History repeated itself Sunday night at SoFi Stadium.
If you stayed up for the end of Kansas City’s tense AFC West match at the Chargers, you saw KC tight end Travis Kelce, down by four in the final minute of the game, catch a shallow crossing route from Patrick Mahomes, run right to left across the formation, and take advantage of wideout Justin Watson muddling the middle of the field with a short route just in front of Kelce. Kelce ran upfield for the winning 17-yard TD.
“Funny thing is,” Kelce told me 40 minutes after the game, “we ran the same play to win this game last year.”
Whoa. Wait. The same play?
“Ironic,” Kelce said over the din of a euphoric post-game scene.
Let’s see. After I hung up with Kelce, I hustled to YouTube to find the highlights from Kansas City’s overtime walkoff win over the Chargers last year in California. I looked at the Next Gen Stats “dot” rendition of the play.
Dec. 16. Night game. National TV. SoFi. Tied at 28. Overtime. Kelce caught a shallow crossing route from Patrick Mahomes, running right to left across the formation, took advantage of wideout Byron Pringle muddling the middle of the field with a short route just in front of Kelce. Kelce ran upfield for the winning 34-yard TD.
Two slight differences: Coach Andy Reid dressed up this version with some motion—Watson, running to the left pre-snap—that wasn’t in the play last year. And Kelce broke off his free run last year and cut straight upfield to score. This year, Kelce kept running in-stride after making the catch, because there was a great path to the end zone.
Two games, same foe, same stadium, same end-of-game scenario, and Kansas City dialed up the same play. It worked with the same receiver in both games. It won both games.
Last week, in Kansas City, when the offensive staff was installing this crossing route for Kelce, Reid said, “Hard to stop that play.”
And isn’t that one of the open secrets of this Kansas City franchise, with Reid at the helm in his 10th season? Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy design plays for great players like Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce, and they don’t care if they’ve run the plays twice or 20 times already this season. Hard to stop that play. Sunday night, one of the best safeties in football, Derwin James, chased Kelce futilely across the formation and couldn’t catch him, and Kelce scored fairly easily.
It’s crazy to think Reid dared to call the same play to try to beat the same team 11 months after first calling it, and that it worked so easily. Again. Reid knew what he was calling. He knew it won the Thursday night game last December. He knew it’d win this game too.
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) November 21, 2022
Kansas City went 75 yards in 75 seconds, culminating in the winning TD. I asked Kelce why it worked so flawlessly.
“Patrick Mahomes,” he said. “What the people don’t know is we had personnel issues on that series because of injuries we had during the game. Patrick’s the one with the keys to the car. He knows exactly where to go with the ball.”
Before Sunday night, Kelce had played Derwin James four times and never scored with him in coverage. “He’s locked me up in my career,” Kelce said. But he caught two TD passes Sunday night, including the winner, with James in coverage (he caught three total on the night). “This year,” he said, “I was lucky we had a timeout before that final play, so I could get my wind. But he’s tough, really tough.”
This was the season the AFC West was supposed to catch up with Kansas City, and Reid, and Mahomes, and Kelce. Tyreek Hill was gone; the other three West teams were all better. Mahomes has had to break in five new receivers. But now KC has swept the season series with the Chargers, and Reid’s team (8-2) has a three-game lead over the Chargers with the tiebreaker. This division belongs to Kansas City—for the seventh straight year.
“We’re better this year because Patrick and Andy are a year older, a year more experienced together,” Kelce said.
Watching Kelce be the short and intermediate keystone to everything Kansas City does in the passing game, watching Mahomes lean on him during a needy time, I thought, If he never plays another snap after this season, he’s a Hall of Famer. Though I’ve railed against calling guys Hall-of-Famers before their time, he’s been a dominant tight end over a significant period of time. Kelce has 855 receiving yards through 10 games, and barring injury will have his seventh straight season over 1,000 yards. Think of the other great tight ends of our day. Rob Gronkowski and Tony Gonzalez had four seasons over 1,000 yards—not consecutive, but total. Shannon Sharpe had three and Jason Witten and Antonio Gates two each. Kelce’s had six straight and is verging on a seventh. Last night was his 33rd game with 100+ receiving yards, breaking Gronkowski’s record (32) of such games by a tight end.
He is marvelously well-rounded in the passing game, athletic and unselfish, and gives up his body willingly to block when needed. And he’s always, always there. He’s missed two games due to injury in the last nine seasons.
While the other parts of the passing game get fine-tuned with Mahomes, the reliance on Kelce continues to win games for the AFC’s number one seed. Some things never change.
A blizzard of stories in Week 11:
Someone named Squirrel plowed Josh Allen’s driveway, and we’ve got the exclusive inside story on Squirrel. “He’s The Man,” Allen said after a big win Sunday. In Detroit. Over Cleveland.
Sean McDermott couldn’t stop talking about the 54th member of the Bills’ roster, the Everyman (and Everywoman) who turned out to help the Bills get to Detroit. “Buffalo gets a bad rap because of the cold and the snow,” McDermott said, “but there’s an awful lot of warmth there.”
The Lions have won three in a row for the first time in five years. Next up: Thursday, high noon, against the home-away-from-home Bills in a Thanksgiving game that may actually be a solid football game.
Oddity of the Week: Eight teams in the two East divisions are over. 500. One team in the two South divisions is over .500.
Baltimore has a gosh-darn friendly slate, and I think that one-game lead over the Bengals will not go away. Carolina came into Baltimore with a 3-7 record Sunday and lost 13-3. The Ravens’ next four foes are 3-7, 3-7, 3-7, 3-7, while the Bengals have Tennessee, Kansas City and Tom Brady on the agenda.
Zach Wilson was awful at Gillette Stadium Sunday, and worse in the Gillette Stadium locker room. Longtime Jets authority Mark Cannizzaro Tweeted: “Zach Wilson has a lot of repairing to do inside his own locker room right now. His answer ‘no’ when asked whether he let the D down has gone viral and this thing is spiraling in a bad way for him.”
Warm up, Mike White.
I bet sometimes when Nathaniel Hackett looks up at the ceiling at night, he thinks, “God, what did I do to deserve this NFL fate?”
The MVP vote has changed—for the better.
Welcome to history, Cordarrelle Patterson.
History: Cordarrelle Patterson just set the record for the most kickoff returns TDs in NFL history.
This 103-yard return is the 9th of his career. pic.twitter.com/k7bYKS8ehP
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) November 20, 2022
Justin Fields isn’t winning, but he is doing something no quarterback has ever done before.
A mega-marriage of Jimmy Johnson, Peyton Manning and Bill Belichick? The well-coiffed one tried to make it happen in 1998.
Micah Parsons is good, and Next Gen can prove it.
On with the show, from white-outish Buffalo.
When the power went out in Bills coach Sean McDermott’s house Friday night, the generator kicked in, but then the generator went out. So McDermott, snow above his waist, went out to try to fix it. “An NFL head coach in a blizzard, trying to fix his generator,” he said Sunday. “Crazy.” Finally, a repair guy came around 10:30 and fixed it so the McDermotts could go to bed. Good thing, because the power went out again. This time the generator worked through the night.
The Bills set up a system to get all the coaches and players to the stadium so they’d be able to fly to Detroit late in the afternoon on Saturday. A couple of players had to walk, with luggage, a half-mile to get rides to the buses.
A retired farmer from Orchard Park, Dave Winter, aka “Squirrel,” has a John Deere tractor with an eight-foot-wide bucket on the front, good for clearing eight-foot-wide swaths, like driveways, in short order. So Squirrel was out in Orchard Park Saturday afternoon being the good neighbor he is, when he came upon a neighbor at the end of one of the longest driveways in town. A small plow was no match for this driveway, with maybe 55 or 60 inches. “Oh, quarter-mile long, I’d say,” said Squirrel. “Maybe more.”
Squirrel stopped. “I said to my neighbor Norm, who was there, ‘You need a path blown through?’ He said, ‘I don’t know, ask that guy.’ Well, I don’t know that guy, an older gentleman, but he says he went to school with my cousin, and so I asked if he needs help here and he says, ‘Sure!’ So I did the driveway, cleared a good path there, and I get up to the garage and the door opens and Josh [Allen] is standing there. Probably the whole thing took a half hour. Got out, shook his hand. Told him, ‘Good luck tomorrow.’
“I introduced myself. ‘Dave. Dave Winter. When you think of snow, think of me, Winter.’ I says, ‘We got that red machinery shop, the farm just down the road.’ Looked like he was in a hurry. Didn’t have time to chit-chat. So that was it.”
“What would have happened if you didn’t come along?” I asked this man known as Squirrel.
“Oh, my guess is they woulda put him on a snowmobile, taken him down that long driveway and out into the street, and somebody woulda come and got him,” Squirrel said.
When the Bills finally boarded buses after 4 for the trip to the airport, the two main roads were closed. So the Bills had to crawl through town streets that had been plowed. “Classic western New York towns,” McDermott said. “Orchard Park, West Seneca, a few more.” Depew, Lancaster, Cheektowaga. “It was so great. People on the side of the road, giving us the thumbs-up, taking pictures, waving, cheering. Just awesome.”
Ever hear of barn-raising? In Amish communities, when a farmer needs a barn built, or some other project done, people from miles around come in for two or three days to do the building or the job. That’s Buffalo. That’s what happened here, with the Bills, and with the neighbors. Raise your hand if you need help.
“This weekend is a reminder that there’s a lot of good in this world, still,” McDermott said.
Now for the game. After no practice Friday or Saturday, the Bills got to Detroit around 7 Saturday evening. Cleveland went up 10-3 as the Buffalo offense sputtered through the first 25 minutes of the game. But a late second-quarter TD pass from Allen to Stefon Diggs in the back of the end zone gave Buffalo the lead, 13-10. The Bills rolled to a 28-10 lead and the game was over midway through the fourth quarter.
Stefon Diggs has entered the chat.
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) November 20, 2022
The Bills decided to go home after the game instead of staying in comfier, snow-less Detroit. Seemed smart. They could sleep in their beds for three nights before returning at midday Wednesday. As much as we think, Just stay and practice in Michigan, so many of the players and coaches have families who need them. It was the right move to go back.
Allen, for his part, wanted to give a shout-out to his new pal Squirrel after the game. Squirrel, he said, “came with a big old tractor and dug me out. When I was going down the driveway, the radar in my car was beeping, like I was about to hit something.”
Squirrel’s going to be famous after this, Allen was told.
“He should be. He’s the man.”
In Buffalo this weekend, the community was the man.
East. Beast. The eight teams in the two eastern divisions are all over .500. A tad insane. Never have two divisions in the same year had all teams over .500 after 11 weeks. The Eagles, of course, have nine wins, and the other seven teams in the two Easts have either six or seven wins. Looks like we’ll see a lot of Eastern Time Zone teams in the postseason this year.
If only Justin Fields could win. Fields left the field in Atlanta with a hurt shoulder; we’ll know in the next day or two if it will cause him to miss time. But he continued his amazing run of running Sunday in the 27-24 loss at Atlanta. It’s historic. Think of the greatest quarterback rushers in modern history—say, since 1960. I’m going to pick three: Randall Cunningham, Michael Vick, Lamar Jackson. Let’s take their best six rushing games in a row, and compare them to the six-game run Fields is on right now.
Justin Fields, 2022: 80 rushes, 640 yards, 8.0 yards per carry, 106.7 yards per game.
Lamar Jackson, 2019: 80 rushes, 570 yards, 7.1 yards per carry, 95.0 yards per game.
Michael Vick, 2004: 60 carries, 504 yards, 8.4 yards per carry, 84.0 yards per game.
Randall Cunningham, 1990: 53 carries, 420 yards, 7.9 yards per carry, 70.0 yards per game.
The Bears have averaged 29.6 points in their last five games, and they are 1-5 in Fields’ amazing streak on the ground. It’s a great sign for the future of the Bears’ quarterback, but not such a great sign that the great run hasn’t translated into wins.
Watch @JustnFields extend this play. Electric.
— NFL (@NFL) November 20, 2022
Poor Nathaniel Hackett. The embattled Denver coach had trouble with clock management and in-game decisions, and so the Broncos brought in retired special-teams coach Jerry Rosburg to help; Denver is 2-6 since. Hackett gave up play-calling this week, ceding it to passing game coordinator Klint Kubiak; Denver scored 16 points with Kubiak in charge Sunday, losing again, and maintaining its vise-grip on 32nd in the league in scoring. Nothing is working. How can a team with a guy who mentored Aaron Rodgers, and a team with a quarterback who’d led his team to the playoffs in eight of his 10 seasons never have scored 24 points in a game all season? Denver’s owners did not sign off on the hiring of Hackett last winter, and didn’t even meet the man till the summer. They’ve watched the franchise with a $47-million-a-year quarterback start 3-7, and get swept by the lowly Raiders. The Walton/Penner group is not married to Hackett, and barring a late-season surge, I’d be surprised if Hackett makes it to year two.
All’s not lost, Houston. The Texans, 1-8-1, are brutal, and Davis Mills has earned the right to be replaced as starter at season’s end. The good part for the Texans is that they now sit with the first and seventh picks in the 2023 NFL Draft, with three quarterbacks jockeying for position to be picked in the top five. The Texans would pick first with their own choice; they’d have the second pick in the top 10 from Cleveland, by virtue of the Deshaun Watson trade. As of now, four teams in the top six—Houston, Carolina, Seattle (from Denver) and Detroit (from the Rams) will be scouting quarterbacks aggressively before the 2023 draft.
This week I’m starting something I’ll continue for the last eight Mondays of the regular season. I’ll look at my top five in the MVP race, along with the next five contenders on my list. The good thing about this season: There’s no one runaway candidate. It looks like we’ll have a competitive race heading down the stretch.
A couple of points: I’m one of the 50 voters for the MVP, the annual award curated by the Associated Press, so I have a vested interest in thinking about it every week starting right around now. And the Associated Press just announced a change in voting for the award.
This year, the AP will have voters name a top five for MVP. Each first-place vote will count 10 points, each second-place vote five, each third-place vote three, with fourth-place votes counting two points and fifth-place votes counting one. Two reasons—to recognize more than just one player per year, and to make ties difficult. In the past, voters have chosen an MVP, with no runner-up votes. And voting on a 10-5-3-2-1 scale means it’ll be hard for ties (such as Peyton Manning tying Steve McNair in 2003 and prompting co-MVPs) to happen. “I don’t think anyone wants to see a tie for the award,” said the AP’s lead NFL writer, Rob Maaddi, who was behind the change in voting. He’s right.
Maaddi also pointed out that voting for five could give players at positions other than quarterback some shine. “The old way wasn’t wrong,” Maaddi said. “But this way can give more players the attention they deserve.”
In the other regular-season awards, voters will pick a top three, with votes going on a 5-3-1 basis.
Here’s how I see the MVP race as of Week 11:
- Geno Smith, QB, Seattle.
- Micah Parsons, edge, Dallas.
- Saquon Barkley, RB, N.Y. Giants.
- Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore.
- Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati.
Mahomes distanced himself from a tight pack Sunday night with his 75-yard drive to beat the Chargers in the final minute at SoFi; a year after losing the explosive Tyreek Hill and working in five new wideouts on the fly, Mahomes is on pace to have the biggest year of his career in passing yards, both in total and per game. Hurts has been a revelation, leading the Eagles to the best record in football. Tagovailoa has missed parts or all of three games, but Miami is 7-0 in games he has started and finished. Josh Allen had a two-game blip, but has been mostly great in his other eight games. And Henry is carrying the Titans the way Earl Campbell once carried the Oilers.
Agree, disagree or throw tomatoes at me at email@example.com.
FMIA has partnered with NFL Next Gen Stats for a deeper look into one story each week, using motion and speed trackers on players all over each NFL field.
Three Next Gen Stats nuggets from Dallas’ 40-3 dismantling of Minnesota that deserve attention:
- Micah Parsons had 10 pressures and two sacks on 27 pass-rushes, for an absurd pressure rate of 37 percent. (Twenty percent in pressure rate is very good.) One of the things measured by Next Gen Stats, Get-Off Rate, times how long it takes for a player to pass the line of scrimmage after the snap of the ball, and Parsons’ rate was .7 seconds, the second-highest rate for a game in his two NFL seasons.
- Tony Pollard, the rising star behind Ezekiel Elliott at running back, is second in the NFL with 232 rushing yards over expected. Which means, as it sounds, that Pollard is gaining much more ground than the average back. That would lead one to think Pollard is just a speed and finesse back. Not so. Against the Vikings, Pollard gained 55 yards after contact.
- Dak Prescott was 20 of 20 when not pressured in Minnesota, the most in the league since mid-2018.
Dallas now has a short week before its Thanksgiving game against the Giants after its most authoritative performance of the season.
I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about the life and times of Jimmy Johnson, who I covered fairly extensively in his career. The mark of a good book is that it reveals things about a subject you were sure you knew well—when you had no idea about so many things in the subject’s life. That’s how I felt reading “Swagger: Super Bowls, Brass Balls and Footballs—A Memoir,” by Jimmy Johnson and Dave Hyde.
Three things that opened my eyes:
- The details of Johnson’s bad relationship with Don Shula.
- How Archie Manning asked Johnson, then the coach of the Dolphins, to try to trade up to draft his son Peyton in 1998.
- The depth of his personal regret of ignoring so much of family life in his singular focus to try to win football games, and the pain of dealing with his son Chad’s alcoholism.
On The Peter King Podcast this week, you can hear Johnson discuss the book and that last regret.
“When I went to my mother’s funeral [in 1998], I couldn’t look at her in the casket,” Johnson told me. “That’s when I realized what I’d missed out on all those years. That’s what made me retire. The situation with Chad is, you know, both sons played football. I never saw either one of them ever play a game. I was always trying to win a championship. I always felt like I needed to outwork the opponent.”
I never saw either one of them ever play a game. That’s pretty eye-opening.
On Shula: Johnson had Shula’s son David on his Cowboys’ coaching staff when he took the job in 1989. In ’89 and ’90, David Shula was offensive coordinator and QB coach. In 1991, Johnson decided to hire Norv Turner as offensive coordinator and move David Shula to receivers coach. Out of professional courtesy, Johnson called Don Shula. In the book, Johnson writes: “Don was angry in a way that never left him.” In 1996, when Johnson succeeded Don Shula as Dolphins coach, he writes that in their first meeting after Shula retired, the ex-coach told Johnson, “You really f—ed up.” Shula told him he’d cut too many veterans like Troy Vincent, and Johnson told him he had little choice because he inherited a salary-cap mess.
Before his first season in Miami, Johnson said he knew he was supposed to talk about the great tradition of the Dolphins, and to pay tribute to those who’d laid the groundwork there. “Well, forget that,” he said. “I only care about one thing—the present. The people who are here to win now.”
Now you know why Don Shula, the winningest coach in NFL history, was no Johnson fan.
Archie Manning called Johnson before the ’98 draft to ask him to try to work a trade so Peyton would land in Miami. One insurmountable problem, as Johnson writes, was offering Miami’s entire draft to Indianapolis to move up. “We picked 19th,” Johnson said. “People say, well, what would you have done with Dan Marino there? Well, you know, Peyton would’ve been behind Dan. But the way it worked out, Dan missed games every year and so Peyton would’ve been thrown into the lineup.”
Added Johnson: “On top of that, Bill Belichick came that close to coming down and being my defensive coordinator. We could’ve had Peyton Manning as our quarterback and Bill Belichick as my defensive coordinator. But he had too much loyalty to Bill Parcells [on the Jets’ staff].”
There’s nothing stunning in the book about the strife between he and Jerry Jones. I asked him on the podcast: “Were you utterly shocked when you heard Jerry said at the  league meetings he could win the Super Bowl with 500 coaches?”
“It hurt,” Johnson said. “I lived three blocks from the office. I put in five years there of … sacrificing my family to try to rebuild the Cowboys. Tom Landry’s one of the greatest coaches ever but he had three straight losing seasons and they were the worst team in the NFL at 3-13. To take that team and to rebuild it, not only into a Super Bowl winner but the youngest team in the league to win the Super Bowl, that was gonna be really the team of the ‘90s, I was proud of that. I was proud of our accomplishments … Maybe 20 or 30 could’ve won the Super Bowl with them. But I helped put that team together. So, it hurt.”
I thought when I finished the book that there’s a lot in here for extremely single-minded driven people, regardless of profession. Check yourselves. Examine your lives. The stories are superb, of course. But the familial stories make the book. Such as the following one.
Johnson, on his son Chad’s trials with alcohol:
“I didn’t even realize Chad was having a problem. He became an alcoholic. I mean, I could tell you stories that he went through. Just devastating, because I didn’t even know it was going on. He went to a couple rehab centers. I’d lay in bed at night, crying my eyes out. Saying, ‘I’d give a million dollars if somebody could get him back on track.’ When he absolutely did hit rock bottom, we got him into a halfway house. Next thing, he started getting better. He ends up taking over the halfway house. He took over the whole facility. He went and got doctors and consultants to get it certified as a rehab center and they became just unbelievably successful … Now, he’s opening another one up in Austin. I would go and I’d sit in the audience next to Chad, and, like, a mother and daddy would go up to the podium. They’d have all the recovering alcoholics and all their families there. The mother and daddy would say, Chad, thanks for saving my son’s life.
“And then a mother would go up. She told this story. Chad, you picked up my daughter at 3 o’clock in the morning and drove her around for four hours talking to her and then took her to detox. Thanks for saving her life. I mean, I’m tearing up now just talking about it. Businesses had tried to buy Chad’s facility and he said, Daddy, I’m not in it to make money. He said if a business bought it, they’d have like one counselor for 10 or 20 clients. We have one counselor for every four clients. That’s why we’re successful. He said I don’t care about making money; I’m doing something to help people. I mean, it’s such a success story that I’m so proud. When I talked to him, I said listen, I had a couple undefeated national championship teams, as a player, as a coach. Won a couple Super Bowls. College and pro football hall of fame. Broadcasting hall of fame. Nothing that I’ve ever accomplished comes anywhere close to what you’re doing in saving people’s lives. I mean, it’s touching to me.”
Wow. It sort of snuck up on us. But with the big soccer fans in the NFL—Tom Brady, Odell Beckham Jr., Patrick Mahomes and J.J. Watt wax about their love of world soccer, and Brittany Mahomes is a part owner of the Kansas City NWSL team—you’ll hear a lot about the world game with this week’s opening of the World Cup in Doha, Qatar. (For Watt’s World Cup prediction, scroll down to 10 Things I Think I Think.)
The tournament began yesterday, when Ecuador won 2-0 over host nation Qatar in group play. The final is Dec. 18. The United States is in a group with Wales, England and Iran, and opens play tonight at 10 p.m. Qatar time, which is 2 p.m. ET today, against Wales. The U.S. men’s program has transformed since its failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup – the team wearing stars and stripes in Qatar has an average age of 25 years and 214 days, making it the second-youngest team in the tournament.
Professional plug if you’re looking for how to watch:
Peacock, Telemundo, and Universo will carry all 64 World Cup matches live in Spanish. Peacock is the only direct-to-consumer streaming service in the U.S. offering live coverage of every match. You can go to Peacock’s World Cup home page for more information or to sign up. In addition to the matches themselves, on Peacock you’ll find a 24/7 dedicated World Cup channel featuring pregame and postgame coverage, extended highlights, player interviews, and more. NBC Sports will also have plenty of English-language coverage at nbcsports.com/soccer.
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) November 20, 2022
I asked Grant Wahl, the veteran soccer scribe and editor/writer of his own Substack, Futbol With Grant Wahl, to brief me on the biggest sports tournament in the world. Wahl, from Doha, had some great observations on the oddities of this Cup, maybe the biggest of which is that Qatar, the size of Connecticut, has spent $220 billion to stage these games, to build eight stadia and the necessary infrastructure. By the way, you’ve heard the country name pronounced “Cutter” and “Kuh-TAAR.” The latter is better.
FMIA: Give me the setup. What’s it like over there?
Wahl: “It’s an unusual World Cup. First, it’s in November and December instead of when it’s always been – June and July – because the heat is unbearable in the summer. It’s still in the 90s in the afternoon (today, in November). Not Houston humid, but humid. It’s going to be tough for the players. First World Cup in the Middle East, and sitting here in my residence, I can hear the Muslim prayer call five times a day.”
FMIA: You’ve told me you’re conflicted about the Cup being in Qatar because of the human rights violations in that country.
Wahl: “Very conflicted. The World Cup is my favorite sports event in the world. I look at my life in four-year increments around the World Cup. On the other hand, the World Cup is taking place in a country with a long record of human rights violations, and the treatment of migrant workers here has been called modern-day slavery by human rights groups. Qatar has made progress, introducing new worker-protection laws in 2019, but the enforcement of those laws on the ground needs to get so much better, as I saw when I spoke to workers here earlier this year. So I love the event, but it’s true—I am conflicted.”
FMIA: How’s our team? How’s Wales? What’s this first game look like?
Wahl: “This is a really important game for the U.S. if they want to advance. Wales and the U.S. are fighting for second place in the group. I’d say it’s crucial for the U.S. to get at least a tie heading into the second game Friday against England, which is one of the best teams in the tournament. You don’t want to be without a point heading into a game against England. Wales has Gareth Bale, one of the true stars of the sport. A tremendous threat, though he’s getting older. The U.S. [only has] one player—DeAndre Yedlin—who was on the team the last we were in the Cup in 2014. I think the failure of the U.S. to make the [tournament] in 2018 led to the U.S. going so young this time. The top two teams in each group make the next stage (after a round robin). Overall, I think it will be a tremendous disappointment if the U.S. doesn’t advance out of the group.”
FMIA: Who do we need to know about on the American team?
Wahl: “Of course there’s Christian Pulisic, the player who’s probably best-known. He plays for Chelsea. When my Pakistani Uber driver was taking me to the training site the other day, he was kind of excited. ‘Pulisic’s in there?’ They know him from Chelsea. The good thing is the U.S. team has more guys who could be strong players here. I think the breakout star could be Yunus Musah, who is a fascinating story. He could represent four different countries. He lives in England and played for the English youth team. His family is native to Ghana. He grew up in Italy. He plays in Spain for Valencia. He’s only 19. His mom was visiting Ghanaian family in NYC when she was pregnant with him (in 2002) and he was born in New York. He decided to represent the U.S. He’s magnificent with the ball in the midfield. He can dribble the ball on his own through the midfield and create space so well.”
FMIA: Is there a favorite for this World Cup?
Wahl: “I’d say three—France, the defending champion, Brazil, and Argentina, in Lionel Messi’s last World Cup. I’m picking Argentina. Some people think Messi needs to win this Cup—he’s never won one—to be considered the best player of all time. There’s a tremendous amount of pressure among the South American teams, because the last South American team to win was in 2002, Brazil. The four semifinalists in 2018 were all European.”
FMIA: The big story back here in the couple of days before the World Cup starts is about beer—Qatar ruled at the last minute FIFA can’t sell beer in the eight stadiums during games.
Wahl: “Yeah, Qatar moved the goalposts on beer. The thing is, you can get beer here at the Fan Fest, and in hotel restaurants.”
Personal plug for my friend Grant:
You can subscribe to Futbol With Grant Wahl ($35 for the full run of the World Cup, $60 for a full year) here. It’s a great, intense and unvarnished way to follow the World Cup, whether you’re a passive or intense fan. By the way, Wahl wrote a post Friday about the beer and pulled no punches: “It’s not about the beer. It’s about Qatar’s rulers running this World Cup, and FIFA can’t do anything about it.”
Offensive players of the week
Tony Pollard, running back, Dallas. On a day Ezekiel Elliott came back from injury, Pollard proved his undeniable value running and receiving. He rushed for 80 yards on 15 carries, giving him 409 yards in his last four games. But the first 100-yard receiving game of his four-year NFL career made this a special day, with touchdown catches of 68 and 30 yards.
Derek Carr, quarterback; Davante Adams, wide receiver, Las Vegas. The 22-16 overtime win over Denver, completing a season sweep over the Broncos, was precisely what GM Dave Ziegler and coach Josh McDaniels had in mind when they made the big trade with Green Bay for Adams last spring. Carr’s 31-yard TD pass to Adams in the second quarter cut into Denver’s early 10-0 lead. On the first drive of overtime, Carr threw a dart over the middle for 33 yards to tight end Foster Moreau, and followed with it with a gem of a throw to a wide-open Adams—who juked corner Patrick Surtain to be all alone for the 35-yard TD. Adams: seven catches for 141 yards. Carr: 307 yards, two TDs, no picks, a 106.5 rating. Better late than never for the Rome-wasn’t-built-in-a-day Raiders of Josh McDaniels.
Derrick Henry, running back, Tennessee. Henry is the Mahomes of the running game—I could make him a player of the week almost every week. In the win at Green Bay Thursday night, Henry actually threw for the decisive touchdown with 20 minutes left in the game, giving Tennessee a 20-9 lead. From the Green Bay four-yard line, the Pack stuffed the middle of the line for an anticipated Henry run. And Henry took the handoff, ran toward the line—and then stopped, jumped in the air and threw a pass to a wide-open Austin Hooper seven yards deep in the end zone. Perfect spiral on that Tebowian jump-pass. His 87 yards on 28 carries lifted Tennessee to a five-minute edge in time of possession. Just another day at the office for the most valuable Titan.
DERRICK HENRY TD PASS!!! #TITANS
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) November 18, 2022
Defensive players of the week
Maxx Crosby, defensive end, Las Vegas. Played a great game in all, but let’s talk about what he did in a five-play sequence spanning the second and third quarters: forces a fumble with the Broncos going in for a late first-half score; blocks the Brandon McManus field goal on the next play; sacks Russell Wilson on the first series of the third quarter, forcing a Denver punt. What a dominating player Crosby is.
Micah Parsons, edge, Dallas. Dallas 40, Minnesota 3. One of the most dominating performances of this season—perhaps the most. With Minnesota coming off the electric win at Buffalo, outsacking the Vikings 7-0 and outscoring them by 37 was stunning. Parsons’ two sacks led the way, and he almost always leads the way for a front that can be downright scary. Parsons showed his versatility. He made his first sack from the edge, and his second was a plow-through-the-line job.
Kendall Fuller, cornerback, Washington. Fuller may have made the play that signals the end of the Davis Mills experiment in Houston. Just 44 seconds into the game at Houston, Fuller baited and waited for Mills to throw a pass to Brandin Cooks. When it was released, Fuller cut in front of Cooks, picked it, and pranced untouched down the left sideline for a 37-yard pick-six. Washington never trailed in improving to 6-5.
Aidan Hutchinson, defensive end, Detroit. His second athletic interception in 15 days—the first one off Aaron Rodgers at the goal line, this one off Daniel Jones—and a key recovered fumble were important in the Lions’ 31-18 upset of the Giants. His pick of Jones in the second quarter on a ball that was a good two feet over his head set the Lions’ up for their first TD of the day. With the Giants down 12 and driving in the fourth, Hutchinson dove on a loose ball and the turnover ended any hope the Giants had.
Special teams players of the week
Some great performances on special teams to choose from Sunday. I chose them all.
Cordarrelle Patterson, running back/returner, Atlanta. Set the NFL record with his ninth career kickoff-return TD. Patterson, in Atlanta, took the Cairo Santos kickoff three yards deep in the end zone and went straight up the middle of the Bears’ return defense, ping-ponging early and then bursting into the clear, and then almost getting caught from behind. An amazing 103-yard return for touchdown—made more amazing because it gives Patterson the NFL record, and by the fact that it’s the first kickoff returned for a touchdown in the league this season.
Brett Maher, kicker, Dallas. So it was in a dome. But Maher had one of the best days a kicker has had in the NFL in years at Minnesota. He hit field goals of 27, 53, 60 and 50 yards—and he made a 60-yarder that was called off because of a lingering replay review. Maher, in three hours, made three field goals of 50 yards or longer. Hall of Fame kicker Jan Stenerud made three field goals of 50 yards or longer in an eight-year span in the prime of his career.
Marcus Jones, cornerback/punt-returner, New England. The rookie third-rounder from Houston made the special-teams play of the year in Foxboro Sunday. With Jets-Pats tied at 3 and the Jets getting nothing done on offense (that is a massive understatement), Jets punter Braden Mann kicked a line-drive punt (not smart at all; you’re not getting beat by Mac Jones from his 30- with 12 seconds left) to Jones, who returned it, untouched, for an 84-yard touchdown. Great play by Jones. Boneheaded by the Jets punting to him. “Crappy way to lose,” said Jets coach Robert Saleh.
PUNT RETURN TD WITH 5 SECONDS LEFT! @Patriots
— NFL (@NFL) November 20, 2022
Tyler Bass, kicker, Buffalo. On a day the offense sputtered to get into the end zone, Bass was a crucial piece. He kicked six field goals in six tries—from 42, 36, 56, 29, 28 and 29 yards—in 47 minutes, and the Bills won a hardship game in their neutral “home,” Detroit, that they needed badly.
Coach of the week
Ron Rivera, coach, Washington. In the middle of the starting quarterback getting hurt and the constant din of the off-field mayhem from the Dan Snyder ownership stench, the Commanders have won five of six. A lot of that is the constant positivity of Rivera, who wouldn’t let two road games in a short week (Monday in Philly, Sunday in Houston) be any cause for concern. Good to have a calming influence making the tough calls, and Rivera has been just that for Washington.
Goat of the week
Zach Wilson, quarterback, N.Y. Jets. Two games against the Patriots this year, two awful performances by the second-year QB from Brigham Young. In 26 second-half plays, the Jets generated two yards. You have to try to be that miserable. Really try. But get this: Wilson had seven second-half drives. The furthest he drove the Jets was to his own 35-yard line. I watched the Jets’ post-game show on SNY in New York, and I thought Willie Colon was going to burst out into orbit, he was so enraged over the Jets’ play. (And he thinks, as I do, that Robert Saleh has to worry less about the feelings of Zach Wilson and more about winning games this year with this team, keeping in mind that benching Wilson isn’t a dumb idea.)
Hidden person of the week
Equanimeous St. Brown, wide receiver, Chicago. St. Brown made a perfect play, a hugely valuable play, early in a tight game at Atlanta. On third-and-eight from the Atlanta 16-yard line, the Bears lined up St. Brown and Darnell Mooney twins left, with St. Brown to the left. At the snap, they each ran straight, with St. Brown veering to the right into the traffic of the two Falcons’ DBs. Mooney twisted behind the three-man pile and sprinted downfield. Fields found him alone in the end zone for a touchdown. I hope when Luke Getsy shows the tape to his offense this week he stresses that this touchdown would never have happened without a man who will get zero credit for it, Equanimeous St. Brown.
Justin Fields. Darnell Mooney.
— NFL (@NFL) November 20, 2022
The Jason Jenkins Award
Mike Hollins, running back, University of Virginia. Hollins was on the bus trip with some classmates back to the Virginia campus from Washington Sunday night when he heard gunshots. Hollins yelled for the driver to stop, and he and two classmates ran off the bus. Realizing no one was following them, per ESPN’s Mark Schlabach, Hollins went back to the bus to try to get others to leave the bus. When he got to the steps of the bus, he encountered the alleged shooter, Christopher Darnell Jones, who pointed a gun at him. Hollins, according to his mom, turned to run and Jones shot him in the back. “He reacted exactly how I would anticipate,” Virginia coach Tony Elliott told Schlabach. “He didn’t care if he put himself in harm’s way, but he was going back to check on his teammates.” After two surgeries on his kidney and abdomen, Mike Hollins is expected to recover. His mother said he is determined to play football again.
I can honestly say we couldn’t have done it without ‘em this week. It took a lot of moving hands, and moving parts, to get us here.
–Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen, on the help of the community to clear snow and get the Bills to Detroit for their game against Cleveland.
We gotta have a plan. We can’t be passively working and can’t just be in the facility and not know what we there for.
–Jets wide receiver Garrett Wilson, questioning his team’s offensive game-planning after the 10-3 loss to the Patriots.
It’s so funny. Playing football, watching football, all these years. The quarterback sneak is done a certain way. And it’s almost been revolutionized this year with this little motion thing. I mean, why nobody thought of that before.
–FOX analyst Daryl Johnston on the Bears-Falcons game, after Equanimeous St. Brown went into motion on a Justin Fields QB sneak and, at the snap of the ball, stopped behind Fields and pushed him forward for a first down. Great point by Johnston. The push-the-pile on quarterback sneaks has become an epidemic.
I call myself the young Peyton Manning.
–Tennessee running back Derrick Henry, after throwing his jump-pass touchdown pass to Austin Hooper at Lambeau Field Thursday night.
We started warming up, and three hours later we’re finishing up and I’m like, ‘Man, that was a good workout.’ And Troy was like, ‘That was just the warmup. And then we went to work. That was a lesson for me.
Thursday’s victory over Green Bay was the 80th game of Mike Vrabel’s head-coaching career, including playoffs. In the five seasons since Mike Vrabel became head coach in Tennessee, his record versus his mentor’s:
W-L Win Pct.
Mike Vrabel, Titans 50-30 (.625)
Bill Belichick, Patriots 49-31 (.613)
Steve Young, known for his mobility and memorable runs, played 191 regular-season and playoff games in his Hall of Fame NFL career.
Number of career 100-yard rushing games for Young: 1.
Number of 100-yard rushing games by Justin Fields in the last 15 days: 2.
The (Snowy) Road:
Weekend snow totals in two towns 19 miles apart (as the crow flies) in the Buffalo area:
Orchard Park, 81.0
Lake-effect snow is some crazy weather pattern.
👀👀👀 come on then! https://t.co/UtfT4G1I3F
— Micah Parsons (@MicahhParsons11) November 21, 2022
The Dallas edge-rusher, recruiting the free-agent receiver.
I've covered the NFL in Houston for more than 4 decades. I've seen a lot of bad offenses. This Texans offense just might be the worst of all. @gallerysports
— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) November 20, 2022
John McClain has covered football in Houston since the dawn of time.
As long as it's fixed by Thursday https://t.co/8qtpPwGM5I
— Detroit Lions (@Lions) November 20, 2022
The Lions and Bills have fun social media teams.
Jose Trevino showed up at his son’s school for career day pic.twitter.com/Ros2NZc090
— Talkin' Yanks (@TalkinYanks) November 18, 2022
Talkin’ Yanks is a Yankees-centric Twitter feed. Man, is that cute.
The worst place in the world to watch the World Cup is Qatar. https://t.co/7ZkbFKuQXX
— Don Van Natta Jr. (@DVNJr) November 18, 2022
Don Van Natta Jr. writes for ESPN.com.
John Mellencamo just walked by me in the tunnel under Lucas Oil Stadium.
Was tempted to say, (Jalen) Hurts so good.
Alas, I did not.
— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) November 20, 2022
McLane covers the Eagles for the Philadelphia Inquirer and was in Indiana, native land of Mr. Mellencamp.
Interesting query. From Steve Cammett: “With the success of the Dolphins and Giants this season, in your opinion, how does it impact Brian Flores claims of racial bias? It appears the franchises made the correct hires based on skill and leadership, rather than race. I compared the resumes of Brian Flores and Brian Daboll. Daboll had to coach 20 years compared to Flores 10 years, before he became a head coach in the NFL.”
I don’t know, Steve. Flores hasn’t proven his claims that the fix was in when he interviewed with the Giants, though he has some interesting circumstantial evidence with the Bill Belichick text messages. Flores’ case has one strong piece of evidence: How many coaches ever have been fired with the arrow up the way Flores’ was in Miami, where he finished last season 8-1 in the last two months?
Munich scene. From Shaun Hazelmyer in upstate N.Y.: “Regarding the atmosphere in the Munich game, I LOVE that fans stayed well after the game singing and taking in the environment. I hope that stadiums in the states take a cue from this. I am a season ticket holder and at the end of games, there is a timer counting down to when the stadium closes, kind of ushering fans out of the stadium. It would be nice if we could try to recreate the fun Munich atmosphere here, instead of forcing fans out as hurriedly as possible.”
At the least, NFL teams should study what was done post-game, if for nothing else to alleviate traffic. Game organizers put RedZone on the big screens in the stadium, and there was a post-game event on the field hosted by former NFLers Sebastian Vollmer and Markus Kuhn, Germany natives. Cool atmosphere.
Jeff Pearlman alert. From Dan Young: “I want to thank you for the recommendation of the Bo Jackson biography, ‘The Last Folk Hero.’ As a teacher, I find it hard to pick up any book during the school year, but I couldn’t resist picking this up.”
Same here, Dan. I loved it. Read it in two days.
We can all get along. From Matthew Stevenson: “As a conservative who lives in a small town you’ve never heard of, in the middle of the country, I realized that I have been trained to assume that people like you hate me. I have come to believe that people who live on the coast, the shakers and movers, the people with media platforms and followings, would hate me if you ever met me. I’m sure there are many reasons why we have arrived at the strange and dystopian political crossroads at which we find ourselves, and it’s not up to me to solve all those problems. But I decided today that I am going to strive to not believe that anymore. I like you. I’m sure we’d disagree about a lot of things in the political realm, but I bet that if you and I sat down and had a beer, we would genuinely enjoy each other’s company. You do a pretty good job of making your content, especially your column, something so much larger and more transcendent than the sad and ugly reality of politics. That’s why reading your column is the first thing I do when I get out of bed each Monday morning—after my morning prayers of course. I appreciate that about your column, and I appreciate you.”
Matthew! You the Man! I appreciate you. There are many people I know who I know have different views than I do, and you know what we do? We talk about the things we have in common. It’s interesting. No matter how much I might disagree with a person, it would be hard for me to hate him or her. I’m so glad you took the time to write and to say this. It means a lot to me. You’re a big person to do it.
I shouldn’t have gone to Munich. From Barry Spiegel, of Peoria, Ariz.: “Boy, did you pick a bad week for a European trip. Make sure to think twice, and maybe another time, before wasting a midseason week at a European game, a money-grab for the league, next year. Or will you be in Mexico City next week? Didn’t think so.”
To each his own, Barry. I hope I was able to pass on some interesting fodder about the NFL’s international plans, with some flavor of the first game ever in Germany. Not everyone’s going to like what I do, and that’s okay. Re: Mexico, no, I’m not going, though that would be an interesting trip too. I’ve never been to one of the games in England either. I thought the fervor of the fans in Germany and the potential so many owners see in that country made it a good trip to take.
1. I think it’s crazy that the fate of Odell Beckham Jr. could be decided by the performance of two teams in a Thanksgiving game. Giants at Cowboys. Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported Beckham is narrowing his list of candidate teams and will visit those two after Thanksgiving. Knowing Beckham wants to only play for a contender who could make a playoff run, the Giants are going to need a Herculean effort to show that potential Thursday in Texas—especially after playing so poorly in the loss to Detroit Sunday.
2. I think it’s official: Jeff Saturday will not go undefeated in his career as an NFL head coach.
3. I think I never thought the Rams would go 1-6 in a stretch of nearly two months, but when Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp and Andrew Whitworth are all missing, there is little hope that they’ll be competitive.
4. I think I’ve been pretty adamant that because the off-season practices for teams—with the exception of the mandatory full-squad camp in early June—are voluntary, it is a player’s right to either attend or not. He should not be forced to. So when Aaron Rodgers didn’t do much in the off-season this past year, I thought, “That’s his right. He shouldn’t be forced to be there, even with a lot of new pieces in place he needs to mesh with.” After watching Green Bay a lot this season, I’m more inclined to think differently about next spring. I think it would be fair in February to say to Rodgers (who will be 39 next month): This season showed how important chemistry with receivers is. We saw a lot of miscommunication this year. We’d like you to come in for some or all of the off-season work this year, so you can form stronger bonds with Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs and whoever else we bring in. If Rodgers says no, and I’m the leadership team of Matt LaFleur and Brian Gutekunst, I’d think about alternatives for the 2023 season. I wouldn’t think necessarily of divorcing Rodgers, but I would consider alternatives. One more thing I’d do: once Green Bay is out of it this year, give Jordan Love three or four starts. The Pack’s at the end of year three with the Love experiment. Wouldn’t it be nice to enter year four knowing a little more about what they have in him?
5. I think it might not be altogether nonsensical to consider trading Rodgers to Las Vegas for Derek Carr and a third-round pick. Might being the most important word there. Miles to go before you reach a decision like that, but it has crossed my mind.
6. I think I love when local radio announcers get fired up—for good or for bad. One of the best in the business, Eagles’ play-by-play man Merrill Reese, was justifiably outraged last Monday night when officials missed an obvious facemask call on Washington for yanking tight end Dallas Goedert’s mask. Reese and his partner, Mike Quick, on WIP got a bit frenzied from the Jalen Hurts-to-Goedert play to the aftermath:
Reese: “Hurts takes the snap. He slings it out of the far side of the field and running hard up to the 35 is Goedert … [Pause] Washington running with the football. Are they saying it’s a fumble? They’re running it into the end zone. The officials are calling it a fumble!”
Quick: “It’s a touchdown.”
Reese: “There is a facemask! He was pulled down by the facemask! How can they miss that? Yanked down by the facemask! And the ball came loose. That should be 15 yards!”
Quick: “The call was completely missed.”
Reese: “That is a disgrace. That is a disgrace. He was yanked down by the facemask, causing the fumble. The officials oughta be ashamed of themselves.”
Reese: “It’s been an awfully officiated game. Terrible … I mean the league office has got to fine the official who missed the facemask on Dallas Goedert. That was unconscionable.”
7. I think this is fervent soccer fan J.J. Watt’s call on the World Cup: “Brazil is my prediction. Too much offensive firepower, combined with some great goalkeeping and strong defense. They’re built to win. Belgium is being written off a bit, with people saying their prime window was four years ago, but I still believe they have a chance to do something special with the group they have. If Messi and Argentina can pull it off, it would be an incredible cherry on top of an unbelievable career for the GOAT. As for the U.S., I’m looking forward to following along with the rest of the country, pouring my full support behind the boys and hoping we can raise some hell along the way.”
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) November 21, 2022
8. I think that is Watt, on the U.S. team, being very, very nice without thinking much of its chances.
9. I think I’ve got one thing to say to those who would ask, “When are the Titans finally going to get the credit they deserve for always being in strong contention?” Win a home playoff game with one of these great teams for the first time in three years. This isn’t cruel; it’s reality. Two years ago, AFC South champ Tennessee lost in Nashville to fifth-seeded Baltimore by a touchdown in the Wild Card game. Last year, AFC South champ Tennessee, with a bye through the Wild Card round, lost to fourth-seeded Cincinnati by a field goal in a divisional game. Total points scored in eight quarters: 29. I like the Titans as much as the next person, but this has not been a team built for the postseason recently, and to get the ultimate respect, late-January wins matter a lot.
10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:
a. Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in a penal colony in Russia, for the offense of being caught with less than one gram of cannabis oil. We can’t let Griner’s imprisonment—she has already been in custody for nine months for this ridiculously harsh sentence—be forgotten. Nor can we allow Paul Whelan, the former Marine who’s been imprisoned in Russia for spying for four years, be forgotten.
b. Speaking of what we can’t simply allow to become white noise: When are we going to do something, anything, about this kind of crime—some obviously disturbed person taking a gun out and murdering three students and college football players on a bus returning from a school field trip? Or opening fire with a rifle at an LGBTQ club?
c. We just blithely move on. Nothing to see here. Nothing can be done here.
d. Why? Why can nothing be done? This is America. We fix things here. We need the will, not the political cowardice, to fix this—or at least to try.
e. Radio Story of the Week: Jud-Esty Kendall of National Public Radio, commemorating what would have been the 97th birthday of assassinated Sen. Robert F. Kennedy over the weekend with a find of the words from the busboy who cradled Kennedy in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles as he lay dying.
f. So incredibly sad to think of that period in history. I was 9. The morning after Kennedy was killed, I walked into my kitchen in Connecticut to find my mother, solid as a rock in all ways, weeping.
g. And so sad to think of the very nice person, Juan Romero, giving Kennedy comfort as he died, and later getting criticized for it.
h. The words of Romero, who died of a heart attack in California in 2018 at age 68:
“I remember him shaking my hand. And as he let go, somebody shot him. I kneeled down to him and put my hand between the cold concrete and his head just to make him comfortable. I could see his lips moving. So I put my ear next to his lips, and I heard him say, ‘Is everybody OK?’ I said, ‘Yes, everybody’s OK.’ I could feel a steady stream of blood coming through my fingers. I had a rosary in my shirt pocket, and I took it out thinking that he would need it a lot more than me. I wrapped it around his right hand, and then they wheeled him away.”
i. Eerie to hear Romero’s words again. And to wonder what might have been if the younger Kennedy had lived. Who would have won the 1968 presidential election—Kennedy, Humphrey or Nixon?
j. Podcast of the Week: Heidi Blake, with David Remnick, on his New Yorker Radio Hour, on how Qatar got the World Cup.
k. Yes, it’s ugly.
l. Blake, who co-authored “The Ugly Game” on the dark side of this Cup, says: “People are normally careful enough not to leave a paper trail … I’ve never seen graft and corruption documented in this kind of detail.” Good interview by Remnick. And a stunning lack of any effort to fix or address the crime by FIFA.
— Peacock (@peacock) November 14, 2022
m. Wow College Basketball Result of the Week: Northern Kentucky 64, Cincinnati 51. I know NKU has made the NCAA Tournament twice since transitioning to Division I, but beating UC by 13, that made me do a triple-take from my days covering college basketball in the eighties for the Cincinnati Enquirer. that result, in the college basketball world around Cincinnati, is a big deal.
n. Obit of the Week I: Mike Barnes of The Hollywood Reporter on the life and times of Robert Clary, who played Corporal LeBeau on the late-sixties CBS sitcom “Hogan’s Heroes” and did so much more in his 96 years.
o. Lots to say here about Clary and “Hogan’s Heroes,” which was a staple-of-my-youth TV show and seems so odd to think about now. The show was about Allied prisoners of war in a German camp, led by Colonel Robert Hogan (Bob Crane), trying to defeat the Nazis from inside the camp. A comedy. Crazy, but really good for its day, and Clary was excellent as the French POW. Still remember the theme music.
p. Imagine you’re Robert Clary, an Orthodox Jewish man born in Paris. And you agree to act in this show after this experience, per Barnes’ obituary:
One day when he was 16, he and his family were rounded up and sent to Auschwitz.
“My mother said the most remarkable thing,” Clary told The Hollywood Reporter‘s Peter Flax in late 2015. “She said, ‘Behave.’ She probably knew me as a brat. She said, ‘Behave. Do what they tell you to do.’”
Clary’s parents were murdered in the gas chamber that day.
At Buchenwald, Clary sang with an accordionist every other Sunday to an audience of SS soldiers. “Singing, entertaining and being in kind of good health at my age, that’s why I survived,” he told Flax.
Clary was incarcerated for 31 months (he worked in a factory making 4,000 wooden shoe heels each day) and tattooed with the identification “A-5714” on his left forearm. He was the only one of his captured family to make it out alive.
q. What a life, post-concentration camp. He sang with Eartha Kitt on Broadway, acted with Paul Newman on the big screen, acted on soaps (Days of Our Lives and The Young and the Restless), sang on jazz albums, and was recognized for years after his “Hogan’s Heroes” run. He was the last member of the “Hogan’s Heroes” cast to die.
r. Obit of the Week II: Eduardo Medina of The New York Times on the death of Mehran Karimi Nasseri in Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.
s. Nasseri lived in the Paris airport for 18 years.
t. That’s right. He lived in the airport, leaving for a few years but returning recently because it felt so much like home to him. Nasseri, an Iranian, was the inspiration for the Steven Spielberg movie “The Terminal” with Tom Hanks, whose character lived in JFK Airport in New York.
u. Wrote Medina:
With his trimmed mustache and soft voice, Mr. Nasseri became a peculiar fixture in Terminal 1 of the airport as he hauled piles of his belongings, stacked neatly on a luggage cart. He resided in the airport from 1988 to 2006, initially because of legal hurdles to prove his refugee status, and later by choice.
He lived between a pizzeria and an electronics store, planting himself on a red plastic bench that he made his home. On a coffee table, he had a hand mirror; an electric shaver, which he used every morning; and a collection of press clippings that told of his status as an odd figure in France.
His days were punctuated by the rhythm of flights and the presence of travelers, whose numbers swelled in the morning and dwindled at night, leaving him mostly alone to sleep on his preferred curved bench. Airport employees would routinely give him their meal coupons, and flight attendants would give him toiletries left over by first-class passengers.
v. Painful Story of the Week: William Wan of The Washington Post, with details of the events leading up to the tragic shooting at the University of Virginia.
w. So tough to read. So well reported. A 19-year-old student who survived, Ryan Lynch, relayed such haunting details. Wrote Wan:
As a transfer student, Lynch didn’t know many people on campus. But she’d become especially close to the football players in the theater class, including all three who were killed: Lavel Davis, Devin Chandler and D’Sean Perry.
“They were always so nice, caring and supportive to me and everyone,” she said through tears Tuesday.
The shooter seemed to be aiming at specific people, and one witness reported that he shot one of the football players as he slept, a prosecutor said in court Wednesday.
Lynch has been haunted by the image of her friends — Lavel, D’Sean and Devin — as they lay bleeding on the bus.
“They were so caring and amazing to me, to everyone in that class,” she said. “The one thing that gives me comfort is I know each one of them had somebody in our class trying to help them. I want their families to know that. In their last moments, they weren’t alone.”
x. Bonvissuto Family Update: Young Jude Bonvissuto, 12, a sixth-grader in Nashville, just finished third out of 14 students in fifth through eighth grade in the Catholic Diocesan Spelling Bee. Jude got “vicious” and “barbecue” before being stumped on “elucidate.” Three cheers for you, Jude.
y. You’re playing with a lot of emotions now, Devils. Twelve straight wins. Record: 15-3, including 6-0 (perfect on two three-game road trips up north so far) in Canada. They had 15 wins on Feb. 7 last season, so they’re 11 weeks ahead of last year’s pace. Emily Kaplan, I’m going to need an explanation.
z. Cute World Cup Quote of the Week: At the opening match of the World Cup between Ecuador and host nation Qatar, Ecuadorian fans chanted, “Queremos cerveza!” – meaning “We want beer!” – after Qatari organizers banned beer sales in stadiums just before the tournament began. (Ecuador won the match, 2-0.)
🇪🇨Ecuador fans chanting "we want beer" ("queremos cerveza") in the opening World Cup game at Qatar.pic.twitter.com/CznahzbxmA
— Sam Street (@samstreetwrites) November 20, 2022
San Francisco 26, Arizona 20. In Mexico City for the last of the NFL’s International Series, it’s desperation time for the 4-6 Cardinals and opportunity time for the 5-4 Niners. A loss for Arizona, which finishes the season with three of four on the road, would almost eliminate any chance to leapfrog Seattle and San Francisco for the division title. A win for San Francisco would mean a tie (with tiebreaker edge) with Seattle—with a three-game homestand (Saints, Dolphins, Bucs) coming up. It’s a big and festive day in Mexico, Revolution Day, commemorating the beginning of the Mexican Revolution in 1910. You can be sure the 87,000 on hand will be loud. Also: the stadium is 7,200 feet above sea level, four-tenths of a mile higher than in Denver. We’ll see how much of a factor that will be as the game wears on.
N.Y. Giants at Dallas, Thursday, 4:30 p.m. ET, FOX. There’s no way on Labor Day that any of us thought this middle child of Thanksgiving games would feature teams with a combined 14-6 record. This is where the rubber starts meeting the road for the Giants, who’ve played just one NFC East game in the first 11 weeks. Next four games: at Dallas, Washington, Philadelphia, at Washington.
New England at Minnesota, Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC. The Patriots have the toughest slate of any AFC contender down the stretch. Including Sunday’s game against the Jets, six of their final eight games come against teams with six wins or more. To make the playoffs, the Patriots are going to have to get better play from Mac Jones, whose season has been a regression so far.
Cincinnati at Tennessee, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS. Revenge game? Maybe, considering this is a Nashville rematch of the nightmare game of Ryan Tannehill’s career. Titans have three losses. They lost their third game of 2021 one year ago today. Of course, they earned home-field in the AFC last year, only to lose to the Bengals with Tannehill throwing three picks.
Green Bay at Philadelphia, Sunday, 8:20 p.m., NBC. Realism of the Week: Green Bay is 4-7. They have to win this game, at the NFC’s top seed, to have a prayer to make the playoffs. The Packers will have five games left after this, and dates with Miami and Minnesota remain. So, it’s getting very late early for Green Bay.
Explain the Vikes, please.
Beat Bills heroically,
stomped by Dallas. How?