For those of you who are so inclined, this will be a fine time to stop watching the NFL. A great time, in fact. Maybe even the perfect time.
These posts are for those of you who are ready to throw up your hands at the whole ridiculous thing. Also, though, they’re for Washington fans, who’ll get a quarter at most of watchable football per week from the home team, or anyone else who here and there needs to look away for one mental-health reason or another.
There are the usual objections, of course: NFL.com’s Week 1 Injury Report already lists at least 160 injuries spread across the league, and there’s been one official game. CBS Sports keeps a handy Injured Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list which, as of this morning, has 191 different names on it. Possibly the sheer bodily destruction of the NFL is enough of a turnoff, all on its own.
The NFL, though, has had another spectacularly bad, bizarre offseason: Deflategate—which, may I remind you, is a controversy about whether a few footballs had a little bit less air in them for the less dominant part of a football game, for crying out loud—became a whole thing, in no small part because Roger Goodell decided that some number of game balls being slightly saggy for 17 minutes of play (New England’s first half time of possession, give or take) was worth a $3 million investigation. Whoever taught this guy crisis management should be launched into space.
It didn’t stop there. The NFL’s disgusting, pandering, faux patriotism reached peak bullshit during the preseason; Washington, now towering over all other American professional sports franchises as the very worst and most dysfunctional in all the land, spent its offseason and preseason making big hideous shows of the corruption of their football operations, their game-day operations, and, for the hell of it, their, umm, media relations; and, of course, the Rams, Chargers, and Raiders are gleefully running the taxpayer extortion playbook in simultaneous efforts to abandon their current homes for the sun and fun of Los Angeles, for no reason beyond that they stand to make a lot of (public) money in the doing.
Mostly, though, the whole thing is just so bloated and ridiculous. The NFL has rules—actual rules having to do with the actual sport—about what kinds of wires and hardware can be used for coach-to-coach communications, rules which are damn near certain to become more complex and more specific in the wake of ESPN’s OTL report about the breadth of New England’s cheating ways, and Pittsburgh’s alleged difficulties in the season opener. The NFL has rules about which parts of the body players are allowed to hit in different circumstances, and how hard—a quarterback with the ball and in the pocket versus a quarterback without the ball or outside the pocket versus a receiver with the ball after a football move versus a receiver reaching for the ball or unprotected—and these rules, too, are likely to get more specific and complex as the world learns more about the dangers of concussions. The NFL has an impenetrable multi-part rule concerning what it actually means to catch a ball. One NFL regular season game has taken place—just one!—and there’ve already been publicized controversies related to whether a defender hit a player in a vulnerable area on purpose and whether it was actually illegal, and whether a team gained a competitive advantage by cutting some deviant A/V nerd loose in the control room.
It’s not gonna get better. It can’t, really. So much of this is what the NFL sells, after all—violence, intense men stalking the sidelines in headsets, coordinators in booths, the dire consequences of every single play in every single game. Shiny helmets and dense playbooks. Performative patriotism. The whole thing is so made-up, so far afield of all other popular sports, that no one outside of those who do so professionally even knows what it means to play football. When 10 dudes hit the blacktop for a game of pickup basketball, the differences between their game and an NBA Finals Game 7 are vast, but mostly superficial. There is no version of football outside of the NFL’s that is anything like the NFL—even college players are increasingly incapable of giving it an honest go. The specificity of its rules and practices gives the game itself a teetering, wildly impenetrable complexity that gets more and more ridiculous and unwieldy as new rules and practices and technologies are hung on it each year.
So, here you’ll find other good shit to watch, and a nudge in that direction. Let’s get to it.
Noon — ESPN 3 — U.S. Open Tennis: Women’s Doubles Championship
Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza take on Casey Dellacqua and Yaroslava Shvedova for the Women’s Doubles Championship. Doubles is fast and fun to watch, even if no one seems to take the results very seriously.
12:20 p.m. — ESPN 3 — FIBA Eurobasket 2015 (Round of 16): Italy vs. Israel
Italy’s team is fun. Nuggets fans have to be pretty pumped to see Danilo Gallinari looking terrific, and he’s playing alongside Marco Bellineli, who is always good to watch, and Andrea Bargnani, who is also always good to watch for an entirely different reason. And Omri Casspi has looked downright beastly for Israel. This should be a fun, competitive game.
1 p.m. — TBS — Baseball: Blue Jays @ Yankees
The Blue Jays hung 10 runs on the Yankees last night, in the first game of this weekend series. Toronto’s +203 run differential headed into today’s game is nearly double the next highest in all of baseball—it’s hard to imagine them not scoring 10 runs today.
1:30 p.m. — ESPN 2 — FIBA Americas (Final): Venezuela vs. Argentina
ESPN 2 is re-airing the FIBA Americas Final, which saw Venezuela take on Argentina after a sketchy last-second win over Canada.
2:50 p.m. — ESPN 3 — FIBA Eurobasket 2015 (Round of 16) Georgia vs. Lithuania
The name you will recognize from Georgia’s roster is Zaza Pachulia, who I swear is not a brand of incense. Lithuania’s team features Jonas Valanciunas of the Raptors and Gonzaga’s Domantas Sabonis, who, yes, is the son of the great Arvydas Sabonis, himself.
4 p.m. — ESPN 3 — NASL Soccer: FC Edmonton vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies
Edmonton is a mid-table team with a positive goal differential, whereas the Rowdies are, apparently, crap. I will not pretend to know anything more about this match or the NASL.
4 p.m. — ESPN — U.S. Open Tennis: Men’s Championship
The Final comes down to (who else) Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. Are there many people out there rooting for Djokovic? He seems like a nice enough dude, I guess, but ol’ Roger has managed to become such an underdog at this stage of his career.
5 p.m. — ESPN 2 — MLS Soccer: Toronto FC vs New England Revolution
Couple of solid mid-table teams in MLS’s Eastern Conference.
7 p.m. — Fox Sports 1 — MLS Soccer: Orlando City FC vs. Sporting Kansas City
Orlando sports both the worst attack in the Eastern Conference and the worst goal differential, by far, in all of MLS. Sporting Kansas City should have a good time today.
8 p.m. — ESPN — Baseball: Royals @ Orioles
The Orioles are sliding to the bottom of the AL East, which is a bummer, because Buck Showalter is a very good baseball manager and this was an exciting team last year. The Royals dropped 14 runs on those poor bastards last night and are a few games up on the Blue Jays atop the AL.
Noon — Spike TV — Bar Rescue
There are people who both know what the hell this is and also enjoy watching it. Here’s a day-long marathon for those people.
Noon — We TV — Roseanne
Episodes of Roseanne will get you all the way through the 1 p.m. games today.
Noon — TV Land — The Golden Girls
Another option to carry you through the early games.
3 p.m. — FXX — The Simpsons
Today’s mini-marathon includes “Marge vs. the Monorail,” which is good, and then a bunch of later-season stuff, ranging from less-good to awful.
6:30 p.m. — AMC — Fear the Walking Dead
AMC is running episodes one and two back-to-back leading up to the premier of episode three at 9:30 p.m.
11 a.m. — MTV — The Dark Knight
[Christian Bale Batman voice] Actually Tim Burton’s Batman is the best, the darkest, and the most grown-up Batman movie.
Noon — FX — Avatar
Woof. Can you believe Disney World is building an entire section of a theme park out of this heap? I would build such a thing just for the pleasure of then bulldozing it. My God how the Na’vi would suffer on that day.
Noon — FXX — X-Men: First Class
In terms of tone, this movie could not be more different from the first run of X-Men movies. The fun vibe works well with these characters, which is part of what made the totally joyless Days of Future Past such a drag.
Noon — abc Family — Cinderella
It looks like abc Family broke out the big guns for the NFL’s opening Sunday. They’re following up Cinderella with a day’s worth of classic Disney animated movies.
12:30 p.m. — AMC — 300
Good looking, with cool action stuff. Turn your brain off, though.
1:30 p.m. — Esquire Network — Rocky II
In which Rocky refuses to go meet his newborn child because, like, he’s a good guy? Wait—
1:30 p.m. — SyFy — Sinister
OK. So. Yes. This movie is scary as hell. It’s also really icky, and will leave you feeling very bad about it and the people who made it, and perhaps even yourself. Because, at bottom, this is one of those horror movies where the filmmakers expect and want you to be really impressed at the cool and dark and inventive various ways in which lots and lots of innocent people are mercilessly killed. Which, you know, is gross. So, yeah, it’s scary as hell, and if you like scary things, you will appreciate how scary it is, but I also really strongly dislike this movie.
2 p.m. — abc Family — Sleeping Beauty
A body-blow from abc Family in their day-long assault on the NFL’s viewer monopoly.
3 p.m. — BBC America — Children of Men
I will admit to having felt booted out of the plot and character drama of this movie at several points by the cinematographic acrobatics. But! It’s a great movie. Of course it is.
4 p.m. — Esquire Network — Rocky III
Ah yes, the film that gave us “Eye of the Tiger.”
4 p.m. — abc Family — Toy Story
Amazingly, this stressful-ass movie is the least stressful of the Toy Story franchise.
4 p.m. — Sundance — Goodfellas
Quality counterprogramming here. And since it’s on Sundance, you’ll get to hear all the dialogue. Nice.
5:30 p.m. — Ovation — The American President
Rob Reiner directed this immediately after making North, which is a colossal piece of shit. Nice recovery.
6 p.m. — abc Family — Toy Story 2
If you stick around abc Family after Toy Story 2 you’ll get to watch Wreck-It Ralph, which is a well-liked movie that I have never seen.
6:15 p.m. — TCM — The Day the Earth Stood Still
This is the original, which is good, and not the Keanu Reaves/Jennifer Connelly/Jaden Smith catastrophe from 2008, which is just total garbage.
6:30 p.m. — SyFy — The Conjuring
Pants-shittingly terrifying in a few spots, an all-around solid horror flick.
7 p.m. — Sundance — A Few Good Men
The second of two Aaron Sorkin movies on the counterprogramming slate today. This, for my money, is the better of the two.
8 p.m. — FXX — The Avengers
Because it has a sense of humor about itself, The Avengers is immediately in the 97th percentile of all super-hero movies.
8 p.m. — BBC America — Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
Morgan Freeman’s accent, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio’s accent, Kevin Costner’s accent (!), Christian Slater’s accent (!!!!)—this is like an All-Star game of accent-butchers.
Hey, Mersereau’s forecast finally came true: it is absolutely glorious outside. Pack up a picnic and go for a hike, you bums.