Retro Relapse: That NFL In London Project

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2014.

Today was another day where we got to watch an NFL game in London. Sorry, I am just not impressed.

Look at that photo there (*now replaced by an unrelated GIF). That is a photo taken of the crowd at today’s game. Today’s London game was between the Detroit Lions and the Atlanta Falcons. You wouldn’t necessarily know that though by looking at this picture as almost every person is wearing gear from a different team.

I’m not criticizing the Londoners per se but this just feels like a group of people that went out and bought a ticket to see this strange sideshow and out of respect and wanting to embrace the experience, they ran down to the closest sports store that just happened to sell NFL shit and they bought whatever jersey was available in their size. Kind of like when I see some random American person going to watch a soccer match in a bar for the first time in America, only to stop off and buy any random British football a.k.a. soccer shirt that they can find.

The American sports media has a tendency to piss me off. This is really no different, as the idiots in my idiot box love pimping out this NFL in the UK idea. I mean if you watch a game, they spend more time selling the idea of the UK than actually calling the action in the damned game. And why? Well, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has made it no secret that he wants an NFL team in London. This project is an experiment leading to that eventual goal.

I think that goal is a pretty asinine one. As far as I can tell, the British people really don’t give two shits about the National Football League. In fact, most of the ones I have ever met or talked to, hate the fact that Americans call their big barbaric sport “football” and refer to true football as that weird word “soccer”. To every sports-loving Briton that I have met, they love their football. Again, their football. Sure, some may casually watch our football but you aren’t going to get the passion you see at a Chelsea game embody the fans at a Jaguars game.

I use the Jaguars as an example because that is the team that has been most rumored to be the one to eventually relocate to England. Yes, what a gift that Roger Goodell wants to bestow upon the United Kingdom by giving them the worst team in the National Football League! How mighty generous of you, sir!

And while this NFL brand building in the UK is being pushed down the British people’s throats, as well as ours, the league can’t sell them on how awesome the product is if they keep sending them teams like the Jaguars, the Dolphins, the Raiders and the Falcons. At least the Lions and the Cowboys have had good seasons thus far. If you want to sell the game to the Brits though, send them really good match ups. Send them the Broncos and the Seahawks. Hell, just send them a real rivalry game – not just some random match up.

This year they played three games in London. Next season they are expanding it to five. This is ludicrous.

To start, it isn’t fair to the teams that participate. Now, I know that many teams and athletes are game for the adventure and the chance to play in London because it is a new and unique experience but what happens when it is no longer new and unique. Honestly, like the overabundance of outdoor stadium hockey, the novelty will wear off.

And why is it not fair to the participating teams? While like today’s game, the Atlanta Falcons, even though they are on the road in London, were considered the host team and thus, lost one of their eight home games. While the game counts as a home game, they are really playing seven at home and nine on the road, giving them a disadvantage to the other teams in the league. To Detroit, it is just another road game, as had they played in Atlanta, they still would have been on the road and they still get the even eight at home, eight on the road schedule. To a team like Atlanta, who are struggling so far this season, this is a big wrench in the machine that could prevent them from squeaking into the playoffs if they are able to pull a good run together to end their season.

Both teams are also effected by the travel. London is across the ocean. While you could look at an east coast-based team and compare it to a New York team flying to California for a game, it is much further than that to any team not located on America’s eastern shoreline. How long would it take the Seattle Seahawks to get there and once they got there, how tired and jet-lagged would they be?

Now imagine putting a team in London permanently. How tired would the London-based team be after having to travel back and forth to the United States every other week for eight road games over the course of the season? How fair would that be to teams on the west coast of the U.S.? There are several reasons why no professional sports leagues have expanded worldwide. This is probably the biggest of them.

With a schedule like the London team would have to have, who the hell would want to play there? Sure, if a player gets drafted, he doesn’t have much choice but why would he ever re-sign? How would they build a franchise and develop franchise players? Maybe the press should really ask the players about their thoughts on this but ultimately, I can’t see anyone wanting to voluntarily sign-up for this task.

Now imagine if there is a team to pop-up in Hawaii or further out than the west coast. As a team, you’d have to practically fly half way around the world and back to play a hard-hitting game just to rush back home for the next one.

I mean, the NFL could send the London team to America for three or four games in a block and then send them home for three or four, to lessen travel but the point is, they would still be on the road, far from home and not near their own practice facilities. Plus a schedule with big chunks of games at home and away, also isn’t really fair to a London team.

Remember NFL Europe? That shit crashed and burned and the league held on to it for way too long. No one in Europe really supported it and no one cared. And that is the thing. If the United Kingdom really wanted an NFL team, then let’s talk about it. I just don’t see anyone in the UK that really cares, at least not on the level of justifying a team to move there.

Now you could counter and say that the games in London attract more fans than any other American team that isn’t Dallas. While that fact is true, no American stadium other than Dallas is as big as London’s Wembley Stadium. It has the advantage of having more seats. Secondly, games are much rarer there but now that it is expanding to more games per season, it won’t be as unique of an experience as it has been to the British. Thirdly, despite the huge crowds for just one-to-three games per year, the London-based sports press never gives it more than a small blurb in their sports section. Reason being? Because it doesn’t care about the sport en masse. Don’t let the American press and the commentators selling you on the idea fool you. In fact, SB Nation’s Kristi Dosh had a great article about this last season (see here).

You know what they care about in London? They care about football. The kind of football where helmets and pads aren’t required and they aren’t subjected to a Taco Bell or a Bud Light Lime advert every twelve seconds.

Film Review: Gus (1976)

Release Date: July 7th, 1976
Directed by: Vincent McEveety
Written by: Arthur Alsberg, Don Nelson, Ted Key
Music by: Robert F. Brunner
Cast: Don Knotts, Edward Asner, Gary Grimes, Tim Conway, Harold Gould, Ronnie Schell, Tom Bosley, Louise Williams, Dick Butkus, Dick Van Patten, Bob Crane, Johnny Unitas, Richard Kiel, Stu Nahan

Walt Disney Productions, 96 Minutes

Review:

“Ready, Gus. Oich!” – Andy Petrovic

I was an avid viewer of just about every live-action Disney film put out from the ’50s up through the early ’90s. I had the Disney Channel, in its original subscription form, back in the late ’80s and a bit beyond. So stuff like this was on my television all the time. It’s also hard not to be an old school Disney nut when raised in Florida.

Still, this movie remained unknown to me until I got Disney+ and saw it available on there. Since I had never seen it and since I love Don Knotts, I had to check it out.

Unfortunately, Don Knotts isn’t in the movie anywhere near enough. He plays the wacky coach of a loser football team but most of the film focuses on Andy and his field goal kicking mule.

This is one of many Disney animal movies, as well as one of many Disney sports films. It’s cool seeing the two things come together though, as the concept, at least by this point, hadn’t been done to death courtesy of the Air Bud franchise and it’s 97 sequels and spinoffs.

At its core, this film is lighthearted and positive. It’s also got a lot of slapstick humor and some seriously good physical gags. My favorite sequence in the film features Tom Bosley and his buddy trying to capture Gus, the mule, in a supermarket. It plays like a live-action Road Runner cartoon, as the bumbling goofs continue to get upstaged and made into fools.

I can’t really say much on the sports elements of the film other than you have to turn your brain off because this is, after all, a movie about a mule playing in the National Football League.

While the team in the movie is fictitious, I liked that this was made with help from the NFL and featured some of the iconic teams, as well as former players and legends in various roles.

Gus isn’t a bad movie but it’s far from great. It’s one of the more enjoyable Disney animal comedies of the ’70s but for most people, this will probably come across as a very dated relic that will just be dismissed as stupid schlock.

And it could’ve used a lot more Don Knotts.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other wacky live-action Disney movies featuring animals.

 

Retro Relapse: In A Perfect World: The NFL With the EPL’s Structure

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2014.

The English Premier League and most of European soccer has been around longer than the National Football League in its modern form (post AFL). Being a long time soccer fan, I have always been a big fan of the way the Premier League and most European leagues handle their shit. The structure of the EPL is awesome.

The NFL could benefit greatly by adopting a similar system. I know this is a pipe dream and probably too big of a feat to accomplish at this point but imagine a league of twenty teams, the bottom three each year get relegated to a lower league while the top three in the lower league get promoted to the big time NFL.

There would then be multiple lower leagues, like in English soccer, where teams would move up and down depending upon where they finish. This would open the floodgates for expansion and allow a lot more markets the accessibility of having a professional football team. Even if your local team didn’t fare well and get into the top level NFL league, they could still fight for championships in lower levels. It’d be like the pandemonium we have with all the bowl games in college. Multiple playoffs in multiple levels of the sport would be pretty fucking awesome. And yes, I said playoffs but I’ll get more into that further down.

In the Premier League, schedule strength isn’t even an issue and the playing field is level and fair. The reason being, every team in the twenty team structure plays each other once at home and once on the road. Again, everyone plays everyone on home ground and enemy ground once.

Now could the NFL have a 38 game season? No, even though from a fan’s perspective, that’d be awesome. They could however, have a 19 game season and just play each team once. Who gets home game advantage can be determined in some diplomatic fair way by some dudes in suits making a lot more money than me. Additionally, you could make the season 21 weeks and give these guys two bye weeks to rest because honestly, I don’t think one bye week is enough now. I’d even be in favor of expanding it to three bye weeks in a 22 week season. Think of all the football!

Now in the Premier League, there are no playoffs. The team with the most points at the end of the season is the champion. I’d change that however and make a 6 team playoff. The top two ranked teams get a first round bye while teams ranked third through sixth meet in the first week of a three week playoff; the winners going on to play the two top teams in a final four situation and those winners of those games playing for the championship. It’s fair, it’s easy and it’s badass! I would actually implore the Premier League to adopt this same playoff system even if it gets the traditionalists in an uproar. Playoffs mean more games, more money and more excitement!

I’d say that the NFL should go to three leagues of twenty teams, making a total of sixty teams. That nearly doubles the professional squads that we have now and increases the amount of local tribalism. All these states and large cities that don’t have teams can now have them. And hell, maybe the teams that continually flounder in the NFL, like the Cleveland Browns, can go on to win championships and have success once being relegated to a lower league. I’m not saying that to be disrespectful to Cleveland because in college basketball for example, no one ever complained after winning the NIT. In fact, those teams rejoiced and felt accomplished. This also doesn’t mean that teams like the Browns can’t fight for their spot to stay in the top tier NFL. In fact, this might improve competition between all the teams.

I know that from an economics standpoint, that it might not seem feasible for smaller markets to have a professional football team but if British soccer can have stadiums for dozens upon dozens of teams in their much smaller nation, America can get this done. Besides, not every stadium has to be Cowboys Stadium. Smaller markets can have smaller venues but it’d still be awesome. Hell, rent out some college fields.

This may all seem like a crazy idea and it probably is but I think that it’d improve the sport, breed more competition, create a lot more revenue, give more opportunity to players and give the fans so much more than what they have now. I wish I had a time machine and a shit ton of money so I could go back to the 1920s, buy a team and pressure the league into taking shape like this at its early stage.

Comic Review: Stumptown, Vol. 3: The Case of the King of Clubs

Published: April 15th, 2015
Written by: Greg Rucka
Art by: Justin Greenwood, Ryan Hill

Oni Press, 133 Pages

Review:

I kind of dug the first two volumes of Stumptown and I’ve also been enjoying the television series, which debuted last fall. However, this third volume in the comics series felt like a real step down.

First off, I don’t like the art. The artist changed and the previous volumes felt more refined and less cartoonish. They still had a good, indie feel to them but this feels more like a typical Oni Press book where the other ones looked more polished and like crime comics put out by a bigger indie publisher like Image.

Also, I thought the story was weak as hell, pretty predictable and felt more like an advertisement for the Portland Timbers soccer team, as well as Portland soccer culture, than it did a gritty, edgy crime story. It felt less neo-noir and more ABC Afterschool Special.

This volume was a bore to get through, didn’t live up to the expectations I had based off of the two stories before this one and it just felt like everything was dialed in.

The story lacked layers, proper plot twists and was completely bogged down by slice of life shenanigans and repetitive conversations between paper thin characters.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: the other Stumptown volumes, as well as Gotham CentralKill Or Be Killed, The Fade Out and Sin City.

Documentary Review: The Four Year Plan (2011)

Release Date: November 16th, 2011 (IDFA Festival – Netherlands)
Directed by: Mat Hodgson
Music by: Rob Lord

Ad Hoc Films, 99 Minutes

Review:

*Written in 2014.

The Four Year Plan is another soccer documentary in a long series of soccer documentaries that I’ve been watching the last week or so. It follows the Queens Park Rangers (or QPR) as they are faced with relegation, new ownership and their fight to get promoted back into the Premier League.

This film was done almost guerrilla style, as the cameras were left rolling seemingly at all times. We get looks into the locker room, the boardroom and every other realm that involves running and managing a soccer team. The footage was top quality and was edited together nicely, providing the viewer with an engaging story of failure turned to perseverance.

Giving good perspective into the business side of things is what I found most interesting in this film because there isn’t a lot that I have seen in my lifetime that shows the behind the scenes meetings of British soccer with so much transparency. I’m obviously aware that they didn’t show their most secret meetings and sessions but you still got to go deeper into this world than you would expect.

In the end, it was a good sports documentary that gave serious insight into the world of British soccer, which most Americans don’t have access to. The action parts of the film were also well presented and gave it a good balance between the sport and the business.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: One Night In Turin, Hillsborough, Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos and ESPN’s 30 For 30: Soccer Stories series.

Ranking All 30 Second Series Episodes of ESPN’s 30 For 30

*Written in 2015.

Luckily for us, ESPN decided to do another set of thirty films to expand this series. Now that this series has also reached 30 films and we got the soccer spin-off series, I’m hoping we get a third generation.

But for now, here are the 30 films of the second series ranked. And to be honest, all of these are really good.

1. Survive and Advance
2. Of Miracles and Men
3. Requiem for the Big East
4. Ghosts of Ole Miss
5. No Más
6. I Hate Christian Laettner
7. Big Shot
8. Bad Boys
9. You Don’t Know Bo
10. Benji
11. Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau
12. Brothers In Exile
13. The U Part 2
14. Bernie and Ernie
15. Free Spirits
16. Angry Sky
17. Rand University
18. This is What They Want
19. When the Garden was Eden
20. Sole Man
21. The Price of Gold
22. Brian and the Boz
23. The Day the Series Stopped
24. Slaying the Badger
25. Broke
26. 9.79*
27. There’s No Place Like Home
28. Playing for the Mob
29. Elway to Marino
30. Youngstown Boys

Ranking All 30 Original Episodes of ESPN’s 30 For 30

*Written in 2014.

1. The 16th Man
2. The Two Escobars
3. Muhammad and Larry
4. Little Big Men
5. Once Brothers
6. Straight Outta L.A.
7. Kings Ransom
8. Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL?
9. Silly Little Game
10. Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks
11. June 17, 1994
12. Guru of Go
13. The U
14. Four Days In October
15. Pony Excess
16. Without Bias
17. Fernando Nation
18. One Night In Vegas
19. The Band That Wouldn’t Die
20. No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson
21. Marion Jones: Press Pause
22. Jordan Rides the Bus
23. The Best That Never Ways
24. The Birth of Big Air
25. Into the Wind
26. Unmatched
27. The Legend of Jimmy The Greek
28. Run Ricky Run
29. Tim Richmond: To the Limit
30. The House of Steinbrenner

Documentary Review: Kicking It (2008)

Release Date: January, 2008 (Sundance)
Directed by: Susan Koch, Jeff Werner
Written by: Susan Koch
Music by: Barry Cole
Narrated by: Colin Farrell

Liberation Entertainment, ESPN, Netflix, 98 Minutes

Review:

*Written in 2014.

In my string of soccer films that I’ve been watching to curb my World Cup fever when the games are over at night, I came across Kicking It. This film is hosted and narrated by Colin Farrell and is about the Homeless World Cup.

For those who don’t know, the Homeless World Cup is like the regular World Cup, as it takes soccer teams from various nations and pits them against one another in a big tournament.

The difference is, this is street soccer and the players are homeless. This concept was created to help rehabilitate homeless people throughout the world and it has had much success. Many players kick drugs and alcohol, find a sense of self worth and belonging and go on to better their situations.

Kicking It follows several players from various countries on their quest to play in the Homeless World Cup in South Africa. It told some pretty powerful stories and had you cheering for all these people because you wanted them to succeed. Unfortunately, like the regular World Cup, only one team can win. The fact of the matter is that almost everyone who participated in the tournament walked away a winner regardless.

The film was inspirational and it helped remind the viewer that even when someone has fallen or done bad things, it doesn’t mean that they can’t redeem themselves and make their own quality life. That was the real message of the film and it came through with gusto.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The ESPN Soccer Stories documentary series.

Documentary Review: 1:1 Thierry Henry (2011)

Release Date: November 13th, 2011 (Austria)
Directed by: Verena Soltiz
Written by: Verena Soltiz
Music by: Kawaski Nelson

Golden Girls Filmproduktion, 52 Minutes

Review:

*Written in 2014.

Thierry Henry has accomplished more in his career than the vast majority of soccer players will ever achieve. He lead France to the top of the World Cup mountain in 1998 and won several championships in a career that has seen him play for some of soccer’s greatest franchises: Juventus (Serie A), Arsenal (Premier League) and Barcelona (La Liga). He currently plays for the New York Red Bulls in the MLS.

The short film 1:1 Thierry Henry follows Henry as he moves to America and becomes a member of the New York Red Bulls. It is a well edited and well put together piece that does a good job of covering Henry’s past accomplishments in detail.

It also goes on to show his initial stretch as a member of the Red Bulls and the early challenges he faced, such as his first MLS All-Star Game against Manchester United, as well as his big homecoming to Arsenal, who hosted the New York Red Bulls in London.

This is definitely a short film worth a peek if you’re familiar with Thierry Henry or you just dig soccer.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Other soccer/football documentaries like One Night In Turin and the ESPN 30 For 30 soccer stuff.