It’s Sunday again, which can only mean six or seven things, but one of them is how the mutant twins NFL RedZone and Red Zone Channel are just plain missing the point.
It is generally agreed that these particular tendrils of the NFL empire have been among the best ways to reach an audience that wearies of three-hour anything, and prefers its mystery novels to start on the page where the murderer is revealed. In their dozen or so years of existence, the two delivery needles for this particular version of America’s heroin have eliminated all those troublesome second-and-sevens and punts and overthrown out patterns, and gone right to anything that is, could be, or was an almost touchdown or field goal. What’s more, both hosts, Scott Hanson and Andrew Siciliano, appear downright thrilled to bring them to you because as we know, nothing ennobles the human spirit quite like points in any form.
Only that’s not the audience they are actually serving. Most viewers are actually quite bothered by every touchdown because most viewers are sludgeblooded fantasy degenerates (a three-way redundancy, we know), and every touchdown represents joy for at most 10 percent and at least as low as one percent of the audience, depending how many people happen to be in your particular league and how unexpected the scorer. Everyone else is torqued off to one extent or another by the development on the screen, and neither show reflects that massive yet grossly underserved audience.
What should be happening is Hanson and Siciliano introducing every potential score with an ominous “Brace yourselves, morons. Most of you are about to get angry.” And because fantasy football (or as it ought to be called, night-terror football) has a multitude of formats, every score, even if it’s only Olamide Zaccheaus on a one-yard pass from Matt Schaub, is making most of the audience unhappy. Either someone on your team missed out on a scoring opportunity, or someone on your opponent’s team cashed in. Likely both, given how badly you draft. Both iterations of Red Zone football should reflect this, down to the point where Hanson and Siciliano are shown sitting in a darkly lit garage, looking like Bill Belichick’s Monday sweatshirt only with Sunday’s alcohol spewed upon it, bitterly spitting out every update with a combination of disgust and malevolence more in keeping with the audience and the times.
And if you’re into that even more pernicious development of showing the audience members on the show via Zoom—a version of Gogglebox in hell, if you must—it should be of enraged, gesticulating, finger-firing misanthropes hurling half-filled gin and tonics at Mother Samsung and cursing their luck, their judgment, their favorite teams, and their family members, as they do in real life. Even just a shot of a fuming woman doing nothing but vaping like a Soviet-era power plant and flipping off the screen for minutes at a time would strike the correct tone.
And this would go on for the seven hours between first kickoff and final gun, and end only when Siciliano transitions into the closing score montage by saying something pithy and memorable like, “And that’s it for today. You lost, your friends hate you and you hate them, nothing’s been gained, life is futile. Give up.” Or, because Hanson is slightly cheerier onscreen than Siciliano, the sunnier “Seven hours closer to the grave, methwits. Maybe next week you’ll make enough of an effort not to autodraft the Jets defense,” morphing into a single six-day-long slide of Satan laughing.
Or worse (meaning better in this case), let’s stay with the theme of paralyzing despair and go with the Belichick hostage Polaroid from last week. If Red Zone is the largely depressing cavalcade of the evils of hubris-based gambling, the view of Belichick’s wolverine-savaged sweatshirt and the face that launched a thousand exploding paint factories is the image everyone should carry into next week’s show, and the one after that, and forever until the planet explodes simultaneously with one last Cody Parkey missed field goal. Red Zone is a tribute to the average citizen’s capacity to endure any level of failure as long as it’s televised, and it should reflect that essential truth.
And now, let’s get ready for Sunday’s games, and the big event that will start it, the Meadowlands Stadium medical cart driver’s big road rally. You traditionalists may prefer to call it 49ers-Giants.