Previewing WrestleMania 32

Wrasslin Wednesday Header

Hey, folks! In case you missed it, Wrasslin’ Wednesday has a new home this week. Check it out over at Waiting For Next Year.


Throwing up a Roadblock: Wrasslin Thursday 3/3/2016

Wrasslin Wednesday Header

Derek: We’re coming to you live (three days later) from Nashville! We were in the fast lane to WrestleMania, but now WWE has thrown up a surprise Roadblock. That’s what they’re calling this likely inconsequential WWE Network-only event taking place on March 12. I remain excited for the Spike Strip, Oil Slick, and Banana Peel PPVs.

At the moment, the event only has three matches on the card: Brock Lesnar vs. Bray Wyatt, Triple H vs. Dean Ambrose, and an NXT tag match that I’m not too psyched for since I haven’t been following NXT closely. Enzo and Big Cass are involved, so at the very least the entrances will be fun. Other than that, it’ll have to be a great match to get my attention.

Will: I don’t know how long this show was planned or when it was first announced or whatever, but the name sure seems silly. Isn’t the value of Fastlane necessarily lessened when it’s followed by a Roadblock? Has there always been this much traffic on the Road to WrestleMania? If it were in L.A. this year I would understand, but I can’t imagine that Arlington deals with that much congestion. I suppose I’m getting beyond the point.

Derek: Brock Lesnar is facing Bray Wyatt in the match we thought we were getting at WrestleMania. I’m having trouble envisioning anything other than a Brock victory. He’s higher up on the ‘Mania card, so he’s the one who’s going to end up looking good. But at least Bray gets to do … whatever it is he’s going to do for the next month.

Will: Bray has been so brutally neutered (breutered?) at this point that a competitive one-on-one match is out of the question. I only see a couple possibilities. One is Brock destroying Bray like he did Kofi at the Beast in the East Network special. Maybe Bray gets a little bit of offense going first, but then Brock hits a buttload of suplexes and finishes the whole thing in 10 minutes.

The other scenario is some sort of schmozz wherein the whole Wyatt Family gangs up on Brock like they did at the Royal Rumble. The problem is that they already did that. At the Royal Rumble. And it went exactly nowhere. Assuming Lesnar vs. Ambrose is still on for Mania, there’s no sense in revisiting Brock vs. Bray. Unless, that is, Ambrose has a legit shot at winning the title at Roadblock and/or getting into the main event at Mania. Hmmm…

Derek: Like Brock, Triple H is higher on the card so he’s getting the glory. Dean is, unfortunately, more than familiar with taking the pin in a big match. This may be WWE’s effort to try and remind us Trips is supposed to be a heel, but that won’t matter when Roman gets back in the ring. But hey, kudos to Vince for giving us the WrestleMania main event we really wanted a month early. What a guy.

Will: The fear is, well, what you said: That Ambrose is taking Roman Reigns’ place to gin up some heat for Trips and maybe get Roman a nice comeback pop whenever he returns. Reigns apparently underwent a real surgery, hence his not being on Raw this week. Ambrose stepped up to the plate for a tête-à-tête with Triple H, and did damn well doing so. Dean is more natural with Hunter than Roman is. Their conversations are actually conversational instead of robotic. It makes sense that Ambrose would get under Triple H’s skin, especially when the latter is playing up the whole “BOW TO ME FOR I AM THE AUTHORITY” thing.

I hold out a smidgen of hope, if only because the pressure is on to make WrestleMania into a major show. I think we’ll see a big surprise or two before the end of March. This may not be the storyline for one — it really does feel like Roman is going to be in that title match — but I get the sense we’re in for something. The Road to WrestleMania can’t be completely smooth, can it?

Derek: As for Raw, there wasn’t much to report this week. Shane’s return had the masses up in arms last week, but he was nowhere to be found this week. Same with Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar. The night was mostly carried by Ambrose deciding to challenge Triple H, Stephanie McMahon cutting a very Stephanie McMahon promo, and the Undertaker walking in and out of the ring. His contribution went as follows:

undertaker vince

He also took a minute to tell Vince to prepare to take the blame for whatever happens to Shane. He can say whatever he wants, but all I can think is CORPORATE MINISTRY REUNION.

Will: The Undertaker’s brief appearance received mixed reviews since it was so damn brief, and rightly so. That said, I didn’t hate it. He showed up, took issue with Vince referring to him as his “weapon,” made it sound like he was going to break Shane into a hundred pieces, said the blood would be on Vince’s hands, and bailed.

Okay, now that I type that out, it was pretty lame. I was duped into thinking it was better than it was because it was the Undertaker, and because his entrance alone makes for appointment viewing. Not much happened. We still don’t know what Shane has on Vince. We received no clarification as to why Taker would agree to this match — does he just fall in line with the boss’ orders like Zack Ryder would? We’ve gotten no Shane-Taker interaction. I understand that they’re stringing this thing along slowly, but come on guys. A little somethin’.

Derek: Finally, Sasha Banks faced Becky Lynch for the right to face Charlotte at WrestleMania. The potential triple threat match stayed alive, as as Becky and Sasha somehow managed to pin each other.

double pin

And I will say that, despite the cop-out finish, I really enjoyed the match. I’ve gotta say, there’s a huge drop-off on the ‘Mania card after Dean-Brock, Shane-Taker, and the Divas match. This has not been a good year for fantasy booking.

Remember last year? “Dallas is going to be the biggest ‘Mania ever! Rock vs. Triple H! Shield triple threat match! Stone Cold vs. Brock! Undertaker vs. Sting! NXT Divas! Other shenanigans with John Cena, Randy Orton, Finn Balor, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, and A.J. Styles!” How foolish we were. We’re getting NXT Divas and that’s it. I loved the Shane return and I’m looking forward to Dean-Brock, but I expected so much more. This might not be the worst ‘Mania of all time, but it’s shaping up to be the most disappointing.

Will: I retain some hope that business will pick up. If there’s one thing in this world powerful enough to force WWE to make some exciting decisions, it’s Vince McMahon’s ego. Selling out Jerryworld has been his mission ever since the place was built. Let’s see if he can put together a show worthy of doing so.


Recapping Fastlane: Wrasslin’ Wednesday 2/24/16

Wrasslin Wednesday Header

Hey, folks! In case you missed it, Wrasslin’ Wednesday had a new home last week. Check it out over at Waiting For Next Year.


Previewing Fastlane: Wrasslin’ Wednesday 2/17/16

Wrasslin Wednesday Header

Hey, folks! In case you missed it, Wrasslin’ Wednesday has a new home this week. Check it out over at Waiting For Next Year.


Bryan’s Song: Wrasslin’ Wednesday 2/10/16

Wrasslin Wednesday Header

Derek: We’re coming to you live (two days later) from Seattle! We have no choice but to dedicate today’s wrasslin’ analysis entirely to Daniel Bryan, who retired from professional wrestling Monday night at the age of 34. Will’s thoughts originally ran on WFNY. I’ve included them here, and I’ll jump in after that. Hope you’ve got your handkerchief nearby.

Will: Daniel Bryan has retired from professional wrestling. (If this does not matter to you at all, I will attempt to make an argument why it should.) He tweeted as much Monday afternoon, but fans held out hope that it was somehow untrue. Work me, they begged in wrestling parlance, hoping for it all to be part of a scripted storyline, let there be a swerve. But there was no script. There was no swerve. The unscripted nature of Daniel Bryan’s retirement is what made it so compelling — and so heartbreaking. He had to retire, in short, because he’d had a lot of concussions.

Appearing at the end of Monday night’s Raw in jeans in a flannel shirt, Bryan explained why he had to walk away. (There were two very good pieces of writing about Bryan that I intended to include excerpts of, but I got carried away and don’t expect you to read another thousand words on the topic. One was by Brandon Stroud at Uproxx, and the other was by David Shoemaker at ESPN. They both know the business way better than me, and I recommend them both.)

I’ve been wrestling since I was 18 years old. And within the first five months of my wrestling career, I’d already had three concussions. And for years after that, I would get a concussion here and there, and it gets to the point that when you’ve been wrestling for 16 years, that adds up to a lot of concussions. And it gets to a point where they tell you that you can’t wrestle anymore. And for a long time I fought that because I had gotten EEGs and brain MRIs and neuro-psychological evaluations and all of them said this: That I was fine and that I could come back and I could wrestle.

I trained like I could come back and I could wrestle. I was ready at a moment’s notice if WWE needed me, I wanted to come back and wrestle because I have loved this in a way I have never loved anything else. But, a week and a half ago, I took a test that said that maybe my brain isn’t as okay as I thought it was.

The mention of concussion, not to mention three of them within five months of an 18-year-old’s life, brought solemnity to the proceedings. Even a couple years ago that might not have sounded like cause for retirement. Now it does. The crowd still pleaded with Bryan to stay, but more out of respect than anything. They follow the NFL, they know what’s in theaters; they know the score. They understood why he had to go.

Wrestlers are meant to be superheroes. This was a rare moment in which the performers’ very humanity was in the spotlight.

More than that, the spotlight was on the unique relationship between wrestlers and wrestling fans. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s its own thing, different than that between players and fans in any other sport. If you have the time and the inclination, a YouTube video called “Wrestling Isn’t Wrestling” sums up wrestling’s appeal as well as anything. One line captures it all: “Don’t get me wrong, a lot of wrestling sucks. But when it’s good, it’s fucking great.”

Daniel Bryan did a lot of good wrestling, most of it before he was ever on national television. He slogged away in the lower promotions, working high school gyms and bingo halls and armories. He was never destined for the world once inhabited by Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant — he’s 5-foot-8 and 190 pounds, if that. But as more fans discovered him, the more they learned about and disseminated his journey. They learned how he was a real-life Rudy. They saw how he left a bit of himself in the ring every time he entered. There was an ineffable joy in his work, a magnetic energy that took hold. What made him special, what connected him with fans, was this very real sense that he was living the dream. Once upon a time he was just a kid who loved wrestling, just like all of the other kids out there. Then one day, boom, he’s winning the championship at WrestleMania.

Bryan is so beloved because he shared so much with the fans. Indeed, his very presence at the top of the WWE pyramid only happened because of his fans. WWE brass was not itching to put a guy the size of Doug Flutie in the main event, but the fans made it so. An entire television segment, and eventually an entire championship storyline, were derailed because the fans demanded it be. They demanded Daniel Bryan be given a shot at the title. They demanded to see him on the biggest stage. They demanded to see their underdog overcome the odds, because damnit, that’s what wrestling is about. He did what every wrestler seeks to do with the crowd, and to a degree that few could ever replicate: He got over.

Bryan embraced the spotlight as much as he could when he got it, which people respected because the spotlight is the greatest wrestling currency there is. His passion and work rate never let up. What made Daniel Bryan great — and the past tense is regretfully necessary at this point — was how much of himself he gave in the name of his sport. You never watched him with a sense that you were being gypped. You never felt like he performed in a way that anyone else could. You never felt like anyone cared more than him. You never felt like anyone gave more than him.

Watching this, a man forced to walk away from the thing he loves the most, had me weeping like a baby Monday night. Precious few among us get the chance to realize our greatest aspiration, let alone actually do it. Daniel Bryan did — and he did.

WWE, Inc.

WWE, Inc.

Derek: Look, I get it. No one watches embedded videos in articles unless there’s some stupid autoplay feature. But I’ll tell you this: if you don’t watch the videos I’m about to show, you won’t believe anything I say. That’s the beauty of Daniel Bryan’s career. You could look at him, and he may not impress you. I could describe him, and he may not impress you. But when you watch him in the ring and see how beloved he is, and see how he has thousands of people with smart phones and gnat-like attention spans hanging on his every word, you’ll know what I’m talking about. In the words of Morpheus, no one can be told how great Daniel Bryan is. You have to see it for yourself.

yes chant

Watch 1:05-1:35 in the video at the top of the page, when he talks about potentially having kids and then makes one of the funniest remarks I’ve ever seen on WWE television. Watch the crowd’s reaction at 3:29 when he talks about the Seahawks. Watch 5:27-6:30, when he talks about the people he’s met, like Kane, William Regal, and Connor Michalek. Watch 7:50-10:30, when he talks about the time the Seattle crowd hijacked Raw in what would be the last time his father got to see him wrestle. Good luck getting through that without shedding a tear. God, just watch the whole thing. Any of you who wonder why I watch pro wrestling at my advanced age, watch the video and find out. Sometimes wrestling is so dumb and pointless that I watch for three hours and struggle to think of one interesting thing that happened. In fact, I’d say that happens most of the time. But sometimes you get nights like Monday, when something incredible happens that no sport could replicate. So much of what Daniel Bryan did I’ll remember forever.

Let’s start with that night Seattle took over Raw. I had just gotten back into wrestling at that time. Again, you need to see it for yourself.

As a Seahawks fan, I’m often told that the fans at CenturyLink Field are only loud because of the stadium’s architecture and/or artificial crowd noise. My response is this video. I got goosebumps watching it then and I get goosebumps watching it now. Triple H talked louder to make them stop cheering, which usually works. Instead, they just cheered louder. In the words of Michael Cole, “WHAT A MOMENT!!!”

Then, just over a month later, Bryan had joined the Wyatt Family because it was the only way they would stop assaulting him. Bryan leaving the Wyatts was one of the best Raw main events I’ve ever seen.

Then there was the time he filled the ring with fans to secure a match with Triple H and a shot at the WWE Championship at WrestleMania XXX.

He finally won the championship and, though it isn’t in the next video, he took his new belts and hugged Connor.

It was mostly downhill for Bryan after that. Neck injuries and concussions put him out of action and led to Monday’s retirement. All I can say is thank goodness there’s video of what he accomplished. There have been so many wonderful words written about Bryan over the last 48 hours, but all of them combined can’t say as much as a two-minute YouTube clip. He’s the most beloved wrestler of at least the last five years, and I’m sad to see him go. I’m sad I won’t get to see him feud with Seth Rollins, Brock Lesnar, or A.J. Styles. I’m sad his big farewell had to be a promo on Raw instead of a huge pay-per-view match. I’m sad that I didn’t know the last time I saw him wrestle would be the last time I saw him wrestle.

But you know what would have been more sad? If his dad didn’t get to see his son have one of the greatest nights a wrestler ever had. If he kept getting concussions. If he permanently injured himself before he could start a family. If he died well before his time, as wrestlers often do.

We’re lucky. We get to look back on Bryan’s career with reverence instead of guilt. We get to talk about what it was like to watch him command whatever building he went to. We get to talk about how he could hijack a segment just by silently standing. Then, when no one believes us, we can tell them to go to the tape.


The Wrath of Von: Super Bowl 50 Recap

NFL Recap Header

A wild and crazy NFL season has come to a close with the Broncos winning Super Bowl 50, so Will and Derek are back with their unsolicited opinions on the week’s action, including the Sheriff riding off into the sunset, how much dab’ll do ya, the Hall of Fame, the end for Marshawn Lynch, and our inability to win prop bets.


AP Photo/David J. Phillip

AP Photo/David J. Phillip

Will: The game itself was not the most aesthetically pleasing contest of the season. Cam Newton and Peyton Manning completed 31 of 66 passes for 406 yards combined. There were 153 penalty yards and 509 offensive yards. There were 12 sacks and 6 turnovers. Did you enjoy your Super Bowl viewing experience, or would you have preferred more points?

Derek: I’d say I enjoyed it more than most. It was ugly, but at least there were a bunch of turnovers and potential turnovers. It would have been worse if there were nothing but three-and-outs, though there were a bunch of those too. There were 15 punts, which is especially notable considering Peyton Manning completed 13 passes and Cam Newton completed 18. Thankfully, the game’s seven total fumbles made up for the lack of offensive productivity. Everybody perks up when the ball is on the ground in a close game, and it was at least close until the very end. There’s a decent chance I’ll completely forget it in a few years, though.

The worst part was watching as a fan of an eliminated playoff team and thinking “these are the best two teams in the league?” Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders has been calling 2015 “the worst NFL season since at least 2002.” After that game, I believe him. Thank goodness the pass rushers came to play. Otherwise, Brandon McManus would have been MVP.

peyton cam

As you know, I’m from North Carolina, and once considered the Panthers my second favorite team and will again when Cam is way different or playing somewhere else. As you can imagine, my Facebook feed is filled with Panther supporters. Among several themes I’ve noticed, one is that the referees affected the outcome of the game, which was something I hadn’t given any thought to until I saw a bunch of them mention it. Do you think that claim has any merit?

Will: I don’t recall thinking about the refs at all. The Panthers had twice as many infractions as the Broncos for twice as many yards, but none of the calls seemed particularly egregious. There was talk about how much Aqib Talib (who somehow did not get ejected) and the Denver secondary were bumping and holding Carolina’s receivers, and I suppose there’s merit to that. But more than that: hey guys, shut up about the refs, you sound like a bunch of sissies.

Without naming any potential examples or leading you in any way, did you find anything about the Super Bowl — from the pregame to the game to halftime to postgame — objectionable? I made the mistake of staying on Twitter in the hour or two after the game ended, subjecting myself to all sorts of outrage and counter-outrage and mock-outrage and counter-mock-mock-counter-outrage. Nothing about the production offended me in any way except for the inclusion of Mike Carey and Phil Simms. How say you?

Derek: No, there wasn’t anything I noticed. I’ve seen lots of people reference whatever Beyonce did during the halftime show, but I didn’t watch at the time and don’t have any particular interest in tracking it down. There are many reasons I watch sports and write about sports, but commenting on the statements famous pop stars make during halftime performances is not one of them. Besides, I’m sure the people who do enjoy discussing that aspect of sports have already made their feelings known, and they didn’t need an engraved invitation. Other than that, nothing struck me other than Simms and Carey (hopefully not dead, but possibly now unemployed) and the level of play. As bad as they were, I’d stop well short of calling them objectionable.

Not too many people object to seeing Peyton Manning finish his career with the Lombardi Trophy. Do you agree that this is it for The Sheriff? Will you miss having him around? Do you buy the rumors that he might play for the Rams next year?

Will: First, I don’t know when we started calling Peyton Manning the Sheriff, but I am not a fan. The last thing he needs is something to make him sound even dorkier than he is. It reminds me of George Bluth, Sr.’s cowboy phase from Arrested Development. But yeah, this has gotta be it for Peyton. He’ll be 40 in a couple months. He just won a Super Bowl and beat Tom Brady in the process. He still can’t feel his fingers. There is no upside to him playing for the Rams or anyone else. Go home, Peyton. And take Papa John with you.

Speaking of the Papa and forced product placement, did any commercials catch your fancy? The Pokemon ad got me super psyched until I realized it was a Pokemon ad; I still liked it, though I don’t understand what Pokemon product is on the way. The Doritos ultrasound ad is getting pilloried, not unjustly, but I enjoyed it for adding some weird to the occasion. Other than that, I don’t have much. Independence Day 2 didn’t do it for me, nor did Helen Mirren telling me not to drink and drive. I thought it was a bit of a down year overall.

Derek: My personal favorite was Anthony Hopkins’ Turbo Tax commercial. I also liked the Pokemon one, and pretty much anything having to do with Batman and Superman. I’m such a DC mark. I even thought that crappy Green Lantern movie was okay.

Most of them came off as preachy, generic, or a bad attempt at humor. I do take issue with your “not impressed with Independence Day 2” comment. That’s not the Will Gibson I know. Snap out of it, man! You may not have liked it, but Captain Steven Hiller taught us to not give up until the fat lady sings.

We’re fighting for our right to live. To exist. Don’t ever forget that. You don’t want to be the one person who didn’t see it coming when Independence Day 2 wins every single Oscar next year.

Speaking of awards, the Hall of Fame Class of 2016 was announced. The newest members are: Brett Favre, Marvin Harrison, Kevin Greene, Orlando Pace, Tony Dungy, Ken Stabler, Eddie DeBartolo Jr., and Dick Stanfel. Are you opposed to any of them? Should the likes of Terrell Owens or the immortal Morten Anderson have gone in over any of them? Care to share in my outrage that Don Coryell is somehow still not in the Hall?

Will: I’m not opposed to any of them, though Harrison gives me pause because of the whole he-might’ve-killed-someone thing. But bless the Hall of Fame committee for keeping Terrell Owens, one of the five best receivers ever, out because he was kind of a dick. Favre and Pace were shoo-ins. Greene had ten seasons of 10-plus sacks. I’d have to take someone’s word for it re: Stanfel and DeBartolo, but sure, let ’em in. I suppose Tony Dungy is the only one I take some issue with, but any time you can honor a coach with a 9-10 playoff record, you gotta do it. And yeah, why isn’t Coryell in? If you have an offense named after you, you get to be in the Hall. That’s the rule.

We must interject with the most important tweet the NFC West has seen in quite some time. It seemed that Marshawn was on his way out of Seattle after this season no matter what. Now we know he’ll be retiring instead of playing with another team. How did it all strike you?

Derek: It was a bittersweet announcement. I’m happy that the Seahawks didn’t have to cut him (they would have if he didn’t retire) and I’m happy I won’t have to watch him play for another team. With all due respect to Shaun Alexander, Lynch is the greatest Seahawks running back of all time and one of the players I’ve most enjoyed watching. There are already a handful of Marshawn tribute videos and best-of lists floating around the internet, and it took all I had to not turn this article into a love letter. Marshawn was a unique player and is a unique person, and I look forward to telling strangers in bars why he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Now that we’re near the end, let’s have a look at the future. Whats your way-too-early prediction for the SuperBowl 51/LI matchup?

Will: Oh hell if I know. How about Browns-Rams? 

Alright, we’ve waited this long. Go ahead and have fun at Cam Newton’s expense for 10 or 12 paragraphs.

Derek: Man, I don’t even want to anymore. It feels completely unnecessary. All of my criticisms of Cam were so fully on display that pretty much everything has already been said. Besides, Wade Phillips already set the standard for having fun at Cam’s expense, and I know that whatever I come up with won’t be as good.

When I’ve talked about Cam Newton in the past, I gave my opinions and observations. Today, I’m just going to offer up facts. He spent all week saying “if you want to stop me from celebrating, stop me.” He wore golden MVP cleats with his accolades written on them. Then after the Broncos did stop him from celebrating, he shut down and acted like a child because things weren’t going his way.

If that’s the kind of guy you want to root for, that’s fine. Far be it from me to tell you who to cheer for. Just don’t sweep all of that under the rug whenever you call Cam Newton a great role model because he smiles when things are going his way. Don’t say his showboating is fine and then act like everyone else is a jerk when they return the favor after a loss. People who criticize Cam aren’t all racists. People have been rooting against showboats since long before he was born. If you want to laugh and dance and rub it in when you’re on top, don’t expect support and sympathy when you fall off the pedestal.

On that note, let’s give you all the chance to mock us for our prop bet performances. We did not actually put money down on any of these (as far as you know) since gambling is ungentlemanly, but we can still delight in (or weep over) our picks. Results are shown in red. Correct picks feature an asterisk:

Lady Gaga’s rendition of the National Anthem (From when the first note starts until she completes saying “brave”) will be over or under 136.5 seconds?

Derek: You win this round, Trebek. At least I think so. My understanding is with the stipulation of “from first note to brave,” the rendition was 2:09. Without that stipulation, it was 2:22. Seeing as we mentioned that stipulation in the original prop, I’d say it’s fair to award you the fake money.

Will*: Thank you, thank you. I will invest it wisely.

Will either team score in the first five minutes of the game? Yes (+145) or no (-175)?

Derek: Curses! Brandon McManus’ field goal came 4:17 into the game. Couldn’t you have waited a minute, Brandon?

Will: During the game I 100% thought that this prop was about scoring a touchdown, not just scoring, and I was all excited because I thought I got it right. Damnit.

Will there be a missed extra point? Yes (+325) or no (-450)?

Derek: I’m jumping on the anti-kicker bandwagon now. Ban kickers!

Will: Buncha nerds with their elastic hamstrings. Screw ’em all.

If Cam Newton scores a rushing touchdown, his first celebration will be: open shirt Superman motion (+120), dances solo (+180), goes to crowd and gives ball away (+225), dances with teammates (+1000), spikes ball (+2000), hands ball to official (+4000), or dunks on goal post (+5000)?

Derek: We technically weren’t wrong since Cam didn’t score, so we’ll never know. I’ll stand by my original prediction and assume it would have been correct.

Will: Me too.

Which number will be higher: the number of points LeBron James scores vs the Pelicans (+1.5) or the distance of the game’s shortest made field goal (-1.5)?

Derek: This was a close one, as the shortest field goal was 30 yards and LeBron dropped 27 on the Pelicans. Yet once again, we hang our heads in shame. How was the game? Did LeBron leave any points on the floor? Should I add him to my Hate List next to kickers?

Will: Great prop, oddsmakers. The Cavs won the game comfortably, and LeBron played very well: 27 points on 11-of-20 shooting. Just one more three would have done it. He should absolutely be on the Hate List.

Carolina (-5.5) vs. Denver

Derek*: I got one! Yeah! No shutout for me! I’m going to submit this and hop on my yacht.

later nerds

Will: I will not miss this NFL season even a little bit. Until next year.


A Gentleman’s Guide to Super Bowl 50

Welcome to Sports Monocle’s second annual Gentleman’s Guide to the Super Bowl. We’ll combine some of our Monocling tropes from our Recap and Picks columns, as well as place some fake wagers on our favorite Super Bowl prop bets. Enjoy!


Pre-cap

Derek: How much Super Bowl preview talk have you descended into? Did you have a favorite/least favorite storyline?

Will: Virtually none. I’ve stayed away. I saw a reporter ask Cam Newton something about socks and sandals, and that was my signal to bury my head in the sand as deep as possible. The week before the Super Bowl is the worst.

Derek: On a scale of bitter Seahawks fan to Jim Nantz, how excited are you to watch this game?

Will: So Jim Nantz is the excited one here? Whatever the scale, I’d put myself at a hungover Troy Aikman level of excitement. My time would probably be better spent resting and making sure I get enough liquids, but hell, if the game’s on, I’m gonna watch.

Derek: How are you hoping this plays out? Are you rooting for either team? Do you just want to see a good game? Would you prefer a defensive slugfest? A shootout? What’s the ideal game script?

Will: Just want something fun to watch. I don’t care who wins, nor do I care how they win. I’d be happy to see either Peyton Manning or Cam Newton win. As long as it’s reasonable close I’ll be fine with it. I’m just here for the lolz.

Derek: Who will cause more eye-rolls worldwide: Phil Simms or Mike Carey?

Will: Based on sheer volume, Simms in a runaway.

Prop Bets

[Odds per sportsbook.ag]

Lady Gaga’s rendition of the National Anthem (From when the first note starts until she completes saying “brave”) will be over or under 136.5 seconds?

Derek: If I’m betting on something so arbitrary and fixable, I’m betting on the outcome that’s more fun to root for. So the question becomes “would I rather watch Lady Gaga sing an efficient national anthem or take part in a bunch of excessive nonsense that ends with her singing ‘brave’ for 30 seconds?” It’s no contest–over for me.

Will: The average duration of the last 10 Super Bowl national anthems is reportedly 1:57 — 117 seconds. This line being almost 20 seconds higher suggests that some Gaga antics have been planned. As much as I would love to wager on a big Apollo Creed-style thing happening, I’ll still take the under. The song ain’t that long. (All bets are off if there’s a fiery equipment malfunction.)

Will either team score in the first five minutes of the game? Yes (+145) or no (-175)?

Derek: I’ll say no. I don’t trust the Bronco offense to do much scoring, and Cam is probably going to be so amped up he’ll need some halftime bear sedatives before settling into a groove.

Will: I’ve come around on the idea that this could be something of a defensive struggle, so I shall take no here. The average NFL drive this year lasted 2:40, and these are two of the best defenses in the game. I look forward to Ted Ginn taking the opening kick to the house.

Semi-related: College Ted Ginn was one of the most fun players I’ve ever watched. Seeing him turn the corner and go into Olympic sprinter mode was the most exciting thing. People talk about players running like gazelles, but he really did. His movement wasn’t jagged; he ran in big beautiful brushstrokes.

You know what, I’m switching to yes. Teddy’s taking it to the house the first chance he gets.

Will there be a missed extra point? Yes (+325) or no (-450)?

Derek: We’ve been building to this all year, right? Blair Walsh missed a game-winner a few weeks ago, Stephen Gostkowski missed a big one last week, and now it’s someone else’s turn. Throw in the dangers of smug in the air and there’s going to be a sad picture of a kicker on the front of newspapers Monday morning.

Will: Are you kidding? It’s the Super Bowl. Of course there will be a missed extra point. You think Brandon McManus and Graham Gano have the stones to live up to that pressure? No way. We’re bound to see at least one miss.

If Cam Newton scores a rushing touchdown, his first celebration will be: open shirt Superman motion (+120), dances solo (+180), goes to crowd and gives ball away (+225), dances with teammates (+1000), spikes ball (+2000), hands ball to official (+4000), or dunks on goal post (+5000)?

Derek: Every spoiled front-running child in America has convinced his/her rich parent to buy them a ticket on either end zone. With all those winking CEOs and tiny outstretched arms, I’ll say the ball goes in the stands first.

Will: This is the first one where I’m not sure if it’s a real prop or not. I think it is, and I think hands ball to official is the play here. There’s gotta be like a 1% chance that he makes a big show of giving the ball to the ref with a giant grin on his face. Then on the next one he gives the ball away. Something like that.

Which number will be higher: the number of points LeBron James scores vs the Pelicans (+1.5) or the distance of the game’s shortest made field goal (-1.5)?

Derek: I’ll say LeBron. The Broncos have a great defense and a poor offense, so I could see a gimme field goal no matter who has the ball. Unless of course Riverboat Ron doesn’t plan on kicking at any point.

Will: I bet there will be one super short field goal — like 25 yards at the most. Kevin Love is out for the Cavs, and they’ve kinda been playing like crap lately, so I think it’s LeBron in a runaway — especially when he’s getting a point and a half to boot.

Derek: Heh. Boot. That’s another word for kick.

The Pick

[Line per VegasInsider.com consensus.]

Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Carolina (-5.5) vs. Denver

Derek: I count myself among the many who thought the winner of the NFC Championship would win the Super Bowl. I haven’t changed my opinion there, but I will grab the points in this situation. While all the attention has gone on Cam and Peyton, I think the man who decides this game is Wade Phillips. The Panthers are the more balanced team, but Denver’s defense is the best unit in the game. He found a way to hit Brady (Brady never gets hit) in the AFC Championship, so I’m sure he’s cooked up something special for Cam in the past two weeks. Maybe not enough to overcome Denver’s deficiencies on offense, but enough to keep it within six points.

Will: I think Carolina kills ’em. I mean, I also think it could be a close game — it’s the Super Bowl; of course it could be a close game — but I think Carolina runs all over them. I think they put Peyton Manning on his ass. I think the secondary keeps Demaryius Thomas under wraps. I think Carolina’s offensive line is a bunch of mean SOBs, and I think they run at Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware a lot to tire them out. I think the Panthers win big. I think Cam’s gonna dab on ’em and the whole deal.