Scramble for the Ball
Fantasy football, the Loser League, and general goofiness

Scramble for the Ball: Rare Positives

Scramble for the Ball: Rare Positives
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz

Tom: Well, Mike, I have some bad news.

Mike: Seriously? I thought I did well this year!

Tom: Remember how last year we both got slaughtered on our prop bets? Remember how this year we got slaughtered on our weekly locks of the week?

Mike: Are you serious? This is an actual shock.

Tom: I thought for sure with all those -105 and -115 bets on 50-50 propositions and our track record we'd both get slaughtered again on our prop bets this year. Instead, we actually both made money!

Mike: ...

Jerk. But hooray! Money!

Tom: Fake money, at least. And you beat me.

I bet a total of $24,095 on wagers that ended up getting action and won $24,625.

Mike: Like I said, I had a really good feeling about the bets this year.

Tom: You bet $24,405 and won $25,765.

Mike: Which translates into winning a tiny amount of money, naturally.

Tom: The one that bothers me is missing on Shane Vereen. I knew after writing the Rob Gronkowski column a couple days after our props that he would go over. And we both won without Carey Price or Dwayne Wade playing on Sunday, meaning those bets were pretty much automatic losers.

Mike: Stupid basketball.

Tom: I don't want to run through the full list of results, but a couple were interesting. Barack Obama predicted a close game but didn't pick a winner, so that was no action. LeGarrette Blount finished with 14 rushing attempts on an over/under of 14.5, so we both lost that. Russell Wilson's longest rush was 17, just under 17.5, so we both won. Unlike last year, the official scorer didn't go insanely tackle assist-happy, so Jamie Collins went just under (8 v. 8.5).

Mike: Sounds like a lot of the lines were just about perfect.

Tom: The Nielsen rating came in at 47.5, so it pushed. Also, I didn't score the Tiger Woods v. Julian Edelman bet since it technically isn't finished yet. With Edelman going over 100 yards though, we both lost it, or will lose it. One surprise, to me at least: while Seattle had a higher share, Boston had a higher overall Nielsen rating.

Mike: That is probably a function of the time zone difference.

Tom: Or maybe that it was 20 degrees warmer in Seattle, so doing things other than watching television were more palatable.

Mike: Oh, that's a good one! Doing things other than watching TV. You kidder, Tom.

Tom: Doing things outside. People apparently do that voluntarily in places where they didn't get a foot-plus of snow over the weekend.

Mike: "Over the weekend" is selling our fair city short (Chicago, if readers don't know). We got a foot-plus over about 18 hours on Saturday.

Tom: I thought out here we only had about 8 inches from Saturday night to Sunday morning, then we got more during the day on Sunday.

Mike: Actually, you're right. It was Sunday.

Tom: Did you want to discuss anything about the game itself? Maybe something that happened in the final minute, or, just to be different, anything that happened in the first 57 minutes?

Mike: I was a bit surprised that Gronkowski was somewhat less involved than I expected. Then again, aside from occasionally playing man (plays where Gronk really made them pay), Seattle seemed to understand what they had to do to stop the Patriots. Unfortunately, aside from a few boneheaded decisions, Tom Brady was on fire this week. Russell Wilson was also on fire, and managed to outsource the boneheaded decisions to his coach. Well, "on fire" in the Wilson sense. In that his shot plays completed an above-average percentage of the time, and the offense actually functioned.

Tom: I know you aren't a college fan, but Wilson the last two games reminded me of what Marcus Mariota did his last two games, playing better in defeat than he did in victory.

Mike: That sounds like a thing that happened to two quarterbacks!

Tom: It was fascinating to see Chris Matthews perform. Seattle needed a player to win like he did, and they got it.

Mike: Right. While I really hate both of these teams' offenses, they both executed very well from the second quarter on.

Tom: New England executed pretty well for most of the game. It was Seattle that started off sluggish. Anyway, interesting game, two good teams, one decision that will be ridiculed for as long as Super Bowls are played.

Now on to what was truly important, the advertisements. For those who may not have seen the game on television, or want a refresher, the NFL has a handy-dandy page where you can watch every (national) Super Bowl ad.

Mike: I was actually impressed by the quality of commercials this year.

Tom: Were you? There were some I thought were good, but I wasn't hugely impressed by a lot of the early ones, like I remember being in the years past.

Mike: I think it was a good Commercial DVOA year, if not the best Commercial DYAR year.

Tom: I don't quite follow that argument, given that the DVOA-DYAR split comes from relative number of opportunities, and I'd guess the number of Super Bowl commercials is relatively constant from year to year.

Mike: I was trying to make a clever statement about overall quality in a field without standouts.

Tom: I thought that's where you might be going, but I wasn't sure. So you thought there were fewer really low DVOA commercials. Got it.

Drowning, Poisoning, or Getting Crushed by a Television

Tom: How about Nationwide?

Mike: Oh lord, Nationwide.

Tom: In a way, it reminded me of GM's robot suicide spot from a previous season, which I liked but was roundly criticized and subsequently yanked. Only minus all the stuff that was non-awful about the GM commercial, which I liked.

Mike: My main thoughts on Nationwide were put down most succinctly by a fake talking avocado. Perhaps non-parents might not understand how emotionally manipulative talking about dead children is. If you don't, it ranks slightly above having your toenails torn off with hot pokers made by shoving your fingers in molten iron and cutting them off. Do not mess around with our babies.

First Draft Ever

Tom: Did you know there is a 50-minute version of the First Draft Ever?

Mike: Fifty minutes? Who thought that was a good idea? I'm scared to even click.

Tom: I'm watching it, so you don't have to. Mexico is on the clock with their second pick right now.

I really liked the original spot. Memorable, football-themed, and didn't rely on any cheap gimmicks that become old right after the spot is over.

Mike: I thought it was interesting. It had a bear in a sombrero, which means I can't say anything bad about it.

Stuck on You

Tom: Would you care to explain your enjoyment of the Loctite ad? I didn't see much to recommend it, but I noted you mentioning during the game you liked it.

Mike: I don't know, I think it was kitsch enough that it qualified as "so bad it's good." Especially the weird bit at the end where the couple glued themselves together.

Tom: I guess I can see that. "So bad it's good" may work for me on late night television. During a Super Bowl, though, I want to see actually good ads.

Serbians, Barbarians, Dragons

Mike: I will take a moment to say something nice about the newest Game of War commercial, at least.

Tom: About 8:30 into the video, Mexico uses their second draft pick on mariachis.

Mike: You're going to be making avocado-draft announcements in real time, aren't you? Anyway, it's rare for a video game commercial to even discuss the possibility of the player losing. Video games, recently, have essentially become elaborate power fantasies, with the notable exception of a small handful purposefully designed to be the opposite. Sure, the commercial was weird and the game is apparently terrible, but it was interesting that a game would advertise itself with the possibility of losing, if only to come back.

Tom: In our commercial nominations, Vince mentioned he liked the Honda Skeletor ads. Is it pandering? Yes, but Vince liked being pandered to.

Mike: Come to think of it, the Clash of Clans commercial was similar in tone, although much less direct and with much more gravel-voiced Liam Neeson.

Tom: That commercial -- Clash of the Clans, not Game of War -- was just as much pandering as using Skeletor. But, dammit, Liam Neeson in Taken is awesome pandering material.

Mike: "Inspired casting" is the term. And how!

Tom: Video while Mexico was on the clock in the second round was an avocado, with music playing while there was a hand in the picture. With Mexico on the click for their third pick, we're getting constant mariachi music with a variety of backgrounds. People exercising, flamingos, people dancing in an office conference room, an astronaut on the moon, etc.

The Clash of the Clans ad with Neeson wasn't really that interesting, but I remembered how the commercial went and what it was for.

Third pick at 16:25. The ticker is still great. "Peru and Argentina duke it out for the capybara." "Syria drafts the golden hamster. Golden hamster ranked no. 2 in wheel running."

Inky, Blinky, Winky, Coors Light

Tom: Speaking of pandering, another ad I think we both liked was Bud Light's Pac-Man. It was part of the "Up for Whatever" series, which I think has been mostly disappointing.

Mike: Extremely disappointing. So in a sense it was good they saved the best for last.

Tom: It felt more like a "random thing" with the product in it, though, like the "Product Placement" ad we liked from a few years ago.

Mike: It helped that live-action Pac-Man actually looked really fun.

Tom: Product Placement, for those who want a reminder.

Mike: Oh, memories. Although it's worth mentioning the two commercials are extremely effective in opposite ways. This year's is aspirational, as we all want to be the guy running around playing Pac-Man. Nobody wants to actually see product placement to that degree in any media, but the fact that we somewhat expect some studio to go there plays into our distrust of advertising in a humorous way.

Tom: Mexico picked silver in the third round. Apparently Avocados From Mexico is giving away a bar of silver. The video after the third pick is a rap song about money, with images of rich people doing things, like hanging out on their yacht. And trying on expensive clothes. Plus shots of silver.

[ad placeholder 3]

Mike: As one does.

Tom: Fourth pick at 24:30. "Horny toad flirts with multiple countries."

Mike: Hah.

Tom: Fourth pick: the chupacabra.

Playing live-action Pac Man would be interesting, but I bet it would be extraordinarily hard. To win, you'd have to have an incredible sense of spatial awareness and memory for where you'd gone and hadn't gone.

Mike: Yeah.

Tom: Playing Pac-Man was difficult enough with the ability to see where the ghosts were and which dots you had eaten and which you hadn't. Also, no ability to go quickly from one side of the screen to the next.

Mike: I imagine it either took dozens of tries, or some rigging, to get a shot of an actual victory.

Tom: That, or they just scripted everything, because it's a commercial.

Mike: Don't spoil the magic!

Tom: Which sort of takes away the "Up for Whatever" conceit. I could believe some random guy ended up going to a party with some group I'd never heard of, or beating Jimmy Johnson in foosball. Electronic football, rather. Or whatever it was they played.

Mike: Foosball is actually a game, at least. Sorry, I'm not using the appropriate terminology. Foosball is at least a sport.

Tom: Fifth pick at ~32:50. Mexico picks turquoise. "Mongolia drafts the Mongolian death worm. Mongolia: 'What could go wrong?'"

Mike: Stop making me want to watch a 50-minute commercial!

Tom: I'm noting the times so people can skip all the interstitial stuff if they want to. The turquoise giveaway is a necklace, so right now we're getting shopping channel-like displays of it. It's more interesting than it sounds, but I'm trying to watch other commercials as well.

Lap Children Eating Habits

Tom: Like Doritos "Middle Seat." I enjoy seeing people who deliberately act like jerks get their comeuppance. On the other hand, I fly Southwest semi-regularly. By policy, they let people traveling with small children, like that woman with her kid on her chest, board after the A group and before the B group. Outside of an unusually crowded continuing flight, there would still be window and aisle seats available for her if she takes advantage of that.

Mike: Tom Gower, voice of reason in the commercial world.

Tom: I know, it's weird it bothers me more that commercials are semi-realistic than completely unrealistic.

Sixth pick at about 40:45, and it's the jaguar. Same draft announcing crew, so Roger Goodell is not yet commissioner and the draft is all on the same day instead of on three. "BREAKING: Avocados taste amazing in smoothies. Smoothies? Yeah, you got a problem with smoothies?" "The Philippines drafts tube-nosed fruit bat out of pity. Look it up. It's weird." (Yes, it is, though per the video in the link it is found in Papua New Guinea instead of the Philippines.) "United States drafts the coyote and roadrunner. Highjinks to ensue." Jaguar giveaway: jaguar-printed car.

Mike: Wait, they had a jaguar-themed prize. That was a car. And it wasn't a Jaguar?

Tom: They're playing with expectations. That sequence starts here.

Mike: Hah, fair enough.

Incessantly Calling Somebody's Name Makes Them Pay More Attention to You, Right?

Tom: The Doritos ad hit on one of our themes for the night, parenthood.

Tom: You saw that most visibly perhaps with the Dove Men + Care ad, another long-running campaign most familiar to me from its use of college basketball coaches.

Mike: Parenthood was a big theme. Particularly making sure your child does not die from every single thing you surround yourself with.

Tom: Jay Wright Dove Men+Care ad, though I recall John Thompson III and Mike Krzyzewski being among the other coaches included.

Mike: It's good that people are talking about the noble aspects of parenthood, like self-sacrifice. My most recent experience in parenthood is digging your car out of massive snowdrifts to buy a tiny plastic thing for your child before the scalpers get there first.

Parenthood kind of sucks.

Tom: "Armadillo tests positive for leprosy" on the ticker as the seventh pick, blue agave, comes up at about 49:00. Armadillo testing was a theme of most tickers. "Penguin accused of exaggerating flight skills in Combine."

Mike: The media will never stop trying to drag armadillo down to their level.

Tom: And that was 50:37 of my life I will never get back.

Mike: I dunno, that sounded somewhat amusing. It wasn't like you were watching 50 minutes of Geico commercials. That was Sunday.

[ad placeholder 4]

Tom: I left out extended descriptions of the seven minutes between interesting segments.

How about all the movie trailers? The ubiquity of high-speed Internet has completely changed the world of movie trailers. Now, if there's a trailer I really want to see, like the new Star Wars one, I can find it online basically immediately. I don't have to wait for the Super Bowl to bring me news about the existence of movies, and videos of what they might look like.

Mike: The death of high-profile trailers began when Apple started hosting them on their site a decade ago.

Tom: Yup, and now they're on YouTube and/or other video sharing sites. That's a better turning point than just high-speed Internet. When I saw Monsters Inc. in theaters, the trailer for Attack of the Clones was part of the reason why.

Mike: I never saw a movie for one of its trailers, honestly.

Tom: Now, Furious 7, I wouldn't have even noticed if I'd seen that same trailer before.

Mike: And now I have even less reason to! Particularly since they no longer appear to be moving quickly, going by the title.

Tom: New Jurassic Park movie? Knew of it already from a commercial, not that I cared. Ted 2's was about football, but I had no interest in the original and even less in its sequel.

Mike: Only vaguely about football, honestly.

Tom: Significantly more about football than trailers for movies not about football. I at least applaud their attempt to be topical, though in the same breath rue their misleading advertising.

Mike: See, I prefer less topicality from commercials. The more whimsical, the better!

Tom: You can be both topical and whimsical. That's why I liked the avocado commercial so much.

Mike: Like the commercial for Terminator where Arnold Schwarzenegger is playing an action hero. How crazy is that?

Tom: I always wondered why they never made a sequel to Terminator 2. It was a great movie. I heard they made some movies like that, but I wouldn't believe that any more than I would believe they made an Indiana Jones 4 about aliens.

Mike: Moving from powerful religious iconography to alien artifacts would be like moving from Nazis to Soviets. Simply an absurd notion!

Tom: Jeez, the next thing that'll happen is a coach with the best power back in the NFL will call for a pass play on the 1-yard line in a crucial situation at the end of a game!

Playoff Fantasy Updates

There was almost no suspense left in the FO Staff Playoff League, as only an incredible performance by Russell Wilson-to-Doug Baldwin and flops by Tom Brady and Marshawn Lynch could have made things interesting. Baldwin got almost completely shut out, though, while Brady and Lynch were Brady and Lynch. Aaron cruised to his second consecutive championship, while Andrew's Pats-heavy strategy was enough for him to finish in second.

FO Playoff Fantasy Results
Aaron Scott Vince Mike Andrew Tom
QB Tom Brady Russell Wilson Peyton Manning Tony Romo Ben Roethlisberger Aaron Rodgers
  84 64 12 39 17 34
RB Marshawn Lynch Jeremy Hill DeMarco Murray Le'Veon Bell Shane Vereen Eddie Lacy
  47 10 31 0 14 18
RB Jonas Gray LeGarrette Blount Justin Forsett Jonathan Stewart Joique Bell C.J. Anderson
  0 36 20 25 8 10
WR Jordy Nelson Demaryius Thomas Emmanuel Sanders Dez Bryant Antonio Brown T.Y. Hilton
  9 11 4 7 11 20
WR Brandon LaFell Doug Baldwin Calvin Johnson Martavis Bryant Randall Cobb Kelvin Benjamin
  22 23 8 12 23 22
WR Terrance Williams A.J. Green Torrey Smith Reggie Wayne Julian Edelman Wes Welker
  30 0 14 1 39 2
TE Gregg Olsen Heath Miller Coby Fleener Jason Witten Rob Gronkowski Julius Thomas
  8 5 8 13 36 5
K Adam Vinatieri Connor Barth Stephen Haushcka Dan Bailey Stephen Gostkowski Mason Crosby
  24 9 15 12 18 28
D Seahawks Cardinals Bengals Panthers Patriots Broncos
  15 8 0 7 7 1
Total 239 166 112 116 173 140

Best of the Rest

Jermaine Kearse made the difference. He did not have many points, but it was just enough to push justanothersteve and Sid past puffbronfman and into a tie for the championship with 180 points each. A perfectly-picked Best of the Rest team would have had 232 points, unless there was another running back not selected by anybody who had more than Zurlon Tipton's 13 points. Full results can be found here.

Playoff Challenge Winner

Congratulations to Cory Wozniak, who won the FO Playoff Challenge with a grand total of 300 points! The secret, apparently, was to have the two quarterbacks from the two teams that met in Super Bowl XLIX, and, in a big surprise, Dan Herron, who had 40 fantasy points in three games.


Keep Chopping Wood: There is plenty to nitpick in any given game, especially one as close as Super Bowl XLIX. On the whole, your Scramble writers decided it was well-played enough that they did not want to single out a particular player or mistake just for the sake of handing out an award.

Mike Martz Award: Your Scramble writers feel no such munificence when it comes to coaches, though. Congratulations to Darrell Bevell or whoever it was who made the decision to not let your best offensive player win the game for you.

Scramble for the Ball will return in the 2015 preseason!


8 comments, Last at 11 Feb 2015, 2:13am

1 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Rare Positives

#AngryNeesom equals #NervousAlbania.

Liam Neeson is the third leading cause of death among Albanian males under the age of thirty, right behind two of the things shown in that Nationwide ad.

A whole season of Manning Sings, and they give us that on top of it? Apparently they burned out their entire intellectual capacity on the Mindy Kaling spot, which was actually clever and deft in addressing how certain demographics are "invisible" to business.

2 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Rare Positives

Nationwide had the worst commercial and also one of the best ones, the one with Mindy Kaling being invisible. My favorite was the one with Roger Dodger Triathalon, it made me laugh, the set-up was lame and I can't remember what they were selling but the dodgeball triathalon was funny.

3 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Rare Positives

Early in the second half, Brady drops back to pass and Bennett comes straight up the gut at him forcing Stork to hook and hold for the penalty. Collinsworth starts singing that famous ditty, "Nobody Can Block Michael Bennet". But her forgets the subtitle, "except Dan Connolly". Connolly on that play is lined up directly across from Bennet. At the snap, he plays outside-in, turning to his left to block.. nobody. Not only is there nobody there, but there wasn't even anyone lined up to even theoretically be there. That doesn't phase him though and he defiantly maintains his left facing pass blocking posture while keeping his feet active. If he's going to block nobody at least he's going to do it with good technique! Finally he looks over his right shoulder just in time to see Brady making a pass, so he ducks. He would have been more useful not even being on the field that play; then at least Stork would have known he had to block Bennett, instead of having to tackle him to save his quarterback. As the Seahawks linemen will all tell you, you can't tackle in pass protection; tackling is for opening up running lanes, duh!

4 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Rare Positives

"Anyway, it's rare for a video game commercial to even discuss the possibility of the player losing. Video games, recently, have essentially become elaborate power fantasies, with the notable exception of a small handful purposefully designed to be the opposite."

I don't know about that. Most of the most popular games are so big because of their online component, and unless you're very, very good playing online is going to involve a whole lot of defeat. Any newb playing any sort of competitive online game is going have a pretty tough time engaging in any power fantasy.

5 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Rare Positives

I agree that any newb will likely deal with a lot of losing. That may contribute to why I don't play online video games (or even standard video games). Still, they are right when they say most ads promote the glory the player will receive. It's certainly the impression I get when I watch video game ads.

6 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Rare Positives

Speaking of movie trailers...

Back in Dec 1998, when Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was released, they only put the trailer for it in front of certain films; Meet Joe Black as I recall.

Actual dialogue outside of the Uptown in Washington, DC.

C1: "Is this the film with the Phantom Menace trailer"?
T: "Yes"
C1: "One please"
T: "Enjoy the show."
C2: "Is this the film with the Phantom Menace trailer"?
T: "Yes"
C2: "One please"
T: "Enjoy the show."
Me: "One please. Why didn't you put 'Phantom Menace trailer' on the marquee?"
T: "They wouldn't let us. Enjoy the show."

90% of the audience left after the trailer. I gave Meet Joe Black about 15 minutes before giving up and leaving. (It was sooooo sloooooooooow.) But it was worth it when the car accident footage went viral and I was able to tell a friend where it came from.

7 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Rare Positives

I'm surprised no one mentioned the most tasteless advertisement of the day -- the Carnival ad that used quotes from an assasinated President to sell cruise vacations.