If nothing else, that Donovan McNabb wants to retire as an Eagle should serve as definitive proof that “rivalries” in the NFL are a complete crock. McNabb’s retirement doesn’t represent some kind of cathartic grant of forgiveness on either side. Coming back to the Eagles cap in hand after playing for the “bitter rival” Redskins puts you in the rarefied territory of James Thrash and Jeremiah Trotter.
This reunion needs to happen because both parties truly deserve each other. The same things that made McNabb a liability as a quarterback — a cavalier approach to his job, a passive-aggressive relationship with his coworkers, and an utter inability to seize the moment — will make him a tremendous Eagles fan. I mean the self-loathing, the victimhood. Silver Linings Playbook didn’t teach us anything so much as confirm what we already knew: Teaching in a Philadelphia school is a great way for a certifiably insane person to hide in plain sight, and there’s more actual hostility in the parking lot of Lincoln Financial Field than on the gridiron.
With all that in mind, here are McNabb’s realest quotes as an Eagles diehard in training.
What’s the NBA’s hottest throwback trend in the playoffs? Iman Shumpert’s haircut? Jay-Z’s ownership of an NBA franchise being “zero” rather than “trace amounts”? No, it’s actually coaching. After several years of avoiding anything resembling relevancy, despite their enviable young talent, the Cavaliers and Timberwolves respectively brought Mike Brown (as a head coach) and Flip Saunders (as president of basketball operations) back into the fold with the hopes of restoring those franchises to the greatest glory they have known. Before we go any further, let’s just take time to appreciate what “glory” entails for these long and frequently suffering franchises — which is to say, an occasional sniff at a conference finals or a chance to be remembered along the lines of the 2002 Nets or the 2001 Sixers as one of the pre-eminent no-hopers in the NBA Finals. That might seem like a preferable alternative to the pedestrian awfulness that’s befallen them in the past, but it doesn’t speak well of the NBA’s current state, where something like 7 percent of its teams are truly capable of winning a championship, give or take 3.3 percent.
That being said, a retread coach might not be the worst idea. It saves a lot of time and money on the administrative end — the old guy knows where the parking garage is. But NBA teams should consider what it takes to be an NBA champion these days. If you can’t sign a marquee free agent — and something like 75 percent of the teams cannot — you’re going to have to lose and lose again until you luck upon a draft with the equivalent. So why waste time begrudgingly going blow-for-blow with the Pacers or the Grizzlies over the next three years? You need a coach who knows how to lose for your franchise. But which old flames burn dullest?
There will be no shortage of commentary on the devastating, nay, soul-decimating loss suffered by the Golden State Warriors last night. And rightfully so, seeing how it was so epic that even our typically stoic Bill Barnwell tried to find understanding in a proverbial car crash by suggesting that Warriors fans might find some solace in the music of dearly departed emo gods Thursday. His heart’s in the right place: You should listen to Thursday if you are not currently listening to Thursday. That said, their music rarely traffics in straight-up depression or cataclysmic emotional defeats. To really capture what the Warriors faithful went through last night, you need to look no further than the Bay Area.
Over the past two decades, Mark Kozelek — known to many as front man of Red House Painters and his newer band, Sun Kil Moon, as well as a solo artist — has created some of the most beautiful and profoundly depressing music. It’s the sort of thing you might reach for if you’re the type who thinks the first Bon Iver album is some weak-ass make-out music for college freshmen. I don’t know if Kozelek is a Warriors fan; he was born in Massillon, Ohio, and I don’t really know if he’s a fan of anything besides cats, boxing, and nylon-stringed guitars. That said, many of his songs seem to tap into the frustrations, pain, and unique sense of fleeting hope that afflict those who emotionally invest in Golden State.
This isn’t a list of the most depressing Mark Kozelek songs — you could pick five at random and end up with equally demoralizing results. This five-song sampler is more in the interest of abetting the healing process, songs that speak to the unique experience of loving a Golden State Warriors team that so rarely loves back. Besides, we had to keep things short since our lawyers have informed us that offering more than an hour of Kozelek’s music opens us up to some serious tort liability.
The 2012 college football season was something else, right? Remember all those killer pancake blocks from Eric Fisher? Ryan Nassib leading Syracuse to glory in a series of fearless two-minute drills? Cordarrelle Patterson making an impossible leap to secure a touchdown during a thrilling Tennessee comeback?
See, this is what happens when college football spends more time being viewed as an NFL feeder program than its own glorious ecosystem — you tend to forget that week after week, countless players warm our hearts by piling up untenable, system-abetted statistics, taking advantage of the tactical breakdowns made by 20-year-olds whose physical development far outstrips their mental one, and simply being in the right place at the right time. What became of Matt McGloin? God, remember Sam McGuffie?
I have no intention to make fun of Raekwon McMillan; I have no intention to make fun of anyone who’s 6-foot-2, 250 pounds, and incredibly skilled at hurting people. No, this is more to just point out how the subject of the most heated recruiting battle in the Class of 2014 just so happens to share a name with one of the greatest rappers ever and absolutely nobody else.
Now that the NCAA tournament has come to a close, we can all direct our attention toward giving proper due to his parents, who conflated the tenets of “A Boy Named Sue” and the Wu-Tang Name Generator to put young Raekwon McMillan on the track to becoming a total badass. First off, wise choice on Raekwon, because if his name were “Ghostface McMillan,” “Masta Killa McMillan,” or “Dirt McGirt McMillan,” the authorities surely would’ve gotten involved and his real name would’ve probably been like Bradworth or Bennett instead.
Here’s the question: How seriously does Raekwon McMillan take his name? If we gauge his age correctly, it’s almost certain his parents heard his namesake's masterful solo debut, and rightfully figured, “Yes, this album is basically going to define our newborn’s entire life and we are sure it will sound good for its duration.” So rather than reading the tea leaves of his Twitter feed, we can reflect on what school he might choose judging from his de facto birth certificate, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx.
It goes without saying that the most difficult endeavor anyone takes up at the collegiate level is forming an intramural flag football team. The mere logistics are frightening: finding at least 10 people who can agree to not be drunk for the same two-hour span, one day a week; figuring out what sporting goods store will sell the cheapest pair of cleats and accept their return two months later with no questions asked; rejecting at least two dozen Anchorman references as suggested team names; and, of course, bullying the dude with the lowest opinion of his athletic abilities into playing center.
Take that situation and extrapolate it into creating a college football team from the ground up, and one that’s going to challenge someone other than the Pi Lam dudes. It takes a leader of inordinate energy and charisma, someone with youthful vigor, a strong sense of purpose, a refusal to look the other way when difficulties arise. Obviously, someone like Phil Fulmer.
To paraphrase Chris Rock, desperation is the worst cologne. And when it comes to the post–NCAA tournament coaching carousel, the landscape of college basketball feels cloaked by a cloud of metaphysical Drakkar Noir. The absurd time crunch and constant influx of hot new names on a daily basis make the whole process feel less like a protracted mating dance than an outwardly raging, inwardly fraught frat party, with nothing but overeager overtures and the progressive, unmistakable lowering of standards as the night continues.
It’s nearly impossible to look cool in these situations, but somehow, USC has done it. Now, we could just flat-out admit that Andy Enfield was a mortal lock for the Trojans all along — as a guy who achieved his life ambitions of “totally killing it” in the tech and finance games and marrying a Maxim cover girl, he was already a role model for the USC student body even before anyone knew he coached basketball. But as everyone from Old Dominion to Minnesota made eyes at Enfield over the past couple weeks, USC came out of nowhere on Monday night and pulled an "Is That Yo Chick?" move. Who cares if Enfield is grabbing this job off the back of just two wins, or that USC’s basketball team is on probation as often as Gucci Mane? They look cool, unlike these five programs who might need to hire Phil Jackson to counteract the effects of a coaching search that reeks of desperation.
There’s no shame in transferring from one college to another. There is, however, usually lots of shame behind that decision. You know how this typically goes down. There’s the guy blindsided by classes that require more academic effort than half-heartedly slapping together dioramas based on the exploits of George Washington Carver. Or, there’s the guy who went to the same university as his high school girlfriend and later had to deal with the indignity of her hooking up with the RA. Or, that same RA lied to the dude after he downed a bottle of Goldschläger to drown his sorrows and said, “Everyone’s gonna forget about you singing 'Fake Plastic Trees' at the top of your lungs while crying naked in the hallway.”
Obviously, it’s bad enough when you gotta break the news to your parents, after they bought a bunch of sweatshirts and put that decal on their car and everything. Now just imagine you’re a top quarterback recruit; your decision to enroll in a certain school was met with months-long national scrutiny and you probably screwed some people over in the process. No one wants to see you succeed, especially if you’re a dude like Gunner Kiel, who I’m assuming is a total dick because his name is Gunner Kiel. Also, because he was last year’s no. 1 QB recruit, who eventually chose Notre Dame after spurning LSU and getting his manhood questioned by Les Miles. And, even more notoriously, he bypassed the chance to be Indiana’s answer to Tim Couch, the homegrown hero leading a beleaguered, basketball-mad program to the dizzying heights of an Outback Bowl bid.
Seriously, we wish Kiel all the success in the world. But if we’re looking at the recent trend of blue-chip QB transfers, the odds aren’t in his favor. Here are the most recent examples, and they don’t appear as if they’re individual pitfalls to avoid so much as a supermassive black hole.
New restaurants have a staggering failure rate, largely because the infinite number of aspiring proprietors ignore the eternal truth, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” This explains the inevitable shuttering of your friend’s food truck that specialized in artisanal Fruit by the Foot or that gastropub down the block that tried to target-market college kids by serving a dozen varieties of Bagel Bites and harboring the last known supply of “classic” Four Loko without a liquor license. And yet, in the face of these harsh financial realities, the Atlantic Coast Conference is betting that nature has a hole in its belly that can only be filled by a $20 basket of chicken fingers named after Steve Wojciechowski.
Assuming most interested parties were distracted by the rumors of Selena Gomez cheating on Justin Bieber with Gucci Mane, the Raleigh-Durham International Airport website snuck in a mention of the "ACC American Cafe" that will be be operational by Spring 2014; one imagines its grand opening will be right on cue to attract the numerous Duke and Virginia grads on layovers en route to their horrifying iBanking jobs in New York, desperately guzzling multiple 11 a.m. martinis while watching their lacrosse bros stick it to those Johns Hopkins bozos. One also wonders why they had to go there with “American” and ignore the massive contributions of Serge Zwikker, Ademola Okulaja and Makhtar N’Diaye.
The mind truly boggles at the potential for the “ACC American Cafe,” particularly as it must find a way to compete with the California Pizza Kitchen and the Bruegger’s Bagels, which are truly awesome. Is it going to be a Cracker Barrel that sells DVDs of the first three Continental Tire Bowls in its waiting area? A Johnny Rockets for people whose nostalgia is primarily based on warm memories of Chris Corchiani or Jeff Lamp? Or, when you consider the ACC getting served a vaguely upper-crust rendering of the Big East’s horsemeat football over the past decade, is it just going to be sort of like a Chipotle?
As a 32-year-old, 5-foot-6 Jewish guy from Philadelphia who has been rocking a buzzcut for the entire 21st century, I think it goes without saying that I relate to Kentucky’s flat-topped phenom Nerlens Noel in a multitude of ways. The most pertinent being that sometime around Valentine’s Day during our respective freshman years of college, we both ended up writhing on a hardwood floor, wondering whether we were going to die or whether our futures were just totally screwed.
There are minor differences, obviously: Noel was well on his way to becoming the no. 1 pick in the NBA draft before tearing his ACL and being shelved for the season. His road to recovery will involve brutal, demoralizing physical rehab and doubts about whether he can ever regain confidence in his body. Mine was likely some horrifying incident with Goldschläger as a fraternity pledge, and my salvation mostly entailed copious amounts of Gatorade and switching to alcohol that didn’t have floating pieces of metal as a selling point.
Yesterday, in a glimpse into the inner sanctum of the reigning NBA champs, LeBron James tweeted about how Ole Miss became the story of Signing Day — no mean feat considering the sagas of Reuben Foster and Alex Collins — and probably violated some arcane NCAA recruiting violation by having an opinion on the subject.
This is astounding on multiple levels. Well, I guess it’s only astounding on three levels. First off, if you look at the Heat’s roster, they don’t strike me as guys who derive a lot of school spirit from their former schools' fortunes on the gridiron. Secondly, recruiting isn’t the realm of the casual fan, it’s the postseason lifeblood of college football bloggers, day drinkers, and people deep in SEC country, which is a very tight Venn diagram. Lastly, they’re talking about Ole Miss ... and when you consider that school’s, to put it delicately, image problems as well as its mediocrity on the football field, you’d think LeBron James would be aware of their recruiting status only if Erik Spoelstra’s kid was offered a scholarship or something. And even then, I think that’s debatable.
Whether it’s the BCS poll, the Oscar nominations, or the Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop albums list, year-end lists reduce an array of highs, lows, hints, rumors, allegations, and things left unsaid into a simplified fiction that lies to our children and our children’s children by insinuating, “Hey, everything was great!” when the truth is, the narrative was informed almost as much by the disappointment. For every Johnny Manziel there was a Taylor Martinez. Likewise, for every Japandroids album that reminded us of how invigorating shout-along/drink-along punk rock can be when imbued with undeniable melody and drum solos you can pound out on your steering wheel, Green Day made three proving you better get your kicks in before you turn 35.
The Misery Index has honored the teams throughout the year who have served as a reminder of how fleeting glory can be, how expectations can ultimately lead to resentment, how ambition is the first step to failure, while giving a nod to the artists, movies, and musicians who did the same. And now it’s time to honor a season’s body of work; they started 2012 out as Most Likely To Succeed and ended it as Most Likely To Be Forgotten, though the Misery Index hopes to keep their spirit of futility alive for generations to come.
If you believe December to be a month defined by its commercialist ideals — and really, there’s no other way — the dominant message is that your previous 11 months can be judged by the state of your relationship. And viewed through the lens of a moderately priced piece of Zales jewelry, there essentially are two kinds of people: those who joyously indulge in holiday parties and modest gift-giving, and those who anticipate a lonely Christmas where they get taken to task by their elders who simply want to know what the hell is wrong with them and why they keep messing things up. Some people are sipping eggnog by a fireplace, others are chasing Captain Morgan with a McFlurry by the warmth of a space heater.
Not surprisingly, college football is every bit as beholden to relationship envy as our culture wants us to be during Black Friday. The mind-set is that no one should have to spend December without a BBVA Compass Bowl bid to look forward to at the very least. And if you don’t get what you want, the social mores are no longer in place to preach patience over acquisitive thinking. Simply put, the idea that you’re going to subject yourself to the whims of an emotionally unavailable and likely abusive white dude as long as he puts on a good face in public and keeps food on the table is as antiquated as a houndstooth hat.
The good news is that the coaches themselves are finally willing to enter the 21st century and embrace the joys of casual flings, multiple partners, and discreet hookups — in other words, the exact things online dating was meant to foster. Of course, whether it’s JDate, OKCupid, or Christian Mingle, some people are, as the kids say, “thirstier” than others. OKCoach is only in beta testing right now, but our inside sources [cough — Jeff Long — cough] were able to grant us a one-week pass. Unfortunately, until we upgrade to the paid subscription, we can’t see the premium content that includes the “swingers” profiles. But our connection says it’s worth it if only to see “PsychoLeSU” and “TurfIsBluer.”
My Self Summary: If it feels good, do it! That’s my motto. Motorcycles, flights after midnight, naughty texts, doesn’t matter. I think the kids call it “YOLO,” but rap’s never been my thing.
Let’s overlook the dearth of tremendous, season-altering upsets and what is almost certainly the least-compelling batch of Heisman candidates of the past several years. College football has seasonal affective disorder. Just something about the sun going down at damn near 5 p.m. causes a profound sadness that nothing can cure, not even the ability to buy five pounds of fun-size Clark Bars at rock-bottom, post-Halloween discounts at Ralphs. As a result, the CFMI doesn’t get out much these days, and the past two weeks has resulted in some awful hermit-like behavior. Which is why our cultural framework to discuss the most downtrodden, distraught, and depressed teams in college football is limited to the only things CFMI really can bring itself to do these days. Which is to say, snooping around 7-Eleven’s magazine rack and watch Netflix. Hey, we never said we were about uplifting the human spirit here.
And then, the retribution of last weekend: The blowouts were joyless and lacked humor, the close games were water-gun duels of offensive ineptitude disguised as defensive struggles. God bless West Virginia, as always.
In the midst of this bipolarity, this edition of the Misery Index does not necessarily feature the most depressed teams in each conference. That would be too easy and also would make this is a de facto Kansas fan blog every single time out. No, this is more about finding some sort of balance in between the dizzying highs and the terrifying lows. And when surveying this rich range of emotion, we absolutely have to start with Spin Doctors.