I Am Watching Football: 2021 NFL Week 3; Bake Off Week 1

This Sunday I attended in person my first NFL game since I was about 12, and I learned the following:

  • Early fall 1pm games are a fantastic way to spend hundreds of dollars getting sun and alcohol poisoning.
  • Way more Bills fans are willing to (at least pretend to) be vaccinated than I was anticipating.
  • This game seems way easier in person.

Before I’m accused of, you know, never having played the game, I’m not saying it isn’t difficult or takes skill, rather the presentation on television gives it quite a different look than it does up close (these were pretty good seats). In fact it may be precisely because I’ve never played and have so rarely been to games that I’m noticing this difference on the field. I’m wondering now if this is actually a deliberate directorial choice in order to make the game seem more exciting. In a typical sequence, the ball is hiked and the camera pushes in on the quarterback as the receivers all run downfield, out of frame. If the ball is thrown, the camera follows it, the suspense building as it moves to some unseen destination. Is there a receiver down there? Is he open? Will the ball be caught? And then the sudden burst of action and resolution as ball and frame catch up to the final few moments of downfield action.

There’s no such suspense in person. Standing a section or so back from the end zone, it’s very obvious where everyone is, where the ball is going and why. Watching with a static frame of reference, it even seems to move slower and spend more time in the air, especially in comparison to the movement of the players who on camera seem practically stationary compared to the ball as the frame rushes to catch up to them but in person seem to have endless time to zip around as it completes its trajectory. I recognize this is probably due more to them being fast than the ball being slow.

The NFL has at times experimented with changing the traditional camera setup, usually during its slightly less prestigious Thursday or Monday night games. I recall a trial run a few years back where they primarily ran the behind-the-quarterback view from the SkyCam, generally pulled up for replays when they go to then show you why the play happened the way it did what with everything you couldn’t see from the other angle. Personally I’d like to see them push further in this direction. While there is a satisfying symmetry to the traditional sideline view, and I wouldn’t do away with it entirely, I think it is more a legacy of the days of the 4:3 aspect ratio, and there being no SkyCam.

Hell, even the video I took from the stands where a guy’s head gets in the way of the end of the play I think gives a better perspective on how the whole thing developed than the sideline view often does, so come on, get inventive with it.

Obligatory Sports Talk

Buffalo’s game was pretty much the only one I watched this week, being there and all. They won (would have been pretty sad to lose to Washington), and I did cheer for them, despite my previously discussed hesitancy to be a full blown supporter of the team this year. They did at least make everyone in the stands show proof of vaccination, even if the same requirement is inexplicably not in place for the players.

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Now that we’re a few weeks into the season, the Thursday and Monday night games are mostly not available on broadcast television, forcing me to relocate to the local corner bar to keep up with the games that ESPN or NFL Network have exclusive rights to. This has its advantages and disadvantages. I have missed being out of the house on a more regular basis, but if it’s even semi-busy you have people playing jukebox songs and cutting out the announcers, which is understandable sure but detrimental to my ability to comment on the games as a cultural and creative enterprise rather than just a sport. It has however alerted me to the existence of NFL Network’s three hour morning show that airs 7am Monday-Friday (and then re-airs 10am-1pm), Good Morning Football. It doesn’t just run during the season either, this is a year-round enterprise, and… who is this for? Who is up at 7 and instantly like, I need to hear people talk about football? It feels like a window into an alternate reality where football is the very basis of society, the only thing worth talking about, even when it’s not happening, for three hours, every day.

The biggest head scratcher is why this exists. Also fuck you the NFL, do you not want free exposure from your videos being shared? And you wonder why viewership is dropping.

A Dream I Had the Other Night

I was on the streets of some dense metropolitan area when suddenly the ground began to shake. The building next to me started to lean forward, collapsing towards the sidewalk, forcing me to dive around the corner to avoid it. This provided only a brief reprieve as yet more began to fall, all around me, as I sprinted one way and then the next, always just steps away from being crushed.

Can’t Stop. Won’t Stop.

GameStop ($GME) price as of writing: $175.92


What Else Am I Watching?

Spoilers for Week 1 of The Great British Bake Off incoming.

Now things can really get started. Football is great and all, but Bake Off, this is real sport. This is challenges, suspense, strategy, drama, elation and crushing defeat, all delivered through one of the most pleasantly shot and presented shows that… exists. Period. If the premise sounds to you like a bore, not only is it charming and easily the kindest reality show on television (a hugely refreshing attitude compared to the American, “I’m here to win it and you can all go fuck yourselves” tone we’re so often faced with) but it’s engaging and intriguing even if you’re, like me, not much of a baker. At least not at this level. I think it was the technical challenges that first caught my attention in the show, where the bakers are all given the same ingredients and asked to prepare the same bake, but from a recipe with key details left out of it, leaving them to use their fundamental knowledge of various skills to fill in the blanks and produce the result the judges are looking for. It’s an ingenious challenge, placed perfectly within the structure of the show which runs Signature (the bakers all bring their own twist to a generally standard recipe, usually one where multiple batches are required, consistency being key and all that), Technical, and then Showstopper (usually a hugely involved and intricately decorated construction of some sort).

We begin, as is tradition, with Cake Week, giving all twelve the chance to present their abilities in a form they should all be comfortable with. The signature was Swiss rolls, which are a well-trod challenge on the show. By this point regular viewers are well familiar with the struggle of baking a sponge and cooling it just the right amount so that it can be rolled without cracking, the shots of this maneuver never ceasing to induce gut-wrenching tension. Honestly though it was a bit disappointing as the season opener given its familiarity. It’s too early to start getting into the performances of the specific bakers, as for now there are simply too many of them (an editing challenge for the show as well) and a few won’t be around long, ultimately, but they mostly acquitted themselves well here.

The technical stepped things up a bit when it came to providing something new. One of my favourites on the show is when they find older recipes that have gone out of style, resurrecting something that especially the younger bakers may not be aware of at all, and adding to the challenge of working to create something that you’re not sure what it’s even supposed to look like. They were given a relatively easy one for the first week, nothing too difficult to replicate visually, a “malt loaf”, though the ingredients did seem to catch some of the bakers out of their element.

Then the showstopper, “gravity defying” cakes which needed to be engineered such that at least one element appears suspended or leaned over to a degree so that it appears to, well, defy gravity. And I have to say this felt a bit mean for a Week 1 challenge, the more intense constructions usually come later in the series. Perhaps though there’s something to be said for an immediate trial by fire to see who sinks and who swims (I can mix my metaphors better than some of the bakers did their flour this week).

We’ll get more into the contestants as the series continues, the first week leaves time for little more than brief introductions, a quick run around the cast of usual characters. Really no surprises there this year, the traditional mix of young and old and varying degrees of photogenic, designed seemingly such that a certain balance of demographics will be maintained until the last few eliminations. We said goodbye to Tom this week, a decision that felt semi-arbitrary (not helped by the show not having time to do the usual “judges confer about who’s top and bottom” segment before elimination) against the others who had struggled. Jürgen took home Star Baker, again seemingly with a slim margin and not much offered in rationale, but these are problems that will quickly improve as the eliminations continue and the show gets more breathing room.

And we’ll be here every week to watch it, so if you want to keep up without having me spoil the results you better get on it. Episodes air Tuesdays in England, hit Netflix in the US on Friday, and I’ll generally still be aiming for Wednesdays I think so you’ll have time.


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