I have a crazy uncle named Ray who used to ride in a biker gang, and once got shot in what would've been a triple homicide but Ray didn't die so it was just a double. My uncle Ray's hand got melted to his hip by the shotgun blast, and he lost his thumb, forefinger, and middle finger as they detached it at the hospital. They took one of his big toes to give him a thumb back, so he was left with a strange hand that had a toe thumb, a ring finger, and a pinkie. He always loved jutting that thing out at people when he met them, laughing maniacally. He had been a heroin addict at one point, chronic alcoholic, batshit crazy - but not really crazy like mentally ill, just old school crazy like, "I'll do whatever." One story my dad told me about back in the day has always symbolically defined Ray: he was a biker with a giant swastika tattoo on his forearm, and he and my dad were apparently on a raging bender at some point, and they pull up to this inner-city black people bar, which this was in the late '70s, so probably not the type of place my dad felt too comfortable going in. My uncle gets out the car, goes in the trunk, pulls out a cinderblock, and just swaggers into the club, refusing to be reasoned with, refusing to stop, so my dad follows behind, expecting death. Ray goes right up to the bar, slams the cinderblock down, and yells, "I'll bet any stupid motherfucker in here that I can punch through this cinderblock." Of course, after the initial shock of, "Who are these whiteboys?" dies down, it is replaced by "That whiteboy is stupid!" and people start throwing bets down on the bar around the cinderblock. This further worried my dad, being he and my uncle were not really rolling with any pocket money to speak of. But Ray revved back, stuck a thick fist into one side of the cinderblock, and it broke over on itself like a little World Trade Center Tower, but in 1978 Petersburg, Virginia. And everyone was amazed. "That whiteboy is crazy!" and not only did my crazy uncle Ray and my dad drink for free from the bets, once that money ran out, there was no shortage of new friends to buy them another round.
So crazy uncle Ray, who has fought through drugs and alcohol, massive kidney failure, throat cancer, assorted shootings and stabbings, having a hit on his head for a couple of years, etc etc - he's now on his deathbed, and will most likely die in the next week. He was good even in poor health when he could still fish, but he hasn't been able to get out in a while, and hasn't even had a voice for six months. Dude is done, and cool with that, because he lived it up while here. But it occurs to me that there's not many dudes quite built like that - psychologically - any more, and that's sad to me. We've been feminized by technology in a lot of ways, and we just generally live in a more pussy-assed world.
This is very true of football as well, as the rules have changed so much over recent years to encourage scoring, and protect from brain damage, that the NFL is slowly morphing into more of an NBA-style league than traditional smashmouth football. That ain't no good for anybody, because rock solid salt of the earth types like myself and you are not going to be as interested in 48-42 finesse fests. There's got to be mouths getting smashed for it to be good.
So with that in mind, as I stroll through your weekly two-divisional recap - this week the AFC East and South divisions - we'll see how they compare to that old school cinderblock-punching crazy uncle style of yore, and whether they can hold up to the judging eyes of the True Football Gods, who still respect smashed mouths, not passing records...
#1: BUFFALO BILLS (3-0, overall) - No team has been as much of a shock this season as the Bills. I have a friend who's a Bills fan, and being the Bills and Redskins were both expected to suck mightily, we made a bet that whoever's team won more, the other would lose and have to do some shit that I can't remember. We are both tripping out that both our teams are actually mainstream relevant to an extent right now. I had the pleasure of catching the fourth quarter of the Bills/Patriots game, and without a doubt this Bills team has heart. It may not be "we are full of crazy guys" old school heart, but it's definitely that modern "none of us were highly touted draft picks so fuck you Mel Kiper" crazy heart. That goes a long fucking way. And Ryan Fitzpatrick, for all the hype of being a Harvard guy (did you know that? had you heard that?), Fitzpatrick is taking on the role of a team leader, which makes sense. If you have a scrappy bunch of Vietnam vets who are riding around the country in a black van with a red stripe, helping the downtrodden, they're gonna need that wise ass dude to lead them through the wacky yet dangerous adventures they encounter. Fitzpatrick is playing that role. Now it should be remembered the Bills were 1000% hyped for that Pats game at home, so they are not necessarily the best team in the AFC East just yet, in an overall sense that goes beyond the W-L columns; but they are certainly way fucking better than anybody thought they'd be, and a definite playoff contender if they can keep this good shit rolling.
#2: NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (2-1, 5th overall) - The Patriots are like the opposite of an old school tough as nails team. They are finesse galore, and really with the Brady factor, very clique-ish. You are either part of the Belichick cult or not, and then beyond that, the Patriots seem very high school-like, where Brady and Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead are sitting at the cool kid's table, and they won't talk to Chad Ochocinco because he comes from the less affluent part of town. The Pats defense is impotent once you get past that D-line, which has never been the same since they shipped off Richard Seymour. So the Patriots will probably continue to be a very good football team that crumbles in the playoffs, because they are built to win games, but not beat opponents, which is the beast mode you have to switch into come January.
#3: HOUSTON TEXANS (2-1, 7th overall) - I don't know what to think about the Texans. They certainly don't seem as great as anybody hypes them up to be. Sure they can score points, but it's like a lesser version of the Patriots in that they can win games, but not beat opponents. For all the hype Wade Phillips is getting for revamping this defense, let's be real here and admit that rarely does a team successfully switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense in one year. There's just too much shit to do differently. That being said, there's not really a lot going on in the AFC South this year, so the Texans might get to pretend validate their success story with a divisional title by default.
#4: NEW YORK JETS (2-1, 8th overall) - It's so easy to hate on the Jets, but I don't mind them. I mean, I don't think they're any good, just another high mediocre team like they've been the past few years, just with a few more aging superstars. I like Rex Ryan. Who amongst us, in our long American lives, has not been a gross man, fattened by Chinese buffets, who cusses incessantly, and fetishizes strange parts of the female anatomy because the vagina gets so boring after seeing three million of them naked on the interwebs? But for all the talk and confident swagger, the Jets seem to lack a fist of fury. They have a lot of guys that can be good, but no fist of doom to take over and instill fearful pride in the team, and to instill straight primal fear in the enemy. Until they get that, they're just gonna be considered a shit-talking team full of skill players. You've got to have that menace as well. Any small time band of criminals knows that sure, you've got your charming leader with the aura of success. But you always need that big, belligerent halfwit guy as well, who never feels the need to be the leader and get the glory, but loves nothing more than to enforce the leader's wishes on others who get in the way. The Jets don't have that type of guy right now, and that will ultimately be their failing.
#5: TENNESSEE TITANS (2-1, 18th overall) - Look, I would not bet against the Titans winning the AFC South this year. Hasselbeck has proven again that he is somehow this balding athletic savant as an NFL QB, and he's made the Titans better than they were last year, even without Jeff Fischer, and with Chris Johnson underperforming thus far into the season, probably from holding out and sitting around playing Madden for most of August. Even with Kenny Britt gone for the year now too, I can see these Titans working some of that magic that they always seemed to work ever since they moved to Tennessee. They always seem to be barely relevant, and were only a yard away from winning that Super Bowl against the Rams. Somehow, through a ragtag collection of NFL misfits, castoffs, and unknowns, they are doing it again.
#6: JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (1-2, 23rd overall) - I don't even know about the Jaguars. I have always hated their uniform combos, and half their roster looks like an Ozone Magazine picture to me. Maurice Jones-Drew seems like a nice enough guy, but Jack Del Rio seems like a sales rep - the angry kind, which is always a hassle to deal with in real life, or even in fake lives, which most of us are living anyways. There has always seemed like something missing with the Jaguars, like they were half a chromosome short of being a for-real NFL franchise, and they know it's missing, and try to get it together, but you can't really change your genetic make-up. They seem doomed to be something else before they can be anything good.
#7: MIAMI DOLPHINS (0-3, 26th overall) - The Dolphins are a mess, which is funny to me. When your big free agent acquisition is Reggie Bush, that's not a strong move towards success, especially when it means you are putting Reggie Bush in the middle of Miami and are going to expect him to do better than he has previously done. A chronic underachiever is not going to suddenly start doing better in a place like Miami, where the distractions are higher than ever. You know how many fat-assed sorta white women there are in the greater Miami metropolitan area? I'm surprised Bush even still shows up for games. This is going to be long, painful season for the Dolphins, and I'm not sure why they were switched with the Bills at the beginning of the season by the NFL powers that be, but I would assume it's a spiteful move on Bill Parcels part for some reason, because he hates the Dolphins. Or is he still their GM? I know he's on ESPN and shit now, so I assumed he bailed on the Dolphins, because he is without a doubt a man that can recognize the stink of a sinking ship, and he will be gone once that ship is sunk.
#8: INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (0-3, 32nd overall) - I've actually gained a little respect for Peyton Manning seeing how the Colts are playing without him. I knew he was an on-field coach, but I had no idea that he was basically their offensive-coordinator, and they were playing with one dude against the world. This team is ugly to watch. I heard some dorkass dude on the radio talking about how the defense was built to pass rush to pressure teams playing from behind because of Peyton and the offense, but with the offense not contributing, other teams get ahead and can just bull rush right past this Colts team. Makes sense, but also is a fancier way of saying, "Man, this team really fucking sucks at smash mouth football," which is the real problem, and goes back to what I was saying in the intro to this week. If you live by finesse, someone can snip your key to finesse out from under you, and then you are nothing. But if you live by smashing mouths, that culture fills your locker room and roster, and if you one guys falls, that just makes the other guys more motivated to fuck somebody up. The Colts don't have that. And I am going to be fucking pissed if they somehow end up drafting Andrew Luck, unless Andrew Luck ends up sucking, which I guess is just as good a possibility as him being great. So whatever.