Here we are, in the waning days of summer 2016. The hellish daytime heat of summer hasn’t much backed off, but the days are already shorter, and the nights are cooler, and the leaves on the trees are already starting to change. You know what that means! NFL football is back, baby! God fucking dammit.
In the relative quiet of summer, with baseball sauntering along insignificantly, it can be easy to slip into thinking the bad thing about the NFL is just the damn concussions (and, hey, there’s been one regular season game and they’re already fucking that up again). But then the back half of August arrives, and the ads start—for upcoming games, for Sunday Ticket, for the RedZone channel, for Papa John’s, for goddamn DraftKings—and social media starts filling up with preseason updates and season previews, and suddenly you remember: the NFL is about to manspread all over all of western culture for another five months.
How the hell do you prepare yourself for this thing’s annual arrival. All the pomposity, and all the posturing, and all the pandering, and all the ritualistic late-summer performative self-loathing—how can the halcyon days of spring and summer possibly prepare you for the braying, stomping attention-seeking and contempt-veiled-in-contempt of the NFL season? Before I can even get around to being horrified by the brain scrambling and the league’s horrifying response, I already want the NFL to go fuck itself, in a volcano.
Look. Some people are fans of the NFL. Some other people are not. I am not. For those of us who are not, this can be a challenging time of year. Sundays, after all, are half of our weekends, and most of America is focused with terrifying intensity on just this one thing every damn Sunday. Being outside that group can feel like existing in a ghost town. These Sunday posts are for people who, for one reason or another, might want or need to step away from the NFL for a day. Television networks have to program against the NFL every Sunday, and some of them even do a good job of it. Below you’ll find a weekly list of the best of whatever they came up with.
Go with God.
12:15 p.m. — beIN Sports Español — La Liga Soccer: Granada vs Eibar
Soccer dregs this afternoon. Couple of also-rans, here. Worth noting: you can apparently have a free trial of something called fubotv, which is a streaming service for soccer. Use it to watch European soccer, I guess?
1 p.m. — ESPN — MLS Soccer: New York Red Bulls vs DC United
Teams at the opposite ends of the MLS Eastern Conference standings. The Red Bulls are good, the United are, umm, less good.
1 p.m. — TBS — Baseball: Orioles @ Tigers
The Orioles are great to watch. They work pitchers and sock dingers, and they sit just two games back of the AL East-leading Red Sox. The Tigers are six back in the central, but just a game out of the final AL Wild Card. A lot is still happening at the top of the American League.
2 p.m. — NBC — PGA Tour Golf
From Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Indiana.
2:30 p.m. — beIN Sports Español — La Liga Soccer: Deportivo vs Athletic
Also-rans here, too.
4 p.m. — ESPN — U.S. Open Tennis
Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka in the Men’s Final. Stan is 4-19 lifetime against Djokovic. Doesn’t bode well!
4:30 p.m. — NBA TV — WNBA Basketball: New York Liberty @ Dallas Wings
The Liberty are far-and-away the best team in the Eastern Conference. And the Wings are butt.
7 p.m. — FOX Sports 1 — MLS Soccer: LA Galaxy vs Orlando City
Not sure who you’ve gotta be to want to watch this game, today.
7 p.m. — NBA TV — WNBA Basketball: Los Angeles Sparks @ Seattle Storm
These are the second and third place teams in the West. The Sparks are 10 games up on the Storm, though.
8 p.m. — ESPN — Baseball: Cubs @ Astros
Hey, a little interleague action! The Cubs are ridiculous.
1 p.m. — USA — Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
The return of the all-day SVU marathon.
1 p.m. — We TV — Roseanne
We TV runs this short morning/early afternoon marathon every Sunday, to coincide with the early afternoon games. Roseanne was a great show with an insanely talented cast.
1 p.m. — BBC America — Star Trek
This will be one to keep an eye on. It’s a day-long run of episodes from the original series. If it becomes a Sunday regular, that will be a major score for people hunting around for non-NFL programming.
4 p.m. — FXX — The Simpsons
The regular Sunday eight-episode mini-marathon. Episodes include “Principal Charming,” “Homer Alone,” “Black Widower,” and a progressively sadder run of later stuff.
4 p.m. — Logo — The Golden Girls
A Sunday mini-marathon timed to overlap with the late afternoon national TV games. There’s an earlier Sunday run of Golden Girls on TV Land timed to overlap the earlier games, if you really want to watch Bea Arthur all day.
7 p.m. — ABC — America’s Funniest Home Videos
Good ol’ Alfonso Ribeiro is the host of this episode, from last year.
Noon — The CW — Naked Gun
I don’t think The CW made a single programming choice of this caliber during the entirety of the last two football seasons.
Noon — CMT — Tombstone
You’ve gotta love the way music channels jump into the standard counterprogramming model on Sundays. This is a savvy pick, CMT.
1:30 p.m. — FXX — The Social Network
Here’s a movie that will make you feel like complete shit about people. Also, Peter Thiel is played by Wallace Langham.
1:30 p.m. — History — United 93
Makes sense as a programming choice today.
3 p.m. — Syfy — Raiders of the Lost Ark
Syfy went for it today! A run of the first three Indiana Jones movies, starting at 3pm. That’s good, bold counterprogramming.
3 p.m. — CMT — The Shawshank Redemption
You knew someone would bust it out! The counterprogramming staple.
3 p.m. — IFC — The Fugitive
This is another movie that racks up the Sunday afternoon showings during football season.
3 p.m. — Sundance — Days of Thunder
I dunno. If you like Top Gun, why wouldn’t you like Days of Thunder. Also, Robert Duvall is never bad to watch.
4 p.m. — The CW — The Cable Guy
Creepy. Another solid choice from The CW, who maybe will have a go of it this season?
5:30 p.m. — Sundance — Speed
The bus jump in this movie is the dumbest-ass thing ever committed to film. Bitchin’ and awesome! But amazingly dumb.
5:35 p.m. — Syfy — Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Syfy’s run continues.
6 p.m. — TBS — 50 First Dates
Meh. You could do worse.
6:30 p.m. — CMT — Con Air
Like, for example, Con Air.
7 p.m. — FX — Captain America: The Winter Soldier
It’s interesting to see which networks mail it in on a given Sunday. This is a good, fun, well-made and -acted movie, programmed to go head-to-head with primetime football. Meanwhile, Comedy Central is showing Joe Dirt 2.
8 p.m. — Ovation — A League of Their Own
I have never once watched anything on Ovation.
8 p.m. — IFC — Training Day
This is a good movie, but nothing drives home the reality that you’re killing time outside the mainstream on a football Sunday than watching dubbed PG dialogue on an R-rated movie chopped up with commercials on network television, during primetime.
8:12 p.m. — Syfy — Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
This is a better option, for that reason.
The first half of the NFL season is a good time to catch other sports on football Sundays, but really, these first few weeks, if you’re not watching football, you’re also probably not stuffed into your couch for hours on end. The weather is warm and lovely. Go outside!