Flock & Tingle is John Teti’s interim column about pro football.
Amid the lead-up to a marquee game of the 2018 season—Green Bay Packers vs. New England Patriots—The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch checked in with NBC Sunday Night Football executive producer Fred Gaudelli. The first half of the story finds Gaudelli recounting, with the breathlessness of a lovestruck high schooler, that magical night when an NFL representative called to inform him that NBC would be airing the Packers-Patriots contest. Suffice to say that Gaudelli was tickled. This is only the second meeting ever between all-time-great quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, which means big ratings, as long as America’s Nielsen boxes aren’t overloaded by sheer handsomeness.
In the Athletic interview, Gaudelli shares a glimpse into the material his staff is preparing for Sunday’s broadcast. I was pretty excited about this game to begin with, and then I read this:
Gaudelli said his production group started brainstorming ideas in June for interesting things they could unveil for the game. They come up with 50 or so good ideas and, in a perfect world, Gaudelli said five of those ideas will make it on air Sunday. […] One thing the group talked about was the definition of the word “mastery” and how to illustrate that during the broadcast. You might also see something on the numerology of the number 12, which both Brady and Rodgers wear[.]
Oh—yes, please. NBC, if you are reading this column, please do include Fred Gaudelli’s weird, nigh-mystical ideas for football illustrations in Sunday’s telecast. I want to see the definition of the word “mastery” brought to life in 1080i high definition. I need to hear Al Michaels grudgingly narrate a 3D-animated rumination on secrets of the number 12.
But even if these ideas don’t make the final cut, I know that NBC will unleash other brainstorms from their goofy yet talented graphics department to fill time between downs. Brady in particular seems to inspire NBC’s team, probably because he’s had a long career, so his record offers plenty of nooks and crannies for statistical cherry-pickers. When Brady faced the Detroit Lions—coached by former New England defensive coordinator Matt Patricia—on Sunday Night Football earlier this year, the first quarter featured a “Father Time” sequence in which Brady’s longevity became so extraordinary that Father Time himself was overcome with google-eyed vexation.
Later in the same game, another “get a load of these numbers” Brady moment was drawn up with an aesthetic that, on the thinnest of justifications, mimicked Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather. I’m charmed by the attention to detail in this mockup, like the plates of cannoli on either side of Brady here. If the Godfather connection (“never go against the family”) strikes you as tenuous, rest assured that the pop culture references on SNF rarely make much sense.
For that matter, the producers seem to take a certain pride when they don’t make sense. The graphic above, from Week 1, made the conceptual leap of imagining wealthy NFC North quarterbacks as characters in a vague Game Of Thrones knockoff, complete with the Thrones theme song. “I love the Game Of Thrones here. That’s fantastic,” effused SNF analyst Cris Collinsworth, who didn’t win 16 Emmys without knowing how to sell a bit.
The winking hokeyness of SNF’s medieval QB lineup shouldn’t obscure the craftsmanship on display. Smart people put thought into the Thrones image. The upward burn of the torches contrasts with the gravity of falling banners, giving the frame a lively mix of motion. The stage is set with care for the narrative: Aaron Rodgers, he of the $33.5 million average salary, is surrounded by riches. Meanwhile, the mere single-digit millionaire, Mitchell Trubisky, has to make do with stray coins scattered around the floor (coins that he will promptly launch three yards above the head of a wide-open receiver).
There is shrewd corner-cutting at work in the Game Of Thrones tableau, and I mean that as a compliment. Gaudelli said that the SNF team works through about 50 visual ideas on their way to a weekly broadcast. The graphics unit will generate 15 to 20 minutes of material for a reel that’s screened for the show’s staff the morning before a game. That’s a lot of production to accomplish in a short timeframe. So you work smart. All the quarterbacks in the Thrones graphic have dark visors, even though none of the actual players wear one. Some crafty artist avoided the time-consuming and counterproductive effort of creating uncanny eyes for the QBs, the same way that Super Mario Bros.’ Mario wore a hat so that Shigeru Miyamoto didn’t have to animate his hair.
Overwrought gridiron philosophizing, doofy pop culture humor, and authentic TV-making prowess—this weekend’s Sunday Night Football graphics promise to have it all, and I’ll be watching closely. Watch this space next weekend for a review of the visual innovations we’re sure to see as Rodgers-Brady II unfolds.
Your Week 9 FuturePicks™
Flock & Tingle is the only interim football column with FuturePicks™, an NFL prediction system that employs temporal quantum-tunneling technology to compress all of human existence, indeed all of time itself, to a single point. The result is a weekly slate of football game picks that are guaranteed to be correct because, from the perspective of FuturePicks™, they have already happened.
NOTE: Foreknowledge of the future necessarily alters the future. Flock & Tingle is not responsible for any disruption to causality that emerges as a result of sentient persons viewing the FuturePicks™ in advance of Sunday’s pro football contests. Please do not read the picks.
Forbearance has triumphed: Evidently, few sentient beings read the picks last weekend. This allowed reality to remain largely intact. Only three games were won by teams that differed from the true and correct winners observed by the FuturePicks™ system. Readers, you have done your part to preserve the timeline. Your restraint is commendable.
Week 8 games within acceptable parameters: 10
Week 8 divergences from FuturePicks™: 3
Overall FuturePicks™ integrity in 2018: 58.9 percent (33-23)
Here are the Week 9 picks. Do not read them.
SUNDAY — EARLY GAMES
Chicago Bears vs. Buffalo Bills (Fox): Chicago 21, Buffalo 18. The Chicago Bears understand how important it is in the NFL to show respect for your opponent. A case in point is this Instagram game preview (which was brought to you by a technology procurement corporation that totally, like, “gets it,” guys).
Observe how the Bears’ artist rendered his interpretation of the two teams’ offenses. Chicago is a regular bear. Granted, judging by the scars, this is a bear who’s seen some shit. But still your standard-issue forest beast. Buffalo, however, is rendered as a dreadful science monster who is disfigured by all manner of cybernetic enhancements, including a laser eye and half of a titanium-reinforced ass. This would seem to indicate that Buffalo has a fearsome advantage over the flesh-and-blood Chicago offense, even though the numbers indicate otherwise.
On the other hand, the buffalo is just standing there not doing much of anything, which is about right.
Detroit Lions vs. Minnesota Vikings (Fox): Minnesota 33, Detroit 20.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Washington (Fox): Washington 25, Atlanta 22.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Carolina Panthers (Fox): Carolina 30, Tampa Bay 28. Packers-Patriots may be the matchup of the year in terms of quarterback talent, but early in the season it looked like this Bucs-Panthers game would be a thrilling quarterback showdown in the realm of sartorial flair—a faceoff between Carolina’s postgame fashion trailblazer Cam Newton and, on the Tampa Bay side, Ryan “My Nickname Is Fitzmagic” Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick is the journeyman quarterback who burnished the glory of his improbable heroics this season by showing up to his Eagles-Bucs postgame press conference wearing the above sleek and sexy ensemble. “I just think we have to stay humble,” he deadpanned at the podium that day, “And we’ve got to make sure we know how to handle success.” Fitzpatrick’s suave, facetious delivery of these wisecracks suggested that he was styling himself in the Newton mold: a quarterback who smirkingly pushes the line between “He looks ridiculous in that outfit” and “He looks ridiculously good in that outfit.”
Since his Week 2 victory against Philadelphia, though, Fitz has reverted to his default postgame look, a lumpen suit with gigantic sleeves that do nothing to showcase the rippling potency of his magical, touchdown-throwing forearms.
Cam Newton, conversely, continues to bring his A-game in the press room. Last Sunday, he greeted reporters looking like the villain from a steampunk Wild West graphic novel. When one member of the media asked Newton if the Panthers’ victory over the Ravens could be attributed in part to poor play by Baltimore, Cam smirked from beneath the shadows of his ludicrous hat and said, “I’m not going to allow you to nuke this win.” In short order, this line of questioning was dropped by the assembled press, as they feared that Newton’s spectacles might be hiding tiny six-shooters in a secret compartment, or an aero-copter of some sort.
Not all hope is lost for style mavens among the Tampa Bay fan base, however — you merely have to look past QB1 on the roster. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, photographed as the team departed for their Week 8 game against the Bengals, embarks on an adventure of texture and color by pairing his velvet brown suit with cool-toned accents and a monogrammed Buccaneer-orange duffel. The double-popped collars and gleaming white sneakers are the top-and-bottom styling details that complete the swagger of this look.
Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy knows how to dress sharp while allowing for leisure. The eye is drawn first to his extremely green blazer and a pair of plaid trousers that were apparently salvaged from the reject pile of Hillary Clinton’s pantsuit closet. But don’t miss the embroidered slippers, which send a clear statement that McCoy will be napping before the team plane has even left the ground.
Tampa Bay kicker Chandler Catanzaro also goes with a bowtie for a look that says, “In case it wasn’t already clear, I am the kicker.” The sturdy construction of the blazer helps maintain its shape under the weight of however many bags Catanzaro is carrying. Best of all, this is a versatile outfit that looks great both in the postgame locker room and in the Daily Planet mailroom.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens (CBS): Baltimore 26, Pittsburgh 21.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Cleveland Browns (CBS): Kansas City 59, Cleveland 10. On Monday, Cleveland fired head coach Hue Jackson, having come to the realization after Week 8 that Jackson might not be able to provide the winning spark that the team needs. When Jackson’s all-time record with the Browns stood at 3-35-1, the Cleveland front office still had hope. But at 3-36-1, enough was enough—the Browns have a culture of winning to uphold, after all.
Jackson’s dismissal has cast uncertainty on the fate of Flock & Tingle’s favorite Instagram account, @samepictureofhuejackson, which has pledged to post the same picture of Hue Jackson every day until the Browns win three games. The proprietor of the account has asked subscribers to suggest changes to the routine, even reaching out to Jackson himself for his take on the situation. I don’t see why there’s any question here—of course the account must keep posting the same picture of Hue. When you make a commitment to Hue Jackson, you see it through, even when it no longer makes sense to do so. That’s the Cleveland Browns way, or at least it was for the last two-and-a-half seasons.
New York Jets vs. Miami Dolphins (CBS): New York 2, Miami 0. How did I not find this video before now? And look, there’s Brad Childress! Remember him? Yeah, I kind of remember him too.
SUNDAY — LATE GAMES
Houston Texans vs. Denver Broncos (CBS): Houston 24, Denver 14.
Los Angeles Chargers vs. Seattle Seahawks (CBS): Los Angeles 28, Seattle 18. I still write “San Diego” every time, and I have to go back and delete it every time. Even after a year, “Los Angeles Chargers” doesn’t sound right. I gather the Los Angeles metro area feels the same way.
Los Angeles Rams vs. New Orleans Saints (Fox): New Orleans 40, Los Angeles 34.
SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
Green Bay Packers vs. New England Patriots (NBC): New England 35, Green Bay Packers 33.
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
Tennessee Titans vs. Dallas Cowboys (ESPN): Dallas 27, Tennessee 23. ESPN has updated the Monday Night Football Boogermobile to version 1.1, according to ProFootballTalk. If you’re not familiar, the Boogermobile is a rickety four-wheeled treehouse of high-voltage equipment in which MNF analyst Booger McFarland attempts to do his job every Monday night. Previously, a TV screen was mounted behind McFarland, but ESPN has replaced that with a slab of plexiglass. It seems that people attending Monday night games in person are unhappy to have their view blocked by a rolling OSHA violation. Now, the fans will be able to see the back of Booger McFarland’s head more clearly—problem solved.
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