Sports! — We’re an XFL Podcast Now

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

So how is Patrick’s fantasy XFL season going?

Is XFL Fantasy a thing? God.

The end of the pod had me thinking about what my big board would look like in a commentator draft. Kevin Harlan would be #1 overall without a doubt, whether it’s all sports, just football, or just basketball. Joe Davis probably #2, fell in love with that man’s voice during the Phillies’ World Series run. After that it gets more interesting.

All respect to Rob though, it’s not just Dungy. Al Michaels has been a lifeless husk of himself for years. Even with Collinsworth he sounded disinterested and checked out. His calls of Super Bowl 52 — literally the greatest offensive game in NFL playoff history — sound like he’s calling preseason games. He’s a perfect fit for the agonizing wasteland that is TNF.

As someone who doesn’t know anything about America Football I listen to the podcast with interest to try make any sense of the sport and it makes less sense the more I learn.

Tanking seasons to get better drafts, not scoring because it’s more advantageous tactically, how quarterbacks are so important, but there are only low single digit numbers of good ones active in the league at any point.

It’s like persisting in building a sandcastle on a beach in a hurricane.

I find it funny that Rob watched a couple of rugby matches and decided it wasn’t for him, when the meta-structure of the sport is so much simpler and more readable. And the sport itself flows continually. I can’t stick with football because of the stop start nature of it.

You have to consider how a lot of American sports commentary works, or just how things look in general when you’re at this level.

The NFL is basically the only American football league in existence that commands the much money and attention, so to say there are single digit “good” quarterbacks is a way that people talk but it ignores the reality of it all. There are a total of 32 NFL teams and realistically they will field one quarterback 90% of the time. Outside of injuries or unimportant plays, they’re using their main guy all the time. To be a bad or average starting quarterback on an NFL team is to be be one of the best of the best in the world, you just have the misfortune of being in direct competition with only the rest of the best of the best.

American football also has a relatively short season and breaks play down into small chunks all the time. Not counting pre and post season, the NFL has 17 games. Major League Baseball has 162. The end result is you get so few actual plays in any given year that they’re all viewed as more important overall and they’re each given enough air time to talk about them endlessly.

So from the outside looking in, or even people who are just accustomed to talking purely in professional athlete terms, it’s easy to think that they’re “bad” quarterbacks, but they’re still doing things with a football most people couldn’t even conceive of and making decisions based off of input I couldn’t even begin to comprehend.


Everytime I hear “XFL” I just think video game football and while I have not played a football video game since NFL 2K that came with the sports version of the Dreamcast I would like to will into existence the Fortnite of Football video games.

What I’m saying is I want to see Kratos get sacked by Master Chief who then proceeds to do the chicken dance in celebration.


The clock really is the definitive mechanic of American football, and all the game’s nested tactical layers comes down to understanding how coaches are managing the ways in which the clock stops and starts. Pretty much every piece of the sport’s metagame, like not scoring because it’s more advantageous, or managing timeouts, or even calling a particular balance of running and passing plays depending on where you are in a game, comes down to that manipulation.

The not scoring because it’s more advantageous tactically is a pretty rare thing though — it basically only happens when two teams are within two points of each other and one has the chance to score with less than two minutes left. If that’s the case, scoring a touchdown would give the ball back to the other team, and if that other team has a great offense, they could conceivably go and score their own touchdown before time runs out. So instead you kneel on the one yard line and run the clock down to a couple seconds, at which point your kicker can kick a near-unmissable field goal (barring some freak play) and guarantee a win. So it’s not actually about not scoring, but about timing your score for the right moment.

To be clear, all this is extremely appealing to me as someone watching sports. I like the pacing that the clock gives the game, because it gives football a kind of turn-based aspect that builds tension for coming plays. It’s also really easy for the game to swing on a couple plays. (For me, I’d compare it to basketball, which just cannot capture my attention as a neutral fan because it simultaneously feels like something’s always happening and nothing that happens actually matters until the last 10 minutes).

I will say though that if you grow up watching American football, it’s not hard to read. Understanding all this stuff becomes pretty second nature. And the nature of our sports ecosystem is such that everyone grows up watching football. Which means that complexity becomes appealing, because we’re privy to it, and it’s really fun to be able to go “oh fuck they shouldn’t have used a timeout there” even though it would take several minutes to explain to someone who doesn’t know the sport how and why we know that.

Put another way, I think that metaphor fits, but it’s also really fun to watch a bunch of people who are really good at it try to build a sandcastle on a beach in a hurricane.