There was never a better marriage between a sport and a sponsor than the NFL and Papa John's, two products that are far more popular than their overwhelmingly intense mediocrity would suggest. You shove both into your body out of habit even though there are better options available, and you don't even really enjoy it. You'd be better off with a book or a salad but that's not how you spend your Sundays, damn it.
As you already know, last week John "Papa" Johnson (I don't care what his real name is) blamed his company's declining revenue on the NFL's poor leadership in handling national anthem, as opposed to the urine-soaked cardboard he calls pizza that is only tolerable if you dip it into a plastic cup of garlic mixed with spit and sugar. Is Papa John's losing money because its "pizza" is heated by the breath of people with halitosis inside highway rest stops used solely by people with IBS? Or is it because football men are protesting? No one can ever know for sure, I guess.
But this controversy, plus a slice of pizza I was eating a minute ago, got me thinking: What pizza chains best exemplify NFL teams?
(Really, I'd write about how the Jacksonville Jaguars are rocketing toward a playoff spot, but that's a thing I was already right about, so no need to be right again.)
(Please ignore my take that the New England Patriots were done, thank you.)
Anyway, which NFL teams are which chain pizza places? Glad you asked.
The Los Angeles Rams are California Pizza Kitchen. The Rams are 6-2 and have a great chance at a first-round bye in the playoffs, yet it seems like nobody talks about how great they are because they're not available everywhere like more popular franchises. You see the name and you're like, "Why is there so much yellow in the logo?" But then you try it and you're all, "Wow, this is so good, I need more of this." Cooper Kupp is the thai kitchen pizza of receivers—just give it a chance once in a while and you won't be sorry.
The New York Jets are Sbarro. It's bad. It's so bad. And yet, there are people who for some reason, even in New York, will tell you they like this pizza even though there is authentic, delicious New York pizza (or literally any other sports franchise) available everywhere. As a matter of fact, you don't even know why it exists in New York. People talk themselves into thinking it's good when deep down they know it's bad. Josh McCown is that slice of Sbarro that's been sitting under a heat lamp for days but when you're desperate, you will take it.
The Buffalo Bills are Uno Pizzeria & Grill. So you want something a little different than the standard fare? There's nothing that says "team that tries to win without completing passes to wide receivers" than "let's get some deep dish but not the good kind." Whenever the Bills try to win with six-yard passes to [whoever the Bills' third-string tight end is], that's you trying to satisfy your appetite with mass-produced lasagna cake. Hitching your wagon to either will give you diarrhea and won't get you invited to any playoff parties.
The Cleveland Browns are Chuck E. Cheese. Did you know that Chuck E. Cheese is considered a pizza chain? It is! Did you know the Cleveland Browns are considered a football team? They are! Although while Chuck E. Cheese recently removed its barely functioning and out-of-date robots designed to enhance entertainment for fans, the Browns have no plans to relocate again.
The San Francisco 49ers are Pizza Hut. Both were great in the 1980s but are now the worst in the business.
The Detroit Lions are Little Caesar's. No city's pizza and football team match up so well. If you welcome either into your life, it brings you pain, but it does just enough to keep you coming back. If Little Caesar's actually were an NFL team, it would go 8-8 every year.
The New York Giants are Boston Pizza. New York Giants: based in New Jersey. Boston Pizza: based in Canada. They lie about who they are and it taints everything they do. Ben McAdoo's NFL Coach Makeover in the off-season makes him the Boston Pizza of head coaches.
The New England Patriots are Domino's. In a land of mediocrity, the slightly above average is king. While the Patriots refuse to admit they've cheated, at least Domino's had the character to admit its pizza was trash and attempted to remedy the problem. Much the same way the Patriots would be 9-7 in a fair world but instead beat up on the trash in the AFC East to make themselves seem great, Domino's does the same with its chain competition. I don't know if any high-ranking Domino's executive ever dumped their pregnant girlfriend to get a job at DiGiorno, but the comparison still applies.
The Dallas Cowboys are Papa John's. Papa John's is the official pizza of the NFL. The Cowboys are America's team, the flagship franchise of the NFL. If you live in a certain part of the country, you think they are the end-all, be-all of their fields, when really, they're the perfect overrated piles of blah fed upon by people who don't know better. Papa John's is glorified microwave pizza, the Cowboys are its football counterpart. The Cowboys have two playoff wins since 1996, which is exactly how many good slices of pizza Papa John has made in the same amount of time. Both could disappear forever and nobody would miss them. Considering Tony Romo's most memorable career moment featured him screwing up while on a knee, he should be a Papa John's spokesman by the end of the month.
Follow Dave on Twitter @davelozo.