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Football's Bland Diet

Mike Olson Avatar
October 20, 2023

The unveiling of the long-rumored “Pepper X” this week made me think of so many things. Of great shows like Hot Ones, of people who fiddle with and design vegetable DNA to spit out something hotter than bear spray, and of my dad, who started me out eating hot foods, and eventually conceded that he just no longer wanted to keep up with me trying. Later in life, he got put on something called the “Bland Diet” for a short while, and for months all he was able to eat were things like crackers, noodles, and Cream of Wheat. Gallons and gallons of Cream of Wheat. Even for someone who was a fan of the stuff, he wore out on the sheer magnitude quickly.

I asked him about it, and in between curse words, he said the diet was perfectly (@$%&ing) named. That he felt like all he could taste, all he would ever taste again would be BLAND. Some salted version of porridgey mush.

Remembering that kind of reminded me of watching the NFL these last couple seasons.

It’s been hard to put my finger on it, but was chatting with a couple buddies last night while flipping back and forth between Jags/Saints on Thursday Night Football, and the two Championship Series games that Major League Baseball played yesterday, each of us trying to remember the last Thursday night NFL game that was entertaining. One of my compatriots posited that the next one might end up being the first one. I’m guessing he’s forgotten just how long Thursday games have been around. Where I don’t disagree with him is in the recent quality of the games You’d have to think Amazon must be pissed, with what they spent to get those rights.

Sadly, it’s not just the midweek game that seems to be suffering. Whether it’s a matter of the NFL’s eternal quest for parity, the rules changes that have come as a byproduct of better protecting the players, or just exceptionally bad timing, the results of games week after week seem to be more often predicated on which team was penalized last or most. The quality of results, the incredible number of empty drives, the gaffes and penalties, the inconsistency week over week…

And no, I promise I’m not just describing my beloved Broncos.

Wandering through the games of the first six weeks of the season has shown a preponderance of games only a mother could love, with results either extremely out of balance because one team is wildly outclassed, or games close more because neither team seems to want to stop tripping all over themselves. Even marquee games like this week’s Monday Night Football matchup between the Cowboys and Chargers was a snooze fest, with neither team seizing the game, neither generating much offense, and both penalizing themselves in the most crucial moments. Dallas didn’t so much win by thumping L.A. as they did by messing up just a little less.

It’s fair to wonder if these are simply the musings of a disgruntled Broncos fan who is watching another beloved sport’s (baseball) postseason and enjoying such immensely talented players literally slug it out. Maybe it’s just being pissed about the Predominantly Orange that has my undies out of joint, but I don’t think so. Even watching the end of Jacksonville/New Orleans last night… Building to something, just to watch a tie bounce off a tight end’s fingertips. Just… blah. Maybe a Detroit Lions fan or Miami Dolphins fan thinks this is the greatest NFL season in decades. Maybe. But maybe not. For whatever single reason, or more likely a hundred tiny little reasons, 90% of NFL football these days is just… gallons and gallons and GALLONS of Cream of Wheat.


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