Once again we have another guest entry from Zeus, this time with a unique look at this weekend’s division round of the NFL playoffs, Marshall Faulk, The History Of Tailgating, and much more.
1. Â One Fan’s Perspective – Those of us who are long term sports crazed Adrenaline Junkies live for this time of year. Saturday night, we’ll be completely wired, nerves jangled in the frenzy of the big time King Hell competition that is the NFL playoffs. Largely impervious to the effects of the elements, the excessive pre-game indulgences (more on this below) or anything else. Nothing matters but The Game. It is a peculiar bit of torture – your heart races at about 600 beats per minute and you can feel your pulse pounding in your veins. It’s the polar opposite of relaxing – your body screams with the sublime tension that mounts and mounts and mounts for three solid hours. It is life on The Big Roller-Coaster.
The higher the stakes, the more intense the experience. A defeat brings a sense of desolate despair, an ache that bores into the very core of your being, because the season is OVER, because there is no next week, no chance for redemption until the hot winds of July and August blow. A win is indescribable elation that transforms an entire community in a wave of electric excitement. It is this sense of belonging that we yearn for. This is what we crave, why we care so much.
2. Â It is, of course, very different for the players and coaches. They can’t be in meetings or on the practice field or in the heat of battle thinking – we shouldn’t have drafted Adrian Klemm or Darius Butler. They can’t dwell on dreadful defensive stats or the ill informed complaints of The Sporting Press. They can’t blame the coordinators or complain about the officiating or the announcers or a comment some complete imbecile made on ESPN or the NFL Network. In short, they can’t be fans, because, for The Competitors, all there is, is the next play. You can’t change the past. But the future is an opportunity to make a difference, even if you’re Sergio Brown. The difference between success and failure. The difference between Heaven and Hell. Those who compete have no time for second guessing, doubts or recriminations. Just pick you yourself up, dust yourself off and try to make the next play. Try to win the game. It is a bottom line business. There is little consolation in playing well if you lose. And in the moments after a big win, however briefly, there is nothing but that one unchangeable, indisputable fact. You won. And no one can ever take that away from you.
3. Â Playoff Drought – Much has been made of the Patriots’ failure to win a playoff game since the 2007 postseason. The Sporting Press and other assorted talking heads make this out to be an eternity of abject failure. It’s a single elimination tournament with only the best teams playing their best football. Sorry, but Brady didn’t play in 2008 and losing in the first round two years in a row does not constitute the end of life as we know it. For a longer term perspective, consider this: after 1963, the Patriots didn’t make the playoffs again until 1976, didn’t win a playoff game until 1985 and didn’t win a home playoff game until 1996. Anyway, I’ve somehow managed to weather the epic three year drought – maybe I was battle-hardened by the decades with no playoffs at all.
4. Â Just curious about how players like Arian Foster and Victor Cruz go undrafted. Elite talents, passed over by all 32 teams for seven rounds. Just imagine the Patriots with either (or both!) of these guys.
5. Â A Confederacy of Dunces – So we’ve all devoted a lot of energy around here mocking everything associated with the jets. Who could have possibly believed that they would turn out to be more inept, venal and stupid than we ever could have imagined? When you think about it, it’s really quite an accomplishment. I’m not usually impressed by failure, but this is on such a grand scale that you just have to tip your cap to Woody, O Tannenbaum, Fat Rex, (Marky) Mark, Santonio the Sociopath and the whole gang over at jets world headquarters, where, needless to say, the gene pool has become severely depleted. Nice to see that the crack management team will remain intact.
6. Â My friends in Wisconsin seem genuinely concerned about the Giants. No doubt the Packers would have much preferred the Falcons or the Lions. Much like the Patriots, the Packers have managed injuries wisely so should be healthier than they’ve been in a while. No one should be surprised if Green Bay runs away with this, but watch out for Eli in a close game.
7. Â Saints-49ers is a great match-up featuring the superb New Orleans offense against the best defense in the NFC. The Saints are a very different team away from the friendly confines of the Super Dome. Look for the 49ers to give them a very tough time.
8. Â Warning – Prudent football fans will want to avoid the pre-game histrionics of Lewis and Suggs in Baltimore. Dangerous to watch without a chiropractor and a flight-discomfort bag nearby. This should be a bruising game. It would be foolish indeed to underestimate the Texans, who, aside from their rookie QB, seem built for the playoffs.
9. Â The History of Tailgating (A Personal Memoir) – The very early days of tailgating involved only the most rudimentary forms of refreshment. The advent of the Smokey Joe (i.e., the Invention of Fire) introduced hot food, largely in the form of hot dogs and hamburgers, eventually to be joined by the occasional marinated steak tips. Since this breakthrough, thousands of dead animals have given their lives over our charcoal fires.
In the current era, proper tailgating necessarily involves the four basic food groups: cows, pigs, chickens and sheep. In recent years, this has been augmented to include bivalves, crustaceans, gill bearing aquatic vertebrates, and waterfowl, all of which are washed down with copious amounts of carbonated malt beverages. Fermented grape juice products have gained favor as incomes have grown while bladders have contracted (a normal part of the aging process for The American Adult Male Football Fanatic). Each home game requires a good faith attempt to cover all of the enumerated food groups. With an average of ten tailgaters each bringing enough food for 10+ people, we end up with food for 100 or more; inexplicably, we are generally able to consume 80-90% of that. (If this is an exaggeration at all, it’s not much of one, as anyone who has attended one of our tailgates can attest.) While the short term health consequences are dire indeed, we have a remarkably high survival rate, mostly due to the wonders of modern medicine and the relative infrequence of home games over the course of a full year. In the long run, we remain supremely confident that because we have charcoals grills, large coolers and opposable thumbs, anything is possible.
10. Â It that seems our close personal friend Marshall Faulk never fully recovered from having his eggs scrambled by McGinest, Bruschi et al in Super Bowl XXXVI. So it’s rather charitable of the NFL Network to provide Faulk with an outlet for his misinformed, often near hallucinatory musings. Despite Faulk’s prognostications of doom, I remain hopeful that the Patriots will take care of business Saturday night so that we can all crank this up at least one more time. Here’s hoping you can enjoy the game with people you care about. And a happy ending would be nice, too …