Politics & Policy

The 2014 NFL Season in Preview

Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III
Prognostications on the worlds of football and politics

August 22: The Washington Post editorial board announces that they will no longer use the local team’s name, “Redskins.” The sports page announces they will continue to use the team’s name.

September 7: The Washington Redskins begin their season by beating the Houston Texans, 28–14. The Washington Post editorial board greets the victory with the headline, “Hail to . . . Some Guys,” and calls upon Washington’s fan base to greet touchdowns with moments of silence to symbolize the silencing of oppressed peoples in the United States and around the world. The sports page, defying the editorial board’s lead, greets readers with the giant-print headline, “HOW ’BOUT THOSE REDSKINS?”

The Minnesota Vikings defeat the St. Louis Rams 17–10, spurring national political talk-show hosts to attribute the loss to the Rams’ release of openly gay defensive end Michael Sam, even though the Rams’ defensive linemen who weren’t cut managed to sack the Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel five times.

September 14: The Washington Redskins improve to 2–0, beating the Jacksonville Jaguars, 23–10. Despite the newfound enthusiasm in Washington for the team’s hot start, the Post editorial board denounces the sports section for continuing to use the term Redskins.

September 15: The columnists on the Washington Post sports page denounce the editorial board for getting wrapped up in politically correct posing when the world is facing serious issues and threatening problems, such as the durability of the ligaments in RGIII’s right knee.

September 21: The St. Louis Rams lose to the Dallas Cowboys and drop to 0–3. National political media insist “homophobia” is the key element in the team’s slow start and the season-ending injury to starting quarterback Sam Bradford in training camp was a non-factor.

October 5: Earlier in the year, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell admitted a major error in his decision to give just a two-game suspension for Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice after charges for third-degree aggravated assault on his then-fiancee. Goodell suddenly announces part of rebuilding trust with the league’s female fans is “an even more high-profile focus” on breast-cancer awareness month. In addition to the pink cleats, towels, and gloves, all teams will wear all-pink uniforms — both home and away — as well as pink helmets. In addition, all footballs will be pink, and the fields will be painted pink as well.

The resulting all-pink-on-all-pink menagerie makes for difficult viewing for both fans and players: For the first time in NFL history, no touchdowns are scored in any week five game. The first touchdown is scored in week six by the Seattle Seahawks, who are playing a game at Boise State University on the bright blue Smurf turf” because their regular home field, CenturyLink Field, is booked for Washington State’s first Legal Marijuana and Hemp Product Festival.

October 12: Over the first four weeks of the season, Cleveland Browns backup quarterback, “Johnny Football,” a.k.a. Johnny Manziel, grows increasingly vocal about his frustration at being the backup. His frustration boils over in week five’s home game against the Steelers, when after halftime he leaves the locker room to throw the ball around with some Cleveland fans in the parking lot outside the stadium. When starter Brian Hoyer is injured on the opening drive of the second half, the Cleveland coaching staff cannot find Manziel. Luckily for them, Cleveland Cavaliers basketball star LeBron James is in a Browns uniform taping a Nike commercial. He enters the game in place of Manziel, leading the Browns to two second-half scoring drives, and the Browns win, 21–20. Informed that his team won without him, Manziel responds with the “money fingers” salute.

October 19:  The week brings tough losses for the New York Jets, Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, and Houston Texans. Coincidentally, the preceding week the Internal Revenue Service announced audits of Jets owner Woody Johnson, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, Saints owner Tom Benson, and Texans owner Bob McNair, all of whom are big-time donors to the Republican party. The IRS and Obama administration officials insist that the audits are strictly coincidental.

October 23: In his last White House event before the midterm elections, the Washington press corps eagerly waits to hear whether the president will unveil dramatic news about the fight against ISIS, Russia’s increasing aggression in Eastern Ukraine, the recent bellicose rhetoric from Iran’s government about its nuclear program, the reports that communicable diseases have been found in unattended children coming across America’s southern border, or recent skirmishes between the Chinese and Japanese air forces in the South China Sea. Instead, President Obama is joined in the White House press room by Michael Sam, who was signed to the Dallas Cowboys practice squad in September after his outright release from the St. Louis Rams. “We’ve come too far and fought too hard,” says the president, tilting back his head, “to continue to treat our best and brightest as second-class citizens” because of their sexual orientation. “History will take a dim view of the NFL and its failure of inclusivity. It is an American tragedy,” one “that touches the heart of every American.”

The president leaves without taking questions. Sam remains and, in response to reporters’ questions, lays out a plan to contain advancing Russian-backed separatist forces in Ukraine with a flanking maneuver. Defense analysts applaud the plan’s determination, but aren’t sure the forces Sam suggests deploying are fast or large enough.

#page#October 27: The Washington Redskins beat their hated rival, the Dallas Cowboys, on Monday Night Football when Tony Romo throws the 25th fourth-quarter interception of his career. The win brings the Redskins’ record to 5–3 and spurs talk of a playoff run; however, the Washington Post editorial board greets the win with a full-length editorial denouncing it as “another great moment in Western hegemonic oppression” and reminding readers that “when you chant for the Team That Dare Not Be Named, you are really cheering for cultural genocide.”

October 28: The columnists on the Washington Post sports page vehemently denounce “a relentless campaign of demonization” and question whether the editorial board, obsessed with the team’s name, can accurately represent the views of a city that loves its football team.

October 29: Vox.com runs a feature, “Why Tony Romo Is Better in the Fourth Quarter Than You Think.”

November 4: On Election Day, Denver Broncos Quarterback Peyton Manning is the surprise write-in winner of the mayoral election in Omaha.

November 6: The NFL Network anchors calling the then-scoreless Thursday night game between the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals are surprised when Browns backup quarterback Johnny Manziel arrives, uninvited, in the booth. He provides on-air color commentary for a quarter, arguing that Browns’ starting quarterback LeBron James is neglecting his duties with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The anchors note that James scored 42 points in the previous night’s game against the Utah Jazz; Manziel flips them the bird and then heads back down to the field, where he is seen flirting with the Bengals’ cheerleaders.

November 7: After the Democratic party is drubbed in the midterm elections, President Obama attempts to “pivot to the economy” by calling for a national salary cap for all private-sector employers, calling the NFL a role model for the rest of the nation to emulate.

November 16: ISIS deploys a suicide bomber to the Buccaneers–Redskins game. The bomber leaps from the stands and runs onto the field wearing a suicide vest. Quick-thinking Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather tackles the would-be suicide bomber, lowering his helmet and hitting the bomber hard enough to disconnect the bomb’s wiring. On Tuesday, the league office suspends Meriweather for two games for “leading with the helmet during the tackle in an unsafe manner.” The league issues a statement saying, “while Meriweather did not hit another player during game play, he is a repeat offender and the league cannot make exceptions.”

Monday’s Washington Post headline: ‘ATTEMPTED BOMBING AT GAME OF LOCAL PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL TEAM.’

November 18: New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is asked if he is concerned about homeland security in light of Sunday’s attempted attack. “We’re always working on our defense,” Belichick replies in a barely intelligible monotone. “We just didn’t get it done. It has to improve. We’ll watch the tapes, see what went wrong, and address it in practice. It’s a team effort. I don’t think there’s much more to say than that.” He repeats that answer, word-for-word, in response to the next 16 questions.

November 28: A season full of sloppy, low-scoring games on Thursday night reaches its peak when all three Thanksgiving games disappoint. After the Cowboys fail to reach the end zone in their Thanksgiving game, Texas governor Rick Perry jokingly declares, “I’m running for president, and if elected, I’m banning the Thursday night games.” He rockets to the front of the pack of the GOP presidential field.

November 30: After the Redskins’ shocking upset victory on the road over the Indianapolis Colts, Washington football fans come down with an acute case of playoff fever. A sad note amid the jubilation: The team’s success has triggered an all-out civil war in the city’s largest newspaper, with small-arms fire breaking out between the Washington Post editorial board and fifth columnists affiliated with the sports section.

December 1: On Monday Night, the New York Jets beat the Miami Dolphins and Florida senator Marco Rubio attends. After the game he encounters an ESPN camera crew, and the senator, frustrated by the defeat, reiterates an earlier comment, “The Jets are the team I hate to lose to the most. They could be 1–15, and if they beat the Dolphins, their fans get obnoxious.”

A week later, fueled by a broad national unity in hatred of the Jets, Rubio overtakes Perry in early 2016 GOP primary polling in every state except New York and New Jersey.

December 7: The Seattle Seahawks, facing a tough season as returning Super Bowl champions, lose a close game in Philadelphia to the Eagles. On the game’s final play, the referees appear to call pass interference on the Eagles defense; after huddling to confer, they declare no foul was committed and the game to be over. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is asked about the “false flag controversy” and Carroll responds, “I really shouldn’t get into that, I got into enough trouble talking about the false flag controversy before the Super Bowl.”

December 8: The Green Bay Packers secure a playoff spot, handily beating the Atlanta Falcons in a Monday Night Game in unseasonably warm weather. The next day, President Obama convenes a White House summit to discuss how climate change is melting the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.

December 28: After a late season slump, the Washington Redskins stand at 8–7 and face a simple task in their final game against the Dallas Cowboys at home: Win, and they make the playoffs as a wild card. Lose, and they’re out.

The Washington Post editorial board, decreeing that “the team’s name, which we refuse to print, has become a symbol of all that is evil and intolerable in our world” formally endorses the Dallas Cowboys in Sunday’s edition. They declare that “if the Cowboys cannot deal this team the humiliating comeuppance they so sorely deserve, the only remaining option is a series of carefully targeted airstrikes against FedEx Field and [Team Name] Park in Ashburn, Virginia.”

The Redskins win, 28–27, after Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo throws an interception on the game’s final play.

December 29: The Washington Post sports section secedes to become a separate newspaper, the Redskins Post. Many regular readers of the paper admit they can’t tell much difference from the old product.

— Jim Geraghty writes the Campaign Spot on NRO.

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