Tag Archives: Sports

Bill, I didn’t really enjoy the Super Bowl this year

Dear Bill Simmons:

Did you watch the Super Bowl? Of course you watched the Super Bowl, you’re the Sports Guy, you kind of have to watch the Super Bowl. But did you like it? I didn’t really like it. I think it’s generally acknowledged that the game was boring, an uneven slugfest. Peyton didn’t have any time. The Seahawks defense was too good. Blah, blah, blah, these are all just generic Super Bowl bites that I’m rehashing almost directly from Grantland anyway.


I stole this image from Grantland too. Sorry Bill. I’ll make it up to you once I’m one of your full-time employees.

But aside from the game, did you like the Super Bowl? Like, you’ve made a career out of following sports, writing about sports, so in many ways, this event is like the peak of everything that professional sports strives to be. Or, American professional sports anyway. Because the NFL is pure America, or it strives to be anyway. It more or less exists within the confines of the United States, and judging from the spectacle that was Sunday’s Super Bowl, it’s not a comfortable fit either.

Look at the NFL, and look at NASCAR, its racecar cousin. They’re both basically the same thing. They’re these giant sports that, for the most part, are totally inaccessible to the average American. Anybody can grab a basketball and head to the park for a little pickup, and it’s the same for baseball and soccer. But tackle football? The Daytona 500? You can’t go out and join a pit crew.

I guess you could join a pit crew. But you’d have to make it your job, like that would have to be your whole life. And so, unless you’re committed to climbing that ladder, unless you somehow find a way to coach or play football at some sort of a professional level, you’re really left with whatever the NFL or NASCAR decides to give you.

And, just like most of the writers at Grantland have been pointing out all season, they’re giving us these shows. The NFL has perfected football as an event, as sports entertainment. It’s big, it’s loud, and it’s got something for everyone.

Maybe it would have been OK if there were an actual football game to watch. But the one-sided assault that was Sunday night’s game brought into stark relief what a bunch of nonsense the Super Bowl is as a national event.

Commercials? Like, you have these increasingly rare moments when a large portion of the country turns its attention to the same thing at the same time, and the best we can do is a bunch of advertisements? I don’t care how entertaining you think you’re being trying to sell me Coca-Cola of Bud Light, it’s still a billboard, something that, if I were watching a regular TV show, something that I recorded on my DVR, I’d gladly skip over, one hundred percent of the time.

And I think about other sports, the finals in hockey, baseball, basketball, regardless of how we watch them on TV or follow them on the Internet, it’s all mostly centered around actual sports, fighting for the championship in front of actual fans. Maybe it’s just a natural consequence of the stop-and-go nature of professional football, and yeah, there were plenty of fans visiting New York from Seattle and Denver, but the whole event just felt fake, totally inauthentic. I was more interested in reading about the throngs of out-of-towners getting stuck for hours at some train station in Secaucus than I was in the actual game.

I don’t want to be a downer. But it was just really lame. The commercials were really lame. Yeah it was cool seeing Seinfeld and George act like Seinfeld and George, but was it really that funny? Was that cute puppy and horse Budweiser ad worth me tuning into Channel 5 rather than just clicking play on my computer?

I don’t know. Maybe if the Giants were playing I would have been a little more pumped.

Hey Bill, can I still have a job at Grantland? Please?



This is not the Super Bowl I predicted back in November

I made a big deal about predicting the winner of the 2014 Super Bowl way back when the New York Giants were 0 – 6. There was this whole blog post about how they were going to come back, make a run for the playoffs, and somehow win. And for a while anyway, it looked like I was right. Week after week, the G-Men racked up the wins, and sure, it was against mostly bad teams, but whatever, I looked like Nostradamus. I kept posting stuff on Facebook like, “I called it! It’s happening!” But then, toward the end of November, despite a ridiculous two-point conversion late in the fourth quarter, the Giants failed to stop the Cowboys from marching across the whole field to score a season-ending three-point goal.


It was humiliating. First of all, I don’t really know anything about football. And every time I talk about football, if the conversation gets past the three or four very current football talking points that I have memorized from a few carefully followed Twitter feeds, this fact becomes painfully obvious.

I’m trying as hard as I can to keep up. You know, besides actually watching entire football games, I’m really making a solid effort to stay up-to-date with what’s going on in the NFL. I joined a fantasy league. So yeah, I wanted to win that, I mean, there was money on the line. But even with my fantasy team, I found that it was easy just to read fantasy blogs, to copy the strategies of real football fans, people who really watched football games.

And it worked, kind of. I made it to the playoffs. But then I got knocked out of the playoffs. Now there wasn’t anything left to really ground my interest in the rest of the season. If only the Giants had lived up to my prediction, I probably would have been paying more attention.

I’m kind of an accidental Giants fan anyway. Up until two years ago, I never even tried to be a football fan. I think I went to a few Super Bowl parties, but I remember it being like ever year, I wouldn’t know who was actually playing in the Super Bowl until a couple of days before the big game.

Two years ago I decided to really try to get in on the action. All of my brothers watch football, so do my friends. Nothing was worse than hanging out with a bunch of people when all of the sudden the conversation takes a turn toward football. Someone would say something and it would snowball into an all-out, hour-long NFL debate. And I’d stand there and try to look engaged, all while paying attention for any window where I might be able to steer the conversation toward a direction where I could contribute something more than standing there awkwardly and smiling.

I committed to watching the Sunday games, and I found myself with a pretty big dilemma. Which New York team would be my team? The Jets or the Giants? I decided that I’d give both teams the entire season to convince me. And as the 2011 season dragged on, I’d hem and haw, “I don’t know, I haven’t made a decision yet, I think I’ll need another week.” Even after the Jets got eliminated, I’d say stuff like, “Well, I’ve seen how the Jets react to losing. I want to see if the Giants are sore losers.” Bullshit like that.

In fact, I never really planned on picking a team, I wanted to extend the theatrics year after year, forever playing the role of an annoying neutral sort-of spectator, but that year the Giants won the Super Bowl, so it was kind of like, all right, if I didn’t pick the Giants, well, I’d just be a dick. I could picture Eli Manning being like, “Dude, you gave us each a season to prove it to you, and we won the Super Bowl! Come on man!” So yeah, color me blue, I’m an accidental Giants fan. Which is cool, I mean, it actually makes some sense this way, almost like I was destined to be a Giants fan.

Anyway, this year kind of sucked for the G-Men. Although, Eli Manning’s brother Peyton is in the Super Bowl. What if something happened to the Broncos? Like, the entire team? I don’t want to say plane crash, because that’s really morbid, I don’t wish them lasting harm. But maybe like a really bad flu. The whole team gets it, they’re in no condition to play. Could the Broncos sign Eli and the rest of the Giants to temporary Broncos contracts?

If this happened, and then they won the Super Bowl, would my prediction still count? No, that’s crazy. Is it crazy? Yeah, it’s crazy. I’ll just have to be content in the belief that, somewhere  out there in a parallel universe, the Giants are getting ready for the big game. Despite a terrible start to the season, they rallied, they did it.

“And this one guy called it, he wrote about it on his blog when they were 0 – 6.” That’s what all the sports anchors would say. Somewhere in the multiverse, I have to be famous for the prediction. Because, man, that would have been awesome.

NFL prediction: The Giants are going to win the Superbowl

The New York Giants are 0-6. It’s not looking good. But it’s going to start looking good. Yup, you’re hearing it first, right here, I’m calling it. The New York Giants, after a dismal start to the season, are about to go on an unprecedented winning streak, coming back from their lowest point in recent history. They’re going to win every single game, starting this Monday, culminating at the Super Bowl. It’s totally going to happen.


It’s going to start this week against the Vikings. Not the first half though. The first half is going to be a rough game of football for the G-Men. It’s going to be everything that you’ve come to associate with the 2013 Giants, interceptions, incomplete passes, just bad football. The Vikings will be up at the half.

But that’s it. Once the third quarter starts, that’s the last that you’re going to be seeing of a losing football team. They’re going to come back and crush Minnesota, I’m thinking a final score of like 37 – 17. And it’ll feel good, finally, after seven weeks, a win. It’ll take a lot of the pressure off of Eli, maybe he’ll sleep a little better this week, maybe Coughlin will stop calling him up every hour, “Eli. Are you studying those plays Eli? Because you said you’d study them last week and we still lost to Chicago. Eli?”

Giants fans will let out a collective sigh of relief, but it’ll be anything but a celebration. One out of seven is hardly anything to get pumped up about, and they’ll go online after the game and all of their Jets fans friends will still be posting really annoying status updates on Facebook, like, “Hahahah too bad I wanted to see the Giants go 0 – 16, J-E-T- …” you know how it goes.

And even after the next week, when the Giants beat the Eagles, New Yorkers are still going to be a little wary. And can you really blame them? I mean, it would foolish to get your hopes up after only two wins, wins that were preceded by six consecutive losses. I still remember back to week three, and I read something like, OK, the Giants only have like a nineteen percent chance of making the playoffs. And then the next week, when they lost again, I read that the Giants haven’t been 0 – 4 since the early nineties. And then week five, week six, I’m sure it was something equally abysmal, like, statistically speaking, the New York Giants aren’t even predicted to finish the season at all, like somewhere around week twelve, they’re all just going to give up.

But three weeks from now, when the Giants destroy the Raiders, fans might finally start to allow themselves to enjoy maybe just a few fleeting minutes of subdued optimism. Three in a row is pretty nice, those losses start to recede in the rearview mirror of the city’s memory, and plus, remember how I said destroyed? It’s going to be a huge victory. It’s going to be like one of those 37 – 0 games that, by the end of the third quarter, people won’t even really be paying attention to the TV anymore, it’ll be too much of a blowout.

You’ll see the negativity, stuff like, “OK, whatever, the Raiders suck, and so do the Eagles. Let’s see the Giants against a real team.” And then week ten’s going to roll around. Packers: destroyed. Week eleven. Cowboys: obliterated.

You guys starting to get a feel for where this is going? The Giants are going to go on such an unstoppable tear, that nobody’s even going to remember those first six games. It’s going to be all about, who can possibly defeat the Giants? And only once the playoffs start, once they start making those video montages of the entire season, that’s when the early season difficulties are going to make for a nice narrative arc.

“Everybody counted them out,” that’s how it’s going to go, playing highlights of interceptions and sacks before detailing their unprecedented winning streak. And I’ll watch the video and think, everybody counted them out but me. I knew they were going to come back. I called it.

And this is me, calling it. When everything happens just like I’m saying that it’s going to, I’m probably going to be visited by all sorts of government officials and scientists, they’ll be like, “Do you have access to some sort of time machine that we’re not aware of? We’re going to have to bring you in for some studies.” And I’ll go, I don’t care. Because seriously, fuck the Broncos, fuck every other team, it’s going to be the Giants, winning the Super Bowl in New York. Definitely.

Fun facts about golf

Did you know that golf balls are filled with acid? That’s why they’re so bouncy. You ever try bouncing a golf ball on your driveway, on a paved surface? You don’t expect it to bounce so high, because it’s hard, it’s like a rock, like try throwing a rock on your driveway, nothing, just a loud smack. But golf balls bounce, because they’re filled with acid.

ancient golf

You ever see a golf ball cut in half? Never. You hit them over and over again with your golf clubs and nothing, no cracks, those things are going to outlast all of us. But say you’re getting curious, say you cut one open with a saw or a sharp blade. Don’t do it, I’m just saying, say you tried it out. All of that acid would come pouring out, it would dissolve the whole golf ball from the outside in. That’s why you never see any broken balls lying around, because they automatically self-destruct.

You don’t ever think to yourself, how do they get the acid inside the golf ball? Like, take a golf ball and take a good, close look. Don’t worry, that acid is safe behind the hard surface. Look even closer. Do you see any seams? Nothing. It’s totally solid, like how did they get that acid inside in the first place?

Sure it’s not a big deal to imagine some sort of modern technology making that happen. I’m just throwing ideas around, but maybe they suspend the acid in some sort of a magnetic field, and then they form the shell in a liquid state outside of it, and then the whole thing is flash frozen – ZAP – presto, golf ball. Fine.

But what about in the early ages of golf? You know that golf was invented over two hundred years ago, right? Talk about crazy, I can’t imagine playing even nine holes right now, with a cart, with an unlimited supply of balls. It’s too hard. Those ancient Scottish golfers, one of them was talking to his friend, he’s like, “Hey man, I’ve got a great idea, we’ll make a really small ball and whack it with some sticks across fields, ultimately trying to get it into a little hole in as few whacks as possible.”

And the other golfer was like, “You know what? That actually sounds kind of fun. Here, let me try.” But I don’t know about you, but my first time holding a golf club, teeing up at the driving range, I’d never swung at a ball before, it was a disaster. The ball went up and to the left and didn’t even make it out of the box I was standing in.

The first time I teed off from an actual course wasn’t any better. Ninety percent of my shots went straight into the woods, which, I’m guessing in ancient Scotland, that golfer would have been like, “Oh well, I seemed to have lost that ball, sorry. Can I try again? Practice makes perfect.”

But how? Try again with what? Another ball? Where did that first golfer get that ball in the first place? Are you telling me that these guys two hundred years ago had access to acid machines or whatever is that they use to make golf balls? Or lawn mowers? How were they keeping the greens short enough to putt on?

What I’m getting at is that none of it makes any sense. Golf is wildly popular now, yes, but the idea that golf ever made it past the drawing board stage seems highly unlikely, impossible even. I mean, sure, there wasn’t any Internet or anything, and so, I don’t know, what were they all doing out there, shepherding? Herding animals? I guess that could have been boring enough to the point where hitting a ball hundreds of yards in the opposite direction might have seemed like a slightly more entertaining activity than standing around doing nothing.

But how did they get access to the acid? And I haven’t even brought up the clubs. Do you know that the heads of the woods are actually hollowed out and filled with nitrogen? It’s something about evening out the hitting surface. I don’t understand it. I don’t claim to understand it. So how did these Scottish guys figure it out hundreds of years ago? It doesn’t make any sense. What am I not getting here?

Foul number twenty-one

I just got back from my basketball game. I play in a men’s league with my dad, my brothers, and some of my brother’s friends. We won, barely, but I left the gym unsatisfied with how I played. Some games are better than others. Once in a while I’ll have a game where I’m just on, everything’s hitting, all of my shots, my blocks. It’s a rare feeling, like I’m possessed by the spirit of basketball.

But the flip side to that coin is games where I’m unable even to catch a pass. The ball hits me in the hand, and I just kind of fumble around until it’s either out of bounds or picked up by a player on the opposing team. Tonight wasn’t my worst game, I got a few solid blocks, I scored a basket, but I definitely didn’t feel on. Everything was happening like one or two seconds beyond my reaction time.

One negative highlight that stands out took place toward the end of the second half. Like I said, it was a pretty close game. We actually only wound up winning by two points. Throughout that second half, our team had a very slight lead, like it was close enough that the other side could have easily made a few three pointers to take the win.

They were desperate to catch up, and they started fouling us whenever we had possession. The idea here is that the fouls would stop our momentum, ultimately forcing us to shoot free throws. If we miss the free throws, they could gain back possession of the ball, potentially setting themselves up to even things out.

Standing under our hoop after one of my teammates missed his shot, I jumped for the rebound and went to put it right back up. Anticipating a foul, I pushed the ball toward the basket, and sure enough I immediately felt a few arms on my back, my side. The ref blew the whistle and everyone lined up so I could shoot my foul shots.

Foul shots are tough. I’m not playing toward my height advantage at the free throw line. I’m standing at an exact distance from the hoop and I have to try to make the shot while everyone else stands there and watches.

Again, my game is totally hit or miss. Some days I’m on, I’m hitting my shots, I’m sinking my free throws. Other days … well, like tonight I went for my first foul shot and it hit the rim, bounced around and then dropped to the side. One more try. Maybe this time I could give it a little more arc, a little more height.

“Guys!” it was the point guard on the other team, “He’s got a high shot so look for a crazy rebound!” OK, that’s fine, he was trying to win too. But now he was in my head. I needed to shake his commentary. I needed to envision the ball leaving my hand, my wrist flicking perfectly at the last second.

But that one missed also. “Guys!” it was the same guy, “If we have to foul, make sure it’s number twenty-one!” The message was loud and clear: this guy can’t shoot the ball, so let’s look to foul him without worrying about anything going in.

His team followed the advice. I found myself under the hoop again, my hands on the ball after securing a rebound. I could feel two guys ready to crash down on me. One of them wrapped an arm around my waist, the other just kind of jumped on top of me. Still, I made the effort to get the ball up, and the ref blew his whistle sending me right back to that line for two more foul shots.

Now I was feeling a little more confident. I’m not a great shooter, like I’m not that consistent of a shooter, but my shot isn’t awful. I know how to shoot a free throw. Whether or not it goes in, I mean, whatever, I haven’t figured out exactly how that works, or how it’s supposed to work every time. I wrote before, I’m off sometimes. I can feel the ball leaving my hands and my arm twists just slightly, or I don’t give it enough gas to make it to the basket, or I give it way too much juice and it bricks against the backboard.

But statistically speaking, I should be able to get at least one of these in. One for four, right? That’s got to happen. But it didn’t. I missed both and hustled back to defense. The whole time that I was lined up for those shots, all I was thinking about was how I’d maintain my cool confidence after I had made those shots. I wouldn’t look at the point guard, not right at him, but I’d have a look on my face, I’d be saying without saying it, hey man, you see those shots? Looks like you shouldn’t have told everyone to foul me.

And I was still thinking about that the third time I got sent to the line. This time my optimism turned into a kind of desperation. Please God, I can’t miss six shots in a row. There’s no defending my shooting skills after missing six in a row. The point guard kept coaching from the line, “Come on guys! Big rebound here!”

A lot of times when I’m shooting free throws I try to get out of my head, to not think about it. I’m relying on a muscle memory that doesn’t really exist. But if I’m having an on game, a strategy like that might actually work. I won’t think about anything, I’ll line up for a shot, and I’ll sink them both in. But not right now, this time I was focusing very hard on making at least one of those shots. Come on Rob, wrists straight, imagine the arc, envision the ball making almost no contact with the rim or the net as it sails perfectly through.

But it didn’t happen. However close my shots got, no matter how badly I wanted them to bounce a little bit this way or that, I choked. I totally botched six foul shots in a row. After the game, after we shook hands and packed up to leave, one of the refs came up to me and even said, “Better work on those free throws.” And so whatever, it’s just basketball. I’m not a pro, I’m just looking to play for enjoyment. But I can say whatever I want about being this or that, about my shooting being off or on. Tonight the point guard was right. Foul number twenty-one, because he can’t shoot.