Wednesday, November 24th, 2010
10

Thanksgiving In Detroit

There's never really a moment in which this particular bit of behavior could be in context, obviously, but the robot mascot of Fox's NFL broadcasts plays guitar sometimes. Really works out on it, in fact—Steve Vai-style runs up the fretboard, dropping to its steely knees so as to enhance the rocking out, the whole deal. Is the robot playing along with the edgeless guitar-rock gallop of the Fox NFL theme song? I don't think so, if only because the robot—which once was restricted to participating in animated football-related activities—now just kind of does whatever. Whatever being, among other things, an awkward, dancingbaby.gif-quality rendition of Ray Lewis's pre-game berserker choreography, [...]

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5

Miss Irvine's Cranberry Orange Relish

My parents, whom I love dearly, are hurtling into their respective dotages, and their house is getting weird right along with them. It's not scary or sad or Hoarders-ey, so much as it's something you may recognize from your own place, only with a few decades more stuff and a very adorable little dog in the mix. What's at work here is a certain settling, I guess, that reflects an unspoken détente with all the piles of old paper and dusty shelved knicknackery. My parents' non-aggression pact with those lifetimes of stuff makes for a tense border in nearly every room, and their coexistence with their things is not [...]

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22

Rich People Things

The impression you get is that Robert Kraft just lost track of time. Another long day is closing at the New England Patriots owner's vast tumbled Redwood of a desk, the daylight lowering and — uh oh, Kraft has just remembered that it is almost time for Thursday Night Football. Thursday Night Football which is like Monday Night Football, only without the benefit of Jon Gruden's manic clairvoyance or the non-benefit of Chris Berman's baffle-shrieked halftime highlights, and which no one watches because it's on the NFL Network. Anyway, so Kraft is up and out of the office and onto his waiting golf cart (I know), which he pilots [...]

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12

Bears/Dolphins: Feel The Whateverness

There are only 10 or so more hours until Thursday Night Football kicks off, which means I had better get to writing that letter to my cable company, thanking them for not carrying the NFL Network. It's not much of a cable company, to be honest: I get very few channels and a few too many public access channels (but not New York One), including one that only shows 30-year-old claymation learn-to-read programming dubbed into Spanish. I also get The Pentagon Channel and this one home-shopping channel that is just Kathy Ireland selling juicers for 20 hours per day, and then sleeping on air for the other four. I [...]

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10

Terrell Owens, Alien

It is saying something, and not something good, that the best programming on VH1 generally features the poreless, marzipan-faced vanity doctor Dr. Drew Pinsky. Pinsky's creepy self-assurance is unpleasant everywhere it appears, but there's a rawness and bleak exhaustion to VH1's Pinskyfied televised celebrity rehab franchise that's occasionally bracing. I write this knowing that the words "televised celebrity rehab franchise" are about as unpleasant as the language gets, and in the understanding that some people's reaction to watching a scabby, furtive Tom Sizemore sweat out the shoulder of a decade-long meth high might be less generous than mine.

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20

Are You Ready For Some Thursday Night Football?

Have you seen those commercials for Thursday Night Football in which the NFL tries to make it seem like Thursday Night Football is a thing? There's up-tempo sorta-rock music and ordinary dudes looking excited and Patriots owner Robert Kraft driving a golf cart to an expensive-seeming outdoor restaurant/yacht club (really), where they presumably all settle in for a rollicking evening of football on a network no one gets. Anyway, so that starts tonight. The Falcons are favored by one point at home against the Ravens. Both David Roth and Al Toonie The Lucky Canadian Two-Dollar Coin are picking Baltimore. You know, for the record.

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19

Football Is Socialism

Where there was once a manic parade of high-fiving bald eagles and beer-drinking pickup trucks and panty-raiding Founding Fathers in the commercials that fill out most NFL broadcasts, there are now two more boring types of ads. You've got the ones predicated on grim, recession-appropriate anxiety-comedy—the foxy bartender makes fun of you for not properly appreciating Miller Lite's futuristic new bottles and then your friends also make fun of you. And then you've got the increasingly baroque paeans to increasingly unconvincing rugged individualisms, of the build-your-own-boat-and-sail-it-to-the-top-of-a-mountain variety. The ultra-traditionalist and progress-averse language of the average on-air commentator—toughness, grit, more toughness—has been uncomfortably and incompletely but also undeniably modernized.

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18

The Cowboys Really Are America's Team

In the almost unbearable breadth of its offerings on the subjects of napping puppies, curious baby sloths and farting iguanas, YouTube is something more than a miracle—the vast triviality of all those acres of lush, stunning webshit is too wicked, too beautiful to have originated upstairs. There's a kind of freaky groupthink to the YouTube-memes that boil up, tornado-like, from YouTube's flat and desolate interior, but there's something great about those, too, and compromises are to be expected when you're talking about something that functions as an illustrated psychic septic system for the entire Internet. The comments section—home to the most dead-certain and dread-inducing almost-humans ever [...]

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31

Unscrambling An Egg

Of all the things that can be traced back to World Wrestling Entertainment steakface-in-chief Vince McMahon, the short-lived mega-bust that was the Xtreme Football League was probably the worst idea. Not the most offensive or exploitive or ugly, since McMahon's many accomplishments in those areas speak—scream, really, scream their own ignorant red-faced bafflement in an endless spittle-rich promo—for themselves. But worst-conceived and worst-executed? Consider this: the idea behind the XFL, which existed for one season in 2001, was to give fans an all-access experience of a dumber, faker, more violent NFL that would be played without all the rules that make the NFL so embarrassingly soft.

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18

Know Your Rights

At first gloss, there are maybe two things that Ben Roethlisberger and Ernesto Miranda have in common. Roethlisberger is very rich, very famous, a two-time Super Bowl champion and was regarded, until a series of recent sexual assault charges fouled up what had become a very lucrative persona, as a prize example of the dull virtue of Ohio high school football – a big, unflappable, rocket-for-an-arm, all-beef archetype who could pull off remedial self-effacement in interviews and deliver a few lines in a television commercial. Roethlisberger is the fourth highest-paid player in the NFL, and he also looks like a boiled ham that has somehow acquired the ability to [...]

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21

The Ulcer In The Blue Sweatshirt

Have you ever looked at a Wikipedia page for a specific calendar year? Not only is it a very poor way to get a sense of what happened in a given year, but it's also depressing as hell – it's essentially a more-morbid-than-average local news broadcast for the entire world, only with the odd chance that some joker plugs "CHAD IS A FAG!!1!" in for a few minutes before it gets corrected. I found this out when I made the mistake of looking up the Wiki page for the year 2007 before writing this column. I did this because I wanted to see if there was a reason [...]

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25

The Michael Vick Challenge

There's no real reason why the town where I grew up needed to replace the grass on the high school's varsity football field with the expensive and aesthetically jarring sport-carpeting known as field turf. But my North Jersey hometown has apparently decided to rebrand itself, from the (incandescently carpeted) ground on up, as a Jersey-accented analogue to "Friday Night Lights"' Dillon, Texas. The process is going well, judging by the high school team's wins and losses (and, anecdotally, judging by the increases in reported incidences of high-school bullying and the number of middle-aged males in the local supermarket rocking the windbreaker-reliant Offensive Coordinator Look). That the town is doing [...]

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12

Running Through A Wall

Tuesday nights aren't big for televised sports, and this Tuesday was even worse than usual. The Mets were in the process of blowing their game to a Broward County Pony League team dressed as the Florida Marlins, and that was tough for me to watch. The Yankees were… whatever, doesn't matter, I wasn't going to watch the Yankees. The fluorescent inertia of the World Series of Poker was on ESPN2, but it was not going to happen – I could almost smell the dense room full of sour hours-old breath, I couldn't handle the featureless Felliniesque baby-men in their logo-emblazoned hats and microfiber golf shirts sussing each other out. [...]

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18

There's No Sorry In Football

As with anyone else who drinks and/or attempts to scratch out a living at the fringes of media, I have some experience with apologies. I have issued them often and I have issued them fulsomely. By the time you read this, I will almost certainly have apologized to someone already today-it could be an employer or potential employer (whose lunch I could be ruining with an article pitch or something) or person on the subway who actually stepped on my foot, but got an apology from me anyway because it is actually just reflex for me at this point. Compulsive deference is symptomatic to freelancing-I thanked a guy for [...]

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11

It Has Always Been Football Season

It manifests as a gathering noise – aggro drums and big dumb tubas, overlaid by the sonic palimpsest of hundreds, thousands of beery dudes bassing up their voices and intoning "The frozen tundra of Lambeau field" in a yeasty, unconvincing imitation of the late NFL Films announcer John Facenda. And then there is the muddied, muddled yowling of an eight-dude pregame show set, and then at night there is the screaming – just straight-up screaming – that comes from Chris Berman's monstrous, booze-purpled lungs over ESPN's highlights. Grace notes, too: the terse, impatient crypto-Rumsfeldian disinformation campaign of a coach's press conference; the audible line-against-line grunt emanating from the [...]

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6

Shawne Williams and the Redemption of the NBA Summer League

There are plenty of reasons to dislike the decision that LeBron James announced last night, which you of course already know was to leave bleak, broken Cleveland for steroidal, coke-optimistic Miami. These reasons are so familiar and obvious-and the spectacle of James spending an hour of prime time television breaking up with his hometown and referring to himself in the third person so spectacularly sorry-that I'm going to skip over all that. (Although you can click here if you want to read all the good reasons James shouldn't have gone to Miami in one place.) The whole dubious story has been covered to death, but one notable aspect [...]

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39

Me Against The World

It's not, generally speaking, a good idea to read too much into a Nike commercial. Maybe if you're Naomi Klein, seeking a way in to an examination of the dozens of interlocking injustices behind the brand's bleakly glib brand of vicious uplift, but almost definitely not if you're a sportswriter type trying to pin down why you feel weird on the first day of the largest sports event in the world. This isn't to say that Nike commercials don't have something (gross and weird) to say about sports on occasion, but relying on Nike's reliably grandiose advertisements for anything other than a reflection of what makes Nike so squeamy [...]

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24

Guru: Hard-Earned

This is admittedly kind of a ridiculous way to begin an article about a dead rapper named Guru, but let me posit up top that death is the ultimate contextualizing force. That is, relative to death, everything else falls into a sort of desperate kind of perspective. The difference in re: hip-hop is that bad rap's rhetorical over-deployment of death – this is the thing that Fox News squeakers pretend to think corresponds one-to-one with actual homicides – makes it seem cheap. Listen to a corny 50 Cent song – or check out 50 Cent's cornier shoot-em-up video game – and violence is simultaneously the entire context and [...]

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15

Byrne to Run: The (New Jersey!) Nets Exit the Meadowlands

My father has a game he plays with/against other Jersey-born members of his generation that I call "Tales of Jersey." It's easy enough to explain: one participant lobs an example of extravagant political malfeasance towards the other participant, who responds in kind. They then exchange Jersey-related corruption baroqueries until the food arrives or the cab ride is over or whatever. I've seen this go on for some time, the volleys escalating from the mundane to the frankly expressionistic. Or, if you want examples, my father offers a tunnel connecting a Jersey City mob bagman's basement with that of a local ward boss and the cab driver returns an entire [...]

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