GELFAND: Will the NFL's Flag Fest Finally Repel Fans? (Plus Week 3 Picks)

Photo Credit: Ron Chenoy (USA Today Sports)

Before we discuss the prowess of NFL officials, let us agree that there’s nothing the league can do to screw up its money machine. We know this because every possible effort has been made to do just that.

With each passing day, people under 40 are giving their televisions to their grandparents and instead bathing in the glow from their increasingly lavish devices. These people no longer watch football games. Instead, they watch their own life reduced to a five-inch screen. Today, of course, babies are born with iPads in their hands. For them, the television has already gone the way of the phone booth.

The game itself has been exposed as a threat not just to skeletal health but to the brain itself. This not only fails to repulse us, but high schools still sponsor this barbaric sport. Which I would understand if gamblers could wager on high school games, but the only gamble is being unwittingly made by kids who, like the Miami Dolphins, have very little to gain.

Except that the Dolphins’ ownership has lots of money to gain. While the team does everything possible to be the worst in NFL history, the value of the franchise multiplies like bacteria in a Petri dish. It’s been 10 years since Stephen Ross and his pals bought the franchise for a billion bucks and change. It’s now worth about $2.5 billion.

Win or lose, suck or succeed, try or flop — it just doesn’t matter. Somehow the TV money grows larger while the audience grows smaller.

It is with this in mind that the NFL apparently decided to try an experiment to see if, at last, the audience might be so repulsed that the money flood would finally be dammed.

There’s no other explanation for the officials’ latest point of emphasis, which is apparently designed to make the game longer, lower scoring, and more boring: throw more flags. And not just for anything. No, the idea is to call almost twice as many offensive holding calls.

Now, the stripes on the field are only too eager to please. They are, of course, authoritarians at heart, so when told to throw more flags, the answer with “How far?”

In fact, after two weeks of mostly stultifying football, there had been 146 offensive holding calls, compared to 82 after two weeks last season.

The flag fiasco seemed to reach a crescendo on Thursday Night’s appalling contest between Jacksonville and Tennessee. Fifteen penalties were called in the first half —¬† 10 of them for holding. It was so bad that Tom Brady announced by tweet that he was so indignant that he was turning off the game.

With or without penalties, it would have been a boring contest, but I think it’s fair to question Brady’s timing, if not his values. As he was making his statement, the rest of us were digesting the news that his highest-paid receiver, the newly acquired Antonio Brown, had been accused of a frightening threat on a woman who claimed Brown had exposed himself to her. The Patriots hadn’t seemed concerned about a rape allegation, but the threat — and maybe Brown’s lackluster night in his New England debut — apparently tipped the scales. (Remember, this is the same team that kept Aaron Hernandez on the field long after it seemed pretty clear that the guy was a serial killer.)

But, for football fans, these holding calls had a more direct impact. So I will address this menace one last time by explaining that there can be little spontaneous joy left in viewing your favorite team. Now, upon watching, say, Kirk Cousins throw an 80-yard touchdown pass (just play along with me, Vikings fans), you can’t throw down another shot and high five your bros. Don’t you dare. Now you breathe deeply, count to five, and scan the bottom of the screen for that hideous yellow FLAG graphic. If there is anything worse than gratification delayed, it’s gratification repealed, a phenomenon that seemingly defies physics but manifests itself in as many as 16 houses of horror a week. But, as always, I find the silver lining. Namely, that I am free to make illicit wagers via off-shore casinos.


After a sad 1-2 performance last week — I was felled by a Drew Brees injury and that awful Cousins interception — the bankroll stands at $1,052. This week, I was fortunate that Cam Newton’s injury came before Sunday’s Carolina-Arizona game, because I was going to lay a honeybee on the Panthers. So we’ll have to make do with two picks.

Miami at Dallas: There’s not much more to be said about Miami. The only difference this week is that Josh Rosen will start at quarterback. I don’t believe that Rosen is going to succeed in the NFL because he’s a very slow man. Snails now move at a Rosen’s pace. But it wouldn’t matter who played QB for the Dolphins, because there’s no one to catch the ball and no one to block for him. ¬†Miami lost its first two by a total of 102-10. It wasn’t a fluke. Dallas 40, Miami 7, Dallas minus 22 for $70

Denver at Green Bay: The Broncos’ offense is tied for second in one category: most offensive holding penalties. They’ve been flagged 29 times in their first two games, trailing only the 31 calls against Washington. Last week, their running game was so bad and so penalized that poor old Joe Flacco had to throw the ball 50 times. Not good. But the big story here is that Denver has gone under the total in 10 straight games. Green Bay 24, Denver 10, Under 43 for $50

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Photo Credit: Ron Chenoy (USA Today Sports)

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