The lockout's great laughs

Posted July 14, 2011 @ 2:40 p.m.
Posted By Eli Kaberon

Football always has been a violent game. It's physical, tough and mean, dominated by players named Csonka, Butkus and Nitschke and teams with nicknames such as the "Steel Curtain" and the "Purple People Eaters." Jack Youngblood once played the entire playoffs with a broken leg, Ronnie Lott chopped off part of a finger to stay in a game and former Raiders S Jack Tatum got the nickname "The Assassin" by — well, you can figure out his style of play based on that alone.

In the summer of 2011, however, the game has turned from fierce into funny. Not only because of the lockout, which is laughable just because of how idiotic much of it is, but also because several NFL players are becoming less like Rodney Harrison and more like Rodney Dangerfield. Trading in their cleats and pads for jokes and punch lines, the league is now filled with comedians, much to the benefit of the viewing pubic.

The offseason of laughs began with a player used to being in front of the camera, Colts QB Peyton Manning. A star of several memorable commercials — and a legendary 'Saturday Night Live' skit where he mocked the NFL's favorite charity — Manning is no stranger to mocking himself and his sport for the public's enjoyment. But this summer he added two new elements to his act: His brother Eli and an awesome mustache.

In a trailer for a new television show called "Football Cops," the Mannings play Mike Tahoe (Peyton) and C.J. Hunter (Eli), two officers who fight crime by throwing footballs at and through criminals. Sponsored by DirecTV, the spot includes everything a fantastic police program should, from sarcastic one-liners to out-of-control explosions. Both Peyton and Eli play the characters exactly right, giving the impression this is serious business all while the audience knows it's just for fun. There's even a surprise appearance from their dad, Archie, as the police chief Orlando Midnight. It looks and sounds like a program Will Ferrell would star in with John C. Reilly, except it's with two former Super Bowl MVPs instead.

That was followed by a big-budget production from the Ferrell-run blog Funny or Die. In a spoof sequel to a legendary baseball movie, the blog churned out "Field of Dreams 2: Lockout," which included several of Hollywood's and the NFL's biggest names. Not only did the video mock the 1989 movie about an Iowa man who builds a baseball diamond in his cornfield in order to reunite with his father, it also delivered some haymaker blows to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the current labor situation. Ray Lewis, Tony Gonzalez, DeSean Jackson and Dwight Freeney all are hilarious playing themselves, but nothing tops the brief cameos by two members of the original film, Ray Liotta and Kevin Costner. For football fans who have been desperate for any sort of pigskin action, this clip is a welcome sight.

Both "Football Cops" and "Field of Dreams 2" are comical, but those videos pale in comparison to the laughs, and crudeness, of the latest piece of cinema starring NFL players. The shoe company K-Swiss put together a commercial about their fictitious new CEO, the character Kenny Powers from the HBO program "Eastbound and Down." If you aren't familiar with who Powers is or what he's about, this program might not tickle your funny bone — especially if you can't handle over-the-top violence, some sexist comments, a constant stream of foul language and an insanely cocky attitude.

However, if you find the humor in a fake athlete running a shoe company, with the help of Matt Cassel, Patrick Willis, a famous Hollywood director, a couple of fighters, an NBA owner and a fitness guru, then the ad is a must-see. Both NFL players featured thrive in both the spoken and physical parts of their comedy, while Powers (played by actor Danny McBride) takes offensive behavior and being self-centered to a whole new level. I'm not sure if the ad will convince anybody to wear K-Swiss shoes, but five minutes spent watching the video is worth it.

Hopefully, the lockout ends soon, leaving little time for NFL players to work on their comedy routines. Until then, you might as well sit back and enjoy the show.

Follow Eli Kaberon on Twitter