This is Doink-O-Rama, John Teti’s column about pro football.
Week 13 Most Unwatchable Game preview: Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Los Angeles Rams
The TV coverage maps at 506sports.com provide a snapshot in time of a team’s national appeal, as judged by network programmers. The maps show which games will air in which local markets on Sunday—for instance, for Week 13, in the early slot on CBS affiliates, CBS has decided that most of the country will see the Chargers play the Bengals:
The flood of red on the map exists not just because Chargers-Bengals is a good game featuring two playoff contenders, but also because the other games are such stinkers. Indy-Houston, Philly-New York, and Minny-Detroit each feature a half-decent away team versus a bottom-dwelling home team. To limit the pain these dreadful games can inflict on the innocent TV public, CBS confines each one to the smallest space possible, like one of those Ghostbusters traps. Eagles-Jets, a true Slimer of a matchup, will only be able to spread its miasma of despair in a tight patch around the Northeast I-95 corridor; Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Maine are spared its scourge entirely. The Colts-Texans splotch that leaks into Tennessee may look like a containment failure, but presumably CBS’ reasoning is that Tennessee Titans fans have a rooting interest in this game, as both teams play in the Titans’ division. So you can often discern a certain logic in the network’s choices. On the other hand, there’s Western Nebraska.
As part of the ongoing effort to minimize the practical utility of the Doink-O-Rama column, every week for the remainder of the season, I will preview the matchup with the most pathetically tiny splotch on the coverage maps—the game that Fox and CBS deem so unwatchable that, for most of the country, they choose to make it literally unwatchable. This week, congratulations, the Most Unwatchable Game is Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Los Angeles Rams in the Fox late slot, depicted in orange on this map:
The Rams were the hot team for the first half of the season, but their boffo box office has faded during a current three-game swoon. One reason is quarterback Matthew Stafford. He has thrown an interception returned for a touchdown in each of his last three games, and this may have dimmed his appeal outside the L.A. area—sticks nix pick-six.
Meanwhile, the Jacksonville Jaguars are 2-9 and happy to be there. It’s a “rebuilding year” for the Jaguars, which is what they call it when a football team takes a year to learn how to play football. It’s like hitting a gigantic snooze button on your multi-billion-dollar sports franchise. You’re not allowed to be mad at a “rebuilding” team when they lose, on account of they’re just resting their eyes for next season.
Hence the official Jaguars website could straight-facedly report, in its Thursday afternoon press-conference writeup, that “the positives outweigh all else” in a season during which Jacksonville has lost more than 80 percent of its contests. Remember, this is a learning year, so it was the best possible news when Jacksonville offensive coordinator Darell Bevell told the media that Jaquars quarterback Trevor Lawrence has “been a quick learner for us.” Everything is going according to plan! The only trouble is that learning is not much fun to watch—hence the tight, contractually obligated region of Jacksonville-adjacent TV availability on the coverage map for this game.
In any case, the “learning” Jaguars offense seems unlikely to challenge the Rams’ defense, as shaky as they have been. But, of course, this X's-and-O's business is not the type of analysis that concerns Doink-O-Rama. In these pages, the game is all about the intangibles of the matchup, by which I mean irrelevant horseshit.
Best footwear cause: pizza vs. personal training
The league’s annual My Cause My Cleats campaign is underway, a special event in which players are permitted to use their shoes, and only their shoes, to make the world a better place. “EVERY CLEAT: TELLS A STORY. HAS AN IMPACT. HONORS INDIVIDUALS. INSPIRES ACTION,” the Jacksonville Jaguars note, and there’s others they didn’t even mention, like KEEPS FOOT WARM and KICKS STUFF. So you can see what makes the cleat such a powerful platform. HAS A POINTY BOTTOM.
Los Angeles wide receiver Ben Skowronek’s cause is cancer research. Admittedly, at first glance, you might look at these shoes and think, “delicious pizza.” You might even see the Lou Malnati’s logo and think, “I certainly would like to order a pizza from the Lou Malnati’s pizza chain right this minute, with locations throughout the upper Midwest and Arizona.” And to this I say, how dare you. The pizza is not the point. The warm, delicious, pizza covered in thick layers of gooey cheese and tangy sauce on a buttery crust, with slices of spicy pepperoni cured to perfection, is not the point. The point is cancer.
Do not let these cleats raise your pizza-related awareness of the Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria brand! That would be a grave, completely unintended error indeed.
Let it be said, at least the Lou Malnati’s Cancer Research Foundation is, evidently, a legitimate charitable organization doing actual good works. It’s unclear whether the same can be said for the cleats that belong to Jacksonville cornerback Brandon Rusnak, whose cause, according to the Jaguars, is “athlete development.” The organization Rusnak has selected to advance this extremely vague cause is Diamond Athletics. As far as I can tell (my research entailed clicking the “LEARN ABOUT THE CAUSE” link on the Jaguars’ website), Diamond Athletics is a small personal training and sportswear business with no discernible charitable enterprise. Jacksonville may claim that Trevor Lawrence is a quick learner, but young Brandon Rusnak might be the best learner of all, as he already possesses the heedless business acumen of a seasoned NFL owner. Advantage: Jacksonville.
Best use of plaid: Dakota Allen vs. Sean McVay
Almost every NFL team now posts photo galleries of their players arriving for a game, whether they’re showing up at the stadium or getting off the plane for an away game. Although I’ve never met anyone else who actually looks at these pictures, these in-transit photos are, in theory, a weekly fashion show for extremely fit men with a great deal of disposable income. Given that pro athletes are not generally known for their sartorial humility, there are a lot of fancy clothes to look at—and a select portion of the NFL populace dares to play the men’s fashion game that offers the most peril but the greatest rewards: the game of plaid.
Last week, Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Dakota Allen raised his own degree of fashion difficulty by opting for a plaid outfit whose base color was purple. Plaid plus purple—can it be done? Should it? It is hard to reach a definitive answer from this angle alone.
Another shot from inside the Jacksonville facility reveals that the purple plaid outfit is a full-body ensemble, and I’m forced to conclude that no, it should not be done unless you want to look like you are wearing The Joker's pajamas, which he got for Christmas and was too lazy to exchange for the correct size.
It amuses me how deeply Rams head coach Sean McVay, an Ohio native, has embraced the glitz and glamour of his adopted hometown. Here he is in a Week 12 snapshot, taking no prisoners with an immaculately tailored three-piece plaid number, with pocket square and expensive watch peeking out just so. McVay—depicted here walking to his job of telling men how to move a ball around while mashing each other into the grass—is always ready for a magazine cover shoot, should one break out in his vicinity. Is McVay aware of the camera? His determined gaze says “no.” But the plaid says, “Yes, please, drink me in with your eyes. DRINK ME!!!” And yeah, fine, okay already. I’ll have a medium cup of Sean McVay.
It’s better than a tepid mug of Urban Meyer’s pregame ensemble, which pairs gray with a different kind of gray. And here’s the kicker: gray. Advantage: Los Angeles.
Your referee: Clete Blakeman
Clete Blakeman, uniform #34, is the referee and officiating crew chief for the Jaguars-Rams game. Fans of Today with Kathie Lee and Hoda may not recall Blakeman as the “hot ref” of Super Bowl 50 who appeared on the morning show so that the two hosts could look him up and down like a piece of meat, and talk over him. “Look how cute you are!” said Kathie Lee Gifford as Blakeman began his quest to maintain his dignity for the entire four-minute segment. Co-host Hoda Kotb chimed in next. “You’re adorable! Oh, my God, ’Clete Blakeman.’ I said, the fact that ‘Blake’ was in your name made you hot enough as it was, because I’m a Blake Shelton freak,” Kotb remarked, unaccountably. “I heard that, yes,” Blakeman said, as he recognized that his quest for dignity had ended before it began.
Later, Kathie Lee and Hoda half-heartedly tried to guess a series of penalty signals pantomimed by Blakeman as they threw flags at him. But that’s all in the past, and Blakeman looks forward to officiating Sunday’s game, as he has been assured no morning TV hosts will be present.
Ad Man X on Verizon lies and Tony Romo insertion
For behind-the-scenes industry insight on the ads you’ve been forced to watch a hundred times, we visit once again with my friend Ad Man X, an actual Chicago-based advertising executive who has created many actual commercials for countless actual giant corporations. Ad Man X is so deeply ensconced in the advertising industry, he knows what you’re going to buy before you buy it. That box of saltines you bought the other day? Ad Man X totally called that.
Ad Man X maintains his anonymity because he has enemies everywhere.
For this installment of the feature, I’ve invited Ad Man X to comment on commercials from Verizon, Caesars Sportsbook, and Tostitos.
Verizon: “Dunk It or Crash It: $800 Trade-In”
Veteran Saturday Night Live performer Kate McKinnon emerges from between the number “5” and the letter “G” to deliver a literally unbelievable message: If you break your phone, Verizon will give you a new phone. That’s right, the standard rules of commerce no longer apply, everyone! You can now exchange something worth very little for something worth a lot, simply because Kate McKinnon said so, and keeps saying so. Adam Smith, eat your heart out.
Doink-O-Rama: This ad infuriates me every time it comes on because Kate McKinnon is just standing there telling me lies. She’s just lying!
Ad Man X: As a father of two teens, both of whom love watching the NFL, both of whom also love to spend my money—they are constantly begging me to get these phones. “Oh, the blond lady told me that I could have a free phone! Let’s go get the free phone.” I broke down and looked into it once. And yeah, the Verizon people were like, “Oh, no, no. That’s not how it works. We have no control over what that woman says.”
DOR: I didn’t think of the kid angle, but of course. How many kids have seen that ad and taken their crummy old Samsung whatever and just snapped it over their knee?
Ad Man X: I’m disturbed by her performance. I don’t know whether she wants us to be aroused or afraid. Is she Kate McKinnon? Is she her performance from Bridesmaids?
DOR: There’s something uncanny about it. I think you put your finger on it. Is this Kate McKinnon, or is she a caricature of herself, like a slurry of all your favorite characters from SNL? Clearly the people making this commercial wanted the latter, which, okay, but Kate McKinnon really owns the slurry. You want a little more winking distance in your commercial so it’s not so uncomfortable.
Ad Man X: I agree. She’s a little too sincere in her shilling for my tastes. There’s a brief second in this spot where her elbows do a little jig, right? And I’m like, oh, is she letting us off the hook here? Is that the wink?
DOR: You want Kate McKinnon to let us off the hook, yeah. And how would you execute that “let us off the hook” moment? It doesn’t need to take long, right?
Ad Man X: Yeah, just give us a look to camera. Even give us a literal wink! Just don’t take yourself so seriously. She delivers it with such intensity.
It’s like we’re living in a video game loading screen, too. I don’t understand this place they’ve all been beamed to, to break their phones. I love when you talk about how, like, they can knock out three Price is Rights in a day—I wonder if they did 800 of these. They just stuck a white sweep and a white "5G" in there, and they gave her 10 scripts to read. Maybe that’s why she’s so pissed at us about this.
I get the impression that she delivered this in one take and looked to the director like, “Okay, we’re moving on, right?” And the agency and the client were like, “Hey, you think we could try one where you’re a little bit more… friendly? Maybe you… enjoy the message?” And Kate McKinnon said, “Nope! We’re moving on to the next script, right, guys?” They have no power on that. She holds all the cards.
DOR: She does have a lot of verbiage to chew through, even in this one script.
Ad Man X: Oh, yeah. She’s just trying to fight through this script, about lies. Maybe the look on her face is because she has to deliver such untruths. And her soul is dying in front of us.
Caesars Sportsbook: “Thanksgiving with Caesar and Cleo”
Julius Caesar, as portrayed by JB Smoove, spouts gobbledygook about how much the Pilgrims loved to gamble on sports. The holidays are really about the “sports betting public,” Caesar maintains, but the other guests—the men of the Manning football dynasty and Cleopatra (Halle Berry)—are somehow not depressed by this profoundly sad notion, as they have found ways to distract themselves from Caesar’s drunken rant. The Manning boys keep busy with other tasks— wearing sweaters, for instance, or mentally counting the zeroes in the paycheck they will receive for this afternoon of mostly sitting.
Ad Man X: I have a quick JB Smoove story. Some colleagues of mine were working on a razor client. They had to pitch it. They lost to another agency, and when you lose to another agency, you’re always like, “Well, what did they have that we didn’t have?” And the other agency had simply hired JB Smoove for their ad. And we all we were like, “Oh, yeah, okay. JB Smoove, that’ll do it.”
DOR: He brings this combination of—he seems to have no guile, and yet, he also spends 100 percent of the time winking at the audience the way the Verizon ad never quite does.
Ad Man X: I mean, putting him in the Caesar outfit certainly helps. [Laughs.] They’ve put him in this impossible, contrived situation where the Manning brothers at least get to wear their Sunday sweaters, and he’s in this insane getup—and is still just like, “Hey, I’m hangin’ with you assholes, I don’t care. I’ll deliver all these lines, let’s do it.” It’s great. I genuinely think he delivers on this concept. He’s super entertaining. He plays it really well. And then, um, I have no idea what the product is.
DOR: I see. That is a fly in the ointment there, I suppose.
Ad Man X: Is it betting?
DOR: It is betting, yeah. Betting is the product.
Ad Man X: Betting is the product, period, when you’re watching the NFL. I feel like they’ve taken over for insurance in terms of owning every single commercial break during the game.
DOR: You’re right. You talked about watching with your kids—it’s disappointing to me how much the NFL day is saturated with gambling. It bums me out to see Phil Simms and Boomer Esiason doing the over-unders, the high-lows before the game. Once the league opened the doors to gambling, it all became real tawdry real fast.
Ad Man X: There is an element of, like, the Indiana casino to our commercial breaks now. They seem a little cheap, the carpets need to be cleaned, you don’t know what time it is.
DOR: I try to pinpoint why it bothers me so much. Because for decades we’ve put up with, and been amused by, beer commercials. And hard liquor more recently. Now, that’s actual poison. It can kill people, it can tear families apart. But I think we accept alcohol, to some extent, because it’s part of the party. It’s something we do together.
What gets me about gambling is—whenever you watch football with a gambler, someone who’s got a lot of bets in play, all they care about is the spread, or the point total, or whatever. They’re doing all this tedious arithmetic at the expense of enjoying the stakes of the actual game. “Ooh, Arizona’s winning—but I need them to win by 8 points!” They have their own story that they’re pursuing. Where, for me, football is about all of us watching it together—in our own homes, maybe, but watching it together, the same story. Gambling tears that apart somewhat. It’s another force in the culture that profits by carving up what used to be shared narratives.
Ad Man X: I couldn’t agree more. I mean, yes, beer is not good for you. But it is a highly social part of the game. Every beer commercial is 10 people hanging out, in their bikinis. And there’s something about gambling, and encouraging people to gamble, that feels like it should be done in the basement. Not in your living room with all your friends.
It is a singular, “I am going to lose this money, myself, or gain this money, myself,” thing. You’re in your own—it is a little bit like that with fantasy football, too. My boys, while they’re watching the NFL, are glued to their phones, occupying a totally separate world from what’s on screen. But they’re both going to win at their fantasy football, so they have my approval.
DOR: There you go, that’s the idea. It’s great as long as you win—that's good parenting. “Hey, kid, I know you see all these ads for gambling and whatnot, but let me just tell you: Only do it if you’re gonna win. All right? Remember that, and you’ll be okay.”
Tostitos: "Romo in Your Ear"
Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and current CBS football analyst Tony Romo is here with a message from Tostitos tortilla chips. Do you know what you need to make your Super Bowl party complete? “Mass-produced tortilla chips!” you say. But no, the answer is inserting former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and current CBS football analyst Tony Romo into one of your orifices. And you’ll never guess which orifice! Your ear.
DOR: I’ll admit, after a few years, I’m getting a little tired of Tony in the booth. To my ears, he’s already shifted into the fifth gear of announcing, where he’s just cruising down the highway. But as for this commercial, it's a funny idea, I think. What say you?
Ad Man X: I didn’t mind it. I thought it was a funny premise. They’re using him the right way. Like, Kate McKinnon, I think we can agree it wasn’t the best use of her talents on the Verizon lies. Tony—he’s kind of a doofus, he’s known for his football smarts, and he gets points for being game enough to participate in what is a pretty silly and out-there concept. So I give him credit. But I do—when I watched it, I did wonder if the little Tony Romo that goes in the person’s ear is eating their ear wax in there? “Om-nom-nom-nom-nom-nom”?! It’s both hilarious and stomach-churning.
DOR: Here’s the other aspect of it that trips me up if you play it out in your mind, which you’re not supposed to do—it’s designed to make a fleeting impression—but if you start to think it out. I wondered, who in my social group would I volunteer to have Romo in their ear? Someone who knows nothing about football. So, what about my wife? She is very supportive of the column, I’ll hasten to note, but has no interest in the game of football. What if she were at the Super Bowl party spouting stuff about cover-2 defense, the read option, and all that? Would that be funny? I realized, hmm, no, it would be annoying. Because, I realized, anybody with Romo in their ear would be annoying. His patter is only not annoying in the broadcast booth. And even there—he pushes it.
Ad Man X: It’s such an invasive, Star Trek-esque thing that’s happening.
DOR: Wrath of Khan, yeah. That’s who they should have gotten—Chekov! They should have gotten the original Chekov to stick Romo in his ear. That’s the commercial.
Ad Man X: I do still wonder, is it actually a physical thing? And I wonder if the average Joe on the street realizes it’s an actual promotion, an actual stunt they’re trying to do. It’s such a weird idea, I hesitate to think that people would want any kind of Romo in their ear.
Your guaranteed-correct Week 13 picks, as computed by DORPFASTCALC
The football picks featured in Doink-O-Rama are guaranteed to be correct, as they are calculated by the Doink-O-Rama Pro Football Anticipation Satellite and Tip Calculator, or DORPFASTCALC. Free from the atmospheric interference that dooms the precision of other football forecasting systems, the space-based DORPFASTCALC can predict the outcome of a football game to the nearest angstrom, although the nearest angstrom is not always in a mood to listen.
In its Week 11 picks, true to its ironclad guarantee, DORPFASTCALC correctly predicted the outcome of seven football contests.
Also in Week 11, there were seven aberrations. DORPFASTCALC was distracted when it developed a crush on a passing comet. They had a magical evening together and pledged to reunite the next time the comet’s orbit passes by, so fair warning—the predictions might be a little messed up again in 17,000 years.
Week 11: 7-7.
Last week: No picks; DORPFASTCALC was on vacation in the Seychelles.
Season to date: 74-67. Science works!
SUNDAY — EARLY GAMES
New York Giants vs. Miami Dolphins (Fox): Miami 21, New York 17.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Houston Texans (CBS): Indianapolis 31, Houston 14.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Detroit Lions (CBS): Minnesota 20, Detroit 16.
Philadelphia Eagles vs. New York Jets (CBS): Philadelphia 27, New York 20.
Arizona Cardinals vs. Chicago Bears (Fox): Arizona 35, Chicago 20.
Los Angeles Chargers vs. Cincinnati Bengals (CBS): Cincinnati 31, Los Angeles 21.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Atlanta Falcons (Fox): Tampa Bay 38, Atlanta 23.
SUNDAY — LATE GAMES
**MOST UNWATCHABLE GAME OF THE WEEK** Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Los Angeles Rams (Fox): Los Angeles 28, Jacksonville 13.
Washington Football Team vs. Las Vegas Raiders (Fox): Las Vegas 27, Washington 25.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (CBS): Baltimore 20, Pittsburgh 17.
San Francisco 49ers vs. Seattle Seahawks (CBS): San Francisco 5, Seattle 4.
SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
Denver Broncos vs. Kansas City Chiefs (NBC): Kansas City 29, Denver 21.
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills (ESPN): New England 38, Buffalo 24.
Keep on long snappin'
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