A look at the upcoming week in the NFL, from the players on the field to the fans in the stands

Walkthrough: Hindsight

Houston Texans DE J.J. Watt
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

January 30

A snafu regarding Super Bowl media credentials has ruined my beach day.

My former employer put up their VIPs and high rollers -- and, for the sake of administrative convenience, me as well -- in a swanky beachside boutique hotel just north of South Beach. My accommodations are the envy of friends and colleagues cooped up in the media hotels near the airport, a 45-minute Lyft expedition from everything that matters. I'm determined to spread the wealth, so I invite some of the guys over each day to enjoy the amenities: beach chairs, a poolside bar, a chance to rest and recharge between deadlines and dinner, a bathroom that is not communal.

But I don't have my game credential yet, and that's a major problem.

The Super Bowl weekly credential and game credential are two separate maximum-security placards. Media members pick up the first for themselves on Sunday or Monday. The second must be picked up on Thursday or Friday by one designated individual per outlet whom I like to call the "quarterback."

Inexperienced desk editors often get mixed up when handling credentials and list themselves as the quarterback when filling out NFL paperwork in late December, even though they will be in New York or San Francisco and the pickup location is in Atlanta or Miami. That's what happened today: I am covering my eighth Super Bowl in person, an old hand for whom a bucket-list opportunity has become a routine. Many of my supervisors are young enough to be the younger siblings of my former algebra students.

I leave a few of the usual suspects at the beach and hustle back to the convention center to deal with the snafu. My former employer rented out a production/promotion headquarters somewhere nearby in South Beach. I am welcome to stop by so long as I make an appointment. Covering the Super Bowl is now an afterthought to our Super Bowl coverage. My immediate supervisor is too busy producing videos and podcasts to help me once I get him on the phone. The next editor up the chain of command wants me to hand my phone to the person at the credentialing desk so he can go full Karen (I have a pass to use that term) on a veteran media relations director upon whom I will rely on future credentials. I explain that this is a terrible idea on many levels.

Eventually, the NFL folks give me an exact phone number and verbal script to relay to my supervisor so he can relay it to his supervisor, who can recite it to someone at the top of the league's credentialing org chart, designate ME the quarterback, and relay that information back to the folks at the desk.

The whole affair takes an hour. I hustle back to my hotel room to stash the three credentials (two for colleagues) I now have custody of, and then out to the beach. My little oasis of chairs and towels has been colonized by half of the New York Giants press pool, most lounging in business casual wear, looking relaxed and ridiculous.

"Somebody had better move so I can lay down," I say, and someone does.

It's late in Super Bowl week. Most of us are starting to wind down before the hustle of Sunday itself. It's time to enjoy the luckiest job in the world: the Super Bowl, for pay; Miami Beach on an expense account. Warm sunshine in January. Bathing beauties in bikinis made from bass guitar strings. Jazz and cocktails in faux-speakeasy cantinas. NFL legends by the pool. A strange fairytale intermezzo from everyday middle-aged life that I somehow find ways to gripe about.

Everyone has heard about COVID. Sometimes, we talk about COVID. No one has any idea what's coming.

March 16

The 7-Eleven on my corner is empty. The county highway that runs past it is empty. The world has shut down around us over the last few days, hour-by-hour and minute-by-minute. The NBA. The schools. The restaurants, businesses and stores. My family is waking up to a "snow day" which (more or less) still has not ended nine months later. But we need milk. I need to see evidence that the world still spins. And 7-Eleven is open.

As COVID descended like a dense fog, the NFL and NFLPA did their darndest to self-destruct. Word around the convention center hallways and poolside cocktail hours in late January was that the new NFL-NFLPA collective bargaining agreement was nearly a done deal. But the union's actual ratification vote dovetailed with the start of the COVID crisis. Tensions were high and common sense was low, which always seems to be the case when it's time to vote on a contract.

Here's how CBAs in most industries are negotiated. Management presents a united front, which is easy to do when you are a relatively small entity with a concise set of goals (i.e., "make more dough," or "spend as little as possible" in the public sector). A handful of union negotiators, meanwhile, ask for input from (let's say) 1,500 constituents, getting no response from most and earfuls of unrealistic gibberish from the biggest malcontents and most unreasonable blowhards. The negotiators then carve out dozens of thankless hours of their personal time for planning, research, and the meetings themselves. They do their best to not get the crap beaten out of them at the table by management, which A) holds all the means of operation and B) knows that most unions would last six seconds in a strike, if they are blessed with the legal right to strike at all. The negotiators return to their constituency with a few hard-won concessions, then get castigated as loudly and publicly as possible by the folks who couldn't be bothered contributing anything more than their union dues in the first place.

That's precisely how the NFL's CBA negotiations went down. The league's one-percenters, the guys who will be able to sell their names to beer and insurance companies for seven figures when they are 65 years old, publicly ripped the deal. Some loudmouths suggested that they could build the Pouncey Bros. Building & Loan to serve as a strike fund, and people who should know better believed them.

Many of my colleagues lost track of the fact that the NFLPA is, in fact, a player's association, as is written on the label, and not another institution trying to keep the players down. Players themselves also seemed a little mixed up. Folks running for leadership positions in the union sounded weirdly anti-union. On Twitter, union reps begged their constituents to ask them questions instead of getting info from a teammate who never attended a negotiation meeting and earns 50 times more than them.

Meanwhile, the stock market crashed. Some players faced a different financial reality by Friday than the one they had faced on Monday.

Delays to contract ratification (or a "no" vote) could have potentially been a knock-on to the start of free agency. Some of my colleagues wanted the NFL to suspend free agency anyway, even though it could be handled safely via phone, Internet, and already-negotiated-at-Prime-47-in-February agreements, because #drama. I wanted to be able to do my job while my wife and children scrambled to figure out how remote school worked. And I wanted the players to ratify the best contract they were gonna get, because the alternative was guaranteed to be brutal.

You remember mid-March. The fear. The uncertainty. Society sinking in quicksand. I shuddered as the NBA pulled players off the court, as my inbox flooded with cancelled school activities, as the governor shut down every element of everyday life, and I didn't stop shuddering until sometime in April when I was numb to the fact that playgrounds and department stores were closed, family vacations were cancelled, grocery store shelves were empty, and American culture was fracturing as though it had spent a decade waiting for a good reason to do so.

"No one is on the road," the counter person at 7-Eleven says. "Everyone is home. Everyone is scared."

Yes we were. But the NFLPA ratified the CBA. Free agency was on. The draft and schedule announcements were on. The NFL would push through toward a season in September.

Because, of course, everything would be back to normal in September.

April 30

I back my car into an SUV in the supermarket parking lot. No one is hurt. The other shopper is driving the War Machine armor and doesn't get a scratch. My back end looks like the 2019 Eagles receiver depth chart, but I'm insured.

Grocery shopping feels semi-apocalyptic. Some shelves are still empty. Masks are now required, and they come with an emotional shock that, months later, many American adults have still made it their business to not overcome. Announcements are unnerving. "One package of chicken per customer, please." "Follow the arrows." "Please keep store associates and fellow shoppers safe." Shopping feels like speed-running a spooky video game level. No wonder I was too rattled to properly check my six when pulling out.

There are no sports in the world. No bubbles. No cut-outs in stands. Sports cable channels show replays from past years. Legal gambling apps offer action on ping-pong and soccer from obscure corners of the world. The non-NFL news is mostly speculation about when and whether anyone would take the field/ice/court again.

But the NFL held a draft, so my professional life for two months has been fairly normal: mock drafts, scouting reports, a few interviews, regional radio stations calling at odd hours to interrupt their All-Time Sitcom Field of 64 and Mount Rushmore of Edmonton Oilers Goalies filler with real sports talk about Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa.

Then the draft itself arrived like a stimulus package for my whole industry. We met Bill Belichick's dog, saw Kliff Kingsbury's creepy Pornhub living room, and watched all-tuckered-out Grampy Goodell nearly drift off to sleep in his easy chair. The Packers drafted Jordan Love, and Aaron Rodgers reached for the high-end hooch. The Eagles drafted Jalen Hurts, and neighbors shouted at me about it during socially distanced, other-side-of-the-street conversations.

The grocery store was dystopian and even the walking path around my local lake was barricaded, but work felt normal.

The NFL made the right decision to hold its draft, just as it made the right call to proceed with free agency. No one was harmed by the virtual draft. It kept many, many people in my industry in business when advertisers were cutting bait. Heck, the 2020 draft went smoother than most, and the NFL looked a little more human and intimate with its hoopla ripped away. The NFL is an entertainment industry at the apex of a multitude of other entertainment industries. It did its job, allowing me to do mine.

But May would bring no travel to minicamps, not even across the bridge to Eagles camp, and no plans for long-range features. I looked forward to a little rest. New Jersey's COVID numbers were dropping. There were whispers that beaches would open, reports that outdoor transmission is rare. There might soon be sports again, school again, life again.

I received a text message while contacting my auto insurance provider. It was from my managing editor. The exact wrong time of the year for a new assignment. Not a congratulatory call about outstanding draft coverage. A "bring your playbook" call.

It was time to job search in a world with no sports. Or school.

I'd complain or plead for sympathy if I didn't personally know dozens of other people in the same damn boat. Or worse.

June 5

Yesterday, Patrick Mahomes uttered the phrase "Black Lives Matter" in a player-produced PSA. Today, Roger Goodell apologized for not listening to NFL players earlier on social justice issues, encouraged players to speak their minds and peacefully protest, and stated "we, the National Football League, believe that Black Lives Matter."

What a simple statement. What an obviously correct sentiment. What a ridiculous position to feel nervous taking a stand for, let alone feeling it's somehow proper to take a stand against.

Every topic is politicized and inflammatory as summer approaches. The pandemic itself has somehow become a political issue. Wearing a mask causes the sort of people who scream at Little League umpires to lose their minds in Walmart, and a major news network treats each of them as if they are Paul Revere. Condemning systematic oppression and "backing the blue" (whatever that means) have become an either-or proposition.

Some weeks, the only reasons I get into my (repaired) car are to drive to a grocery store or to a protest. I march and carry signs, listen to speeches and sermons, kneel in silence for eight minutes and 46 seconds, for the broad national issues and specific local ones. I look to my left and my right at these protests and see an America that's diverse in a hundred ways that it feels trite patronizing to itemize. I see the folks who oppose the events and the message, and they don't look the same, because they all look more or less the same.

We protest by day, hurry home by nightfall. In the morning, we read about tear gas and shattered windows, rows of protesters protected by rows of moms flanked by rows of dads . If families are on one side, what are the people on the other side telling themselves? Would my wife be wearing a yellow tee shirt tomorrow? Would I be brandishing a Leaf Blower of Resistance?

Wearing a mask is taking a side. Following the rules is taking a side. Believing in science is taking a side. Admitting systematic racism is real, prevalent, and abhorrent is taking a side. Valuing people over property and the lives of the elderly and infirm over the economy is taking a side. Choosing not to choose is making a choice.

And then Mahomes and other athletes spoke. They dragged Goodell and other sports executives into the light. They shifted the conversation in a way that emboldened and encouraged others. The players forced the NFL to take a side.

Like it or not, we live in a nation built by advertising. We want what we have been told to want since birth: cultural desires most of us cannot articulate, amplified, branded, and reflected back to us in 30-second commercials whose jingles from childhood we remember better than the voices of long-deceased loved ones.

Advertisers love individuals such as Mahomes: quarterbacks are our aspirational figures and culture heroes; youth and vitality are our most cherished possessions; and yes, the more demographics, the better. Meanwhile, 1980s businessmen are comic book movie supervillains, reality television stars our comic relief.

Advertisers cannot gerrymander. Suppressing the "votes" of those who don't like their products makes them no money. They want Mahomes to represent them, so they want to stand for what he stands for. Men like Goodell want what advertisers want. Mahomes and other athletes recognized the power of their platforms and seized it. The market chose a side. The culture war wobbling atop the pandemic in the summer of 2020 will eventually end in a rout.

Not that it looked that way at the time. Not that the war is even over yet, nor the most important battles even fought. But if Roger Goodell can say Black Lives Matter then I can, and those who feel threatened by the phrase become the ones who are forced to explain themselves.

As summer arrived, protests quieted, and social justice in all its forms became (for many of us) another plank in a platform, another file folder atop a heaping to-do list. It's easy to be cynical and claim it was all performative, from Goodell's mea culpa to all the suburban marches through middle-class streets.

But I look back on the sports arenas that later became voting precincts and league- and player-supported voter registration drives and think that Mahomes had a significant little role in changing the world.

October 4

It's an NFL Sunday. There is football on television. I even have a job, or jobs; I am doing better than many friends and colleagues. And I am even legally, safely (?) settled in at the bar.

I rarely cover NFL Sundays from any stadium. It's not cost-effective to travel to Foxboro, only to discover that the week's biggest story is brewing in Seattle, and there's little time for postgame interviews when writing long around-the-league roundups. I've gone to the same tavern on Sundays for over a decade to watch five or six games at once, then return to the home office for the late games, followed by an evening and night of furious scribbling.

New Jersey's governor opened bars at reduced capacity in early September, but I initially worked from home via NFL RedZone, NFL Game Pass, NFLGSIS, and other resources to avoid crowds when the Eagles kicked off in the 1 p.m. window. The 0-2-1 Eagles play on Sunday night this week.

The bars are nearly empty anyway: not many folks in my corner of the nation are ready for indoor activities just yet. But my wife has returned to hybrid school, and my kids are about to return on a reduced schedule. It's time for me to "go to work." I miss too many storylines when working from home, then spend the early week trying to catch up while juggling multiple assignments. And frankly, more importantly, I miss feeling normal.

My "normal" is a bar on a football Sunday, and also an occasional haircut, a trip to the gym or the coffee shop, moody mornings prodding the kids off to school, teenagers clomping back and forth from various activities, family day trips, marching band Friday nights, beer sessions on buddies' back porches, and of course the chance to ply my trade. All of those things returned, some of them briefly, in late summer and early autumn.

My normal is also a privilege. All of our "normals" can be taken away by sickness, injury, accident, violence, unemployment, or infirmity; global catastrophes are just huge bundles that impact many of us at once. Every normal day is a gift that can be taken away by a reckless driver, a match in a wastebasket, a blood vessel popping in your brain, an armed assailant with too much rage and/or unchecked authority. And not every American gets to enjoy the same normal. Normal deserves to be cherished, nurtured, shared and improved.

Not much of note happens on this particular Sunday. The Browns win a dizzying shootout with the Cowboys. Bill O'Brien coaches his final game for the Texans. The Eagles eventually beat the 49ers. But Sunday feels like Sunday while the weather is still warm, outdoor dining in parking lots is a pleasant novelty, Zoom conversations have become less foreign and impersonal, masks feel as familiar as socks, and the sports world again connects millions of fans with shared experiences.

COVID numbers are rising. An election is looming. The NFL has been forced to shuffle some deck chairs due to a Titans outbreak. Times will soon change. In 2020, normal was very abnormal, and even more fleeting.

December 7

I am watching Monday Afternoon Football, and I am miserable.

The Steelers don't play football at normal times anymore. Last week, their matchup with the Ravens was postponed repeatedly, finally landing on Wednesday afternoon. Some Steelers bloggers and radio personalities, folks with midsized platforms who should exercise discretion and responsibility, stomped their feet and claimed that the NFL was twisting the schedule in knots to accommodate Lamar Jackson. Sure, and Hugo Chavez was pulling the strings from beyond the grave, too, so sue the electoral college.

March's devastating disaster had become December's excuse for petty rivalries and childish sniping. Forget overflowing hospitals, rising unemployment, and indifferent government responses: the real injustice is that the Saints get to play the Broncos' 12th-string quarterback while the Steelers get inconvenienced again.

December did not fall the way spring fell. COVID numbers rose steadily and frighteningly, but even here, in the nanniest of the nanny states, restaurants and gyms remained open. Sports leagues stayed in business, give or take some schedule adjustments. Schools opened and closed according to various hybrid models. Days grew colder and darker, activities more limited, but there was no sudden shock, just wearying dread

The Eagles benched Carson Wentz for Jalen Hurts, and I steeled myself for a quarterback controversy that would dominate all of my radio appearances and increasingly rare casual conversations. Now the Ravens were losing a sloppy Monday matinee to the Washington Team That Can't Even Be Bothered With a Name Anymore. The Ravens, with Jackson and others back, would face the Cowboys on Tuesday. The disruptions in the NFL schedule were exhausting. Quarterback controversies were exhausting. Real national news, simultaneously hopeful and shameful, caused sleepless nights. No wonder I felt so bad.

I had contracted COVID days earlier, but I did not know it yet. The fatigue, headaches, and body aches just felt like a 2020 bummer, the congestion like December in New Jersey.

My wife fell ill as well and got tested at the local I Can't Believe It's a Medical Facility because our primary medical provider, like most primary medical providers, is a mediocre veteran quarterback just good enough to not be worth the hassle of replacing. She took one of those rapid tests with Roethlisberger accuracy: pretty terrible, but with the reputation for being legit. She was negative. So I assumed I was negative.

Then my wife realized she could not smell the onions she was chopping, and we got tested at a facility that did not used to be a gas station.

I was mostly recovered from COVID by the time I realized I had COVID. I didn't know how to feel once I felt better. Relieved that my family experienced a mild case. Relieved to be a person who takes the pandemic seriously in a region that takes it seriously; I couldn't have leapt into the mosh pit at Coughapalooza if I had wanted to, and I stopped visiting the local tavern on Sundays weeks ago. Sheepish for having contracted the illness in the first place. Ashamed at some of the less-than-altruistic thoughts which crossed my mind as I waited out our family quarantine.

COVID was the most dangerous contagion America could face in 2020, because it's an illness that's not about you. It demands that we think two steps down the chain and make a sacrifice for someone else, not of $20 in a collection plate or a GoFundMe, but of time, activity, opportunities, little creature comforts and lower-case-f freedoms. It requires an exchange of a little bit of privilege for the health/safety/lives of others. And it arrived just when a segment of our population chose to be proudly, vehemently, irrationally opposed to just that sort of sacrifice.

There are now 20 million Americans like the many of my friends and family who contracted this illness, got well, and got on with life. Many of us probably schlepped through a few days not knowing we were contagious. Each decision to wear a mask, avoid a crowd, stand six feet away, skip an indoor visit, and turn down a travel opportunity kept an already staggering death toll from becoming even worse.

The best thing I did in 2020 was not harm anyone else. I am sure most of you can say the same. As for those who cannot, that's between them and their consciences.

December 28

J.J. Watt delivered the NFL's Gettysburg Address after Sunday's Texans loss to the Bengals.

It's time for me to hammer this memoir I have spent two weeks writing into something Walkthrough-like; I have no interest in writing a Jets-Patriots preview, and you have no interest in reading one. COVID still pokes me in the ribs now and then, long after the significant symptoms have passed, but my energy/appetite/enthusiasm are mostly back.

The NFL can be criticized for a thousand different things, but it handled the pandemic and the turmoil of 2020 very well. Some colleagues shouted "bubble" every time a team had three positive cases and scoffed at the league's Black Lives Matter lip service. I wished my family's school had the resources to test and trace as thoroughly as the NFL did and that every politician, preacher, and parent in America would, at bare minimum, offer the same lip service. The NFL was mostly transparent and surprisingly adaptable, and it worked alongside the NFLPA, which is not the lapdog it's perceived to be. (Remember the preseason? Nope. Didn't happen, because the union insisted.)

Watt's speech was a brief homily about dedication, perseverance, privilege, and the simple-but-overlooked true meaning of professional football: to provide entertainment and inspiration. The business of the NFL in 2020 was staying in business, which it did, giving us "Tompa Bay" when sports talk shows needed a week of content and Patrick Mahomes touchdowns when we needed an escape from reality. Our business was to muddle through, even when the whole country looked like the current Texans organization.

It's a blessing to have a job, a family, and good health, and to live in the world of streaming services and GrubHub, when quarantine means takeout food and Schitt's Creek. We're lucky to live in a world where so many of us can work from home. We're fortunate to have avoided much more critical food shortages, more volatile social unrest, an even greater economic collapse. We're fortunate that a few dedicated individuals worked hard to give hundreds of thousands of formerly disenfranchised people the chance to vote. We're fortunate in a way that 2020 was so speed-plotted that one week's catastrophe had to wrap up quickly so the next one could begin. We're fortunate that there are now vaccines.

We are all the Texans at the end of 2020, battling through leaderless ugliness a while longer because we owe it to ourselves to remain dedicated, strong, proud, undefeated by a year of defeats.

Someday, 2020 will be just a sad, strange jumble of memories, and we'll be able to complain about a bad day at the beach again. Until then, I wish you peace, good health, and all the joy that heaven will allow, and a Happy New Year.


51 comments, Last at 05 Jan 2021, 2:09am

1 Well put, Mike. I'm glad to…

Well put, Mike. I'm glad to hear that you and your family's bout with COVID was a relatively mild one, and less consequentially but more selfishly, I'm glad you landed on your feet earlier this year; it would be a shame if the world were deprived of your writing.

But let's get to the important thing: what's your prediction for the Pats / Jets game??? I must know! (/s)

2 How Horrible

“I see the folks who oppose the events and the message, and they don't look the same, because they all look more-or-less the same.”

Shame on them! Cancel them immediately!

6 If Raiderfan looks the same as me, he's one lucky dude!

In reply to by Raiderfan

It is a definite plank of Black Lives Matter that blue lives don’t matter. If an appointed investigator or a jury finds that a police officer did act in the proper line of duty in a shooting of a black citizen, that doesn’t mean the officer is not guilty. It means Systematic Racism cheated justice and got the officer off. The officer is automatically guilty.

It is a definite plank of Blue Lives Matter that there is nothing really wrong with how police are policing. Every barrel large enough will have a few bad apples, and there’s nothing wrong with an officer who’s received citizen complaint after citizen complaint after citizen complaint not only still officering, but training the newbies. Nothing wrong with however many black people being shot reaching for SOME-thing while a white guy out illegally after curfew is allowed to walk away from a reported shooting scene carrying a rifle overhead. Nothing wrong with that ‘Avenger Training’, or those police snuff training videos that train cops to view every one they stop as a potential cop killer because after all they certainly could be, and that’s the safest way to ensure you make it home to family after your shift. Only police can police the police.

It is a definite plank of All Lives Matter that black folk should stop whining. Actually, I think it’s their only plank.

It is morally self-evident that black, blue and all lives matter. As political movements, Black, Blue and All all suck. Each is predicated on the belief that ‘Those People!’ are hateful haters who actually enjoy killing us. Or maybe they fearfully kill us. Big whooping difference there, Mike.

10 (I assume

In reply to by scraps

that the things that you ascribe for the Blue Lives people are not true either.  I don't know much of them since I grew up and moved away from them.)

29 I will hazard a guess

Disclaimer--I grew up in a city that houses a couple of professional teams. It is more diverse than the nation as a whole (no surprise), with the African-American population being at least 2x the national average. Since I left over 20 years ago, the Hispanic-white population has soared, from almost non-existent to noticeable. Where I live now in the Midwest is more white than average, but mainly at the expense of African-Americans. I regularly use my Spanish that I learned over several years in HS & college.

I think that unless you are actively around someone who is a leader of a movement, your opinion of that movement, its goals, methods, etc. are what you see and read in the news media. This will also be shaped by which media you consume, your social media friends, family, etc. We also know that what drives views, clicks, etc. is the most outlandish and sensational--not the mundane, average stuff. On social media, that translates into those who either have large followings, post something controversial, and/or regularly produce content. Thus, anyone who is not tightly involved with a movement is only informed by the fringe/extremist portion of that movement that is highlighted. Especially if their views are not aligned with that movement--because the media that informs their opinions is also highly likely to be against that movement. If you don't believe that, look at what both sides claim about the other political party. Anyone on the other side is painted as an extremist trying to destroy America--even when they share several political views (for example, look at primaries--the most recent visible example being the Democratic primary for president).


SO--my guess on the point BigRichie is trying to make in comment #6 is that the loudest, most visible people of the various movements (i.e., their most controversial/extreme wings/members) DEFINITELY espouse the points that he stated. Sadly, their views are that the black person is always innocent or a victim--whether that's true or not. Witness criminal activity that has gone on around even justified shootings when the criminal was brandishing a weapon. Blue Lives Matter groups try to minimalize the actions of their out-of-line extra aggressive officers, justifying the use of very unjustified shootings/aggression as necessary to protect themselves. And those who are loudest about "All Lives Matter" condemn as racist those who would espouse that [their group] Lives Matter--because truly all lives do matter, no matter your skin tone, occupation, cultural heritage, age, income level, etc.

One of the saddest commentaries on America today is that we are being conditioned to believe that everyone who is not "like us" whether racially, socially, politically, etc is an extremist representing "the other side" who is out to destroy everything we personally hold dear. Which 99% of the time is 100% not true. They may have different opinions of the best way to achieve that common goal (for example, economic prosperity, safety, a better future for ourselves and our loved ones--ever met someone who didn't care about those things?). That doesn't make them an extremist out to get us, destroy our family, and radically reshape the USA.

33 Well put, Joseph. It’s…

Well put, Joseph. It’s pretty easy to get angry “at the other side” by finding some bozo behavior and opinions out there, because after all there are millions of us in this country.

I’d go on to make some subtle distinctions, but eh, this is not a political forum.

36 Whoosh! Anyway, while we're…

In reply to by Raiderfan

Whoosh! Anyway, while we're here, I've never understood this concept of "cancel culture". To put it in the form of an example, does it refer to the people who want to cancel tweets, or to the people who want to cancel Twitter for canceling tweets?

How this expression ever caught on I'll never understand. It's like someone saying, "look at those one-headed ones! So smug with their one head!"

41 Cancel culture


My understanding is that it refers to people who want to "cancel" parts of our past because they are not acceptable today. In other words, what was culturally acceptable years ago is not acceptable today--so those logos, ads, companies, events, people, etc. should be "cancelled."

For example, Aunt Jemima products have been around for a long time. If someone came up with that name, logo, etc. today--they would be vilified, boycotted, and shamed for doing so. But because it started in 1889, it wasn't a big deal--until somebody on 21st century social media decided it should be. So, today's "culture police" decide that these products and company should be done away with, publicly shamed, and their employees called racists and other derogatory names because they work for said company. In reality, the products have been around for well over a century, taste reasonably good, and their logo is pretty recognizable. Thus, a series of products which has actually used a female and a minority to be their logo (although stereotyped in a potentially offensive way), long before that would have been mainstream, now deserves to be "cancelled." [I'm not taking a side on whether the logo should be changed or not--I can see both sides of the issue. I am not for people and companies who have a large social media following thinking that their opinions and worldview get to define for everyone else what is acceptable in today's society.]

42 That makes more sense,…

In reply to by Joseph

That makes more sense, thanks for the comment. Sort of what happened to the FT. Yeah, I agree it's a complicated issue. In some cases it seems to make sense, not so much in others.

43 Let's look at reality,…

In reply to by Joseph

Let's look at reality, however. Euro culture in the US has been the ultimate "cancel culture". Cancel the Indigenous culture, by denying them their lands, language, and traditional foods; cancel the Mexican culture that existed well before Anglos arrived, by abnegating the property rights established by treaties; and last but not least, cancelling the culture of Africans dragged here as slaves, denying them of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to the point of even denying them the satisfaction of spouses and offspring.

Let's imagine the other side: we should not tear down the "beautiful monuments" to Hitler or Mussolini or Saddam Hussein because they are all major parts of our culture. After all, Mussolini made the "trains run on time".

44 For a country who tried so…

For a country who tried so apparently thoroughly to erase the presence of the people there at the time (mostly not the original inhabitants themselves), you get the hilarious collusion in New Mexico of four competing legal claims derived from apparently cancelled cultures. Some parcels were subject to Spanish law by way of Mexico, were claimed by Texas, neither of whom exerted sovereignty there, on lands held by various warring Indian tribes, and finally the US. These cases are still litigated.

The US keeps everything.

3 The NBA cancelling games was…

The NBA cancelling games was a blip. The NCAA canceling March Madness was when the world knew a dinosaur-killer was a week away and the missiles had failed.

An organization designed to buy and sell young black men and profit from their free labor decided it wasn’t worth the risk to make the $3 billion dollars in a week that funds their entire sham for the rest of the year.

That was the holy shit moment.

Hey, anyone else remember when murder hornets were a thing?

17 Among soooo many plans my…

Among soooo many plans my family had in March (indoor band, Odyssey of the Mind regionals), my wife and I were planning a little March Madness trip to the local bar, some day drinking, since we now have a designated driver in the house. It was another little moment of "Nope. Even your most mundane plans are now garbage).

But the NBA thing was unnerving, with ESPN broadcasting that last game and interviewing Mark Cuban while other teams were pulling players off the court. That was the turning point from "overabundance of caution" to "all bets are off."

4 Incidentally, Wild Krafts…

Incidentally, Wild Kratts told me pangolins were cool and a harmless endangered species.

Not cool, pangolins; not cool. There’s room for you next to the passenger pigeon.

46 Whether the virus took a…

Whether the virus took a route through pangolins before hitting humans is still murky - there was definitely some intermediary between bats and humans, but the evidence we have pointing to it being pangolins isn't super conclusive. It definitely started with bats, though.

It absolutely breaks my brain to think about how this all eventually traces itself back to one bat. One! All of those silly hypothetical "take a time machine back to kill X" discussions must now include the Original Covid Bat alongside all of the usual suspects.

8 Thanks Mike. The return of…

Thanks Mike. The return of Walkthrough is one of my highlights of this year of many memories but not so many good ones.

13 Well Said

I almost always enjoy the content you write, but this piece, this piece was special. You covered difficult topics which should not be difficult in a straightforward, bold manner (which should not be considered bold). It's a travesty that the in this country your statements about masks, COVID, and Black Lives Matter are considered controversial. I love the football commentary, statistics, and analysis on this site, but every once in a while you as a collective whole throw out something truly excellent.

Well done.

20 Thanks! I don't cover topics…

In reply to by Roadspike

Thanks! I don't cover topics which I consider controversial. And if I avoid a "controversy" because some folks have chosen their own reality where science or major social issues are not real, well, next thing I am cowtowing to flat earthers and lizard people believers. 

38 Me neither

I also don't cover topics which I consider controversial. But to be fair, that's pretty easy when the millions-some folks who disagree with me on what's controversial when I know they're wrong are all anti-science lizard people believers.

39 like to be helpful

In reply to by BigRichie

Also, it's 'kowtow', not 'cowtow'. Just so one small useful thing comes from this.

15 You got Covid and

Nice virtue signaling .. but decisions to wear masks, not travel, etc. may not be as important as you think. Case in point: you.

23 Misunderstanding probability…

Misunderstanding probability on an analytics site must be a hobby for some people. Case in point: you. Going for it on 4th-and-goal on the one may not get you points, but it improves (not guarantees) your chances of winning the game. Likewise, wearing a mask, not traveling, and reducing your contacts improves your chances of not catching a highly contagious respiratory illness, but obviously does not guarantee it.

25 Would this means cancelling…

Would this means cancelling pandemic precautions to pack shoulder to shoulder for extended periods with complete strangers in order to make a philosophic point is like calling a cover-0 blitz in a Hail Mary situation?

35 So announcers who rile up…

So announcers who rile up the ignorant fan masses by second-guessing every decision because they either don't understand football or because they understand only too well how ratings drive the business would be like... almost the exact same thing, actually?

"But hey" says Rich Gannon holding his two-point chart in his had, "I've got it in print so it must be true!" is like people saying "I read it in Facebook, so it must be true!"


30 Beyond what the other…

Beyond what the other replies mentioned, part of the point of the article is that fighting covid is a collective and not just individual action.  Doing all those things stops other people from catching it from him, not just him catching it from them, which is a good thing since he did in fact end up carrying it

31 Beautiful

Thanks for writing this, beautiful words Mike

34 Thanks Mike for writing so…

Thanks Mike for writing so well on football, a game we love, but also how football to most of us is just another one of those mundane events that connect us. And for capturing so well this insane year we’ve had.

Week 17–as good a time as any to be reminded that it’s amazing the NFL got here at all, inconvenience to the Steelers be damned.

47 Mike, this was really…

Mike, this was really excellent. My favorite writing often takes a feeling I had or didn't know I had and articulates it in a way that I couldn't and this definitely fits the bill. I did not expect to read something like this on FO today, but I'm so glad it's here, or anywhere.

50 Thank you. I've read…

Thank you. I've read thousands upon thousands of your words over the years, and appreciated them all. But really appreciated these...

51 Mike, this was one of the…

Mike, this was one of the best things I've read all year.  You put it all really, really well.  I kind of feel like it deserves to be somewhere more mainstream than on a niche football site.  


Glad to hear you and your family got through the virus without incident.  Be well!