Let me be the first to admit that after a lifetime of watching professional football, including a couple very fanatical years coinciding with my New York Giants winning a pair of Super Bowls against the devil, the league has faded from my interest recently. It has nothing to do with politics, and everything to do with life, but clearly I'm not alone—despite being the most popular sports league in America by a good amount, the NFL's reputation has dipped in recent years for reasons as diverse as the CTE scandals, political fury (from both sides), and quality of play.
However, this has been a rebound year for the league in a few key ways. The games have been more fun, the story lines are better, and ratings shot up by five percent overall (and a whopping eight percent on ESPN's Monday Night Football). This has coincided with college football's devolution into predictable boredom, and the NFL—which has always boasted an unpredictable postseason—stands out by contrast. In addition, there's been a wealth of surprising new stars. All in all, Roger Goodell seems to have stumbled out of his own shadow, and whether he deserves it or not, the 2018-19 season has been a boon.
A year like this deserves a fitting ending, and there's no more appropriate Super Bowl champion than the ultra-enjoyable Kansas City Chiefs. Patrick Mahomes has become the exciting young face of the league in one season, the offense is explosive—as it proved against the red-hot Colts in a stunning first quarter on Saturday—and the Andy Reid Redemption Arc would be incredibly satisfying after a lifetime of mockery for his crunch-time decisions. Not to mention the fans: It's been 50 years since the Chiefs won Super Bowl IV, and the intervening years have been so routinely heartbreaking that you can make a depressingly long list just from the kicking woes.
The champion the NFL does not need is the New England Patriots—an aging but still dangerous relic of the bad old days. The Patriots are everything that should be left in the past: A grim, hostile group of serial cheaters endowed with the world's foremost superiority complex, worshipped by a smug, spoiled fan base whose brains have been addled by pervasive tribal groupthink that promotes hyper-aggressive hero worship and—when met with the slightest criticism—a hasty retreat into conspiratorial posturing. It would be beyond dispiriting to see them win another Super Bowl.
The Chiefs have been a breath of fresh air in a year that has been propelled by the winds of change. The NFL's problems are not over, but a Chiefs victory would be a stylish finish to a league on the rebound, and a symbolic clearing of the cobwebs to usher in a better, more exciting era.
Cold Dish Revenge Server of the Week: Blake Griffin
Like many NBA fans, I'll probably never stop associating Blake Griffin with the Clippers, but it was the Clippers who swapped him after eight years—and after calling him a "Clipper for Life" while signing him to a five-year max contract—to the Detroit Pistons. On Saturday, he faced the Clippers back in L.A. for the first time, and though the crowd greeted him warmly and the team played a video tribute, it was noticeable that Griffin chose not to greet Clippers owner Steve Ballmer when he offered his hand before the game (in a move that Griffin said wasn't a snub, but which looked like a snub):
Then he went out and did this:
Griffin ended with 44 points and a road win against a team that is frankly much better. That's how you serve some colddddd revenge.
Hero of the Week: Andy Murray
For some reason, Andy Murray is viewed...well, not quite as an underachiever, but certainly as someone who rode the periphery of greatness without ever quite arriving at his destination. But let's be absolutely clear about what Andy Murray accomplished: Unlike anyone else in professional tennis in the past 20 years, he alone forced his way into the oxygen-starved heights of the "Big Three." In the hardest era in tennis history to win grand slams—we live in a remarkable time where the top three grand slam winners ever are all still active—he won three of them, rose to no. 1 in the world, won two gold medals, and broke his country's decades-long, psychologically crushing Wimbledon curse. At this stage in his career, it looks like his hip problems are going to send him to an unfortunate early retirement, but make no mistake: Andy Murray is a legend, no qualification necessary.
Best Football Play of the Week: Northern Kentucky Basketball
Up three with eleven seconds left against Wright State, Northern Kentucky needed some evasive maneuvers to run time off the lock. So the coach drew up this play from his days playing five-against-five touch football, apparently:
That is simply amazing. To be fair, Wright State did a very bad job at fouling, but it's remarkable how easy it was for Northern Kentucky to inbound the ball and break the press. I can't tell if this is a one-time novelty soon to be forgotten or one of those moments of sneaky innovation that will be ubiquitous in about three years. In any case, it made me look up the name of the Northern Kentucky coach. Well done, John Brannen!
Your Insufferable Duke Basketball Highlight of the Week: Cam Reddish Walks it Off
Yes, I am going to force you to watch this, because I would not be an insufferable Duke fan if I did not. Cam Reddish is one of the lesser heralded Duke freshmen in a frankly ridiculous class (even though he was a top ten recruit nationally), and despite coming in with a shooter's rep, he's struggled a little with his shot this year. Knowing that, Coach K still drew up the final play for him, and boy did it pay off. Watch:
Props to Reddish, but extra props to Coach K. This is why he's the best coach in the game, and this single play could end up turning the season around for a critical player who needed a shot of confidence. When Reddish goes 6-10 from three in some Elite 8 game to lift his struggling teammates, remember this moment.
And now, I will slink off into the insufferable paradise where Duke fans like me spend our days grinning in smug superiority.