This has become a sad routine in New York over the past few football seasons alone. On Sunday, at 1 p.m., Giants fans and Jets fans reluctantly retreat to their respective games on Fox and CBS.
It needs to be said here: it’s one of the terrible byproducts of terrible football. Soccer New York has been so atrocious that the network has routinely done what was once unimaginable: quickly hide the two teams, go face to face, move their game out of the way so they can free a varsity game. Time slot for 4:25 pm.
And here’s the thing:
Who complained about this? You? your friends? your neighbors? anyone? It’s not that the Giants and Jets have been bad, they’ve been borderline unattainable. They’ve even stopped being remotely fun to watch. And if New York football is all you watch… well, God bless. Because to put it kindly, it’s a slog.
Simply put: it makes you think about becoming a cricket fan.
However, here’s the thing: If you make it to 4:25… well, something happens. You suddenly get this amazing assortment of teams — Kansas City and Buffalo, Tampa and Green Bay and Dallas, Seattle (and now Denver) and San Diego and Baltimore and Cincinnati, in the Sunday afternoon slot, or the NBC Sunday-night window. , or on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football”…
And damn if it hits you like an old coconut two-four:
Football can be really fun.
Football can really captivate you for hours every week from early September to early February, and sports can be filled with genuine surprise and excitement, legitimate entertainment. And there is definitely a reason for this. Soccer can be a complex sport, filled with hefty playbooks and a plethora of complex structures and strategies. But at its most basic level, one thing makes football fascinating.
Good quarterback. Honestly, it’s that easy. You see Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers, Joe Burrows or Lamar Jackson or Josh Allen, Dak Prescott or Tom Brady or Russell Wilson or Justin Herbert – especially in New York to watch the parade of creeps polluting those 1 a.m. games. After — and you feel like Ben Hogan when he first saw Jack Nicklaus play golf:
“He plays a game I’m unfamiliar with.”
Out of town, they play football with which we in New York are unfamiliar since Eli Manning was in his prime, and since Mark Sanchez was game-managing the Jets for the first two years of his career. Yes, there are many other parts of the sport that make up soccer football, making the NFL a must watch TV. But you start with the quarterback.
In New York, we’ve seen its cringe from Daniel Jones, especially at the beginning of his tenure as Manning’s successor. We’ve seen glimpses of Zack Wilson when he’s not caught in the whirlpool. We’ve got hints here and there that maybe – just maybe – our teams may be joining the convoy of fun. But what we have seen far more often is less than that.
“At the end of the day,” Giants coach Brian Dabol said earlier this summer, “an offense goes through the quarterback and he should be the one to give it to you.”
“You can always tell if a person is confident,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said around the same time. “And our boy has that confidence.”
Have to say one thing. This is one more thing to do. Jones is more on the clock than Wilson this year because he’s two years ahead of him on the scale of development, and the Giants will certainly make a decade-defining decision this year as to whether or not he’s their man. But Wilson also has some questions to answer. There’s a basic one: Can he stay on the field? But the second is just as compelling: once on the field, can he remotely perform at the level the Jets had to offer him?
These are essential elements if the moment that darkened New York football can ever be picked up. Look around the game. Look around the league. Look at last year’s forever AFC playoff game, Mahomes and Alan trading the Hammers at Arrowhead Stadium, literally right to the final gun. See what great benefits can come from quarterbacking. In the last sentence he ever wrote, Red Smith said: “Someday there will be another Joe DiMaggio.”
New York football fans have another wish. Someday, there will be another Eli Manning. Someday, another who will be Namath. Someday, pro football won’t be a wasteland around here, hidden in the 1 o’clock hour, better to take out the trash early.