I would like to talk to you about self-loathing football season.
It begins with all sorts of things that have nothing to do with football. It begins with the weather. The charm of fall has made its way into the gutters that line the streets, where those once-vivid yellow and red leaves now form a mucky brown gruel. It is not yet cold enough to derive any pleasure from staying inside all day, wrapped in a blanket and sipping coffee, but it is not warm enough to spend any meaningful time outside. There are no clouds in the sky and yet the sun, which seems to always be sitting just a little too low, provides no heat. The slightest breeze brings a bone-deep chill with it.
What I am broadly describing here is the early days of Gray-Brown Fall, the worst of the eight seasons. Everyone must confront this awful stretch of the calendar in their own way, but football fans spend every Sunday in danger of having the glum but manageable realities of a Gray-Brown Fall day turned into the sort of choking dread that can ruin an entire week. This is because there are bad football games to watch.
You know these games. They start happening in Week 8 or 9, when it becomes depressingly obvious that, yes, the Steelers are going to win 11 games and the Patriots are going to win at least 12. They come at a time when you know exactly which teams are good and which teams are bad, and when the unproven but exciting young players who once represented a potentially bright new future for the crap teams have resolved into bad young players. The games are always on CBS. They are always announced by Ian Eagle—wait, is that Ian Eagle? You can’t really remember what Ian Eagle sounds like right now—and feature a color commentator who sounds like a chilly muppet. When they begin the field is always half in shadow and half in wan sunlight. The players are much colder than they look, and they always seem to be wearing a Jets or Dolphins uniform.
The Dolphins beat the Jets 13-6 on Sunday in what was a quintessential self-loathing football experience. I did not watch the game (I ate the tape the next day like a real professional) because I was busy watching a show about house flippers in Texas (this leads to a different sort of self-loathing), but I have watched this kind of game many times, and so I know precisely what anyone who sat down to watch two bad football teams take turns farting on each other for three hours went through.
First there is some mild excitement. “Hey, it’s Sunday and there’s football on! I like this!” you think. But that only lasts about 15 minutes before disgust for the action on the field starts to set in. Give it another hour or so and the revulsion you are feeling for Sam Darnold’s decision-making starts to be replaced by revulsion at your own life choices. Then come the hard questions: Why am I just sitting here, watching this shit? I’m not going to set foot outside before it gets dark, am I? Why did I only eat three miniature Three Musketeers bars for breakfast, and why am I going to compound that mistake by eating two slices of pizza for dinner at 4:00 p.m.? Should I maybe call in sick tomorrow? Has this couch ever been comfortable? Do I even like my job? Should I move to a different city?
Anyway, back to the game. I guess there are some things you should know about it.
- This game featured what I believe to be the most boring first half of football of the entire season. The half consisted of eight punts, three field goals, an interception, and not one single exciting play. I could barely keep my eyes open while skimming through it on Monday, and I have no idea how anyone who watched it live managed to get out of bed the next morning.
- The Jets’ defense played really well! They sacked Brock Osweiler four times and held the Dolphins to six pitiful points. It all meant nothing, though, because Sam Darnold sucks and the Dolphins scored the game-winning touchdown on a pick-six.
- Darnold was so bad. He completed 21 bite-sized passes for 229 yards and threw four interceptions. It should have been six interceptions, too, but two Dolphins defenders let passes pop right out of their hands. Yes, yes, he’s still a rookie, but any quarterback who is worth half a shit should be able to beat a damn Miami Dolphins team that could only scratch out six points at home.
- The most positive stretch for the Jets’ offense was a two-play sequence in which they gained 30 yards thanks to consecutive facemask penalties.
- The Jets couldn’t snap the ball. Todd Bowles decided to start center Spencer Long despite the fact that Long had an injured finger. Then Bowles decided to keep the Jets in a shotgun formation for most of the day, which led to Long sailing snaps all over the place before finally being yanked late in the game. If there’s one play that neatly captures how everything went wrong for the Jets in this game, it’s this one:
- If Bowles has not already lost the locker room and guaranteed his own demise, he’s trying extremely hard to get to that point. Sticking with a center who literally cannot snap the ball is coaching malpractice, and so is complaining about the fact that your defense, which kicked ass, didn’t create any turnovers. This guy is absolutely begging for his players to turn on him before getting fired in Week 14. You don’t need to read too far into this clip of center Jonotthan Harrison, who had to stand there all day and watch Long fail, talking to Buster Skrine on the sideline to believe that Bowles is succeeding in his quest:
Consider this not just a bad football game that you are lucky to have missed, but a warning. We are now in the shit, my friends, smack-dab in the dark heart of self-loathing football season. Do not let the NFL hasten the gradual worsening of your life. Look away from the Jets, look away from the Dolphins, and cope with your seasonal depression in more constructive ways, like playing video games until your eyes hurt.