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There Is Some Crying In Football, With Ray Ratto

3:38 PM EST on January 18, 2024

Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy seeming to look side-eyed at The Distraction logo at upper left, in a photo taken before the team's Wild Card loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Cooper Neill/Getty Images

A constant across every episode of The Distraction is that I always feel like I need to apologize for something afterward, and, as a general rule, the better the episode, the more specific and gratuitous that apology becomes. Some of this is just me and my agonies, and how I process the great personal and professional good fortune of getting to do this sort of thing as part of my work. Sometimes it's because I feel like there's too much football talk in a podcast that is, in my mind, about sandwiches. But if that's the worst thing I can come up with after listening to myself talk for an hour, we've probably done OK.

So I am happy to report that I don't really have much beyond that where this episode is concerned. We talked to Ray about the NFL playoffs, and specifically the takeaways and scattered pleasures of what was mostly a pretty grim Super Wild Card Weekend, for an hour, and I guess my main regret is that we didn't talk about it for longer. As much fun as it can be to talk about other stuff, and in the past we've run the gamut from "books we've read some or even most of" to the aforementioned sandwiches, there is a time when one simply has to Get Ready For Some Football.

And that time, honestly, is this upcoming weekend and the one after that, and not so much the one we spent most of this episode talking about. But if much of Super Wild Card Weekend was about bidding increasingly impatient goodbyes to teams that seemed extremely ready to go home and had for some time, there is still joy to be found in kicking around the variously checked-out and unprepared and heinously malfunctioning teams in the accursed Dolphins/Eagles/Cowboys tranche of blue-chip teams that got waxed. There was also one really good game, and we talked about the Lions with all the warily delighted respect they deserve.

Astute listeners will detect the first stirrings of Ray's (qualified) defense of Mike McCarthy, which has since become a very good post on this very website. Drew said some nice things about the Packers and their coaching staff without even seeming that upset about it, which can't have been easy for him. We tried to figure out what coaches do, for maybe the 100th time in the show's history, although I'm not sure we got much closer than we've been in the past. Even less astute listeners will notice that all of us agree on the identities of each conference's obvious final bosses, although we each brought our own distinctive mix of herbs and spices to our attempts to rationalize any outcome but the (inevitable, honestly pretty cool-sounding) Ravens-49ers Super Bowl.

The football is going to get better from here, and as the lesser teams wash out and the talent gets more concentrated we will surely talk about all this again. While we'll continue to mix in other stuff—and I was very pleased that this week's Funbag question gave me an opportunity to share a thought that has tantalized and tormented me, the short version of which is "Ennio Morricone podcast theme"—we will also be remaining in a state of heightened readiness for some football.

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