We're doing a season-long NFL roundtable with our friends at Slate. Check back here each week as a rotating cast of football watchers discusses the weekend's key plays, coaching decisions, and traumatic brain injuries.
From: Ta-Nehisi Coates
To: Tommy Craggs, Josh Levin
Being the crazed Cowboys fan that I am, I would love to defend the over-the-top praise for Tony Romo. I can't. This was a quarterback playing through pain in the third game of the season—not Michael Jordan in the flu game. I think part of the problem is that an analyst isn't simply charged with analyzing but also with hyping the game, with making you believe you're witnessing something magnificent and supernatural. Never is that better exposed than in a bad football game where the hype in the booth far outdistances the product on the field. Not that I'm looking for pity, but the hardest part of being a Cowboys fan is the game around the game. There's a game around the game for every football team, but given the Cowboys' history and popularity, their game around the game is always puffed up so much more. I can remember the Cowboys playing the Giants during the 2009 season. The announcers spent almost as much time discussing the bells and whistles of the billion-dollar abomination as analyzing the game itself. That the Cowboys lost seemed bizarrely beside the point. This was something other than football.
The lack of such attendant hype in other markets is rather amazing, and you see it in NFL Game Rewind, which Tommy has already hailed as the future of football nerdery. But beyond that, there's something shockingly pure about watching, say, the Bills and the Chiefs back in Week 1. These are teams who (at that moment) weren't good enough to summon the kind of super-analysis you find on Sunday and Monday nights. Very often, the game will suck—but Josh, as long as we don't get two bad teams in a monsoon, I usually stick it out. And as evidenced by Monday night, there's no guarantee the national games are going to be good anyway.
Beyond that, my interest in Rewind is pretty vengeful. Whatever I can do to stick a knife in the eye of DirecTV, I'm going to do it. The NFL managed to twist the company's arm into allowing an online-only option at the exorbitant price of $350 for the season—no playoffs. Fine. I love football, so I ponied up. When I tried tuning in for Week 1, I couldn't get a single game. I have my doubts as to whether DirecTV could even exist without the NFL. Watching them combine their real-time monopoly with piss-poor service sent me over the edge. At least they gave me the money back when I unsubscribed. It's true that there's a lag of up to a day before the games are available on Rewind. But we generally don't get to see all the games anyway. Moreover, the quality of the game is substantially improved, if only because of its brevity—I usually can get through an entire game in about two hours.
The result is more game—and less game outside the game.
Ta-Nehisi Coates is a senior editor at The Atlantic and the author of The Beautiful Struggle. Recently he's been seen sheepishly admitting to his progressive friends that, yes, he did watch the Mayweather fight.