Measure for pleasure

The dumbest thing the officials do is measure for a first down. To begin with, the device they use for this routine is laughable, a 10-yard chain with panicky orange pennants on either end. It looks like it ought to be guarding hazards on an aircraft carrier. Instead, it tells grown men how far to run on a lawn. On a close first-down call, the refs trot out this Wallace and Gromit contraption and line it up near the ball. Sometimes they lean down for the exactitude of a closer, squinting look, similar to the process used to detect the Higgs boson.


The funniest part is, the pigskin technicians are assessing a spot determined by a guy who tried to keep track of the ball while a couple dozen other guys careened around the field like a bunch of Higgs bosons. Don’t get me wrong, NFL officials are very good at spotting the ball, but they’re still human beings making a split-second guess after a frenzy of activity—there’s no particular precision to the process of deciding where the ball should be placed. The upshot is that, when the chains come out, you’re seeing serious people conduct a painstaking measurement of an on-the-fly eyeball estimate. That makes no sense, so like all rituals that make no sense, we take this one extra seriously. At the critical moment, the camera zooms in tight as the authoritative first-down marker descends. Few shots are framed with more awe than that climax when the line-to-gain becomes tangible, not a mere concept or a sickly yellow stripe.

The officials play up the ceremony, too. When the ball’s short, some referees hold up their hands to estimate the distance, as if they’re scouts signaling to base camp. “Eight clicks to the red zone!” Other refs will even hold up the lengths of chain, seen above, because they want to give Coach the news straight from the source. I bet the chain-holding-up guys look down on those hand-estimating guys, the sloppy bastards.


Everyone recognizes that it’s odd to take the result of a split-second guess and treat it as scientific fact, but because there’s no practical alternative, we leave it alone (aside from the occasional challenge by an aggrieved coach). The head linesman—or his faithful sidekick, the line judge—guesses where the ball should go, and his word becomes law. So in a way, the object isn’t to move the ball 10 yards but rather to convince one of the people wearing stripes that you did. Football is a more subjective game than it pretends to be.

Oakland Raiders vs. San Diego Chargers — Sunday, 4:05 p.m., CBS

Justin Tuck clutches the ball after intercepting a Peyton Manning pass. (Photo: Tony Gonzales/Oakland Raiders)


The remaining schedule for the Raiders goes like this: at San Diego, Kansas City, at St. Louis, San Francisco, at Kansas City, Buffalo, and at Denver. Of these, only the St. Louis and Buffalo games have a whiff of winnability about them. (Maybe the Denver game, too, as the Broncos might have clinched their playoff seed by then and would rest their stars.) There’s a good chance that Oakland will go 0-16, which is sad. It’s at this point in the season that, from an impartial fan’s point of view, a winless team turns into a bunch of Charlie Browns: You might root for them to finally win, but there’s a certain dark humor in the fact that they never do.

I am indeed pulling for Oakland to get off the schneid because a winless team is such a gloomy notion. It’s depressing to think that the Raiders could work so hard to achieve a result that anyone in the world could have duplicated. At the beginning of the season, we could have put together a team of you, me, and 51 other Block & Tackle readers, and we would have easily matched the record of the 2014 Oakland Raiders so far.

But while I’d like to see the Raiders get a win, my secret hope, which will no longer be secret five words from now, is that Oakland will tie. Then we will be forced to confront the debate over whether 0-15-1 is better or worse than 0-16. The former is objectively better, yet it would be uniquely pathetic if a team came that close to a win without finishing the job. One-tie seasons have happened twice before: The 0-11-1 1960 Dallas Cowboys did it before the advent of regular-season overtime, and the 0-8-1 1982 Baltimore Colts did it in a strike-shortened year. If the Raiders manage a tie, their record will have no such caveats—they would achieve a strange pinnacle of futility, pressing their nose right up against the glass of victory without ever tasting it for themselves. The Block & Tackle “Hello, Loretta? I’m stuck inside the final score predictions for some sort of absurd football column. I don’t know, the grandkids gave me that gift card, but then somehow I ended up here after I clicked on a fleece vest. Can you call Jack and see if he has any ideas? Okay, I’d better go, it looks like it’s about time for the—” prediction: San Diego 33, Oakland 16.


It was funny hat day!

It was funny hat day on Sunday! Everybody wore a hat that would make someone laugh.


These people are fans of the Green Bay Packers. Many fans of the Green Bay Packers wear wedges of make-believe cheese on their heads. But these fans have top hats of imaginary cheese instead. Does that make more or less sense? Nobody knows!


The person hiding on the left has an important job. He is the alien symbiont who controls the puppet-husk known as Marc Trestman. He is also wearing a bright yellow cap. Who ever heard of such a bright hat? A race of alien symbionts, apparently.

Why, here is Mike McCarthy. You may not think he is wearing a hat at all. But look closer: It’s camouflaged. This is known as a Salute To Service. The troops fight in America’s endless series of preemptive wars, and in return, we have this sideline golem wear an ugly hat. That way, everyone is even.


This funny little fellow is Bruce Arians. His Arizona Cardinals outscored the St. Louis Rams 21-0 in the fourth quarter. It is the only time he has ever outscored anyone while wearing that hat.

Pointlessly specific stat of the week

San Francisco 49ers vs. New York Giants — Sunday, 1 p.m., Fox


New York, at 3-6, has spent the last month grinding its playoff hopes into dust. Any NFL expert can tell you what the Giants’ problem is: body language. Quarterback Eli Manning always looks sad, and head coach Tom Coughlin always looks angry. Low morale makes for bad football, although it might make for good TV. Directors love to televise Eli’s mope face and Coughlin’s craggy scowl, especially the latter. Soon they may start showing Coughlin during games where the Giants aren’t even involved. In the middle of a Titans-Texans snoozer, they’ll just cut to a live shot of Tom Coughlin sitting on his couch, glowering.

Manning and Coughlin won two Super Bowls together; surely they’ve acquired some affection for each other. They simply need to get better about showing it. Expressive emotional honesty is the key to any coach-quarterback relationship. Tom, Eli, if you’re reading this, please watch the video below and take its important message to heart.

The Block & Tackle “So I need to Google Chrome, Jack? And how do I do that? … But I thought you said Internet Explorer was bad. … I see. Gosh, if you had time to come over here and help your mother and me with all that, I sure would—uh-huh. Well, give our love to Stacy and the—” prediction: New York 24, San Francisco 21.


The state of the NFL, as explained through actual quotes from Adam Gopnik’s recent New Yorker article about the Cronut in which the word “Cronut” has been replaced with NFL teams

  • “The [Philadelphia Eagles] tastes like now.”
  • “Although skeptics consider the [Cleveland Browns] to be what the great New York restaurant writer Seymour Britchky once called ‘a New Yorker trap’—something that is local but still essentially ersatz, like a checked-tablecloth neighborhood restaurant where the food is terrible and the mom-and-pop proprietors are hostile to newcomers—the line is real, and long.”
  • “At last, a [San Diego Chargers] is obtained—one is kept every day for quality control, and in this case sacrificed to a late-rising writer—and it is intensely sweet, interestingly textured, almost unbearably rich in ‘mouth feel.’”
  • “The [Miami Dolphins] was a hit essentially before there were [Miami Dolphins].”
  • “Carême would have welcomed the [Chicago Bears] line, and been welcomed in it. One sees him outside, waiting for hours, furiously scribbling new ideas for pièces montées—perhaps a triumphal procession in pastry, with a temple of Art and Appetite made of pretzel croissants, blessed by Love in the form of three or four crusty [Chicago Bears] Cupids, smiling down for novelty’s sake.”
  • “What, finally, can account for the phenomenon of the [Pittsburgh Steelers] and its crowds? The Marxist, or, anyway, materialist, explanation is the most arresting.”
  • “But it would not be going too far to say that the coexistence of the pretzel croissant and the [Jacksonville Jaguars] is worth thinking of as a form of competition, if only on purely Darwinian terms, in which all coexistence is competition held briefly in equilibrium, particularly because their coexistence is representative of something new, pervasive, and quite possible perverse: the hybridized and fetishized schnecken.”


Corrections department

Due to an outbreak of the Michelangelo virus, the following game predictions were incorrectly transcribed by Block & Tackle support staff in last Friday’s column: Cleveland vs. Cincinnati, San Francisco vs. New Orleans, Atlanta vs. Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh vs. New York Jets, and Kansas City vs. Buffalo. We regret the errors and appreciate the opportunity to correct the record.


Tuesday’s Block & Tackle featured another installment in our ongoing competition between the sack dance and the touchdown dance. The sack dance emerged as the victor this week on the strength of Michael Bennett’s specsackular gyrations. But as commenter rct pointed out, the late professional wrestler “Ravishing” Rick Rude should have been credited with an assist, as Bennett was borrowing his move:

Meanwhile, Mr. Fingerbottom took one look at John Brown’s crazy post-touchdown gyrations…


…and wondered whether they might be “waacking,” a word that is apparently a word for a dance that is apparently a dance. The esteemed Mr. Fingerbottom passed along this clip:

Finally, after I praised the font that NBC uses for its Sunday Night Football graphics, lookatthisguy identified the typeface in question as DIN 1451. “DIN 1451 is rad as fuck as fonts go,” replied Allen Wren. Block & Tackle readers are my kind of people.


Quick-hit picks

Here are Block & Tackle’s final score predictions for the rest of the Week 11 slate. All Block & Tackle predictions are guaranteed to be correct.

Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins (last night, 8:25 p.m., NFL Network): Miami 17, Buffalo 16.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Washington (Sunday, 1 p.m., Fox): Washington 25, Tampa Bay 14. Inexplicably invited to opine on the 2014 Washington squad, ex-quarterback and ex-color-commentator Joe Theismann remarked, “I can explain why a team is very good and why a team is struggling.” He went on to observe that Washington is “struggling because they’re making mistakes at the wrong times, and they’ve also created scenarios for themselves where it’s that one play that’s going to be the difference in winning or losing by a point, or six, or seven, or three.” If you think Jon Gruden is irritating in the ESPN booth, try to remember the days when we had to put up with analysis like that every week.

Seattle Seahawks vs. Kansas City Chiefs (Sunday, 1 p.m., Fox): Seattle 28, Kansas City 23. “No, not the mustache. That would look ridiculous.”


Atlanta Falcons vs. Carolina Panthers (Sunday, 1 p.m., Fox): Atlanta 31, Panthers 20.

Denver Broncos vs. St. Louis Rams (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS): Denver 37, St. Louis 21. St. Louis punter Johnny Hekker’s Twitter bio describes him as a “power snacker.”


Cincinnati Bengals vs. New Orleans Saints (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS): New Orleans 30, Cincinnati 23. When the Bengals stink, we get to call them the Bungles. When the Saints stink, we get to call them the Ain’ts. If only they both could lose this game; it would be the greatest day in NFL wordplay history.

Minnesota Vikings vs. Chicago Bears (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS): Chicago 21, Minnesota 20.

Houston Texans vs. Cleveland Browns (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS): Cleveland 27, Houston 17.


Philadelphia Eagles vs. Green Bay Packers (Sunday, 4:25 p.m., Fox): Green Bay 34, Philadelphia 31. Since the beginning of the 2010 season, Green Bay is 9-4 against teams named after cats and 7-4 against teams named after birds. The rare two-animal threat.

Detroit Lions vs. Arizona Cardinals (Sunday, 4:25 p.m., Fox): Arizona 28, Detroit 27.

New England Patriots vs. Indianapolis Colts (Sunday, 8:30 p.m., NBC): New England 35, Indianapolis 27. Since become the New England head coach, Bill Belichick has relied almost exclusively on left-footed punters, not because they create an unusual spin that interferes with the punt returner’s read on the ball, but rather because Belichick is racist against right-footed punters.


Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Tennessee Titans (Monday, 8:30 p.m., ESPN): Pittsburgh 24, Tennessee 14.

B&T prediction record last week: 13-0

B&T prediction record for 2014 season: 146-0

Unconscionable corrections made: 54

Block & Tackle Week 11 Picks: Pocket Edition

B&T WEEK 11 PICKS 🐬17-16💸 🗽24-21👖 🈚25-14💀 🔊28-23🎅 🐦31-20😾 🐴37-21🐑 👼30-23🐯 🐻21-20🍆 🍊27-17😈 ⚡33-16🃏 🛃34-31🐔 👠28-27🚘 🇺🇸35-27🔫 🏭24-14🔧

— John Teti (@johnteti) November 13, 2014