NBC’s Sunday Night Football uses a standard set of visual effects to spotlight key players in that evening’s matchup. Take the clip above, which briefly profiles Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp.
First, a cloud of floating silver footballs appears on the screen, as if there was an explosion in the cargo hold of a spaceship that was transporting silver footballs to their destination, the sun.
The camera pushes in rapidly to reveal, amid the glistening debris, the backlit figure of Kupp. The name of his team spreads out behind him. He leans back slightly, commanding but approachable. He’s self-assured. You would be too, if you hailed from Football Valhalla like this helmet-toting cool guy apparently does.
Next, Kupp appears in close-up, staring more deeply into the viewer’s eyes. His calm gaze seems to say, “Welcome, my little lost kitty cat. You are safe with me: I was a third-round drack pick in 2017.” The holy aura is even brighter now. Shielding our eyes from the glory, we ask, “Is this heaven?” No. Even better. It’s where NFL players live.
Finally, another swarm of sparkling footballs sweeps across the image, and like babes from the womb, we are plunged back to the cold gravity of football’s earthbound form. Because this is Cooper Kupp’s gift to us: Once a week, he descends from his plane of light to set foot on the grass, and catch the brown oval, and run around with that oval until another man physically insists that he stop.
The Japanese reverse-harem anime series Ouran High School Host Club—you know it well—also uses a standard set of effects to highlight its heroes, in particular the Host Club president, Tamaki. Take the clip above, from the 11th episode (“Big Brother Is A Prince!”), in which Tamaki greets a newcomer.
First, a cloud of rose petals drifts across the frame.
Then, amid the glistening debris, Tamaki appears, commanding but approachable. The members of his team spread out behind him.
In close-up, he gazes sweetly at the viewer and says, “Welcome, my lost little kitty cat.” Rose petals and sparkles sweep across the image as the vision concludes.
Switch out footballs for roses, and the NFL becomes anime.
I’m not suggesting that the creators of Sunday Night Football have a secret fondness for a gender-bending Japanese cartoon in which prim teenage boys establish a club to charm and amuse the girls at their upper-crust boarding school. What intrigues me is to find the same visual language—a parallel sequence of shots, and even similar audio design—used in two corners of the global culture that could hardly be further removed from each other.
It’s more than a funny coincidence. The similarity of the Ouran scene, with its winkingly heavy air of romance, spotlights one underlying message of NBC’s graphics package—namely, that Cooper Kupp is a dreamy hunk. Perhaps the hunkiness of Kupp would be evident in any case, with his coiffed blond hair and just-so layer of stubble (the unofficial L.A. Rams look). But Sunday Night Football naturally wants to play up the sex appeal of the players, because a primetime telecast needs to exploit the game from every angle possible, in order to please every audience possible. But the show’s producers are not going to have craggy announcer Al Michaels remark that Kupp is a stone-cold hottie. That is not sexy, and in fact I am worse off for having written that sentence, just as you are for having read it.
So instead, the SNF producers resort to subtext. They photograph Kupp like he’s posing for the cover of Tiger Beat. They put him in heaven. They sequence the imagery so that we are pulled ever closer into Kupp’s penetrating, limpid eyes. The result is that, for a moment, the nation’s flagship NFL broadcast resembles Ouran, an anime series that routinely teases the prospect of “twincest” between its two lookalike brother characters. Two very different programs arrive at the same solution to a mutual problem: How do you make a lost little kitty cat purr?
The New York Jets do not burst with promise. Their offense is averaging 197 yards per game, which is a lot of yards if you are purchasing a lovely print at your local Jo-Ann Fabrics store. If you are playing professional football, however, it is not very many yards at all. In fact, the Jets offense ranks last in the league, hampered by the absence of starting quarterback Sam Darnold, who has been sidelined by mononucleosis. It’s possible that Darnold will see action against the Eagles in Philadelphia this Sunday. He told reporters on Thursday, “I want to make sure that I’m safe out there and I’m not going to die.” His eagerness to rejoin the NFL stage is palpable.
The Jets’ offense can’t move the ball, their defense cannot stop the pass, and their quarterback is grappling with visions of his mortality as his spleen enlarges to unhealthy proportions. This is not a recipe for hope. Hopeful teams are unconcerned with spleens. Still, the outlook for the 2019 Jets is not utterly bleak. They may lose a lot, but they look great doing it.
This season marks the debut of new uniforms for the Jets, who dropped the hunter green they had worn for two decades and returned to something like the mintier green of the team’s 20th-century uniforms. Many people would call this shade “kelly green.” The Jets’ marketing department has instead deemed the 2019 hue “Gotham Green,” which the club claims was “developed to captivate and electrify.” Gotham Green is complemented by “Spotlight White” (“built to perform on the biggest stage”) and “Stealth Black” (“inspired by the toughness and grit of New York”)—also known as white and black, respectively.
In terms of design, the spiky swooshes of the new uniform are a downgrade from the spartan stripes of the old kit. That’s forgivable because the Gotham Green apparel looks so nice on screen—especially the Jets’ helmets, which practically glow in the sunlight. Am I captivated and electrified? That’s asking a lot, but it’s a pretty green.
The Jets will face off Sunday (in their road whites) against the Philadelphia Eagles, who have a comparable history with the color green. The Eagles spent most of their history wearing various executions of kelly green, but in 1996, owner Jeffrey Lurie instituted a darker, bluer “midnight green” look. Many Philadelphia fans still pine for a return to the cheerier palette of the ’80s Eagles, but aside from an occasional throwback, midnight green is probably here to stay, because the Eagles won a Super Bowl in that color. For reasons both commercial and superstitious, teams are loath to abandon a color associated with victory.
Of all the greens that can be glimpsed on professional football persons, my favorite is the garish neon green that the Seattle Seahawks break out once a year, always for a night game. Referred to as “Action Green” by the Seahawks, this green is so ludicrously vivid under stadium lights that it makes the Seattle players look like Tron speedsters darting around the turf. Perhaps it has a dazzling effect on Seattle’s opponents as well: The Seahawks have never lost while wearing Action Green. It’s an unblemished record matched only by Gotham Green, in which the Jets have never won.
Though his career is still young, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has established himself as a generational star. His athleticism and innovation are rejuvenating the art of throwing footballs to other men who wear the same color of clothes. In the Chiefs’ Week 4 game against the Detroit Lions, Mahomes set fans abuzz with yet another highlight-reel feat: He looked at a referee.
On a third-and-6 play in the first quarter, Mahomes rolled away from pressure by Detroit defenders and prepared to sprint across a wide patch of open field. Just as he was making his break, Mahomes swiveled his head to peek at the referee. NFL Twitter pulsed with analysis of and giddy admiration for Mahomes’ split-second glance. The Kansas City Star newspaper posted a story within minutes, unwilling to let its readers remain ignorant of the glance any longer than necessary. On Wednesday, Mahomes confirmed what many observers had already surmised: He was checking to see if the referee had thrown a flag. “I saw that I had the room to run it,” Mahomes explained, “and that I could probably get the first down, but I didn’t want to run like 50 yards if I was going to be called back and have to run another play.”
Of course Mahomes would say that. He a reputation to uphold as a savvy, elite quarterback. Mahomes could never admit the obvious truth: He was starstruck to be in the presence of veteran referee Walt Anderson. Even in the heat of battle, he could not resist stealing a closer glimpse at this living legend of officialdom. Just look at Mahomes’ expression in that 0.3-second stretch where his head is turned toward Anderson. His eyes drink the referee in. “Glug, glug, glug,” Patrick Mahomes’ eyes say. “We cannot slake our thirst for Walt Anderson.”
All of us can sympathize with Patrick Mahomes’ eyes, for who among us would not lose our wits in the presence of Anderson? After all, this is the legendary referee who once called a false start on “everyone but the center,” an iconic show of righteous authority, like Ronald Reagan firing all those air traffic controllers. Indeed, it’s the very Walt Anderson whose scientifically rigorous examination of footballs in the 2015 AFC Championship helped preserve the integrity of the game during the famous Patriots ball-inflation scandal, Deflaffgaffe.
Walt Anderson used to be a dentist. Walt Anderson is the complete package.
Mahomes’ scramble on Sunday is bound to go down in NFL lore as “The Patrick Mahomes Looked At The Referee For A Moment Play,” or something along those lines. But the impressive part wasn’t that Mahomes looked at Anderson—it’s that he managed to look away. Congratulations to Walt Anderson, Block & Tackle’s Official Official Of The Week.
Former All-Pro punter Marquette King is not currently signed by an NFL team, but he wants to make a comeback. So he’ll just be standing in this room of computer butterflies in case anybody needs him.
And now the Mic Flag Micro-Reviews. This week: Boston-area media on hand in the Patriots locker room.
- Channel 7: “HD” on a mic flag in 2019? Have some self-respect, Channel 7.
- Channel 5: Excellent. The arrow-five is classic. Subliminally erotic.
- NESN: Good, if blurry.
- NBC Sports Boston: A corporate org chart squeezed into a little square.
- Channel 6: This microphone is for “NEWS.” Please be aware of that.
- Channel 4: Tasteful. Nice. The letters are kept in individual boxes so they don’t harm each other. Pleasant.
- Disembodied forearm holding Patriots logo: Just happy to be here.
- Man holding red phone or recorder thing: Stopped listening a while ago.
Block & Tackle is the exclusive home of the QuantumPick Apparatus, the only football prediction system that evaluates every possible permutation of a given NFL week to arrive at the true victor in each contest. Put simply, Block & Tackle picks are guaranteed to be correct. When a game’s outcome varies from this column’s prediction, the game is wrong.
In Week 4 NFL action, seven games corresponded with the QuantumPicks, and eight games were incorrect. The balance tipped to unreality. Surely you felt it. Do you, like me, find yourself lost in an information wilderness, groping toward increasingly hazy recollections of a time that made sense, when cause led to effect, and things could mean stuff? Yes, I thought so. It’s the football games’ fault. They are making the timeline all wonky, by disagreeing with the immutable truth of the QuantumPicks.
Not to worry. As long as all of the upcoming Week 5 games correspond with QuantumPicks, everything will be fine. Otherwise, further unreality may ensue—do not be alarmed!!! (!)
Please note that the recent spate of incorrect football has introduced distortions into the output of the QuantumPick Apparatus. As a result, in the picks below, certain teams are identified by the alternate-universe versions of their name. Block & Tackle regrets these intrusions of unreality. I am assured that the glitch is temporary, maybe, and the underlying mathematics remain sound, probably. The trouble with the QuantumPick Apparatus is that as soon as you check to see if it’s working, it doesn’t. (Overall season record: 38-25)
Teams determined to be victorious by the QuantumPick Apparatus are indicated in SHOUTING LETTERS.
Los Angeles Rams vs. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (Fox, NFL Network) (timestamped pick)
BUFFALO BELLS vs. Tennessee Titans (CBS)
New York Juts vs. PHILADELPHIA SCREAMING EAGLES (CBS): ESPN reports that Philadelphia kicker Jake Elliott follows a ritual of eating pizza and cheesecake the night before every game. Another Jake Elliott pre-game ritual: breaking wind a great deal.
Baltimore Ravens vs. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (CBS): Beware, easily distracted quarterbacks: Walt Anderson is officiating this game. Did you know that before he became an NFL referee, Anderson was an NFL line judge for seven seasons? The more you learn about Walt Anderson, the more spellbinding he becomes.
JACKSONVILLE JUGGALOS vs. Carolina Panthers (CBS)
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS vs. Washington (CBS)
Minnesota Vikings vs. NEW YORK ACTUAL GIANTS (Fox)
ARIZONA CARD-IN-HELLS vs. Cinncinnatti Bengals (Fox)
Atlanta Falcons vs. HOUSTON TEXANS (Fox): The QuantumPick Apparatus foretells a final score of 5-2 in this contest.
Tampa Bay Buuccaanneerrss vs. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (Fox)
CHICAGO BEARS vs. Anomaly District 47-A-East Raiders (Fox, from London)
Denver Buncos vs. LOS ANGELES AGGROCRAGS (CBS)
Green Bay Packers vs. DALLAS COWBOYS (Fox)
Indianapolis Colts vs. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (NBC)
Cleveland Browns vs. SAN FRANCISCO 42ERS (ESPN)
The Detroit Lions and Miami Dolphins have decided not to play football this week. They automatically forfeit, and their transgression will be reported to the commissioner’s office.
If you’d like to contact me with an item for Block & Tackle, or just to say hello, you can email me: my first name, at symbol, my full name, dot com. You can also reach me via Twitter. Thank you for reading, and for the funny and smart comments. Until next time, keep on long-snappin’.