Tom Sorensen

Short takes: Bad NFL football, pure joy, beer money and destiny (in that order)

If the Los Angeles Rams and quarterback Jared Goff (16) play an NFL game on Thursday night, does it make a sound?
If the Los Angeles Rams and quarterback Jared Goff (16) play an NFL game on Thursday night, does it make a sound? AP

The NFL’s Thursday night game this week – the Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco – is so bland it ought to be played in London.

The league has for the first time scheduled four games in London: Baltimore-Jacksonville, New Orleans-Miami, Minnesota-Cleveland and Arizona-Los Angeles Rams.

Maybe the schedule maker dislikes all things English. Maybe he got a bad deal on a London Fog coat. Maybe he thinks Brit guitar legends Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton are overrated. Maybe he detests soccer and tea and Austin Powers.

Why do we keep sending London such nondescript games? It is possible, if not probable, that not one of the eight teams headed to England will make the playoffs.

There is one first-class game that will be played outside the U.S., and that’s New England versus Oakland in Mexico City. …

▪  By now we’ve seen Marshawn Lynch’s touchdown celebration from Sunday. A 2-yard run, the touchdown was the first for his hometown Oakland Raiders.

I don’t like all celebrations. If you do something wonderful to cut your opponent’s lead to 40-6, you don’t get to celebrate. If you’re tempted to mimic the celebration of the 500 athletes who came before you, don’t. But watching Lynch made me feel good about the sport. It was pure joy. ...

▪  I sat in the bleachers at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday. In seasons past, I sat in the press box. What did I learn by sitting outside? I learned that that some people spend most of the game in the concession line or the bathroom. No big deal. Most of the passers by thanked me when I stood to let them pass. Because of all the up and down, I burned more calories than I did as a member of the working press.

You know what was odd? I don’t know how to cheer. People around me cheered and offered the Panthers free and unsolicited advice. I’ve spent so many years not cheering that I can’t.

The other strange thing about not working a game is that you can have a drink. Who knew?

Based on what I saw, pretty much everybody. …

▪  I don’t believe in destiny or fate. At the gym I heard a man say that God led him to the YMCA that day. Me? I went by car.

The NFL, however, challenges my no-destiny, no-fate philosophy. New England will always be good, Cincinnati will always be mediocre, Jacksonville will always be bad and New Orleans will never play defense.

If you score a lot, and score quickly, and the Saints do, your opponent always will have more opportunities to score than most teams get. So their defense isn’t necessarily as bad as the numbers imply.

But it’s still bad, and it’s not as if they aren’t trying. In the last 10 drafts, the Saints chose 36 defensive players and 21 offensive players. …

▪  Ezekiel Elliott passively watching after quarterback and teammate Dak Prescott’s pass was intercepted was strange. It was as if Elliott had a front row seat and a great view. All he lacked were nachos and a Barcalounger.

One quality that has struck me about most of the professional athletes I’ve written about is how hard they work. Native ability – and Elliott, a running back, has enormous talent – can get a player to the big leagues regardless of the sport. But rarely is talent enough to keep him (or her) there.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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