The NFL is back and everyone is excited. Where else can you see a punter get kicked in the face on national television? Okay, so Week 1 wasn’t pretty. At least the preseason is over. And believe me, that’s a good thing.
I usually don’t pay much attention to preseason football. The quality of play is poor and the guys taking most of the snaps don’t even make the final rosters. This preseason, however, was loaded with drama and most of it occurred off the field. It started when Cleveland drafted Johnny Manziel (aka Johnny Football, aka Johnny Ego). The Browns returned to Cleveland in 1999. Since then, they’ve lost 10 consecutive season openers, boasted the NFL’s worst record and used the most quarterbacks. Manziel was going to change all that. Unfortunately, despite not playing well enough to earn the starting job, he did find time to flip off the entire Redskins team during a preseason loss. The biggest knock on Manziel is his lack of maturity. Safe to say he still needs to work on that.
The Browns made headlines again when Pro Bowl receiver Josh Gordon was handed a one-year suspension for repeated violations of the league’s substance abuse policy. He won’t be alone. 49ers DB Alden Smith is a repeat offender as well. His latest suspension will keep him off the field until mid November. He actually got off light, avoiding any punishment related to an incident at LAX where he told the security staff he had a bomb.
You’ve heard of the Super Bowl hangover? It evidently doesn’t just impact the winners. Broncos kicker Matt Prater will miss four games due to problems related to alcohol abuse. Teammate Wes Welker will miss four games for popping amphetamines. He claims, and this is my favorite part of the story, the positive drug test was in no way related to allegations he was on Ecstasy (see also Molly) while attending the Kentucky Derby. Hey, if you gotta go to a horse race, you may as well try to spice things up a bit. Receivers Jerome Simpson and Dwayne Bowe will miss the start of the season as well. You guessed it. Substance abuse.
And speaking of, one of the biggest stories from an eventful preseason comes from the Steel City. Can I get a nice funky bass line here?
They were gonna do great things, but then they got high
They would be the rushing kings, until they got high
They won’t get Super Bowl rings, and I know why, hey-hey,
Because they got high, because they got high, because they got high
On August 20th, the Pittsburgh Steelers had eight runningbacks on the official team roster. The first six aren’t worth mentioning because, prior to this season, they’d combined for ZERO NFL rush attempts. The other two, Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount were set to carry the load. Bell was going to slice and dice, gashing opposing defenses for big yardage. Blount was to be the bruiser, getting the ball in goal line situations, using his strength and power to churn his way into the end zone. Well, that’s what was supposed to happen… “but then they got high.” Both players were arrested on marijuana charges and Bell for DUI. As yet, no fines or suspensions have followed. My apologies to Afroman for spoofing such a treasure of American music. But if you want an even better spoof, Bob Rivers has a great Christmas version of the song.
The NFL has considered expanding the regular season. I’ve long opposed that, but I’m thinking now it might not be such a bad idea after all. With all these suspensions, players obviously have too much free time. Did I say players? I meant any/all team personnel. I had to clarify because Colts owner Jim Irsay is banned the first six games of the season for multiple infractions he was able to plead down to a single DUI. He was also fined half a million dollars. This stuff is really giving the NFL a black eye.
And on the subject of black eyes, I should point out that not all suspensions are related to substance abuse. Ravens runningback Ray Rice received a two-game ban because he punched his fiancee hard enough to knock her out. That’s obviously way worse that smoking a little weed. Why the punishment was so minimal is beyond me. Recently, however, some video surfaced that showed Ray in action. He was subsequently released by the Ravens and I applaud them for taking a stand.
Let’s move on to something a little more tasteful, and I mean that literally. I plan on making these updates a bit shorter than in previous years. I realize I’m off to a rough start but we haven’t had football for the past seven months and there was a lot to cover. I’ll try to do better in future. I’m also introducing something new. What makes football so great? Sure, you’ve got the flamboyant personalities, the thrill of competition and the anticipation of the big play, but the same could be said for plenty of other professional sports. There’s the mounting intensity of the NFL’s sixteen game regular season and the knowledge that a single loss could be the difference between a playoff appearance and an early tee time. Is that enough to keep tens of millions of Americans glued to their couches every Sunday? I think not, at least not without the food. Football is the only sport with its own menu. Yeah, baseball’s got its famed peanuts and Cracker Jacks but that’s about as far as it goes. I can’t think of a single delicacy associated with basketball, hockey or even racing. Sorry NASCAR fans. A corn dog and Budweiser do not count as food. With football, however, you’ve got chicken wings, chili, brats, guacamole, the occasional turducken and the list goes on and on. Football fare is worthy of celebration. Therefore, at least through the end of this season, I’ve decided to include a recipe in each weekly update. If you have a football favorite you’d like me to include, please let me know. Who knows? Maybe I’ll publish a game day cookbook once I’m done.
The two best football foods are, obviously, beer and cheese. Therefore, it seems only fitting to kick things off with my own spicy beer cheese recipe. It’s fast, cheap, easy and it tastes great. What could be better?
2 cups finely shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground red pepper
1/4 tsp hot sauce
1/4 cup flat beer (slightly more if necessary)
Add cheese, spices and hot sauce to food processor and mix until ingredients begin to blend. Add beer and mix until creamy. You might need more beer to get desired consistency. You may also prefer to add more hot sauce. That depends on how daring you are. Although the recipe calls for cheddar, I actually prefer a cheese blend. I would caution against using too much sharp cheddar because the flavor can overpower the other ingredients. Beer cheese is best served with carrot and celery sticks, hearty crackers or bread sticks, pretzel bites, sticks, rods, chips or pretty much anything else from the pretzel family; or, if none of that works for you, grab a big ol’ spoon and dig in. Enjoy!
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