Monday, October 1, 2012

Octopuses, Trebuchets, and Dr. Seuss: What I Watch When I Watch About Football.

What I Watch etc etc is a new thing I'm going to try -- to discuss the one game I watch per week, and how it might have fit in to the other things I did instead of watching all the football available to watch.

I watch one game per week.  Tops.  Until the playoffs, when I watch two.  But it's not the playoffs.  So I watch one, and as I look ahead to the weekend, I try to decide which game will be worthy of my attention for several hours.  It's not so different, really, from deciding to go see a movie.  People who will ask me "Why do you limit yourself to one game? If you like football you should watch all the games?" would never say "Why are you going to see just one movie? If you like movies, you should go see all the movies."

Because that's the point, really: sports are entertainment, and they aren't always so entertaining.  Excited by that Browns-Jaguars matchup you got this weekend? No more so than people were for Adam Sandler presents Dracula.

So I pick one game, and now I will tell you about that game and then try to filter thoughts about that game into what else I did this weekend.

THE GAME:  Patriots* at Bills.

I sat down on Saturday night, after the boys went to bed, and was going to set the DVR to tape the Packers-Saints game, because I wanted to see if my fondest wish would come true -- my fondest wish, as of Saturday night, football-wise, at least, being that maybe, just maybe, the Packers would be the beneficiary of an obviously-blown call that would give them a touchdown and help them win the game, because honestly Packer fans are among the most annoying fans in the entire universe.

But then I noticed that this game, Pats*-Bills, was on and that I could for a change watch the Bills and could for a change watch the Bills in a game that meant something -- at least at the time it was played, since the Bills went into this one 2-1 and the Patriots* were 1-2, so a win would mean the Bills would be in the lead in their division.

That was, really, the high point of my viewing of this game, which I then DVRd and watched beginning about 8:00 p.m. Sunday night.  While the Bills jumped out to a 14-7 lead at the half, a lead that quickly got to 21-7 in the 3rd quarter, it never really felt like the Bills were in the lead, and if you watched the game you know what I mean.

Here's what it felt like: you know how when you play a little kid in a game and you're going to let the kid win but you want the kid to feel like you're not letting him win?  It felt like that, in a weird sort of reverse way.  It felt, to be precise, like the Patriots* were toying with the Bills, or maybe just wanted a challenge, like spotting your wife a rook and a knight in chess.

But more importantly, what it really felt like is "Man, the Bills just really, really suck as a team."  As a Bills fan, I was told that this was the year their defense would pick up the slack, that Trebuchet Fitzpatrick was going to actually earn the $24,000,000 that Jim Kelly said was his God-given right as a man, that blah blah blah if the Bills aren't the worst-managed team in football then that could only   be because some team, somewhere, is being managed by Al Davis' ghost.

I ended up accidentally fast-forwarding through the third quarter because my remote control got stuck, so I saw two Patriots* drives in fast-motion, although I couldn't actually be sure they didn't take place that way.  Given how terrible the Bills are, it's possible that Brady and his team really did score two touchdowns in about a minute.

I turned off the game at 49-28, just after the failed onside kick.  I was depressingly unsurprised to see that the Patriots* managed to finally make a field goal, having charitably missed two earlier in the game because they weren't yet actually playing.




What else I watched, read, and did:

The nice thing about taping a game that you're going to watch later is that it requires you to log off from the Internet, Twitter, email, texting, and the like, so that nobody can accidentally spoil the score for you -- meaning that if you are willing to unplug from the instantaneous web you can do some other fun stuff.

Saturday night, Sweetie and I watched the movie The Tall Man, which I suppose was okay.  It stars Jessica Biel in a role that I originally thought was "doctor" in a small town that should've been West Virginia but was actually Washington state.  Is Washington state super-depressed, and also riddled with mineshafts, as is integral to this story?  Apparently, it could be.

The Tall Man is a local legend in Depressionville, Washington, a legend that sprung up because about 18 kids have gone missing in a short enough time that their "Missing" posters aren't at all faded despite being stuck on a wooden board outside town, and the locals are starting to suspect that something weird is going on, namely that the media is ignoring their missing kids, a point that is made by a video montage of media reports about how the media is ignoring the missing kids of this town.

Jessica Biel fits into all this as the nurse wife of a beloved local doctor who tries hard to care about the town.  There is also a mysterious FBI agent who is repeatedly told by locals that he is not there to look for ghosts, and a woman in a shawl-- or blanket? -- who runs by a diner and looks crazed when Nurse Jessica offers her a cup of coffee.

Not long into the film, Jessica's own son is stolen and then the fun begins as she chases down The Tall Man only to have a bunch of twists and turns and revelations in a movie that's not quite a horror film, not quite a slasher film, and not quite ready for the theaters.

How can I relate this to the Bills' game I'd watch later on? Jessica Biel ought not to be playing a concerned, kind-faced, but secret-hiding nurse-who-I-thought-was-a-doctor.  It's not a good role for her. She ought to be playing, I don't know, "Sexy Teacher who tries to help student learn about what's going on only to get caught up in it."  It's too hard to imagine her having actual medical knowledge.

By that same token, Trebuchet Fitzpatrick ought not to be playing quarterback.  If the best you can say about a guy is "If you're going to miss on that pass, you want to miss long" when he repeatedly overthrows receivers on long routes (the thinking being that maybe you want to pay a guy $24,000,000 to make sure nobody can catch the pass he throws) then maybe that guy is not the franchise-saving quarterback you were hoping for.  Fitzy is not an NFL quarterback.  With that beard, he is potentially a fishing boat captain, but that's about it.

Sunday, I spent most of the day reading two Longform articles, only one of which I actually got through, about ocean mollusks.  Did you know that there is an octopus so poisonous that it can kill a man in seconds?  I didn't either, before yesterday. But I learned that in Sexy Beast, a Stranger.com essay about giant octopuses of Puget Sound (and elsewhere).  (The essay also makes clear that it's not octopi, but octopuses, because the correct plural would be octopodes but apparently people won't say that so your experts these days go with octopuses.)

Here is that octopus:


That's a Blue Ringed Octopus, and it's one of the many horrors that live in Australia.  The Sexy Beast article notes that people are warned from getting them as pets, not just because they're poisonous but because octopuses are particularly adept at getting out of their aquariums, and so homeowners have stumbled over them several rooms away from the tank.  (And, presumably, died.)

I read that, and I read most of The Squid Hunter, from The New Yorker back years ago.  I did not read Consider The Lobster, which was another suggestion on the list, because David Foster Wallace is one of the worst writers ever to be called a writer and I was suckered into blowing $17 on one of his books (Infinite Jest, which I believe he titled that way because he did it as some sort of meta-joke to make fun of critics and readers who would proclaim it good despite it being obviously terrible and not worth the effort.)

How can I relate this to the Bills game, too?  Maybe via a Fitzy should be playing Australian rules football joke? Nah, too obvious.  I read these articles in the afternoon, lazily sitting on my couch amidst the cool fall sunshine that streamed in.  That was while the game was actually being played, live, somewhere.  By taping the game, I didn't have to chain myself down to what the television wanted to show me, when it wanted to show me that.  We have DVRs.  Why would anyone watch something live?

That fits in because both of those articles were from years ago, and remain as entertaining today as they were years ago.  Had I not watched the Bills game last night, I could have (theoretically) avoided for years hearing how it turned out, and then gone to watch it, ultimately, and still gotten the exact same excitement out of it... except that if I watched it after the season ends, then I would have to avoid knowing who made the playoffs and the Super Bowl, too, I suppose -- because if I knew the Bills were in the playoffs or out of them (the latter being far more likely this season and every season) then I'd know ultimately that this game did not matter, that win or lose, the playoffs were set.

So football has a shelf life, of no more than the end of the season.

Also: Nobody has ever seen a live giant squid, ever.  Ever. Ever. That's amazing.  We have space probes out at the edge of the galaxy, but we've never seen a live giant squid.  And, on a related note, we are approaching the time when nobody alive will have seen the Bills play in a Super Bowl.  It's been 18 years since they last played in one, and 12 years since the Bills played in January, period.  The Bills' postseasons are rapidly becoming the giant squid of the NFL.


I did other stuff, too: I read five different Dr. Seuss books with Mr Bunches.  I watched the pilot for Once Upon A Time.  I watched 1/2 of Demetri Martin's stand-up comedy special before dozing off because it was really late on Saturday night.  You can pack a lot of living into a weekend if you put football in its proper place.





*The Patriots* get the asterisk until they cut all ties with Belicheat.

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