ASTRAL GEEKS S06E09: A New Year For Wile E. Coyote

Look at that smug little Road Runner fuck.

.

I’m just not very good, Brooke.”

Big Ben, not telling us anything we don’t already know. Despite their comeback win against the Colts last week, the Steelers’ veneer of dominance has all but dissipated. The most overrated 11-0 team ever finally fell apart in Week 13, embarking on a 3-game losing streak that culminated in the sad sack loss to the 2-10-1 Bengals in Week 15. This is exactly where we are used to seeing the Steelers at this time of year. The sum somehow less than the individual parts; a team good enough to win a few playoff games, but destined to make an exit prior to to the Super Bowl. Steelers culture continues to be self-pitying and dysfunctional, even with supposed locker room cancers Bell and Brown gone. I’d empty my (admittedly modest) bank account for footage of Roethlisberger’s anti-Smalley routine before each game – looking in the mirror and declaring: “I’m not very good, I’m dumb as shit, and doggone it, nobody likes me!”

“I don’t want to use those words from me. We’ll just move on from there.”

Speaking of shitty team culture, this is recently fired Lions special teams coach Brayden Coombs, responding to a question about whether he was a bad fit for the team’s culture. One would think that not being a fit for The Lions Way in 2020 would be a good thing, but apparently aside from the sorry luck of having a boojee white trash Gen Z name like Brayden, his flaws included regularly being late to meetings, a relentless need for self-promotion, and a tendency to go rogue in unintentionally hilarious ways. Again, one might find this understandable, given the fact that the last slivers of respectabilty that may have existed in the team headquarters were probably swept out the door in the wake of Patricia’s sacking.

Uh… Minnesota X Wing Right… bubble left… oh fuck, that’s another 45 yard gain.

The final straw that led to Coombs’ dismissal was the disastrous fake punt he called from his team’s own 30-yard line… without telling the head coach or anyone else besides the players on the punt team. This is a dude who obviously DGAF and was just asking to get fired. But his absence, closely following Patricia’s, poured shit gravy on top of a disaster far worse than an ill-timed secret fake punt. Right before Week 16, Interim Head Coach Darrell Bevell and numerous other coaches and assistants were forced to miss the game because of COVID protocols. The Lions’ answer? Wide Receivers Coach Robert Prince took over as head coach, QB Coach Sean Ryan called plays on offense, and defensive play-calling fell to Evan Rothstein, an assistant in charge of research and analysis. The results of basically Jonah Hill’s character from Moneyball coordinating the defense were catastrophic. By the end of the first half, Brady already had 348 passing yards and 4 TDs. If you had anybody from the Bucs passing game that week, you got a serious leg up in your fantasy championship.

Ironically, none of the teams in Astral Geeks on Championship weekend (the title game and the third place match) had any of the Bucs on their team. Nor did they have Kamara, who turned into an All-Time Fantasy Championship performance for the ages. He scored 6 TDs, resulting in 58.60 FP in Astral Geeks. He decided a whole lot of fantasy championship games before the weekend even started, making it a Christmas to remember for some, and possibly ruining it forever for millions of others. What’s more, his nephew was born not only on Christmas, but will hear his whole life about how he was born on the most magical Christmas ever. Impossible to live up to, no matter how much homework you do.

“The second Lamar Jackson came back from wiping his ass, everything went downhill for Cleveland”

Drew Magary, on Lamar Jackson’s already legendary Paul Pierce moment. The official party line is still that he had “cramps,” which is a clever bit of obfuscation without explicitly lying. But man, wherever those cramps were, getting rid of them sure did the trick. On his first play back, he chucked a 45 yard, 4th and 5 TD pass to Marquise Brown, and the Ravens went on to beat the Browns. The Browns, meanwhile did beat the Giants the following week, but then lost to the suddenly surging Jets, putting their chance at a playoff berth in jeopardy. There are five 10-5 AFC teams vying for a playoff spot: the Titans, Colts, Dolphins, Ravens, and Browns. When the Week 17 musical chairs stop, some 10-win team is going to be left without a seat (while it is entirely possible that a 6-10 Giants team will host a playoff game next week). The Browns are currently in the midst of their own COVID outbreak, which could put them at a distinct disadvantage. Just please, whatever happens, give us a Myles Garrett/Mason Rudolph reunion.

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ASTRAL GEEKS S06E08: Bonehead Chestnuts & The Electric Slide

Okay 2020, now you’re just getting weird.


I feel bad for the cardboard fans.”

-Sean Payton, coach of the Saints, roasting the opposing Broncos in Week 12, who played a full game without an actual NFL-ready quarterback (Kendall Hinton, the poor patsy thrust into the eye of the storm of this particular farce, is a hell of a mensch for taking it on, which we will get to in a minute). Honestly, Payton should feel bad for actual human fans everywhere, because what was fielded that day at Mile High Stadium was an abomination that could hardly be called “professional football.” But he is an NFL coach, after all, a massive cog in a machine that chews up any and all empathy and spits it out in the form of bankable “content.”

Somewhere down there is the one thing that will finally fill the hole in my rotted out black heart…

Okay, maybe that’s overly harsh (probably not) but let’s not forget, those cardboard fans are there in the place of real fans because a fatal plague is raging unchecked across the country while major corporations (and the White House, basically a corporation, run about as successfully as Trump Steaks or any other shitty subsidiary of America’s worst brand) have treated this pandemic (a word that had to be invented, because “epidemic” wasn’t sufficient enough to describe how really, really, really fucking bad the next level of such a thing could be) like a minor inconvenience – just another easily surmountable obstacle preventing their highest executives from wallowing in yet more gold-plated troughs full of filthy, blood-soaked cash. Meanwhile, boot-licking access-merchants like Schefter parrot the party line to a comically absurd degree with Hearst-worthy tweets lauding the NFL for its “amazing” handling of the crisis.

The whole “nothing to see here” approach to NFL/COVID-19 discourse is designed to make you think that some miracle has taken place because a super-spreader team like the Ravens was able to play a Wednesday night game six days after it was scheduled against the poor Steelers (actually, fuck the Steelers) who had no choice but to risk the health of their team in the midst of a campaign to go undefeated (no worries, Alex Smith and the Washington Fuck Tumblers took care of that last week). But the argument gets muddled as soon as the NFL, true to its nature, lets on that it has no idea what the fuck it is doing. When it comes to who gets to play when, who is postponed, and who is forced to play without an actual quarterback is about as arbitrary as the muddled catch rule, or the end-zone pylon ” fumble” that becomes a safety glitch, or what constitutes actual PI. The NFL is like Stupid Houdini on a good day, tying itself in impossible knots and never getting out of them. Present them with an actual genuine crisis and watch the fucking thing burn.

“All right, I’m ready! Let’s define what a catch is…”

Except somehow it doesn’t. Their soulless lack of empathy for the players who make them so much money helps prevent the flames from consuming too much of the golden goose. They don’t give a single rat fuck about concussions or opioid addiction or the movement to end racially motivated police violence, why should they care about them contracting coronavirus? That said, you would think they would at least care about the quality of “product” they are putting on the field. When it was disclosed to NFL authorities that QB Jeff Driskel had tested positive for COVID and had exposed all the other team QBs during a maskless in-person meeting (duh), the team requested that its game be postponed and was denied. The NFL also denied that this was a de facto “punishment” for flouting the league protocols and fucking everything up, claiming it was because Denver still had a large enough unaffected roster to field a full team. Which meant, of course, that the search for replacement QB was on.

At first the Broncos lobbied to have one of their quality-control coaches, both of whom had played quarterback in college, take the offensive reins, but were denied on account of the rule that bars coaches from playing and being used as extra “stash” spots outside of the 53-man roster.

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ASTRAL GEEKS S06E07: Rising Tides, Sinking Ships

Listen up, Deandre-San…

My brother and I used to watch a lot of Jet Li movies, so we used to always do quick things like kickboxing or catching things with our hands. One thing I remember we always used to do—we always used to catch flies with our hands. I was the only one that could catch them. I actually studied it, and I grew with it. I was like, ‘How do I catch flies?’ Flies always fly up. I would always just hit over it. And I thought: If I can catch flies, I know I can catch anything.”

–Deandre Fucking Hopkins, quoted in Peter King’s amazing breakdown of the “Hail Murray.

He sure as shit can catch anything. You don’t have to tell me twice. I picture this little anecdote like a kids’ karate movie montage, ending with D Hop finally snatching one after another after another – his eyes fierce, his brow glistening with sweat, a sly, determined smile on his lips, in the background his brother and friends gaping on in wonder.

Now I want to see an NFL wide receiver fly-catching contest. Odell, Julio, Davante, Thomas, Keenan, Lockett, Diggs… and of course the magic man himself. Even crazy AB could have a crack, though the likelihood of him just smashing the shit out of the poor buggers with a nail-spiked baseball bat is unfortunately not out of the question. Now, you might be tempted to put your money on DeeHop given his past success at it, but who knows what dark horses lurk in this crowd. I wouldn’t put it past Julio to instinctively know how to catch those fuckers while flying backwards through the air with one hand tied behind his back and wearing a blindfold. Larry Fitz might quietly snatch his HOF-worthy fill and then move on to something else with zero fanfare and hardly anyone the wiser. Keenan would certainly run the best route to get to the flies in the first place.

But back to the play itself. I mean, they call it a Hail Mary for a reason, because it’s a one in a million moon-shot that prayers themselves can hardly touch. But the “Hail Murray” is its own distinct, one of a kind phenomenon (in fact, Lil Kyler is trying to trademark the phrase). Even beyond Hopkins’ one in a gazillion catch – snatching the ball out of the heavens, with three Buffalo defenders hanging off him, like it was the biggest fly anyone had ever seen outside of the Amazon Basin – it was an exceptional play.

The standard procedure for just about any Hail Mary is to pack the end zone with as many offensive (in this case red-colored) jerseys as possible and hope that when all the bodies go up it somehow gets tipped into a receiver’s hands. Luck (and the chaotic randomness of physics) is the core element of its design, rather than precision, or even brute force. It’s like trying to land a ring around the neck of a Coke bottle at the county fair – you’re not really meant to succeed.

Now, while the first option on this play was supposed to be 20-yard drag route to Isabella (and then get the fuck outta bounds), it was clear from the snap that it was all about the go-for-broke from Kyler to Hopkins. Get it to the best player now in the end zone, and don’t worry a shit about trying to make a second play. Fitz, Isabella, and Kirk all split out from the right side of the formation, none of them headed for the end zone itself – their routes intended to pull coverage away from Target Zero. It sorta worked. Three defenders still clung to Hopkins, who ran the lone route from the left and was the only Cardinal in the end zone. But who knows, maybe there woulda been five otherwise.


For a second or two, it looked like Kyler might not even get the throw off. As he rolled left, Bills DE Mario Addison broke through the line and appeared to have him dead to rights. But no dice, Mario. The way he flew past the scrambling quarterback at an odd angle made him resemble a tackler from an early 90s Madden game. Murray was pinned right up against the sideline as he launched a 43-yard pure fucking dime, hitting the exact spot where only his ace receiver (and nobody else) could catch the ball. It also helped that in addition to being a straight baller who earned his stripes catching flies, Hopkins had an inch of height and 3 inches of vertical on the next closest defenders, as well as famously gigantic 10” hands (the only receivers’ hands that have measured larger at the combine since 2013 were Kelvin Benjamin and Henry Ruggs III).

Hopkins against those three dudes…

Just downright unfair for those poor schmucks.

Greg Roman is like if the new iPhone came out a year later and there was nothing different.”

-Craig Horlbeck, from the Ringer Fantasy Football Show. Aw, c’mon now Craig, you’re speaking ill of the former Niners OC who made Kaepernick a superstar and took us to the Super Bowl in 2012 (okay, so we lost that one too – to the fuckin’ Ravens, no less!). But homer distractions aside, I get your point. Everybody wants to know what happened to Lamar Jackson and the unstoppable, high-powered offense that was one of the highlights of last season. Well, besides COVID, that is (man, this fucking horrid year — get well asap, dudes!).

Craig and co-hosts, Danny and Danny, posit that it isn’t really poor Lamar at all, but an offense that changed little scheme-wise from 2019 (if it worked then, why wouldn’t the exact same thing work again?!). Hollywood Brown’s breakout never came. Mark Ingram II disappeared. Mark Andrews has had a few good games, but nothing like we expected. And JK Dobbins, the one new element in this scheme, fizzled before he even started.

Whatever opposing defenses couldn’t solve last year… welp, they seem to have solved this year.

Now, LJ is still on pace for like 950 rushing yards, and something in the neighborhood of 5 or 6 rushing TDs. And he will likely fall well short of his 36 passing TDs from last year, but the passing yardage is on pace. So we are getting like, what 75-80% of peak Lamar? Which is still pretty badass, of course. But in fantasy, it’s like Superman when he gives up his powers to be with Lois Lane. At some point, with the fate of the world at stake, Clark Kent ain’t enough to get the job done. Especially in a year when Kyler and Russ and Mahomes are doing the shit they’re doing, scoring twice as many fantasy points as everyone else, you can’t compete when your QB is seemingly all floor and very little upside. Especially when you took him as the first QB off the board (by the way, what more evidence do you need? Don’t do that).

I think it’ll shake out. Hopefully LJ will not have any lasting effects from the COVID and Greg et al will learn their lesson from this year’s stumbles. I’m pretty sure we haven’t seen the last of the Ravens powerhouse days, or Lamar’s fantasy domination.

Now as a random, sort of non-sequitur postscript to this, there’s a certain (former?) Ravens beat writer I used to follow on Twitter. She was obsessed with Flacco, was all Go Ravens! all week long, but when Lamar came on she never seemed to get on board. Even with his amazing season last year for whatever reason she still beat the drum for ol’ washed up, ain’t never been elite no matter how thin you slice it Flacco. Which fine, like who you like, I don’t care, even if it clearly has nothing to do with your team being good. It’s just football.

But, in addition to stanning for Flacco, she never missed an opportunity to rip on Matt Ryan. She fucking hates Matt Ryan, because… the Falcons picked him instead of Flacco, I guess? Something like that, I never fully gathered. The facts about that situation and her feelings about it don’t seem to make a lot of sense, but then again, that describes just about every aspect of sports fandom.

And as you can imagine, being a woman – and a rather comely one at that – on the internet, not only talking about football, but talking mad shit about basically an entire franchise (via its franchise QB) and its 28-3 collapse in the Super Bowl, she got… well, a lot of flak. From snotty condescension to the horrible, twisted shit dudes say to try and silence women. So – not because I think I’m chivalrous or anything, but because football bros fucking suck and deserve as many cowpies as can be thrown at them – I often liked her shitposts and chimed in on her side, because fuck ‘em.

Continue reading “ASTRAL GEEKS S06E07: Rising Tides, Sinking Ships”

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”