By Steven Keys

Thank you, George Halas (d. 1983).

Thank you, and all the other APFA pioneers who conceived and nurtured what would come to be known as the National Football League (1919-21).

Thanks to those visionaries in leather helmet and fedora who kept their experiment in professionalism alive through the lean & mean early years (Depression / WW2), offering America an alternative to the campus frolic of the fraternity & sorority set.

Because of men like Halas, Thorpe, Ed Healy, Fritz Pollard, Lambeau, Grange and Art Rooney, I now have a friend on Sunday that ‘reality-TV’ bumble-heads can’t take away.

Had those 1920s football fanatics failed in their professional pursuit of what is, admittedly, an imperfect operation, I’d be scrounging for sporting scraps on what today we still generously call, college football.

College ball breaks down into seven truths:

1) One over-dominant conference (SEC);
2) Salting your opponent, otherwise known as ‘run up the score’ for poll position;
3) Arrogant coaches with license to belittle & berate players into submission;
4) Hypocrisy known as collegiate amateurism;
5) Conference-jumping presidents who mock fan loyalty & regional rivalry;
6) ESPN‘s “College GameDay,” the most annoying set (outdoor) on TV; and
7) Johnny Flash: Loved by short-cut coaches, scourge of RBs & WR, run-QB hogs on.

So, I dedicate my NFL ‘13-14 Cherry Picks to George “Papa Bear” Halas, without whose tenacious, entrepreneurial spirit, we pro fans would be…Grey Cup groupies, of course.

Tipping 0%

As they’d say on The Sopranos, “(It’s) gotta’ go.” Tagging a quarterback with a dreaded INT, even as his pass was tipped before the theft (making it another‘s aerial), has always been unfair and kinda’ dumb. Time for change.

Super Bowl Romanology

Roman numerology in Super Bowl marketing has never been about honoring tremendous empires. It’s about trying to create stature. Maybe it worked, maybe not, but it fails miserably in the identification department. Can you remember last game’s number? Was it 46, 47 or 48? Forty-seven, I think. Time for change.

“It’s the most…wonderful time…of the year”

It’s clean slate Week 1 of a new NFL season, everybody equal, hope all around (0-0). Another plus: saberheads, bureaucrats of sportology, are starving, with meager stats to devour & drone on about, ad nauseam. That’ll change soon, so enjoy the humanity, while it lasts.

Cherry Picks Week 1

Baltimore Ravens @ Denver Broncos: Thurs (9/5), NBC 8:30 EST

It was a great run to SB47 Joe Flacco, but as incomprehensible as Ray Lewis’ marching orders could sometimes be, he did inspire. In fact, w/out Ray and his farewell tour, BAL doesn’t even get to February play. Peyton’s home & healthy, Welker works, a star like Von will have a back-up and Flacco’s working the mouth way too much. Denver wins.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Chicago Bears: Sun (9/8), CBS 1:00

This one pits nominees for Best Supporting Team, in respective divisions (Pack & Pitt ‘Best Leads’). Bears might have first matriculatory game-plan since Jim McMahon was under Chicago center. Like Mr. Matriculate Hank Stram, Former CFL’er Marc Trestman has nose for the e-zone. Lewis has Cincy moving forward but Bears win by a nose.

Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints: Fox 1:00

For first five, all eyes on Saints’ Sean Payton who spent last year soul-searching. I hope. A-birds have beefed up run (Jackson), D-rush (Osi), keep age-average up (Tony) and just hope Mike Smith makes it all click. Bigger tussle for Falcons who finally bested reeling-rival in ‘12. Saints are centering, Drew is pass-crazy but Atlanta has skill edge and wins.

Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions: Fox 1:00

Black & Blue battle. Would be heartiest NFL Kickoff, if outdoors. I wouldn’t go dome for free, even with parking and complimentary hot dogs. Pass-machine (Stafford) v. run-juggernaut (AP) on O-sides, while the gurus D-minded. Both clubs have star studs at key spots but lack game plan. Schwartz’ seat can get hot fast. Matt & Cal terrific. Lions win.

Seattle Seahawks @ Carolina Panthers: Fox 1:00

Great expectations for ‘Hawks, Panthers watch-able largely on Cam & Kuechly. Like his former Bears ‘mate Frazier, Rivera enters 3Y but with more urgency. Just hope it won’t push Ron to push Cam running for glory, for there in lay path to pain (See; RG3). As Seattle can’t afford stumble in contestable NFC, Carroll needs Super speech. He, Russ, Bobby and Marshy all deliver. Seattle wins.

Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49ers: Fox 4:25

Marquee match-ups galore WK1 and this tops the list. Both clubs NFL royalty, GB no fiscal king (DAL) but more old-guard clout than NYG & CHI combined and SF parlays what kids love: inky flash (QB) and mouthy coach. GB got early re-match (clout) hoping to avenge humiliating PS ‘13 loss (45-31) when Kaep ran 181 (2 / 56L) and legend born. Players said Halas was tight with coin (‘toss nickels like manhole covers’), Thompson & Board same cloth (Hawk) which bodes bad for leaky D. Lucky for G-Bay, Jimbo don’t know offense. Packers win.

New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys: NBC 8:30

Good thing for Giants NFL’s a QB league, with ground game hurting. Not like it was strong suit anyway the past few, any more than was Osi’s game. But club with Eli under center has always got BTA chance. As for host Jerry Jones, this scenario is just what he ordered and winner is favorite to take the East, more reason why Garrett & Romo better deliver the goods. They will here. Cowboys win.

Houston Texans @ San Diego Chargers: Mon (9/9), ESPN 10:20 (Zzzzz!)

No Eagles @ Redskins? I almost bit. Worth the watch, not the write. That one’s about celebrity (Vick, Chip & RG3), this one’s about likelihood (SB48). Texans celebrities in 2012 until Cushing went down and Pack put ’em out (WK6). Brian’s back, Reed’s in fold and Fosters (gulp) okay. Schaub wants what Flacco got. And Chargers, it’s McCoy’s first head gig (QB specialty). Rivers won’t need tutor, just more team and kindred spirit at helm. Their time will come, but this time around, Houston wins.

Steven Keys
NFL Hunch Line
Photo Credit: A. Peterson / / Flickr – M. Morbeck / 10-24-10 / GB

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