The Wesseling Bowl

The Wesseling Bowl
Reading Time: 4 minutes.

The L.A. Rams take on the Cincinnati Bengals this week in Super Bowl LVI and the game has particular significance for those who remember the late, great, Chris Wesseling. MJ @47yards shares his thoughts on “The Wesseling Bowl”.

Remembering Wess

image credit:euroweeklynews.com

I am still a novice when it comes to Twitter. A couple of hundred followers for whom I’m always grateful they want to read any of my random NFL-related musings. A few likes here and a few retweets there. Then last weekend I tweeted something out that resulted in over 800 likes inside hours, easily a record for my contributions to the Twittersphere. It had absolutely nothing to do with me. It had everything to do with the subject of my tweet, Chris Wesseling.

The 5th February 2022 marked the 1-year anniversary of the passing of NFL.com writer Chris Wesseling after this courageous battle against cancer. To mark the date I tweeted out a message of remembrance about Wess which clearly struck a chord among his followers in America, here in the UK and the wider NFL world. I never met Wess, although he was kind enough to reply to a few of my tweets and like a few posts. This was typical of the man, generous with those that engaged with him constructively on the subject of football. He had a profound impact on my appreciation of the game and how I viewed recent events in the NFL. 

Mailman Delivers – the Wess Effect

I’ve been a fan of NFL since around 1990 but had an on / off level of interest until about 2016 when a work colleague from Texas helped re-ignite my interest. I started listening to podcasts and settled on one favourite in particular, Around the NFL. The main reason for this was it sounded like four friends, of a similar age to myself, sitting around just talking ball. It was informative but more importantly it was fun, as the four friends spontaneously bounced the conversation off each other. Dan Hanzus, Marc Sessler and Gregg Rosenthal were all great, and I loved any occasion their producer Ricky Hollywood got involved in the chat.

Then there was this 4th guy. Chris Wesseling. The Mailman. I found that the highlights of each episode for me were Wess’ take on the topic of the day. He was funny and witty but there was a depth to him and his knowledge of the sport. A wisdom. Almost as though he was some timeless sage who had been watching this wonderful game ever since it was first played. 

The Craftsman

First and foremost Wess was a writer. I find myself revisiting his articles over and over, with the regret that there are no more articles to come. He was a poet. If you follow the NFL you must, simply must, search out some of his long-form articles. Read “The Ohio River Offense” from 2015, which was his long-form debut for NFL.com (hard to believe, given its mastery). Read Wess’ QB index from September 2020, written when he was in the midst of his chemotherapy treatment. His writing should be displayed in the Hall of Fame. He was a craftsman. Wess never wasted a word, his creativity and effective use of language second to none. Read anything he ever wrote.

I wish I could write like Wess. He is, in part, the inspiration for me indulging my passion for the NFL through writing for NinetyNineYards and podcasting as part of our Draft Talk team. I was inspired by his story. His rise from living on Tybee Island to working for NFL.com, via rotoworld.com (and I know we have Gregg to thank for identifying Wess’ unique talent). I was inspired by his courage as he battled with cancer. He was taken from this world too soon, and last year it felt as though the NFL “world” mourned in unison with his wife Lakisha, his young son Linc, and his friends and colleagues.

The Wesseling Bowl

Twelve months on and whatever faith you do or don’t have it is both curious and wondrous that Super Bowl LVI will be between the L.A. Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals. Wess’ Cincinnati Bengals. He had a love-hate relationship with the Bengals. He built up a dossier to document his “breakup” with them. You only go to that much trouble motivated by something you truly love. They (Wess and the Bengals) had experienced enough heartbreak to the extent that Wess created the term “Wesstivus” which signalled a tradition of celebrating the Bengals inevitably being “1 and done” whenever they reached the playoffs. But not this year. 

The 2021 Cincinnati Bengals have exceeded all expectations. Wess was a big fan of Joe Burrow. He thought there was every possibility that Burrow could lead the Bengals out of the wilderness and back into more frequent relevance in the NFL. He would never have thought it could happen this quickly. As the Bengals have advanced through the playoffs the support for them across the spectrum of fans without a playoff team has grown exponentially. This is because of our love and respect for Chris Wesseling. The Bengals success brings Wess back to the forefront of our minds. Their journey has been infectious and enthralling.

Making it a Wesseling Bowl

Of course for it to be a true “Wesseling Bowl” their opponent had to be the L.A. Rams. Lakisha Wesseling’s Rams. She is a staunch Rams fan whether it be in St. Louis or in Los Angeles. If you follow Lakisha on Twitter, and you should, you will have seen some of the roller-coaster of emotions supporting these two teams through the playoffs has been. Neither side has made easy work of this. For the Bengals there have been walk-off field goals from Evan McPherson and the Bengals defense standing firm against Mahomes and the Chiefs after being down 21-3. Meanwhile the Rams imploded from 27-3 up against the seemingly invincible Tom Brady before last-second heroics from Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp. Then they finally defeated their kryptonite, the 49ers, in the NFC Championship.

Both journeys have been somewhat improbably littered with triumph over adversity. I have to think that the footballing gods or cosmic fates have conspired to bring this match up together. Wess has had a hand in this.

Whatever happens on Sunday this game should be a joyous celebration. The “Wesseling Bowl”. Let us hope both teams are able to put on a display of their respective talents. I wish it could be a game for the ages, followed by another Chris Wesseling literary masterpiece, pointing out the artistry in how the game was won and lost. I have no doubt he will be there in spirit. Put on a show Rams and Bengals. For Wess.

Banner Image credit: espn.com

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