It’s No Accident There Are More Politics In Your Sports Now

Illustration by Sam Woolley/GMG
Illustration by Sam Woolley/GMG

Your letters:


Did ESPN force the current political climate when they “embraced debate?” It feels like society followed the change to constant screaming and refusal to agree on even the most insignificant thing.


I think that’s giving wayyyyyyy too much credit to Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless for the coarsening of American society. If anything, shows like First Take were inspired by political debate shows that were already on the air, like Crossfire etc. And I promise you that First Take is My Dinner With Andre compared to random fans arguing in a tailgate lot.

However, I think you can criticize those shows for imbuing sports arguments with the DNA of political arguments, which naturally allows real politics to seep into the discussion. After all, if you want a sports debate to get REALLY heated, there’s no better way to do that than to inject a hefty dose of politics into it. That way, a simple argument over Cam Newton being a dick in a press conference becomes more of an ideological battle between deeply entrenched factions. Arguments become angrier, more personal, AND they last longer, which is useful if you happen to be a TV producer looking to fill four hours of airtime. It doesn’t help that the President also enjoys turning his brute force idiocy on the sports word because he knows it’s an easy way to get his yokel supporters hootin’ and hollerin’.

Normally, the results themselves can help resolve sports questions. Once player X wins a title, there’s no longer much of a debate about whether or not that guy is ELITE or a choker, etc. You can see the strain when Bayless tries to go after LeBron now. No one buys it. But if you’re arguing about anthem demonstrations, well now that can go on forever. In fact, it’ll make people even angrier the longer it gets drawn out! [Borat voice] GREAT SUCCESS. If you’re a #sticktosports kind of dipshit, feel free to curse out Jamie Horowitz for this. It’s not like he’s busy doing anything else at the moment.


Finished an ironman this past weekend and am going to get the obligatory tattoo. It’s usually done on the calf, but I figure that’s a prime area to change/lose definition over a short period of time and so am looking for some alternatives. The obvious choice seems to be the ankle.

I’m a terrible person to ask since I don’t have any tattoos. I am pure and unblemished. I am not a look-at-me GLORY THUG who has polluted his skin with elaborate dragon art. In fact, as much as I goof on old takers who complain about athletes who have lots of tattoos, I have definitely said to one or more of my kids, “If you get a tattoo I will fucking kill you.” I’m not paying for the laser surgery when they eventually break up with Braxtyn after getting his name in ink, you know? No way. I am the shameless suburban hypocrite they warn you about.

However, my innate WASPiness has not stopped me from wondering what kind of tattoo I would get, and where on my body it would go. I could get the Vikings logo and then have my knee explode! That would be fun. Or I could get all my kids’ names tattooed somewhere on me, only to end up falling out with them and having their names on my body be an eternal, cruel reminder of our estrangement! Again, fun. I sometimes daydream of getting trashed and waking up the next morning with a new tat and having my wife be absolutely SCANDALIZED by it. That’s right, honey. You married a wild man. You couldn’t change me if you tried. Meanwhile, the boldest I get with tattoos is when I put on one of those fake Spiderman tattoos my kid gets as a birthday party favor.


Anyway, while I haven’t decided on the exact tattoo I’ll never actually get, I do know where that tattoo would go: On the outside of my upper arm. Not the inside, on the money part of the bicep. That’s reserved for tattoos of battleships that grow when you flex. Science tells us that the upper arm offers the best combination of smooth surface and optional discretion. You can hide your ink under your sleeve by day, then put on a basketball jersey and be PUNK by night. Or I can roll my sleeve up and display my Special Forces tattoo to my partner on the force.

Maybe you’re skittish about old age making your tattoo spot wrinkly and/or flabby, but that’s probably gonna happen to every part of your body. Your upper arm is about as foolproof as it gets if you’re a guy (this whole conversation changes if you’re a lady, because of camisoles and stuff). Start there, and then you can branch out into bolder areas, like the chest, neck, and scrotum.



If the NFL ever completes its goal of total parity, how many years does it last before the shadow government of NFL owners and the NFL collude to tilt the field back towards the elite teams? I’m talking about total parity as in every team goes 8-8 and every division, and playoffs are decided by various tie breakers and we end up with a random Super Bowl like the Chargers vs. Bucs. Also how do you think ratings would be affected? I think ratings would tank after one year.


I don’t agree. Remember, the 2008 Cardinals went to the Super Bowl with a 9-7 record (losing four of their last six) and the 2011 Giants WON the thing with a 9-7 record (losing five of their last eight). I definitely remember sportswriters lamenting that such average regular season teams could advance so far in the playoffs. And yet, those were both great Super Bowls. The mediocrity of those teams has faded with time because of what they accomplished in the postseason, and because what’s often bad for the NFL regular season is good for the playoffs, and vice versa. You may HATE a regular season where every team is 8-8 and hilariously inconsistent, but if the playoffs are competitive and utterly unpredictable? No man, the NFL kills for that sort of thing.

Remember, the NFL has more tortured teams than pretty much any other league. Think of the number of fanbases who consider themselves snakebitten: Lions, Bills, Browns, Bengals, Vikings, Eagles, Jets, Chargers, Bears, Falcons, Cards, etc. Even relatively accomplished franchises like Miami and Washington have gone so long without winning anything that it feels like they’ve won nothing at all. That’s a lot of loose storylines waiting to be tied up. The Patriots have made for good TV since the turn of the century, but I promise you the NFL would be fine with an all 8-8 season where other long-suffering teams feel like they have more of a legit shot.



Let’s say there’s an NBA player who goes his entire career without registering a single rebound, assist, steal or block. On top of that his teams never make the playoffs. BUT he finishes his career with around 35,000 points (which would be 3rd all-time behind Kareem and Karl Malone). Does he make the Hall of Fame?


You mean Kobe? Yeah he’ll make the Hall. ZINGGGGGGGGGGGGGG!

For real though, I think Absolute Kobe would make the Hall only because no one gives a shit about the basketball Hall of Fame and they’ll let pretty much anyone in. But people would definitely gripe about it. We just went through an NBA MVP campaign where people accused Russell Westbrook of being selfish for averaging a triple-double! You can’t do that without passing the ball to people, and yet he still got shit for being a me-first player!


How many times have you heard a guy get derided as “just a scorer”? The Ball Hog label is the most hilariously damning of basketball epithets, usually thrown down by people who cannot score, and people who believe that “defense wins championships” is an insight they just thought of on the spot. So while Absolute Kobe would get a bust/plaque/corncob statue in Springfield, the Bill Plaschkes of the world would definitely take umbrage to his presence. HE WAS A BUM.


What is the proper food passing etiquette at a meal? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked by someone at the far end of a table to pass a dish down (or most commonly the ice), only to realize that I’d like to take some for myself before passing. Am I an asshole for grabbing a few cubes before passing the bucket? And if I’m somewhere in the middle of the passing chain, does that affect my taking eligibility?


You’re allowed to take the food/ice if you don’t already have some. Does that make sense? If you haven’t helped yourself to the mashed potatoes yet and someone else also wants them, you’re free to take some before passing them down the line so that the potatoes can be evenly rationed amongst the table. That’s more efficient than passing it down first and then having it double back.

But if you ALREADY have mashed potatoes, and are trying to sneak in seconds before someone else has even had their firsts, then you’re out of line. What if you kill the mashed potatoes? Then you’re a prick. Also, if you’re helping yourself first, you can’t take, like, half the plate. You have to guesstimate how much will be needed for everyone else and apportion yourself accordingly. Take it from someone who has definitely hogged the dark turkey meat before passing that shit to the wife. That glaring lack of chivalry does not go unnoticed. My wife still gives me shit for an overloaded Thanksgiving plate from 2014. I’d defend myself but I DID end up throwing up that night.



As I listened to the new QOTSA album and watched the floodwaters inch toward my front door the other week in Houston, I realized that I’ll always associate those tunes with the damn TS Harvey flood. I was also in a near-fatal car accident in high school while listening to the Paul’s Boutique album. When one of those songs comes on, I relive that nightmare all over again. I was curious: Anyone else have some pop culture that they so closely associate with a disaster or personal trauma that they haven’t been able to consume it again?


Oh sure. I can’t listen to Ice Cube’s greatest hits—which I used to enjoy—because they played it on a loop when I was fake kidnapped for GQ. And if any radio hit from the spring of 2012 comes on the radio (“Call My Maybe,” “It Will Rain,” etc.), I instantly think of the time my newborn son had life-threatening surgery and was in the NICU for a month. We used to listen to the Kidz Bop versions of those songs on the way to the hospital and back, so hearing a group of kids belt out “Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson really fucks me up.

It’s very common to be triggered by some otherwise inoffensive piece of pop culture that happens to be associated with a traumatic event in your life. That’s one of the reasons people place a disproportionate amount of importance on certain songs and movies, you know. Even if you have a bad association with something, it’s still indelible. That’s the point, right? People geek out over complete garbage like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles because pop culture preserves certain memories, good and bad, in amber. And those memories are yours and yours only, which means your bond with that one episode of Night Court is one of a kind. It’s a piece of your soul. This is why Hollywood never has any new ideas. Every recycled property becomes a Horcrux for the next generation.



When Cam Newton calls out a woman reporter for being stupid, who does a Trump voter support? The black QB or the woman?


Oh I think he roots for both sides to destroy each other, like when the Sox play the Yankees and I root for the meteor.

By the way, this never works. The meteor never strikes. I keep waiting for Wingnut America to eat itself and it never does. Nihilism never pays off, which is deeply frustrating to a hater like me.


I’m personally shocked that such dopey remarks would come from Cam Newton: a dude who once painted his own name onto a stolen laptop. Just like Cam to fumble something so badly and then just stand there. HEY-O!!!!!!!



Looking through the snack cabinet last night, I wondered what, precisely, is the average lifespan of a bag of chips. Like down to the minute. Or maybe it’s more interesting to figure out, adjusting for container size, what snack food has the shortest and longest average lifespan from grocery shelf to its empty bag being tossed into the garbage can.


The averages are all fucked up by any dud bag of chips that sits in the pantry for a zillion years. For example, we have a bag of plain Tostitos that has been in the snack drawer for weeks now. Due to the fact that we lack salsa, they will never be finished. I frequently tell my kids that we will buy no new snacks until they’ve finished the snack we already have, but they know that’s a lie. They know that I am just as contemptuous of those old stale Tostitos as they are, and so they are happy to wait me out until I crack and bring home a bag of sour cream and onion chips. Those last all of 12 seconds. Average it all out and I’d say the average bag of chips lasts two days in any household, with the Doritos and Pringles going first. Pringles get snack line priority. Plain pretzels sit there for a year.


Why do NFL teams continue to try to win games even after completely blowing the first part of their season? What possible purpose could there be in starting off 0-6 and ending up at 7-9 (see 2013 Giants)? Wouldn’t it make much more sense to just bomb and get a good draft pick? Nothing makes a bad season worse than turning it into a mediocre season.


Because players and coaches don’t want to get fired. This is why the Jets are currently 3-2, which NO Jets fan wanted. Those fans all wanted their team to go 0-16 so they could draft a quarterback. But guess what happens when you stock a team of ambitious no-names with non-guaranteed contracts and put a dignified lame duck in charge of everything? They TRY. Filthy little bastards, they try their hearts out and FUCK you in the process. Ironically, the Dolphins were out there trying to actually win games with Jay Cutler, the tankiest player humanly possible. I bet the Jets would trade half their offense to have Cutler polluting the roster right now. Instead, they have this scrappy little band of upstarts who are just gritty enough to eke out six useless victories.

It is extremely hard to tank in the NFL. Even when you have a team mailing it in, like the 2003 Giants, they still may run into another team that has also quit. There’s also the fact that half-assing it on the football field can result in severe injury, which means you can’t just jog around out there if you’re playing guard. And the league will never change these incentives because A) Obviously, they don’t want teams tanking, and B) They are very proud of the whole YOU THINK THESE GUYS DON’T CARE? narrative surrounding any crummy 5-11 team. They can build a whole NFL Films yearbook vid around that kind of flimsy premise, and they have!


In order to tank properly, you need a bunch of veteran players who already have enough money and don’t care about the lasting, permanent stigma that gets affixed to you if you mail it. You basically need a full roster of Cutlers and Haynesworths, and you need to put that coke coach in charge of everything. Otherwise, you’re better off just hoping to tank by accident, like the 2017 Giants!


At what point does a recipe become your own recipe? It’s football season, which means it’s chili season! Like any good citizen I have what I believe is a superior chili, and my wife tends to agree. As we were enjoying the first batch of the season during the Week 1 opener, my wife, who has never questioned the chili, asked me how I came upon my particular way of making it. It has come after years of trial and error, but I admitted that the baseline for the recipe is from Jamie Deen, which elicited the slightest bit of disappointment that it was not “original.” I have changed and added ingredients, modified measurements and made a vastly superior product, and I’ll be goddamned if that son-of-butter fucker gets the credit, even if I do sometimes consult his recipe for procedural advice. He doesn’t own the concept of chili!


This is actually a huge issue in the seedy underbelly of the cookbook industry. Jessica Seinfeld once got sued once by another cookbook author who accused her of lifting recipes for her book (IMPORTANT NOTE: The book is shitty). Seinfeld won that lawsuit when judges ruled that, “Stockpiling vegetable purees for covert use in children’s food is an idea that cannot be copyrighted.” I still say she’s suspicious. HIDE BEHIND YOUR BIG-TIME LAWYERS ALL YOU LIKE, LADY! WE ALL KNOW YOU CRIBBED THOSE SPINACH MUFFINS! If you really want to lock down a certain recipe as your own, you essentially have to patent it and keep it secret. Otherwise, recipes tend to get plagiarized with impunity.

As for your chili, I think it’s fine if you tell people it’s yours, with maybe a hat tip to Paula Deen’s porky adult son if you feel like it. Not to go all commie on you, but I think it’s weird that anyone could “own” a recipe for anything. The whole fun in cooking is to pass recipes down and watch as a dish evolves through generations. I took my chili recipe from my mom, but I’ve worked with it long enough now, and made enough modifications, that I feel more than comfortable saying it’s my own. Not to go all pinko on you, but it’s better when people share that kind of stuff, instead of fanatically guarding their stupid herb blend like it’s the formula for spaceship fuel. If people and companies shared more things, we wouldn’t live in the kind of inert, turd universe we live in now. Also, I can’t stand Paula Deen so who gives a shit.



What person has verbally said the name “LeBron” the most number of times since LeBron James was born in 1984? One would assume it would be his mom or one of his close friends or mentors, but I could see a broadcaster, podcaster, or hardcore Cavs fan topping the list. Who would you guess?


I know that Skip wakes up every morning at 3 a.m. to workshop LeBron takes in the mirror, but I think he’s definitely way behind someone like LeBron’s mom or Maverick Carter. Maverick grew up with LeBron and probably drops his name every seven seconds when he’s making an elevator pitch to fruit juice conglomerates. There’s no way some media pud who is 15 years behind LeBron’s friends and family can out name-drop them.

Hell, if I knew personally LeBron James, I promise you that I would drop his name with Wilbon-esque levels of shamelessness. “You know who might find you idea intriguing? LEBRON. Now I know LEBRON a little bit, so I could call LEBRON about your venture if you think having LEBRON on board might excite your shareholders. You can be the brains of the operation, and I will be… LEBRON, as it were. Get it? Huh? Hey, where are you going?”


Also, don’t sleep on LeBron’s estranged father. Sports dads are the fucking worst name droppers, especially if they also happen to be deadbeats. “I taught him everything he knows!”


They have meatlogs, Drew. They are called sausages.

No, man. I know what you’re saying, but a sausage has a casing and there’s always a risk that you’ll accidentally pull the whole thing out of the bun when you bite into it. My proposed meatball sub replacement log is made of meatball meat, but with no casing and shaped like a big juicy turd. It’s like kofta, a very tasty Middle Eastern kebab where they make a log of ground lamb on a skewer and then grill it. That’s a good meatlog! I want the garbage sub shop version of that.



I was recently doodling at work, drawing the Duke “D” logo, and started wondering what the coolest letter for sports logos is. There are some cool, cursive “A” logos (Alabama, Atlanta Braves), while a seemingly awesome letter like “X” actually has pretty boring logos (Xavier). So, what is the best letter to form a logo out of?


I like M and W. The W on the Washington Huskies helmets is my favorite college letter. It’s a very big, strong W. You can’t fuck with that W. Both W and M are very wide letters, with lots of crazy angles, so they can eat up a lot of helmet real estate, especially when you add serifs and all kinds of other fancy accoutrements. I can stretch an M out to five feet with a little finesse. I can make an M straddle the fucking continent, like a double archway. I’d rank them like this:

  1. W
  2. M
  3. D
  4. H
  5. A
  6. T
  7. O
  8. C
  9. G
  10. U
  11. K
  12. Q
  13. X
  14. Z
  15. V
  16. B
  17. N
  18. S
  19. I
  20. E
  21. L
  22. J
  23. P
  24. R
  25. Y
  26. F

By the way, there was a Deadcast a while back where I said that I didn’t realize the U on the Miami helmet was a U until I was like, 25. Now I know that’s dumb, but hear me out for a second: ANY university can slap a U on their helmet. It’s fucking stupid! That’d be like putting an S on your helmet for Skool. I know I’m a dummy and there’s no explaining my way out of it. I just want it noted that Miami can eat shit.


Email of the week!


So last week I take my kids - 13 and 10 - to visit their grandparents for a few days in my hometown, about a four hour drive. Trip was fine. I sneak out to have a few “catch-ups” with a friend, and come home around 1am to find my kids still up, along with their Pap, binge watching f’n Matlock. MATLOCK! My Dad has a grin on his face a mile wide, and when I go to say something my son shushes me and says “Wait, Dad, this part’s important. Ben’s working it out.” I retreated to my bedroom defeated. Drew, my Dad is a great guy and a great Pap. He’s playful and mischievous with the kids in a good way, so I always expect a certain level of absurdity. But I was not at all prepared for the “Matlocking” of my children! Does this cross the line of acceptable grand-parental influence?


[Abe Simpson voice] Matttttttlockkkkkkkk!