You never know what you're getting with the Red Rifle. Sometimes you'll get the ginger game manager who does just enough to keep the Bengals competitive and avoids screwing anything up. Sometimes you'll get the Andy Dalton who looks like he's finally turned the corner and makes the Bengals a contender. Then sometimes you get Thursday.
This year Halloween fell on a Thursday. That morning brings the first real roster controversy of the Ryan Kuhlman era. I bench Denarius Moore from the Raiders to start Marvin Jones from the Bengals. When I tell Ryan I've done this over email, he advises me against "chasing Marvin's points from last week." Which stings, although it's exactly what I'm doing. Jones caught a career-high four touchdowns in the game against the Jets, the one I didn't watch that everyone keeps talking about like it was Andy Dalton's "Kendrick drops 'Control'" moment. On some level, by starting Jones against the Dolphins on Halloween night I'm trying to re-create whatever magic led to that 49-9 score, which is the act of a truly delusional Bengals stan. My desire to make the Marvin Jones era into a thing that happens is preventing me from fully embracing the Mission: Impossible–like team-management philosophy of the Ryan Kuhlman era, which involves handpicking a team for every job. No sentimentality. We're not a fantasy team, we're a fantasy strike force.
Your wife is too good at recognizing actors' faces. Since moving to L.A. she keeps experiencing false-positive IDs. Sometimes she'll see someone in a store or across a crowded restaurant and become convinced it's someone she knows, maybe an old coworker, a friend of a friend, and then she realizes it's a third-season Top Chef loser, or the suspiciously grief-stricken father from an old CSI. Never mind. Forget it, it's Silver Lake. You tell people it doesn't feel like the rest of L.A. because it's not an industry crowd, but a third of the moms at your kid's school probably have at least a pilot on their résumés.
The cousin of that phenomenon: You keep seeing West Coast versions of East Coast people. You know this is because you moved from the actual Park Slope to Los Angeles's Park Slope. Or from Brooklyn's Park Slope to Los Angeles's Carroll Gardens. Same kind of milieu ergo same kind of hip beardy dads and tastefully tattooed moms. But it feels at least a little bit supernatural when it happens. Like for example there's a West Coast version of C. who comes to Ye Rustic some Sundays. One of the people Janet saves a stool for. She's a whole head taller and probably five years older, but that somehow makes it more eerie, like you're seeing two different actors playing the same character.
Enrico Fermi is in town for a wedding. He has got a bunch of plans but he asks if he can watch football with me on Sunday. I tell him to meet me at 10, at Ye Rustic, my place of business. I'm there at 9:57. They've got the Bengals/Bills game on the TV in the back corner, the one that's blocked by a pillar if you don't choose your seat right. The only open seat at the bar with an unobstructed view of the TV is the one Janet saves for her plus-one, so I take a booth that's big enough for five people.
The old jukebox is gone. The new one is a glowing LED slab bolted to the wall by the front door, one of those touchscreen models that looks like a giant Zune and beams down 3,600 new releases from Skynet every week. I haven't checked but I'm assuming it has that feature that you can pay an extra dollar to have your song play immediately instead of waiting out the queue, an option I find ideologically repellent. I spent my 20s sitting in bars waiting for my songs to come on and so should everybody else. Letting somebody cut the line because they've got an extra dollar to blow is dictionary-definition antidemocratic. Might as well institute a policy that you can pay a buck to opt out of the rule about not spitting in other people's drinks.
I've been to Las Vegas four or five times. It's always for work, which means I always go by myself. Public service announcement: Don't do this. There's being alone, and then there's solitude, which is aloneness plus contemplation. It's useful aloneness. You find out who you are. Vegas doesn't permit contemplation. Vegas is a machine designed to blast the quiet out of your brain. Vegas aloneness is aloneness stripped of all its spiritually nutritional value. I can stand it for about 36 hours. I can tell myself, as the plane touches down, that I'm somehow going to do it right this time, that I will engage with what Vegas has to offer without letting the town's ambient despair and desperation infect me. But in the end the house always wins.
On Sunday, the Bengals apparently became the first team in NFL history to turn a 14-point lead into a 16-point deficit and still eke out a win, which is easily the most archetypally Bengals-ish record ever set.
Robert Mays and Bill Barnwell break down four games from Week 1, answer reader questions, and recap the winners of their weekly bets.
Mays is then joined by former Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman to discuss his thoughts on Week 1 in the NFL and the origins of his "Lights Out" nickname and sack celebration. Video of that conversation can be seen below.
So I get to Ye Rustic just before ten in the morning, and down at the end of the bar there's this gray-haired guy drinking a whiskey and eating a piece of chocolate cake. You think you were ready for some football on Sunday? You were not as "ready for some football" as this cat. He's in his fifties, maybe older. Doesn't seem to have his eyes on any particular game. He's just going in on this whiskey and cake right quick, hunched over it like he's taking the SATs. I immediately want him to be my spiritual adviser. He could teach me to be unpredictable, to throw off the competition by ordering dessert in outside-the-box time slots. That gnomic, Walk without rhythm and you won't attract the worm kind of wisdom. How to be old. Which bars serve cake. That kind of thing. But not long after the games start I look over and he's disappeared.
What's that? You were wondering exactly how many days until the start of the NFL season? Well, you're in luck! We here at the Triangle are set to spend the next few weeks providing a daily reason to get excited about pro football's return.
Last night was the always-wonderful rookie talent show episode of Hard Knocks, and this year's installment did not disappoint. For a full rundown, make sure to check out Andrew Sharp's recap of the show, but right now we're going to focus on one particular moment.
The thought had lingered all weekend — for the past couple weekends, actually — but it took Matt Schaub’s trip to Foxborough for it to take hold. Houston had just completed another seven-yard pass on a third-and-8, and as it became clear that the Texans’ tailspin would end with nothing more than a death rattle, I wondered whether this was it for Matt Schaub.
This doesn’t mean I think Schaub’s time in Houston is over. Matt Schaub will be the Texans’ starting quarterback next season, and he probably should be. In every season in which Matt Schaub started 16 games, he’s thrown for 4,000 yards. He’s been to the Pro Bowl twice, the most recent trip being just last season. In the world, there are probably 15 men better than Matt Schaub at what Matt Schaub does. The problem for the Texans, and the problem for a handful of teams around the league, is that Matt Schaub’s competence may actually be their undoing.
Erwin Schrödinger's in town, so we meet at Ye Rustic on Thursday night. The Bengals are playing the Eagles, and for some reason this historic contest of champions is being broadcast in prime time. Schrödinger and I are, respectively, the third and fourth people who show up to watch it unfold. We could have gone somewhere cooler and done something better, but I want him to see how I actually live, and while I'm not totally comfortable with what this says about me, this really is a pretty significant part of how I live these days — in the back of Ye Rustic with a notebook open, half-watching pro football and contemplating what I hope to gain by doing so. Besides, Schrödinger's taste in surroundings is even worse than mine, so he grasps the charms of the place immediately — the wood paneling, the aquarium-glow lighting, the on-point and prodigiously inked-up wait staff. "They look like retired Suicide Girls," he observes, which is totally true.
With all the rookie quarterbacks in the NFL BQBL this year, you'd think that there would be more fresh faces on the BQBL Summer Jam Screen. Aside from the artist currently known as Ryan Lindley, the rookie crop has been more or less serviceable. The most entertainingly inept TAINTers have actually been quarterbacks that were at one time labeled franchise guys, guys considered for the elusive (and ridiculous) “elite” label. Look at this week’s top three: Matt Stafford (remember when he was giving the Lions “swagger”?); Ryan Fitzpatrick (remember when his brain was saving Buffalo?); and Josh Freeman (someone that works here at Grantland may or may not have written less than a month ago that he continues “to be totally, unequivocally, 100 percent sold on Skinny Josh Freeman and the undeniably explosive Bucs”). Let’s see how that worked out in Week 14 for Skinny Josh Freeman and his “undeniably explosive Bucs.”
Ladies and gentlemen, this year’s BQBL Bowl is over. It wasn't the BQBL points scored in the Jets-Cardinals game that made it special. There's no way to appropriately quantify this brand of failure, no stat that captures how terrified each quarterback was, and no metric for embarrassment to measure what happened in New Jersey on Sunday. There is just the film. Let’s go to the tape.
Jets (Sanchize and Greg McElroy) 84 points, and Cardinals (Ryan Lindley) 65 points
In anticipation of this column, I rewatched this entire game. I had my eye on it and everything Sunday, but when a game like this is played in front of cameras and microphones, and it's your job to bask in the ineptitude of quarterbacking failure, you would be a fool not to savor these performances. Also, as I mentioned, there's no number that can capture the experience of watching these men attempt to move the football forward. The most dynamic part of this adventure from kickoff to final kneel-down was tracking the tortured reactions of both the play-by-play team of Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick and the Jets fans in the stadium. I now present to you a running diary, of sorts, of the 2012 BQBL Bowl. No lie — I might go back and watch it again.
Our oven at home is the size of a P.O. box, so we go to the desert for Thanksgiving. I drive my wife and my daughter out. My mom flies down from San Francisco and drives in with my sister. We get a dinner reservation for Thursday at one of the fancy hotels out here — nobody's going to have to scrub cranberry-sauce crust off the good forks, it'll be great — and a budget-baller house with a pool and a hot tub. You can see some real high-definition mountains when you look up from the pool.
Eighty degrees by mid-morning. It's our first real cold-weatherish holiday in Southern California and we're steering into the weirdness of it.
That's Tuesday. We wake up on Wednesday and my wife's brother calls from the doorstep of our house in Los Angeles. He's supposed to be feeding the cats from now until Saturday. He calls to say he's found the hide-a-key box but we've forgotten to hide a key in it. Somebody has to drive all the way back to L.A. and drop a key off.
I agree to take the bullet. It's barely a bullet, though. I am a 35-year-old man with a learner's permit and I am in love with driving.
If a tie in the NFL is bad, then a tie in fantasy football is considerably worse. There are plenty of silver linings to be found on both sides after Sunday’s 24-24 draw between the Rams and 49ers. While they didn’t win, the Rams outplayed an elite division rival and might be the league’s second-best last-place team. The 49ers can blame the poor showing on Alex Smith’s concussion and take solace in the fact that they remain strong favorites to win the NFC West.
In the case of a fantasy tie, there is no saving grace. For example, your only hope for a victory (or a loss, if he happened to score negative points), Owen Daniels, is declared out for Sunday Night Football with hip pain, and the tie is official because, outrageously, there isn’t even an overtime period to settle the stalemate. And unlike Danny Amendola, you know it.