NFL flexes its content muscle

The NFL cleverly makes audibles on which games it will slot into prime time, recently moving the Bears – Rams game into a headline spot.

It’s easy to see what goes into a decision like this when the two ‘replacement’ teams are from major cities.

But while Chicago versus Los Angeles sounds good on paper, the reality is that one team in this match-up is a heavyweight (the Rams), while the other is finding its feet as a contender. Top of the division, yes, but not top of the conference. That’s just the facts.

This could be problematic for NBC, the TV station airing the contest, given that the Rams have the potential to post a high tally, while the Bears’ Mitch Trubisky-led attack will try to keep pace.

Chances are the first quarter will be full of storylines, particularly with the focus on two young quarterbacks. However, the remaining three quarters might lose some of that early narrative flow and, as such, see this particular ‘flex’ flop.

It begs the question, what’s the science behind a flex pick like this anyway? Is there any science?

Rivalries surely must take precedence. Maybe stadiums, too. Then there’s the historical context. But then again, the below options seemingly have more bite.

Consider …

Bucs – Saints: Scrappy pirates battle slick Super Bowl contenders.

Fins – Pats: Fighting fish against the perennial pro football standard.

Texans – Colts: Upwardly trending Texans buck against cup worthy Colts.

Not that these teams are better than the Bears, per se, but these respective contests just might be worthier than a red hot LA against these particular Bears.

It’s hard to say, so you have to feel for schedulers who can never know if they’re getting Jim McMahon or Vince McMahon.


Hawks, Bruins go classical

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There are few things that stir our drink like a throwback jersey. And let’s face it, throwbacks typically don’t come any smoother than those produced by the NHL.

The Winter Classic games in particular, help bring some pop to their designs, mostly because the jersey makers are working with yesteryear’s template: simple colours, uncluttered logos and quite often forgotten fabrics.

The latest iteration of the Bruins and Blackhawks jerseys for the Classic even boast felt for the numbers and logos, a neat touch but also a clever way to entice merchandise fanatics.

All that’s left for these items, perhaps, is an old timey smell. How about a combination of Lentheric aftershave, Brylcreem and sweat?

Now that’d be truly vintage.

Melbourne Cup’s global appeal

The race that stops Australia continues to give pause to many around the world, at least anecdotally.

For example, the media has typically tapped into the race and whipped into shape a few well-run story lines, including the threat of the foreign raiders, as per USA Todaythe cursed British gallopers, revisited by CNNhistorical reflection in The Wellington Times, pricey plane tickets for four-legged travellers in The Times; and The New York Times (via Reuters) discusses the chances of master trainer Aiden O’Brien of Ireland.

Of course where would the whole thing be without the thumping fanfare, dark sunglasses, excessively large hats, bottomless champagne glasses, instant experts, vanishing dresses, raucous crowds and the inevitable sensation that none of your punts came off … yet again.

Raiders v Niners: Battle of the Bay

It’s been a while since the Battle of the Bay meant something and it’d be a long bow to draw to say it means something now.

This is the type of contest that drawn up late at night in NFL HQ, must have seemed more appetising than a giant bowl of garlic fries with an icy cold Bud. Now it seems more like sitting in someone’s soggy potato mash.

Still, there’s the fact that these fan bases don’t really like each other and that one of them in particular, Raider Nation, does a Halloween contest better than any other.

Mostly because every contest is a Halloween one.

Whether it’s Darth Vader, a crazed Thunderdome type or a teenage werewolf, Raider fans know Fright Night, no matter the frightfulness that might be unfolding on the field.

Warriors’ Thompson shoots because, well, he’s open

Golden State’s Klay Thompson is a great shooter, especially from distance, and most notably when he’s open longer than a 7-11.

When he’s left alone, as was usually the case against the Chicago Bulls recently, he hardly misses. Why would he?

In fact, he made 14 of 24 three-pointers in that game, a new NBA record. Forget the made shots, he launched 24 threes! How? Why?

The internet tends to salivate over things like this, as if making that many threes is some sort of epic achievement. Listen, it truly would be if Dennis Rodman was guarding you, or if Benny The Bull slammed a cream pie in your face before every shot.

Not only did neither of these things occur, but the Bulls players hardly breathed on the Warriors’ marksman. They may as well have cheered him on.

To make matters worse, the Bulls also struggled with screens set by diminutive Steph Curry, a player that couldn’t boxout an usher.

But then again, with some the NBA’s current defensive efforts, I’m pretty sure the same usher could break records of his own.

Kings of basketball

The Sydney Kings are a solid brand in the world of sport, supported by a loyal following and buoyed by a rich 30-year history. They probably also play more entertaining hoops than the team of the same name across the Pacific, if we’re honest.

The Kings experience, in fact, isn’t far off watching an NBA game, albeit with fewer three-pointers, spinning dunks and chest beats. Scoff if you will, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Despite what we’ve been told the past few years, good basketball is a mix of pace, athleticism and accuracy, and not always helped by long shots. At least to my eyes, the Kings offer each of those elements and yet don’t seem dependent on three-point strategies the way, say, the Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets are.

If you like watching three-pointers, you might want to think about loading up the horseshoe channel. Or apple picking on the foodie shows; they, too, can lob the pill from distance.

No, threes don’t really float my boat. Sure, it’s great when Kings captain Kevin Lisch drains one from afar, a habit he established at Saint Louis University in Missouri, but I’d much rather see him run the break and toss a nifty bounce to a charging teammate for a lay-up.

Many will argue this because three-pointers are worth more. These people care more about the destination than the journey. They don’t savour the beer but crushing the can. You know the type.

So, yes, National Basketball League has a good brand of ball, mostly because it doesn’t need to be the NBA. It can’t be anyway – not without that type of pogo-stick personnel.

No matter. The NBL has a nice balance of inside – outside play that the NBA can lack at times, especially when data-centric squads take the court with their three-point obsession.

This is why Andrew Bogut fits in so well with the Kings too, because he understands the local game. Though he once played in Golden State, he doesn’t bow to the altar of the three-pointer, instead making sure his teammates can find lanes to the hoop via the picks he sets, or neat passes he makes, because a good shot is an open one.

And good basketball isn’t always predicated on statistics.