Last night, the Washington Redskins brought their much-debated appellation to “Monday Night Football.”
“Hail to the Redskins” was sung in the nation’s capital on national television at a taxpayer-subsidized event.
If the team today had the name “darky,” a word that Eleanor Roosevelt used in formal writing in the 1930s — in the same decade “Redskins” became a football franchise — there’s no chance the team would keep the name, no chance fans would sing a song with that name. So why is Redskins O.K.?
More on that below. First, on Saturday the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner will be announced. Here’s an insider tip: It won’t be a lineman. If John Heisman were alive today, he would not be considered for his own trophy.
Of the Heisman winners, just two, Larry Kelley from Yale in 1936 and Leon Hart from Notre Dame in 1949, played the line. That’s 2.5 percent of Heisman recipients who were linemen, though in football typically 40 percent of gents on the field are linemen.
The last time the winner was not either a quarterback or running back was corner Charles Woodson in 1997. Today Heisman, who played center and tackle for Penn and Brown back in the day, would draw no votes for the trophy that bears his name.
The award should be renamed the Heisman Trophy for the Quarterback or Running Back Who Receives the Most Publicity.
Suppose the Heisman voters were told that this year they were forbidden to cast ballots for quarterbacks or tailbacks. Many would have no idea for whom to vote. Here are T.M.Q.’s runners-up for the Non-Quarterback Non-Running Back Heisman:
Defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah of Oklahoma State. Best player at a program that won 10 straight before tailing off. Versus T.C.U., Ogbah recorded a sack while being held.
Offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil of Ole Miss. Perhaps the most talented player over all in college, his season was marred by a suspension that was classic N.C.A.A. galimatias. The N.C.A.A. will send in helicopter-borne commandos to stop a scholarship athlete from driving a loaner car or getting a short-term interest-free loan, two things Tunsil did.
But if the football players aren’t going to class, the N.C.A.A. does nothing. (Tunsil’s interest-free loan sounds disturbingly like the way the Federal Reserve funds the national debt, the difference between the Ole Miss player and Congress being that Tunsil repaid what he owed.)
Defensive end Joey Bosa of Ohio State. Quarterback Cardale Jones got the publicity for the Buckeyes’ January 2015 title victory; Bosa got it done. Some front seven stars boast of being triple-teamed, though actual triple teams are rare. Against Illinois, Bosa was the focus of actual triple-teams.
Guard Joshua Garnett of Stanford. This elite academic university finished 11-2 mainly because of an excellent line led by Garnett, who’s an honest-to-goodness student majoring in human biology.
And the Non-Quarterback Non-Running Back Heisman goes to the Clemson offensive line. Clemson finished No. 1 largely because it enjoyed college football’s best blocking. In the A.C.C. title contest, center Jay Guillermo snapped and then pulled and got the key block on the Tiger touchdown that ended the first half; most centers don’t even attempt to pull. Guard Eric Mac Lain once introduced Vice President Joe Biden. Giving awards to quarterbacks and running backs makes for good television. Linemen are the essence of the sport.
In other N.F.L. news, the Seahawks, whose Super Bowl formula has been rushing offense plus rushing defense, right now are first in rushing offense and third in rushing defense. Seattle just held Minnesota, which came in as the No. 1 rushing team, to 31 yards rushing on its own field.
The Panthers are 12-0 and have clinched a postseason date; stretching back to last season, they are on a 17-1 run. The best thing that could happen to Carolina is a loss, to get the monkey off its back about the pointless distraction of trying to go 16-0.
Back in September, this column began talking up New England’s little-known, undrafted free agent center David Andrews. Let me point out it’s now December and the Patriots are 10-0 when Andrews starts, 0-2 when he doesn’t.
Sweet Lend Me a Tight End Play. Tight ends behaving like wide receivers has become so common that now two tight ends need to go deep to count as an innovation.
Houston and Buffalo tied at 21-21, the Bills faced second-and-7 on the Moo Cows’ 40 just inside the two-minute warning. Given the game-management situation, Houston expected Buffalo to rush to drill the clock, then attempt the winning field goal as time expired. Buffalo fielded a heavy package with two tight ends and a fullback — just what the Texans expected. Megabucks pass-catching tight end Charles Clay lined up alongside blocking tight end Matt Mulligan. At the snap Mulligan ran a deep out while Clay ran a seam. Houston double-covered Mulligan — who came into the contest with one reception for 2 yards on the season – while no one covered Clay, who caught a 40-yard untouched touchdown. That’s as sweet as candy cane on the tree.
Sweet ‘n’ Sour Pair of Lend Me a Tight End Plays. Detroit leading 3-0 and facing third-and-3 on the Green Bay 2, the Packers lined up with no one across from Lions tight end Eric Ebron. Seeing the blown coverage, Matt Stafford called for an immediate snap, touchdown. Sweet for tight end advocates, sour for the defense. Green Bay had all its timeouts — realizing no one was lined up near Ebron, why didn’t the Packers call time?
Now it’s the game’s final, untimed down, Detroit ahead 23-20, ball at the Packers’ 39. On the previous snap Green Bay had attempted a Stanford Band play; Detroit expected another. But why was nose tackle Haloti Ngata on the field for Detroit — the Packers were unlikely to run up the middle — while pass-rush artist Ziggy Ansah was out? Not enough pressure on Aaron Rodgers meant plenty of time for Green Bay receivers to reach the end zone. With eight defenders to cover the five Green Bay receivers, how did the Pack’s Richard Rodgers get open for the winning touchdown? No defender even attempted to cover Rodgers, who was standing alone at the Lions’ 3 yard line as Aaron Rodgers’s pass approached.
As the winning pass was caught, there were five Detroit defenders in the end zone, three near Aaron Rodgers and three — where? The missing three were standing around midfield as if to defend another Stanford Band play, and never reacted to the fact that Green Bay was attempting a Hail Mary. Sweet for tight end advocates, sour for the defense. Detroit had a timeout. When the game appeared to end but a penalty created the untimed down, why didn’t Lions coaches call the timeout to make sure their ducks were in a row? At least now the unused timeout can be donated to charity.
Sour Play of the Week (Recurring Sour Play). Twice this season, versus Dallas and New England, the Giants have reached a late fourth-quarter commanding position near the opposition goal line, then have managed to blow games by throwing the ball, thus stopping the clock, rather than simply rushing. Both times the proper strategy hasn’t been some mystery, rather, TOTALLY OBVIOUS.
Now it’s Jersey/A 20, Jersey/B 10 with the Giants facing fourth-and-2 on the Jets’ 4 midway through the fourth quarter. Even go-for-it zealots like The Upshot’s 4th Down Bot expected a field-goal attempt. A field goal would have forced the Jets to score two touchdowns, with the clock remorselessly ticking down. But if trying for the first down, run the ball so that a failed try pins the Jets against their goal line. Instead pass, interception, Jersey/B returns to the 14 and goes on to win in overtime, though does not score two touchdowns. Near the opposition goal line late in the game, somehow the Giants can’t simply do what’s TOTALLY OBVIOUS.
Bot Note. Live tweeting while the score was still close, the Bot urged the Colts to go for it on fourth-and-1 from their 29. Chuck Pagano did the “safe” thing and moments later the score was no longer close, the Steelers hanging a 45-10 defeat on Indianapolis.
Worst Crowd Reaction. As the Flying Elvii melted down in the second half against Philadelphia, the home crowd booed. Sure you’re the defending champions, and stretching back to the start of the 2014 season you’re 26-6. But what have you done for us lately?
Stats of the Week. Denver is on a 15-0 road streak in its division.
The Falcons have followed a 5-0 run with a 1-6 run; the Chiefs have followed a 1-5 run with a 6-0 run.
Since the start of the 2014 season, at home Tennessee is 2-0 versus Jacksonville and 0-13 versus all other teams.
Chicago has lost 12 of its last 15 at home.
Baltimore has losses by 6, 5, 4, 4, 3, 2 and 2 points.
At 4-8, the Dallas Cowboys are one game out of first place in the N.F.C. East.
The Redskins, and a History of Racism. Again the Redskins name is in the news, with federal proceedings in which the team admitted the word is offensive but, like Lenny Bruce, argued that offensive is O.K.; and with Barack Obama’s praise for Adidas, which offered to help any high school that drops an American Indian mascot.
That the N.F.L. franchise representing the nation’s capital won’t stop using an offensive term — for a new name, the Washington Insiders has a nice ring — is more evidence N.F.L. owners view themselves as an unaccountable aristocracy. Changing the Redskins’ name would not have any impact on how American Indians live their lives or on unresolved issues regarding treaties with former North American nations. (If only there were a national version of the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.) But changing the Redskins’ name would show respect while generating good will. Still the league refuses, all the while demanding public subsidies.
Everyone understands that when fans chant “Redskins” or wear headdresses to games, they do not wish to cause hurt feelings — they just want to celebrate their team. Most Redskins faithful probably don’t know that the Redskins’ founding owner, George Preston Marshall, was an unrepentant racist who refused to sign African-American players for a full decade after other N.F.L. teams were integrated. Following scores last night in the nation’s capital, Redskins’ faithful sang,
Hail to the Redskins!
Braves on the warpath
Fight for old D.C.!
Most probably don’t know that because Marshall promoted the Redskins as a segregated Southern team, in some years the song ended “Fight for old Dixie!” Most Redskins fans probably don’t know that American Indians were held as slaves in old Dixie and in colonial New England, including at colleges of what would become the Ivy League — see the troubling book ”Ebony and Ivy” by Craig Steven Wilder. Most probably don’t know that American Indians suffered indentured servitude in pre-statehood California.
Supporters of the Redskins name sometimes contend that although today the word is objectionable, that was not the case in 1933 when the Boston Braves became the Boston Redskins: because the name was used in polite speech when chosen, it should continue for historical reasons. But in that time, “darky” was not necessarily a slur; it too was accepted in polite speech. There’s no chance the N.F.L. would, today, have a team by that name. There’s no chance fans would sing after touchdowns using that name.
When you hear “Washington Redskins” in that song, mentally substitute the other name. Soon you’ll favor a name change.
The Football Gods Chortled. Two N.F.L. games in four days — Ravens-Browns on a Monday night, then Packers-Lions on Thursday — concluded with the winners scoring a touchdown as time expired, then taking a knee on the extra point.
An odd N.F.L. rule requires a try after every touchdown, even if an added score does not impact the outcome. In high school and college, the scoring team can simply tell the referee it waives the try. In the N.F.L., 11 guys must trot out, snap and kneel.
This 1998 contest ended with New England scoring a touchdown on an untimed down that followed a clearly wrong pass interference flag in the end zone against the Bills as time expired. Furious with good reason, Buffalo Coach Wade Phillips pulled his team off the field for the meaningless try that the referee insisted upon. New England sent out 11 and hiked to place-kicker Adam Vinatieri, who jogged across the goal line for a deuce scored against air. It’s believed to have been the sole down in modern N.F.L. annals on which only one team was on the field.
Note 1: Put this year’s bad-officiating headlines into perspective by noting that bad N.F.L. officiating was a 1998 story line, too. Note 2: because of the phantom deuce, Vinatieri’s career totals now are 1 two-point conversion and 736 single-point conversions.
Unhappy Hour in Hell’s Sports Bar. Hell’s Sports Bar offers unlimited free chicken wings, but patrons must bite them off a live rooster. Sunday, northern Florida, Tennessee and parts of Alabama became an actual Hell’s Sports Bar as viewers were shown the Jacksonville at Tennessee pairing, combined records 6-16, rather than playoff-atmosphere Jets at Giants. The food-cart version of Hell’s Sports Bar was Maine, where viewers saw the Bengals at 2-9 Browns rather than Seahawks at Vikings, combined records 14-8.
Ravens Play in the Pick-Six Lotto. Since 2013, Matt Schaub has thrown 13 touchdown passes to teammates and seven touchdown passes to defenders. Who’s worst in that span for the pick-six? Would you have guessed Matt Ryan or Philip Rivers?
To Each, His Dulcinea. Vikings trailing Seattle 38-0, Minnesota’s Cordarrelle Patterson scored a touchdown and celebrated wildly, waving the ball to the home crowd.
Let’s Hope His Dulcinea Noticed. Late in a home loss to Denver, San Diego’s Jason Verrett intercepted a pass. Verrett turned to the audience and did a stage bow.
Oh Ye of Little Faith. Trailing 15-0 versus Miami, Baltimore kicked a field goal to avert a shutout; trailing 20-0 versus Cincinnati, Cleveland kicked a field goal to avert a shutout; trailing 10-0 versus Arizona, St. Louis kicked a field goal to avert a shutout. All three teams that kicked while being shut out and trailing by at least 10 points went on to lose.
Opening Soon: Star Wars and the Goblet of Fire Go to the Two Towers with Katniss. At this point it’s becoming hard to tell the many “Star Wars” sequels from the many “Harry Potter,” “Hunger Games” and “Lord of the Rings” sequels. “Star Wars” is science fiction, so one may presume whatever one wishes about a galaxy far, far away. But would societies based on super-advanced technology really fight with hand weapons?
If trailers are any indication, the new “Star Wars” movie will feature endless combat among storm troopers, clones, droids and heroes conducted mainly using the high-tech equivalent of rifles and swords. As in the previous six “Star Wars” iterations, soldiers arriving in troop transports will fan out with light arms and try to chase down enemies on foot, rather than, say, dropping bombs. Already in our own Milky Way, the United States military is replacing short-range hand-held weapons with long-range self-guided munitions. Engineers of the Star Wars galaxy have mastered space warps and antigravity, but can’t figure how to make a missile.
Is Hollywood Convincing People Climate Change Is No More Real Than Darth Vader? Katy Perry just called for action against climate change: “Today we’re seeing more extreme weather everywhere ... conditions will worsen.” The scientific proof of artificially triggered global warming is solid. But does that mean greenhouse gases cause “extreme weather?” Far from known.
Entertainment-industry types like to talk greenhouse action. It’s not just the hypocrisy — they fly in private jets, then demand other people conserve fossil fuels. It’s more that filmmakers churn out nonsense about climate change destroying the world. Numerous big-budget movies have depicted warming as the agent of doomsday. For instance, Steven Spielberg, who recently received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, had climate change ending human life by the year 2100 in “A.I. Artificial Intelligence.” This makes it seem global warming is just more Hollywood drivel. Celebrities talking about climate change may serve mainly to discourage people from believing in the reality of the problem.
Adventures in Officiating. The face-masking penalty against Detroit that set the stage for the longest final-play game-winning touchdown in N.F.L. annals was a dicey call. At game speed it looked like face-masking. In slow-motion the contact seemed O.K., since the defender let go immediately, which is what a player is supposed to do if making accidental contact with the face mask. Officials watch at game speed, and responded to the game-speed view.
J.J. Watt Watch. This column has taken issue with J.J. Watt’s incessant immodesty. On the other side of the coin, this season Watt, the Houston defensive end, has been held more than anyone in the league. At Buffalo, on a long completion to Sammy Watkins, guard Richie Incognito wrapped his arm around Watt’s neck, no flag. On a third-down conversion leading to a touchdown, Buffalo’s Jordan Mills pretty much tackled Watt, no flag.
Late in the fourth quarter, Watt was blocked well by the backup guard Kraig Urbik, then simply stood watching, making no attempt to pursue, as LeSean McCoy ran for 20 yards. Mills, an emergency starter just promoted from the practice squad, neutralized Watt on the 40-yard touchdown pass that was the game’s decisive score. With the Bills fielding a backup at guard and a street free agent at tackle on the side of the line Watt was attacking, the Pro Bowler and advertising pitchman was held to no sacks and no hits on the quarterback. That wasn’t because of holding, that was Watt being outplayed by who-dats.
Scout’s Note. At the goal line versus Seattle, Cincinnati drew the defenders wide, then Andy Dalton went up the middle for a touchdown. Sunday versus the Browns, the Bengals went for it on fourth-and-1. A tight end lined up in the backfield, then split wide, drawing defenders, and Dalton went up to the middle for a first down. Reaching the Cleveland 3-yard line, Cincinnati used the rare “quad” set — four wide receivers on the same side — drawing the defense wide, then Dalton went up the middle for a touchdown.
The league has now seen this Cincinnati tactic, and fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. Drawing defenders wide and then sending Dalton straight up the middle is likely to stop working. Why did Bengals coaches use up this clever move against the Browns, whom they were all but certain to paste?
Rare Moment of Perspective in N.C.A.A. Sports. Stephen Curry of Golden State is tearing up the N.B.A. At his current rate of improvement, Curry soon will ascend directly to a higher plane of existence.
He is doubly interesting because he chose Davidson, an excellent academic college, over bigger-deal basketball programs. Davidson is well regarded for educational quality and also graduates nearly all of its student-athletes. But not Curry. Until he earns his degree, Davidson will not retire his jersey. Three cheers for the Wildcats, and here’s to you, Davidson alums.
What Do the Football Gods Have Against the Detroit Lions? Stretching back to last season’s playoffs, the Lions have lost three of their last 13 games largely on late fourth-quarter officiating decisions that were either outright blunders or questionable judgment. Defensive pass interference against the Cowboys seemed to put Detroit in a commanding position deep in Dallas territory, then officials picked up the flag and the Lions punted, going on to lose by four points. Officials should have awarded Detroit possession at the Seattle 1 after the batted-ball call late in the Seahawks-Lions game, and instead mistakenly awarded possession to the Hawks, Detroit going on to lose by three points. And of course the face-masking call that allowed the extra down on which Green Bay defeated Detroit was sketchy.
A rule of human nature is that we tend to recall what harms us while forgetting good luck; mistakes and disappointments live in our minds in cinematic detail while we retain only hazy reminiscences of pleasure. Natural selection seems better to have prepared us for wariness than happiness.
In sports, fans bitterly remember the flags that go against their teams while not remembering the flags that went against opponents. During the Lions’ streak of bad luck with officiating, they’ve also gotten calls in their favor. But all the Lions’ faithful will recollect from this season is the calls Detroit didn’t get.
Coaching Error of the Week. Kansas City and Oakland tied at 20-20, the Chiefs faced second-and-10. Kansas City showed trips right; the Raiders lined up two defensive backs across from the three wide receivers. Seeing this, Alex Smith quick-snapped and threw sideways; Jeremy Maclin walked in for an untouched touchdown. Raiders coaches saw the same thing Smith saw. Why didn’t they call a timeout?
Authentic Games Standings. For those who came in late, this concept was introduced last week. Remember, I can’t disclose my methodology because I don’t have one.
In the Authentic Games metric, a team’s ranking changes as much based on its opponents as on its own performance. For example, the Packers won in Week 13 but dropped in these standings because the Lions are not an Authentic opponent, while Green Bay lost credit for their opener defeat of the Bears, who were punched out at home by a second-echelon club.
I reserve to right to retcon the Authentic Games standings at any time. Last week the Eagles weren’t a factor and now they are, since defeating the defending champion on its own field is Authentic. This week the Falcons and the Raiders drop out.
The Patriots, losers of two straight, have the most big-game experience, which augurs well for New England. Others that have appeared in the most Authentic contests are Buffalo and Kansas City. Neither has a sterling record, but lots of big-game tests suggests at least one will receive an engraved invitation (or maybe an email) at playoff time.
New England: 7-2
Cincinnati, Denver 4-2
Kansas City 4-4
Green Bay, Philadelphia 3-2
Houston, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Washington 2-4
Giants, Indianapolis 2-5
Retcon/White House Crossover Note. Retconning — “retroactive continuity” — is a major factor in superhero movie reboots. It’s shaping up as big in the 2016 presidential campaign, too.
The 500 Club. In California high school playoff action, St. John Bosco put up 52 points and lost by two scores. The final of Corona Centennial 62, Bosco 52 in a 48-minute game extrapolates to an N.F.L. final score of 78-65.
Obscure College Score. Wisconsin Whitewater 31, Wisconsin Oshkosh 29 (Division III playoffs). Located in Oshkosh, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh has a “new, forward-looking strategic plan.” Are there plans for the past? Division I football is all about recruiting. In theory Division III doesn’t recruit, but the winning programs do. Here’s the recruiting form for Wisconsin Whitewater.
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