Ryan Fitzpatrick Reads Slate

A charming series of digressions in which two gentlemen of leisure reflect on the game of football and its surrounding culture.

Jeff: Why does Parcells want to quit the Dolphins now? I read that he is slowly extracting himself. Are things too normal for him there?

David: His work is done there. I think he just wants to get back to coaching, to the fun part. You know, calling younger dudes faggots in the press. Does Parcells actually want to quit? I imagine him just stalking around some instant mansion in Alpine, New Jersey, screaming at paintings.

Jeff: “Goddamn this fucking Rothko pussy. Can I not get an oil portrait of a stoic 81 year-old virgin next to a loaf of semolina”… OH CHRIST HE WANTS TO GO BACK TO COACH THE COWBOYS, DOESNT HE???

David: I’m sure of that. Only he can save them, etc. I am now really afraid that he’s going to coach Dallas.

Jeff: Press conference Parcells: “I have no idea what you are talking about but I wish you’d shut the fuck up.” Private Parcells: “…While we wait for this lesser man named Wade to naturally fail.”

David: Him and Jerry Jones taking a secret meeting at a Macaroni Grill in Plano.

Jeff: “I’m requesting you take your top off for Bill’s and my enjoyment,” Jerry said smiling. “But this is Macaroni Grill, sir.” “I don’t know if you’re aware but I commissioned the biggest TV set in North America.” “But I’m just the parking attendant.” “Then there shouldn’t be any problems.” If Parcells goes to Dallas, he will bleach his hair blonde again. 3 to 1.

David: Break out the old coaching shorts. “Still fit…To the extent that they ever fit.”

Jeff: Maybe now that the JETS are doing great he wants to go back there and disrupt it somehow.

David: He’s calling Rex Ryan with (unsolicited) advice. “Question Sanchez’s sexuality IMMEDIATELY and then cut the punter. JUST DO IT! Do you want to win or not?”

Jeff: Calls a press conference just to declare he is not interested in the JETS job and Steve Serby starts bawling.

David:Francesa threatens suicide on air if Parcells doesn’t coach the Jets. People have to call in and tell him there’s too much to live for.

Jeff: “Aww, Gott. He doesn’t come back an’ coach Da Jettsss, dere’s sometin’ wrong with football. No disrespect to what Rex Ryan has done. But when we’re talkin’ ovah-weight and obnoxious dere’s Pah-cells. Me. Den dere’s Rex Ryan. No one has da FUPA dat Pah-cells does. I’m sorry. No one.”

David: Johnny from Long Island is like “Mike, I just think you need to think about the simple joys. A sunny day. A veal chop covered in a pound of fontina cheese. A 2-liter bottle of Diet Coke.” And Francesa’s like “The Diet Coke… it doesn’t taste like anything anymawh.”

Jeff: “Da moooves Bill made in ‘99, set da ball in motion for de ahh Jettts success a decade late-ah.” You know he is itching to move to some other team, though. It has to be Dallas.

David: Yeah. And honestly it probably makes some sense, there. I just don’t want to see his snarling weissewurst face anymore.

Jeff: Here’s an NBC Sunday Night game promo: Tony Romo waking up and Parcells is in bed next to him. In a nightgown and sleeping cap…

David: He would cut Romo for wearing his hat backwards. Flannel nightgown is classic Parcells. He has a custom-made Zubaz one from when he coached in Dallas last. I know he needs to be, but I feel bad about Wade Phillips getting fired. He seems like a likable enough guy.

Jeff: He looks like the adult Casper the friendly ghost, if ghosts aged and also liked Papa John’s pizza maybe too much. He looks like the spokesperson for a new over the counter nighttime cold medication I want to invent.

David: It’s a sliding scale, obviously, with football coaches. But he looks like the sort of guy who’d make an ineloquent but emotional and heartfelt toast at some niece’s wedding.

Jeff: …called Pillows

David: Dewar’s and tears spilling all over the place.

Jeff: Pillows is basically a cold medicine like NyQuil, in marshmallow form. You chew it and blue stuff comes out that is so powerful it instantly numbs your tongue, and helps you sleep.

David: Like a Chewels full of medicine.

Jeff: When you are very sick. Yes, except the marshmallow is very addictive. I’d eat a SACK of ‘em.

David: I’m glad he’s got something to fall back on. I am wanting one of these.

Jeff: Was he coach in Buffalo once? Wasn’t everyone?

David: If you’re the 103rd caller on Buffalo’s home of classic rock, you get to coach the team for a week.

Jeff: 3 QBS/ 3 Head Coaches a season, and nine running backs and zero receivers.

David: Chan Gailey called in and was like “Did I win? Great. Also can you play ‘Twilight Zone’ by Golden Earring?” Poor Bills. I don’t know that they traded Marshawn Lynch so much as they just noticed that he was showing up at the facility less and less frequently.

Jeff: Are the Patriots now playing their season FOR Junior Seau?Will the Chargers? “We are all Junior Seau.”

David: So tell me what actually happened, there? He allegedly assaulted his girlfriend, got out of jail, and then drove off a cliff?”

Jeff: Yep. That is the NFL’s new anti-concussion campaign, which is this week’s texting dong pix, BTW. We are all trapped in a sedan going off a cliff by a confused and sad driver. “Junior’s actions were due to sustained, repeated cranial impact.” I wouldn’t laugh at this, but you know going off a cliff was never going to kill Junior Seau. He’s indestructible. He’s just going to drink a liter of Malibu and chew up a handful of Pillows and see what happens. And that’s a whole lot cheaper than a shrink.

David: Yeah, I’m sure that dude toughed out any number of concussions. Just to show his teammates that he would put winning ahead of his own short-term memory.

Jeff: Most comment sections of NFL fans this week are like “GET OUT OF AMERICA,” if you don’t appreciate full contact sports.

David: Yeah, really. “Liberals need to stop gaying around with our NATIONAL PASTIME!”

David: It’s going to be tough to have a real conversation.

Jeff: You are a man of bravery and valor if you can hit a defenseless player helmet to helmet.

David: I don’t know where you go from there. Suspensions are better than BS fines, obviously. Every year or so there’s some contrarian piece that comes out about how you could eliminate this problem by banning helmets. Because players think they’re more protected than they are when they’re wearing one. But obviously that’s not going to happen, however many pieces Slate runs on it.

This is such a tough topic. Everything that’s fun about the game just goes out the window (like so many anvils) and we’re left trying to figure out how to get guys who get trained to hurt other people to be a little less egregious in their attempts to hurt people. Got to love Rodney Harrison, who I think of as just the dirtiest dude I ever saw play, being the voice of reason on TV, though. It’s like those interviews in FEDS where some old drug dealer dude is like “I don’t want the youth to go down the same route as me, because there’s no way they’d be able to run the streets like I did.”

Jeff: What’s crazy is that we don’t know what Rodney Harrison will be like in a decade, ‘cause the effects take a while to kick in, so he might be all foggy, and just telling people about Junior Seau.

Here’s an open question: Are there New Yorkers who are big fans of Ryan Fitzpatrick who also have a bus company, who want to take me down to Baltimore, provide free game tickets, and watch the Bills vs. Ravens game?

David: This would be the venue to put that out there. I’m sure there’s some van full of his old Harvard ultimate pals going down. They’re going to leave really early and tailgate for seven hours. Get your hacky-sack game tight so as not to play yourself. Can I tell you my Ryan Fitzpatrick story?

Jeff: PLEASE DO.

David: So when I was at Topps, I edited a really great Ryan Fitzpatrick card. It recounted a story from his rookie year, when he was backing up Bulger in St. Louis.

His teammates knew he went to Harvard, so they came up to him after practice and were like “Ryan we were hoping you could help us with this, we’ve been discussing it for hours.” He says okay.

“So, what would hurt more, getting slapped by an elephant’s trunk or kicked by a donkey?”

So Fitzpatrick told them it was getting kicked by a donkey.

And they were all “Thanks for settling that.”

That’s basically the story, except with the addendum that he emailed me after I wrote about it in my story about working at Topps for Slate. So he also reads Slate, although I don’t know his position on playing-without-a-helmet or whatever.

Jeff: WAIT HE SENT YOU AN EMAIL FOR REAL?

David: Yeah, let me see if I can find it. It was brief.

Jeff: Did he use a harvard.alumni.edu address

David: I think he was busy. Teammates being like “Okay, how about this one, getting stung on the nuts by a bee, or you get the camel clutch?”

Jeff: or was he brainiacbackupQB@stlrams.com

David: I’m still trying to find the email. Now I’m really intent on re-reading it. His address was FrisbeeFanatik@Harvard.edu. CC’ed to his work address at Midnight_Toker@nfl.com.

Jeff: Do you like how Seattle came alive? That’s what getting insulted in this column can do for you.

David: Kind of. I mean, I like the Bears losing. I want Mike Martz to keep his job, of course, because he’s a genius. But the Bears are irritating to me.

Jeff: Do you think any of the members of Queensryche have Seahawks season tickets?

David: I can only hope. They’re sitting in the same section as the Mother Love Bone dudes. So did you actually watch the Bears/Seahawks game? You had an amazing stat on Martz’s play-calling from that one the other day. Like the Bears have run the ball 15 times over the first 6 weeks or whatever.

Jeff: Did not watch. Is it an indignity to Martz that he is not a head coach?

David: He is really working hard to remind everyone that he is still around. It’s really easy to tell what team he’s coaching. Lot of 11-step drops. Lot of triple-reverses.

Jeff: He’d only want to be a head coach to undermine his assistants.

David: Snatching the dude’s headphones off on TV.

Jeff: The Bears have no receivers.

David: The Seahawks receivers all seem like names generated by a video game that doesn’t have a NFL Players Association license. So you get “Deon Butler” and “Mike Williams” and “Receiver Jones.”

Jeff: WR 82. And the Bears guys you think might have Willie Gault characteristics But he is really Brian Baschnagel. Or Tom Waddle.

David: Poor Waddle. Talk about concussion prone. So I found Fitzpatrick’s email. And you’ll be happy to know that he was an early adopter of Gmail.

Jeff: IrishguyQBbetatester@gmail.com

David: Fitzpatrick was probably the fourth person on Facebook.

Jeff: WHOA. I wonder if he has any stories about Zuckerberg.

David: A moment in which Fitzpatrick was moderately dismissive of Zuckerberg was the genesis for Facebook, I think. Isn’t that where Sorkin went with the screenplay?

Jeff: “We’re not bros. I’m a star athlete and a genius and I have a beard and I am the reason Thom Yorke is into American football now.”

David: “Here, watch me try to run over a linebacker while my teammates wander aimlessly about the field sending text messages and snacking.”

Jeff: Did you know Thom Yorke and Sammy Hagar are really only 2 degrees of separation apart? It looks like the Chiefs will be 8-8,

David: I like those guys. I’m officially on board with the Chiefs, Even though their coach looks like a less-likable-than-average pro golfer.

Jeff: Mike Vrabel and Kansas City. What are two things Jim Jarmusch almost certainly, defiantly knows nothing about?

David: Vrabel needs to stop. If he keeps playing, some announcer is going to die of exuberance during a game talking about Vrabel’s leadership. “You want to talk about bearded excellence. I mean that’s just a man, right there. Oh shit, my heart, I need an aspirin.”

Jeff: And I don’t know what the Broncos problem is.

David: They’re pretty lousy, I think. Another not-likable Belichick protege coaching there.

Jeff: Oh God. That coach always looks like he just got hom from a slumber party, with that too-soft, inside out throwback sweatshirt. Barf. He looks like a nine year old who just got done with hockey practice.

David: “I didn’t play well enough to deserve ice cream today.”

Jeff: “Ready to watch Home Alone, Josh? Can you please change for your sister’s recital? ”

Jeff: At least Shaun Hill is fueling the revival in Detroit. Kitna 2.0.

David: But so much more likeable! Kitna’s little stuffed-animal eyes are no match for Hill’s flinty near-competence. So, is there anything in your heart, at all, for Cowboys fans? Do you feel for them even a little bit?

Jeff: I have nothing for those people. When things are good for them they piss on everyone as fast as they can. The only reason they want their team to be good is so that someone else might be emotionally hurt by them winning.

David: I agree. I’m sorry their team is not going to make the playoffs, but I am REALLY sorry that they’re tweeting more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger shit about “Phillips must step down. He has dishonored the franchise.” What Cowboys fans miss most about winning is being able to get up in other peoples’ faces with their bleu cheese wing-sauce breath and be like “SCOREBOARD, MY FRIEND.”

Jeff: I do think the Cowboys are more fun to hate when they and their fans think they have something left to play for.

David: Yeah, I’m not looking forward to three months of self-important moping. They also can be fun to watch. They’re a good team, and they play the WWF Heel thing up pretty well. Elaborate first down celebrations after meaningless plays, etc. If they were the exact same team, but played in Buffalo, I’d be a big fan. I’d be writing a column about hope and pride every week.

David: Next question: For all the buttheads moaning about the imminent and tragic pussification of the NFL once attempted decapitation becomes officially frowned-upon, would you be sad if the NFL got less brutal?

Jeff: I like the NFL being tough and painful but, in a word, “no.” You don’t need to hit a person in the chin at full blast with your helmet. What is hard is that it’s so subjective, but we all seem to know cheap shots when we see them.

David: Yeah, I think they really stand out. The Meriweather one last weekend was super egregious. The second Harrison murder attempt. I’d be fine with taunting and TD dances more or less allowed and with a sterner and more consistent approach to regulating attempted homicide. The idea that Chad Johnson got fined more for his full-dress post-TD stagings of HMS Pinafore a few years back than Meriweather will be for trying to kill Todd Heap isn’t right.

I did meet someone once who only watched the NFL for brutal hits. He was kind of a tangential friend of my parents and I remember when I was in high school, him watching a game with me and just chuckling with glee after every tackle.

Like actual middle schooler shit—a grown-ass man with a beard and a big glass of Seagrams 7 going “ha ha GOOOZHE you see that?” after every tackle.

I asked him if he cared about the Eagles, which was his local team, and he said, “No, I just like watching guys get hit.” I don’t know that you need to pander to that guy if you’re the NFL, though. He’s already got, like, the whole rest of the culture doing that.

Jeff: I like to see a guy get crushed, but not a guy who can’t “help” being crushed.

David: My rule is basically that I do not want to see obvious brain trauma in my entertainment. I wish that peer pressure could somehow alleviate it. Like players actually being “that’s not cool, man.” Ritual shaming rituals, like in those Miller Lite commercials where a guy refuses to order Miller Lite even though some foxy bartendress suggests he should? And then she calls him gay, basically. And he goes back to his table and his friends (?) call him gay? And then you buy Miller Lite because you don’t want to be, um, misunderstood. QED like a motherfucker!

Jeff: Yes, because demanding a beer with more flavor and less calories, served in a bottle with the swirly neck technology is more way more manly.

David: I should say that I actually have chugged a bottle of Miller Lite with the swirly neck. Not proud of that. But the engineering delivers.

Jeff: Does the swirl top work? Have we really made it to 2010 without that existing in bottle tech before?

David: I mean, it delivered as pleasant a chugging-Miller-Lite experience as possible, probably. It does not remove the shame, but it does reduce the foam-effect somewhat. I love the engineering race in corny macro-brews at this point. Like Coors finding new ways to make its bottle a Freezy Freakie mitten with beer inside. “If the penguin on the mountain starts waving, your beer will be excellent. But if the polar bear is giving you the finger, put it back in the fridge.”

Jeff: I think if you started calling Miller Lite drinkers Swirl Tops, they would pull the ads immediately.

David: When Bud Light finally goes negative, that’s obviously the way to do it. Or Coors could have Sam Elliott say it. “Are you a Swirl Top? Or are you a patriot?”


Jeff Johnson has long complained and cheered about sports, while making little sense. Follow him here. David Roth co-writes the Wall Street Journal’s Daily Fix, contributes to the sports blog Can’t Stop the Bleeding and has his own little website.