I went to church because sometimes, when shit is going up in flames, it’s comforting to be in the company of your fellow man, along with whatever higher, otherworldly power you may happen to believe in. I needed some stability. Normalcy.
My kids were not jazzed about this idea as I was. They wanted to do our usual Sunday routine, in which we all stay home and they dick around on screens while I study DraftKings salaries with a fucking jeweler’s eye.
“Help me out,” I begged them. “Just do me this favor. I don’t ask much.” (NOTE: I ask a lot.)
So they begrudgingly put on halfway decent clothes and filed out the door. When we got to the church, my oldest kid wouldn’t stop pouting. We sat in the pew and she put her feet up. When we made her put her feet down, she slouched in the row. She talked when she wasn’t supposed to. I couldn’t hear a thing the pastor was saying, because I was so distracted by the fact that my own kid couldn’t sit and be respectful for one lousy hour. I felt like that worst dad on Earth. I began to rage inside. I could have punched through the sky.
After she pouted again, I ordered her downstairs and took her outside while the pastor was still delivering his sermon. Once the church door closed, I let her have it. I jammed my finger in her chest and told her, “You let me down.” And then I burst into tears. I wasn’t planning that part. It was a spasm … a reflex beyond my physical control. I went from being angry to being grief-stricken. After the events of the past few weeks, I wouldn’t say I’m all that emotionally balanced.
The second my kid saw me break up, the attitude disappeared. She broke down, too.
“Don’t let me down again. I need you.”
“I won’t. I’m sorry.”
“I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
After she promised to do better, and we went back in. She sat up straight and we made it through the sermon, but I was drained for the rest of the day. I felt like going to bed at fucking noon. I felt like it took every last ounce of creative energy and physical strength just to hold shit together, and even then I felt like I was doing a lousy job of it. It’s a parent’s job to keep calm and lead during trying times—to provide normalcy instead of seeking it out—and I felt like I failed.
It’s five days later and I don’t feel that much different.
The Patriots play the Falcons on Sunday and, above all else, I would love to treat the game as a welcome distraction from … from all this SHIT. In terms of matchups and storylines, it’s an excellent game (although the way these playoffs have gone, that doesn’t seem to mean much). We’re gonna have friends over. I’m gonna make chili and drink as much beer as my gut can hold and tweet out limp jokes about shitty ads. I am ready to plunge headlong into the business of supreme gluttony. I am ready to be ready for some football.
I’ve lived through crisis Super Bowls, most notably back in 1991 when Whitney sang the anthem during the first Iraq War (which had the blessing of most Americans, myself included) and then in 2002 when U2 played the first Super Bowl after 9/11 (and after Operation Enduring Freedom began over in Afghanistan). In both of those instances, the Super Bowl did its job acting as the country’s wintertime July 4th. It unified. It distracted. It put a gauzy, patriotic sheen on political events that deserved a lot more vocal scrutiny. Both games also happened to be fantastic (with Bill Belichick playing a vital role in each!). It made everything feel good and normal.
That will not happen on Sunday. This game has never been bigger while the nation itself has been so unstable. I have not lived through a Super Bowl being played under such inescapably ominous circumstances. They’re gonna unfurl a big fucking flag out on that field and have bomber jets fly over the stadium and have Luke Bryan sing the anthem and what the fuck am I supposed to feel when that happens? Pride? We started off this season with Colin Kaepernick peacefully protesting the anthem, and we end it in the middle of what feels like one huge, cruel, soon-to-be-violent rebuke to that protest.
I promise you I wanna stick to sports, but I seem to lack that superpower at the moment. Right now, all I get are little breaks in the cloud cover, a precious few moments where I find myself preoccupied with some other shit before remembering, “Oh yeah, this guy is running rampant through the corridors of power.” They’re gonna play that anthem and I’m not gonna feel all groovy and hopeful inside. I’m gonna just be reminded of the 60 million or so Americans who voted for Trump and think “America” means them and no one else.
There’s more. This game is being played in Houston, home to the country’s largest immigrant population (somehow I doubt this will be reflected in the crowd at Reliant Stadium), and the game will feature one team whose three most important components (owner, coach, player) are all buddy-buddy with our current President. And the NFL’s conspicuous silence on the Muslim travel ban stands in stark contrast to the NBA, where coaches and players alike have comfortably voiced their opposition. Even Falcons wideout Mohamed Sanu, who is Muslim, told the press he was “here to talk about football.”
That’s his right, of course. Sanu has got a big-ass game to play, and he just saw what happens when you dare to distract your football team by hanging out on a fucking boat or taking a video on your phone. Those who distract always end up paying. The NFL likes to shun politics but simultaneously embrace patriotism, and that’s a good racket when things are going relatively smoothly, and you can keep up the grand lie that those two things are unrelated. Look at this fucking pud try to deflect the question of the day:
Things are NOT going smoothly right now. Right now everything is deeply fucked, and to willfully ignore it is either impossible or irresponsible. The last thing I need is the NFL trotting out a showy display of allegiance both to the flag and to its own, relentless tunnel vision. The whole thing feels tone deaf at best and passive-aggressive at worst … a tacit demand that you sit there and adore all this pageantry, or else.
Again, I’m sorry about all this. The last thing I want is to sit here like some goth nihilist dipshit and lecture everyone, and douse a seemingly festive occasion in cold piss. I wanna snap out of it. I want EVERYONE to snap out of it. I want America to wake up in a fevered sweat and realize what it’s done and rush to un-fuck everything before it’s too late, if it isn’t already.
Because if that doesn’t happen, there won’t be any comfort to be had in these games, or the company you keep with your fellow fans. No solace. No community. No cherished break from reality. Nothing will be able to distract from what’s going on right outside, and how that is eating away at so many people on the inside. The wall that the NFL has so desperately tried to maintain between itself and real life will, at long last, break down for good. And I won’t be able to escape the fact that I cried outside that church not because my kid let me down, but because the rest of the world did.
All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms. And for the playoffs, I also pick the games, because I KNOW VEGAS. I’m tight with all the “sharps,” as they are known to some.
Falcons (+3) 56, Patriots 0. Allow me to compose myself for a second, for despite that lead-in there is still some genuine excitement for Sunday tucked deep within the recesses of my hysterical mind. SO HIT THE MUSIC…
Okay. Okay, now I’m feeling a little better. By all means, bludgeon me with that score prediction when I’m proven dead wrong. Wouldn’t be the first time I fucked up horribly. But sometimes, it feels good to make a prediction based on what you WANT to happen … to live for a moment in a little alternate dimension where such a hilarious outcome occurs. It’s like buying a Mega Millions ticket. I don’t expect to be right on Sunday. I’m playing to DREAM, folks. Also, the Pats can eat shit.
In other news, the Falcons have no one listed on the injury report, and they’re playing against an ageless wonder of a quarterback who has won three AFC titles since shredding his knee nearly a decade ago. What they both have in common is a long-standing belief in training regimens that emphasize flexibility over strength. And PILLS … sweet, delicious PILLS.
You may already know about Brady and his weirdo diet, along with his religious devotion to what he calls “pliability.” But he’s not alone in trying to prove that health is a learned skill. Ever since Thomas Dimitroff started running the Falcons, he’s had players go through physical tests based on something called Functional Movement Systems, which pinpoints asymmetry in player muscle groups (I know that sounds Hitler-y, but it isn’t) and attempts to correct them. Both Brady and the Falcons seem to have benefited from these detailed methods, right? That’s what I’d like to believe.
And yet… there is the matter of Atlanta spending nearly triple the average team on meds a few years back. Also, it’s not like other teams haven’t tried desperately to find new ways to bioengineer indestructible players. Chip Kelly was notorious for monitoring players like they were captured extraterrestrials, and it didn’t end up mattering. Seventeen players hit IR under his watch just last year alone.
That’s enough to make you wonder if there really is a secret edge to maintaining a healthy roster, or if the only way to survive the rigors of a 16-game car wreck is through some combination of sheer luck and injecting straight deer semen into your spine. I think I’m swaying toward the latter! You’re probably watching two teams that are better at masking injuries than they are preventing them.
None. Here’s your random crap:
•Just when I was starting to feel all warm and fuzzy about Matt Ryan, along comes this ESPN article where his old coach spins some bullshit about how he got the nickname Matty Ice:
There is another story, one that nobody would verify but has taken on urban legend qualities. Matty, the nickname his football coach gave him, does rhyme with an inexpensive alcoholic beverage preferred by cash-strapped high-schoolers.
“We were pretty well-behaved, our group, so I don’t know exactly where that came,” Hitschler said. “It wasn’t a moment where Matt Ryan is sitting drinking a Natty Ice and that’s how it came about,” McKinney said. “I can’t give credence to a story where Matt was doing something Natty Ice-related and that’s how the name got to him.”
Surrrrrrrrre you can’t, amigo. Everything I thought I knew about Matt Ryan would be SHATTERED if it turned out he likes drinking shitty beer. Just admit he’s named after it and let’s get on with things. Goodell will only suspend him for two games, max.
•I was out to dinner with my kids and my folks when my youngest son ran out of ketchup for his fries. My mom had some extra that came with her dinner, so she just passed it over to him and he dipped away.
Well now, turned out that ketchup wasn’t ketchup at all. It was Sriracha. The boy plugged his ears like fucking steam was gonna come out of them, and then cried for a solid 30 minutes in between glugs of water. It was one of those moments where you feel AWFUL, but it’s also kinda hilarious. I had to take the kid out of the restaurant and soothe him while considering taking a video for posterity. The boy is scarred for life.
•Bud has some lauded Super Bowl ad forthcoming that is ostensibly pro-immigrant, but features an immigrant who just happens to look like fucking Jeremy Davies. Oh, and he was a good immigrant because he founded a billion-dollar pisswater empire. I guarantee you that there was a meeting at Anheuser-Busch headquarters where execs were like, “Can we make sure the immigrant isn’t TOO immigranty? We can always put him right next to a black guy so that people know they BOTH went through some shit!”
•I tried kombucha—a fermented tea for Goop newsletter subscribers—for the first time this week. Here now is my full review: It’s weird. It’s like tea mixed with Zima that’s been left out for nine days. You do not require it.
•I went to an elementary school basketball game the other day and they had a fully functional scoreboard at the gym with an operator, and lemme tell you something: Being the scoreboard operator kicks ASS. I think I did it once in high school and ohhhhhhhh, oh the POWER. I can control time! I can take away points from you if I don’t like you! When this Super Bowl business is over, I’m getting out of blogging and going into scoreboard operatin’ full time. Watch me scare very small children with the buzzer. EHHHHNTTTTT!
•I’ve had enough of Belichick being credited with the strategy of “Find the other team’s best player and, like, shut them down.” That’s what EVERY team wants to do. Apart from Rex Ryan, no coach is like, “Tell you what, men: we’re gonna surprise the Falcons by NOT covering Julio Jones.” It’s not that Belichick aims to take away your best players… it’s that he CAN. That’s where he works his terrifying necromancy.
•I bought a new shirt the other that I like quite a bit, but there’s one small problem: I pit it out. A LOT. I have no idea why my pits sweat more in this shirt than others, but the second I have it on, the shirt is DRENCHED. I think if there’s a touch more room between the shirt fabric and your armpit, your armpit takes that as a cue to begin gushing fluids. I don’t know what to do. I may have to wear some kind of arm diaper under this thing. Mere deodorant isn’t doing the job.
Conference title game picks: 0-2
Super Bowl Chili Recipe
I post this every year and, as ever, you are free to modify it. I won’t come hurt you. A couple weeks ago, I made it for a party and someone brought a bunch of spicy, New Mexico chile pistachios, so I shelled the nuts and chopped them up in a coffee grinder and added them into the pot. SO MUCH DEPTH.
So feel free to make this your own. Anything that has some fat and smoke and bones in it would make a fine addition. One day I’m gonna drop a whole pig’s head into this thing, just to see what happens.
FOR THE CHILI:
2 pounds ground beef or chicken, at least 20% fat
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 shallot, chopped (ANNUAL NOTE: Shallots are the things that make restaurant food taste like restaurant food.)
1 jalapeno, chopped
1 large can crushed tomatoes
1 can tall red kidney beans, drained
1 can corn, drained
1 can beer
1 can chicken broth
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp fennel seed
2 tbsp cumin (add more at end if necessary)
2 tbsp chili powder (add more at end if necessary)
1/4 cup white vinegar
Salt & Pepper to taste
Ashes from a joint (optional)
Lotta Frank’s Hot Sauce
2 glugs olive oil
FOR THE SIDES:
Frank’s hot sauce
1 bunch scallions, chopped
Put a big pot on the stove on medium. Pour in the oil. When it’s hot, toss in the onions, garlic, jalapeno, and shallots and stir them around until soft. Toss in the ground meat. Salt and pepper the ground meat in the pot. Sautee the meat until it’s good and brown. Add the tomatoes, beans, corn, beer, broth, liquid smoke, sugar, cumin, chili powder, fennel seed, joint ashes, vinegar, and Frank’s. Bring it to a simmer. Half cover the pot and leave it on low medium heat for 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally and always tasting. The liquid in the pot should reduce into a nice, thick stew. Dip in a chip to see if the chili sticks to it. If it does, it’s ready to serve.
I should also note that Burneko and I made half-smoke chili back in the fall and it was fucking awesome. Once you’ve made chili from smoked sausages, there’s no turning back. You’ve crossed the threshold into the Fat Dimension.