The NFL has been in the news a lot lately for non-football related things. I’m talking, of course, about Colin Kaepernick and the debate over him kneeling before the National Anthem.
Normally I’d be all over writing a long column defending Kaepernick, because what he’s doing is great and the way it’s inspired athletes at the professional, college, and high school level to protest police brutality has been equally great, but there’s already been so much writing about the subject. Go read everything that Shaun King has been writing about it.
Here are a couple of quick, quick thoughts about this National Anthem issue:
- I was worried that Kaepernick’s protests would cost him an NFL job, because NFL owners and management tend to be white and rich and (educated assumption forthcoming) probably not very receptive to the Black Lives Matter movement. Thankfully, Kaep is still on an NFL roster, though he isn’t starting for his team.
- The argument that Kaepernick himself is rich and has succeeded in America and therefore should not protest America is extremely flawed. First, having money and status doesn’t erase race issues—a fact on full display when you look at how everyone’s uncle talks about President Obama on Facebook or how police departments across the nation decided to protest Beyonce shows.
- A couple of teams linked arms to show their unity during the Anthem this week. I’m not sold on this being an effective form of protest because calls for unity seem so often to come from the same people who paint blue stripes on the rear window of their pickup trucks—even if the teams had their hearts in the right place—the Seahawks, for instance, made this decision after the very socially active Doug Baldwin announced that the players planned to take part in some kind of Anthem demonstration—this form of protest isn’t really focusing on police brutality in the way that Kaepernick’s is.
- Protesting America does not equal hating America.
- We’ll see if these protests increase next week—this Sunday was the fifteen year anniversary of September 11th, so patriotism was in full display around the league. Next Sunday won’t carry that same level of historical significance, so players may be more apt to kneel during the Anthem.
Anyway, on to another issue that happened this week:
The ESPN Fantasy App and When Corporations Fail Us
Fantasy football is a really, really big deal in America. People spend millions of dollars to play in leagues with their friends, family, colleagues. There are a lot of issues with fantasy that I’ll probably get into later this season—specifically the way fantasy players view NFL players as commodities—but right now my big issue is with one of the companies that facilitates fantasy football.
ESPN calls themselves the Worldwide Leader in Sports, but this Sunday they were the Worldwide Leader in Broken Technology. Right after the start of the first docket of NFL games, the Fantasy app and the Fantasy website both went down.
For me, this wasn’t that big of a deal. I’d already set my lineup for the day, so all I was missing was the ability to check on my score. Every few minutes I’d refresh the app to see if it was working and, well, it wasn’t. The first games marched toward halftime and still it didn’t work. Then they started to end and still it didn’t work.
This was where things got messy. In fantasy football, a person is allowed to take players out of their lineup and replace them with another player as long as neither players’ teams have started their IRL games. With the app and website down, though, people weren’t able to do this before the handful of afternoon games started.
There are real life ramifications to this breakdown. The big one is monetary—people who play in leagues that required each member to contribute X amount of money, with the winner at the end of the season collecting Y amount of money, saw the outcomes of their games impacted by their inability to mess with their lineups. Anyone who was waiting until right before the afternoon games to see if a certain injured player would actually play or not or who couldn’t make the final decision between two players because they seemed too evenly matched and planned to choose at game time ended up not getting to make that choice. Instead, their lineups were stuck being whatever they were at noon.
I’ve long had a mistrust of technology—stemming from growing up in a small town where innovation arrived so slowly—and more recently have developed a mistrust of big business and corporations—stemming from the fact that capitalism is flawed and corporations often end up with more rights than actual human people do—so Sunday got me really feeling the anger re: ESPN.
Regardless of what they themselves think, companies have a responsibility to consumers. ESPN has a responsibility to make sure their system can handle the amount of traffic it receives on an NFL gameday. This hasn’t been an issue in the past, but ESPN switched to a new app this year, which may have been part of the issue—untested technology. But the switch to the new app seems almost unnecessary, except for the fact that the market really, really needs to spend money reinventing already working things.
Hey! What was ESPN’s response? A couple sentences of apology on the fantasy website.
What was their solution to the issues I mentioned above? This note:
League Managers are able to make roster adjustments in the event a league mate was unable to set their roster. League Managers are the only people with this ability. This feature is only available on the web version of ESPN Fantasy Football.
NOTE: Roster adjustments can only be made prior to the completion of the Monday Night Football game for that week.
I have two issues with this solution. First, requiring it to be done before Monday’s games ended wasn’t a very big window, especially considering I didn’t even see this until Tuesday. Second, it requires every League Manager to put a lot of trust into the other players in their league to not lie about what their intended lineups were. Fantasy is not a place where you can trust anyone. It’s where the worst in us all emerges.
A better solution? I don’t know, figure out a way to not let it happen again?
On The Field
Each week I’ll also be listing some brief thoughts on the actual football that was played, because probably a small percent of Entropy readers watch football for the actual games still.
- New England played a backup quarterback and beat a (probably) very good Arizona team. I say probably because Arizona’s quarterback is so old that I was playing a nine year old video game and he was on there and he was already in his mid-twenties.
- Houston brought in a bunch of new players for an offense that looked really bad last year in the playoffs. So far that seems to be working.
- Tyrod Taylor was my fantasy quarterback this week. After his team only scored once all game against the Ravens, well—he won’t be my fantasy quarterback this week.
- Speaking of fantasy, shoutout to the highest scorer in my league this week: Gigantic Sequins editor Kim Southwick.
- Cleveland traded their first round pick. The team that got it used it to draft a quarterback. That quarterback beat Cleveland this week and then Cleveland’s quarterback got injured. This is Cleveland. This is a city that will spend eternity paying back all the good karma that the basketball team earned when they won the NBA championship. All other Cleveland sports teams will suffer, over and over, until there are no Cleveland sports teams.
- The Dallas Cowboys lost because they didn’t manage the clock well. I live an hour north of Dallas. I’ve heard everyone blaming Terrance Williams for not running out of bounds to stop the clock on the last play. I get it, but also the team had sixty minutes to win so let’s not blame one player for the loss.
- Also I hate the Dallas Cowboys. I’ve hated them for years, but this hate was magnified last season when they signed Greg Hardy, a vicious and violent domestic abuser.
- Speaking of domestic abuse, there are rumors that Ray Rice might be signed by some team at some point soon. Rice is notorious for the video where he beat his girlfriend up on an elevator then dragged her body out of it. Someone is going to give him money and put him on a football field. This is going to probably happen. This also should NOT happen. Let’s please drop the “another chance” rhetoric. People who get arrested for smoking weed get second chances. People who beat their intimate partners should not be second chances.
- The Oakland (for now—the team is really trying to leave that city) Raiders made a really, really gutsy call late in their game to win. Congrats, Raiders!
- Darrelle Revis has been considered one of the top defensive backs in football for at least half a decade. On Sunday, though, he looked really bad. People call him “Revis Island” because he is so good that the player he is guarding is usually shut down so well that it almost seems like he’s on a deserted island with no way of catching the football that’s being thrown on the mainland. Well, this week he went against Cincinnati’s A.J. Green, who ended up catching twelve passes for 180 yards and a touchdown. Someone on Twitter (I FORGOT WHO BECAUSE I AM BAD AT REMEMBERING) tweeted that A.J. Green was sipping Mai Tais on Revis Island. Thought that was funny.
- And finally: the defending Super Bowl champions, the Denver Broncos, started a quarterback who had never thrown an NFL pass before. They beat the team that they beat in that Super Bowl again on Thursday. Somehow.