On the job at Chargers Park.

On the job at Chargers Park.

You fail to pick up a roster sheet because you are as usual thirty minutes late and hungry. The first song you hear has a country twang, and the second a deep bass line and liberal use of lyric control, a see-saw that will continue throughout the afternoon. Beneath the thrum of the speakers, that noise of men breathing, running, sweating. Yes, you think. Finally.

Without a way to put a name to the number, you build small fantasies. That small third-string QB, the first and only time they say his name you think you hear “Saracen,” and you’re in Friday Night Lights again, and he does look like you think Matt Saracen might have looked, had he found himself there. The bruising halfback with long light-brown hair is Riggins—not as beautiful, you’re sure, but cradling the ball in his massive forearms and crashing down the defense. And number 4-0, who doesn’t stop dancing until he’s head-down waiting for the whistle, who slams into, slams into, slams into a wall of safeties and then adds a new hip twitch waiting his turn again—that’s Smash for sure.

You move off the bleachers to the far end of the field, in time for the giant men in blue jerseys to come to your sideline. Without a way to put a name to the number, you learn simple things: defense is in blue, offense in white. Blue slaps the ball out of white’s hands to derisive laugher. White flops down on top of blue until they tumble apart in the grass. Blue is wider than white. White is shorter than blue. Except for some, who are tall as palm trees. It seems very clear to you at the time.

Who is human-size among us?

Who is human-size among us?

You get distracted by the boys who might be training staff, except they look too young to be out of high school. Their work invites questions. Like, how many times did they spray a giant man in the face with water before getting the trick of squirting through the helmet into his mouth? And, how do they feel about being forced to wear a fanny pack and a robin’s egg-blue visor? And, how badly do those sweaty, ratty towels draped over their shoulders smell? You can see that they love these giants. They smile into the giants’ faces as they offer a Gatorade. They hold very steady as the wide receiver rubs his fingers into their shoulder. Into the towel on their shoulder. They know every name, you can see it in their faces. You wonder who knows their names.

The players touch each other constantly. The slap of hands on chest. The quick fix of a shoulder pad. The massive palm gripping a forearm, lifting a man to his feet. The camaraderie of a helmet smack, the shoulders-back posturing of a mouth running fast.

At moments you almost recognize someone. Like the staff guy in the angled visor, you think you met him at the bar last week—cute, but a dick, you remember him clearly. Later you see him standing with the quarterbacks and think, oh, obviously.

You're pretty much on the team at this point.

You’re pretty much on the team at this point.

And you’ve lived here long enough, you know the franchise faces. Danny Woodhead, one of the only human-sized people in uniform, hustles his ass off on every play. He takes off his helmet to hair held back with a thin band and a face that could have been in Lord of the Rings. You see Eric Weddle and you think of that boy you once slept with and how he claimed the privilege of Weddle’s friendship and you think, how could anyone be friends with that beard? Wouldn’t it be distracting over a beer? Wouldn’t you sometimes just touch it helplessly, like an exotic animal, and wouldn’t that be an awkward thing for a friend to do? You watch Kellen Clemens, Oregon boy, throw a tight spiral and his receiver misses and he slaps his own shoulders in frustration and you think how grateful he must be to still be in the league. How precious every snap he takes in training camp. Midway through the third set you notice the big offensive linemen, on a knee, hands on helmets, resting like brothers and with them Philip Rivers, and you think this is how teams are made.

Then the real scrimmages begin. You’ve seen #7, thin as a track star, and now he streaks down the sidelines and hauls in a catch. The running backs disappear under the arms of the D line and reappear like lightning bugs halfway to the end zone. The corner slaps down Keenan Allen’s hands and the crowd goes wild. And finally, Rivers send up a spiral right at you on the sidelines, it hangs in the air, there are men flying down the grass towards you, a man as tall as the camera cranes or god leans up and takes it from its flight and runs out of bounds, an object in motion, in motion until all that acceleration drains out.

Giants of the 50-yard line.

Giants of the 50-yard line.

You don’t stay until the end of practice, when tiny children dressed as fans will be hoisted onto shoulders at the sidelines, when lovely young women in jerseys and lipstick will smile and fluff their hair, when the autograph hunters will shout and wave pens and football and flags. You’re thinking of the heat and your crated dogs, you’re thinking of the decade that gulfs between you and the stars, you’re thinking you better go before traffic on the freeway is at a standstill.

You consider quite seriously plucking a roster sheet from a trash can but don’t, and when the booth at the exit is empty, you smile at the ticket salesmen and walk out.

The other day, I saw this article from Buzzfeed. I thought it was pretty well done, but could be improved upon, like any great list or sports team. So here is my list of why Seattle should win today.

1) Russell “Hey defense, you have no idea what is happening to you right now” Wilson.

As you can see from the above .gif, Russell Wilson told all four linemen to come at him. So they did. He gives defensive players the feeling that they are going to make a great play, only to confuse them and score a ridiculous touchdown. If there is no touchdown potential, Russell Wilson is like, “I got this” and runs for a first down instead.

2) Century Link Field

It’s loud and I imagine opposing teams walk in and see something like this:

But instead of bats, it’s a bunch of Seahawks and people who look like this:

We make Raiders’ Nation look like pansies. Although, I am not sure I want to compare us to the Raiders…

So yeah, fucking scary.

3) Because Marshawn Lynch is invincible and full of style. He’s also made out of helium.

4) Because Drew Brees already got a parade.

We get it, Prince Charming.

5) Byron Maxwell who seemingly came out of nowhere with little experience and just went BOOM

6) Because safety advise is free:

I want to be Earl Thomas’ best friend forever.

7) And we also have Richard Sherman. The cast of entertaining defensive players will never cease to entertain me. Please also see Derrick Coleman.

Why yes, yes I am.

8) Because Seattle is seriously depressing right now. If the Seahawks don’t win, the city has nothing to live for until July when the weather *might* reach 70 degrees.

9) The Children. The Seahawks Facebook page put these up and it reminded me of how terrible the Seahawks were when I was their age because we never, never did this in school. In 1992, when I was in the second grade, we were 2-14. There was no hope.

If the Saints win, that means they hate hopes and dreams and children.

10) Because this Beats Audio commercial still pisses me off:

11) Also, this comparison of Instagram photos:

11.5*) Because we started from the bottom, now we here.

12) Because the number 12 is divine. Like seriously, the 12 Apostles, the 12 Tribes of Israel, the 12 Life Stations in Buddhism, 12 Days of Christmas, 12 Gods at the Pantheon, 12 months out of the year (thus 12 zodiac signs), the 12 Stations of the Cross, and the 12th Man. It all makes sense. Are the Seahawks divine? Well, we shall see…

*I know 11.5 is not a list number, but this is my list and we were 7-9 in the 2011 season. So there.

Sounds like a good idea to this guy.

Sounds like a good idea to this guy.

Playoffs?  *deepest sigh* Playoffs.  They’re happening, you may have heard.  As a matter of fact, it’s taken me  until now to stop acting like this guy:

But it’s ok!  Because I am nothing if not a resilient, committed, bandwagon-jumper. And I’m here to help all of you find one or two reasons to cheer for any almost any of the teams still standing as we head into the divisional round.

Start in that western corner of these United States, why don’t we?

The Seattle Seahawks! RUSSELL WILSON! He’s fun. Pete Carroll is a terrible dick.  So is Golden Tate, but Tate can do shit like this, so we’re still cool.  Oh, and this. Did you know RUSSELL WILSON has only lost ONE game at home? And check out young Earl Thomas, giving some safety advice in the streets of Seattle.

The New Orleans Saints! High octane offense, led by Cool Drew Brees and the inhuman Jimmy Graham. Darren Sproles is terrifying: at any point he touches the ball, he might just get six points. Sean Peyton is looks just like my favorite uncle.  (What? Not true for you?) If you can actively root against New Orleans, you probably don’t have a functioning human heart.

Moving a little south and a little higher….BOTH LITERALLY AND FIGURATIVELY

The Denver Broncos! Uh, I don’t know if you’ve heard of this guy, but the quarterback there in Denver, Peyton Manning, is having a historically incredible, we’re privileged to watch him play pretty good season.  Wes Welker has beautiful blue eyes and a savvy agent. The Broncos defense has been a little suspect the last couple weeks, but hey! it wouldn’t be interesting if it was easy. If it was SUPER easy, anyway.

This guy. Come on.

This guy. Come on.

The San Diego Chargers!  Blessed to live and play outside of the polar vortex, just their smiles will warm you up. Eric Weddle, and his beard, and his Twitter, are all the best.  Keenan Allen is a Future King (champions of the DeProfundisAllOverYourFace Fantasy league, sidenote), Danny Woodhead is an adorable hobbit, and everyone in the world wants to hit Philip Rivers in the face.

Moving even farther south!  Where the temperature is rising!!!

The Carolina Panthers! Luke Kuechly.  Have I mentioned him? Oh, I have? Well.  Also, Cam Newton is pretty fun. Although in Eugene, Oregon, bartenders still call him “Scam Newton.” For what that’s worth. In other Oregon-Carolina news, Jonathan Stewart, UO alum, is a Panthers running back.  Amuse your friends! Entertain your lovers! with this interesting sequence of facts.

This fucking guy. COME ON.

This fucking guy. COME ON.

The San Francisco 49ers! Jim Harbaugh, say what you like, is an incredible coach. Sticking with my Duck-theme, LaMichael James returns kicks for this team.  Someday he’ll be as good as he was in college. Kaepernick has tattoos? This is a little thin.

And to the frozen north to close out our bandwagon selections!!

The New England Patriots. Nope. Not doing it. WILL NOT YOU CANNOT MAKE ME DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH I HATE THIS TEAM.

The Indianapolis Colts!  Andrew Luck’s beard / facial disaster is a great conversation starter at any party.  TY Hilton is turning into the stud of the playoffs. At least, for one game.  The Colts lost to some weird teams this season, but they beat some great ones: Seattle and the Broncos, in particular. I don’t think they fear the Pats. Or the cold. And why would they? They’ve got a quarterback who does shit like this.

Enjoy the playoffs, football fans.

Through the snow and into the playoffs.  Fantasy playoffs, of course.

Through the snow and into the playoffs. Fantasy playoffs, of course.

 

So, how many of you made your fantasy football playoffs? I’m pretty proud of my three teams: two of them destroyed the playoff competition last weekend, and the third is clinging to a berth in a non-standard-format league. I’m a little concerned about that last team, though; yesterday I thought my two starting quarterbacks, RG3 and Case Keenum, were both going to be benched.

What’s that? You’re wondering why on god’s green earth CASE KEENUM is one of my quarterbacks?

Texas. Forever.

Every player on my Texas Forever team was either born in Texas, played college ball in Texas, or is currently playing in Texas. As drafting restrictions go, this is actually a pretty solid system: I’ve got Dez Bryant, Andre Johnson, Adrian Peterson, and RG3. Of course, I’m also starting Case Keenum and Coby Fleener (Indy TE, in case you wondered). My other teams? My favorite is the Once & Future Kings, made up entirely of over-the-hill studs–you know, like Peyton Manning, Antonio Gates, and the Steelers defense–and unproven rookies, like Keenan Allen, Le’Veon Bell, Eddie Lacy and Josh Gordon.  Some absurd point-scoring there.  My third team is kind of a “gimme,” The Believers, the drafting system being that I actually think the player in question is great.  Yes, I’ve got Peyton on this team too, along with Shady McCoy, Reggie Bush, and Antonio Brown.

I’m totally playing for money in all three of these leagues.  And no, no-one else imposed restrictions on their drafting strategies. So what the hell am I doing? Why not play fantasy football like everyone else and try to just out & out win? (Without using any Patriots, which I assume is a universal practice.)

I have some serious reservations about fantasy football, and how it changes the way we experience the game. I hate the phrase “I own,” to describe human beings in general. I glower at the man three rows back at Qualcomm, who shouts “Throw it to Malcolm Floyd!” with every offensive snap. Constantly tracking stats at the bar on Sunday makes me angry at myself. I’m disgusted anytime I hope for a Bengals wide receiver to score against the Steelers. And for all the glory we afford quarterbacks, football really is a team sport. Our fragmentation of the game into individual stats just…doesn’t sit right with me.

Also, I think I might be kind of maybe a secretly INSANELY COMPETITIVE person. Like, sore loser kind of competitive. Like, morose and  shuffling around in my sweat pants kind of competitive. Couple that with the fact that I just can’t care enough about fantasy to do the player research and mock-draft scheming that the real winners do, and you’ve got a recipe for a miserable season. Instead, I rig the game. I play a long-game, a game-within-a-game, a reduce-the-expectations game. I’m writing long emails full of Friday Night Lights quotes to the league. I’m calling every player a Future King at the top of my voice. I’m doing tiny fist-pumps of delight as Shady gallops through the snow.

Final fact: I never win. Not once. Last season, I beat the one-seed to make the playoffs, and then lost to her again the following week. And at the end of every season, I swear I’m never playing again.

Except that I’m a hypocrite gemini. And I made the playoffs. And the games-within-the game make it all a little more palatable. To the Future Kings! No regrets! Texas Forever! Case Keenum!

This guy.

This guy.

Luke Kuechly, taken with the #9 overall pick in the 2012 draft.  Luke Kuechly, Defensive Rookie of the Year of the 2012 season.  Luke Kuechly, the 22-year-old heart of the Carolina Panthers’ terrifying defense.  Luke Kuechly, the kind of guy who inspires phrases like superstar and lieutenant, who inspires his coach to imitate him in front of a reporter.

And he's nice to his fans!

And he’s nice to his fans!

All of this is great.  Kuechly seems like a super-smart, super-focused, super-hot, crazy-talented football player, who’s keeping his actual level of crazy as low as possible (because it’s understood that middle linebackers are by nature insane).

I might hate him.

Let me backtrack.  When I graduated from high school, I was eager to get the hell out of Oregon (no offense, Oregon, I love you!) and as a smart, studious, focused young woman, I chose a college based on its academics and its alignment with my priorities in life. It was a woman’s college in southwest Virginia, and I loved it, every minute.  The friends I made, what I learned, what I accomplished–I treasure those years.  I put myself on the path to where I am now: a very Gemini-type life in San Diego, writing and teaching and riding horses, mere inches away from the answer I would have given you ten years ago if you asked me what my dreams looked like.

Luke Kuechly makes me regret all of it.

I look at him, his curly brown hair, those arms, I watch him play football, I listen to his articulate, thoughtful interviews, and all I’m thinking is, what the fuck choices did I make with my life, that I didn’t get a chance to fall in love with a linebacker? Or a safety? Or a wide receiver?

A football player, is what I’m saying.  I would have been an exceptional girlfriend / wife of a professional athlete. I’m an amazing fan–just ask anyone I’ve ever known who’s participated in a sporting event. I’m smart about the game, and I make friends with strangers easily, and I could do the work I do anywhere in the country. I EVEN like training camps.  I could have gone to Boston College, or the U of O, or Michigan goddammit, and then that could be my life.  Kuechly!  Carolina! I was born for this!

What dreams are made of.

What dreams are made of.

Of course, looking back on it, even the coed colleges I applied to didn’t field football teams.  And at 18 and 19 years old, the sport I love now was barely on my radar, aside from the obligatory, pre-Uncle-Phil Ducks games I attended with my parents. (O the Joey Harrington years.)  Should I be pissed off at my younger self?  If I had gone to the U of O, would I have been the kind of girl who dated football players?  And how would I have met them?  (Clearly by tutoring them in English, let’s get real here, that’s the easy part.)

I think young me did a pretty good job, all things considered.  It’s like the great poet Robert Frost once said: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one that actually mattered to me, and there’s no point regretting it now, I probably wouldn’t have given up on my dreams for somebody else’s anyways.”  Or something to that effect.  So instead of wallowing in what-couldn’t-have-beens, I’m going to use Sundays to appreciate what I have.  While also appreciating Luke Kuechly as he owns the backfield.

If there’s some other pro athlete out there making you re-evaluate your life choices, post it in the comments for sympathy and commiseration.  And may you decide that you too could not have changed who you were, and that you like who you ended up being.

[And no, thank you, I don't want to talk about the age gap between Kuechly and myself--he's an idealized version of possibility, after all, so shut up about it.]

We'll always have Sundays.

We’ll always have Sundays.

Can we get a goddamn timeout?

Can we get a goddamn timeout?

Oh, hey, football fans.  What’s that?  You feel like we’re maybe not Jonny-on-the-spot this season?  Like we’re kind of doing whatever we feel like?  Like, maybe some weeks we’re talking fantasy and some weeks we’re just drinking bloody marys and some weeks we’re pretending football isn’t even happening?  And some weeks we’re obviously worrying about what to say about the clusterfuck that is the Johnathan Martin / Ritchie Incognito sideshow?  And some weeks we just have massive crushes on Wes Welker?  And some weeks…ok, I guess I feel you.  Today’s no better: we’re reviewing a bar, previewing a couple games, and sending love letters to strangers.  Glad you’re still on board.

Last weekend we enjoyed a gorgeous day at a friend’s house in Ocean Beach (thanks, Amanda!) watching DirectTV, RedZone, and our fantasy scores, talking shit with five friends and drinking very pale mimosas.  And it was glorious.  And the Steelers won.  And so did Seattle.  So it was perfect.

FRIDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK: SUNSHINE CO.

So if you read the Yelp reviews, this place is hit or miss. I say hit, Jenny says miss. And here’s why: Sunshine Saloon is bipolar. I have been here a few times and each time I go, the bar shows off a different personality. This place is equal parts beach bums, bros, hippies, and tweakers. Which makes sense because it is in Ocean Beach. The bar is half indoor and half outdoor with an upstairs patio. There is a Mexican joint attached to it downstairs, so you can eat a burrito and have a beer while sitting outside and watching football.

So that’s the amazing part. It’s hard to put a finger on the bad parts though. The bartenders were super on top of my drinks, but I was sitting next to a friend who happens to be a regular. I also chatted with some really nice and spectacular people who also happen to be Seattle fans. But otherwise, the patrons were kinda assholes, like the guy who was telling a story about some guy who may or may not have been gay… I’m not sure what exactly the guy was saying, but it was definitely hate-filled speech toward a person who seemed to be a normal, sane person, except that (according to this patron) he was a giant piece of shit because he may or may not be gay. So there was that. And the bouncer who kept checking my ID. Or the fact that everyone was really cliquey and knew we didn’t belong. So that was odd. However, if you want to enjoy a Sunday beverage on a smoking-friendly patio and have good access to a multitude of televisions, then this is your place. Upstairs even has ocean views and on some days it’s like $2 for PBR and a shot of Jameson.

Really, the best part of Sunday (minus some of the above and the Saturday night that lingered in Jenny’s and my head) was hanging out at our friend Amanda’s house (above regular) with a whole host of friends and football fans while we watched RedZone and Sunday Ticket,  hooting and hollering at games, drinking mimosas and chatting as the weather and ocean reminded us how nice San Diego really is.

photo (6)

GAMES OF THE WEEK

THIS GUY.

THIS GUY.

DC Abe Lincolns vs. Philadelphia Eagles

YES!  I am excited about this one, football fans.  Here’s five reasons why. 1. The NFC East is fucking terrible, and both of these under-.500 teams are still in the mix to win it all. 2. RG3 (SIR) is one of the most electric players in the NFL; no, he’s not back to his pre-injury form, but he’s gettin’ there. 3. Chip goddamn Kelly is doing business.  And if the Eagles light up the scoreboard for another week or so, many sports-talkers heads may just explode. 4. Nick Foles is big and dumb-looking, and we know how I feel about that.  5. I’ll be happy if either team wins, so it’s a good one for me to watch in public.  Want my fantasy picks? The two QBs, Shady, and Future fucking King Riley Cooper, who is clearly Nick Foles’ BFF. And yeah, I’m taking the over–these teams are going to light it up.

Browns/Bengals: The Battle for Ohio.

Browns are coming off of their bye and the Bengals are coming off of a sad OT loss. Plus, with the division still somewhat up in the air, this game is a turning point for the Browns: Bengals go on bye Week 12, while the Browns play the Steelers. If the Browns win the next two games, they will be tied for first in the division with the Bengals, then play against the Jaguars. This is one to watch. Even though you might be all like, “but it’s the Browns!” Well, yeah, but with an offense that is actually pretty amazing to watch and defense as tough as the steel their belts are made of, I think they might actually have a playoff chance.