TRANSLATING SPORTS: The NFL Edition, Are You Ready For Some Football?

Finally, our long national nightmare is over. That bleak, dark, dreary time from early February to early September, which much of America horrifically refers to as "the off-season," is now behind us. With the Denver Broncos' 49-27 victory over the Baltimore Ravens last night, it is officially football season!

Wait, what's that you say? You thought football season started last Thursday when South Carolina beat North Carolina; well, yes, you are right, but that was College Football season, now it is Pro Football season as well. See, College Football season runs from now through January 6th and plays on some Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, all Thursdays, and with the majority of games taking place on Saturdays.

The NFL season runs from now through February 2nd's Super Bowl, with all games on Sundays, except for a game every week on Monday and most weeks on Thursday. That is of course until the college season winds down and the pros take over Saturday as well. So basically, whether you like it or not, you will be inundated with football from now until Groundhog's Day; so you might as well learn to love it, or at least live with it.

In this week's TRANSLATING SPORTS, I will walk you through the basics of predicting your Super Bowl Champion, tell you why grown men (and women) fantasize about football, and let you know why some media members are refusing to mention a certain NFL team by name.

The Super Bowl Champ Will Be...

If you saw last week's column, you know that I came out of the gate looking pretty good with my college football National Champion options. History told us that the eventual college champ will be in the preseason top-five, but I warned against putting your money (or your reputation) on the No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs; and as if just to prove me right, Georgia dropped its season opener 38-35 to Clemson last weekend.

Now, with a salary cap (teams are only allowed to spend a predetermined amount of money) and free agency (players can move to another team when their contract is up), the NFL has a much higher level of parity than College Football, so this will be a little more tricky.

Let's start with last year's Super Bowl Champion, the Baltimore Ravens, who, believe it or not, were named for Edgar Allen Poe's classic poem. Unfortunately for the Ravens, none of the last seven Super Bowl champions have won a single playoff game the following year; so it is safe to eliminate them from consideration.

Now, with the defending champs out of the running, I will run down the top-five candidates to win the Super Bowl, in alphabetical order, and you can decide which one most tickles your fancy.

1) Denver Broncos- The theory is, to win in the NFL you have to have a great quarterback, and the Broncos have one of the best ever in Peyton Manning, and I'm not just saying that because he threw a record-tying seven touchdowns in the season opener. After losing in double-overtime to the eventual champion Ravens in last year's postseason and Peyton another year recovered from neck-surgery, the Broncos are a trendy pick to win it all; but be careful, for as good as Peyton is, he has a history of underachieving in the playoffs. If you pick the Broncos, as I am, and start watching their games, you will notice that Peyton has a style all his own. He runs around before each play changing the plan and reminding each player of their responsibilities. It has worked great for him throughout his entire career, however, it didn't go too well when he tried it with a group of kids on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE:

2) Green Bay Packers- Like the Broncos, the Packers have one of the best quarterbacks in the
game; both on the field and in commercials. Mr. Discount Double Check, Aaron Rodgers, leads TRANSLATING SPORTS: The NFL Edition, Are You Ready For Some Football?the Packers, who won the Super Bowl in 2011. The team has significantly improved their running game and defense, so the Cheese-heads should be a contender all year. Also of note, the Super Bowl trophy is named after legendary Green Bay coach Vince Lombardi, who was the subject of a decently received 2010 Broadway play.

3) New England Patriots- When it comes to media savvy quarterbacks, it is hard to overlook Captain America, Tom Brady. He's married to a supermodel and has an endorsement deal with Uggs. However, like the Georgia Bulldogs, the Patriots are always one of the most talented teams in the league, but they have fallen short of their Super Bowl aspirations in recent years, so I would be very careful with the Patriots if I were you.

TRANSLATING SPORTS: The NFL Edition, Are You Ready For Some Football?4) San Francisco 49ers- If you tuned in to see the Beyonce mini-concert in New Orleans last February, chances are good that you were a little surprised that her opening act was a bunch of guys running around in helmets. Well, half of the men in that bizarre performance art piece were the San Francisco 49ers, and they have a decent shot at being back there this year. Their leader, the heavily tattooed Colin Kaepernick, was so exciting last year, that he stole all of Tim Tebow's thunder with his Kaepernicking pose. After some key losses from their roster, the up-start 49ers have a difficult road back to the Super Bowl this year.

5) Seattle Seahawks- There is an extremely interesting, if not slightly unhealthy, rivalry between the 49ers and the Seahawks, that dates back to when both teams' coaches ( 49ers- Jim Harbaugh; Seahawks- Pete Carroll) were facing off as college coaches. However, despite the Niners gaining the upperhand with last year's Super Bowl appearance, the Seahawks are the ones topping most experts' picks. While they are known as one of the top defenses in the league, the Seahawks' superstar is their quarterback Russell Wilson. If he stays healthy, the "12th Man" could be very happy come February.

The Fantasy of Football

If I told you that a single online activity enjoyed by over 24 million people has become so popular that it has turned into a $1 billion business and cost employers over $6.5 billion in productivity, you would think that I was talking about porn, wouldn't you?

Well, while this activity is all about role-playing and fantasizing, you'd be wrong. I'm talking about Fantasy Football; where people put together fake football teams, using real players, and compete against their friends' fake teams for ultimate bragging rights, sometimes cash, and if they are really gung-ho, even a trophy. If you want to blend in with your football fan friends, you can still start a team here, or here, or here, or here, or here, or here, or here, or here, or here.

The financial power of fantasy football is so great that Broadway producer Ken Davenport suggests that theatre needs its own version.

However, these 24 million people aren't just the adult versions of the kids that would play Dungeons and Dragons at lunch. Broadway beauty Patti Murin, seen in LYSISTRATA JONES as a cheerleader, recently proudly flaunted the last few hours of her Fantasy Football Championship reign on Twitter.

TRANSLATING SPORTS: The NFL Edition, Are You Ready For Some Football?

However, if pretending to be the General Manager of a sport that you know nothing about doesn't interest you, don't worry, the gorgeous and hilarious Tony-winning Laura Benanti is right there with you:

TRANSLATING SPORTS: The NFL Edition, Are You Ready For Some Football?

The Washington Football Team

While most stories associated with the start of a new NFL season make people feel full of a renewed purpose for living, this one has caused quite a bit a dissension across the politically-correct divide. While many universities have removed potentially offensive Native American nicknames and mascots from their athletic teams, the same has not been true of professional teams, especially the Washington Football Team.

Despite calls from Congress and the Oneida Indian Nation, the team's owner Daniel Snyder has vowed to "never" change the team's name.TRANSLATING SPORTS: The NFL Edition, Are You Ready For Some Football?

Since billionaire Snyder purchased the Washington Football Team, they have won 101 games, while losing 123, and in his 14-year tenure, he has hired and fired seven different coaches. So, it should come as no surprise that Snyder can't seem to figure out how to be on the right side of many issues.

Rather than continuing to repeat the team's pejorative nickname, a number of major media outlets have taken a subtle, but important step. In an impassioned editorial from Slate's Editor David Plotz he announced why his publication would join The Kansas City Star, the Washington City Paper, Buffalo News, and Philadelphia Daily News in banning the racist nickname from their pages.

While this story is probably not going to be one to dominate many sports headlines, I wouldn't be surprised if we hear more about protests and campaigns aimed to change the name throughout the course of the season.

Come back next week for more TRANSLATING SPORTS: Sports Headlines for Theatre Fans. If you have a question, or a comment, leave it below, or look me up on Twitter @BWWMatt.

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