So it’s that time of the year. The biggest sporting event of the season is happening and your favorite team is long since eliminated from contention. The elimination could be heartbreaking (49ers/Chiefs) or predetermined by fate (Jaguars/Lions). Thirty fan bases are left out in the rain on February 13th. And the remaining fanbases?
Bengals fans have been so embarrassed by their team over the past three decades that they didn’t really claim their own existence until a month and a half ago.
The Rams….well, they don’t have fans. I can speak to this because I was in St. Louis over the weekend, when they beat the 49ers to go to the Super Bowl. The team, who existed in the STL until just a couple years ago, do not have many fans (more on this later). The team now exists in Los Angeles, which doesn’t give a damn about them.
Over 70 million people watch the Super Bowl each year. The vast majority of those people are not fans of the Bengals or Rams. Welcome to the Agnostic Football Fan Guide to Super Bowl LVI.
Inside, I’ll give you the guide to gambling, eating, and cheering while pretending to give a damn. Let’s look at the teams.
The Cincinnati Bengals were the last team in the AFL before the NFL merger. In 1970, they joined the NFL. They made the Super Bowl twice in the 80’s, and twice in the 80’s they ran into and lost to the San Francisco 49ers, who were a collapse two weeks ago from doing it again this year. After they lost Super Bowl XXIII to the 49ers, things got extremely bleak for the franchise until….like pretty much right now.
You see, the Bengals became known for three things over the ensuing three decades: bad draft picks, bad coaching, and spectacular cheapness.
Their first round picks are a veritable Who’s Who of worst picks in NFL history. They drafted David Klingler with the 6th overall pick in the 1992 draft to replace longtime franchise quarterback Boomer Esiason. In typical Cincinnati fashion, they chose to draft a quarterback in arguably the worst quarterback draft class in NFL history. The best quarterback to come out of the draft? Jeff Blake, a sixth round pick of the New York Jets, who would go on to have his most success in the NFL being the quarterback of these very Bengals after Klingler spectacularly flamed out.
The very next year, they drafted John Copeland, a defensive end from Alabama, with the 5th pick in the draft. He sucked for a few years then was also out of the NFL. To make matters worse, right after this calamity of a pick, two future Hall of Famers, Willie Roaf and Jerome Bettis, would go 8th and 10th.
THEN THE VERY NEXT YEAR, they drafted Dan “Big Daddy” Wilkinson with the first overall pick. Wilkinson never established himself as more than a competent defensive lineman who could get an occasional sack. He played in zero Pro Bowls over his career. To make this worse, he was drafted directly before Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk. And on top of that, he was drafted ahead of fellow early first round picks and perennial Pro Bowlers Willie McGinest, Sam Adams, and Bryant Young, the latter two playing the exact same position as Wilkinson.
AND THEN THE YEAR AFTER THAT!!! The Bengals once again had the first overall pick in the draft. Three Hall of Fame players were drafted in the first round. Nine other first rounders would make at least one Pro Bowl. They had their chance at everyone.
They drafted Ki-Jana Carter out of Penn State. Carter promptly hit the self destruct button on his body. He blew his knee out and missed the entire 1995 season. Then he tore his rotator cuff and missed the 1997 season. Then be broke his wrist and missed the 1998 season. Then he dislocated his knee cap and missed the 1999 season. He Bengals so hard that it would be the signature bust in the history of most draft teams. For the Bengals, known by their fans by then as the Bungles, that embarrassment would last all of four years.
In 1999, Akili Smith happened.
The 1999 NFL draft was considered at the time by many analysts to be the greatest quarterback draft class since the 1984 class. Everyone in the top of the draft was expected to be looking at a quarterback. The Bengals were picking third in a draft that had five “can’t miss” quarterbacks. It turns out, three of those quarterbacks missed. Two of those quarterbacks missed spectacularly. Only one of those two was drafted in the Top 3. You can guess where i’m going with this.
What makes the miss all the more spectacular was that they did still have Jeff Blake (from the 1992 draft debacle) on the roster and if they had gone with literally any other position, they had a chance to hit gold. The next four draft picks included two hall of famers in Champ Bailey and Edgerrin James, a borderline hall of famer in Torry Holt, and really good running back who is high as hell as you currently read this, Ricky Williams.
Eventually, the team found a level of stability in Carson Palmer, a quarterback and top pick out of USC. He teamed up with Chad Johnson (the future Ocho Cinco) and TJ I’m not even bothering to type his last name but you know who i’m referring to. The teams were good enough to get their dicks kicked in come playoff time every year. Then Palmer demanded a trade out of town and the team drafted Andy Dalton. Yes, that Andy Dalton. The team kept making the playoffs periodically, but definitely not winning.
They bottomed out in 2019, getting them the top pick in another talent rich quarterback draft. This time, they nailed it. They drafted Joe Burrow, the swagger infused quarterback from LSU who was fresh off a national title. Of course, because it’s the Bengals, Burrow tore knee ligaments as a rookie because his offensive line was nothing more than five scare crows stuck into the ground.
Instead of fixing the offensive line through the draft, Cincinnati drafted Burrow’s old teammate Ja’marr Chase, a game changing wide receiver. It was considered a stretch at the time to put your interest in skill position players when the trenches were so bad, but apparently, for the first time in team history, the Bengals were playing chess when everyone else was playing checkers.
Chase had a historically great rookie year. Burrow never seemed much bothered by getting sacked a bunch. Everything came together for this team much quicker than everyone thought. The under/over on wins for the team this year was 6.5. The best thing you can say about a team is that they are peaking at the right time, and this team certainly is. They have two wins vs. the presumed Super Bowl favorite Chiefs under their belt this season.
Bengals Players to Care About
Joe Burrow-He looks like an apple cheeked goon, but he plays with the style and confidence all fan bases dream of.
Ja’marr Chase-Ton of fun to watch. Makes spectacular plays look easy.
Trey Hendrickson-Defensive lineman who had one good season before signing a huge contract with the Bengals. Backed it up this year by getting 14 sacks. Looks like the guy who beat you up in high school who ended up having to sell used Kias for a living.
Bengals Players to Hate
Joe Mixon-Punched a woman in the face, causing facial breaks and requiring surgery to fix back when he was in college.
Cleveland Los Angeles St. Louis Los Angeles Rams
The Rams have existed in some form or another since 1936. In the beginning, they were a part of a rival league called the AFL The AFL got started because people wanted to start NFL teams and put them in New York, but the Mara family didn’t want to lose out on the sweet, sweet cash cow and resisted. From the NFL’s fouding through the late 60’s, they had to fend off upstart leagues quite often. But they were also willing to absorb teams from rival leagues if they thought it could make them money. Enter the Cleveland Rams.
In spite of not being very good and drawing poor attendance, the team was able to keep their heads above water until being sold to grocery magnate Dan Reeves in the 40’s. Reeves bought the team while actively enlisted in the army during World War II which is some impressive multi-tasking, especially considering I can’t even eat hummus and write this article at the same time.
After winning the league title in 1945, Reeves announced he would be moving the team to Los Angeles. The NFL would become the first major professional sports league to make it to the coast. This caused problems within the league because Chicago Cardinals owner Bill Bidwell had been promised that he would be able to move his franchise out of Chicago and to Los Angeles years prior by league king maker and Bears owner George Halas. Bidwell had every reason to be upset. His friendship with Halas and willingness to give out a lot of loans to him are maybe the only reason the Bears franchise even still exists.
Eventually, tensions were eased, a lot of vaguely legal things were done, including some shell ownership movements involving Detroit, and Reeves was able to move the Rams west. They were going to play in the LA Colosseum, which also held football games for UCLA and USC. Part of the lease agreement was that the Rams would have to integrate their team. The Rams signed Woody Strode and Kenny Washington, causing the rest of the NFL to have an absolute hissy fit.
You see, while the NFL didn’t have as official of a stance against minority players like MLB did, they had very quietly pushed any black players who had been in the league at the formation of the NFL out the door. This was due in large part to the owner of Washington, Jim Marshall, being a massive racist. While people tried to ret-con the Redskins name to mean something else, it meant exactly what everyone thought it meant. Marshall hated minorities almost as much as he loved money, which he had more of than any other owner in the NFL.
George Halas, Tim Mara and his sons Jack and Wellington, and the Rooneys in Pittsburgh didn’t do anything to stop this and didn’t put black players on their team. Re-segregating the NFL doesn’t tend to pop up much in these families biographies.
After initial success the team wasn’t very good, but it didn’t seem to matter much, because they were the most popular team int he NFL, at least by attendance.
Eventually, attendance waned as success lagged. The team had only made one Super Bowl during the era to this point, losing to the Steel Curtain era Pittsburgh Steelers. As the team started to fall behind and people found other things to do than watch the Rams lose every Sunday, the team set their sights for a new market, which was actually an old market.
The St. Louis Cardinals had moved to Arizona in the 80’s, with Bill Bidwell getting his opportunity to move his team west…roughly 40 years after it had been promised to him. That left an open market. Even after the Rams owner, Georgia Frontiere, announced that she was moving the team from Los Angeles to St. Louis, the NFL owners voted not to allow the move to happen. Then as most things go in this, Frontiere threatened to sue the hell out of the NFL, and the league caved and let her move.
The Rams had their best success in St. Louis, with Kurt Warner and the greatest show on turf winning a Super Bowl in 1999. But as the years dragged on, the team started to lack success. So the team did the only thing they knew. Bitched and moaned until they could get to Los Angeles. Now the team plays to a tepid fan base in spite of their star power. And star power is something they have plenty of.
The NFL is a league where most of the movement is done in the spring. That’s when the draft and free agency is. If you are going to improve your team, that is when you will do it. Rarely do teams make trades, because franchises are so damn terrified of thinking they lost a trade in the public eye. The Rams decided to take an unexpected “going for it” approach by saying “screw it, we do not need draft picks. Let’s just go trade for everyone and go for it today.” And they did.
After deciding that Jared Goff had peaked as the quarterback of their franchise, they traded him and draft picks to the Detroit Lions for criminally underrated quarterback because he played for the Detroit Lions Matt Stafford. The traded for all pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey. They traded for running back Sony Michel. They traded for star linebacker Von Miller. Oh, and then just for fun, they picked up Odell Beckham Jr, who was cut by the Browns.
To hell with youth! The Rams want to win now! And it might actually work!
Rams Players to Care About
Matt Stafford-Dude spent over a decade getting the unholy hell beaten out of him in Detroit. He didn’t leave the city on bad terms as so many former Lions do, and seems to be genuinely getting rooted for by the fans of his former team.
Odell Beckham-Everyone thought he was done when it seemed like the Browns were better off without him. Now, Odell is in the Super Bowl and the Browns are contemplating whether they should give Sam Bradford another contract.
Cooper Kupp-If you had him on your fantasy team, there is a good chance Cooper Kupp won you a league title this season.
Rams Players to Hate
Stan Kroenke-I’m cheating a little bit, as this guy is the owner and not a player. But man, does this guy suuuuuuuuuuuuuck.
Kroenke made his money living the american dream. And by that I mean he married one of the daughters of the founder of Wal Mart. He made his money lie many in the sports industry do: by buying low income properties and bulldozing them, putting up more expensive things in it’s place. He also owns a lot of mini-malls and what not, so he is also very responsible for the crapification of the american landscape..
He also owns teams in damn near every league. He has his fingers in the cookie jar of the English Premier League (Arsenal), Major League Soccer (Colorado Rapids), the NHL (Avalanche, NBA (Nuggets) and even a Call of Duty team and an Overwatch team. Owning these teams (or the sham shell game of his wife holding them) isn’t why he is a slimy prick, though. The reason St. Louis no longer has a football team is.
Stan already owned 30 percent of the Rams when Georgia Frontierre passed away. He had first right of purchase, and bought the rest of the team. Almost immediately, Kroenke lied through his terrible toupee by saying that the plan was for the Rams to stay in St. Louis. He almsot immediately set about finding a way to break the lease on the Edward Jones Dome where the team played. Teh gambit was to say that it wasn’t an NFL worthy stadium. It, of course, was. During all of this, he bought a massive plot of land in Inglewood, California and was putting the wheels into motion to move the team there. He needed help, though.
Luckily, when you are a bag of shit for a person, you are able to surround yourself with other bags of shit that do your bidding for you. In this case, that bad was filled with Roger Goodell, the human embodiment of a New York subway rat. You see, in an attempt to keep the team in the city, they offered to build a brand new stadium for the team. The new stadium would have provided the team with a top facility and kept them in a city that wanted them to stay.
Goodell and Kroenke, who would both feed their children to Boa Constrictors if Jerry Jones told them to (more on him in a minute), said that the new stadium would not meet NFL criteria, as if a blueprint somehow couldn’t be changed. You see, Kroenke owned the land in Los Angeles and new that he wouldn’t be able to completely fill his Scrooge McDuck vault with money unless he go to play on his land in the west coast.
The city of St. Louis and pretty much everyone with common sense knew this was a bad faith negotiation. The NFL and Kroenke were trying to screw over teh city to get what they wanted. And they succeeded, in a sense. The NFL ruled that the Rams could go to LA. They also said the Chargers could go to LA. They also were totally fine with the Raiders going to LA.
Jerry Jones is a sentient Johnny Walker bottle. He is also the current king maker in the NFL. He realized that the way to make the NFL bigger was to get teams into Los Angeles. The football was completely irrelevant. Celebrities were in LA. Movie and TV studios were in LA. The NFL should be there too, so he could rub shoulder with young actresses who would have to manage their gag reflex as his hand latched onto the small of their back. And every week, apathetic fan bases with no real roots to the team would spend the money on parking and game so they could be seen. It’s HOLLYWOOD, BABY!
Jones basically pulled every lever to make sure what needed to be done, got done. Kroenke got his stadium. The Chargers could be tenants there, earning him even more money, and the Raiders, who were deemed the least financially viable of the three, were told to piss off to Las Vegas. And that was the end of it, right?
St. Louis was righteously pissed, as they deserved to be. The NFL and Kroenke had bad faith negotiations with them, knowing that the intent was to move to Los Angeles. They knew that Jerry Jones had helped set the whole thing up, even though he should have had nothing to do with any of this. They knew that Roger Goodell was spreading lies about the city. So they sued the NFL, and here is where things get messy.
You see, as part of the Rams pact with the NFL, the NFL owners were supposed to be indemnified against a potential lawsuit that was inevitably going to come from the city of St. Louis. Initially, Stan was fine with that, because he had gotten what he wanted, and he would just steamroll the city. Plus, he was sure he could just win an arbitration battle. Well, first, he didn’t get an arbitration battle. He was forced into a court battle. Then, when he and the NFL appealed the lawsuit with the Supreme Court, The Supreme Court denied the appeal. You know what lawyers cost that can handle all of this stuff. A metric shit ton.
And that’s when Kroenke went running to the owners and basically said “Hey, you know how I said i’d pay all the lawyer fees involved with this because you guys were indemnified and everything? Well, i’m going to make the indemnification go away. You all owe me millions of dollars.” At that point, most of the owners told him in the most, and in some cases, least polite way to go punch himself in the dick. I say most owners, because Jerry Jones, who it should be noted is nothing more than a rich, drunk mummy, tried to actually get the owners to go along with it. But this time, everyone told him to jump off a cliff, if he wanted to help Kroenke out because this is his fault too, then he can, but nobody else is helping.
A couple weeks later, Kroenke settled the lawsuit with the city for 790 million dollars.
Stan Kroenke is trash.
Gambling on the Super Bowl
Thanks to the legalization of online gambling, setting money on fire has never been easier, and no game is better suited to separate people from their money than the Super Bowl.
You don’t need to know anything about football to gamble on the game, and who knows, you might even be able to crapshoot your way into a few bucks. Whether you use FanDuel or Draft Kings, you should use FanDuel. Personal hatred aside, fuck DraftKings. I got a new phone last year and since then, DraftKings have held my money hostage, thinking i’m a Chechen rebel or North Korean hacker or something. So they can go to hell.
Anyway, here are the bets anyone can make:
Heads Or Tails-The coin toss is about as basic as it gets. Pick heads or tails. Both are currently sitting at -104 odds, which means that you would bet ten dollars to win 9.62 (total payout 19.62). It has been heads in three of the past four years, but tails is still the all time leader. Pick whichever one you prefer, it’s a crapshoot.
Gatorade Color-Now you want a fit of randomness? You can bet on what color of Gatorade will be poured on the coach of the winning team. Current odds are:
Again, give it hell. If you put 20 bucks on Yellow/Green/Lime and the winning team goes basic ass original Gatorade, then you will win 98 (total payout 118.00).
Now onto the actual game bets. The proliferation of betting options has allowed a ton of strange bets to be placed and given even more chances at making untold riches. Or, you know, getting taken to the cleaners. Either way, here are a few bets that I like for the big game.
Super Bowl MVP, Joe Burrow: +230
Barring something extraordinary by a different position player, the MVP award tends to fall to the quarterback position in the Super Bowl. If you are like me and are willing to overlook Cincinnati’s abomination of a chili to root for their football team, then Joe Burrow would be the pick you would be most interested in. If you think the Rams will win, then Matt Stafford at +120 if a relatively safe bet for you to make.
Anytime touchdown Parlay of Cooper Kupp, Joe Mixon, Ja’Marr Chase, and Odell Beckham +1716
While both teams are good on defense, both are definitely built for offense. Additionally, the Super Bowl is made to take forever because they try to squeeze as many commercial breaks as possible. This creates a very disjointed offense, but it also lends to teams being able to lean on their best players in the red zone. While Mixon has ceded some of his runs, especially on third down, to Semaje Perine, who might be a sneaky anytime touchdown bet on his own, the sense is that they will lean on their star running back in big situations. Additionally, in spite of the fact that the Rams will look to put Jalen Ramsey on Ja’Marr Chase as many teams did as the season progressed, Bengals coach Zac Taylor should be able to craft some plays to get him open.
On the other side of the ball, the Rams will probably be throwing the ball a lot as their running back situation has proved to be less than optimal. They have two great targets on the outside in Kupp and a rejuvenated Beckham. If you are looking for an outside on the Rams, then watch the injury report closer to game time. If there is any question of tight end Tyler Higbee’s health, then think about putting a few bucks on backup tight end Kendall Blanton.
Player to Record Most Tackles + Assists: Eric Weddle +1800
A month ago, Weddle was sitting at home, happily retired. Then, the injury ravaged Rams were desperate going into the playoffs and needed someone who knew how to run the defensive scheme. He was called into duty and has been playing more and more every week, ending up with 8 tackles in the NFC Championship game. He should be able to play 75-80% of the snaps in the Super Bowl, and knowing this might very well be his last dance. Someone like Weddle, who plays with pride, is going to want to go out knowing he put it all on the line. I’m expecting him to be a human missile out there.
If you are inclined to gamble on the Super Bowl, then by all means, do. Make a silly bet. Something absurd at long odds that will give you something to root for all night. Just remember this: Never get out over your ski’s. Never bet what you cannot afford. If you are fear averse to losing it, then don’t bet it. Gambling can be an art. But it’s also a series of risks.
Super Bowl Banter
Okay, so you don’t know anything about football. But you love commercials and/or finger food. That’s okay. I, a noted degenerate sports fan and lover of finger foods is here to help you with some one liners that will definitely help you fit in. Here are some things to say depending on situation.
When the Rams are on defense: Man, that Aaron Donald is really a game wrecker on the line.
If the Bengals get a field goal: McPherson is proving that drafting a kicker isn’t always a bad idea.
If the Bengals are doing well: Joe Burrow is going to be doing all of the Allstate commercials next year.
If the Rams are doing well: Good for Matt Stafford. It’s good to see a decade in Detroit didn’t break his spirit.
If the Rams win: That’s what Cincinnati gets for Skyline Chili.
If the Bengals win: It’s good they could win in spite of their city enjoying Skyline Chili.
If someone accidentally calls the Rams the St. Louis Rams: That’s fine. Most of LA doesn’t even know the Rams are tehre.
If someone drops a chicken wing: Well, thank god the carpet is getting properly fed.
If someone gets too drunk: Well, they are celebrating John Madden enough for all of us.
Anytime, anywhere: Man, fuck Cincinnati Skyline Chili.
Have fun watching the game!