The NFL Runs a Caption Contest (and It Is Awful)

by Jason Iannone


Being funny is hard. You know what’s even harder though? Dealing with people who think they’re funny, but aren’t even close. Social media has made dealing with them even harder, as these horrible jokesters now get an open forum, along with regular boosts of confidence from being retweeted or Liked for their pointed observation that Lindsay Lohan does indeed do a lot of drugs.

The NFL Network’s Facebook page is currently very much part of the problem, giving these below-amateur comedians yet another shot at the microphone. Since there is no such thing as football right now, the NFL is filling time by running Caption Contests. They post a football-related picture, you comment with a funny caption, and the best are announced on NFL AM radio. AM radio, if you may recall, was eulogized in a horrible Everclear song that you heard once, immediately ran to the bathroom over, and never listened to again. Unless you clicked that link; in which case, have fun with that worm swimming incessantly inside your brain for the next two weeks. Actual Everclear is far less lethal.

There’s just one real issue with picking out the bests: THERE ARE NO BESTS. You read these captions, and you start to realize why the winners gets relegated to AM radio. That way contracts are fulfilled, nobody’s embarrassed, the two people on the planet who both use Facebook AND AM radio are satisfied, and we can move on with our lives.

Except the captions just keep coming! And they don’t get better! So that’s where we come in. Clearly, these meatheads need some help with their comedic timing, so I’m going to provide them with just that. I selected a handful of captions from a recent posted picture, namely this one:

It's just a picture of Mebane with his arms up that we can't use, if you're wondering. (NFL via Facebook)

It’s just a picture of Brandon Mebane with his arms up that we can’t use, if you’re wondering. (NFL via Facebook)

So they give us Brandon Mebane of the Seattle Seahawks, celebrating a sack on Matt Stafford of the Detroit Lions. There were many other interpretations though, most of which ranged from not very good to stupefying putrid. But, with a little editing and some harsh-yet-loving words of advice (yeah, loving, that’s the word,) maybe we can make these uncreative and unoriginal attempts at humor into something better. Bring on the first batch!

captions 1 The NFL Runs a Caption Contest (and It Is Awful)

Huh huh huh. Fat. 

Where do we start, other than calling our company therapist and scheduling double the couch time? Let’s just go down the line. The first thing to consider in written humor is grammar. Doesn’t matter how funny something is; if it looks like a Kindergartener typed it out, nobody will care except for other Kindergarteners. So if you’re going to make a belly-roll joke, learn to spell “roll.” Also, don’t make a belly roll joke. You are better than simple fat humor.

Which leads us to the second guy. Is this supposed to be post-modern irony, just calling somebody fat and expecting a giggle? Is this like when a painter will paint nothing but one big red square and pass it off as art? Doesn’t matter how many single Likes you get; if that kind of anti-humor is going to work, it still requires more thought and effort than merely quoting a Weird Al song and leaving it at that.

Speaking of quoting, just saying Harlem Shake does not make you hip and funny. Yes, we had to italicize that; the point must be made perfectly clear. Out of the hundreds and hundreds of comments we pored through for this piece, at least 50, possibly a hundred, were nothing more than somebody saying “Harlem Shake.” Not only is it horribly uncreative, and painfully uninteresting, it’s wrong. Mebane isn’t doing the Harlem Shake at all (then again, nobody in those dumbass videos are.) So either find another dance for him to be “doing,” or don’t have him dance at all.

As for you, Mr. Pink Panther Shoe Guy, what point are you trying to make? That it’s funny because he’s wearing pink and yet he is a man? Awesome; you’ve blended sexism, homophobia, and utter ignorance in one awful caption. Also, you do see pink shoes on the other two guys right? Including the one that Mebane just sacked? Yeah, everybody wore them last season; it was a breast cancer awareness thing. You might as well have made him say “LOL I’m wearin’ a shirt, why am I wearing a shirt that’s so wacky!”

Also, Pink Panther was awesome. Shut up.

captions 2 The NFL Runs a Caption Contest (and It Is Awful)

NFL Network via Facebook

OK, Batch 2 is up. And two words in, we already hate you guys more than we’ve ever hated anybody in our lives. Manti Te’o jokes came and went in the same week; unfortunately for you, it wasn’t this week. And even if it wasn’t a hopelessly outdated reference, it makes no sense in this context. What does a big guy with his arms in the air have to do with Manti getting catfished? Does the POOF mean Mebane magically turned Manti’s girlfriend into a man and, if so, then why the question mark? Is Brandon Mebane the world’s most insecure magician? Is he not sure whether or not his trick worked?

So many questions, and you’re not offering any answers. You lazily puked out an imaginary girlfriend gag, unaware of the layers of mystery that you have unfurled, and it is now YOUR responsibility to solve. Get to work!

The next captioner took the opposite route and thoroughly explained the joke, so no mystery rears its ugly head. See, Leon Sandcastle is Deion Sanders’ alter-ego in that one commercial, and he’s black, and so is Mebane, and so they’re the same even though one’s fat and one’s not and LAUGH DAMMIT. You seriously couldn’t find another fat black man to superficially compare him to? If you just wanted an excuse to reference Leon Sandcastle, you should’ve found a picture of him on Reddit, and made the joke there. Here, you’re just embarrassing yourself.

Next up is…another Harlem Shake deal? How the Hell did you get in here? Go on, get! And take the other hundred Harlem Shake jokers with you, because they’re all equally useless.

Same goes for you, Dougie. Mebane’s not doing the Dougie, and you know it. One dance does not equal all dances. Go hang with the Harlem Shakers, preferably far away from here, and tell anybody else out there with “name of a novelty dance” as their joke, that they’re all On Notice.

As for the last guy here, we like your spirit, and we agree that this caption stuff isn’t necessary at all. However, if this is what you believe, why are you here? Would you go on American Idol and complain that Randy Jackson needs to stop making people sing? Would you go to open-mic night at the local comedy club, get on stage, and shout about how open mics need to stop immediately?

Probably not. So why go into the caption contest to complain about the caption contest? Why not submit a better caption instead? Though, judging from literally everyone before you, that seems to be an impossible task. Moving on, regardless.

captions 3 The NFL Runs a Caption Contest (and It Is Awful)

How about not that? 

TWO HARLEM SHAKERS? OK, that’s it. Feel the wrath of the Angry Man Cave Wolf!



OK, that was grisly. Anyone else want to pretend “Harlem Shake” counts as a joke? Yeah, probably. Keep the Wolf on standby.

As far as you other two go, “pizza rolls” was funny last year, in the original image macro. Every other use of the phrase has diluted it to utter nothingness, like every other meme in recorded history. So yes, good on you for remembering “pizza rolls” was a thing. Bad on you for digging it out of its grave and attempting to reanimate it in the most half-assed manner imaginable. Have you no respect for the dead?

And now for Sack Lunch. For what it’s worth, this is the best caption so far. Doesn’t mean it’s “good” or anything but, compared to the endless stream of “this is a dance” and “pink shoes LOL,” this is as close to Bill Hicks as we’ll probably get. It’s a reference sure, but not an obvious and overplayed one. Even if you saw Wedding Crashers, you might have forgotten about the Sack Lunch scene, but it’s not such an obscure reference that you come across like a scumbag hipster for making it. Well done, more or less.

captions 4 The NFL Runs a Caption Contest (and It Is Awful)

AM radio deserves you comedy monsters. 

And just like that, somebody comes in and does almost the complete opposite. What does Darryl have to do with this picture? Is Mebane happy because he guessed Darryl’s affiliation on the show? Did he win money in a Bad Darryl vs. Good Darryl bet? If that wasn’t bad enough, you just had to let us know EXACTLY what show you’re talking about, in the most awkward manner ever devised: “A The?” Ralph Wiggum explaining that a train picture made “choo-choo-choose me” hilarious was less heavy-handed than this. Ralph has an excuse by the way, as he’s a kid, not to mention so dumb that being declared legally brain-dead would make him smarter.

You likely don’t have an excuse. So three strikes–nonsensical reference, pointing out the reference, and displaying worse grammar than an English-to-Chinese-to-Spanish-to-Urdu-to-Russian-to-English translation would make more sense–and you’re gone.

Oh, and “I lose one pound?” That’s not a joke, that’s an accomplishment. Losing 1-2 pounds a week is considered a very healthy way to trim up. If you lose that much every day, your insides might be dissolving into nothingness, and you should probably get that checked out. Perhaps you’re implying that he’s been dieting all season and only lost one pound? If that’s the case, you need to tell us. If you can’t provide the whole story in one line, then it probably shouldn’t be a caption.

By the way, you totally can. “Eight months of salad and water, and I finally lost one pound! And now I shall dance the Dance Of Accomplishment!” See? Small enough for a caption, tells the whole story, it’s witty and original, and it mentions dancing without mentioning the f——- Harlem Shake.

Oh, and speaking of…


Grrrr again, but more.

That’s for letting another one into the batch. We can’t take much more of this. Let’s check out the next group.

captions 5 The NFL Runs a Caption Contest (and It Is Awful)

It’s our fault for expecting comedy from Facebook.

Pizza rolls? Harlem Shake? Sigh…

Annnnd, MCD Wolf is officially retired now.

Annnnd MCD Wolf is officially retired now.

It’s cruel, but it has to be done. As for you other three, Mr. Geico is already never allowed to speak ever again. At least “pizza rolls” is only a year old. But the whole “save money by switching” gag died, what, ten years ago? But fret not; you might be an utter failure at caption humor, but you clearly have a bright future in late-night TV. E-mail Leno your resume; they’re in the market for another writer to help craft a fresh batch of Clinton jokes.

You want to do an old reference? Let Phone Books show you how to do it. This might actually be better than Sack Lunch, for several reasons. For one thing, it’s referencing a better movie (that’s right, we’re taking the controversial stance that The Jerk is better than Wedding Crashers. Wanna fight about it?) Also, if you watch the Phonebook Scene, you’ll see that Steve Martin’s mannerisms resemble what Mebane’s doing. So it looks like we have a new reigning champion.

Now, you may have noticed that the only two decent captions are references, and so many of the ones we’ve bagged are also references. Don’t any of these uncreative and likely-drunk-as-Hell football fans offer original horrible humor? Well, sure they do. Behold:

captions 6 The NFL Runs a Caption Contest (and It Is Awful)

Maybe he just loves dance and isn’t going to let some cat-killing God stifle him with terrorist threats. 

Not sure who Mr. Bryant is, but this is the closest we come to a non-reference joke in this entire thread. And, naturally, it’s horrible. The setup is cliché (God can’t possibly kill as many kittens as the Internet implies He does,) the punchline is vague, and the subject is unknown (pretty sure Brandon Mebane’s last name is not Bryant.) But at least they didn’t just name-check a dance and then drop the mic like it actually meant something.

captions 7 The NFL Runs a Caption Contest (and It Is Awful)


Could be worse. They could be asking fans to do the Harlem Shake. Which, clearly, they would gladly do.

 The NFL Runs a Caption Contest (and It Is Awful)

“If it weren’t for that damn lettuce, I would’ve DEVOURED this thing!”

Jason Iannone is a humorist and editor for hire. His Facebook is a rockin’ party, and his Twitter is the awesome afterparty. Tumblr is where he rides out the hangover, and archives anything he writes from anywhere.

bandtbogus The NFL Runs a Caption Contest (and It Is Awful)

You killed the game, you medieval dickweed!

Jason did evil things to his stomach when he Ate A Giant Burger Totally Unprepared, and tackled the evil things done to a great franchise in Why Bill And Ted Can’t Make An Excellent Video Game.

More from Jason Iannone

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