This is Doink-O-Rama, John Teti’s column about pro football.
Tales of two doinks
It’s shameful. Here I am, firing up a new column called “Doink-O-Rama,” and in my excitement I have neglected to provide you with any doinks. Who am I to perpetrate such a fraud? Does the suffix “-O-Rama” mean anything anymore?
Allow me to rectify my oversight this week with a pair of choice doink specimens procured from Week 2 of the NFL season.
A doink is any field-goal or extra-point attempt in which the ball bounces off the uprights. Sounds simple enough, but look deeper, and each doink becomes a universe unto itself. In Week 2, Los Angeles Chargers kicker Tristan Vizcaino produced this marvelous doink with a vexillological flourish. “Rare flag doink,” I typed, my hands vibrating as I captured a clip of this moment to my hard drive, naming the file as if documenting a new species of butterfly. Here was a variation in doink taxonomy I hadn’t considered before—the flag! Vizcaino’s doink not only hit the upright. It also hit the orange flag on top that indicates wind, unless there is no wind, in which case the flag just hangs there, chilling out, enjoying the good life of not being clobbered with a football. Then, wham! Wouldn’t you know it, here’s a damn football.
In my opinion, hitting the flag ought to be worth some amount of points, namely zero, and so it is. Therein lies a further twist—with this zero-point doink, Tristan Vizcaino preserved history. Perhaps that’s what Vizcaino had in mind all along. To us, it looks like Vizcaino failed at his job of kicking a brown ball between yellow sticks. But there are field goals, and there are life goals—like belonging to the ages, being part of a story that’s bigger than yourself. That latter sort of goal was in play here. Vizcaino’s doink kept the score 14-11 at the half, and according to a graphic assembled by an exceptionally alert CBS stats department, this was the only time that has ever happened. Prior to the Cowboys-Chargers contest on September 23, 2021, no NFL game entered halftime with a score of 14-11.
“No, that’s not true,” blurted CBS analyst Tony Romo. Actually, it is true (with a caveat below in the picks section), but in Romo's defense, it is also unbelievable. The graphic is a great piece of statistical storytelling by the CBS crew because at first glance it is so ludicrous—Romo’s genuine astonishment helped underline this point—yet on reflection it tells a more nuanced story about the evolution of the game.
As you would surmise, 11 points is the oddball score in this pair, the one that doesn’t come up very often, and here’s why. Before 1994—when the NFL added the option to try a 2-point conversion after a touchdown—assembling exactly 11 points on the football field was a tricky proposition. To reach 11, you need a 2-point safety, which is rare enough on its own. Then you have to cobble together nine more points from whatever hodgepodge of other football plays you happen to have lying around. Three field goals would do the trick, or a field goal plus a touchdown with a missed extra point. In any case, it was a lot of effort to hit 11 on the nose. Over the years, most teams chose instead to pursue the goal of scoring as many points as possible, an approach that offered more tangible rewards.
The advent in ’94 of the 2-point conversion after a touchdown—producing an 8-point drive if successful—made the road to 11 more direct. But for a couple of decades after the rule was put in place, most coaches wouldn’t even consider going for two during the first half of a game. It’s only in the last five years or so that more daring coaches will try it, on occasion. In other words, a halftime score of 14-11 hasn’t happened before because until recently, nobody employed a strategy with the potential to make it happen.
But on Sunday, it was finally time. Chargers coach Brandon Staley did go for two after a touchdown in the first half, the Chargers did end up with 11 points as a result, and by launching his kick into the goalpost (plus the flag!) Vizcaino did preserve this feat until halftime. At that point, it became history, solemnly etched into the ancient scrolls of NFL lore by the Score-Keepers, the secretive monks who toil in a cave under the Meadowlands.
Was Vizcaino playing to win? Maybe. Or maybe he was playing for math. I hope he was playing for math, because he didn’t win.
On the big Sunday Night Football stage, Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker showed off a little primetime razzle-dazzle as he caromed a successful extra-point kick off the right upright. The bright yellow tower hummed and rattled from the impact as the referees raised their arms to indicate the point was good. “Doink” is not necessarily the sound of failure. For that matter, "doink" is not really the sound of a doink, either, which more typically goes “thunk” or “bonggg” or, as in the above example, “knggujjkkjknk.” Nonetheless, we persist in referring to it as “doink,” the cartoon sound we wish it made.
To the uninitiated, this may seem a bit cute and goofy for such a brutal pastime, but if you watch enough football, you come to understand that comedy is baked into the game. There is slapstick, obviously. Football is the most violent of the “big four” American sports (football, fishing, Supermarket Sweep, basketball), and with that physical mayhem comes physical comedy. Twenty-two giant human bodies and an all-important oblong ball—it’s an inherently funny setup.
Yet the game also offers more profound absurdities—take the field goal attempt. If you’re unfamiliar with a field goal, what happens is, first, they swap out two of the giant bodies with two guys of relatively average build. “My job is to hold the ball still,” says one of the guys. “My job is to kick the ball,” says the other. They don’t say it out loud, of course—that’s ridiculous. They say it with dance, like bumblebees. Observe your special teamers carefully this Sunday: Each holder-kicker pair has its own sequence of steps, head bobs, and other gestures to communicate their roles in the NFL hive. Seen above, Justin Tucker’s “my job is to kick” dance incorporates a toe tap and an endearing hop. He is ready to pollinate the football.
Once the dance is complete, then the huge angry bodies spring into motion, with the gnashing and smashing as usual. Meanwhile, our holder and kicker must hold and kick the ball within the 1.5-second window before the wave of bodies is upon them and their world becomes an undulating hell-cocoon of spandex and muscle. Oh, and if they want this entire brush with terror to be worth a damn, our kicker must launch the ball into the gap between two giant yellow poles that are located, at best, rather far away, and at worst, quite far away.
The only reason it’s not a recurring segment on a Japanese game show is because football invented it first. It’s almost an act of self-satire to decide such a visceral, elemental game with such fiddly spectacle. But games come down to a final kick all the time, by design. Dozens of men can spend three hours subjecting themselves to gruesome physical exertion in pursuit of victory, and at last their fate hinges on a Beat The Clock stunt.
A doink is the most humorous possible outcome of a kick because it emphasizes this incongruity—the truth, applicable beyond the football field, that big things can be decided by small things. Coach and broadcaster John Madden was most responsible for embedding “doink” into the football lexicon. Why did he latch onto that word? Thud, bonk, clunk, these are all closer to the actual sound. But “doink” is how it feels. It’s that out-of-whack sensation when the titanic passions of the gridiron yield to the slapstick gag of a ball bouncing off a fencepost. Madden understood that a tiny noise is the best way to complete the game’s cosmic punchline of big men beholden to little twists of fate—football’s funniest, cruelest, truest joke.
"Ad Man X" weighs in on commercials from State Farm, Bud Light Seltzer, and DirecTV Stream
The NFL provides an ideal audience for TV advertisers because the typical football viewer is an 18- to 49-year-old who doesn’t feel like getting up. For behind-the-scenes industry insight on the ads you’ve been forced to watch a hundred times, we pay a visit to Ad Man X.
Ad Man X is an award-winning creative executive in the advertising industry who has overseen ad campaigns for major brands. He is likely responsible for some of the very TV commercials that have shaped your buying preferences over the years. In fact, a few of his ads have aired during that big season-ending football game called, maybe you’ve heard of it, the Pro Bowl. He’s made commercials for the Super Bowl, too (the game they play a week after the Pro Bowl).
When Ad Man X deigns to share his time with Doink-O-Rama, he maintains anonymity so he can shoot his mouth off without concern that his colleagues in the ad industry will seek retribution for his searing commentary. In the past, some readers used to think Ad Man X was a device I invented to talk to myself about ads. That's a funny idea, I guess, but nope, he’s just an actual professional who doesn’t care to risk his livelihood for an aging blogger’s football newsletter. So he’ll go ahead and critique his peers from behind the sobriquet, thank you very much.
STATE FARM — “Sneakerhead :30” and “Sneakerhead “:15”
Jake from State Farm is shopping for sneakers when he’s approached by Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes in disguise as a shoe salesman who wants the inside scoop on celebrity insurance rate discounts. You can tell Jake’s become numb to the whining of these corrupt, entitled quarterbacks. Jake wonders, what is it with their compulsive need for a special discount on home insurance? Is it a status thing with these guys? Or do they just need constant validation so badly they can’t even let their insurance agent go to the mall in peace? But you know what, Jake doesn’t even get mad anymore. He just feels pity for these massive men leading lives of quiet desperation.
In the 15-second version, Patrick Mahomes tosses a fresh word salad for Jake from State Farm. “So if I was a sneakerhead, cashing in on that sweet employee discount, I could still get the Patrick Price?” The words make no sense because Mahomes isn’t really listening to himself—he’s busy imagining what he would be like if he were a “sneakerhead.” (He would be purple and telekinetic.) Then we see Mahomes and Jake standing near a car. WILL THE CAR EXPLODE?! No.
Doink-O-Rama: Let’s start with State Farm. When I see these ads, I feel like I’m reading a complicated contract. On the surface, these are commercials for State Farm insurance, but Patrick Mahomes has a deal with Adidas, and visually, the ads also serve as commercials for Adidas shoes. In fact, the 15-second ad is a better ad for sneakers than it is for insurance. So what are the negotiations, the behind-the-scenes machinations, that you think went into this? There are a lot of interests being served in the course of a few seconds.
Ad Man X: I felt like I needed a whiteboard to understand this commercial. Good lord. It was “employee discount for Adidas is equal to employee discount deal for State Farm”? It felt so complex. This had to have come from an agent. I’m thinking State Farm reached out to Mahomes, said, “We want to pay you a God-awful amount of money to be in this.” And his agent called back and said, “Hey, you know what would be great…?” [Laughs.] “It would be great if you crammed a bunch of Adidas shit in here.” Adidas wasn’t mentioned, right?
D-O-R: No, not by name.
AMX: Yeah, Adidas wasn’t outwardly—I think it [started as] an offhand comment from either Mahomes or his agent. Like, “Hey, we got a deal with Adidas, it’d be cool if there was Adidas.” And the ad agency would have used that word I absolutely love, “authenticity.”
D-O-R: What do you mean—what kind of authenticity? Authentic because he actually wears those shoes?
AMX: Because he wears those shoes, but also because they could now cram every inch of [the screen] with real shoes. What you don’t want—what we hate, as ad jerks, is to have a shoe that’s been taped out [to conceal the brand]. Or to have, like, “Adodas” shoes. So they’d be like, “Holy shit! We can really use a bunch of Adidas? Awesome!” I’m sure they wrote around the concept of Adidas—“Mahomes loves sneakers, let’s do something with that”—and then they crammed that square peg into that round hole.
D-O-R: One thing I like about this particular campaign—which has been running for years now—is that, at the beginning, the State Farm guy would be frustrated when the athletes didn’t understand that everyone gets the same price for this insurance. But now he’s all cool and, at most, bemused by their antics. It’s as if he knows he’s become the star of this show. He has become the suave, handsome one, and the quarterbacks are the frustrated nerds—you know, maybe this is just about me finding the State Farm guy more and more attractive over time.
AMX: And that’s what I’m wondering. Why couldn’t this have been a commercial of two handsome men sitting at a cafe, talking about insurance? I would have watched that. [Laughs.] It doesn’t have to be so complicated! “I’m handsome, you’re handsome, let’s roll the camera, baby!”
D-O-R: Certainly that applies to the Mahomes pairing. But as long as we’re on the topic of handsomeness, what about the latest Aaron Rodgers version of this commercial? Is this, like, pandemic chic? The State Farm guy is a little scruffier than he used to be, okay, but Rodgers looks like he just rolled out of bed.
AMX: How could they allow him to be on national television with that hairdo? It’s like the Tom Cruise wig in that samurai movie. Is Rodgers supposed to be looking tough? Or should we be feeling sorry for him?
D-O-R: My picture is, he shows up like that, and the director figures, hey, maybe it kind of works, because everybody’s more of a slob than they used to be after sitting at home for a year and a half.
AMX: Having been in a similar situation, what I think happened is, they’re set up for the day of shooting. You know, “This is going to be great!” and they’re all high-fiving each other. Then Aaron Rodgers gets out of his limousine, and he looks like somebody from Mad Max. And they’re all like, “Hoo, boy.” But they had to just roll with it.
I had an actor cut their hair between two days of shooting! They had long hair on the first day, and then they showed up with a haircut on the second day. Everyone was like, “What the fuck?” They said, “Oh, I had it on my calendar. I didn’t want to miss my haircut appointment.” Sometimes you just have to keep going and hope that no one notices.
But this time, we did. We noticed that Aaron Rodgers looked terrible.
BUD LIGHT SELTZER — “O-Lineman”
A hip, chipper Bud Light Seltzer spokesperson levels with us: There’s a problem. People see a can that says “BUD LIGHT SELTZER,” and they think there’s beer inside. But there’s not. So they hire former New York Jets offensive lineman Nick Mangold to cover up the “BUD LIGHT” branding on seltzer cans in everyday social situations—a wedding where everyone holds their seltzer can at the very bottom, a party where everyone holds their seltzer can at the very bottom, etc. The idea is for Mangold to distract consumers for the first couple sips and let the addictive properties of grain alcohol (“nature’s marketing”) take it from there.
D-O-R: They admit the brand’s problem right up top. So my question to you is—do you think this is an effective way for the ad agency to address this problem?
AMX: I loved it. I love that they said, “We’re just going to have Nick Mangold assume the role of Ogre from Revenge of the Nerds, and we’re going to ask him to do almost nothing. It worked for me because that’s how you should use a giant slab of beef.
I sent you a link to an old Geico ad with Dikembe Mutumbo, where they just ask him to swat things for 30 seconds. It’s some of the most brilliant 30 seconds of advertising. They gave him almost nothing to do. It’s much better than asking Mahomes to deliver these lines about this complicated sneaker-insurance formula they’re asking us to solve. Don’t ask these guys to do much!
Clearly, they’re having problems [with the Bud Light Seltzer brand]. I haven’t seen it in the press, but I think people are like, “What am I supposed to be doing here? Should I be on a yacht, or should I be in my uncle’s basement?”
D-O-R: But it sounds like you admire the ad’s attempt to address that confusion.
AMX: They put it right out there. They’re not trying to fool you. Most advertising clients would say, “Don’t admit it, God forbid, don’t admit the truth! The last thing we want is people knowing the truth.” What I liked about Bud Light Seltzer is, they were like, “Yup, this is kind of a weird thing. But we’re going to have a giant man solve it for us.” It was simple. It allowed me to use the exact number of brain cells I want when I’m watching the NFL.
DIRECTV STREAM — “Wonder”
A guy flips the channels too fast on his rickety DirecTV equipment, and before you know it, the thing goes on the fritz, and Serena Williams is a mall superhero fighting tennis robots. Caught in the chaos is tennis icon John McEnroe. “You cannot be serious!” cries McEnroe, on account of it’s the thing he said that one time.
D-O-R: DirecTV has to launch their own streaming platform now because me and some guy in Akron, Ohio, are the only people left who subscribe to the satellite thing. I'm mostly fixated on the shot of John McEnroe, which makes me sad.
AMX: [Groans.] Oh, man. So, first, streaming and live TV—the “two great tastes that taste great together” concept has been around since Reese’s, since the person holding the chocolate ran into that poor sap who apparently just walks around with a jar of peanut butter. And maybe like you, at first I’m on board with this one. It’s fun, the ad nerds clearly got to spend a million dollars, go to Industrial Light & Magic, pretend they were making a movie for a couple weeks, whatever. But yeah, then McEnroe shows up.
I wonder if his agent just says, “Available for three seconds.” He does this in, like, seven commercials a year. You’re watching something, and then there’s a whip pan, and he goes, “You cannot be serious!” I barely know the reference.
D-O-R: He screamed it once at an umpire in a tennis match. It’s been a very profitable tantrum for him.
AMX: Yeah. I guess I knew that.
D-O-R: To your point, nobody really remembers that exchange anymore. He’s just the guy who yells this particular thing.
AMX: He’s become the catchphrase.
You guaranteed-correct Week 3 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. From its orbital perch at the L2 LaGrange point, the piercing eye of DORPFASTCALC observes the sport free from the atmospheric interference that vexes all ground-based football analysis. Only DORPFASTCALC can foretell upcoming NFL matchups to a degree of absolute scientific certainty, barring aberrations.
In its Week 2 picks, true to its ironclad guarantee, DORPFASTCALC correctly predicted the outcome of seven football contests.
Also in Week 2, there were eight aberrations.
The aberrations stemmed from a minor glitch in DORPFASTCALC programming. It turns out, because someone forgot to flip a switch, the remote observatory's quantum imaging array has been calculating the exact position of the subatomic particles involved in every NFL game, but it was only approximating the momentum of those same particles. Uhh, the idea is to pinpoint both position and momentum, you stupid computer! Ground controllers assure me that a new firmware update has eliminated any further uncertainty.
We now present the Week 3 predictions of DORPFASTCALC, and they are not to be questioned.
SUNDAY — EARLY GAMES
Los Angeles Chargers vs. Kansas City Chiefs (CBS): Kansas City 51, Los Angeles 27. Around the 2019 season, the networks (especially Fox and CBS) started to shoot some of their ground-level shots with lenses that produce a shallow depth of field—that is, the subject is in sharp focus but everything beyond is blurred. Although this is called a shallow "field" in photographic terms, the cinematic effect is to make the actual football field feel deeper, more vast. I wondered if this might be a fad, but it seems to be a permanent part of the sport's visual lexicon now, and I'm still not tired of it.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Tennessee Titans (CBS): Tennessee 20, Indianapolis 17. The Tennessee Titans website has a self-congratulatory but genuinely heartwarming story about the team's incorporation of Houston Oilers players and history into the Titans' own lore. After the 1996 season, the Houston Oilers moved to Tennessee; they became the Titans a few years later, and a few years after that, Houston got a new NFL team. This left former Oilers feeling they had no home to remember them. "We put our heart and soul into something," explains Oilers veteran and Hall-of-Fame linebacker Robert Brazile, "and when you get to be an old man and you are trying to explain this to your kids: 'I played football, but I can't take you to the Astrodome to see a game.' And, 'the Oilers are not the Oilers anymore.' You want to be a part of something." A tip of the cap to the Titans for remembering some old guys who deserve to be remembered.
Atlanta Falcons vs. New York Giants (Fox): Atlanta 24, New York 23.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (CBS): Pittsburgh 18, Cincinnati 14.
Chicago Bears vs. Cleveland Browns (Fox): Cleveland 28, Chicago 20.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Detroit Lions (CBS): Detroit 23, Baltimore 21. Whenever a team faces an especially long down-and-distance on Sunday Night Football, I wait patiently for Cris Collinsworth to drop one of my favorites Collinsworth-isms: "1st-and-a-million." Sunday night, with the Ravens backed up to 1st-and-25 after a couple of penalties, Collinsworth did not disappoint, wondering aloud if the Chiefs should shift their strategy with the Ravens up against "1st-and-a-million." If a team actually faced 1st-and-a-million, they would have about 568 miles to travel for the first down. I suggest a punt.
New Orleans Saints vs. New England Patriots (Fox): New England 24, New Orleans 21. I'm not sure how long ago it happened—maybe it's been years—but at some point, New England Patriots head coach/necromancer Bill Belichick decided he's just going to say the same meaningless thing every time a reporter approaches him at halftime for a sound bite: "We need to be more consistent in all three phases of the game." Now, few coaches offer up much in the way of substance for these reports, but typically they mix up the pablum a little from week to week. Not Belichick. He consistently needs his team to be "consistent in all three phases." I like to see what approach each sideline reporter takes to Belichick's running joke. Sometimes they will roll their eyes and say something like "Bill Belichick wasn't too chatty!" as they share his non-remarks with viewers. But most of the time, they proceed as CBS' Melanie Collins did in Week 2, reporting his words with an earnest tone, as if maybe this time, they can extract some ol'-ball-coach wisdom from Belichick's empty void of a soundbite.
Arizona Cardinals vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (Fox): Arizona 32, Jacksonville 13.
Washington Football Team vs. Buffalo Bills (Fox): Buffalo 2, Washington 0.
SUNDAY — LATE GAMES
New York Jets vs. Denver Broncos (CBS): Denver 34, New York 8.
Miami Dolphins vs. Las Vegas Raiders (CBS): Las Vegas 14, Miami 11. Although it’s true, as CBS told us, that 14-11 has never before been the score at halftime of an NFL game, 14-11 has been the final score of a game on three occasions, and on each occasion, the losing team arrived at its 11-point total in a different fashion. The 1983 Philadelphia Eagles scored a field goal, a safety, and a touchdown (with missed extra point). The 1999 Baltimore Ravens reached 11 by way of three field goals and a safety. Only the 2008 Cleveland Browns did it the easy way, with a field goal and a late touchdown plus a two-point conversion. Doink-O-Rama congratulates all still-living members of these three historic squads.
Seattle Seahawks vs. Minnesota Vikings (Fox): Seattle 31, Minnesota 28.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Los Angeles Rams (Fox): Los Angeles 35, Tampa Bay 33.
SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers (NBC): San Francisco 28, Green Bay 21.
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys (ESPN, ESPN2): Dallas 22, Philadelphia 12.
Keep on long snappin'
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Thank you for reading. Until next week: Keep on long snappin’.