Sweetie and I were talking, on Saturday afternoon, about authors we like and which authors we would ...
...excuse me. I was typing that above sentence as, in another tab, I opened up to NFL.Com to take a look at something to see if it would support my point, and NFL.com, already the most infuriatingly-slow, hard-to-load, annoying website on the Internet, slowed down my entire computer, making even the words appearing on this blog as I typed appear more slowly.
And then, and then, it loads, and I get this:
What. Is. That?
Here is what I wanted to do: I wanted to look up Mark Sanchez's season stats and see where he fits in the league after he couldn't lead the Jets to a win over the 27th-ranked (at the time) passing defense Miami was wielding behind their backup quarterback yesterday, and instead, I get some sort of sonogram from Prometheus.
All I wanted was a list of stats, thank you. I don't even know how to use that "Stats Lab" thing.
And so sports becomes more annoying and harder for me to care about, in a season in which I'm already finding it hard to care about the NFL.
I was thinking about stuff like that this weekend, a weekend in which I watched only one single play of football, and that was a college game, and that was actually a replay of an earlier play in the Wisconsin-Michigan State football game, which was on at my in-laws where we went for dinner. I didn't watch the Wisconsin game, at all; I simply watched the sole play as I got my boys ready to go outside to play some baseball because they were going to play baseball inside and that's not right.
Wisconsin lost that game, and they lost after I told my father-in-law that they probably wouldn't lose: when Wisconsin went up 10-3 with 6 minutes left in the game, I said "Well, that lead looks safe, if Michigan State couldn't score more than 3 points in the previous 54 minutes."
Then I went outside.
Then I came back in a while later and father-in-law said "Well, Wisconsin lost," and had to tell me how they went into overtime and lost.
I don't really care about Wisconsin, or college football, at all: There's no good storylines there, no real entertainment, good or bad, and entertainment, good or bad, is what sports is about, as recognized by Bill Barnwell's Grantland column titled "The NFL Entertainment Index," a guide to which teams are the most entertaining in the NFL.
Barnwell's thesis has been a longstanding point of this blog, a point I made as recently as October 1 when I began this feature, and as far back as two years ago when I ranked NFL teams, pre-season, in terms of how entertaining they might be to root for or against.
Sports is entertainment, and entertainment is entertainment, and this year there isn't much entertainment for me in the NFL.
This weekend, the Bills were on a bye; their games still barely count; at 3-4, they are on the outside looking in less than halfway through the season, mired in last in their own mediocre division and with no reasonable hope of winning enough games to make the playoffs, not in reality. It would be nice if I could believe the Bills would win enough games in a row to (A) make the playoffs and (B) have a shot at winning a game in the playoffs, but I can't buy into that. That type of thinking sounds too much like the kind of slop that I heard on the radio on Saturday morning, as we headed down to State Street to buy Sweetie a birthday present instead of going into the office; some sportscaster or other -- it doesn't matter which, all are equally devoid of insight or meaning or even entertainment -- was talking about how the Cleveland Browns ought not to be counted out (of something) because they are playing really well on offense.
NFL.com appears to have no rankings for defense, but they do have Venn Diagrams of the divisions. Was there something wrong with a list?
I think the reason the NFL.Com "Stats Lab" bugs me so much is that it shows what is wrong with the sports world today: it confuses entertainment and information, and I'm not sure why.
Information, a listing of where Sanchez stands in the quarterback rankings, or which teams are best on offense, or simply the standings, does not need to be entertaining. When I want information, whether it be "where do I vote" or "how many calories are available in a McDonald's Egg Nog Shake?" or "How many quarterbacks are better than Sanchez?" I want it to be readily-accessible and easily-digestible (much like a McDonald's Egg Nog Shake, which I used to look forward to every year but now they put that whipped cream on the shakes and that waters down the flavor of the shake, so I'm sort of off of them. Sweetie points out that I can always get the shake sans whipped cream, but then you don't get the cherry, either, plus asking someone to leave something out of my order feels like I'm overpaying. I'd be all right with leaving the whipped cream off if it meant I got more shake, like when you order a soda without the ice to get more soda. Does that work? I don't think it works.)
Information can be presented in an entertaining way -- The Daily Show does that all the time-- but first and foremost it must be presented in a comprehensible way, and when I look at this:
I have no way of knowing what it is trying to tell me. If you click a player's name you'll get a highlighted polygon that doesn't tell me anything, either. After some study, I gathered that it was a graph of sorts, comparing that player to various points on the map, there, but the experience left me cold.
As does the NFL, this year. So I can't get behind the Bills, and I'm off the Packers, again primarily -- not completely but primarily -- because of their stupid fans.
This week, Drew Magary's NFL Jamboroo, a column that is overly annoying but still has some good parts in it and so I skim it every week, talked about how annoying Patriots* fans are because they boo at their team for nearly losing to the Jets, but if there is a set of fans more annoyingly entitled and cheese-stuffed than diehard Packer fans, I am hard-pressed to think of them.
Packer fans first annoyed me just over three years ago, when I wrote my inaugural "Packer Fans Are Stupid" post. Since then, they have gotten worse.
Packer fans, who used to represent the honest, hard-working type of American that we celebrate in 1 out of 20 political commercials (the other 19 being used to point out that Tammy Baldwin once said "Damn,") and whose team had struggled for so long that they felt like they earned those Brett Favre years, have gone downhill. Twenty years of more-or-less-successful campaigns have led Packer fans to become fat(ter) and (un)happy, but their unhappiness is never expressed at "their" team. It is always at the perceived forces of nature that are destroying their way of life, a conspiratorial thinking that centers, unCopernicanically, on the idea that everything the Packers do is right and that therefore if they lose, it is because someone somewhere cheated and screwed them over.
This hit its height with Worst Call Ever, a moment in history that saw Wisconsin State Representative Jon Erpenbach -- once known for standing up for workers' rights so ferociously that Gov. Scott (Patsy) Walker tried to have him arrested -- tweeting that people should storm NFL headquarters to demand a reversal of the call. (Erpenbach never responded to my tweet to him that it was nice to see him using his political capital for good.)
So vicious were Packer fans about their need to have their team win a game it clearly had no business winning that one person on Twitter questioned whether children were hungry in Wisconsin-- when I tweeted that Aaron Rodgers would be all right because he makes millions a year and maybe some of the people could devote their energy to worrying about children going to be hungry that night in Wisconsin, a follower responded that she was "pretty sure" no kids were going to bed hungry in Wisconsin that night.
(For the record: As of February 2010, nearly 600,000 people rely on food banks in Wisconsin.)
Since that week, Packer fans have gotten worse. They beat St. Louis and declared the team was righted. They have smugly demanded that Saints plays be reviewed because maybe they didn't win that game enough. They have ignored press releases showing that the Great and Glorious Reggie White once ran a program almost identical to the one that got the Saints in hot water for a brief period of time. and otherwise have smugly and sadly insisted that their team is the best, man and that anyone who gets in the way of that must have cheated.
(I'm not the only one who thinks this. Look at the comments on the Pro Football Talk website about the Packers' loss to the Colts.)
On Friday, a local sports talk guy was taking calls on Packers' wideout Greg Jennings' impending surgery, which would have him out for most if not all of the season. Here is, and I am not kidding, the exact take on that by Local Sports Talk Guy: he said that it would be great because Jennings would then be healthy for a playoff run.
To be clear: before the season, Greg Jennings had played 16 games only three seasons, and last year he played 13 of 17. This year, Jennings appeared in 3 games and was expected to be out for at least 6 weeks going into this week's game, and Packer fans thought that was a great thing, that Jennings would be in a position to help out at the playoffs and also didn't care that there didn't appear to be a backup plan.
There was no criticism of the team for not signing a replacement for Jennings -- the Packers' wideouts have been the subject of criticism this year -- and no thinking that the team, already struggling on offense, had now seen two starters go down with injury this year and that might be a problem.
Nope: It was this'll be great, and when one caller said that he felt the Packers might be better off without Jennings -- an "addition by subtraction" thinking that many sportstalkers embrace when the subtraction is about an egotistical player like Randy Moss -- the hosts took him to task, even though the Packers are now 3-0 without Jennings, a fact that was undissected because God Dang It Man Its The Packers.
There's something about that that I don't like: I don't like the fans and I don't like the team they root for, and I have trouble watching Packers' games because of it.
So I didn't have a football game, and I watched reruns of Archer and read about Titus Andronicus on Grantland and read short stories by John Cheever and I raked some leaves in the yard and last night, when I realized that my relationship with sports is flagging, I went online looking for some superhero shirts to buy so that if I fade away from football entirely, I'll still be able to wear some heroes on my chest.
And that is why we need Tim Tebow back: Not because he's a great quarterback, but because he's an interesting quarterback. Tebow was named "Most Overrated" by other NFL players -- only 180 were in the poll, out of more than 1,500 in the league-- but that's because NFL players have to judge on skill, because they need the guy next to them to be able to do his job.
For the rest of us, Tebow is horribly underrated. He makes games interesting, and he'd get watched. Tebow is in the grand tradition of NFL players who contribute more to the game by being interesting than they do by being good, and that is a short list. Cam Newton last year lost games but won interest. RGIII this year is regressing to the mean but was voted most interesting by Bill Barnwell in that article. Russell Wilson beat the Patriots* but is fighting for his job.
And that's it. That's the list of players who are interesting this year. Three. Adding Tebow to the mix as the Jets starter probably wouldn't improve their winning percentage, but it would up by 33% the total number of interesting players starting in the league.