This week was an interesting test case for the NFL in this era of increased scrutiny and public skepticism. The league news was mostly clear of the kinds of self-inflicted embarrassments and setbacks that have become so routine during the Roger Goodell era. For the first time in what seems like a long time, the NFL stayed out of its own way, and football was the story.
And, inevitably, sobering reminders of the sheer destructive violence of football edged into the spotlight. Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly’s terrifying injury, confirmed now as his second concussion in two seasons, drew enough attention to overshadow another NFL player reportedly suffering a punctured lung in a game, probably during a particularly hard, clean tackle. A punctured lung is the more uncommon injury and sounds more brutal, but the visual of a person in a state of obvious panic is a hard one to ignore or forget. Either way, these are the kinds of things that are happening to the bodies of the people playing the game, and no part of the NFL getting its house in order is likely to change that.
Thankfully, there is a ton of other sports stuff on the tube today: interesting NBA games; meaningful European soccer matches; college basketball tournaments; and, um, golf. There’s also a new marathon of reruns, an extended mini-marathon of The Simpsons, and marathons of both Star Wars and Harry Potter movies. If you’re looking for other stuff to watch on a cold, blustery autumn day, we’ve got you covered:
Noon — NBA League Pass — NBA Basketball: Hawks @ Knicks
Will the Knicks get the Sunday morning hangover bounce from the Hawks getting out on the town Saturday night? That pretty much accounts for their only chance in this one. The Hawks are good. More than that, they play sane, coherent basketball, and their best players get the ball more than their worst players, and their organization is committed to fitting the system to the players. In all these ways, they are the opposite of the Knicks.
12:30 p.m. — beIN Sports Español — La Liga Soccer: Sporting vs. Real Sociedad
This isn’t the worst possible matchup—Sociedad are sixth on the table, with a solid goal differential, so they might have a fun time with Sporting, who are terrible.
1 p.m. — ESPN — NCAA Men’s Basketball: Rhode Island (21) vs. Duke (1)
This is the final of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off, from Uncasville, Conn. Rhode Island came back to beat Cincinnati yesterday. Now they get to play top-ranked Duke, who will be playing without basically anyone—Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, and Marques Bolden are definitely out, and Grayson Allen and Chase Jeter were both hurt in Duke’s win over Penn State. Could be an upset!
1:30 p.m. — Golf Network — PGA Tour Golf: The RSM Classic, Final Round
Played in sunny St. Simons Island, Ga.
2:45 p.m. — beIN Sports Español — La Liga Soccer: Athletic Bilbao vs. Villarreal
Villarreal should win, but this is a match between two solid teams in the upper half of the table. Worth tuning in.
2:45 p.m. — beIN Sports — Serie A Soccer: AC Milan vs. Inter Milan
This matchup doesn’t have as much juice as it used to, but though these teams are separated by eight points and seven spots on the table, Inter’s goal differential is just two worse than Milan’s. This could be a tight one, is what I’m saying.
3 p.m. — ESPN 2 — NCAA Men’s Basketball: Cincinnati vs. Penn State
This is the third-place game of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off.
3:30 p.m. — NBA League Pass — NBA Basketball: Trail Blazers @ Nets
The Nets are bad, but they play a pretty fun, up-tempo brand of basketball. The Blazers are okay—they definitely have the two most talented players in this game—but they’ve lost three in a row, and their defense has been horrible. You’d normally expect the Blazers to win, and they’re favored to win, but really anything could happen. This will likely be a very high-scoring game, and should be good to watch. It’s mildly annoying that this game is only on League Pass, while NBA TV is showing goddamn D-League games all afternoon.
5:30 p.m. — ESPN — NCAA Women’s Basketball: UConn (2) vs. LSU
Because this is women’s college basketball, it will probably be an absolute blowout. Both teams are undefeated, but both of UConn’s wins have come against ranked squads, and they are likely to pound the bejeezus out of LSU.
7 p.m. — NBA League Pass — NBA Basketball: Pacers @ Thunder
I dunno about the Pacers, man. They rebuilt their roster away from what they’d been doing well (defense), in order to improve at the other end. But Nate McMillan seems like an imperfect fit as a head coach for a team looking to play up-tempo, and they haven’t improved enough on offense to offset the massive step back they’ve taken on defense. Paul George is still fun to watch, and Myles Turner is promising, but you’re watching a middling team play disjointed basketball, and the penalty is having to see Monta Ellis and Jeff Teague and be reminded that they exist.
But: Russ. Always Russ. Russ is good to watch under any circumstances. Tune in.
7 p.m. — ESPN 2 — NCAA Men’s Basketball: Xavier (11) vs. Northern Iowa
This is the final of the Tire Pros Invitational in Orlando. Xavier is narrowly favored, but these are a couple of good, undefeated teams, and I wouldn’t be very surprised if Northern Iowa scores some top 25 votes coming off this tournament, having already toppled a pretty good Oklahoma squad.
8:30 p.m. — CBS Sports Network — NCAA Men’s Basketball: NC State vs. Creighton (22)
This is the final of the Paradise Jam on St. Thomas, in the Virgin Islands. I’d be fucking furious if my team was playing in the goddamn Hall of Fame Tip-Off in bullcrap Connecticut while there’s a tournament being held on a goddamn tropical island. Also, both of these teams are very good and undefeated, and the line’s pretty close.
9 p.m. — ESPN 2 — NCAA Men’s Basketball: Villanova (3) vs. UCF
This is the final of the Charleston Classic, played in Charleston, S.C. Nova is heavily favored, and will probably clean up.
9:30 p.m. — NBA League Pass — NBA Basketball: Bulls @ Lakers
The Lakers play spirited, attractive basketball, and have a lot of young athletes who are full of belief. And the Bulls, believe it or not, have the second-best point differential in the Eastern Conference and are on a four-game win streak. If nothing else, these are a couple of competent teams who know their strengths, and that usually leads to good things.
1 p.m. — USA — Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
The regular all-day Sunday marathon.
1 p.m. — Logo — Married...With Children
It’s like Logo lost the Golden Girls battle and just said the hell with it. This is a marathon that stretches all the way to 8 p.m.
1 p.m. — TV Land — The Golden Girls
The victorious Sunday mini-marathon.
4 p.m. — FXX — The Simpsons
Episodes in this regular Sunday mini-marathon include the excellent “Bart the Daredevil,” the far, far less excellent “So It Has Come to This: The Simpsons Clip Show,” and a bunch of depressing, uninspired junk from the dark years. Also, today’s Simpsons marathon runs longer than usual, all the way until 8 p.m.
4:45 p.m. — Comedy Central — South Park
Just a run of a few episodes, smashed between two airings of The Hangover.
7 p.m. — ABC — America’s Funniest Home Videos
No one really wants to watch AFHV, but if you turn it on you are a mortal lock to laugh heartily at some point.
8 p.m. — Comet — Mystery Science Theater 3000
Among the best of the regular Sunday options.
11 a.m. — AMC — Ghostbusters II
If you get there early enough, you can watch Ghostbusters on AMC right before this. Annoyingly, AMC will edit out the “this man has no dick” line. Ridiculous.
12:25 p.m. — Disney Channel — Toy Story
Disney Channel has a run of Toy Story movies queued up today. You could do so much worse. For example, the National Geographic Channel is running something called Pope vs. Hitler this afternoon. God knows what the hell that’s all about, but if it’s anything like Animal Face-Off, someone please let me know.
1:15 p.m. — TNT — Star Wars: Attack of the Clones
This is part of a day-long run of miserable Star Wars prequels on TNT, starting well before football with Phantom Menace, and culminating in the eyeball-searingly horrible Revenge of the Sith. Maybe this is your thing? God help you.
1:30 p.m. — CMT — O Brother, Where Art Thou?
CMT is showing this again at 7:30 p.m., if you’d rather skip it this time.
1:30 p.m. — IFC — The Fugitive
Hilariously, this Sunday counterprogramming classic will benefit very little from IFC’s no-editing position. It’s like IFC just can’t get this shit right.
1:30 p.m. — Sundance — Cliffhanger
Weirdly, this has become something of a counterprogramming staple. Perhaps it’s because the first few minutes of the movie are the most intense, terrifying, genuinely gripping moments in any action movie, ever. Sundance knows it’ll hook you!
1:50 p.m. — FreeForm — Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Absolutely the dreariest and most disappointing of the Harry Potter movies. FreeForm is doing a little Harry Potter marathon thing, but it’s oddly out of order—they’re showing Goblet of Fire immediately before this one, and skipping right over Order of the Phoenix, which is better than both of these.
1:55 p.m. — Disney Channel — Toy Story 2
The rare sequel that is very nearly as charming as the original. The sequence at the end, with Emperor Zurg, is hysterical. Also, if you stick around after this (or if your kids should force you to stick around after this), they’re showing Brave and Tangled. I haven’t seen either of them, so I can’t advise you one way or another.
2:30 p.m. — REELZ — Pale Rider
REELZ is doing a back-to-back of classic Clint Eastwood westerns today. Not bad!
3:30 p.m. — Sundance — The Terminator
Ah, this is the good shit, Sundance. Hell of a lineup, today.
4 p.m. — Syfy — Oz the Great and Powerful
I’m not exactly recommending this movie, but you kinda have to see it in order to fully appreciate just how spectacularly bad Mila Kunis is down the stretch. Her performance is unbearable. In a script with a lot of regrettable lines, she gets it the worst by a million billion miles. It’s gut-wrenching. Also, if you stick around afterward, you can watch Maleficent, which is very definitely one of the very worst movies I have ever seen in a movie theater.
4 p.m. — BBC America — Braveheart
A lot of the gooiest battle stuff will be clipped out. Also, there’s a moment towards the end of the Battle of Stirling Bridge sequence when two extras do the worst, most half-assed fake fighting you will ever see in a movie, and it’s hilarious that it wasn’t re-shot or edited out. This is the first thing I think of whenever I am reminded of this movie.
5 p.m. — REELZ — The Outlaw Josey Wales
Stick around after this for a second run of Pale Rider, in case you missed it the first time around.
5:30 p.m. — FreeForm — Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One
At least they got the order right, going from book six to book seven.
6 p.m. — Sundance — Alien
Damn! What a day of programming for Sundance. Now they’ve just gotta knock it off with the language and content edits.
7 p.m. — TBS — The Wizard of Oz
TBS has a weird lineup today. Their morning begins with The LEGO Movie, which is excellent, before going to The Pacifier, which is crap, and then Home Alone 4, which, honestly, I had no idea there was a Home Alone 4, and I’m horrified to think anyone would watch such a thing on purpose. But The Wizard of Oz is still good.
8 p.m. — FXX — The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
It seems random to just air one of these movies. I’m not sure any one of them is good enough all on its own to bother with if you’re not watching the whole damn trilogy.
8 p.m. — Logo — Mrs. Doubtfire
Again! You can’t keep Mrs. Doubtfire from doubtfiring.
8:30 p.m. — Sundance — Aliens
For the record, that’s Cliffhanger, The Terminator, and then the two good Alien movies, consecutively. You could just leave it on Sundance, today.
9 p.m. — FreeForm — Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two
Might as well!
We’ve got our first round of real autumn weather this weekend. You might actually be stuck indoors today. You could always go see Arrival, which was excellent, or Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which was also good. Do something fun, dammit.