The NFL Wants To Be The Reason For The Season
12:25 PM EST on December 22, 2023
Not that you should care let alone do, but we are spending our holiday Monday at a 49er house. Not because it's a 49er house, but because it is a relatives' house whose inhabitants are 49ers fans. This means that adjustments will be made to accommodate the game because somewhere Roger Goodell wants to kill, gut, sauté, and serve Santa as a side dish because Santa is one of the few things still bigger than the National Football League.
(And by Roger Goodell, we mean Jerry Jones. Goodell is just taking his $60M front money so that we think of him every time the league does something intrusively brutish.)
The question you should be asking here, of course, is "Why wouldn't you have your family gathering the night before, when the alternative is Patriots-Broncos and therefore no threat to anyone's attention span?" And the answer is obviously, "Well, are you a Holiday Eve family or a Holiday On The Holiday family?" so they scheduled both since even the league office can't know that. At least not until they petition the Supreme Court to have monitoring chips nail-gunned into our brains for data collection purposes, and we are only one country club invitation for Associate Grifter Clarence Thomas away from that, so prep accordingly.
But we digress, as is our wont. The fact remains that this year's holiday fest will be a truncated one because it isn't just 49ers, but 49ers-Ravens. A Super Bowl preview. An MVP plebiscite. Something for the back-up chat shows to chew on while the regulars have the week off. This is officially a big deal, big enough to force millions of people to rush through the gift-givings and the meal and the fourth round of cocktails and the shooing of children to their rooms to fight over which toys get broken first. There will be no board games, act-out games, card games, or anything else once the dessert dishes have been cleared away. There are playoff-implication-soaked mesomorph collisions in which to luxuriate, and time with loved ones will just have to eat it.
If you need a traditional sign from the east, it's that the 49ers have moved from -4.5 on the look-ahead line to -5.5 with a 47 total. The temperature will be in the mid-40s with a slight chance of rain, plus a waxing gibbous moon, which has always been bad news for the Lions on Thanksgiving Day. Maybe it works for other home teams on other holidays too, so consider that Defector's holiday gift to you.
It wasn't always this way, with football owning the holidays rather than the other way around. The first time the NFL tried to muscle the Christ out of Christmas was 1972 with two playoff games, and because the second one, Dolphins-Chiefs, went into double overtime, millions of family-values weenies went batcrap crazy about desecration and deterioration and commercialization of the most commercial holiday, all the way up to a Kansas state legislator introducing a bill to ban NFL games on Dec. 25 because attention-grabbing whoredom is not just today's political scourge. It went nowhere, of course, because Chiefs-Dolphins was pretty bad-ass.
But the league avoided the day for the next 17 years until Bengals-Vikings, a Week 16 nothingburger that at least didn't arouse any state lawmakers horny for notice, and since then the league has snuck in a game here or there free of incident. Last year though, emboldened by the nation's surrender to football, they went full Thanksgiving schedule, giving us Packers-Dolphins (feh on toast), Broncos-Rams (who asked for that?) and Bucs-Cardinals, which went to overtime but created no real anger or notice because by then we'd all concluded that Manger Boy had stopped paying attention midway through Broncos-Rams.
Thus, this year the NFL, fully cognizant of its role as the new American deity, went full-on with two rivalry games sure to cause fistfights under the mistletoe: Raiders-Chiefs, which is traditionally the biggest day of the year for bail bondsmen, and Giants-Eagles, with Tommy DeVito's mom being cursed by Eagles fans for allegedly making Cool Whip cannolis—and then Ravens-49ers from that famous religious site Levi's Stadium, named after the god of pants.
If that 10 hours of football before family doesn't make clear to you our priorities as a nation, then you are every bit the idiot your parents think you are. If it means you're on the West Coast eating dinner at 2 p.m. and shoved out of the house by 4:30 to keep the pregame show sacred, then that's what it means. Deal with it, and we'll see you all back here for Calendar Trashing Day next weekend. Bring whatever you don't drink on Monday.