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David Roth

David Roth

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David Roth is a writer from New Jersey who lives in New York. He 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. His favorite Van Halen song is "Hot For Teacher."

Our Men In The Field

Even before the Wall Street Journal put a stopwatch on it earlier this year, fans knew it. There's just no way to watch a football game, let alone follow the NFL's shouty, certainty-intensive news cycle—if "news cycle" is the right term for something that reaches its analytical apex frequently during Herm Edwards' livelier televised free associations—without noticing that the greater part of the NFL experience is about space and time and waiting and talking. That there are roughly 11 minutes of actual football in a given game is a neat tidbit, but not a surprise. The director cuts between things and Dan Dierdorf says "I'll tell you what" and then tells you exactly what, and then there's a commercial break and then it's back at it. The sun goes down while all this happens, and manic little moments from other games interject and recede. And, at home or in the stands or in some wing-afflicted bar, we drink stuff and eat stuff and talk to other people. When the game is beautiful, it's beautiful in little nervous interpolations to the general grunty lurch. Football doesn't flow in the way basketball does, or lull like baseball does, but it works. It's comfortable, and as such it does not take long to get comfortable—on an unspoken level—with the idea that those 11 minutes take three-plus hours, that those three hours take a week, and that three-or-so hours of actual football take five-or-so months. And then, all of a sudden, it stops. READ MORE

Brief Interviews With Hideous Football Players

Pro Bowl week. Concussion-recovery week. There is not a lot of football to talk this week, so Jeff and I will not be talking football in our usual fashion. That said, I'm still thinking about it, and the success of Yakkin' About Football has afforded us unparalleled and unprecedented access to some of the NFL's elite. And so, mostly because I could, I did a few short interviews with some Yakkin' About Football favorites about how they will spend the offseason, and deal with the possible work stoppage. READ MORE

War Is Heck

Before it became America's most wholesome and family-oriented violence-delivery medium and a decade or so after it ceased to be a simple sport, the NFL was, briefly, war. This wasn't so very long ago—then as now, the United States was intimately-unto-inextricably involved in two wars of the actual-going-on-thing variety. And of course the NFL wasn't so much war as it was a violent professional sport on television, but it's easy to see how the NFL's marketing people—who cut together a series of TV promos featuring Edwin Starr's "War (What Is It Good For?)" that left in the funky-dramatic music but removed every lyric except for the word "war"—could get it twisted. It's not so much that the language of football is full of careless war metaphors—the blitzes and rallied troops and grunts-in-trenches and so trivially on—as it is that the contemporary NFL is designed to be misunderstood and consumed in the same way as the nation's second-favorite combat-related enterprise. Which would be actual combat. READ MORE

Love Lost

In the part of his Fox News show not devoted to perfectly enunciated emo-libertarian word salad served over stock footage of Nazi rallies, Glenn Beck occasionally gets emotional about old commercials. Which, like just about everything else having to do with him, is something I'd be perfectly content to leave a secret between him and his horrorshow fan base of gout-afflicted exurban Chamber of Commerce types and seething elderlies. If they want to get together and be dewy over the ad in which a little kid gives his bottle of Coke to Mean Joe Greene, they should absolutely do that. They should do that just as surely as they should remember not to vote, and that's my stance. READ MORE

The Kid Fades From The Picture

My childhood bedroom is a mess. I haven't slept in there in years, which is fine because I am an adult and married and no longer need to sleep in a bed with Mets sheets on it. Which, that last thing, is actually good, because I couldn't get to the bed anyway. It and everything else in that room are buried beneath the soft cloth drifts and slumping linen moraines of what will allegedly—and increasingly implausibly—be a truly massive parental campaign to donate the decades of clothing that currently tumble all over my room. Vast khaki dunes and misshapen Clinton-era denim and pill-clotted sweaters and seemingly every big, stupid t-shirt I ever owned is up there. But behind and beneath all this is another bristling layer of clutter. This would become coal or oil or diamonds or whatever when spread over the epochs of the metaphor I kind of carelessly began a few sentences back, but in my room it is comprised of old trading cards. Mostly baseball, but also football and basketball. Almost all of them are worthless, both in the crass market-minded sense and in any other. I don't have much use for those faded Jeff George rookie cards, and neither does anyone else. But I also found a weird, smudgy diamond beneath all that clutter when I was home over the Thanksgiving holiday. Or maybe it was more like a fossil. At any rate: it was a Brett Favre rookie card. READ MORE

The Price of Admission

It was obvious that Greg Gumbel was not happy. There was a palpable lowering of his voice, a brief decline into the robotic we-are-being-treated-well tones of a hostage video. With everything he had, The Humble Gumbel was signifying that this particular "60 Minutes" promo was being read under protest. "It says here," he sighed, "that Jerry Jones has got an ego the size of Texas," before continuing to plug that night's profile of the Cowboys owner. The CBS cameras cut to Jones, who had left his luxury box and was on the sidelines, his face that familiar taut botox rictus and his arms pumping out oilman handshakes to his players as they left the field. READ MORE

The Thursday Night Preview

It wasn't so long ago that the Chargers were coached by Marty Schottenheimer, a man who looked like an extra from a control tower scene in Top Gun and probably slept in aviator shades and who barked into his headset with such ferocity that you could actually watch it melt over the course of a game. When Schottenheimer was fired because He Couldn't Win The Big One, he was replaced by Norv Turner, who was at the time almost a joke—a thwarted, dad-faced would-be offensive guru who kept coaching teams with crummy offenses. At the time, I wrote about him as a tragic figure of sorts—a fraudulent genius who was, like so many of us, waiting fearfully to be discovered as such. But then ol' Norvis actually won some playoff games in San Diego, and now he's accepted as normal—just another NFL coach who, while stuck with his own struggles Winning The Big One, is at least no longer either punchline or joke. The same could presumably happen for crazy-faced 49ers coach Mike Singletary someday, and I might eventually look back and be like "years ago, I compared Singletary to a crazed bear running around your campsite, and thought it was weird that he wore a four-foot wooden crucifix around his neck and blinked only three times per hour." That is certainly possible. But I wouldn't bet on it. I would bet, instead, on the Chargers (-9). The coin is going with Singletary and his crummy Niners. The coin may have seen the future. READ MORE

On The Correct Use Of Haters

While they are disproportionately a problem for tweenagers, social-networking narcissists, rappers, and people doing it real big up in the club, Haters are a problem that affects us all. Which makes it that much more surprising how few of us were even aware of the risk presented by haters, doubters and naysayers until just a few years ago. Many of us, indeed, went about our daily lives secure in the belief that people not intimately involved in our daily lives probably didn't spare even a moment's thought on our respective existences. Which, granted, is somewhat unconvincing if you think about it—I mean the idea that other people, between their jobs and love lives and DVR backlog and meals, do not have spare psychic energy to expend anticipating (if not, indeed, plotting) your failure; that they were too busy doing something with their own hands, like something for work or fixing their hair or wrapping a gift for a loved one, to be rubbing their palms together in glee at the prospect of your defeat; that they are too busy talking about themselves and their lives to say something cutting and nasty and totally unfair about you and yours. We now know that this is bullshit, of course. The contemporary question—one with which a great many of our more unbearable fellow citizens struggle in public every day and which the NFL's strong discursive current of meaty, aggro paranoia can help us answer—is what to do with haters. READ MORE

Remember The Titans?

Thursday night? I have a standing date with my friends to watch football tonight on a network that spends four or five programming hours per day running reruns of Pros Vs. Joes and Matt Millen's cooking show. It's called "Batter In My Mustache," and in it Millen makes sugar cookies every week, and he makes them very angrily. I'm pretty sure they shoot it in his actual kitchen, because there's meat everywhere and the sink is horrifying. Anyway but once a week, this network—it's the NFL Network, and you don't get it on your cable system—interrupts all that and runs a football game. That's why Thursday nights are my favorite night. Well that and because I like watching games between two fading AFC South teams—the Titans haven't scored an offensive touchdown in 13 quarters, which is really quite some time; popular "Saturday Night Live" host and Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning has two straight games with four interceptions, and the injury-wracked Colts have lost three straight. A month ago, this would've been an interesting game. Now it barely warrants an interruption of "Batter In My Mustache." Millen hates interruptions. I like the Colts (-3.5), and the coin likes the Titans. The full Kicked Off will be here tomorrow.

The Emperor's New Headset

Between my crippling fear of seeing Tony Siragusa in person, the unflattering work clothes, and the likelihood of traumatic brain injury, it's safe to say that I really do not want to play in the NFL. That makes it somewhat easier to bear that I haven't had a serious contract offer from a NFL team in months, but it doesn't quite explain the fact that, still, some adolescent brain node periodically beams strange fantasies into my mind. I'm executing shifty cut-backs and running for daylight on a crowded stretch of a crosstown street in Manhattan, and suddenly—and briefly, and embarrassedly—I'm Barry Sanders. Times Square is, briefly, Soldier Field or something, and the eyes-up waddlers choking some midtown artery are the helpless, hapless also-rans in some dramatically scored highlight-reel. (In worse moods, the tourists and slow-walkers and meandering texters are receivers hung out to dry on a crossing route, and I'm a Steve Atwater-ish safety, steaming with that obscure and vicious loathing specific to safeties and all too ready to hand out some concussions) And then it breaks, and I'm myself again—a thirtysomething goof with a literary physique, running late for some appointment or other. That the fantasies are so persistent is kind of shameful, but there is some good news buried in all that ridiculousness. And that is that I have not yet crossed the bar into darker territory—that other shore where men dream of being football coaches. READ MORE