The Unholy Alliance Between the NFL and Verzuz, Explained

Illustration for article titled The Unholy Alliance Between the NFL and Verzuz, Explained
Photo: Frazer Harrison (Getty Images)

Ever since COVID-19 kicked in the door wavin’ the four-four, we’ve struggled as a global community—unless you live in Atlanta or Houston—to adapt to our new normal. Thankfully, while deprived of movie theaters, concerts, and pretty much anything else that brings joy into our lives outside of crab legs, super producers Timbaland and Swizz Beatz have stepped up in our hour of darkness, emerging as the superheroes we don’t deserve but have graciously accepted.


But now that their groundbreaking Verzuz series is looking to secure the bag by expanding on its format, it’s about that time for an explainer. You’re welcome in advance.

What in the hell is Verzuz and why should I even care?

Verzuz is a virtual battle celebration hosted by Instagram Live and Apple Music in which prominent artists from the realms of hip-hop and R&B pit their catalogs against each other in a little friendly—typically—competition. It was created by legendary producers Timbaland and Swizz Beatz, and has thus far, has featured the likes of everyone from Brandy and Monica, to Teddy Riley and Babyface, to even Kanye and Pharrell.

Oh, wait...that last one hasn’t happened yet. (But with faith in God I will it into fruition.)

Why you should care is because it’s one of the biggest pop culture moments in existence right now. Millions of people lock in for each battle celebration, memes are born, and memories are made. It’s also cathartic as hell to take a trip down memory lane and revisit some of our favorite songs while enjoying a momentary respite from this hellscape we’re living in.

Verzuz is basically as close to a cure for the coronavirus as we’ve gonna get right now.

OK, so what the hell does Verzuz have to do with the NFL?

Over the weekend, Timbaland announced...well, this:


Wait, what? I don’t get it.

I don’t either but since it’s my civil duty, I’ll try my best to explain.

With the Pro Bowl scrapped this year due to the coronavirus—as if any of us watched it anyway—the NFL and Verzuz are joining forces to deliver some semblance of the annual festivities to the masses—albeit virtually. What that will entail in full has yet to be unveiled, but according to Timbaland, the biggest names in the NFL will be going head up by “showcasing their position highlights.”


So assuming this adheres to Verzuz’s traditional format, we’ll see something along the lines of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters alum D.K. Metcalf pit clips like this:


Against Chiefs superstar Tyreek Hill routinely doing shit like this:



Yeah, it sounds bizarre, but it’s also a much better alternative than watching Trae Young and Chris Paul put us to sleep playing HORSE or that televised NBA2K tournament we all like to pretend never happened.


Plus, Verzuz has excelled at providing unparalleled entertainment despite its virtual limitations. So if you toss in some competitive banter between these guys it could actually be a fun way to revisit the season that was. Maybe?


I guess. So considering Verzuz’s popularity, how are people responding to this “expansion”?

I think it’s safe to say that folks aren’t particularly thrilled with Verzuz venturing beyond music:


But did anyone really think that a cultural phenomenon of this magnitude wouldn’t find a way to strengthen its headlock on pop culture? Is that not good business? I expect pitchforks and riots when Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera inevitably face-off on Verzuz, but I think the outrage at Timbaland and Swizz for securing an NFL bag is a bit premature. If we can stomach Teddy Riley’s technical difficulties, this NFL pivot deserves a bit more grace.

OK, fine. So when is this going down?

Every night from Jan. 26-29. The lineups and specific times have yet to be announced, but you’re strongly encouraged to bring Raisinets and an open mind.


You also might want to follow @verzuztv on Instagram to stay up to date with the latest details.

Menace to supremacy. Founder of Extraordinary Ideas and co-host and producer of The Extraordinary Negroes podcast. Impatiently waiting for y'all to stop putting sugar in grits.



Is that not good business?

It wasn’t that long ago that THE ROOT was clowning anyone who dared say that were still watching the NFL post Kaepernick.

I guess Jay-Z fixed racism in the NFL and we all good, now.

Thanks Jay...