jones Dome on Monday night.
BEST FANS IN FOOTBALL pic.twitter.com/mpXjhEbV5T— Mike Tunison (@xmasape) October 29, 2013
QUITCHER DAYDREAMING MELONHEAD pic.twitter.com/M83DLD1EUh— Mike Tunison (@xmasape) October 29, 2013
Tirico: "The cheer in the dome is related to a baseball highlight they showed on the big screen."— Mike Tunison (@xmasape) October 29, 2013
As much as I'd like to feed the narrative of football superiority and tease St. Louis for preferring baseball to football, I happened to watch Seahawks-Rams in its entirety. Trust me: baseball was the right call -- at least for one night.
Yeah, yeah: the Andy Reid baby is cute, but I'd rather highlight Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen keeping things fresh on Halloween despite having two kids and being in their mid-30s (more pictures here). I'm younger than Brady, and I don't know anyone with kids who actually dressed up and went out for Halloween. I suspect his life is mildly more glamourous than mine.
Although, if we're being fair, the Scarecrow and Tin Man are both better reflections of his mobility in the pocket.
I appreciate Jacksonville and Tampa sucking together in an effort to keep ClowneyWatch centralized in Florida. While the Jaguars get a bye week to lick the wounds suffered in London, equally winless Tampa heads to Seattle to see if Greg Schiano can excoriate his players to victory at CenturyLink Field. I look forward to next week's intersection of Schianofreude with ClowneyWatch. That's Fumblr synergy!