I'm not one to get overly worked up about suit-on-suit standoffs like the one between the NFL Network and the big cable companies, most notably Time/Warner and Comcast. It's rich people battling over fat stacks of cash, and eventually they'll come to a business arrangement that stops shafting the consumer and entices him/her to pay more for the product.
Until then, if people like Cowboys owner Jerry Jones want to talk smack and tell people to gobble up satellite dishes, well, bless him, it's a free country.
But there is one thing that bugs me about the notion that cable-wired households in large parts of America – and, specifically, in significant portions of Texas and Wisconsin – won't be receiving the feed of Thursday's compelling clash for NFC supremacy between the 10-1 Dallas Cowboys and the 10-1 Green Bay Packers.
To put it bluntly, it's a capital crime.
Among the shafted cities are Austin and Madison, where the state governments in question are headquartered. I've spent time in each of these appealing municipalities, and they are quite similar, down to the fact that each has emerged as a trendy first name over the past decade or two. More pertinently, Austin and Madison are home to important and vibrant state universities, thriving social scenes and more intellectually curious and interesting people, per capita, than anywhere else in their respective states, by far.
Let's go a step further and declare this: In my all-knowing opinion, beyond Texas and Wisconsin, there is no other state in the union in which one city is so clearly a cooler place to live than all others. (Gentlemen, ladies: Start your scathing emails.)
So, you fortunate souls who'll be tuning in from your living rooms on Thursday, be sure to shed a tear for your deprived brothers and sisters in Austin and Madison. And take consolation in the fact that the residents of those fine cities who really want to watch this game will have some really good bars from which to choose.
Now, our top-to-bottom questions, with a foreshadowing of which team I like in the aforementioned game:
3. Green Bay Packers: Will Charles Woodson be ready for Thursday's epic throwdown, and if not, do the Packers have a chance?
4. Dallas Cowboys: Can you believe that Thanksgiving pick to the house was Terence Newman's first-ever defensive touchdown – and can the second one be far behind?
6. Pittsburgh Steelers: Is that the offense they'll be bringing to Gillette Stadium on Dec. 9, and if so, can I cancel my flight?
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: With apologies to my friend The Fantasy Man, from whom I'm stealing, if that Vin Diesel football movie "New York Giant" ever gets made, will Bruce Gradkowski serve as Diesel's stunt double?
8. Cleveland Browns: Is the defense finally tightening up, or was Sunday's effort against the Texans an aberration?
9. Seattle Seahawks: When they go on the road, do they leave their playbooks behind?
12. San Diego Chargers: Would they rather lose to the Colts or Jags in their first playoff game?
13. Philadelphia Eagles: After that stirring effort in Foxborough, is this team finally ready to make a run?
15. Detroit Lions: Should they petition Roger Goodell for the season to end today?
18. Arizona Cardinals: Excuse me, Mr. Vinatieri, could you kindly move over and clear a space on the couch for Mr. Rackers?
19. Houston Texans: Is that what you'd call a Brown-out?
20. New Orleans Saints: Can you believe this team still very plausibly can win its division if it beats the Bucs on Sunday?
21. Minnesota Vikings: Is it fair to say that the Vikings' defenders spent so much time in the Giants Stadium end zone last Sunday, they communed with the spirit of Jimmy Hoffa?
22. Buffalo Bills: Did new/old/new starting quarterback Trent Edwards really mean it when he said that the best advice he ever received was "never go to Cal," and did Stanford's 0-5 record in Big Games during his time there in any way chip away at his conviction?
24. Kansas City Chiefs: After Herm Edwards said he didn't trust Dave Rayner to make a 41-yard field goal in the final minutes of Sunday's 20-17 defeat to the Raiders, was it any surprise that Carl Peterson gave his kicker the boot?
25. Baltimore Ravens: Hey, Brian Billick – how about getting Norv Turner to call the plays in 2008, thus simultaneously pleasing Ravens and Chargers fans?
27. Oakland Raiders: If they had gone 0-6 in the AFC West this year, would they ever have won another division game?
29. St. Louis Rams: He knows I love him – and anyone who blames him for the defeat to Seattle is just plain silly – but is it fair to say there won't be a Gus Frerotte bobblehead giveaway at the Edward Jones Dome anytime soon?
30. San Francisco 49ers: How sweet (and fleet) was that game-saving play by Patrick Willis, who ran down Arizona's Sean Morey in overtime, and is there any doubt that this kid is the league's next great inside linebacker?