It’s Week 4 of the NFL year, which means that by Monday night, we will already be 23.529% of the way through the season. “Has it really been 23.529% already?” you are saying. I know. It always sneaks up on me, too. But in a “quarterback sneak” sort of way, where it’s actually pretty straightforward, and not sneaky at all.
Now that the first quarter of the season will be sort of not quite over soonish, it’s time to see how closely you’ve been paying attention. This week, I’ll test your NFL knowledge with a punishing battery of Block & Tackle quizzes. Those who dare to proceed, rather than scrolling immediately to the picks, will be challenged in three crucial areas of Block & Tackle pro football studies: TV announcers, mascots, and Sunday Night Football ephemera. Let’s begin.
1. What is former Cowboys quarterback and current talk-about-football person Troy Aikman’s favorite adjective and adverb, respectively?
- A. terpsichorean, ostentatiously
- B. impious, friggin’
- C. (no particular preference), riotously
- D. heckuva, heckuva
2. In Week 2 of CBS’ NFL coverage, which member of the network’s studio crew was mocked by his colleagues throughout the broadcast day, and for what inane reason?
- A. Bill Cowher, for wearing a polka-dot tie
- B. Nate Burleson, for wearing a purple shirt
- C. Boomer Esiason, for wearing a green jacket
- D. Phil Simms, for being Phil Simms
3. The details of football strategy are often referred to as “the X’s and O’s.” But according to CBS analyst Dan Fouts, what combination is even more crucial to victory than the X’s and O’s?
- A. The ebbs and flows
- B. The Jimmys and Joes
- C. The yardage-to-gos
- D. The buttons and bows
- 1. D
- 2. C
- 3. B
Of the following, which are the names of actual NFL mascots, and which are erotic toys intended for use by adventurous, consenting adults?
- Jet Midnight
- Big Red
- Satisfyer Pro Penguin Next Generation
- Steely McBeam
- Booty Sparks
- Rise And Conquer
- Thunder III
The mascots are: Rowdy (Dallas Cowboys), Viktor (Minnesota Vikings), Rampage (Los Angeles Rams), Big Red (Arizona Cardinals), Blitz (Seattle Seahawks), Steely McBeam (Pittsburgh Steelers), T-Rac (Tennessee Titans), Rise And Conquer (Baltimore Ravens), and Thunder III (Denver Broncos).
Titus, Jet Midnight, Satisfyer Pro Penguin Next Generation, Izzy, and Booty Sparks are all adult toys, for sex. If you don’t believe me, Google them on your work computer.
Intermission: Two NFL mascot videos that feature jokes about the mascots having posters of Justin Bieber
The first video is from 2012, and it imagines what would happen if the then-St. Louis Rams mascot, Rampage, were forced to share a hotel room with a football player. The Bieber poster first appears at 0:28. At 0:45, there is an apparent shot of mascot pubic hair on a toilet seat. It is unsettling.
In the second video, Viktor The Viking evacuates the Metrodome. The Bieber poster appears at 0:40. Viktor tears it while he’s taking it down from the wall, which doesn’t seem like was in the script.
Sometimes the research I do for this column really pays off. Sometimes, this happens.
1. NBC’s Sunday Night Football occasionally employs a “four-up” split screen to demonstrate the awesome might of its control room. To which classic game show title sequence does SNF’s four-up pay inadvertent homage?
- A. Card Sharks
- B. To Tell The Truth
- C. Just Men!
- D. Double Dare
2. When Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield threw a pass out of bounds in the fourth quarter of the Browns’ loss to the Los Angeles Rams, Al Michaels narrated the action by saying, “And he’ll fling that one halfway to Illyria.” What is Illyria?
- A. It’s a reference I definitely understand, because there’s no way a football announcer is smarter than I am.
- B. Look, I went to college. Of course I know what Illyria is.
- C. Maybe YOU should just tell ME what Illyria is. As I have established, I know what it is, but I want to see if you do.
- D. Illyria was a region in the western Balkan Peninsula, across the Adriatic Sea from Rome, and I did not have to look that up on Wikipedia.
3. To accentuate an aerial shot of Cleveland and to save money on music licensing fees, Sunday Night Football recycled the theme song from what “Must See TV”-era NBC sitcom that is set in the Cleveland suburbs?
- A. 3rd Rock From The Sun
- B. Veronica’s Closet
- C. Hope & Gloria
- D. Caroline In The City
4. The Sunday Night Football graphics team assembled this graphic of the five most effervescent and jocular men that Cleveland Browns head coach Freddy Kitchens has ever worked with. Which man would be the most fun to invite over to watch The Great British Bake-Off?
- A. Gene Stallings, who loves the creative designs on display in the Showstopper round
- B. Bill Parcells, who thinks judge Paul Hollywood can be a little too mean
- C. Ken Whisenhunt
- D. Bruce Arians, who has never cooked a savory pie but would like to try it
- 1. A or D
- 2. B
- 3. A
- 4. D
(UPDATE: Extremely intelligent Block & Tackle reader Matt K. writes in to explain that Al Michaels was saying “Elyria,” a suburb of Cleveland, not “Illyria.” However, the answer to question No. 2 is still “B.”)
Total up all of the answers you got correct. Write that number down on a piece of paper. Look at the number. Does it make you feel like you are a smart person, a good person, a person who deserves to be happy in this life? If not, erase the number and write down a bigger one. Repeat until the number brings you joy. The Block & Tackle quiz is not here to make you feel bad about yourself. That’s what Thursday Night Football is for.
Ad Man X is an award-winning creative executive at a major national agency in Chicago. He has overseen TV ad campaigns, including Super Bowl commercials, for a variety of the major global brands that helpfully control what we consume and think. He has agreed to share his expertise with the likes of you and me, under cover of anonymity. (Ad Man X will not comment on any TV commercials in which he is professionally involved—all participation in Block & Tackle is completely unprofessional.)
For this edition of Ad Man X, I asked our expert to consider the latest work by perennial pitchman Peyton Manning, plus he weighs in on a quarterback from the next generation who hopes to follow in Manning’s footsteps as a world-class product endorser.
Former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning sits alone in a sport-utility vehicle, smiling and nodding at the dashboard. As we go inside the truck, we see that Manning is speaking to an electronic device that helps him assemble a shopping list. A ukulele has been added to the list, and perhaps other musical instruments prior to this moment—we cannot know. Musician Brad Paisley approaches the truck and informs Manning that the list is unnecessary. Manning does not concur.
AMX: This is a pretty long-running series with cowboy man and Peyton Manning. They’re our modern-day Laurel & Hardy.
B&T: Yes. That was my question for you regarding years-long commercial series like this. How does such momentum build up behind what, to me, is a rather dull idea—Peyton Manning engages in gentle verbal sparring with Brad Paisley—until it becomes an entity unto itself? How is it that Nationwide every year, says, “Eh, let’s just do Peyton with the jingle again”?
AMX: The short answer is fear. If you try something new, it might not work, and that’s how CMOs get fired. I guarantee [Nationwide] made their agency show them 10 different concepts that don’t involve Peyton Manning and cowboy man. [People at Nationwide] are just like, “Well, maybe! Let’s play around with some ideas!” And then in the end, they’re like, “Yeah, let’s just go with those guys. We know they work.”
B&T: And they “work” in what sense?
AMX: They probably measure [with audience research] the connection between those two actors and the brand. And among the public, [Manning and Paisley] are probably shown to be more likable than a slab of concrete, so Nationwide says, “Okay, sure!”
B&T: The reason I teed up a pair of Peyton Manning commercials is that I feel he’s the gold standard not just of football celebrity spokespeople, but probably of any TV celebrity endorser right now. As much as I feel I should be sick of him, I’m not. Because he’s a good comic actor.
AMX: I mean, the last joke in this Nationwide commercial is clearly ad-libbed. And I respect that. Not to reveal my “Ad Man X” identity, but I’ve worked with [Manning], and he’s awesome. He genuinely wants to do well in these. I don’t know if he has an acting coach or not, but he listens to directors. He’s always trying to add a little more. And he does have charm and charisma.
B&T: Does he stand apart from other athletes you’ve worked with, insofar as he cares about the final product?
AMX: He is one of the rare athletes who actually wants to hang out on the set and watch things being done. Most athletes spend their time in their outrageously expensive trailer. But Peyton—even when it wasn’t him on camera—he wanted to be part of it. It felt more like an actor instead of just someone being paid an outrageous amount of money.
A woman gazes anxiously at a New Orleans Saints jersey drooping from a drawer. Peyton Manning arrives to discourage the woman from laundering the jersey, or any other apparel for that matter, because it is Sunday (the day during which most NFL games are televised). It would be better to watch football today, Manning argues. The homeowner dons her jersey and, after pretending to search behind a cushion for her remote control, activates her television. To assuage any remaining disquiet, Manning reassures the Saints fan and the viewing audience that the Tide brand of laundry detergent will still exist tomorrow.
AMX: The overall concept of this one is a little baffling. Do you struggle with whether or not to do your laundry on Sundays? Does anyone?
B&T: No. Football, with all its commercial breaks, halftime—it’s perfect for getting laundry done. Especially if, like me, you watch football in your basement right next to the laundry room.
AMX: I only fold my laundry during NFL games. I don’t know if I can do it any other time! That’s my peace and quiet on the weekend. I know that no child will bother me, because the NFL is Kryptonite to them. So I can sit quietly, watch a game, and drag out the process of folding my laundry to three hours.
B&T: Tide has been fairly bold with their commercials lately. Last year, they had a bunch of ads for the Super Bowl where, in each commercial, it was a surprise that it was an ad for Tide. Now they’ve invented this goofy war between Peyton Manning and Kenan Thompson over which day you should do laundry. As an advertising professional, what do you make of their overall strategy?
AMX: I have great respect for Tide because they genuinely attempt things. The alternative, which you see in countless hours of television, is “We make your whites whiter. Here’s a demonstration.” Et cetera. At the very least, Tide develops a conceptual conceit, and they go all in on it. I personally feel that this conceit isn’t great, but I admire that they’re committed to it—I admire that this company hasn’t fallen into garbage work.
B&T: That’s a contrast to the hypothetical situation with Nationwide that you describe, where they just keep letting it ride with the old idea.
AMX: They could have recycled the same concept and run it into the ground, but whoever is running [Tide’s advertising campaigns] is saying, “I’m going to try things.” This [Laundry Night idea] may or may not work in real life—it doesn’t work for me, but okay—at least they’re like, “Yup, fire me if you want! We’re doing something different.” Among the millions of brands in the world, there are probably like four of them that are willing to do things like that.
To address the problem of a malfunctioning blender in a food-preparation area, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield haphazardly flips switches on a circuit breaker at the Browns’ home stadium. Mayfield’s efforts do not resolve the issue, to his mild consternation.
B&T: Look, Peyton Manning’s not going to be around forever, and he’s retired from the NFL. So there are many competitors among active players to succeed him on the throne of Most Telegenic TV Commercial Quarterback. Here’s Baker Mayfield.
AMX: I felt for a brief moment that Baker Mayfield behaved like a real person in this spot. He was knocking on the door of an actual acting performance. He went up to the line of being charming. I don’t think he’s taking down Peyton just yet, but I’m willing to stick with this young kid. [Laughs.]
B&T: He did deliver a lot of lines. So high marks for quantity. On the other hand, he’s just yelling at a circuit breaker.
AMX: They’re playing to his strengths.
I’m going to humiliate myself before your audience because I thought Baker Mayfield might have been a home improvement guy from HGTV. [Laughs.] I apologize. But I thought, this is a concept where the home improvement guy is making the stadium his home and having the same issues we homeowners have. I was kind of on board with that.
Then I realized that he’s a quarterback, and it got a little confusing. Progressive’s selling their home insurance, and the stadium is kind of Baker Mayfield’s home—I stopped trying to reason it out.
B&T: The YouTube clip for this one includes extra footage from the Mayfield shoot. In the commercial, he says about the circuit breaker, “I don’t know who labeled this thing.” And in the bonus scene, he says, “Who labeled these?”
AMX: John, they had to color-correct this scene. They had to pay an editor. This was an expensive extra, and I dare say worth it.
Did you click through, as Baker asked you, to see other executions of “At Home”? At least his flannel shirt does make it feel like he’s at home.
B&T: Yes. He’s one of us. Except I don’t wear a Nike headband around the house.
AMX: We’ve found that, when we work with people from the sports world—once you get the professional athlete, coming with him are all his various lifetime contracts. I’m sure Nike said, “Sure, you can be in that Progressive video, but you’ve got to put on a weird bandana with our logo smack in the middle of your forehead.”
Block & Tackle is the exclusive home of the QuantumPick Apparatus, the only football prediction system that evaluates every possible permutation of a given NFL week to arrive at the true victor in each contest. Put simply, Block & Tackle picks are guaranteed to be correct. When a game’s outcome varies from this column’s prediction, the game is wrong.
In Week 3 NFL action, nine games corresponded with the QuantumPicks. Seven games did not, indicating that they took place in a defective reality. This was a distressingly variant weekend of football. By Sunday evening, it looked as if the threads of reality might unravel. Then the Browns lost on Sunday Night Football, and normality kicked back in. When causality starts to feel wonky, the universe likes to use a Browns loss to set things right again.
If your plane of existence was distorted by Sunday’s gridiron aberrations, deploy an inverse tachyon pulse at your earliest convenience. (Overall season record: 30-18)
Teams determined to be victorious by the QuantumPick Apparatus are indicated in SHOUTING LETTERS.
Philadelphia Eagles vs. GREEN BAY PACKERS (NFL Network, Fox) (timestamped pick): Do not blame the QuantumPick Apparatus for the reality-distorting qualities of Thursday Night Football.
Tennessee Titans vs. ATLANTA FALCONS (CBS): The Titans are 32-43 all-time against teams named after birds.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS vs. Buffalo Bills (CBS)
Cleveland Browns vs. BALTIMORE RAVENS (CBS): Among the many fantabulous contraptions invented by Cleveland Browns founder Paul Brown, this handy ball warmer also serves as a nightmarish torture chamber, from the football’s point of view.
Oakland Raiders vs. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (CBS)
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS vs. Miami Dolphins (CBS): The Miami Dolphins have some of the prettiest end zones in the league, even if the Miami players rarely get to see them up close.
WASHINGTON vs. New York Giants (Fox)
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS vs. Detroit Lions (Fox): If you plan to be in the Detroit area this weekend, consider attending the Detroit Lions “Fantennial,” at which the team will attempt to set the world record for firing footballs at a lion’s butt. (Current world record: zero.)
Carolina Panthers vs. HOUSTON TEXANS (Fox)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. LOS ANGELES RAMS (Fox)
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS vs. Arizona Cardinals (Fox)
Minnesota Vikings vs. CHICAGO BEARS (CBS): The QuantumPick Apparatus predicts a final score of 5-4 in this contest.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. DENVER BRONCOS (CBS)
Dallas Cowboys vs. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (NBC)
Cincinnati Bengals vs. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (ESPN)
If you’d like to contact me with an item for Block & Tackle, or just to say hello, you can email me: my first name, at symbol, my full name, dot com. You can also reach me via Twitter. Thank you for reading, and for the fun and smart comments. Until then, keep on long-snappin’.