A bone or two to pick

Nov 13, 2019 3:00 AM

Call this an avid fan/average bettor’s mid-season lament. It will deal mainly with NFL games, and a little on the NBA.

Let’s just say I’ve got a bushel of complaints to get off my chest, so I figured I’d put them all in one column and be done with it. If you tire of my wailing halfway through, you can throw a challenge flag, but our IT folks at Gaming Today will give me your name and I will hold a grudge forever.

Complaint No. 1: Since when did NFL officials decide they were the most important men on a football field? Good lord, they are ruining the game. It used to be you’d get the occasional hankie for a flagrant violation, but it would usually have a minimal impact on the outcome of the game.

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But today, there are so many penalties called — and many of them several seconds after the violation — that we fans have become conditioned to holding our breath after every exciting play. We just wait to see that yellow graphic at the bottom of the screen that reads: FLAG!

The violation is followed by three or four replays from every angle, to review whether the official made a correct call or totally blew it. As all of this is killing time and spoiling the momentum of the game, the head coach of the penalized team is busy on his headphones listening to other coaches upstairs telling him whether he should throw the challenge flag.

These protests are successful less than half the time, and when they are not, the TV announcers debate the idiocy of the coach for losing a timeout he will surely need as halftime comes or the end of the game is at hand.

Meanwhile, all of this takes so long that the network cuts to the 14th Aaron Rodgers’ State Farm or Flo the Maid Progressive commercial that we’ve become so sick of that we tell ourselves we will never do business with either of them again. These insurance companies are obviously way too successful to be spending tens of millions on repetitive clips that are humorous once or twice, and mind-numbing forever after.

Five or so years ago, there was no need to have a retired official in the broadcast booth to give his “expert” opinion as to whether the latest call on the field was right, wrong, or questionable. The former player/announcer seated next to the official must then offer his two cents’ worth.

We hear, “I just don’t think there was enough to merit the flag, Mike. This is football, a man’s game, let them play!” Or, “I see your point, Dean. That’s why you were the head referee at four Super Bowls.”

When the officials go to the sidelines, put on the headphones and talk to the wizards in New York, is when I usually go to the kitchen and make a sandwich, in the meantime forgetting that moments earlier I was engrossed in a football game. If I don’t have a bet on it, I usually just change the channel. My interest has waned.

Complaint No. 2: Here is my rant on the NBA, in its first month of activity: I have been a Golden State Warriors fan since my youth, back around the days of Al Attles, Rick Barry, and Nate Thurmond. Admittedly, we Warrior fans have been draped in riches the last five years, thanks to making the NBA Finals every year, winning three championships, and marveling at the magic of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, along with, for a time, Kevin Durant.

Now, because the NBA has little concern for player loyalty and is about following the dollars, and injuries are always a concern, Durant is gone, Klay’s out for the year, and Green and Curry are hurt, Steph for at least three months. I can’t name three other players on the Warriors’ roster.

The two L.A. teams, with money to burn, have stocked their rosters. Steve Ballmer’s Microsoft billions have bought him Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, Jeannie Buss’s hundreds of millions bought her LeBron James, who wooed Anthony Davis to the Lakers, and all of a sudden I have little reason to schedule my evenings around NBA games.

So I find myself watching the occasional NFL game, until the zebras ruin it for me, and no NBA games. Thank God Las Vegas has an exciting hockey team and college basketball has started.

There, I’ve vented. Now I feel better.

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