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🏈NFL Sunday Week 2 Rundown

September 21, 2020

The GIST: NFL Sunday had some lowlights — including the loneliest Lambeau Leap of all time, and not one, but two stars likely tearing their ACLs — and some serious highlights. Here are our top three:

  • This 46-yard TD run from Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette that gave the Bucs their first win under quarterback (QB) Tom Brady.
  • A one-handed grab for Dallas Cowboy Amari Cooper. The Cowboys put together a 16-point fourth quarter to come from behind and beat the Atlanta Falcons 40–39. Close one.
  • And the longest TD of the still-young season: an 84-yard pass from Pittsburgh Steeler QB Ben Roethlisberger to wide receiver Chase Claypool, for the Canadian rookie’s first-ever TD. Big day for Canada!

Podcast Episode 35: Mental health stigma in sports

September 16, 2020
AP Photo/Ron Jenkins
AP Photo/Ron Jenkins

Listen to this episode of The GIST of IT here.


Ellen: What is up GISTers? Welcome to The GIST of It. I'm Ellen Hyslop.

Steph: And I'm Steph Rotz

Ellen: And we're just two old pals and we're two gals and we're here to give you the gist of what's going on in the sports world. Let's get to it. Steph, it's great to see you. My brain is a little bit fuzzy right now, and it honestly feels like it's going to explode because there's so much happening in the sports world and playoffs going on left, right and center and about to start. And it actually makes me so happy. It's fuzzy and in a super happy way, but also this super overwhelmed happy way.

Steph: When you stay up a little bit too late, but you're really stoked about it, that fuzzy memory going on. But Ellen, I see you're wearing your orange hoodie.

Ellen: Yes

Steph: It arrived this week. Mine came a couple of weeks ago just in time for the WNBA playoffs, which started last night, we recorded before either of the two games, so be sure to go and check to see who actually won. Our bet is on the Phoenix Mercury and Chicago Sky. So let's see if we're right.

Ellen: Yeah, let's see if we're right. I feel like we are right. And I'm also so excited about the sweater that it came just in time for the playoffs because it took forever to send. And I don't know if it's just because I'm in the middle of nowhere on the east coast of Canada. I ordered this months and months ago, when this is actually going to arrive? Watching NBA games on Twitter, you know what I wish I was wearing right now? My freakin hoodie. So I'm so excited that finally came in. But anyway, on top of what's happening in the W last night or what happened in the W last night, there were so many things that have gone on during this recording and after this recording. So in the NBA Western Conference semifinals, Game seven between the Denver Nuggets and the L.A. Clippers, I am still shocked that the Nuggets took this one to seven. I truly thought that the Clippers were going to take it. Let's see who pulled through and won game seven, again check Google if you're listening to this right now to see who pulled through, we think it'll be the Clips, but you never know. And then also, while we were recording the Eastern Conference finals between the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics started, which I'm so, so sad about the Raps and you must be too, Steph.

Steph: Losing to Boston again as a Toronto fan, it hurts, man. If there are any Boston people out there, I just need you to know this pain. Boston in game seven with Toronto can honestly fuck right off. It needs to change soon. This whole Game seven thing that we have with Boston, but I lost my mind. I was like, no shit. It's Game seven in Boston. We're going to do something stupid. Something's going to happen. Anyway, I'm so over to it's just so bad.

Ellen: Speaking of game seven in Boston, with a lot of that fury coming from the Toronto Maple Leafs always losing Game Seven in the playoffs to Boston. Let's switch gears to the NHL. Game Five between the Tampa Bay Lightning as well as the New York Islanders would have happened last night. So, again, tune in to see who wins. Tampa, I think either way is going to win this series. They're currently up 3 - 1. And I think that it will be likely that we see a Tampa and Dallas Stars Stanley Cup final, which could be a lot of fun.

Steph: I'm interested.

Ellen: Yeah, totally interested. And then outside of that oh, my gosh, the PGA U.S. Open is this weekend. It's in New York at the Winged Foot Golf Club. And apparently this course is super hard. And so the players are just going to be so frustrated and they're going to have super low scores. And I'm excited to see this because I have been golfing this summer because I managed to get my hands on a free membership. And it's such a sport that's just so freaking frustrating and annoying. But when you watch the pros in the LPGA and the PGA, they're just so good and it makes you so annoyed at your own golf game. So I'm actually really looking forward to seeing them play bad and have a hard time because it's going to be more relatable.

Steph: Has anyone ever broken a golf club like a tennis racket?

Ellen: Oh, yeah.

Steph: Oh, gosh. I'm looking forward to potentially seeing that. There's so much happening. You're right, Ellen. There's so many play offs and so many things keep our eyes on. But let's get to what we want to talk about today on the podcast. Last week, we gave the gist on what to expect with the NFL season. And this week, we're going to talk about mental health stigma in sports after the incredibly insensitive comments made by Fox Sports journalist Skip Bayless. And they're just incredibly demeaning remarks. So we're going to get into that today.

Ellen: Ok, so Steph, I feel like for this story and with a lot of things that we're talking about, we really need to set the scene of the situation and give the gist of what happened. So last week, in an interview with In Depth with Graham Bensinger, Dak Prescott, who is the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, revealed that he was dealing with depression at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and sought help after his brother Jace committed suicide on April twenty third. In the interview, Dak also discussed the burden that Jace went through after their mother died of colon cancer back in 2013, and he talked about his struggle with depression, saying that he didn't know what he was going through. He was having thoughts that he had never had before and that he spoke openly about his depression with his friends, his close teammates on the Cowboys, as well as his family, especially after his brother's passing. Dak also said that by speaking openly with the world and by having this interview and letting everyone kind of listen in on how he's been feeling, that he hopes that his stories can help others, citing that mental health is a huge issue and a real thing in our world right now. And it's important to talk to people to get help. Here's a bit of a clip from the interview with Dak.

Dak: As much as you want to ask why, I know my brother and as we said, he had a lot of burdens on him. He had a lot of tough things. And my sense of saying that is it showed me how vulnerable we have to be as humans, how open we have to be, because our adversity, our struggles, what we go through is always going to be too much for ourselves and maybe too much for even one or two people. But never too much for a community or never too much for the people in the family that you love.

Steph: It is so brave and important for him to speak openly about this and to speak so openly about his struggles with mental health, especially as an athlete and during National Suicide Prevention Week in Canada. Dak is  27 years old, and both Ellen and I are also 27 years old. And I just couldn't help but think about how Dak's vulnerability could help so many of the men in my life and I'm sure in your life and how much that is so needed right now during this week and during a pandemic.

Ellen: Yeah, and I think that it's always something that we need to be speaking about more and being open to this conversation more. And as you said, so brave. And a lot of people in the media applauded him for his honesty, for his vulnerability, and also for just his genuine want to help people and genuine want to talk about a story in order to help others. But, of course, one old school football culture guy, a white male Fox Sports reporter, Skip Bayless, took the opposite reaction of the rest of the media about Dak. We have a clip of his reaction to Dak’s interview here. And it's incredibly infuriating.

Skip: You're commanding a lot of young men and some older men and they're all looking to you to be their CEO, to be in charge of the football team because of all that, I don't have sympathy for him going public with "I got depressed."

Steph: There are just so many things wrong with this. The clip included as well as everything else that he said in this segment, Skip's comments were completely ignorant. And what he said is so emblematic of a larger problem that the world of research might call a "masculine reluctance towards self care." Research shows that men who buy into traditional notions of masculinity are less likely to seek formal help when it comes to their mental health than a man who has flexible approaches to their gender. So when we talk about this like old school tough sports culture that's so pervasive in football and beyond football, obviously the more that men are forced into these traditional and toxic masculinities, the more likely they are to be reluctant to seek the help and Skip telling people to seek help if they deal with clinical depression while simultaneously shaming Dak, who did actually speak up about his experience with mental health, to me is so counterintuitive and counterproductive to this conversation. Talking about mental health is so stigmatized and so closely tied in our culture to weakness and to shame. I've been reading Brené Brown's book Daring Greatly, which is really great, and I truly wish I could send a copy of this to skip. In the book, Brené says "the antidote to shame is vulnerability." And that's truly what Dak displayed here in that interview. And as the quarterback for "America's Team," Dak arguably has one of the toughest jobs in football. Combine that pressure with the anxiety of the pandemic, losing your mom, losing your brother. It's completely human and completely understandable that he would have been struggling and so brave of him to speak about it so candidly. Back to Shannon Sharpe, who was the co-host of the show with Skip, who was amazing and countered every stupid thing that Skip was saying. Shannon Sharpe spoke quickly to the stigma and shame surrounding mental illness for black men in America in particular. And the effects of shame and vulnerability are so different according to gender and according to race. For me, Skip's comments highlight some of the discomfort that I have with football, with the NFL, which is a sport that is mostly owned and by white organizations and profit off of mostly black men. Mental health affects one in five people. And athletes are freaking people, too. I don't know why we lose that in this conversation. And if we aren't celebrating athletes, especially black athletes, for talking openly about their full human experience, then we're part of the problem. If the NFL wants to talk about racial justice in this moment and allow players to kneel, then all of football culture has to rally around this conversation about mental health as well, and especially mental health for black men.

Ellen: Yeah, and you make a really good point about Shannon Sharpe there, too. He used to be an NFL player. He is incredibly talented and intelligent with what he is doing right now is Skip. And they actually have a show together called The Undisputed, where this kind of entire conversation went down and we'll be sure to link the entire interview in the show notes because we didn't have a chance to link to Shannon's response here. But to me, his response was right on. And the metaphors and comparisons that he used to try to educate Skip were really cool and good. But also he shouldn't need to be educating Skip right now. This is not something that he should have to be doing. This is something that Skip should better understand and recognize what he's saying is dangerous and incredibly harmful. And, you know, I think that it's also important to note, Steph, that this is now the third and about to be fourth, incredibly insensitive and horrible remark coming from an older white male sports journalist within the last month. In episode number 32, you and I talked about Mike Milbury's incredibly sexist comment during an NHL game. And we also talked about Thom Brennaman's homophobic slur. And now we're talking about a sports reporter demeaning a young black athlete for sharing what he's been going through from a mental health perspective. And then yesterday, just because we needed a cherry on top of all of this bullshit. When talking about NFL sideline reporter, Maria Taylor, and her outfit, which, A, you don't need to be tweeting about, buddy. But anyway, Chicago radio host Dan McNeill tweeted “NFL sideline reporter or a host for the AVN annual awards presentation?” So he was basically saying, is she an NFL sideline reporter or based off of what she's wearing, is she a host for the annual pornography awards show? And so we'll link to this week as well, and this comment as well in the show notes. What Maria Taylor was wearing was absolute fire in an iconic shirt. And that's beside the point, because it is none of your goddamn business what she is wearing. And I am just wondering, when will people realize that you do not own women's bodies and it is their agency to wear and to say whatever the hell they want to and is not your place to tweet about it and just to back off. Luckily, in this case, Dan McNeil was fired right away. The radio was like, see ya later, buddy, which is amazing, but we're not seeing that all the time. You know, fortunately, as you mentioned, Shannon Sharpe was in the room with Skip Bayless. But what if he wasn't? And all of these things that we've talked about, these four things that we've talked about in this last month just begs the question of when is sports culture going to change? When are these people who are in the booths and in these chairs going to change? If it must be these people who are talking down at us and basically belittling us and some of these conversations, when are they going to be put through the training and actually do the work to be better? I'm just so sick of you and I have to talk about this so often on the podcast.

Steph: You bring up an interesting part of this, too, which is that age dynamic and that talking down dynamic, because something else that Skip Bayless said that really grinds my gears was this notion that he had to tough it out in his life and he had it rough and he just sucked it up, moved on and therefore Dak should be doing the same thing. And he tried to attribute this to poor leadership and him not understanding the sport of football and how it requires toughness. Dak is showing leadership by saying the next generation doesn't have to deal with this bullshit if we talk about it. True leadership is trying to make things better for the next generation. It's so frustrating to have this culture of talking down to younger people saying "oh, you just have to tough it out because that's what I did." So it's annoying.

Ellen: Exactly. It's like "this is the way it is. This is the way it's done. And it's never going to change. This is the way we do things." That was a good voice too, wasn't it?

Steph: It was. I was transported into a different world.

Ellen: But anyway, getting back to things, let's get to the aftermath from Skip Bayless and his remarks. Fortunately, the man was dragged across media. Fox Sports executives apologized on his behalf and said that they did not support his remarks at all and wanted to get away from him. But here is the issue. Has Skipp apologized? No. Can't see anything. And unlike Milbury and Brennaman and McNeil, Skip is still on the air for this goddamn segment with The Undisputed. He's also tweeting away like nothing happened. I looked at his Twitter and I was like, is this a sick joke? He's live tweeting everything with the NFL. He even actually had the audacity to cheer on Dak. In one of his quotes, he said, "Here we go, Dak. Time to roll, Zeke." Zeke refers to his Ezekiel Elliott, who is the running back for the Dallas Cowboys. So it's just incredibly infuriating how he's like, oh, yeah, I'm just going to shit talk this guy and then I'm going to go on Twitter and just cheer for him. He's truly just seeing them as players only. He is not seeing them as human at all. And the good thing, as I conclude my rant, is that fortunately the timing of him being an absolute idiot is good for us, Steph, because I did some digging and he actually signed a four year deal with Fox back in twenty sixteen. And rumor has it that the four year deal doesn't have an extension yet. So here's to hoping that he doesn't sign an extension and that this gets wrapped up and Fox is actually like see you later buddy. Don't let the door hit you in the butt when you leave.

Steph: Now that's the only math that I like to do. Anyway, what's interesting and also good to see is that San Antonio Spurs star and former Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan, who's previously spoken up about his struggles with mental health, has started some "beef" with Skip Bayless and his dangerous remarks saying that, "Real strength is shown through vulnerability. People like Skip are the reason why people suffer from depression at such a high rate. You're the definition of a punk."

Ellen: That last line.

Steph: Bringing in that concept of vulnerability. Thank you.

Ellen: Oh, I love it. Ding, ding, ding.

Steph: Ding, ding, ding. And other than DeRozan, a bunch of other athletes who have shown their support for Dak have also previously spoken up about their own struggles with mental health, including NBA's Kevin Love, Canadian Olympic Clara Hughes, swimmer Michael Phelps and goat Serena Williams. We don't even need to say her sport. We know.

Ellen: No, no, it doesn't matter. Everyone knows who she is.

Steph: And what it really comes down to here is that everyone is truly fighting their own battles and looking at someone as emblematic and powerful as Dak. It's important to remember that. And I want to bring something back to what Dak Prescott said in his interview, which is this is never too much for a community. We can't discount how much collective support can help and thinking of how powerful it could be if the sports world was one of those communities where people could turn to for help and for support. And I think we can get there. It takes people like Dak to be brave and to speak about their mental health. But it's possible, especially for all of those ways, that toxic masculinity in sports culture does harm boys and does harm men. Dak was really sharing his story to help other people. And I truly tip my hat off to him. That wasn't an easy thing to do. To close things out, if you are someone you know is struggling with mental health, we've linked to some resources in the show notes to to check out and to know that you're not alone. And let's truly talk to each other.

Steph: Ok, to close out our podcast today, we're going to talk about both a WTF moment and also a moment that put a smile on our faces. Ellen kick us off with the WTF moment, will you?

Ellen: Gladly, Steph. I'll keep it short and sweet. So this week I learned that despite all of his public apologies, that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has yet to call Colin Kaepernick. And Kaepernick is the former NFL quarterback who started the Take a Knee Movement back in 2016. And so to me, it seems like all the work that Roger Goodell has done publicly and on the surface is somewhat disingenuous if he hasn't cut to the source and gone to Colin Kaepernick and apologized for everything that he has really put him through and that the league has put him through, too. And I also think that it's important to note that Eric Reid, who was the first player to kneel with Colin Kaepernick, is still without a team this season, despite definitely deserving to be on one, at least in my humble opinion. So I'm just saying potentially no coincidence that these are the two who are still without a team in the NFL and that Goodell has still yet to apologize.

Steph: I wish I could say I was surprised, but I'm not. Any who guess it's time for a heartwarming moment for us this week.

Ellen: Bring it in.

Steph: Monday night during the Golden Knights and Stars game, I did a double take when I heard analyst Brian Burke speak so candidly and passionately about Quebec major junior hockey league player Yanic Duplessis, who came out this week. Burke said that "It should be a nonevent and someday it will be a nonevent. But it's not a nonevent now." And he's not wrong. There's only about five hockey players who are currently out right now. Burke also called for the Quebec league to be alert for homophobic slurs from both players, coaches, as well as fans and to call that shit out. So major kudos right now to Duplessis for stepping out there.

Ellen: You love to see it. And also kudos to Burke for supporting him as well. That's definitely what we need to be seeing in comparison to everything that we've just talked about today from a sports reporting side of things. That's the move that we need to be seeing. So such good news. And also Steph, before we close out our podcast. I thought that we should mention that we want to change up this segment a little bit. So instead of you guys and all of our GISTers listening, hearing about what is grinding Steph and my gears and what's making us happy, we want to hear about what's grinding your gears and what sports news is putting a smile on your face. So over the course of the next week, we'd love to hear from you about these stories or any personal anecdotes that you have by e-mailing us at pod@thegistsports.com, and you can type out the story or send us an audio note, whatever works best for you and your story or your moment, may be featured on next week's podcast.

Steph: All right, sports pals, that was the gist of it from Ellen and I thanks so much for tuning in. If you like what you heard, help us get the word out, leave us a review and give us those five sparkly stars. You can also tell your friends to subscribe to The GIST of It on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play or Stitcher.

Ellen: And once you're done giving us those sparkly stars, you have to sign up for our free twice weekly newsletter where every Monday and Thursday morning we give you the gist of what's going on in the sports world. If you're not subscribed yet, you can subscribe at thegistsports.com. Otherwise, as we mentioned, Steph and I want to hear from you, you can email us at pod@thegistsports.com with your WTF moment, with your happy moment and with any feedback for us. Or you can also DM us on Instagram @thegistnew.ca or @thegistusa. Again, I'm Ellen Hyslop.

Steph: And I'm Steph Rotz.

Ellen: And this has been The GIST of It. Take care of yourselves and we'll see you next Wednesday.

🏈Kansas City Chiefs to Kick off 2020 NFL Season - Here's Everything You Need to Know

September 10, 2020

The GIST: How time flies! One day you’re watching Shakira and JLo rock the Super Bowl halftime show, and the next, a whole new NFL season is starting.

Okay, that snuck up on me: Honestly, same. Despite canceling the preseason due to the pandemic, the NFL was steadfast about not delaying its regular-season start. As it does every year on the first Thursday after Labor Day, the season kicks off today, with the defending champs Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Houston Texans.

Refresh me on how the league’s organized: There are 32 teams split into two conferences, the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC). Those conferences are further divided into four divisions: North, South, East and West.

  • After 16 regular season games, 14 teams (extended from last year’s 12) will head into the playoffs to vie for a chance to lift the Vince Lombardi trophy. For more, check out The GIST’s Guide to Football.

And how is COVID-19 affecting the NFL?: The NFL had the unique opportunity to see how other major leagues adapted to the pandemic, and based on that, they made...very few significant changes.

  • Sure, they canceled preseason, but they kept the regular-season schedule as is. No regionalized pods like the NWSL and MLS, no bubbles like the NBA, WNBA or NHL. The NFL is just going for it. And six teams have announced they’ll allow at least some spectators at their first home games. Yikes.
  • That said, the league is introducing some new protocols to help keep COVID-19 at bay: players and personnel will be tested daily, a new injured reserve list has been designated for any player who tests positive or is exposed to the virus and the league has released a list of forbidden activities (i.e., no sneaking Tinder hook-ups into hotel rooms).

What are the big stories this season?: Besides COVID-19, quarterback (QB) Tom Brady is stealing headlines, as usual. In March, Brady broke the hearts of true fans and bandwagoners alike by leaving the New England Patriots (where he won an NFL record six Super Bowls) for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Paging Tompa Tom.

  • Elsewhere in the league, Kansas City has retained most of their Super Bowl–winning team, including QB and Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes, making them the heavy favorites to win another championship. And the battle of the rookie QBs — featuring Miami Dolphin Tua Tagovailoa and Cincinnati Bengal Joe Burrow — is already heating up.

Tell me more about your pick’em pool: Gladly! We’re biased, but we think it’s the best way to stay in the know on the latest NFL news, learn about each matchup and enjoy the game. All you have to do is pick a winner for each matchup for a chance to win a sweet weekly prize. Click here for a good time.


Podcast Episode 34: Everything you need to know about the 2020 NFL season

September 10, 2020
Barry Wilner/Associated Press
Barry Wilner/Associated Press

 Listen to this episode of The GIST of IT here.


Ellen: What is up GISTers? Welcome to The GIST of It, I'm Ellen Hyslop.

Steph: And I'm Steph Rotz,

Ellen: And we're just two old pals and gals here to give you the gist of what's going on in the sports world. Let's get to it.

Ellen: Ok, Steph, so we're coming out of the Labor Day long weekend, and there's a lot of things that have gone on, but something that just happened before we recorded this podcast was that Keeping Up with the Kardashians is going to be no longer after 2021. And I know that that's not sports related, but I just felt like it's kind of sports adjacent, considering Caitlyn Jenner and considering all of the athletes that the Kardashians dated. And so I just wanted to throw that out there that I'm kind of shocked that that's finally coming to an end.

Steph: Ok, I'm not saying this is a holier than thou instance because I love pop culture, but I thought it was already over. I didn't actually know it was still happening. So this is great news for me. I'm staying plugged, staying informed. Thank you for keeping me hip to the jive, Ellen.

Ellen: Yes, you've got it. That's what I'm here for. I'm actually the hippest one of my friend group, and I just keep everyone informed on pop culture. I actually found this from one of my favorite people to follow with respect to pop culture. Her name is Alexandra and Insta handle is @lexniko, and she took Kim Kardashian's Instagram story and then tweeted it saying, "There goes the Last Great American Dynasty," and that is fucking comedy gold. Absolute genius, especially considering all the back and forth between Taylor and the Kardashians. Lex, there you fucking go. Just go right into it.

Steph: I'm literally screaming, wow 

Ellen: Anyway, back to proper sports, as opposed to sports adjacent, but I felt like that was big news that we need to talk about 

Steph: Breaking.

Ellen: Yes, Steph. It was breaking. But outside of this Kardashian news, I spent a lot of my long weekend watching the US Open as well as the NBA playoffs. And I'm super struck by two things. One, that the Toronto Raptors came back to tie the Eastern Conference semifinals with the Boston Celtics 2 - 2, only to lose a horrible, horrible, horrible game on Monday night to the Boston Celtics to go down 3 - 2 in that series. They play in Game Six tonight, and they better freaking bring the heat because my anxiety levels are incredibly high.

Steph: I am so out of the loop. I didn't know that was tonight either. Dear God, I need to be near your computer more often.

Ellen: Yes, it's tonight. And then second, Serena Williams became the first player to win one hundred matches at Arthur Ashe Stadium, which is the prestigious stadium that hosts the US Open every year. And how cool is that? That you could win one hundred matches at one stadium? To me, it shows how dominant she has been for literally ever.

Steph: It's like one of those things where you're like, oh, I've had a friend for ten years. You didn't know you've been around this long enough to have that many wins. That's amazing. That says so much about how much of a fulsome career she's having, how she's truly the greatest of all time. So shout out as always to Serena Williams. And you know what? Speaking of everything that I don't remember and I'm out of the know with, Ellen, throughout all of these playoffs and all of this information that you're telling me, I legit forgot about the NFL season, that it was starting on Thursday. I texted you this morning"WTF, Ellen, football is starting." I am so out of the loop. There's so many sports going on. My brain can only have so many tabs open at once. Also, because the NFL didn't have a preseason, because of the pandemic, my brain was not primed. I was not ready for a season start date. It's happening so fast. So today let's go through everything that we need to know and dug up about the upcoming NFL season because the season hasn't started yet, and it's already a little weird.

Ellen: Ok, I absolutely love NFL football. I would probably not marry it, but I'd seriously be in a long term relationship with NFL football. That's how much I love it. And I'm so excited for the season to start. So before we get into the nitty gritty of the season, I think we should take a moment and set the stage a little bit and give the gist of everything with the NFL. So there are 32 teams in the NFL which are divided into two conferences, the National Football Conference, which you'll hear as NFC and the American Football Conference, which you'll hear as AFC and each of those conferences are further split up into four divisions, the North, South, East and West. So each of those 32 teams plays 16 regular season games from September to the end of the year, and games are mostly played on Thursdays, Sundays and Mondays. There are a ton of big changes in this season, which we'll get to in a hot second. But in terms of format, this season's playoffs are going to be looking very different because of the league's newly signed collective bargaining agreement, often called a CBA, which we talked about last week a lot when we were talking about college sports unionizing. But anyway, the playoff format this year is going to be expanded from 12 to 14 teams. And there's also going to be a third wildcard team in each conference, which is accounting for that 13th team in the 14th team. And each conference's top seed will receive a first round bye. So previously there were only two wildcard teams that made it through, and the top two teams in each conference would receive a bye. So that's how it's a little bit different this year. It all ends on February 7th in Tampa Bay in Florida who are playing host to the Super Bowl. And fun fact, no team that's hosted the Super Bowl has actually made it to the final game. So the Buccaneers could potentially be shitting themselves right now.

Steph: Hmm. For a second I thought, oh, my God, Florida again, but then remembered last year with Miami and that the basketball bubbles are in Florida. My brain's all over the place.

Ellen: It is Florida again. Tampa is Florida. Miami is Florida, dear.

Steph: Holy moly. What city is it going to be in?

Ellen:  Tampa Bay.

Steph: Oh, shit.

Ellen: That's OK. Geography sometimes, you know.

Steph: Oh, gosh, OK. I know my 10 provinces and three territories, so at least I have that going for me. Before getting into more of the team and the personnel changes that are going on this year with the NFL, I do want to get into the COVID-19 protocols because the NFL is up to some wacky shit this year. There are no bubbles, there's no regionalized travel schedules. They're going to be traveling and hosting teams at their own stadiums as normal. With football being played only once a week, we can see how they might be able to get away with this. But it does seem a little bit sketchy, a little bit risky. So that's the first thing going on with COVID-19. Second is the NFL has left it up to each team as to whether or not they want to have fans attend their home games. We know that some MLS clubs have started to do this and some NWSL teams in the fall series might as well. The fall series did start this past weekend, by the way. So tune into that. But as someone who just went to the hair salon for the first time this past weekend during the pandemic, this just seems like a little bit too much too fast for me. In the NFL, the decisions among the 32 teams are wildly inconsistent as to whether or not to have fans attend their games. So I'm going to break this down from most cautious to perhaps least cautious in the NFL. So we have ten teams that have said no fans at their home games for the entire season. We have one team, the Seattle Seahawks, who said no fans for the first three home games, followed by nine teams who have said no fans for at least the first two home games of the season. Followed by five teams that have said no fans for at least their home opener, and then in in Ohio, Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns are allowed to have 6K fans at their first two home games, and then they're going to step back and reassess as to whether or not that's working for them. And then four teams will have their stadiums with between 15 percent, up to 25 percent capacity starting at the beginning of the season. So we have four teams going up to 15 to 25 percent capacity, and then lastly, we're missing one number here. If you've been keeping track and if you love math, you I know we're only at thirty one teams. So that 32nd team is the Dallas Cowboys who will allow fans into the stadium with distancing guidelines, but they've been extremely vague as to what that's going to look like for them this season.

Ellen: Yes, it's all over the place, and if I may be so bold, Steph, this strategy just seriously pisses me off. And I think that it's wildly unfair for some teams to have fans and not others. Of any sport, fans in football make the most difference. So basically the goal of fans when they're at games is to be as loud as possible when the opposing team is on offense. So this makes it super hard for the opposing team to speak in their huddle or for a quarterback to call an audible or to pay attention to the time on the clock before the play expires. The fans are so impactful when their home teams on defense that they're often referred to as the 12th man, so literally acting as an additional player to the 11 that are already on the field. And so the fact that some teams will have no fans, other teams will have 25 percent, and then the Dallas Cowboys, with those social distancing guidelines, could have potentially up to 50 percent. It's just absolutely ridiculous to me. I just don't see how this is fair and the game of football when fans make such a big impact. That said, to fact check myself and bring myself back in a little bit after I just went on this rant, the league has said that it will supply prerecorded audio to all 32 teams to be pumped into the stadiums and pumped into the broadcast streams and that the curated audio must be played in all stadiums that do not admit fans. And they will reevaluate this audio as the season progresses. But still how is audio going to replace the atmosphere of actually having fans in the stands that are rooting for you? I am just struggling with this 

Steph: This is a tough one to wrap your head around, too, because football stadiums are huge as coming from the hockey world. I have to take a step back and remember that, too. I haven't really been missing fans from a viewer's perspective in the NHL and the NBA bubbles. But I do really like how they've been using that sound to recreate the feeling of the game and the energy of the game in that home-like atmosphere. So I'm interested to see how they're going to translate this into such a different venue, being a football stadium 

Ellen: I miss the fans. In hockey and in the NBA. Oh, my God, I totally miss the fans. I feel like they add just a complete other element to the game, especially in playoffs when you're thinking about home court advantage or even home ice advantage. If you think about even the Raptors when they're shooting free throws. Right now, they just have a bunch of virtual fans trying to spook out the Celtics that's doing shit all, you know what I mean? And then there's also players who actually just so thrive off the energy of fans. And also, I just love being there too. I'm sure there's a lot of people that miss that, but I think that it adds a full extra element to a sporting event. I think that as a purist, I still enjoy the sport. But I love having the fans there. I think it's so much fun and I love the energy. 

Steph: Ok, I totally wish I was at a game, but just more so from a sitting on my couch perspective. I'm curious as to how people are actually going to be able to get into these games. Who's going to get these tickets? I just have so many questions. 

Ellen: And hopefully they'll have their masks on. Hygiene and get your clear bags ready.

Steph: Speaking of COVID-19 concerns, it is worth mentioning that players were able to opt out of playing this season in the NFL and almost 70 players opted to do that, which as a note, is only about four percent of the league. Just as an FYI. The first player to opt out was Canadian and Kansas City guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. He is a doctor who actually worked on the front lines when the pandemic started. And to me, that's very telling. So he was the first player to opt out and he opted out as a medical professional. Otherwise, the most notable player to opt out is New England Patriot Dont'a Hightower and eight other Patriots also opted out of the season 

Ellen: Speaking of the Patriots, the poor, poor Patriots, let's quickly chat about the major changes to teams this offseason. The biggest is obviously the changes to the New England Patriots and to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after spending his entire career and winning a countless number of Super Bowls with the Patriots, quarterback Tom Brady, who's also one of my beloved, moved to Tampa this offseason, garnering the new nickname Tampa Tom, which I love. And yes, Steph that is in Florida. And coming out of retirement to join him in Tampa is tight end Rob Gronkowski. So cool that he's coming out of retirement because Tom's like, "hey, buddy, why don't you move to Tampa, home of the retirees anyway." So he is actually so funny and so hilarious. I'm excited to see the two of them together again. So on the flip side, to fill the hole that is Tom Brady, the Patriots filled that with former NFL MVP and former Carolina Panther Cam Newton. And I bring up the Patriots because I'm really struggling. I would say I am or I was a Patriots fan. I'm not too sure. But here's the thing, Cam Newton drives me up the wall, mostly because at a press conference, three or four years ago, a woman asked him a question about routes and what he thought about different players running different routes. And his response was him laughing and then saying, it's funny to hear a woman speak about routes. And the minute he said that, I was like, no, Cam Newton, you're basically canceled to me. I'm absolutely over this. It was twenty seventeen or twenty sixteen. You know better at that point. There's been so many women working the NFL at that point, and for you to degrade her on national TV and say something like that is just absolutely ridiculous. So because of those incredibly sexist remarks, I just can't be a Cam Newton fan, which means I have a really hard time being a Patriots fan now too 

Steph: Oh, I didn't know that that was that guy, because that is burned into my memory, I will never forget that press conference ever 

Ellen: No, it's so bad. And, of course, there's so many other moves over the course of this offseason. Obviously, I'm biased against the Patriots and with Cam Newton because I have a fiery passion about both of them, but apparently not anymore. But otherwise, a big move that we should note is that former L.A. Charger and dad of nine, Philip Rivers, signed with the Indianapolis Colts this offseason with a one year deal, which is kind of meh in comparison to Tampa's moves 

Steph: I was expecting you to bring up your babe, Tom Brady. So now that that's out of the way, we can move on for sure. So move along. Let's get to some predictions. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes II, who, by the way, this offseason signed a 10 year contract extension worth a maximum of five hundred and three million dollars. Imagine, five hundred and three million dollars, and his team in Kansas City are the favorites to do it all again. Kansas City are the reigning Super Bowl champs. They defeated the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl last season. And we expect them to make some sort of similar moves this year. Also this season, we are anticipating that players will follow Colin Kaepernick's lead and kneel during the national anthem. The league, including NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, have gone on record to say that they are totally on board with this action and will support a player's decision to kneel during the national anthem. And NFL teams did walk out and pause their practices to support and be a part of the wildcat strikes that happened back in August. So I am looking to see how else the players will be using their platforms and these games to help shift the culture and continue the conversation. So really interested in how that's going to play out this NFL season. And then from a league standpoint, the NFL did announce a commitment to donate two hundred and fifty million dollars over the next decade towards combating racism and social injustice in America. Definitely be tuning in to see how the players interact with the league and how the league tries to walk the walk after being on the wrong side of history with how they dealt with Colin Kaepernick's peaceful protests in the past. So it's good to see these moves in the right direction 

Ellen: Totally. I really hope that the NFL soon and again, maybe within the next decade, will become a socially forward league. And we associate  all the good work that the WNBA is doing, for example, with potentially good work that the NFL is doing. That would be the right trajectory for them to go on is to follow the WNBA's footsteps. So to stay up to date on all things football this season, Steph, I know you're already subscribed, but for anyone listening, subscribe to our free twice weekly newsletter at thegistsports.com. And also starting today, we're going to have a free weekly NFL pick 'em pool where you basically choose what team you think is going to win each matchup. And if you have the most number of correct wins, then you could win some sick prizes. So that pool comes out every Wednesday and your picks are due Thursday before the Thursday night game. And we'll be sure to link to that pick 'em pool in the show notes 

Steph: I love a competition 

Ellen: OK, so that was a lot of football and a lot of fun, and because it was a lot of fun, instead of doing our regular segment where we have been talking about things that put a smile on our face, I think that football put a lot of a lot of smiles on our faces today. So we're going to bring things back to the WTF moment of the week. So talking about things that made us say, "what the fuck?" And for this week's moment, why not lead into some sexism and racism in sports 

Steph: Yes, at the top of the show, El, we mentioned the US Open. So let's bring it back to that. In a fit of rage, Novak Djokovic pegged a lines person with a tennis ball in the throat. Obviously, I don't think he meant to do this and didn't mean to hit her. But obviously, you shouldn't just whack tennis balls. In a New York Post article about the incident, author Mark Berman wrote about how Novak Djokovic's excessive punishment is terrible for the US Open. And the article was accompanied with photos of Novak trying to help the woman that he whacked with a ball moments earlier, showing him tending to her wounds. Flashback two years ago when Serena Williams lost the US Open to Naomi Osaka following a few incredibly sketchy calls from the umpire. The same author wrote about how Serena was a sore loser. And The New York Post chose a photo of Serena pointing and raising her voice to accompany the article 

Ellen: Oh, God, there's obviously so many things that are wrong with this 

Steph: Yes, OK. I can't help but think of this quote from critical race scholar Brittney C. Cooper, which is "White anger is entertaining. Black anger must be contained." The portrayal of the angry black woman, which we've talked about here with Serena Williams. If you've ever read Michelle Obama's book, you would hear about it, too, it's so damaging and it's so infuriating to read articles where white male athletes like Mr. Djokovic are given the benefit of the doubt when we know the same would not be afforded to a black woman 

Ellen: Yeah, no, absolutely. And to add to that Steph, I watched all of Serena's match on Monday afternoon. And as I was watching, I was watching on my computer doing some meal prep at the same time. I actually wanted to throw my computer away because I was getting so frustrated with the calls of this game. Oftentimes, black athletes are called aggressive, powerful, etc. While many white athletes are called smart, thoughtful and tricky. And even in 2020, the amount of times that they called Serena Williams aggressive over how many times her white opponent, who also hammered her serve at one hundred and twenty miles per hour, aggressive, was just absolutely too much. And we need to start recognizing that all of this minor micro aggression in language matters and that we need to be aware of these things. And this type of language needs to be changed when we're talking about black athletes 

Steph: It's time to get some changes in the announcing booth. All right, sports pals that was the gist of it from Ellen and I. Thanks so much for tuning in. If you've got an opinion about what we said, leave us a review. You can tell your pals to subscribe to The GIST of It on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play or Stitcher. 

Ellen: And if you like what you heard today, you have to sign up for our free twice weekly newsletter where every Monday and Thursday morning we give you the gist of what's going on in the sports world. As I mentioned beforehand, you could subscribe at thegistsports.com. Otherwise, Steph and I would love to hear from you. You can get in touch with us over email at pod@thegistsports.com, or DM us on Instagram @thegistnews.ca or @thegistusa. Again, I'm Ellen Hyslop. 

Steph: And I'm Steph Rotz.

Ellen: And this has been The GIST of It. We'll see you next Wednesday.

🏈Guide to Football

September 08, 2020


To start, it’s important to know that football is really only played in North America where there are two main leagues: the National Football League (NFL) played in the U.S. and the Canadian Football League (CFL) played in Canada. Talk about a sport called “football” anywhere else in the world and they’ll for sure assume you’re talking about soccer (or ‘footy’, as it’s affectionately nicknamed).


Let’s start by giving you #thegist of the NFL, the most popular football league in the world where the best players aspire to compete.

NFL football is played on a 100-yard field with goalposts (called uprights because the posts face into the sky rather than the ground like soccer) at each end. There are 11 players from each team on the field at once. By passing or running the football, the point of the game is to score touchdowns and field goals to have the most points at the end of four quarters (this is the same in the CFL). Each team has four attempts (called downs) to advance the ball 10 yards before the ball is turned over to the other team. TBH, we know this can be confusing, but stay with us! The rules are similar in the NFL and CFL; however, there are some key differences. Keep reading to get #thegist on the CFL. 

How’s it organized?

There are 32 teams in the NFL, which is divided into two conferences (NFC and AFC) which are further split up into four divisions (North, South, East and West). There are 16 regular season games leading to the playoffs which culminates with the Super Bowl. From the wildly overpriced commercials, to the star-studded halftime show, to eating until you explode – the Super Bowl is an event like no other.

The best of the best

The best team from the 2019-20 season was the Kansas City Chiefs, who beat the San Francisco 49ers 31–20 marking KC's first Super Bowl title in 50 years. Kansas City was led by their exceptional quarterback (QB), Patrick Mahomes (who recently signed a record-breaking $503 million dollar (!!!) contract). 

Determining who’s the best player in the NFL is tough because there are so many different positions that require different skills. But it’s pretty undisputed that Tom Brady, who is now a Tampa Bay Buccaneer is, quite literally, the greatest QB of all time with six Super Bowl rings. Other players to know in the league right now are Ciara's husband and Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, and wide receiver Michael Thomas (New Orleans Saints). You can check out the 2020 top 100 list as voted on by the players here.

Female footballers

Think football is a man’s sport? Think again! There are actually three full-contact 11-on-11 leagues in the U.S., the biggest being the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA). Formed in 2009, the WFA has continued to expand and now includes 60 teams (!!!) across three divisions, each crowning its own champion at the end of every season.

And for those who dig the game but not the tackling, there’s always flag football — a similar game where players have to stop running when their flag is pulled off their belt rather than when they’re tackled to the ground.

Ramp up your trivia game

  • Only six teams have won a playoff game without scoring a touchdown (aka field goals only).
  • Brett Favre (of Green Bay Packers fame) and Tom Brady are the only 40-year-olds to ever win a playoff game, and Brady is the only QB above 40 to win a Super Bowl.
  • Just 18 teams played in the NFL’s inaugural season way back in 1922. We’ve come so far!


Now that you have #thegist of football, let us break down how the CFL is different from the NFL:

  • A CFL field is 110 yards long vs. the 100 yard NFL field. It’s also a little bit wider.
  • The CFL has 12 players on the field at one-time vs. 11 players in the NFL partially because the field is bigger.
  • In the CFL, teams only have three attempts (downs) to advance the ball 10 yards, vs. four attempts in the NFL. This often results in more turnovers (when one team is forced to give up the ball to the other team) and keeps things moving at a brisk pace.

How’s it organized?

There are nine teams in the CFL, which is divided into two divisions: East and West. There are 18 regular-season games and then six teams make the postseason for the chance to win the Grey Cup. The season runs from June until the end of November, meaning the playoffs are generally played in sub-zero/snowy weather. Just check out the infamous 1996 Snow Bowl in Hamilton, Ont.! 

The best of the best

The reigning Grey Cup champions are the Winnipeg Blue Bombers who beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 33–12, thus ending the longest Grey Cup drought in the league (29 years!).

The first Grey Cup was won in 1909 (!!!) by the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, because back then it was awarded only to amateur teams. Today, the Grey Cup is property of the professional CFL, while the Vanier Cup is awarded to top amateur University teams across the country.

Did you know… 

  • There used to be some American teams in the CFL? The first team from the U.S., the Sacramento Gold Miners, was admitted to the league in 1993. American teams only played in the CFL for three seasons during the glory days of the early 90s.
  • The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have made the most Grey Cup appearances (25), while the Toronto Argonauts have won the most championships (17).

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