The Flavor Of Tom Coughlin's Gum

by Jeff Johnson and David Roth

A discursive romp through the game of football and its surrounding culture by two voluble observers.

Jeff: I still can’t believe that crazy Russian bastard from the Cowboys the other night.

David: I am always and everywhere for Jewish defensive linemen, but Olshansky doing his Igor Stomp after holding Ahmad Bradshaw to a four-yard gain was just the most amazingly Cowboys thing.

Jeff: Yeah, the announcers even called him out for it, but he’d also done it a minute or two earlier. Down by 18 with 7:00 left in the game and he makes a tackle and celebrates it.

David: Mike Tirico will put you on blast for that.

Jeff: It’s like Roy Williams last week against the Vikings. Gets a first down with 11 seconds left and gets all cocky. That is historically the main problem with the Cowboys. You could be stepping on their face with a hiking boot, and they would be like, “Had enough yet, bitch?”

David: Kind of have to admire the pathological cockiness, in a way. Even with Jon Kitna and his tiny ball-bearing eyes at QB for the rest of the year.

Jeff: Keith Brooking so wishes it was 1977. And he drove a Cadillac Eldorado ragtop with horns on it.

David: He’d get elected mayor of Dallas if he was on a good team. That state is very ready to embrace a gritty white linebacker type.

Jeff: If we’re talking EYES, Giants head coach Tom Coughlin looks like an old Golden Retriever with like 46 cataracts. His default reaction or emotion is anger because his senses are so bad that everything in his life takes him by surprise.

David: My greatest aspiration as a football-watcher is to see Tom Coughlin smile someday. It seems more and more unlikely, because he just gets more and more Coughlin-y as he ages. He looks like he shaves four times per day. For some reason it’s hilarious to me that Coughlin chews gum.

Jeff: It has to be some kind of medicated gum, for ulcers or hemmerhoids. His grandkids are always trying to steal it from him. And he is exasperated, “You Don’t WANT this.”

David: I’m trying to imagine a gum that would be draconian and Jesuitical enough for him? Does it taste like communion wafer?

Jeff: It doesn’t have any fucking flavor. It tastes like sacrifice. Hard work.

David: Salt-flavored?

Jeff: Negative-flavored.

David: “I just want it to taste like it does when it comes out of the tree.”

Jeff: It comes in plain white cardboard. They are winning games, but he just seems senile to me “Tommmmmmm, put your sweater on. YOU COACH THE GIANTS…THE FOOTBALL TEAM…Gary will give you a ride over to the practice facility.”

David: He’s becoming so Coughlin-y in his dotage that he’s issuing orders that don’t make sense. “Everyone must arrive one day early for every meeting. Also, instead of watching game tape today we’re going to watch the episode where Matlock defends a bluesman falsely accused of murder.”

Jeff: Whoever their defensive coordinator is must get the defense to think the opposing QB is Coughlin. “Okay, pretend it is Tom. He just stepped out of the shower. He is toweling off. Humming to himself. He has no idea you are coming at him full blast.”

Jeff: He is like Phil Jackson, giving out books to players…

David: “Furthermore, all meetings will begin at a time of my choosing, which I will not announce until I have decided upon it. You must be there before I announce it.”

Jeff: Except he gives the kicker a DVD of Beaches. “In order to learn something about your own heart, you must watch Beaches. Wings need wind, you sonsofbitches. Now go beat those Panthers.”

David: He leaves two tickets for Barbara Hershey at every road game.

Jeff: Kevin Gilbride looks like one of Popeye’s foes. “You don’t wantsk to fucksks with Old Dutchksk” And his trick is beating people up with various plumbing implements. “Oooh, you shouldn’t have stolen his taffy!”

David: I guess he’s good at his job? I look at him and just assume he’s not. He looks like a high school history teacher who gets World War I and World War II mixed up. “Which one was against the French?”

Jeff: I could spend a month on bad coach fashion. I am getting awfully goddamn sick of Dolphins coach Tony Sparano in those sunglasses and Starter jacket. He looks like Rocky Rococo on the sideline. The National Indigestion Foundation presents the Tony Sparano sideline poster.

David: With a stern warning about shrimp.

Jeff: How to tell if a loved one is digesting a kebab wrong.

David: The Giants do not have the NFL’s most obviously physically unappealing coaching staff, though. The Raiders are sticking to their policy of only hiring coaches who look like strip club patrons, owners or “security staff.”

Jeff: Tom Cable looks like he enjoys taking his pants off inappropriately, something with which I suppose the State of California will one day concur.

David: Having to wear real suits again suits might be a good thing. Poor Andy Reid always looks like he’s wearing a snowsuit. Just an uninterrupted skein of green nylon, every week.

Jeff: I’d love it if they could wear suits again. Though I would also love to see Andy Reid in a skintight Riddler costume.

David: Make it so he had to wear a blazer and he might stop eating massive tuna melts for breakfast. It could save a life. Romeo Crennel is in KC now, right? There was a guy who knew how to wear a team-logo polo shirt. I felt like you could somehow always see his belly button through it. I hated it. So, how was your weekend? Did you watch any football matches?

Jeff: My favorite highlight and perhaps my fave play of the season was Reggie Hodges fake punt for Cleveland in New Orleans against the world champion Saints.

David: I am always, always in favor of 68-yard rushing plays by punters. I wish I’d seen that happen live. How long did it take? It’d take me 15 minutes to run 68 yards. I’d stop for lunch.

Jeff: He’s only been cut from the practice squad of every NFL team. He may have still had his Arthur Treacher’s uniform on underneath his, um, Browns uniform. I guess Cleveland figured, you know, a lot of our offensive skill guys have been getting knocked the fuck out, why not send our punter unencumbered up the middle of the field? There haven’t been enough compound fractures of the face this season. But, Hodges is kind of a truck.

David: By punter standards. And thus by human standards, I guess.

Jeff: To me, a punter always looks a little like George Washington or George Will running. “I will now locomote my lower meat flanks in the Olde Fashioned Style.”

David: You know what struck me most about that highlight, if I can take it back to Coach’s Fashion Corner for a minute? Eric Mangini has lost weight!

Jeff: For real?

David: He used to look like a very worried, kind of mean version of the Pillsbury Doughboy. Now he looks like Harvey Keitel circa Mean Streets.

Jeff: To me he looked like one of those angry dolls that adult marketers try to tell you is cute, but that you secretly lock in Tinker Toy prisons because you’re prejudiced.

David: I don’t think of Cleveland as a place people go to lose weight, but it’s working for him. I thought they gave you an IV bag of melted cheddar when you got off the plane. If Holmgren has lost weight I’m going to be pissed. Skinny Holmgren would look like Martin Mull.

Jeff: Maybe they BRO-ed up. “We both need to do this!” There’s a local Weight Watchers spot of them running around Cleveland while Morrissey’s “You’re The One For Me, Fatty,” plays in the background. I wonder if Mangini has changed his kid’s middle name now.

David: It’s no longer “Ricotta?”

Jeff: It was BRETT, born during the 2008 Jets season.

David: Oh man. Good look, there. He can always tell the kid he was named after Brett Ratliff. “He was on our scout team that year. He tried very hard.” The new developments in the Favre case are worse and worse. Like, he’s negotiating with the NY Post’s sports page now. “Maybe some of that penis in the photograph was mine, but certainly not all of it.”

Jeff: I think Charlie Sheen just gave Favre his get out of jail free card, at least in terms of the Post. My big question, after watching Sunday Night’s (most watched ever Sunday Night game, btw) Packers-Vikings game, is how does someone like Bob Costas, who is like the homespun, earnest St. Louis-ian, essentially the for-profit version of Ken Burns, now find himself seated with Mike Florio, every Sunday night?

David: Uneasily. Is how he is seated with him.

Jeff: Bob: “I am here for the majesty and spectacle of the game.” Mike: “I am here because I’m hearing that there is an AFC WR who has gotten a teenage boy pregnant.”

David: When people who have never read blogs and fear them talk about The Bloggers, they are talking about Mike Florio.

Jeff: He’s like a rat on an overturned sailboat. It’s like having the guy from TMZ on NBC.

David: “An informed source told me that Albert Haynesworth cried at the ending of The Rock.” Costas must be on a massive dose of anti-nausea medication. Because no one would hate Florio’s shtick more than him.

Jeff: This might be the example when I have to teach my children about compromise. As if my own life won’t have yielded enough material.

David: Costas’s dream halftime team would be, like, Thomas Jefferson and Sammy Baugh.

Jeff: “Tonight at halftime, we carve a pumpkin with Y.A. Tittle’s wife Janet, who will then cook the seeds and deliver them to the orphanage.” I’m sure the NBC suits were crunching the numbers and were like, “Doing this show is fuckin’ expensive. Bob, if you still want a genuine barbershop quartet to sing your kids to sleep every night…”

David: Maximum pomp…Priorities, I guess.

Jeff: “If you want an actual ragtime band to perform while your hair is dyed chestnut and styled like Kate Jackson’s in “Charlie’s Angels”… we have to up the salacious ante.”

David: Watching Costas in HD is horrifying. Like, Parcells-grade weird. You think you’re on mushrooms. Everything’s WAY too bright and sharp.

Jeff: I have a Sharp TV set from 2003. I have not witnessed that.

David: Costas on cathode-ray is pretty alarming, too, at times.

Jeff: I guess he’s encountered enough high octane jerks on TV anyway. That whole Buzz Bissinger thing. Buzz is a brilliant, gifted writer and reporter. And he has the personality of a cornered badger who’s gone through a Mt. Hood-sized pile of special K. Less “real-time” exposure to that guy, please.

David: We haven’t talked about Ryan Fitzpatrick yet. We’re late.

Jeff: I now know that Ryan Fitzpatrick’s friends in the bussing and free-tickets industry are not very friendly.

David: Which is a bummer because The Revolution Continued last weekend. The Bills almost won! I think that means no one in Buffalo had to go to work on Monday.

Jeff: I was rooting for them.

David: He threw for 374 yards and 4 TDs on Sunday? That really happened? The Fitzpatrick thing makes me so happy. I bet he’s got his teammates listening to O.A.R. and doing hacky sack circles after practice. CJ Spiller is like, “Full hack!” and then high-fives Paul Posluszny.

Jeff: I am guessing he probably listens to the National, or Band of Horses. He might not be a hippie. SOMEONE HAS TO KNOW THIS INFO.

David: Google search: Zero search results “Ryan Fitzpatrick FURTHUR Festival”.

Jeff: I merely suggested that he was playing Frisbee in a Dead parking lot when summoned to QB the Bills, to assert that his priorities, long-term, are probably greater than NFL football. He’s probably unassuming about it all. He could have been in a lab coming up with a vaccine to save us from something, and quietly took off his lab coat, and said, “I suppose I could play a few downs. Do we really need to go to Seattle to do this though, guys?”

David: Any other actual football things to discuss?

Jeff: When Ben Roethlisberger fumbles it is not really a fumble, if his image is still in the process of being repaired. All over the NFL it seemed like the refs were all, “We don’t want you guys to hit helmet to helmet when we’re busy trying to fuck up all these other rules for you.” Forgotten in the Favre drama is that CUTLER threw four INTs to the same guy!! (Someone asked us to talk about the Redskins.)

David: The Redskins need to play against Jay Cutler more often. I still think their roster is made up by Daniel Snyder just going through a stack of 2002 Upper Deck football cards and being like, “Is Marion Butts still playing?” My Redskins fan friends swear it’s not like that anymore, but they still have Joey Galloway, who voted for Gerald Ford. And London Fletcher, who played for the LA Rams.

Jeff: Snyder is the guy in your fantasy league who drafts Edgerrin James.

David: Except if that guy in your fantasy league also owned Johnny Rockets. Is there a better chain for Snyder to own than universally unloved retro-burger nightmare trans-fat empire Johnny Rockets?

Jeff: I love Joey Galloway. He probably has a son who fought in Desert Storm. Or is at least going to be on an NFL roster next year.

Jeff: Which brings me to my Spike Jonze movie.

David: Oh, I’m glad we got to the Spike Jonze movie.

Jeff: I think it would be cool to see a movie about basketball where it was the NCAA tournament or something and there were like four Shawn Kemp Jr’s facing off in the Final Four. Playing against each other. I know that is like the knee-jerk saddest Peter Vecsey sort of thing to pick on that guy about. But I like the John Malkovich meta-ness of it. The surrealness. Not as a commentary about not using rubbers. I think it would be awesome. I think there’s a real story to it.

David: We may eventually see an all Antonio Cromartie-related NFL defensive secondary.

Jeff: Unrelated: I wish Jon Gruden would get another head coaching gig.

David: I actually like him as a broadcaster, but I’m a little worried for him. I feel like he stays up really late breaking down tape, but he’s not coaching anymore. So he’s just watching episodes of “The Millionaire Matchmaker” and pausing it every few seconds to comment on everyone’s hair.

Jeff: I feel bad that he has to be next to Jaworski, who has the same bluster, but is way less fun. He announces like he is trying to sell you insurance. Steve Mariucci and Gruden should be dual coaches somewhere.

David: Mariucci was always one of my favorites. One of the few NFL coaches who seemed like a legitimately happy, chilled-out guy. Every time the camera was on Mariucci he was grinning like he was in an Olive Garden commercial or something. You know that kind of manic happiness they go for there? Where everyone busts up laughing when someone says, “I really love this salad!” Tears streaming down their faces, everyone hugging and looking a little scared almost.

David:Mariucci should spend some time with his friends and family, stay out of coaching. Gruden should spend less time with friends and family, probably. They’re tired of him making them sit through marathon film sessions.

Jeff: He could accurately critique anything, I think. “Now when you’re writing traffic tickets out of a booklet like this, you’re just not going to get the same efficacy, as say…”

David: Stop making your buddies suffer through four-hour dissections of some 13-year-old’s YouTube defense of Justin Bieber, man. I like the idea of a “Gruden On” late-night show somewhere on cable. Very detailed, very confident critiques of different things every week. “If there’s one misconception people have about omelettes…”

Jeff: “See I knew you’d be using that kind of skillet and here’s why it is wrong…Well not only that, but you started out with your burner on medium. Then you introduced some of the most middling cookware. Did you know this was made in Sri Lanka?”

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. And he tweets!

Jeff Johnson tweets here. He is also responsible doing weird things with old sportscards here and here.

Photo by Troy Li, from Flickr.