Thursday, September 8, 2011
NFL ACLB PREVIEWS - #1: NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
PERTINENT DATA: 14-2 last year, earning AFC home field advantage, only to lose to rival Jets in the divisional round of the playoffs; 13 to 2 odds to win Super Bowl XLVI.
BEST CASE SCENARIO (Neil): Shameful confession time – I actually like the Patriots. Okay, maybe that is taking it a little bit far. I respect them, and . . . no, you know what? I like the Patriots. Fuck it. I know that is not a popular opinion and a bunch of you just shook your head and cyber-sneered at me, but I don’t care. Look, I’m not going to sit here and deny that a lot of this is because of Tom Brady. He is a Michigan dude and my Michigan homerism has been well established. So, yeah, I am predisposed to root for him and his team. But that’s not all of it. In fact, the reason I like the Patriots is the reason why everyone else hates them: they are unlikable. They seem like a team led by an Aryan Superman and coached by a Grendelish beast who probably spends his off-seasons slithering through air vents and supping upon small dogs, children and the elderly. No one likes Bill Belichick, but fuck being liked. That’s not his job. He doesn’t give a shit if you like him or if you want to see him smothered in one of those ratty ass sweatshirts that he wears. He’s not up there like Rex Ryan and his hangdog face begging for your approval or for your smiles every week. He just wants to win football games. Look, Bill Belichick is an asshole. He is not a functional human being. He is just a sad old fucker who will probably die alone in his office when he chokes on a chicken wing while watching old game tapes and then no one will show up for his funeral but Tom Brady’s butler with a bouquet of store bought flowers while Tom wears Gisele like a hat down in Rio. These are not fundamentally good people. They are everything that you are taught to hate growing up. They are rich, shameless, they run up the score whenever they can and they don’t give a fuck what you think. But, goddammit, I find that shit refreshing. The people we’re supposed to love, to admire, to worship - the Favrian Super-Men, the Peyton Manning Every-Men, the Rex Ryan hillbilly circus, the Tony Dungy Family Faith Hour – seem so contrived and so caught up in their own bullshit that it is impossible to feel anything for them at all other than a vague disdain. They are characters in a story bigger than all of them, bigger than all of us, willingly playing the two dimensional parts thrust upon them by the writers of that story and people love them for it. They’re safe, they’re bland and they’re easy to cheer for because people like to cheer for Hulk Hogan and Captain America. Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the Patriots play a role too. They are the villains in that giant story but they don’t give a fuck. They laugh at that shit and then go out and win Super Bowls. Yeah, it’s been a few years since they won it all, but goddamn, they’ve won three of them and probably should have won a fourth. Rex Ryan is content with beating the Patriots because he is completely in love with his own role in the story. The Jets and their fans and the ESPN gibbering fools and the fans of those gibbering fools all love that shit because it was a fun chapter in a story. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady think that shit’s dumb. They don’t care about losing to Rex Ryan. They care about losing period. They don’t care who they lose to or who they beat because this isn’t a giant morality play to them. It’s football, goddammit and they’re here to win and fuck everything else and I respect the hell out of that. And I, for one, find the Patriots and their casual disregard for all your bullshit storylines refreshing. Now, I know that sounds ridiculous coming from the king of the storyline, the man who infuses pathos into every goddamn tiny thing, but I am a man of deep contradictions and to try to understand me is to try to understand the mysteries of the universe, the mysteries of chaos and you will go insane if you even try, kind of like me. But fuck all that, this isn’t about me, this is about the Patriots and the Patriots best case scenario is what it always is: a Super Bowl title.
WORST CASE SCENARIO (Raven): It seems appropriate to me to have to talk about the New England Patriots just as we are all being ramped up into a 9/11 Never Forget! The 10 Year Anniversary Reflection Party! this weekend, because I have never been one to think accidents happen. Everything is engineered, whether by Universal Forces or some chump ass God or Science or a group of evil men who all went to Harvard and smoked weed out of a bong made from the skull of Sitting Bull. So the Patriots ascension to the top of our collective minds as the most bestest sports franchise in all of sportingness did not coincidentally happen the same time we were trained to be so afraid of terrorists stealing our freedom that we left all our freedoms in the trash can at the highway rest stop 9 years back. It is easy to feel good about giving up your right to check out books on how to make homemade explosives from a public library when we can say, "Yeah, the Patriots!" and psychically feel like Patriots are awesome. Tom Brady can get all the super models pregnant he wants, because in our mind, Tom Brady is the living embodiment of America, and after all, we are taught to believe that the great dick of Freedom that America possesses can impregnate even the most barren and disgusting of Third World county with prosperity and happy awesomeness for eternity.
Of course, this is all a sham, and what we are witnessing, even though we don't really witness anything at all except for the press releases being re-read by corporate news outlets, is the playing out of the end of the American Empire, and the beginning of the Chinese century. Now this is not going to happen in like the next 9 months or anything; in fact, it might take another twenty years for this hand-off to unwillingly play out for both sides. This is why you have the Arab Spring propaganda and Gaddhafi being toppled by Al Qaeda associates, and China having invested billions in infrastructure development on the African continent in the past fifteen years...
Wait, I know this is too much, even for me. What I am trying to say is the Patriots rise to the top parallels America's, and unfortunately there are two metaphorical endings to this peak for New England. In a world where we take everything at face value, just as America lacks the pioneer spirit that gave it a competitive advantage over other countries who are now hungrier than us, the Patriots system (meaning Belichick's system) has waned in superiority, and stockpiling veterans to plug into a nameless program for playing professional football is not going to work in 2011 like it did in 2001. But if you want to get conspiratorial, just as America is losing it's behind the curtains battle for supremacy to China, the Patriots are no longer the NFL's shining diamond to market to the masses. It's been a long time since a questionable Drew Brees injury and an outright shady tuck ruling in the playoffs against Oakland created the Tom Brady Myth. His counterpart in the two-party system - Peyton Manning - is similarly being phased out, so that we can all sup at the shiny commercial appeal of the next pair of stars, whoever that may end up being. But the infallible Tom Brady days seem numbered. And with that goes the Bill Belichick era, because Bill Belichick Football Genius of the New England Patriots with a fistful of Super Bowl rings was once Bill Belichick that Cocksucker Who Ruined Cleveland. That's how it works - one simple stroke of the string pullers and you are the most amazing genius to ever have walked around in a hoodie. A few simple pawns moved into a few new simple squares, and you are gone.
This is perhaps the Patriots last hurrah. Or it may be hyped as that, only to fall short. The thing about building Superstars, much like that tuck ruling that created Brady, is somebody has to get the rub of the Shine of the Superstar to become that next superstar. Perhaps Brady and Patriots give that to Mark Sanchez. Perhaps it is given to the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger, as we shift our psychic consciousness here in America towards a dirtier yet loveable mentality as we try to fend off these Chinese demons for another thirty years. Or maybe Brady just finally gets crippled and he is sent off to live in seclusion, siring future QBs with super models at a pricey stud fee, to be raised by wealthy men with master plans that would make Todd Marinovich's dad be like, "Damn, that's fucked up." But I can tell you that no matter the hype, this year will not be the Patriots year. Much like 9/11 remembrances, they are a reflection on the past, looking in the rear view mirror, never forgetting what they once felt, and knowing that they can never be what they were again.
PLAYER TO PULL FOR (Neil): I know you’re expecting me to say Tom Brady here, but fuck you for thinking that I am that predictable. Shame on you. Still others would probably say some Grit Merchant like Danny Woodhead or Wes Welker, but you know damn well how I feel about Grit Merchants and besides, those two are Mr. January and Mr. February on the Klan’s special Boys of the NFL calendar, which is given as a stocking stuffer at their annual Christmas blowout/Happy Holiday lynching every December, so fuck Danny Woodhead and Wes Welker. I’ve been keeping an eye on BenJarvus Green-Ellis, if only because he is an unheralded black dude from Mississippi named BenJarvus who somehow made good, but really the only choice here is Logan Mankins and since I am too lazy to explain why one more time, go check out the All-ACLB Team entry for Guards. I guess I could cut and paste that shit here, but you’re not a baby and I will not coddle you, lest you become soft and an embarrassment to me and your mother.
PLAYER TO HATE MOST (Raven): You'd think I'd say Albert Haynesworth, but I feel sorry for big Al. It's not his fault Dan Snyder gave his lazy ass money. And then I thought I'd say Chad Ochocinco personally, because he is a fucking fool, but because we live in an era where people automatically pretend that stupid fucking things are hilarious because they are stupid, everybody loves Ochocinco. Fuck him. And yet he's not the most loathsome person on this team. That honor goes to Danny Woodhead, who is not so much a loathsome individual but the recipient of the love of so many loathsome individuals that it makes him tainted with disrespect. I saw a list of the highest selling 25 NFL jerseys, and fucking Danny Woodhead was on that list, at like #19 or something. Basically what this tells me is that the people of Boston are the most godawful racist pieces of shit ever. Why would you care about a mediocre white RB enough to buy his shirt unless you were trying to make a statement of how great it is to have a white RB and that is cool because it is not like normal when it's a black guy? That's the problem with the Patriots - they have all these just barely almost good but kind of average white dudes that the fans love. Wes Welker is the perfect example as well. And yet Woodhead just kind of oozes it more, partially because his last name is Woodhead, which sounds white as fuck, and reminds me of peckerwood, which is a common term of affection between Aryans in prison. I spent my time lovingly referring to other men as peckerwood, but those were tough times, and in prison you can't really pick and choose your friends; they are assigned by heritage (and hate). So I did what I had to do. But I'll be goddamned if I respect some drunk fucking asshole feeling wicked awesome in his goddamned $180 Danny Woodhead jersey because he's a piece of shit Boston area scumbag and his entire world is such a clusterfuck of bad genetics and poor decision-making skills that all he can do is latch onto Boston sports teams (except the Celtics - too many black guys in the NBA) to give himself self-esteem.
BEST NAME ON TEAM: There's actually like twelve great names on this team that I could make a funny remark about, but I'll just give shine to Ras-I Dowling, who played at Virginia, and was hampered by injuries, and has a proud ass name.
IN A PERFECT WORLD (Neil): It was late. Practice had just let out and the players were still trickling into the locker room. Bill waited by the entrance, looking for that mop of golden brown hair. He had some things to say – important things – and he couldn’t put them off any longer. Finally, he saw that golden retriever face and his whole body began to buzz, his pulse quickened and the pupils of his eyes dilated. “Tom,” he croaked, his voice sounding deep, guttural, harsh and unnatural. Goddammit, why was he so nervous? He was an old man. He’d lived a long life, experienced everything there was to experience – success, failure, love, hatred, the piercing yet beautiful pain that can only come from paying a Thai hooker to walk on your back in Stiletto heels. There was no reason why he should be feeling like this. But that was part of it, wasn’t it? Part of the excitement, part of the allure, part of the . . . Bill sucked in a deep breath as he caught a hint of Tom’s musk just before the golden boy jogged by. Bill steadied himself and shot out a hand, grabbing Tom by his muscular forearm. Bill swallowed hard and then chuckled nervously. That was odd. Bill never chuckled and he was never nervous. What had gotten into him? With a grim smile, he realized just what it was that he wanted to get into him and then forced the smile away as Tom regarded him with a look that said . . . what? What did it say? Bill knew that asking himself questions like that would only drive him nuts and so he looked away for a moment, sucked his teeth and then gave Tom a curt pat on the ass. “Good practice out there today.”
“Thanks, coach,” Tom said. He sounded confused but he just smiled that dopey, golden smile of his and jogged towards the locker room. Bill’s heart raced and sank at the same time. Why couldn’t he just be honest? Take a chance. That’s what his ex-wife said when they met for cheese sticks at Applebees to discuss some issues they’d both been having with his alimony payments. Shit, even she saw how much this was eating at him. She hated him, but damn it, seeing him like that made her pity him too and that killed Bill. He couldn’t stand to be seen as so . . . so . . . weak. That was it. He shook his head. The only way that would disappear, the only way he could get back to being Bill Belichick, was if he did something about this. He set his jaw, looked down the tunnel to the locker room and took a determined step forward. By now, Tom would be in the shower, and it was time for him to receive some hands on coaching . . . (To be continued?)
PROGNOSIS (Raven): The Patriots will be a 12-4 team, but only win a wild card as the Jets will edge them out for the division title. They will win a road game that first playoff weekend, then lose, and the Patriots Era window will shut a tiny bit more, bringing us closer to our inevitable "Tom Brady - The Swan Song" season, which cannot come fast enough.