California Seething: NFL Playoff Preview (I’m Pretty Sure It’s In There Somewhere)
The rantings of a non-driving theatre professional living in altogether the wrong city
The worst thing about not having an NFL team in LA is that I don’t get to hate them. I mean, sure, I can always hate USC, but it’s not really the same. Despite the epic Angeleno douchebaggery that USC football provokes (poseur fans with car flags on their Hummers, media-whore players who like ballroom dancing, Snoop Dogg for some baffling reason) it’s still a college team and therefore not as much fun to hate as a team where the players are paid in actual money rather than free cars, cookouts, and sorority girls who don’t press charges.
I realize there are millions of people all across the Confederate States of America who love college football almost as much as they love TWO AND A HALF MEN and incest, and I admit that they have many compelling reasons to love the college game. What other sport provides overfed and illiterate young Samoans with an opportunity to suffer debilitating brain injuries while they get the best education possible without actually learning anything and play their hearts out to prove to a computer that theirs is one of two teams worthy of competing for a meaningless national title? Unlike the NFL, college football isn’t about big contracts or corporate endorsements or compensating athletes for their time and effort. It’s about competing hard and leaving it all on the field for the honor and glory of participating in proud historical traditions like the Meineke Car Care Bowl, the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, and the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl — games which teach young men that it’s not about whether you win or lose, it’s how you brand the game.
For me, college football is like the WNBA- a giant sports-fan cocktease. I see that a game is on ESPN and get all excited thinking I’m about to watch a real sporting event only to be crushed when I discover that the players are too small, the rules are all funky and the stands are filled with lesbians (or college girls – same diff).
Besides, USC football sucks now, and I’m really more of a fair-weather hater, so I don’t really care about them.
So, in the absence of a pro team in LA, the most loathsome team in the League is the New England Patriots. I hate them despite the fact that I like most things about the Boston area- rich liberal elitists with silly accents who say “dollahs” and “Liser”, the Celtics, Ken’s salad dressing, Durgin Park, even, I suppose, my older sister now that she doesn’t boss me around any more because I’m too grown up for her to tell me what to do and I don’t pick up the phone when she calls.
Everything about the Patriots, though, is despicable: their irritating commitment to teamwork; Tom Brady’s flowy hair, cleft chin like a second ass on his face, and supermodel breeding experiments; Bill Belichick’s grimacing genius and cut off sweatshirt sleeves (his arms must get hot from suffocating all the joy out of life); Wes Welker — I don’t know — that dude just bugs me. The worst thing about them though, is that they win. All the time. Three Superbowl wins in the last ten years, a 16-0 season in 2007, the highest winning percentage of any professional sports team from 2001 – 2008. Absolutely sickening.
The thing is, as a child of the 70’s, I was raised to root for the underdog, the ragtag bunch of rebels vs the evil empire, the poor kids with the drunk coach and the tomboy pitcher vs the rich kids with the hyper-competitive coach, the do0fus peanut farmer who lusts in his heart and gets attacked by bunnies vs the red-baiting Hollywood cowboy who used to fuck Jane Wyman — you know, the schmucks. They weren’t perfect, but these loveable losers made us believe that it was okay to be poor, drunk and disorganized as long as you were happy and tried your best. I mean, sure it was a crock of shit, but it was very reassuring to a dorky Jewish kid who got picked on by the blind kid and struck out at kickball.
As Reagan mumbled his way through the 80’s and everyone started getting rich again, loserphilia gradually grew out of fashion. With a little help from Robin Leach, Gordon Gecko and Alex P. Keaton, Americans learned that losing may build character, but winning builds yachts. Eventually, Bill Cosby put the final nail in the coffin of the underdog by proving that it was possible to be funny, black, AND rich as hell (not to mention boning Phylicia Rashad at the end of each episode.) Esther Rolle would be rolling in her grave. Those of us who were losers quickly learned how to hide it, keep it to ourselves, or make a fortune on the internet.
Still, as a child of the 70s, I can’t help rooting for the schmucks. The New England Patriots, Duke basketball, the Republican Party — they can all go fuck themselves. Give me the ragtag Democrats and the New York Jets any day. Like a drunk dad, the Jets are always full of promises. This season, it’s gonna be different. We’re not going to make stupid mistakes. We’re not gonna turn the ball over. We’re not gonna stand on the sidelines and trip opposing players. No son, this year. we’ll win the division. We’ll make a run for the title. We won’t forget about your birthday and show up two days later with a greeting card from a gas station and a filthy stuffed bunny that you’ll call Floppy and hold tight to your heart on long winter nights when mommy won’t stop screaming cause daddy’s on a bender. And every year, we Jets fans, suckers that we are, we believe them. We watch the games. We cheer. We hope. We believe. And we are, eventually crushed. Penalties, turnovers and epic incompetence ruin their chances in game after game, until finally we get that inevitable call on a Monday night in December to go pick the team up off the ground in Foxboro and bring them home covered in blood, grass and vomit, while they cry about how they screwed up and swear up and down that next season it’s gonna be better. They mean it.
OK, so, right, here we go, the NFL Playoff Preview. Look, who are we kidding? Fucking Patriot cocksuckers are going to win everything, The Jets might lose to the Colts in the first round and put us out of our misery, but more likely, they’ll win a couple of games, get our hopes up and then get shat on by the Patriots right as we start believing they have a chance.
In the NFC, Seattle’s going to make a surprise run to the Superbowl and piss off everybody. Commentators will whine endlessly about how they don’t deserve to be there because they are a 7-9 team and blah, blah, blah, 10 win teams, blah, blah, blah, NFC West, blah, blah, blah, fucking, blah, blah, blah. It will annoy USC fans who will have to watch Pete Carroll take his new team to the Promised Land while USC languishes in NCAA Violation Purgatory and dreams of just getting back to the post-season someday — maybe the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl or the Beef O’Brady’s St. Petersburgh Bowl, if they’re really lucky. It’ll annoy me, because I don’t much care for the flavor of vomit and I’ll be throwing up in my mouth a lot if I have to cheer for Pete Carroll against anyone, even the Patriots.
So here I am, stuck looking forward to another Superbowl where I don’t really give a shit who wins and am just cheering for Tom Brady’s head to pop off or Bill Belichick’s heart to grow two sizes and then hemorrhage massively. At least I can look forward to next season, when the Jets are going to be good enough to go all the way. Really, they will be. It’s a promise.