ASTRAL GEEKS S06E06: The Best Worst Game

“Look right behind you Oldsters, the new generation of QBs has arrived.”

We got our asses kicked. Everybody was pissed off. But too late now, we’ve got to get ready for Carolina.”

-Obligatory Bruce Arians quote, from the post-game presser after the shocking 38-3 massacre by the Saints, a game which was 31-0 at the half. It was a matchup that was billed as a battle of QB titans, Brees and Brady, but ended up as anything but. Funny enough, the other titanic battle involving Brady this season, against Rodgers and the Packers, was also a lopsided farce, though that time it was in favor of the Bucs. Most power rankings coming into Week 9 had the Bucs at 2 or even 1B, just behind the Steelers, billing them as the most complete team in the NFC — especially with Antonio Brown entering the lineup and set to give the receiving game a boost. Well, lolololololololololololololololololololololol to that motherfuckers. They were complete… pieces of stanky goat shite, if that’s what you mean.

It’s not easy to assess exactly what happened there. Both the Packers defeat and this flop by the Bucs had an air of the proverbial Any Given Sunday factor. But there has to be more to it than that. Perhaps the Saints defense just completely solved Tom Brady for this particular 60 minutes (not unlike they did in Week 1). After all, this game was all Tom Brady. The Bucs set the record for the least rush attempts ever in an NFL game, with 5 (one was a kneel down, so actually 4). Brady chucked three interceptions, adding to the four he had already this season, as if he was trying to resurrect the finger-slurping ghost of Jameis. That vaunted receiving corps, comprising three Pro Bowl caliber receivers, could do nothing at all to help him out of whatever hole he sank into, and the game quickly became a runaway train that nobody could stop.

In fact, one even has to wonder if introducing AB was like tossing a wrench into the gears of an already well-oiled machine. Everybody expected his bad juju to happen off the field, but is it possible it happened on the field? That might sound improbable for the guy who not that long ago was far and away the best receiver in the game, but now even backbiting scapegoater extraordinaire Arians is already talking about how AB got too many targets, a distracting shiny new toy for Brady while ever-the-bridesmaid Evans was open and ignored far too often.

Whatever the truth may be, one of the great joys of watching this Bucs team is the obvious dysfunctional power struggle between Arians and Brady, who both have zero qualms about constantly throwing each other under the bus, even when they win. Throw crazy AB in the mix and the potential for epic, fiery collapse becomes too delicious to bear. Reminds me of Coppola in Hearts of Darkness, talking about his pussyfooting push and pull with Brando, and then how perilous the whole thing became once he threw “crazy Dennis Hopper” into the mix.

It’ll be fun to see what happens to this team. Brady is Brady and could very well use the crucible of this humiliation to steel himself down the stretch on the way to his 10th, yes count ‘em, 10th Super Bowl berth. Or it could go down in the most glorious fireball ever, to the delight of millions, myself included.

In another vein, I know the Bucs rolled out the red carpet for Brady’s supercalifragilistic charlatan “trainer” Alex Guerrero, but I’d kill for some deep background quotes from Arians about him. I’m sure they are “juicy, Junior, real juicy.”

Another loss like this, and he just may let loose. Hallelujah.

Hopefully you got the Flacco joke there. If you scroll through the replies, you’ll see that a bunch of people took Mays to task for not having a more thorough, definitive list of young stars leading up to the punchline, to which he just shrugs in amusement. Fuckin’ Twitter, you can’t never win, and people online just can’t resist the urge to ruin just about anything.

Jokes aside, Mays, of Grantland, The Ringer, and now The Athletic, is one of my favorite football minds, and the essence of the tweet is sincere. I quoted it because I have been thinking a lot about this very subject, and the sense of hope it gives me for the future. In fact, all things considered, I’ve been thinking a lot about hope in general, but we’ll get to more of that later. Hope emerges brightest after long periods of darkness. America may very well be emerging from a horrendously dark one soon. In my own life, almost nine years ago I felt hope for the first time after years of hopelessness and loss, when I finally put down the bottle and stepped into the light of a new kind of life.

By comparison, the state of young quarterbacks in the NFL is probably a bit less weighty, but no less interesting! It wasn’t that long ago, just a few years really, that the great quarterbacking generation of the 2000s, the Manning brothers, Brady, Roethlisberger, Rodgers, Rivers, and Brees, despite several of them still firing at their peak, started to wind down, and there was a clear dearth of greatness coming in to replace them. The great promise of Jameis and Mariota went sour real fast, and numerous other prospects, the Rosens and Osweilers, were over before they even started.

Guys like Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson and Cam Newton were youngish superstars, but even so NFL analysts saw the sky falling, even as they knew that this is an oft-repeated cycle. Part of this downturn was exacerbated by a year or two, 2016 and 17, where the overall quality of play seemed to really sag. There were no consensus dominant teams, high octane offenses lacked tough defenses and vice versa. The Super Bowl between the Falcons and the Pats, while exciting for what eventually transpired, felt like two sorta pretty good teams that had made it to the top of the sludge pile of uneven, above average teams. It was the Super Bowl, but if you took away all the pageantry and pressure, it wasn’t much more than a decently watchable Sunday Night regular season game.

Goff and Wentz came along, and the former was trapped in Jeff Fisher’s self-fulfilling 7-9 Nightmare World, while the latter erupted immediately, showing flashes of brilliance in his rookie season, then dominating the first 13 games of 2017, the year he had to watch from the sidelines with a torn MCL while his journeyman backup pulled off an amazing Super Bowl victory.

Continue reading “ASTRAL GEEKS S06E06: The Best Worst Game”

ASTRAL GEEKS S06E05: Highway to Helloween

The weirdest, saddest touchdown ever?

I was mad as hell.”

And Falcons fans can’t take it anymore. This is Todd Gurley, when asked how he felt after scoring the fateful TD against the Lions that allowed Stafford (the real Matty Ice) and his Cirque de Soleil receiving corps to charge down the field in the final 62 seconds and win the game as the clock drained to zero. At this point, the Falcons’ epic quest to discover elaborate new ways to relinquish double-digit fourth quarter leads is so ridiculous it has veered into the cosmically sublime. “28-3” set some vicious curse in motion that craves ever more absurd methods of humiliation and won’t stop until the entire organization has gone mad and starts intentionally building up massive leads and then writhing in ecstasy while their opponent roars back and puts 30 points on them in ten minutes of game time – some dark, dysfunctional fetish born of the trauma stirred up by Tom Brady’s relentlessness and Kyle Shanahan’s aversion to controlling the clock when it counts most.

The biggest irony of course was that it was Gurley himself who made huge waves just two years ago during one of his two consecutive Fantasy RB1 seasons by going down at the two yard-line and not scoring a touchdown – for the exact same reason. His quick-thinking and suppression of his normal football instincts to score at any cost to life and limb affected the outcome of numerous Vegas over/unders and prop bets, as well as millions of individual fantasy games. Very little of that Gurley seems to be showing up in the present version, from his once heralded ability to create chunks of yardage on his own to a clear and focused mental game. It wasn’t until his momentum was carrying him over the goal line that he remembered he wasn’t supposed to score, and by then it was too late. Thus the sad, surreal picture above of him slumped on the goal line, defeated, while three Detroit Lions celebrate his touchdown.

Football is a weird game. Rarely boring, that’s for sure. Not a week goes by without at least a handful of unprecedented oddities occurring. Some teams – Falcons, Browns, Jets, Lions, Chargers, Bills – have found ways to not just make losing interesting, but have woven it into the fabric of who they are in ways unique to their team and era.

Tune in next week when The Falcons give up a 17-point lead by slashing Matt Ryan’s windpipe and letting him slowly bleed out for the entirety of the fourth quarter. Fun!

Stefon Diggs “He tripped the way people do when they running from the villain/bad guys.”

He helped me win a much needed fantasy contest last week, so kudos!”

-Obligatory Bruce Arians quote. He’s talking about Gronk. Does Arians play for money? How much? What are the odds that the whole back and forth with Godwin, Evans, and Miller, or Jones II and Fournette depends on whether he’s going against them that week in fantasy? I mean, I bet he’s pretty competitive, so the odds aren’t zero!

I basically got fired yesterday, and today my day consisted of Zoom meetings with the guy that fired me and sitting in a room with the guy who replaced me for four hours. My heart just hurt all day.”

-Big ol’ sad fuzzy wuzzy Fitzpatrick talking about how it felt after the Dolphins reported that his BFF Tua was going to replace him as the starting QB. This is definitely a tough one. While everyone knew from the beginning that the Lil’ Lefty from ‘Bama with the tongue-twister name was drafted to be the future of the franchise, the timing and circumstances of the switch do seem a bit dubious. No one thinks Fitzpatrick is going to the Super Bowl, but he has led Miami to a 3-3 record and put them in the hunt for their first playoff spot since 2016. Sharone Mitchell, a regular Thursday guest on Christopher Harris’ podcast, calls Fitzy the “embodiment of white privilege.” He’s being funny when he says it, implying that a black QB wouldn’t be able to get away with his brand of unhinged chaos and remain an NFL starter (Jameis anyone? Okay, point taken). But I also have to disagree with his premise, at least on the grounds of personality.

There’s a reason that Fitzpatrick is the premiere journeyman backup/part-time starter in the NFL, having made impactful starts for eight different teams. Guys generally just like playing for him. He’s extremely likable – he’s got a scruffy, Harvard-honed charisma (sort of if you combined Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake’s characters in The Social Network) and a sturdy, gregarious presence in the locker room, keeping things light even in dark moments. It’s true, his cavalier attitude doesn’t scream champion like say, Brady, who has that relentless Jordan-esque need to devour and dominate everyone in his path and cannot help screaming “Fuck” right into the camera each time on of his laser passes bounces right out of some poor hapless third string wideout’s hands. But he’s been around long enough and played every team multiple times, and he knows his shit. He’s got grit, taking hits all day so he can get off his patented 60-yard bombs into triple coverage…

Okay, so there’s that. With the wild, aw-fuck-it gunslinging fun comes a profusion of turnovers and usually a bloated Loss column in the standings. So I’m sure that makes this benching even tougher, because so far his play was relatively decent (70% completion rate, 1535 yards, 10-7 TD/INT ratio) and his record was even (3-3). Of course, “so far” is doing lots of heavy lifting in that sentence. If there are any betting folk in the football community (I feel like there must be a few), the smart money would probably be on Fitzmagic imploding somewhere shy of a Wild Card spot anyway.

So The Fish have decided to trot out their new toy, the OG “tanking for…” fella, to see what they have got. From where we all stand, it’s hard to tell whether the idea is “Playoffs be damned, let’s get this kid some reps!” or “You all have no idea what we are about to unleash upon you. Now that he is healthy, this kid is going to go the Full Mahomes (or Full Second Half of the National Championship) on the NFL, torching a path to the Dolphins’ first Super Bowl since the Marino days. And this time we’re gonna win the fucker!” Either way, all reports say that Fitzy took his mentoring duties seriously. The two have become so close, aligning their routines and doing everything together, that they’ve developed a shorthand of communication and a bevy of inside jokes. And if there were any doubt, their closeness can be a summed up by Tua’s reaction when Fitzpatrick threw one of his three TD passes against the 49ers in Week 5 – he celebrated by running onto the field and jumping into the Big Beard’s arms, who proceeded to hold him like a baby.

Well Papa, it’s time to push the little bear cub out the door on his own. Try not to be too sad. You will certainly get another chance to bring your beard mites, 220 to 168 TD-INT ratio, and infectious mirth to a needy franchise soon. I’ll certainly keep watching you play, and may even plug you into a future lineup – just in time for you to crater and give me 3 points. Ah, just like old times.

Continue reading “ASTRAL GEEKS S06E05: Highway to Helloween”

ASTRAL GEEKS S06E04: Super-Spreader Offense

“I see dead people” -Odin

I can honestly say, had this been last year, we would have gotten our ass beat by 20.”

-Obligatory weekly Bruce Arians quote, after the Bucs’ Week 4 comeback win over the Chargers and wunderkind QB Justin Herbert. This is how Captain Grumpus gives compliments, and I’m pretty sure this one is for Tom Brady. But in true Arians fashion it also doubles as a dig at infamous hand-gobbler Jameis, because why waste your breath on positivity that doesn’t also destroy somebody you detest?

He knew. He knew.”

Cut to Thursday of Week 5, after the Bucs lost a one-point grinder to the Bears, partly it seems, because Brady appeared to forget what down it was on one of his patented one-minute comeback drives. This is Arians again, defending his QB by stating the opposite of what all of us could see with our own eyes, but so be it. After Brady’s 4th down pass was knocked down and the Bears were to take over on downs, he stayed on the field holding up four fingers, while the rest of his team walked back to the sideline.

This is all rather unexpected, of course. We expect that if you are either foolish or unlucky enough to leave Brady 60 seconds or more at the end of the game, he will drive down the field and thrust the dagger through your heart with the final score, leaving you with crumbs to work with. We’ve seen it countless times over the last two decades. And even at 43, with whatever he may have lost physically (his arm strength is actually less diminished than many, myself included, have previously stated; though his pocket mobility has definitely suffered), we all expect his mental game to remain as sharp as a razor. That’s the Brady Iceman persona. But maybe now that throwing back-breaking pick-sixes appears to be a new-found part of his game, so too are the mental errors. I blame the half-assed Trumpism for eating away too much of his frontal cortex.

It’s weird how both these characters are actually Brady, which is why I couldn’t hate him more.

One thing that does remain unchanged, however, he can’t seem to beat Nick Foles.

Hey Ramsey, am I still trash?”

This is how Josh Allen signed a fan’s photo in 2019, after the Bills beat the Jags, before Ramsey was traded to the Rams. This of course refers to Ramsey’s comments in his bombshell GQ interview in the summer of 2018. Cornerbacks are known for their profuse and scathing public shit talk, but Ramsey stands head and shoulders above most of them. In the article, he offered weirdly lavish praise for a few QBs (he claimed before God and everybody that Cousins would be in the Hall of Fame) and heaped shit on several others, including his own at-the-time QB Blake Bortles (“[we don’t go against him in practice because] we don’t wanna hurt his confidence”) – but he saved his most undiluted Haterade for Allen.

Yet since that article Allen has played Ramsey’s teams three times and won all three matchups. In that time, the scrambling, rocket-armed QB has steadily improved his game. Early on he was wild, raw, and unformed, mixing in Matrix-style QB scrambles with bone-headed interceptions. Last year, he had tightened up enough that on his play and the strength of the defense, the Bills made it to the playoffs, only to exit from the first round after losing an overtime thriller to the Texans, primarily because Deshaun Watson is a fucking ninja (I just got chills watching that shit again).

Allen famously trained with Romo this last summer, working on his throwing mechanics, and whatever it was he learned, against all probability it seems to have resulted in a world-class transformation. Allen’s problem was always accuracy, which is historically something that can’t be improved to any significant degree. He could always chuck the ball into the stratosphere, and the mental game for any quarterback can always improve with experience, but he has somehow improved his completion percentage by 18 points since the 2018 season. Some of that can be attributed to a stronger offensive line and improved receiving corps (Diggs in particular is one of the best 50-50 ballers out there), but his accuracy on tight windows, minimal separation, and deep balls is now much closer to Wilson and Rodgers than say, bottom scrapers like Fitzpatrick. Through four games he has a 12 to 1 TD/INT ratio and his yards per attempt is second only to 2020 God Tier Russell Wilson. In the midst of an historic offensive season, he is standing at the top of the heap. The most fantasy points EVER scored through four games goes like this:

1. 2020 Russell Wilson
2. 2020 Dak Prescott
3. 2013 Peyton Manning (when he scored 55 TDs)
4. 2020 Josh Allen

Sure this could be like Carr’s anomalous MVP-caliber season a few years ago, but I still think it’s absolutely safe to say at this point that Allen isn’t trash. When asked if there was any bad blood left between him and Ramsey after the Bills beat the Rams in Week 3 (Allen repeatedly targeted Ramsey’s receivers, including on two of his TD passes that day), he demurred with a generic “Nah. He’s a competitor.” Of course, it’s easy to be magnanimous when you hold all the Ws in the relationship.

I work with two Bills fans, both of whom are so rattled by years of sub-mediocrity that they are giddily convinced the Bills are going to charge past the Ravens, Chiefs, and Patriots and into the Super Bowl this year. The Bills are fun to watch with their buzzsaw offense and shut-down defense, and man I really do hope they are right, but I’m not sure I’m there yet. Still, there is little I love more than a redemption story, and Josh Allen is proving to be a major one.

Continue reading “ASTRAL GEEKS S06E04: Super-Spreader Offense”

Astral Geeks S06E03: American Carnage

“It’s kinda strange, isn’t it? How the mountains pay us no attention at all. You laugh or you cry, the wind just keeps on blowing.” “Totally. Let’s party.”

I’m gonna let nature do its course. Survival-of-the-fittest kind of approach. And just say, if it knocks me out, it knocks me out. I’m going to be OK. You know, even if I die. If I die, I die. I kind of have peace about that.”

-Kirk Cousins, American Hero

Kerk the Jerk is talking about COVID here. Because of course, like most Americans, he only thinks about the disease in terms of whether or not it affects him personally. The 84 Million Dollar Kid doesn’t waste time (unlike when he’s in the pocket) worrying how he might spread it to other people, including his own children — and whether they, in fact, might die.

But also, Pissin’ Cousins talking about survival of the fittest is pretty fucking rich. Let’s set aside the fact that little Goody God Boy is probably a good ol’ fashioned Creationist and doesn’t even believe in Evolution in the first place. If we want to talk about Darwinism in a football type way, Cap’n, your ass has gone the way of the dodo. You’re a Giant Sloth – fuzzy, essentially harmless, imposing in stature perhaps, but coming in negative in the Old Cosmic Box Score. Or you’re one of those nasty little spitting dinosaurs that ate Newman in Jurassic Park, except without the benefit of amber-encased Dino DNA® to bring you back to present-day Costa Rica.

You’re gone. Done.

Extinct.

You were last seen doing this:

On your way to -4.48 FP on the day. 11 whole completions. 113 Yards. 3 INTS. No TDs.

So I guess you are right in a way. There’s not much COVID could do to you that you haven’t already done to yourself.

 

I’d run the same damn play.”

Cam Newton, referring to the final play of the titanic Seahawks-Patriots showdown on Sunday night, that resulted in his team’s loss.

It was quintessential Cam Newton. The Pats had driven all the way down to the one-yard line in the last seconds of the game, down 35-30, and every single one of the 17.69 million viewers watching, as well as everyone on the sidelines and all 22 players on the field, knew what was coming next. Cam was gonna keep the ball and run it in – with finesse and stretching power and maybe even a flip involved.

Well, the flip did happen. But it came when the QB was upended about a yard shy of the goal, after taking the snap in shotgun and running to the left from about the 5 yard-line. Everyone knew what he was going to do and I’d venture a majority were convinced he was going to score, so it was something of a surprise when he fell short. Which actually tells me it was the right play to run.

Seattle and New England have a great recent history of epic battles, and this fit proudly into the tradition. Like the classic Super Bowl 49, this came down to a goal line stand. Except this time it was the Patriots trying and failing to get in. It’s a real treat to see this rivalry  continuing. Carroll and Bellichick provide the foundation, but it’s top of their game Cam and Russ that made the real show so exciting. More of this please. And soon! None of this every couple years nonsense. We’re all looking forward to the Lamar/Mahomes battle this Monday, but something about these more seasoned QBs has a gravitas that can’t be drummed up.

 

We haven’t done shit.”

-Bruce Arians, after the Bucs’ Week 2 win over the hapless Panthers.

Two weeks of NFL football and two Arians quotes in this blog. Why not? As long as he keeps letting them fly, we’ll keep repeating them here. I forgot what a great shittalk soundbyter he was.

I can only imagine that Tom Brady… agrees?

Continue reading “Astral Geeks S06E03: American Carnage”

Astral Geeks S06E02: What’s Old is Old

tom brady pick six astral geeks 2020
Feed us Tom Brady Pick Sixes like fistfuls of chocolate chip brownies stuffed with crack. Can’t get enough!

“This hurts. Gotta stand tall through it all though. Next year.”
-Brandon Graham, Philadelphia Eagles

I just finished watching this year’s All or Nothing on Amazon, which follows the entire season of the 2019 Philadelphia Eagles. Defensive End Graham said this in the aftermath the crushing Wild Card loss to the Seahawks, after they had pulled together the scattered scraps of a broken and battered team and squeaked into the playoffs by winning their last four games straight (and by playing in the NFC East, where the other three teams had 15 total wins between them, making 9-7 just enough to take the division title).

They had been crippled by injuries all season and in the final weeks the field looked like the set at the end of Hamlet –littered with bodies (and wooden swords). But this was the same team whose quintessential “next man up” mentality (I mean, in reality, every NFL team has this mentality by sheer necessity) won an epic Super Bowl shootout with backup Big Dick Nick at QB, so if any team could be counted on to go all the way with a scrabble of scrubs and broken down misfits, it was the Eagles.

That didn’t happen, of course. Carson Wentz, finally at long last playing in his first-ever playoff game (he had missed the last two years of playoffs due to injuries, including the above-mentioned Super Bowl), got, well… knocked out of the game in the first quarter with a concussion, never to return. Forty year-old Josh McCown, a 17-year vet rostered on his 11th NFL team, came in to play QB in what was also his first playoff game ever.

It didn’t go so great. The defense kept them in the game, holding Russ the Golden God to a measly 17 points. And the scrubs on offense fought valiantly, but down their starting QB, all three starting WRs, two All-Pro O-Linemen, and their RB1; and with Ertz playing in a Blue Tent Vicodin haze meant to mask the pain of taped-up fractured ribs and a lacerated kidney (just… fucking ouch), they were consistently outmatched by the visiting team, which by all rights should have been the higher seed but for having played in the NFC West and having blown it against the Niners in Week 17. McCown and His Downtown Clowns managed just 2 FGs in 3 quarters, losing the game 17-9.

The journeyman QB was utterly distraught after the game. Ertz tried his best to console him, assuring him he battled as hard as he could, but all McCown could manage to choke out was “It wasn’t good enough.” The final shot of the last episode was him alone, slowly collapsing into tears in the tunnel, and Ertz coming up to comfort him yet again and pull him to his feet so that he could go get dressed and face the press. This is how the season ends for every team but one – in pain, standing tall, and looking forward to next year.

Well guess what, folks, here it is! It’s next year. A clean slate. A new set of downs. Injuries healed. Scoreboard reset. A new group of teammates to forge a bond with through the blood and the mire, miracles and magic, hairline victories and gut-punching losses. Anything and everything is possible. Come February, it could be Mahomes again hefting the Lombardy, or the next Big Dick Nick – some overlooked backup, leading a scrabble of upstarts to the Promised Land with a new Philly Special, a few dashes of luck, and nothing to fucking lose.

The only thing we know for sure about this 2020 season is… the Ayatollah of RocknRolla will be knocked out in the first round of the playoffs. Continue reading “Astral Geeks S06E02: What’s Old is Old”

ASTRAL GEEKS S06 LAUNCH: Rally Round the Rancor!

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHH YEAH!!!!

FOOTBAW TIME!

Boy golly, I do love me some fackin’ footbaw.

What can I say, fellow Geeklets? Regardless of whatever else is going on – or however emphatically the nuance-blind, mask-eschewing, fact-denying, saliva-spraying, can-only-nut-in-the-presence-of-the-stars-and-stripes (while thinking of teenage niece Brailynne in those NASCAR booty shorts), tailgating-in-Klan-hoods ‘necks try to claim sole ownership over its fandom; and no matter how badly the liver-spotted, black-hearted, ivory-dentured, arm-candy-gobbling, cancer-of-the-soul (oh thank the Big Sky Guy it ain’t of the prostate) kazillionaires try to smear the sport with the shadowy sludge of greed, myopia, stupidity, and outright racism – I keep coming back to it with forgiveness, love, and open arms. I know, I know, I say it every year. Whatever swampy moral compromise the NFL devolves into each season, I still try to chew around the rot and see if I can swallow enough of the tasty parts without getting a jagged little bone fragment stuck in my throat (or even worse, any recklessly mixed metaphors).

This year the madness surrounding the NFL season is like a category 5 diarrhea hurricane, and I honestly don’t even know what to think. Are we even doing the right thing in allowing this sport to continue under these circumstances? We know that the bottom line for the NFL is always relentless, devouring greed, and in that way it has long been the perfect stand-in for the whole of late-stage American Capitalism and the soulless, oily culture of its enterprises. So any concern NFL executives might show for player health and safety, or any financial resources marshaled toward containing and limiting the impact of COVID-19 – each and every bit has a very tight profit margin attached to it, down to the penny.

You know damn well every single owner (and even a good chunk of the fans) would feed their players to the fucking Rancor if they thought they could suckle another couple billion out of the marrow of the economy by televising it.

Jerry Jones distraught that Dak’s perfect dart throw brought the gate down on his mucus-drooling monster baby’s skull

I know I sound horrendously cynical, but can you blame me? It’s 2020, and the path of our cosmic doom spiral is crystal fucking clear. It’s Twenny-Twenty, and in hindsight… maybe we shouldn’t have elected the worst goddamn person in America to the most important and dangerous position of power in the world. It’s Twennay-Twennay toys and gulls, and we’re all blind with fear and rage – either because we are the unfortunate heirs to a communal legacy of hate… or are gullible enough to believe slimy little dickshits like Ted Cruz and Matt Gaetz have our own best interest at heart… or are so fucking stupid that a sordid little fairy-tale dreamed up by some zit-faced 4-Chan incel purporting that the gravel-brained Nazi McRiblet currently smearing Adderall sweat and bacon grease on every remote control in the West Wing, and whose second-use Depends form the only barrier between a half-gallon of leaky Taco Bell shart and the bed that Abraham Lincoln slept on — is somehow secretly (stay with me now), despite his five deferments from the Vietnam draft and his inability to walk down a simple ramp without aid, the only pure and true American Warrior left, and the (White, of course) Nation’s only hope to break up a staggeringly broad and convoluted Satanic Pedophile Ring run (Hosted? it’s kind of a party, there’s pizza and shit, right?) by the Clintons and Soros and every Democratic Party bugaboo they could conjure… rather than the more glaringly plausible scenario: Continue reading “ASTRAL GEEKS S06 LAUNCH: Rally Round the Rancor!”

ASTRAL GEEKS SEASON FINALE, PART 1: America Loves a Winner

I had dinner with Dan Marino. I said, “What is it like playing quarterback? He said ‘Think of the freeway and you’re walking up the freeway with traffic coming at you while you’re trying to read Hamlet.”

-Al Pacino, with one of many classic quotes from the Ringer’s characteristically awesome and revelatory Oral History of Any Given Sunday.

 

Late to the Party

There was a time, about ten years ago, when I could write like Grantland Rice. Not necessarily because I believed all that sporty bullshit, but because sportswriting was the only thing I could do that anybody was willing to pay for. And none of the people I wrote about seemed to give a hoot in hell what kind of lunatic gibberish I wrote about them, just as long as it moved. They wanted Action, Color, Speed, Violence.”

-HST, in his Rolling Stone coverage of Super Bowl 7, which happened to run when I was exactly 17 days old.

 

Hello there. Why yes, hello. Howdee. Not dead. At least not in any real mortal sense, of course. Nor even in the dedder ‘n a hobnail sense of the second decade of this so far overall (in any reasonable estimation) horrid Millenium we just flushed down the shitter of history. Nope, still breathing (through somewhat shredded, pulpy bronchioles… that gray mid-winter dreck is hanging tough this year… difficult to shake) and relatively upright, though the fantasy season is kaput and all my teams are dead, done, and buried right along with it. And yours are too. Sad, but also relief, perhaps like the end of any hard, often painful thing (provided you care whether you win or lose, which I very much to my own chagrin do). I was there for a lot of it ending, but sadly this is also the time of year when a whole fuck lotta other shit happens too, like working long-ass days, and of course the holidays and traveling to see family in far-away desert oases, and somehow in an attempt to have a sort of normal life schedule and share a weekend day off with my wife, I ended up with Saturdays off and I work an 11-hour day on Sundays, starting at 10 am, just as the first round of games is starting. So I haven’t been parked in front of Red Zone all day like some Sundays past, maniacally clicking back and forth between Fanduel and Yahoo and Monkey Knife Fight and Twitter and all y’alls wack-ass text streams of shit-talk, all the while slowly losing my mind and health and desperately searching for an excuse to go the fuck outside and, well, not always finding one.

Oh yeah, and did I mention that the lady and I moved on December 1st? Like every single thing we own into another house? It’s pretty great. We’re happy. But we’re both swamped and exhausted (not stopping her from running her second half-marathon in a month though… she’s the crazy one, not me). Oh, and we no longer have the dirt cheap mega-cable that came with our old place, so I’m doing my best to compensate. I got Red Zone on Sling and you know what, to see that epic fucking Week 17 Seattle/SF battle, I broke down and dropped 45 bucks for the last scraps of this season’s NFL Game Pass.

I may have a problem. I don’t know. I like football way too much, against all my better judgment. So grotesque, so monolithic, so venal, so miraculous. I know I always say it, but quintessentially American in that way.

But man, at the very damn least, it is so much fun watching the 49ers kick this much ass again. What an amazing surprise all that ended up being. We always try to see the best in our teams, but even the best ones are still utterly surprising when they manage to pull off being in that final mix of greatness.

Still…yeah anyway, writing this fantasy season post-post-posty-Post-cereal-poster-boy-mortem makes me feel a bit like the clueless gawker wandering into the party two days late (or two weeks in this case) after all the streamers and confetti and glitter have been swept into piles, and all the smashed flute shards (hopefully) poured into some Republican hamlet’s water supply (I kid…mostly… though you’ll pry the shimmering champagne shards from my cold dead hands, you fuckin’ Commies — President Ben Franken promised me I could have as many as I wanted in the Second Commandment of the Consternation! Besides, you know exactly whose water supply those glass shards are really going into if they are going anywhere, and they won’t be white people…), and the purple and green puke stains are nearly scrubbed out of the couch fabric (give it another swoosh with the Bissell, and it’ll be butt-spankin’ new, baby), and nobody has any idea who the bald fella in the three-piece suit sleeping in the tub in the third upstairs bathroom on the right is, though he seems at home enough, so they’re letting him sleep off the haze of whatever designer drugs the Fuck You I Won Percent are doing these days… And the event planner has had every drop of cortisol squeezed from her poor shriveled adrenals since three days before this shithouse even got going, but she’s used to that and all she needs is say something unbearably cruel to one of her assistants and maybe let that one caterer with the chin scar who takes too many smoke breaks and has definitely done time fuck her in the commissary freezer with a rolling pin until she screams loud enough to shatter the intertwining ice dolphin sculpture that’s sitting there, all ready for the next event…

…so, yeah….

Still reading?

Apparently I’m still writing. Or trying, anyway. Where the hell was I before we started in on designer bath salts and dolphin flute orgasms and all that?

Oh yes, late to the party. Continue reading “ASTRAL GEEKS SEASON FINALE, PART 1: America Loves a Winner”

WEEK 13 RECAP: Fighting For Our Lives

The Spice is Life

[This recap originally got all kinds of things wrong — how the fight for the first seed went down, who ended up with the second and third seeds, and “no love for the Champ!” We also mixed up Seahawks receivers David Moore and Jaron Brown. These errors have since been fixed. We do not regret the errors as we were busy as shit all week with work and moving, but we fixed them anyway because that’s what we do.]


“H
ow am I doing? I’m fighting for my fucking life.”

Al Davis, as quoted by Cowboys coach Jason Garrett in All or Nothing, the Amazon series that followed the Dallas team for the entirety of the 2017 season. According to Garrett, this iconic growl emerged several years back when some poor, naive assistant passed Davis in the hall  and made the mistake of asking the NFL’s crypt-keeper how he was doing.

This was supposed to convey to a struggling 2017 team the old school NFL grit, as embodied by grizzled, broken warriors whose very souls hung on the outcome of every snap on the field. Garrett is far too gregarious and kind to claim that kind of grit, but he’s a good story-teller, and clearly a romantic, and the story hits home. For the players? I don’t know. They didn’t actually make the playoffs that year. But as a part of the great NFL mythos, yeah it works.

Garrett’s on-field coaching decisions (and compulsive clapping) have long made him the bane of the Cowboys Kingdom and an easy target for buckets of Haterade, and yet I can see in this behind-the-scenes footage something of why Jerry Jones loves him so much. He’s a genuine guy, has a good heart, is an inspiring speaker, loves his guys, loves the game, is uncompromising in what he wants, but willing to take the blame when it all goes south. He’s the kind of guy you can see staying loyal to, even beyond reason, which in the cynical, ruthless world of professional sports, is refreshing in its own way.

Of course, even unreasonable loyalty has its limits, as we explore further below.

That’s my role model, a guy that’s been doing it forever, over 20 years. I’m only alive for 20 years.”

-Deshaun Watson on Tom Brady, after the former’s Texans shazomped the latter’s Patriots Sunday night. The final score,28-22, sounds closer than it was, even if you factor in the ever-looming Brady comeback potential, especially in that particular building, which is where he staged his (in)famous 25 point comeback against the Falcons in Super Bowl 52. But the mega-hyped Patriots defense proved once again they are not the ‘85 Bears (or even the ‘17 Jags) and allowed Watson to look like the better QB all game. Which wasn’t too hard, after all. Garbage time did help Brady to accrue 326 yards and 3 TDs, but for most of the game his completion percentage was less than 50%, a decidedly un-Brady-ish figure. He did have 24 completions, but it took him 47 passes to do it.

Which of course leads to the inevitable “Brady is washed” nonsense, or at the very least “He looks 42,” neither of which are true. He may look older than 25, but he definitely doesn’t look 42. Even the fittest dude who “looks 42” would be a quivering pile of bone jelly out there, much less hucking it to double-covered Edelman all day with only one INT to show for it. No, that Brady/Bellichick voodoo is still strong, and no one will be surprised if the Patriots find their way past the in-all-ways-including-the-eye-test superior Ravens for their fourth consecutive Super Bowl berth. It’s what they do. And as Kevin Clark said on the Sunday Ringer NFL Show, these are two of the greatest problem solvers in NFL history, and in this case the problems to be solved seem more a lack of receiving firepower and a Gronk-sized hole in the lineup, than Brady’s diminishing “pliability” or pocket prowess.

Tom Brady, age 51

No, when the guy who has been dominating this league for as long as Deshaun Watson has been alive is finally done, you’ll know he’s done, and even then, he’s going to have at least one horror movie villain final resurrection before he goes down for good. But the Pats are currently 10-2 and the AFC 2-seed. That movie is still a long way off. Continue reading “WEEK 13 RECAP: Fighting For Our Lives”

WEEK 12 RECAP: #WINnIN

This is your new bed, Lie down for a bit, get used to it. Gonna be here a lot.

WRITTEN BY:  Solomon Lovejoy (Lovejoy FC)

Well, well, well, here we are. The last November, Thanksgiving, and non-Playoff Fantasy week of the decade. Did that make you all feel old? No? Well what if I said that this time last decade, I was only 11. Yup. (I bet that did it) Eleven, with nothing on my mind but youth league basketball, the cute girls in my class, and trying to convince my mom I wouldn’t get scared watching Paranormal Activity. (Yeah, that premiered in 2009. Other prominent movies that came out in 2009 include, but are not limited to Avatar, The Hangover, Up, Taken, Inglorious Basterds, 500 Days of Summer, and Slumdog Millionaire. Not too shabby eh?) No, not too shabby at all.

It’s been quite the decade.

Now, I don’t want to abuse the platform Todd has generously provided with all my sappy 21-year-old-ness, so I’ll get right to it.

After two quick stories.

The first, happened about a week ago. I’d been job hunting pretty seriously for an entry level marketing gig. Chicago, Los Angeles, and Phoenix, were all options, but being in Arizona, I was leaning toward staying in the desert more so than I was packing up all my things and moving to a whole new place, with little regard whether I’d actually like said place or if it would be a good fit. Which, if you know me at all, has been a common trend of mine in the little time on Earth that I’ve had. So this was a positive revelation.

After enough applying to get discouraged, lose full faith in the whole getting a degree thing, and start planning a reality where I would obviously never get hired anywhere in my entire life, I got a call for an interview. I’m usually one to withhold good news until there is, at minimum, a 99% chance of it coming to fruition. But with this one, I told my mom, my friends, my cousins, etc. It was going to be a big step.

So, the night before, I’m researching the company to make sure I’m prepared, and link by link, article by article, and truth starts to peek it’s head out, as it always does. Nothing explicit, just small things, interesting things. A website that looks below standard of what I could make, social media pages that have just started posting last month, and of course, nothing but 5 Star reviews on Indeed from current employees who had absolutely no complaints, all complimented/thanked the manager, and unsurprisingly, were all posted on the same day.

But! Nonetheless I gave it the ‘new company’ the benefit of the doubt. And the result was…exactly what you think it was. A classic pyramid scheme. In hindsight, not even including the online presence, I don’t know what gave it away. The office that had seemingly been set up yesterday? The motivational pictures on the wall that even Getty images would be ashamed to post for their clichés? The purple-tinted ‘award’ for $200,000 that hung behind the managers desk? Or the fact the manager told me he was trying to open 30 offices as fast as possible, and each one he’d opened so far generated 7-10 million dollars each in subscription-based charity donations? Hmmmm. No clue. Continue reading “WEEK 12 RECAP: #WINnIN”

WEEK 11 RECAP: MAGAts and Martyrs

 

“Stand Up” by Charly Palmer (1)

It feels like we lost.”

-Baker Mayfield, after last Thursday’s game, which the Browns of course won 21-7 over hapless MAGA Rudolph and the Steelers. Odell Beckham echoed his quarterback’s feelings right afterward by saying “It does feel like we lost.”

We all know why these guys were being such Gloomy Guses despite a much-needed two-game win streak and finally establishing something closer to the kind of dynamic connection we expected these two to have. It has been discussed ad nauseum from the moment Aikman and Buck lost their collective shit (“Aaah gosh!” “Oh my goodness!” “Barbaric!” “Horrible, horrible”) in the waning seconds of the game. So we don’t necessarily have any thoughts you haven’t heard yet, but it would seem odd to leave it out of this recap entirely.

I watched almost the entire game — a gritty, ugly slog typical of AFC North division battles, full of brutal roster-depleting injuries — but then actually shut off the TV when there was a little less than two minutes on the clock. Rudolph had thrown his fourth interception and the game was clearly over. So I didn’t know what had happened until I stumbled into the mayhem on Twitter about twenty minutes later.

I don’t have many strong opinions about the incident other than Holy Shit! Others do, obviously, because that is the world we live in. There are those who think it implicates the entire sport, others who think Rudolph got off easy for starting the skirmish (some even saying the color of his skin was a factor), others who believe Pouncey shouldn’t have been suspended three games for kicking Garrett in the face when he was on the ground, and others who think the whole thing was not that big of a deal, citing numerous other instances where helmets have been used as weapons in on-field brawls. My general feeling is that yes, fights happen, Garrett was way out of line, Pouncey was in the right fighting for his QB but still deserves some consequences, and yeah, Rudolph is probably getting the benefit of being a QB, being white, and having suffered a horrific concussion injury just a few weeks before.

But the fact is, Rudolph (and Garrett, as the perpetrator) is damn lucky he got hit with the soft part of the helmet. Full contact with the top part, with its hard rounded alloy, could have easily collapsed his skull and either killed him instantly or given him severe brain damage. Now from what I understand, according to his social media activity, Rudolph is a Tomi-stumping, anti-Kaep MAGAt shitstick, which indicates its own kind of brain rot, but is hardly unique among NFL players. The NFL is full of shitty, stupid people. That’s why the bottom line usually just has to be the quality of the sport itself and not the personalities involved, or the heinous crimes or politics they participate in outside of the game.

But many have spent time combing through Garrett’s recent history, looking for evidence of over-aggressiveness, including several unnecessary roughness penalties earlier in the year. They also point out his thoughtfulness, his quiet demeanor off the field, and of course his love of poetry. They seem to indicate that there is some dangerous dysfunction there, a kind of insular psychosis that was just waiting to explode with little provocation. But no one that I know of has looked into Rudolph’s side of things. Maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree, but it never occurred to anyone that Rudolph could have said or done something that provoked Garrett to such an extreme act of violence. You can’t be a MAGAt without being a racist. And you can’t be one without saying stupid shit out loud that nobody with any dignity should ever say. I’m not leveling any accusations, but I do find it curious that no one is even curious. We know that the NFL has its own prison-like code of silence about such things, so maybe nobody is willing to reveal what really happened. But I’m pretty sure we don’t have the whole story.

[UPDATE: It takes long enough to finish some of these recaps that inevitably the news will change several times in the course of writing it. Case in point, as of today Garrett claims Rudolph called him a racial slur before the brawl (I believe him).]

All that said, for me the most fascinating piece to come out about this incident was Kevin Clark’s piece at The Ringer where he looked at the incident through the lens of Vince Lombardi’s philosophy of “controlled violence.” It’s worth a read if you are interested in the numinous marrow of this savage, beautiful sport.

 

If it were me, I might have just done the workout the NFL set up.

I too would have been crazy suspicious when the league — out of nowhere — offered a workout. My hustle detectors would have sounded off like sirens in the ‘hood once they said it had to be on Saturday, not the customary Tuesday, and that I had just 48 hours to agree. I, too, would have presumed when they said they would record it and they would send the film to all 32 teams, that the roughest cut possible of my workout would have been sent out. Why wouldn’t Colin Kaepernick think the worst regarding the NFL?

It is clear as day Kaepernick is being blackballed from the NFL. It can’t be because of talent. Too many really bad quarterbacks are on a roster, several are playing. Distraction, as weak of an excuse as it is, can’t possibly be a universal reason. Such has never stopped teams from signing players before, and a peaceful protest is hardly a legit reason to start. Whatever the case, it has been clear for years the league doesn’t want him in it.

And suddenly, the league is extending an olive branch days before Week 11? That reeks of a setup in the works.

Yet I’d do it anyway. Because I’m just a guy. I wouldn’t feel big enough, strong enough, to take on a multibillion corporation. I would know I was being hustled but just take the chance I was wrong. Because, in the end, what other option would I have? Some forces feel too great. Some defeats seem too inevitable. This is how most people feel. You take what you can get. Often, you settle for what is less than you deserve. You put up with what you know is wrong because it is not as bad as it could be. Continue reading “WEEK 11 RECAP: MAGAts and Martyrs”