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    WAS THERE ANYTHING ELSE TO DO IN COLUMBUS ON SATURDAY? WE ANSWER THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS

    DEAR READER: Dismiss the irony of someone who makes their living from this extremely misaligned set of values from the start. In fact, let's just agree on an extremely mature and postmodern take policy. This is not real, and is in fact a letter copied from a world that existed seven hundred worlds ago, and is no longer even something resembling a real comment. We're not here, this isn't happening, and the hot take isn't just dead, it's a fascinating corpse we prop up at the dinner table and call Uncle Inflammation.  Look at it! It's almost like a real thing someone tried to mean.

    Now that we've done that, let's see what else you could have been doing in Columbus, Ohio this past Saturday, and see if it compared to the joy of sitting outside on a nice day and watching some simulated sport.

    OrchidFestFuckYeah

    HELL YEAH ORCHIDFEST IS GONNA BE SICK. Even if you have sex in the bathroom with a botanist and walk out with only the dopest freshly retired orchids, that revelry barely gets you to noon. We're sorry, Retired Orchids Sale, that's just the truth. The orchid scene has been pretty mild since the days of swashbuckling through Burmese pirates and Chinese warlords just to get a decent cutting of a Pleione Albiflora. Best option: buy orchid, sit in stands at game to expose it to vital sunlight and life-giving Cardale Jones rays.

    Trains

    If this were at noon we've got real competition, but it's at ten, and how long can you look at model trains? Our grandfather averaged about 90 minutes per model train show perusal, and that's if you got him a McRib and a coffee first. PROVEN SCIENTIFIC FACT: Senior citizens who eat McRibs attain a temporary burst of superhuman strength, because they were all raised in the golden age of chemical-poisoned meat. That's why you'll never deadlift a Luby's just to get the attention of management who still refuse to refill the chicken-fried steak finger tray. (Miss you, Gran-Gran.)

    OhioWine

    Oh, this. This just smells like sorority road trip tour bus EPA biohazard site. AVOID. AVOIIIIIIIID. What does the phrase "Ohio wine" evoke in your palate? Hints of heavy metal on the palate, a finish of pine-scented car freshener, and--wait--is that a Keystone Light finish on the nose with a touch of cigarette ash? We went to a winery in North Georgia and it all tasted like what a muscadine vine would piss out if you made it a person, gave it a job at a tannery for thirty years, made it smoke unfiltered Marlboros, and forced it to sleep in a cold smoker with eight pounds of salmon. It was pretty good, for wine-piss from a theoretical North Georgia Swamp Thing-type creature.

    So as you can see, there was nothing else to do in Columbus on Sat---

    BYEBYEBYE

    --oh god, He was right. If there weren't 100,000 people at this, Graham Couch was so, so right.


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    GO DAWGS AND PLEASE SOMEONE ELSE WRITE A BIG CHECK WE CAN'T LIVE WITH THIS

    The EDSBS Charity Bowl is underway. Donate here frequently for best results.

    We learned very little from spring practice. For instance, your secondary might be really good, like Alabama's after intercepting six passes in their spring game. Then again, maybe Alabama's quarterback play reeks. You'll never know, because we don't play spring scrimmages in college football because [INSERT SENSE HERE].

    Or maybe your defense is "further along than your offense," like Florida, which is news to no one given Will Muschamp's fetish for cutting the arms off his team and insisting they kick their way to victory. Or maybe you've already set up the inevitable quarterback controversy by letting your backup look really, really good like Max Browne did in USC's spring game. Yes, we know Cody Kessler is the starter. But now you have something to flimsily justify the BENCH HIM AND PUT IN THE OTHER GUY chants you'll get the first time Kessler struggles. Probably against Arizona State, perhaps. (Okay, definitely against Arizona State.)

    What we did learn that we can say for sure. First, Laquan McGowan is a 400 pound tight end, and will play this position for Baylor more in 2015. This is him throwing Bryce Petty into the roof of a stadium in celebration.

    Laquanthrowsintosun

    Second: Cal's receivers' coach decided to unwind a bit at the Motel 6.

    Third: THE EDSBS CHARITY BOWL IS ROLLING LIKE SO MANY TIDES. As of this post we're at $7900 and change and rising. That's superb for day one, and hopefully we can push to finish over ten grand on the day. We'll get numbers later tonight, but the surprise leader for individual donations as of a few hours ago was a UGA donation. This causes us actual physical pain, but: g o  d a w g s.

    (Please someone donate more than $540 individually and end this agony.)

    Thank you for your continued support of EDSBS and Nick Saban Mercedes. Roll damn charitable Tide.


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    THEY EVEN GOT THE SCALE RIGHT!

    Man, look at him go! He's DESTROYING that carpet. THOSE GERMANS CAN MAKE ANYTHING.


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    THE LAST THING YOU SHOULD DO IS RUMORMONGERING, BUT IT'S THE LAST PART OF THE DAY SO LET'S GO

    The EDSBS Charity Bowl is going on and closing in on $15K, aka halfway to us getting that elusive tattoo we've been promising to let our readers make us get for years. DONATE NOW. SPECULATE ABOUT TALK RADIO RUMORS BELOW.

    It's April and the last thing we should do is indulge rumors. It's creeping up on 5:00 p.m., so let's do that last thing, bite hard on a silly rumor, and happily play thought experiment for a minute.

    Let's say Lane Kiffin got his hands on a Braxton Miller. Let's say Lane Kiffin then got the keys to a scrambling genius whose primary football school ran a spread offense. Let's just say Lane Kiffin then sought to take this dynamic talent and turn them into a pocket passer. Let's remind you that Lane Kiffin passed on Tajh Boyd and Bryce Petty when he was at Tennessee, and has a tendency to lean on the more stationary Kesslers and Barkleys of the world when it comes to QB play.

    But Blake Sims. Here's where this gets weird. Lane Kiffin won't get enough credit for being someone capable of getting nearly anyone to play quarterback effectively at some level. We point to the ghost of Jonathan Crompton. It's right over there. That may actually be the real Jonathan Crompton, but don't look at it--you don't want to know the answer to that, or to why he's taking a pillow and blanket into your attic for the night. Just leave a six-pack of Cheerwine and a pack of beef jerky by the ladder, and no one will have to have any awkward discussions.

    Blake Sims wasn't a statue, but don't act like he was Miller, or designed to be a frequent run threat in Kiffin's offense. He ran about six times a game, and presented his run threat more out of bootlegs and rollouts and all the other super-annoying tweaks Alabama uses in their offense to present a quarterback run threat. It's old-school at this point, West Coast Offense business from the 1980s, and that's not a bad thing. It's just what they do well, and that's the most important thing in coaching an offense in limited practice time: sticking to what you can teach, teach well, and execute with a minimum of mistakes.

    That's probably what Braxton Miller would be limited to in the run game in that system. That kind of relative stodginess does two things Miller could benefit from: limiting contact, and forcing him to make reads he might not be making in his current offense. Wherever Miller's hypothetical transfer trajectory sends him, he's got to land somewhere where he won't willingly take as many brutal hits. Miller is already a legend of sorts, joining Rudy Carpenter and Bradlee Van Pelt in the Hall Of I Can't Believe A Body Part Has Not Fallen Off His Body Mid-Game. And as different as the Meyer offense is now (way more hurry-up than when he was at Florida and Utah, for instance,) the passing game is still relatively simple compared to some of the reads and schemes Lane Kiffin uses. (Particularly the shifts, which Kiffin luuuurves.)

    Miller has run out of a lot of trouble as a rusher. He has also inadvertently thrown himself directly into the grill of an oncoming safety so many times that in 2013 when Twitter rang out with "Oh no" from Ohio State fans, we knew with a 95% certainty that chorus meant Braxton Miller had just gone down with a contact-related injury. He missed 2014 with a shoulder injury. A throwing injury was the diagnosis for his 2014-ending injury, but even if you're not skeptical of official reports you have to agree that maaaaaaybe running boldly through traffic wouldn't help an ailing throwing shoulder.

    (Feel free to disagree if you're drunk right now. Otherwise, it's a given we're just gonna agree on for you.)

    He also would get a look at a much more traditional kind of offense if he did end up at Alabama, and get it from someone who is (and we stand by this to the death) very, very good at a particular kind of job. Lane Kiffin does what he does very well, and as baffling as his play-calling can be, he gets good, efficient performance out of his quarterbacks while teaching them a system closer to to what they'll see in the NFL than in most college offenses.

    That is not a criticism of Ohio State's offense, but rather a respectful nod to the Russell Wilson Career Success Plan. Most pro offenses at this point incorporate so much shotgun set passing and--gasp!--the occasional zone read that the term pro-style itself is probably a misnomer. (A lot of coaches would certainly agree on this, using "pro style" as more of an indicator of complexity than anything else.)

    If Braxton Miller ends up going to Lane Kiffin for some light grad school research, it's a great thing all around for both schools. Alabama gets to make the rare claim of developing a QB, and giving a QB yet another system to put in his résumé. Ohio State gets to make the claim that even if you have to transfer due to an embarrassment of riches, you'll probably still end up playing at Alabama.

    Case in point: Tim Tebow, despite all the punishment he sought out, required a minimal amount of injury time in his career. His backup was forced to look elsewhere, and that's how Cam Newton eventually wandered his way to Auburn, a national title, and a large NFL contract. It's a bold recruiting tactic, but one you can embrace on the fly: Come play for me. Even my mistakes get paid.*

    *See also: Jimbo Fisher, and his magical ability to get anyone an NFL contract. Note: performance after signing huge NFL contract NOT GUARANTEED, NO MONEY BACK NO MATTER WHAT THAT INSANE LOUISIANA JURY SAYS.

    P.S. It's probably not happening, but that was still fun.


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  • 04/23/15--11:46: MACK BROWN GOES TO DUBAI
  • WE DON'T WANT THESE POWERS BUT WE HAVE THEM

    THE EDSBS CHARITY BOWL IS STILL ON. GIVE YOUR MONEY TO A GOOD CHARITY. GIVE IT NOW.

    We've been joking about this for two or three years now: ahahaha, look, someone's gonna play a game in Dubai, because no one in Dubai knows what money is or means anymore. Ahahhaha, look, it's probably gonna be a school from Texas, because like people in Dubai they don't know what money is once they get oil money in their veins. Tee-hee, it'd be funny if Mack Brown was the guy they sent over there to arrange it, because he'd probably end up recruiting Qatar as a safety and--

    WE TOLD YOU. WE WRITE HISTORY'S TRUE PATH BEFORE IT HAPPENS AND CANNOT CONTROL WHERE IT GOES. ALL WE KNOW IS THAT WE SEE THINGS AND CAN'T STOP SEEING THEM. Having the unmonetizable superpower of being psychic about certain sports events has zero benefit, but it's still a superpower and we'll take it.

    P.S. Please let the opponent be BYU, if only to scare the daylights out of the Longhorns and get their fans showing up speaking perfect Arabic riding bikes in 110 degree heat.


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    AN EDSBS EXCLUSIVE

    Today, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution revealed that Steve Spurrier is working on his autobiography with author Buddy Martin, with the finished product expected to be published in 2016. Few details were offered, so we worked our investigative journalism magic to get a hold of the proposal for what will undoubtedly be a fascinating tome. Exclusive to EDSBS, this is the outline of the autobiography.

    Chapter 1: Satan Throws On First Down

    A young Steve Spurrier struggles in childhood with his maverick talent in a backwoods Tennessee that believes passing the football causes warts, chillblains, impotence and strong thunderstorms. He buys a bike and is attacked by a racist bear. (Ten pages.)

    Chapter 2: A Guy I Called A Nerd

    Steve describes his interactions with a sad nerd at his high school who was bad at sports, and who never ever danced with a girl or won things like Steve did. Includes anecdotes of Steve being better at everything than the sad nerd, including sex, Christmas, and golf. (Fifty-seven pages.)

    Chapter 3: When I Got Smarter Than Everyone Else And Moved to Florida

    Steve tells the tale of his move to Florida for college, where everyone was smarter than the people in Tennessee, and where he could pass the ball like the good Lord intended him to.  Lengthy descriptions of the people of Tennessee and their football program highlighted by colorful hill people invective, his own family excepted. (Eight pages.)

    Chapter 4: That Time I Kicked A Field Goal Better Than The Field Goal Kicker Could

    Steve walks the reader through an electrifying account of the time he kicked a field goal to beat Auburn in 1966, and then segues to a number of other things Auburn is bad at that he does better than they could ever do. (105 pages.)

    Chapter 5: Georgia Should Be Traded For A Bad Foreign Country That No One Can Spell

    The Head Ball Coach reviews the world's geography to find a country Georgia is better than that we couldn't just trade for at the United Nations or wherever it is y'all do the country naming and placement around here. Failing to find one, he advocates for a bold policy of building a road over the state and ceding Augusta to South Carolina, which is really where it belongs anyway, stupid people who make maps and countries. He also notes that you should not put a Georgian on the committee to determine the country it will be traded for, since that would mean every country via not being able to spell properly. (Thirty-three pages.)

    Chapter 6: I Still Show Up Once A Month To Beat Ray Goff Unconscious With A Putter

    Self-explanatory title. (Forty-three single-spaced pages.)

    Chapter 7: The Time I Wasn't Even Trying To Hurt Ray Goff But Ran Over Him With A Golf Cart

    An interlude between the HBC and his nemesis at a golf club in Florida where Goff darts from the bushes and is broadsided by the coach's speeding golf cart. (28 pages.)

    Chapter 8: The NFL Or Whatever That Was

    A forthright and exhaustive discussion of Spurrier's time in the NFL, including his time with the winless 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (Three pages/one glossy reproduction of a never before published nude photo of Spurrier taken by Robert Mapplethorpe.)

    Chapter 9: The Waste Basket

    Steve Spurrier shoots a paper wad into a waste basket in 1977 while looking for work. It was awesome. (Two pages.)

    Chapter 10: The Time Pepper Rodgers And I Completely Reinvent The Game Of Football And Also This One Wedge Shot I Hit That Made Fuzzy Zoeller Tear Up A Little

    Spurrier details the ins and outs of his football coaching education under Pepper Rodgers. A tale of the time he won twenty bucks on a chip shot and fistpumped and Fuzzy Zoeller cried like a little girl just watching him take his money. Steve drinks a beer. He laughs. (Nineteen pages.)

    Chapter 11: The Tampa Bay Bandits

    Steve recounts his time running a really awesome football team in the USFL, and reveals its business secret: no one was every paid for anything in money. Lee Corso beats him at a football game, but not golf. Spurrier points out all the other things Lee Corso sucks at, and that Steve Spurrier is good at, like having totally naturally brown hair late into middle age. (Forty pages.)

    Chapter 12: Mack Brown Can Drink From My Bidet On Tuesdays

    SpurrierMackLOL

    (410 pages.) (Of just this picture.)

    Chapter 13: The Time I Took A Job Whipping Georgia's Ass Over And Over Again (And Other Games Florida Played)

    Spurrier provides a unique perspective on his time at Florida only by chronicling his victories against Georgia; also, a stirring narrative about yet another time he severely injured Ray Goff with a golf cart, and drove away laughing. (94 pages.)

    Chapter 14: Daniel Snyder Bought Me A Bigger Beach House

    A charming tale of a man, a beach house, and how they are united at last. Several disconnected anecdotes about Jim Haslett smelling bad; a list of every other Washington head coach's record in recent history, and how they're all really just as bad or worse as his. A five dollar bill glued into every copy "for the haters". (Four pages.)

    Chapter 15: I'm A Member At Augusta National and You're Not

    A detailed description of Augusta National's locker room and amenities, including shoehorns Steve Spurrier doesn't even use, but has anyway. Spurrier defends the belly putter. (Fifty-one pages.)

    Chapter 16: I Bailed Stephen Garcia Out Of Guantanamo Bay

    His experiences resurrecting the South Carolina program, something he did and no one else has ever done, and never will again. Notes on Stephen Garcia, and on how easy it was to find replacement components for Connor Shaw in the Palmetto State's thriving black market for human parts. A picture showing how much taller he is than Nick Saban, and scorecards comparing their golf games. (Twenty-two pages.)

    Chapter 17: Maps, appendices

    Philip Fulmer's last known address and a list of all medicines, grasses, pet danders, and foods to which he has an allergic reaction; a photograph of Greedo from the Star Wars makeup trailer with "FUN AND GUN?" written on the back; a 1764 topographic map of the Tennessee River Gorge with several markings depicting the search for Peyton Manning's first win against Florida; recipe for YellaWood Chowder; photocopied contents of Bobby Bowden's wallet, circa January 1997.


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    THE BEST COLLECTION OF TALENT TO GO 6-7 IN YEARS

    Miami had two first round picks in the NFL Draft last night, the first time since 2008. Let's see what Al Golden's various faces think of that.

    Two first-rounders? Well, that's what we've been trying to get back to at Miami, the kind of talent level Hurricanes fans have come to expect. That's what we're working for here: championship talent, championship football, championship results. There's just more to come, Hurricanes. Let's be proud of that, and build to the future.

    AlGolden2

    Well, yeah, that's...yes, I know there will be more people drafted off this team. As many as eight! That's great news! Why wouldn't that be great news? People are beginning to notice what we're doing again, and that's great. They're beginning to understand what we already knew. They're seeing the work here, and that's a great compliment to the program.

    GoldenAl3

    6-7? What about it? It happens. Football programs have hiccups. We played a tough schedule. Nearly beat the defending national champions and eventual conference champions. Had some injuries and a first year QB. It's tough. It's a tough conference. Lost a tough one in a bowl game. We'll be okay and---

    AlGolden4

    Are you saying we're getting worse, even as our players get better? Is that what you're saying? Well, in response to that, all I can say is

    AlGolden5

    I am destroying you with mind lasers. I am making your brain explode and you will stop talking, person saying this. Al Golden has telekinetic powers and is using them on your brain RIGHT NOW. You are dead. You will stop pointing this out right now or Al Golden will TURN YOUR MIND INTO DELICIOUS BUT UNFEELING FLAN. Go Canes.


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  • 05/04/15--12:44: The Talladega checklist
  • Spencer Hall found everything on his Talladega Checklist, including sunburns and pitbulls.

    1. Pitbull in a pickup truck: check

    At 8:30 a.m. CT, the Waffle House at exit #168 off I-20 in Alabama isn't full of race fans yet. The day race at Talladega doesn't start for another five hours or so, and many people come here and camp in RVs or in tents or just sleep in the rushes outside the speedway like the good hobo lord intended. I didn't see anyone sleeping in those rushes or in the fields, but they're there. I know they are.

    There's a gray Chevy Silverado parked outside. I'm waiting for our people to show up with a van full of moonshine and tickets for the race, but for now it's just us, sitting in a parking lot with the hum of I-20 and the music from the Waffle House in the background. They're playing MGMT on race day, for some reason. There's a pitbull in the bed of the truck. It'd be a bad idea to go over and try to pet it.

    I'm petting the pitbull when the owner rolls out of Waffle House. The pitbull is perfectly nice, sniffing my ear and leaning his head on my shoulder. The owner wears two hoop earrings in his left ear, shower sandals, gym shorts and a t-shirt. He is the kind of sunburned you can only be after years of beer drinking outside at sporting events. He holds a giant to-go container of eggs, grits, toast, bacon, and maybe a waffle? I think I saw a waffle in there.

    The owner throws it in the back and yells, "GET IT, CHEVY." Chevy, the pitbull, disappears over the lip of the truck bed. I can only see a tail, and hear the noise of something being destroyed.

    "How old is he?" I ask.

    "Oh, bout a year."

    "With kids?"

    "Great."

    "With cats?"

    "He'll eat one. He'll kill it if he can catch it. He eats pussy like the rest of us."

    With that, the guy gets in his pickup truck and roars off.

    Our hookup says he's across from the Chevron on the other side of the interstate.

    A pickup truck mudding in the cursed parking lot: check

    Talladega is allegedly cursed. It's either built on a burial ground, or the site of a chief's horse-related death, or where Andrew Jackson defeated the Creek here and brought down a curse upon the site. If it is cursed, it is a very broad geographical curse: Talladega sprawls, with fans camping all the way up to the fence lining I-20.* It is a mammoth, battlefield-sized canvas of humanity painted right up to the fringes of the roaring speedway. That curse, if real, is spread pretty thin on raceday. Something like "one unfortunate beer can-related injury per 10 racegoers," if the spiritual math works out.

    *There's a race in October, the more lively one, usually. I drove past Talladega at 1:00 in the morning one Sunday after a Florida/Alabama game, and in the dark along the fence I saw three or four police ATVs with gumball lights flashing, all chasing one shirtless dude in jeans doing the windmilling sprint of hammered defiance down a dirt track. It looked like the best episode of COPS no one ever bothered to film.

    The curse might be real. Davey Allison did die in a helicopter crash in the infield. The wrecks here are spectacular on television, and that's saying something if you've ever seen the metalstorm of a real NASCAR banger from the stands. It's in Alabama already; everything in the state already could plausibly be under the effects of a lingering curse, and that's before you do any research. Even the track's length is literally demonic: a burning 2.666 miles around the tri-oval.

    There's nothing ominous on the run up, though. If you're accustomed to warring over parking spots at a sporting event, Talladega makes it easy instead. The parking's free, and you can camp in any one of five thousand seemingly perfect places. People share beers and other forms of barter -- lighters, matches, cigarettes, snacks, and occasionally sunscreen -- freely.

    There's a bacchanal somewhere over by the interstate, sure. The horsemounteds don't care what you do as long as it's not openly taking drugs, fighting, or firing your gun in the air, basically. The real debauchery happens on Friday night when the cheapseats fans -- and in affordable NASCAR terms, that is a very cheap seat -- come in and raise hell within shouting distance of the interstate. There's a strip club with an impromptu business office over there. It might be cursed, too.

    This Sunday race, though: oh, it's lovely. Someone's passing a jug of muscadine moonshine around. Fans going in wear an alternating series of college football shirts (mostly Alabama) and race gear. Nationwide is everywhere because this is Talladega, the race Dale Earnhardt won 10 times, and because Dale Jr. rides for Nationwide, and because NASCAR fans have zero problems rooting for the father through the son. The sun burns a hole through your hat at 10:30 a.m. Shirts start to evaporate.

    On the way into the raceway I pass a muddy, low spot where someone unadvisedly tried to park cars. Some amazing and brilliant jackass has parked a Mercedes SLS AMG GT in the mud. Just to its left, a shirtless kid around 18 or so is doing donuts in the parking lot, spitting fat clods of mud in the air. The noise that greets it is atavistic, high-pitched, and eerily consistent no matter who makes it.

    WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO----

    Giant badass America-truck: check

    I'm up by the Tri-Oval Tower and running late. This is the Talladega America-Truck.

    Talladega starts with invocations. The announcer booms "This isn't just a race."  The crowd responds with:

    "THIS IS TALLADEGA."

    That giant badass truck goes around the tri-oval at Talladega during the anthem, just tearing ass around the track at 90 miles per hour. It crossed in front of me right at the "hoooooome of the braaaaaaaave." That WOOOO-ing sound is me. It came out of my body involuntarily and without warning.

    Scanner: check

    NASCAR is probably more famous for doing things wrong, business-wise, than right, and that's maybe a little unfair when you actually go to a race and realize how many things they get totally and completely right.

    For instance: NASCAR's the only sport you can follow from a full team perspective, right down to in-contest chatter. If you don't own one -- and most hardcore fans do -- you can rent a scanner for $35 at the race, and pop in on the radio channels of any driver at any time. This can't really be overstated here: in NASCAR, you can sit in the stands, drink a reasonably priced American beer, and listen to your favorite driver talk shit about another driver live from the discomfort of his American death machine.

    To wit: On lap 34, I listened to Jimmie Johnson casually note his water temperature.

    JJ: "Water temp's at 250."

    Crew chief: "You bored?"

    JJ: [hurtling down the track at 202 mph in tight traffic in a car with no air conditioning] "Yup."

    Having a scanner changed the entire experience of the race as a spectator event. The Big One -- the multi-car catastrophe Talladega is all but designed to create, at least once per race -- inevitably happened on the back stretch out of Turn 2. Like most NASCAR crashes, the chain of culpability was murky. Somewhere between Kurt Busch pushing into a gap he might or might not have had to slip into, Trevor Bayne's aerodynamic profile imploded, and Bayne's car slid down the track, sweeping up Danica Patrick and Kevin Harvick.

    It looked bad, especially for Harvick. But on the scanner, I could hear Harvick quietly noting how the damage to his car wasn't that bad despite how bad it looked. He never sounded ruffled, even after flying blind into a wall of mobile metal garbage at speed during a race. To the contrary, Harvick sounded downright chipper about only suffering "a dinged up front ... um ... the front lower part area." Harvick would finish a respectable eighth and keep his spot atop the points standings.

    Another example: Austin Dillon's car blowed up* real good, with fire spewing from the undercarriage and wheel wells on the right side. His crew chief calmly asked him to get out of the car on the left side, and thanked everyone for their hard work this week, but that they'd get it back together for next week. He could have been reading out MTA stops. He sounded that bored and composed at the sight of a car bursting into flames on a track loaded with speeding racecars.

    The preternatural calm of drivers and spotters in the moment is insane. So is the amount of nurturing going on. Drivers can't see much at all with the HANS (Head and Neck Support) device attached to their heads, so spotters at the top of the track do their navigation through traffic for them, often via a solicitous chain of intel and subtle suggestions and, at times, outright demands. They call out "helps" for drafting behind the driver; they toss out "high" or "low" when drivers have to plow blind through crashes.

    The combination in the moment is strangely intimate: here you are, listening across huge distances to a driver pinned into a deafening car, talking to a spotter way up in the rafters, who together split 16 inches of bumper clearance from one car to the next at 202 miles per hour. It's like listening in to a surgeon helping a stranded polar climate scientist conduct their own emergency appendectomy. And you get to do it for three hours.

    There's nothing else like it in sports, and I didn't even have the deluxe FanScanner video screen-equipped edition.

    *Correct technical term here

    Mind-boggling sunburns: check

    I'd forgotten that people could sunburn with the negligence of my parents' generation. They can, and do, and all of those people attend NASCAR races and were at Talladega. The sun was summer heat-lamp-of-the-gods intense, and yet a good 30 percent of the attendees were shirtless and headed for the kinds of radiation burns that skin grafts only slow down a bit. There were people whose backs looked like the hoods of derelict cars roasting in Florida parking lots. I got a burnt neck despite putting on four solid layers of industrial grade sunscreen. There are people in rural Alabama who woke up and went to work today as walking cinders, and that's before we consider the effects of six or seven hours of intense beer drinking in the sun.

    3s in the air: Check

    Dale Earnhardt led over 60 laps, and he won after delicate bobbing and weaving between competing lines of challengers to the finish. The real jockeying for position started around Lap 120, and every time the lead shifted into Dale Jr.'s hands, the crowd rose as he passed the grandstand, and they held up three fingers and whooped loudly.

    Explaining Earnhardt Sr.'s lasting grip on racing is hard, and harder still when you try to differentiate it from Dale Jr.'s career. Earnhardt's death at Daytona in 2001 turned him into something larger than he could ever have been in real life. He's a touchstone for the pissant parking lot anarchist, a proxy father figure for the sport's younger drivers who want someone less polished than their gym-fit, sponsor-trained elders like Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson.

    Earnhardt can be what you need him to be at any moment. Remember him putting people into the wall, and he becomes the scary ancestral badass you might need for inspiration. Remember him hugging his son after his first Winston Cup win, and he's the reformed hellraiser come full circle. He might be the prototypical alpha good ol' boy, coming from nothing to achieve the dream of being able to deer hunt pretty much wherever he wanted to, but he could also be the guy who bailed out the local farmers around him in North Carolina when flooding destroyed much of their crop one season. He can be a tattoo, or he can be a statue, or he can be three fingers in the air. He's portable, comes in a lot of symbolic sizes, and is available nationwide.

    Whatever you might need him to be, he is, for the moment, a totem and symbol of something at the root of all this: of NASCAR, the best ambitions of Alabama and Alabama-like places, of taciturn sunburnt dudes in goatees who want, in their heart of hearts, to look fantastic in a pair of pitch-black wraparound sunglasses behind the wheel of a screaming American muscle car.

    The living extension of that multipurpose, all-weather cultural legacy is his son. And for the record, Dale Jr. seems to be comfortable living in that ongoing fusion between the past and present he's constantly forced into. After his first victory at this track since 2004, a span of time featuring a lot of family strife and professional disappointment, Earnhardt got emotional, mentioning his dad's birthday passing recently, and how happy he was that everyone in his life was getting along so well. That was his entire victory speech: he was crying because he was happy that everyone was happy with each other, and that life at the moment was going pretty good, y'all.

    Even if you think Dale Jr. is the very picture of nepotism, you have to admit he's also the best imaginable advertisement for it.

    People falling out of a pickup truck: check.

    Get the hell out and run to your car: Talladega after 10 minutes congeals into a traffic clot not even the guidance of traffic helicopters overhead can help. I sped out and onto the gravel track out of the lot, pulling up behind a pickup truck loaded with six or seven tipsy fans hellbent on getting onto the interstate before the mob clogged all escape routes.

    The driver and the people in the truck bed did zero communication. When he stopped, two in the back would try to get out, and then get dragged back in by their friends, and then pushed out before oh wait, no, this isn't our spot, and then dragged back in again. One lady nearly fell out of the vehicle in front of a cop as he stood watching the traffic stone-faced from the roadside. By all indications, the cop was going to let her do just that; she was not discharging a firearm in public, drinking, fighting, or talking shit about the Earnhardt family.


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    IT'S NOT A ME-FIRST PHONE, IT'S A DETAIL SHOWING TRUE ATTENTION TO THE LITTLE THINGS

    Cardale Jones, let us just spin this for you so the fascist NFL scouts of tomorrow don't beat you to it.

    That's a me-first phone. Nonsense; in order to properly motivate my teammates AND watch film on my phone the instant I wake up, I require only the highest grade technology. For instance, you wouldn't short your team a new Cardale Jones, even though the price tag will be staggering, now would you? No? Didn't think so. Top shelf talent requires top shelf gear.

    12 Gauge isn't gonna fly with sponsors. Oh, so you're against the Constitution? Or against using the right tool for the job? All you need to protect your house is a 12 gauge. Hell, put me on the field and the defense will run out as soon as I rack this snap count here. Accuracy and power: that's me, if you like those things.

    Cursive's a weak font. Nonsense, cursive's the lacy expression of genuine character. The personal touch, evident on my phone, my tender personalized interactions with the President of the United States, and on my beautiful nine routes thrown with artisanal precision to my receivers. It's a signature, which is a detail, and one wrought in only the most exquisite of typography. Plus, it shows I'm in touch with my feminine side, and not afraid to be the emotional bedrock a team can lean on in times of trouble.

    Oh my god did you match the Pantone for Buckeye Scarlet-- Oh, that's a detail I paid attention to? You bet it is. Just the thing thing you want in only the most artisanal of quarterbacks like myself, a luxury brand so exclusive it's only started three football games. I'm the world's only small-batch quarterback, and the vintage is priceless. 12 Gauge, 180 proof, and only comes in two barrels because when you get a taste, that's all you'll need.

    My agent will be in touch with you, and he'll call me on my phone. The phone of a damn artist-genius-champion.

    EDSBS provides free draft question defense advice to any college football player looking to hoodwink meathead NFL scouts into gigantic signing bonuses. Not that Cardale needs our help in anything in life at all, as evidenced above.


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    PURPLE FACE, PURPLE FACE / I ONLY WANT TO SEE YOU YELLING WITH YOUR PURPLE FACE

    Skip Holtz's tenure at USF featured a rich series of lows followed by even richer, more abysmal purgatorial lows.

    To wit: after getting to the Meineke Car Care Bowl in his first season in Tampa, Holtz finished his second season with separate losing streaks of three and four games a piece, taking a long tumble through the Big East on the way to 5-7. The 2012 season, Holtz's third and final, was worse. The Bulls would only win one conference game (a brutal 13-6 win over lowly UConn), lost QB B.J. Daniels to an ankle injury in that same game, and suffered defeats at the shaky hands of Temple, Ball State, and Syracuse. The unmitigated disaster of a 3-9 season ended with Holtz's career in tatters, the USF program entering a death spiral it's never really recovered from, and a 27-3 season-ending loss to Pitt where the Bulls tallied just 117 yards of total offense.

    In short: Skip Holtz to USF was bad, ended badly, and was good for no one in the long run except Maikon Bonani, the kicker who scored most of their points. However, there was one highlight to the Skip Holtz era, the lone win over a ranked team representing the single cherry Jelly Belly in a sea of generic-grade black licorice jellybeans.

    And who, on September 3rd, 2011, wrote "The Cake is just around the corner!" to USF fans, giving the falsest of all false hopes for the future of the program?

    Notre Dame, step to the mic, please. There are hilarious turnovers, and there are turnovers that, when committed, signal that your team is done before they even got through their first 25 scripted plays. There's the pick six on the first play of the game; the hilariously blown coverage on your first defensive series; the stunning early punt return, which for some reason always means you're done, just destroyed before you even get a chance to hit the second quarter and regroup.

    None of them come close to the comedy and finality of a 99 yard fumble return the other way, particularly when it's done against a team you suspect will do nothing at all to hand that momentum back to you. If Skip Holtz's USF teams had a talent, it was this: doing nothing at all. They just stood there, and played telephone pole defense. You were going to try and actually do something, and when you did, they'd be happy to let you wrap the Lamborghini around them.

    Turnover number two:

    It's also hard when you don't have a set QB, or a QB you feel confident in, or when the QB you thought you were confident in throws into the redzone like he's playing Pop-A-Shot and trying a back-footed fadeaway jumper. You have to admit the telephone pole's in great position here: everyone except the little slant route underneath is covered, and even if Dayne Crist throws it his receiver will diiiiiiiiiiiiie upon impact with a defender. It's not even like he's under a ton of pressure, though. He just hits this pass like your grandfather aiming for the toilet: he can see the back of the rim, and yet still shorts it and hits the shag bathmat instead.

    Turnover number three:

    No, we're not through the turnovers, which as you can guess accompanied a truly maddening stat sheet. Notre Dame had 508 yards of offense to USF's 254, but gave up five turnovers to South Florida's zero. They turned the ball over in the redzone three times, and missed a game-tying field goal on another redzone possession. Notre Dame lost another touchdown on a holding penalty, and gave up cheap yardage to a stuttering USF offense with back-to-back facemask calls on the Irish defense. USF painted bullseyes on Notre Dame's toes, and the Irish emptied the whole clip with a smile on their face.

    Turnover number four:

    There's a highlight reel of this game on Youtube set to "Wake Me Up" by Evanescence, and we want to hate that but it's just impossible for two reasons. First, the call-and-response in that song is so bad you start putting your own lyrics in like this:

    [WAKE ME UP]

    wake me up inside

    [I CAN'T WAKE UP]

    wake me up inside

    [THIS BED IS NICE]

    call my name and save me from the dark

    [BRING ME MILK]

    bid my blood to run

    [I'M LATE FOR WORK]

    before i come undone

    [CALLING IN I'M PLAYING GTA AGAAAAAIIIIN]

    save me from the nothiiiing I've become

    We can't hate that. We also can't hate someone making a lowlight video of their own team with the lyrics "save me from the nothing I've become." It calls to the soul, particularly when Will Muschamp just got done running his best Skip Holtz imitation into the smoldering ground in Gainesville.

    Oh! Almost forgot, here's turnover number five. It's Tommy Rees doing everything wrong at once. He's throwing across his body into a bracketed receiver floating across the middle, and doing it late with an open man in the flat. There are moments in the highlights, really, when you can see why people thought Tommy Rees would be kind of a badass at Notre Dame. No, really, they're there. There's also this.

    In case you were wondering, this is the game the computer makes you play when you've won too many in a row, and the algorithm rebels and just throws every fuck-you move imaginable at you. A two hour rain delay; five turnovers; an opponent with a pretty good defense and no ability to do anything you didn't hand directly to them on offense; multiple turnover-prone quarterbacks; turnovers of a nature so crippling that finishing with a 23-20 loss really represents something of an accomplishment.

    Still: erase. This. Damn. Game.

    (But not this face.)


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    OR WE WILL NOT STOP PHOTOSHOPPING PITT COACHES INTO PERSONAL AREAS

    EDSBS CHARITY BOWL HOME STRETCH DONATE HERE AND BE AWESOME AND MAYBE HELP US GET A DISFIGURING BIG TEN-THEMED TATTOO

    He's already deleted it, but dammit, college football coaches: stop sending out recruiting materials that stoop to the level of Sports Illustrated's last functional ploy to keep your grandfather subscribed. This may be the image Pitt TE coach Tim Salem tweeted out. Then again, maybe it isn't.

    WannstedtBikini

    Like you even think of having a bikini on when you think of "Pitt swimwear." Pitt swimwear is more like a stretched out Budweiser one-piece that sags in the ass and has a hole in the seam and yanno maybe a few cigarette burns from where you fell asleep at the lake in it. (No, not the beach: at the lake, and in a boat you definitely do not own.) We repeat our threat, though: Wannstedt can be photoshopped onto any piece of swimwear. We'll do it. That's a threat.

    And now in a not at all unnatural segue: updates on the EDSBS Charity Drive!

    WELL IT'S CLOSE BUT: At north of $26K as of lunch today, we are racing toward the finish and the goal of $30K for the drive. Michigan remains way, way in the lead, both in terms of total donors AND a major contribution of $1,200 from an individual yesterday.  They weren't alone, though: a K-State donor kicked in $700 (for the year of Bill Snyder's birth in Bavaria) and a Notre Dame donor dropped a grand to try and make us say nice things about Notre Dame.

    NICE THING ABOUT NOTRE DAME: They have gorgeous landscaping, and we love at least eight people who went there. Oh! And this!

    TODAY'S DONATION: Florida people, help us out and donate in the proper sum to at least beat Alabama, something we haven't done since 2008. But oh, what a day that was.

    TebowIsAnAmazingPasser

    TIM TEBOW IS THE GREATEST PASSER OF OUR TIME. We have two days left, Gators.

    WHEN IS THIS OVER? We let it run through Sunday, though we're not exactly tight about Sunday donations that get in under the wire. We'll announce a winner on Monday, and if we get over $30K it's time to go tattoo shoppin'.

    GIVE? Yes, give here, and give often to a good cause, New American Pathways. Full standings follow.

    Designation # of Donations Donation Total
    University of Michigan 118 8945.73
    Georgia Institute of Technology 11 2149.02
    Notre Dame 11 1487.28
    University of Texas 4 803.82 (60.44 Monthly x11)
    Kansas State 2 736.18
    Ohio State University 10 686.44
    Indiana University 5 634.88
    University of Georgia 3 603.12
    Texas A & M 10 586.31
    University of Minnesota 5 534.96 (30.14 Monthly x11)
    University of Alabama 7 495.88
    Louisiana Tech University 1 487
    Auburn University 6 464.93
    University of Florida 10 450.62
    University of Oregon 5 444.06
    Michigan State 6 419.41
    University of California Los Angeles - UCLA 1 380.2
    University of Wisconsin 7 292.48
    Syracuse University 4 276.24
    Cornell 1 250
    Harvard 3 226.24
    Case Western Reserve 1 220
    Virginia Tech 6 211.37
    Clemson University 5 195.72
    Make Spencer Eat Cheese U 3 191.06
    University of Tennessee 4 186.17
    University of Nebraska - Lincoln 3 168.65
    University of Oklahoma 2 161.18
    Boise State 1 160.49
    Kenyon College 1 159.42
    Florida State University 3 154
    West Virginia University 2 150.74
    University of Southern California 3 150.5
    University of Mississippi - Ole Miss 4 149.92
    Duke University 3 146.8
    Arizona State University 1 142
    University of Memphis 1 121.17
    Hamilton College 1 111.11
    University of Maryland 3 111
    University of California San Diego - UCSD 1 100
    UAB 1 100
    Publix Chicken Tender Sub University 1 100
    University of South Carolina 3 93.43
    Princeton 2 90.82
    Oregon State University 1 79.3
    Mississippi State 2 75.03
    Oneida YMCA 1 75
    Penn State University 2 73.14
    University of Montana 1 71.37
    Miami University (Ohio) 1 66.06
    University of Arkansas 2 62.14
    Purdue 1 62.1
    Baylor 1 61.58
    Wake Forest University 2 60
    University of Kentucky 1 60
    University of Washington 3 57.45
    University of Pittsburgh 3 56.23
    University of Southern Mississippi 1 50
    Georgia State University 1 50
    University of Missouri - Mizzou 2 49.1
    Texas State University 1 48.45
    University of Virginia 2 47.39
    Central Michigan University 2 46.45
    Western Michigan University 1 44.14
    University of Idaho 1 43.42
    Northwestern University 1 43.4
    Marshall 1 42.27
    Miami University (Florida) 1 40
    Texas Tech 1 39.33
    University of Louisville 1 38.01
    North Carolina State University 1 35.07
    Appalachian State University 1 34.32
    Bowling Green State University 1 33.28
    University of North Carolina 1 31.28
    University of Utah 1 31.17
    University of Kansas 1 30
    Rutgers 1 26.24
    University of North Dakota 1 25
    University of Arizona 1 25
    State University of New York at Albany 1 25
    Oklahoma State 1 25
    Kalamazoo 1 25
    Iowa State 1 25
    Fresno State 1 25
    University of Cincinnati 1 24.51
    College of the Holy Cross 1 23
    Boston College 1 22
    Grand Valley State University 1 21.17
    University of Louisiana Monroe 1 21.14
    Tulane 1 19.98
    (The) College of Wililam and Mary 1 16.93
    Columbia University 1 16.13
    Washington State University 1 13.17
    State University of New York at Buffalo 1 10.44
    University of Colorado Bolder 1 10.09
    University of Rhode Island 1 10

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  • 04/27/15--07:14: THE MC IS GETTING A TATTOO
  • THE RESULTS ARE IN, AND MICHIGAN REIGNS AGAIN

    LSU did not win the EDSBS Charity Bowl, and that's fine. They have other things going on, like going bankrupt as an institution thanks to a heady blend of legislative incompetence and a sudden dive in gas and oil income. Y'all save up, and remember that tax cuts never generate income no matter how much money you think you're making. Consider going without a governor for a while; if LSU can go as far as they've gone without a quarterback, just imagine what that can do for the entire state.*

    *Another suggestion: PPV man vs. tiger fights. Just consider it. Mike's not busy, ever.

    The Charity Bowl closed this weekend, and the winners as always: Michigan. The Wolverines had 162 total donations for $14,109, a massive total earning them the spoils of victory. They get the Hatin' Ass Spurrier post, the tattoo on our precious unblemished body, the site re-skin in maize and blue, and our eternal gratitude for their generosity.

    Texas came in second, but Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, Georgia, and Auburn all made strong showings, as well. Make Spencer Eat Cheese University did not achieve their yearly goal, but you tried and that's what counts. Our largest single donor was a generous lunatic from Michigan who, when we tweeted out that we were about a grand short of the tattoo mark, just threw in another grand on top of their generous total to make it happen. We raised $11K on Friday alone. You are all insane and giving, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for that.

    The grand total for the week came to a whopping $38,706.78. That's a record for the fundraiser, something we don't take lightly. Not much we do matters, but this does, and it only happens because this community of people cares, and has for over ten years straight at this point. So if you gave, or even just told someone with money to give, thank you, thank you, thank you, you're far too kind. Hold your applause, and we mean it: this is your song, not mine.

    Final standings below. We have no clue on the tattoo, but something like this, but with a wolverine instead of a bear holding the bomb? That's the general direction so far.

    Designation # of Donations Donation Total
    University of Michigan 162 14109.3 (35.31 Monthly x11)
    University of Texas 5 3528.82 (60.44 Monthly x11)
    Notre Dame 13 2562.28
    Georgia Institute of Technology 12 2179.26
    University of Georgia 10 1648 (34.07 Monthly x11)
    Auburn University 9 1188.78 (17.16 monthly x11)
    Indiana University 6 978.85 (31.27 Monthly x11)
    Ohio State University 13 838.64
    University of Alabama 9 766.32
    University of Florida 17 753.57
    Texas A & M 11 751.48 (12.00 Monthly x11 - 2014 ongoing)
    Louisiana Tech University 2 737
    Kansas State 2 736.18
    University of Minnesota 6 572.3 (30.14 Monthly x11)
    Michigan State 7 534.04
    Clemson University 6 500.72
    Make Spencer Eat Cheese U 6 451.06 (10.00 Monthly x11)
    University of Oregon 5 444.06
    University of California Los Angeles - UCLA 1 380.2
    Syracuse University 6 316.24
    University of Wisconsin 7 292.48
    Cornell 1 250
    Virginia Tech 7 249.37
    West Virginia University 4 242.27
    Harvard 3 226.24
    Case Western Reserve 1 220
    Alfred University 1 200
    University of Chicago 1 193.5
    University of Tennessee 4 186.17
    Florida State University 4 179
    University of Nebraska - Lincoln 3 168.65
    Arizona State University 2 165.2
    University of Oklahoma 2 161.18
    Boise State 1 160.49
    Kenyon College 1 159.42
    University of Southern California 3 150.5
    University of Mississippi - Ole Miss 4 149.92
    University of Maryland 4 148
    Duke University 3 146.8
    University of Kentucky 3 146.74
    University of Memphis 1 121.17
    Hamilton College 1 111.11
    Ohio University 1 110 (10.00 Monthly x11)
    Publix Chicken Tender Sub University 1 100
    UAB 1 100
    University of California San Diego - UCSD 1 100
    University of South Carolina 3 93.43
    University of Arkansas 3 93.21
    Princeton 2 90.82
    Rand Uniersity 1 84
    Oregon State University 1 79.3
    Mississippi State 2 75.03
    Oneida YMCA 1 75
    Penn State University 2 73.14
    University of Montana 1 71.37
    Louisisana Statate University 3 69.1
    Miami University (Ohio) 1 66.06
    Oklahoma State 2 63.35
    Purdue 1 62.1
    Baylor 1 61.58
    Wake Forest University 2 60
    University of Washington 3 57.45
    University of Pittsburgh 3 56.23
    Georgia State University 1 50
    University of Southern Mississippi 1 50
    University of Missouri - Mizzou 2 49.1
    Texas State University 1 48.45
    University of Virginia 2 47.39
    Boston College 2 47
    Central Michigan University 2 46.45
    Washington State University 2 44.45
    Western Michigan University 1 44.14
    University of Idaho 1 43.42
    Northwestern University 1 43.4
    Queen's University 1 43.39
    Marshall 1 42.27
    TCU 1 42.03
    Miami University (Florida) 1 40
    Texas Tech 1 39.33
    University of Louisville 1 38.01
    San Jose State University 1 35.34
    North Carolina State University 1 35.07
    Appalachian State University 1 34.32
    Bowling Green State University 1 33.28
    Boston University 1 33
    University of North Carolina 1 31.28
    University of Utah 1 31.17
    University of Kansas 1 30
    Rutgers 1 26.24
    Fresno State 1 25
    Iowa State 1 25
    Kalamazoo 1 25
    Kennesaw State 1 25
    State University of New York at Albany 1 25
    University of Arizona 1 25
    University of North Dakota 1 25
    University of Cincinnati 1 24.51
    Hillsdale College 1 24.17
    College of the Holy Cross 1 23
    Grand Valley State University 1 21.17
    University of Louisiana Monroe 1 21.14
    US Coast Guard Academy 1 20.11
    Tulane 1 19.98
    University of Alaska Anchorage 1 19.77
    DePaul University 1 19.39
    (The) College of Wililam and Mary 1 16.93
    Columbia University 1 16.13
    State University of New York at Buffalo 1 10.44
    University of Colorado Bolder 1 10.09
    University of Rhode Island 1 10

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    THE FIRST EPISODE OF SEASON THREE BASICALLY OPENS THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON

    The Shutdown Fullcast returns and basically opens the college football season for everyone. Congratulations, everyone: It's May 6th, and football has started.

    Important topics covered include:

    • Jameis Winston is now the NFL's great joyous problem and we're sure they'll deal with him rationally!
    • More hot DRAFTPINIONS [whang] [whoong] [whoosh] [action noises]
    • Many reader questions, including a lengthy discussion of fast food franchises' varying degrees of honesty. (LITTLE CAESAR'S WE RESPECT YOUR HONESTY.)
    • Further non-football diversion into the worst video games ever created
    • Maybe one of our wives talking in the background for easily half the podcast!

    You may subscribe on iTunes under Podcasts/Sports, download directly here, or listen in the Soundcloud player below.


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    IT'S BEEN A WHILE, FAIR ALIEN FRIEND

    It might not be fair to assume Joakim Noah knows that Florida is a bad-to-mediocre football team right now, or that Cardale Jones rolled off the bench to beat the hide off Alabama with what appeared to be very little effort on his part. It might not be fair to assume Joakim Noah has much contact with this planet, actually. His home world looks something like Pandora from Avatar, but with more nudity and conventional, non-tentacle sex going on in the trees. And probably a Gumby's Pizza on every corner, and a few dispensaries.* Definitely more than a few dispensaries.

    *This sounds a lot like Gainesville, minus the police creeping behind every tree, and probably with less crippling humidity.

    SO: If Joakim Noah is conference trash-talking Cardale Jones just after he won the national title, know this. Very little of what concerns humans reaches Joakim Noah's mind.  We should consider ourselves lucky that he even deigned to acknowledge us, and attempt to parley in the verbiage of our people. It's a sign of respect, really, that he even tried, and then returned to direct communication with the home hivemind.

    DON'T TRY TO FIGHT HIM, THOUGH. He's like Stitch, and has extra pairs of arms he sucks into his body to pass as one of us, and definitely not as an alien lifeform crafted specifically to exterminate the human race that got distracted by pizza and basketball along the way.

    P.S. Cardale is clearly an alien, too, but from a totally different kind of planet. One a lot like Cleveland. Or maybe just, yanno: "Cleveland."


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    AMERICA'S NEW FAVORITE KIDS BOOK ASKS KIDS TO FIND THE TRANSFERRING QB

    Where is Everett Golson

    Wherever can he be?

    Is he in South Carolina

    Teeing off with OBC?

    Is he down in Tuscaloosa

    With Lane Kiffin and his friends

    Wait that rumor must be fiction!

    Lane Kiffin has no friends.

    Is he down in Tallahassee

    With Jimbo Fisher at the mall

    They've got a Belk and GNC!

    Tallahassee has it all!

    Is he visiting in Gainesville

    With the Gators new head man

    Where "We need you to throw touchdowns"

    Means "there's no one else who can!"

    Is he getting royal treatment

    At Mississipi West?

    Houston Nutt just made that college up!

    Houston Nutt is still the best!

    Is he wandering the nation

    Looking for a starting spot

    Is he stuck in Colorado

    Smoking pounds of legal pot?

    Or is he just in nowhere?

    Well that's a finer place to be

    Nowhere's not in Indiana

    So by default? That's victory.


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    Every team needs a goon to advance in the NBA Playoffs. The Warriors had theirs all along.

    That first round of the NBA playoffs is something spectacular, really: players of exceptional talent pitted against players of near-exceptional talent, for the most part, flexing superior genetics and skill in spectacular fashion. Stephen Curry smoking threes over the outstretched hands of the overmatched Pelicans, Chris Paul finally slamming the undead Spurs back into the Zombie Containment Unit and Derrick Rose finally turning a corner and regaining form at just the right moment for the Bulls.

    The first round is the time for the featured solo by the best player on the most difficult instrument in the ensemble.

    The second round, however, is when the virtuoso needs a break and the tuba player takes a solo, which is where we get to players like Matt Barnes. That thumping, farting sound? That's Matt Barnes taking the stage, blurting and blapping all over the beautiful game you might have wanted to play, hitting the random pesky three and swatting at your best players while calling them and everyone they are related to the most cartoonish profanities imaginable.

    This is no exaggeration. In a step too far even for Barnes' tastes, the Clippers' veteran forward told James Harden's mom to "suck my dick, bitch" during Game 2 against the Rockets. It's not enough for Barnes to bump Harden all game long or try anything short of the Bulgarian Umbrella Trick to slow Houston's offensive centerpiece down. He's got to start shit-talking relatives, and Harden, and even Dwight Howard, who he dropped a "bitch" on while walking away in the Clippers' blowout victory Sunday night. He's got to say something grotesquely unacceptable. He has to find the line, then step over it and then dance on it until someone notices with an expression of theatrical disgust.

    That thumping, farting sound? That's Matt Barnes taking the stage.

    Barnes missed all four of his three-point attempts on Sunday night. But he did tangle up Dwight Howard, call him a bitch, and pull down eight rebounds, all while serving in his role as the motormouthed, profanity-spewing fly in Houston's analytically-perfect ointment. Barnes has been a professional pain in the ass wherever he's been, but at the advanced age of 35, Barnes has created his masterwork of sheer pestery. Watch every fight that never happens, and every post-whistle scrum, and every low-post sequence that ends with a shove or calculated elbow thrown. Barnes has only averaged nine points a game in the series, but that's never the point. Barnes' job is to annoy the hell out of whomever he's defending, and maybe a few people on the bench, and perhaps the general populace of the opponent's home city.

    He's not just an obstruction. He's a traffic cone loaded with bees placed firmly in the path of oncoming traffic.

    Barnes is not alone in being a natural, marrow deep goon. If the first round is the floor show for obvious transcendent talent, then the second round is the Hour of the Locust. It is the reckoning point when talent pools boil to an even level and teams have to seek other ways of tilting the table in their favor.  Historically, it is when your eye drifts from Tim Duncan to the Bruce Bowens of the world, taekwondo-kicking their team forward to glory.

    *Or if you prefer a playoff-specific occasion, the Robert Horrys of the world, willing to check anyone into the scorer's tablein order to win.

    Barnes is just one in a cast of All-Star locusts doing playoff-level work. The Wizards have Nene, a nasty presence on a team that already has the verifiably nasty Marcin Gortat. The Hawks -- this year's perfect communist basketball team -- distribute their nastiness pretty evenly, though Paul Millsap just exudes it through his pores at a higher rate than his teammates. The Bulls have Joakim Noah and stealth-pest Mike Dunleavy. The Cavaliers have Kendrick Perkins, the original mean mug of all mean mugs, and the man who inadvertently created the Memphis Grizzlies' "We Don't Bluff" motto when Zach Randolph made a very real threat to beat Perkins' ass during a series with the Thunder.

    The Memphis Grizzlies are the one team in the league bold enough to ask and answer the question "What if you made the whole team out of that guy?" The Grizzlies are the boot with no fewer than five heels, stomping through every game with a predictable and intractable gameplan based on punishment, defense and dominance in the paint. At their ugliest and most efficient, it's not even clear whether Memphis even cares that much about scoring. Mike Conley distributes, and Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph take turns swatting the ball in the air until it has no choice but to fall through the basket.

    *Yes: exactly like a bunch of bears would if they played basketball, and did not just walk to the arena's dumpsters to begin feeding.

    Until Monday night, it was unclear whether Golden State had anything close to the designated goon teams in the playoffs inevitably lean on in times of trouble. The Grizzlies pulled Game 2 and 3 off the Warriors by daring them to defend in the paint and smothering the Warriors' perimeter game. Randolph abused Draymond Green, Gasol cycled through low post scoring moves effortlessly and Tony Allen destroyed Golden State's passing lanes. (He also blew open lay-ups, but counterintuitively that's a sign the Grizz offense is working.) The Warriors got bullied one-on-one and played directly into the hairy, cruel paws of the Grizz.

    The Warriors found their mean men, though, or at least changed their dialogue enough to pass them off as proper villains for a night. Andrew Bogut stuck close to the paint, all but ignoring Allen on the perimeter. Allen was allowed to shoot at will, which is a lot like handing a hyperactive 8 year old a loaded pistol: he's going to do something with the opportunity, but you're not sure what, and in the end it probably won't add up to anything good. Bogut banged around happily with Randolph and Gasol for most of the game, getting help from Green and Harrison Barnes, and generally becoming the one thing Golden State needed most against the Grizzlies: a nasty, shot-altering obstruction.

    Bogut only had four points on the night, and it didn't matter a bit. An obstruction and nuisance draws attention and opens up space, which was Bogut's job and will be Bogut's job for the rest of the series. He's not a natural, obvious goon on the level of Matt Barnes. Bogut in this role, combined with cameos from Green and others, is more like a goon-like substance. Or, to paraphrase Zach Lowe, Bogut serves as a stealth goon with high-grade dirty tricks that have quietly but consistently helped the Warriors all season long. He's had to amp that up to new levels against the Grizzlies, and become something close enough to a proper obstruction to tie them up where they like to work best.

    Even a less-than-obvious obstruction like Bogut makes a team like Memphis, reliant on thumpy lay-ups and hustle play, just a hair slower on the scoring trigger than they need to be. Against Golden State, that kind of margin can balloon to an obese lead before you blink. Throw in Green's lightning start and outsized defense on the night, and you have the Popovich-approved gameplan to turn the Grizzlies into a team dependent on three-point shooting.*

    *Draymond Green fought off Z-Bo and Gasol numerous times despite giving up 2 and and 6 inches in height to each, respectively. Draymond Green could have fought a moose last night and walked off wearing antlers.

    This is a dark, dark prospect for Memphis, a team that could be gently described as "totally without steady perimeter shooting, except for the dude who currently wears a plastic mask around his face." This prospect is darker: Andrew Bogut's ribs were negative for injury after last night's X-Rays, taken as a precaution after a full night of punishment in the Grindhouse. This is how teams add up under stress: they are only as strong as their weakest link, and right now the weakest link for the Warriors (Andrew Bogut's possibly breakable ribs) might be stronger than the Grizzlies' (their roulette wheel of a perimeter game.)

    It's the kind of grim, macho pablum stats-phobic NBA watchers adore, but there's an element of truth to it. To win against the Grizzlies, Andrew Bogut will have to endure some serious punishment and give out just enough to keep the roads clean for the Warriors. If Steph Curry is able to continue dreaming up beautiful threes and driving jump shots from 15 feet against Memphis, it will be because rough men stand ready in the paint to accept violence on his behalf. Get Andrew Bogut a flak jacket. He is so going to need it.


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    THE PODCAST WHERE ONE OF US DESCRIBES THEMSELVES AS "SO SEXUAL"

    This week's Shutdown Fullcast covers a veritable panoply of important topics including ACTUAL COLLEGE FOOTBALL. The menu includes:

    • A super important Bobby Bowden imitation which is totally not Foghorn Leghorn
    • We review the starting quarterbacks for three conferences, and in turn reveal our total ignorance of who's actually starting at any position for any team at this point in the year.
    • No really, go through the ACC and even try to know what you're talking about after you name "Deshaun Watson."
    • A discussion of what decade you'd rather live in that results in Ryan saying: "Which is probably why I'm so sexual."
    • The choosing of which game in 2015 will result in a 0-0 tie going into overtime. (Hi, Alabama/LSU.)
    • Us calling Iowa/Iowa State "El Assico," which we repeat because that is the proper name for the game and we want everyone to know it.

    Listen in the Soundcloud player below, subscribe on iTunes under Sports podcasts, or download/listen directly here.


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    A GREAT HAWG MUST MAKE A STY OF THE WHOLE WORLD

    This is what happens when Bret Bielema goes LIMITLESS and starts seeing numbers falling from the sky while "Power" plays. He kills cancer cells with Natty Light mixed with sugar-free Monster Energy drink because he just saw it working like a the pieces of a lock snapping into place around a key. He calls his broker and tells him to hedge on the Kenyan shilling dropping below 0.01 to the US Dollar before 3 p.m. His broker is a guy who details cars in Fayetteville and sells a little dank on the side, but still: He tells him to do it, because he can feel currency fluctuations in his bones now.

    He makes "Power" stop playing, because he loves the classics. He closes his eyes. "Armageddon It" starts playing.

    Ahhhhhh. Much better now.

    He DMs a recruit, then another, and another, each with a precision and recall of their family lives creating perfectly targeted appeals to their hearts and minds. He tweets. They are fire tweets. Beyond fire tweets. Plasma tweets. All twelve commit on the spot. Five minutes have elapsed since he cured cancer. Bret Bielema calls his broker again: Hedge it all, he says. This is perfect, he thinks, watching all of John Ford's important Westerns on fast forward and understanding them in all their depth and deceptive simplicity.

    He writes a quick monograph in seven minutes on the use of light and dark in The Searchers; the New Yorker offers him $15,000 for it immediately. He accepts, provided they publish it under the alias Montgomery Fouche-Racleau. They agree without further objections.

    Bielema calls Charlie Strong using a phone cloned to look like a recruit's phone number on incoming calls. Strong answers.

    "This is Charlie."

    "Why are the Longhorns like an incontinent dog?"

    "Huh?"

    "Neither one can find a yard."

    He pressed "END CALL" and smiled. The ingredients sizzled in the pan: Malibu rum, Drakkar, and the glowstick he was cutting in half, dripping the fluorescent goo into the pan and smiling. He took the mixture off the stove: three minutes under high heat, no more, lest you ruin the chemical bonds that made his brain sing like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. While waiting for it to cool, he sketched out a new offense on the whiteboard: nine offensive linemen, all eligible receivers, all over 330 pounds. The math worked. He'd made the math work.

    He loaded the vape pen, pouring in The Mixture through a funnel. It was a simple funnel, but it was all he could forge in the seven minutes between his morning lift and a fierce lovemaking session with his wife. He'd learned metalworking the night before, but all considered it wasn't bad. The fully detailed stages of human embryonic development he'd filigreed on the side were clear enough.

    He pulled back the front of his gym shorts and snapped a picture of his genitals. He sent it through a series of relays and pipes and tubes and relays until it landed in all its glory in an inbox somewhere in Wisconsin.

    He took a deep drag off the vape pen. Barry Alvarez was going to get his eyeballs extra special blessed this morning. The whole world would, in time. The Mixture filled his mind with pure lightning. He wiped the whiteboard clean and wrote "A LINEMAN WITH FIVE ASSES" on it.

    Bret Bielema smiled: if he were to be the best hog he could be, he'd have to make a sty of the whole world. And he would.

    Oh, how he would.

    [to be continued]


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    YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO STOP TALKING LIKE THIS AFTER SEEING MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

    This is a non-review of Mad Max: Fury Road. It, by definition, has to be in all-caps

    YOU KNOW, HERE IS THE THING ABOUT MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. THE FIRST THING YOU SEE IS MAX LOOKING LIKE A MEMBER OF MASTODON EATING A TWO-HEADED LIZARD AND TALKING DESOLATE SHIT ABOUT THE FUTURE WHILE LOOKING OUT AT A SANDSCAPE FULL OF NOTHING BUT HATE AND MAYBE LIKE ONE OR TWO OTHER TWO-HEADED LIZARDS. SURE THERE ARE VOICEOVERS AND LITTLE SNIPPETS OF RADIO TELLING YOU THAT EVERYTHING BLEW UP AND SOME MANDATORY OLD STOCK FOOTAGE OF TREES GETTING BLASTED BY A NUCLEAR SHOCKWAVE. BECAUSE THAT'S GOTTA BE HERE, BECAUSE HERE'S TRICK ONE; YOU'RE WATCHING A MAD MAX MOVIE, AND LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE IN THE 1980S THAT'S GOTTA START WITH THE CLEAR MESSAGE THAT YOU AND EVERYONE YOU LOVED WILL BE INCINERATED IN A BALL OF NUCLEAR HELLFIRE.

    AND YEAH THE ONLY THING THAT SURVIVED, YEAH, SURE SURE SURE. BUT THE FIRST THING YOU SEE IS THIS DUDE WHO YOU KNOW IS SUPPOSED TO BE YOUR PROTAGONIST AND THIS HAPPENS WITHIN EXACTLY TWO MINUTES OF THE OPENING SHOT:

    1. HE EATS A GODDAMN TWO-HEADED LIZARD LIKE A HUNGRY MONITOR SCARFING DOWN A BUCKET OF FLIES AND

    2. HE DRIVES THREE FEET INTO THE DESERT BEFORE HE'S ATTACKED BY BONE-WHITE DEMON CHILDREN OF THE APOCALYPSE WITH EXPLOSIVE-TIPPED SPEARS WHO DESTROY HIS SHIT TAKE HIM HOSTAGE AND KEEP HIM ALIVE ONLY TO USE HIM AS A LARGE BAG FULL OF PRECIOUS BLOOD.

    THAT'S WHERE THIS STARTS. THERE'S NO 'OH, REMEMBER WHEN THINGS WERE GREAT,' NO, NO, NO: YOU JUST ROCKET RIGHT INTO THE SEVENTH CIRCLE OF HELL FIND THE ELEVATOR AND MASH THE DOWN BUTTON UNTIL YOUR THUMB BLISTERS.

    FROM THERE I AM NOT LYING, THERE MIGHT BE SEVEN MINUTES OF RELATIVE CALM IN THE MOVIE. YES THERE IS A HORRIBLE SICK WARLORD WITH A GIGANTIC CORRUPT BODY AND THE REQUISITE MASK WHO RULES OVER THE ONE PLACE WHERE THEY HAVE WATER AND BIG SCENIC FUCK-ALL ROCK FORMATIONS AND A BUNCH OF AUSSIE EXTRAS WHO LIVE IN THE DIRT. GODDAMN DO AUSTRALIANS LOVE TO MAKE MOVIES WHERE THEY LIVE IN PILES OF DIRT AND KILL PEOPLE WITH RECLAIMED WEAPONRY AND REMIND YOU THAT JUST LAST WEEK THEY ATE A FUNNEL-WEB SPIDER BECAUSE IT CRAWLED IN THEIR MOUTH WHILE THEY WERE SLEEPING AND WELL, YOU JUST CAN'T LET THAT GO UNPUNISHED, MATE. I'D DO THE SAME IF I WERE AUSTRALIAN. I'D SHOW THEM FURY ROAD AND SAY THIS WAS EXACTLY WHAT EVERY DAY OF MIDDLE SCHOOL WAS LIKE.

    IT JUST GOES AND GOES AND GOES. I MEAN SOME THINGS CHANGE. THE COLOR PALETTE MIGHT CHANGE, FOR INSTANCE THERE'S A PART OF THE MOVIE WHERE IT'S DAYTIME AND CHARLIZE THERON IS NARROWLY DODGING HARPOONS SHOT RIGHT AT HER SKULL BY DIRT-BIKE RIDING CANNIBAL MARAUDERS. THEN SOMETIMES THERE'S POST-APOCALYPTIC HIGHWAY MURDER DONE IN KIND OF A SLEEPY BEAUTIFUL BLUE TONE. WHICH IS REALLY BEAUTIFUL EVEN WHEN A BLIND MAN DUAL-WIELDING SUBMACHINE GUNS CRASHES THROUGH AND STARTS FIRING RANDOMLY AT EVERYONE IN THE ENTIRE MOVIE.  THERE'S SOME LEGIT STUNNING AND RESTRAINED CINEMATOGRAPHY IN THIS THAT'S REALLY BEAUTIFUL AND MAKES YOU WANT TO GO WANDER THE DESERT FOR A FEW DAYS JUST LISTENING TO THE HUM OF THE WHEELS ON THE ROAD. AND WHEN YOU START TO NOTICE THAT FOR TOO LONG, GEORGE MILLER HAS A SHIRTLESS DUDE IN IN SAND GOGGLES AND BODY ARMOR POLE-VAULT INTO THE FRAME WITH A CHAINSAW AIMED SQUARELY AT SOMEONE'S NECK.

    AND YES THERE IS A POLITICAL MESSAGE IN HERE THAT MOST MEN ARE STUPID AND BAD AND WOULD RATHER KILL THE ENTIRE WORLD KIND OF AS A DEFAULT MISSION STATEMENT AND THAT'S ENTIRELY ACCURATE AND NOT AT ALL SUBTLE BECAUSE NOTHING IN THIS FILM IN SUBTLE AND THAT IS FAAAAAAAANFUCKINGTASTIC IN EVERY WAY. THERE MIGHT BE SIX PAGES OF DIALOGUE IN THE SCRIPT. MAYBE TEN IF THEY WROTE OUT TOM HARDY'S GRUNTING. IT'S GOOD GRUNTING, DON'T GET ME WRONG BECAUSE MOST OF TOM HARDY'S WORK HERE IS DIALOGUE WITHOUT DIALOGUE. MAX SAWS AT THE BACK OF HIS MASKED HEAD WITH A NAIL FILE SO FAST AND WITH SUCH INSANE ANGER THAT IT BECOMES A LINE. YOU COULD HAVE TOM HARDY COMPLAIN ABOUT HIS FACE BEING STRAPPED INTO A METAL MASK, SURE, BUT IT'S SO MUCH BETTER TO HAVE THIS HEATHEN OUTCAST GRUNTING AND TWITCHING AND PULLING AT EVERYTHING FOR THE FIRST 45 MINUTES OF THE MOVIE LIKE HE'S A STARVING RACCOON LET LOOSE IN A RESTAURANT WALK-IN FREEZER.  HE SAYS HIS NAME ONCE AND I CRIED WHEN HE DID EVEN THOUGH I'M PRETTY SURE HE KILLS LIKE 80 PEOPLE FOR JUST DOING THEIR JOBS AS RIPPED ALBINO DEATH RIDERS.

    I MEAN, IT'S A JOB, MAX. THE CITADEL'S EMPLOYMENT INDICATORS ARE SHIT AND THE BENEFITS INCLUDE FREE BLOOD WHICH IS SOMETHING YOU SHOULD KNOW PERSONALLY.

    BUT THAT'S NOT EVEN THE MOST BADASS PART OF THE MOVIE. THE FIRST MOST BADASS PART OF THE WHOLE BY-DESIGN SUPREMELY BADASS MOVIE IS CHARLIZE THERON AS FURIOSA THE WAR RIG DRIVER. SHE GETS A SMOKY EYE EFFECT BY SMEARING GREASE FROM THE WAR RIG'S STEERING COLUMN ACROSS HER FACE. SHE HITS DUDES IN THE BRAINPAN WITH A SNIPER RIFLE IN ZERO LIGHT FROM EIGHT HUNDRED YARDS AWAY WITH EASE. AT ONE POINT SHE USES MAX AS A RIFLE MOUNT. I CANNOT EMPHASIZE HOW HARD IT WAS NOT TO HOOT OUT LOUD IN THE THEATER WHEN THE MALE PROTAGONIST OF A FILM WHO HAD JUST COME BACK FROM A FRACAS WITH DESERT VILLAINS WAS TOLD TO CHILL FOR A SEC WHILE CHARLIZE THERON USED HIM AS A PIECE OF MILITARY FURNITURE BECAUSE MAX, IT TURNS OUT, IS A LOUSY SHOT WITH A SNIPER RIFLE.  CHARLIZE THERON'S EYES ARE EASILY HALF THE DIALOGUE IN THE MOVIE AND MOST OF THE LINES THEY SAY ADD UP TO SOMETHING LIKE "I'M ONLY GOING TO USE ONE BULLET ON THIS SHITPILE OF A WORLD BECAUSE THAT'S ALL IT DESERVES AND ALSO ALL I NEED TO KILL BECAUSE I AM THE MOST LETHAL TWO-HEADED LIZARD PROWLING THIS CURSED EARTH." SHE SHOULD GET AN OSCAR. I AM NOT KIDDING AT ALL.

    OH AND THERE'S ALSO A PACK OF MOTORCYCLE-RIDING GRANNIES WITH SNIPER RIFLES AND PURSES WHO ARE THE GRANDMOTHERS I NEVER KNEW I WANTED. I HAVE INVENTED AN ENTIRE NEW BIO WHERE THEY ARE MY FAMILY. THEY ARE NOW MY FAMILY AND I'M GOING TO GO SEE THE MOVIE AGAIN TO SEE THEM AND SAY HELLO AND MAYBE TEAR UP WHEN I LIST MY TRIBAL AFFILIATION TO THEM.

    THE SECOND FIRST MOST BADASS PART OF THIS ENTIRE MOVIE IS THAT IT FUNCTIONS COMPLETELY ON A LIMBIC SYSTEM LEVEL. THE NEW YORK TIMES GETS A LOT OF THINGS WRONG AND THEIR STYLE SECTION IS WRITTEN BY ALIENS AND EVERY OPINION WRITER THEY HAVE IS STRAIGHT TECHNOCRAT TRASH BUT A.O. SCOTT SEEMS LIKE SOMEONE WHO NOT ONLY LIKES FRIED CHICKEN BUT UNDERSTANDS YOU HAVE TO EAT IT WITH YOUR HANDS. HE SAID FURY ROAD WORKS ON THE LEVEL OF A ROAD RUNNER CARTOON AND OH MAN, IS THIS ACCURATE BECAUSE THIS FILM IS A SYSTEM AND THERE IS NO REACTION WITHOUT AN OPPOSITE AND EQUAL REACTION IN THE OTHER DIRECTION. THE WHOLE MOVIE GOES ONE WAY AND THEN BACK. MAX BLOWS SOME SHIT UP, WELL GUESS WHAT, BUDDY THEY HAVE TO DRIVE THROUGH IT OR THE POOR SOULS IMMEDIATELY IN FRONT OF IT HAVE TO PLOW RIGHT INTO IT AND THEN ROCKET THROUGH THE POISONED AIR OF THE FUTURESCAPE LIKE SO MANY FLAILING CRASH DUMMIES. PEOPLE DO NOT DIE PROTRACTED DEATHS AND THERE IS NO ILLUSORY HOPE. YOU'RE ALIVE AND THEN YOU ARE DEAD BECAUSE THAT IS HOW HITTING A ROCK FORMATION HEADFIRST AT 120 MILES PER HOUR WORKS. CHARACTERS ARRIVE AND SMILE AND THEN MAYBE GET INCINERATED BY A FLAMETHROWER AND FLY OFF-SCREEN WITH NARY A WORD OR HARDY GRUNT TO BE SAID ABOUT IT. I'D LIKE TO SAY SOMETHING ABOUT HOW THIS IS SOME GRAND COMMENTARY ON THE EPHEMERALITY OF LIFE BUT HONESTLY IT JUST SERVES TO REINFORCE THE MATHEMATICAL VIOLENCE AND HOMICIDAL VIOLENCE OF EVERYTHING HAPPENING.

    AND YEAH I DON'T KNOW IF THERE'S ANYTHING NEW HERE AND HONESTLY THAT DOESN'T MATTER AT ALL. THEY GET SOME COOL CGI THEY DIDN'T HAVE FOR THE FIRST ROAD WARRIOR MOVIES IN THE FIRST 15 MINUTES AND MAYBE A BIGGER BUDGET TO MAKE SHIT LIKE THE METALDEATHMOBILE WITH THE GUY ON GUITAR PLAYING WHILE IMMORTAL JOE AND HIS VARIOUS OBESE HORRIBLE SUBWARLORDS WHIP THE WARBOYS INTO A FRENZY. FOR THE FIRST 15 MINUTES OF THE MOVIE I HAD THIS WEIRD DISTANCED FEELING LIKE "THIS IS ME WHO WATCHED ALL OF THE MAD MAX MOVIES WATCHING A SIMULACRUM OF A MAD MAX MOVIE WITH A GIANT CGI SANDSTORM/NUCLEAR CYCLONE IN IT" AND THAT WAS WEIRD.

    BUT THEN SOMETHING HAPPENED WHERE THE RHYTHM AND PACING AND RELENTLESS KINETIC VIOLENCE JUST PRYS ALL THAT META-SHIT OFF AND BEGINS TOSSING YOU AROUND THE THEATER BODILY. I HAVE NO IDEA HOW THEY CHOREOGRAPHED ANY OF WHAT HAPPENS IN THE LAST 30 MINUTES OF THE FILM BUT YOU HAVE TO BE BORDERLINE OCD AND FASTIDIOUS TO THE POINT OF MENTAL ILLNESS TO CREATE ANYTHING AS COORDINATED AND YET COMPLETELY CHAOTIC AS THIS FILM. YOU LIKE TO THINK YOU ARE A VERY SOPHISTICATED PERSON WITH DEFENSES AND THE ABILITY TO PROPERLY DISTANCE BUT THIS MOVIE SAYS NO NO, YOU ARE NOT, AND THE PROOF IS THE 10 OR 15 MINUTES OF ACTION TOWARDS THE FINALE WHERE YOU CANNOT SEE ANY WAY EVERY PERSON YOU MIGHT CONSIDER GOOD WILL FIND ANY WAY OUT OF AN OBVIOUS ROLLING DEATHTRAP.

    IT STARTS AS YOU WATCHING A MAD MAX FILM FOR THE MILLIONTH TIME AND ENDS WITH YOU GOBSMACKED AFTER WATCHING A MAD MAX FILM FOR THE FIRST TIME AND WANTING TO WATCH IT AGAIN IMMEDIATELY ON THE BIGGEST SCREEN YOU CAN FIND WITH THE BIGGEST SOUND SYSTEM AVAILABLE AND DEFINITELY WITH LIKE EIGHT RED BULLS AND NO SNACKS BECAUSE YOU WANT THE EDGE OF HUNGER TO MAKE YOU AS MEAN AS THE BOMB-BLASTED LANDSCAPE.

    THERE'S FIRE AND GUNS AND MORE GUNS AND SPEED AND BLOOD AND A FAILED WORLD DOMINATED BY IDIOTBOYS AND CHARLIZE THERON DESTROYING EVERYTHING IN HER PATH AND AAAHHHHH IT'S SO GOOD. EVERYTHING THIS FILM IS DESIGNED TO DO DEPENDS ON IT OVERPOWERING YOU WITH THE MOST BASIC ELEMENTS OF HUMAN EXISTENCE: FLIGHT, PAIN, FEAR AND MAYBE HOPE. HOPE'S A MAYBE. IT'S SOMETHING AROUND THE CORNER AND EXCUSE US BUT BEFORE WE GET TO HOPE WE HAVE TO BEAT THIS MUTANT UNCONSCIOUS WITH AN OXYGEN CANISTER AND SEE IF WE CAN SHOOT THIS BIKER OFF HIS BIKE MID-AIR LIKE SOME KIND OF HUMAN CLAY PIGEON. WE CAN TOTALLY SHOOT THIS BIKER OFF HIS BIKE MID-AIR LIKE A CLAY PIGEON BECAUSE AFTER WATCHING MAD MAX FURY ROAD I FELT LIKE I COULD DO ANYTHING EXCEPT SLEEP OR DRIVE SAFELY.

    IT DESERVES NO RANKING OR STARS BECAUSE THOSE THEY DON'T HAVE THAT IN THE POST-APOCALYPSE AND DON'T NEED. THIS MOVIE IS A MASTERPIECE AND ONE OF THE BEST FILMS EVER MADE. I GIVE IT ONE ARTIFICIAL KILLING ARM AND EIGHT HIDDEN GEARSHIFT KNIVES. THAT'S THE HIGHEST RANKING AVAILABLE IN THE POST-APOCALYPSE.

    P.S. I COVERED MY OPEN MOUTH AND TEETH WITH CHROME SPRAYPAINT AND FELL UNDER THE WHEELS OF A TWO-THOUSAND HORSEPOWER WAR RIG WRITING THIS AND IT WAS WORTH EVERY BROKEN BONE.


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    SISYPHUS THE QUARTERBACK

    Ole Miss had just upended LSU in Oxford in 2013 and it was a Pac-12 kind of late and we were watching the Pac-12 late game: Washington State at Oregon, a game kicking off at 10:00 p.m. Eastern time that would not end until something like 1:42 in the morning.

    Washington State was losing. This was and is normal. Ryan Leaf and a snow witch in the Cascades made a blood covenant in 1996 to make a few things happen. His payoff was getting drafted and enjoying good football and the payback was everything else that happened to him and Washington State since. In 2003, the Cougars won ten games and lost three. From that point forward to the horrifying present, Washington State would not have a winning season.

    They would not win on this night either. We were bleary from booze and fatigue and five hours of Ole Miss fans feeding bourbon into their veins from hidden tie flasks. Any other night on any other day would have meant sensibly turning the television off and going to bed. But Connor Halliday was throwing, and throwing, and continuing to throw, even with an insurmountable Oregon lead. He threw, and threw, and kept on throwing for reasons unclear to God, man, and Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti.

    "That’s total (B.S.) that he threw the ball at the end of the game like he did,’’ Aliotti said. "And you can print that and you can send it to him, and he can comment, too. I think it’s low class and it’s (B.S.) to throw the ball when the game is completely over against our kids that are basically our scout team.’’

    By the time the game finally ended, Halliday held the record for most pass attempts in a game (89), a game he and his team lost. He also set the record for most passes completed (58) in the same game, which yeah: he and his team lost. Halliday also holds the record for most passing yards in a game, a total of 734 yards against Cal in a game the Cougs lost when their kicker missed a glorified extra point of a field goal attempt to lose 60-59. Connor Halliday also set the record for total yards by a single player in that game, covering 751 yards when you threw his 17 rushing yards on top of his passing stats in the game. (That he and his team lost.)

    Hearing that, you may not be surprised to hear that Connor Halliday never played on a winning team in college. After sifting through his collection of three-star level scholarship offers, he committed to Washington State. He had to know how bad it would be: Paul Wulff was in the final throes of his 9-40 tenure at the school, the worst record of any coach in the history of the program, and there was little in the way of hope on the way.

    Still, in his first appearance in Pac-12 play, the Cougs upset Arizona State with Halliday throwing for 494 yards and 4 TDs. The following week, he was named the starter. This being Connor Halliday, his first start would come against Utah in a driving snowstorm. Halliday threw four interceptions in a 30-27 loss, and played through a lacerated liver he suffered sometime in the second quarter. Do not gloss over that: the largest internal organ in his body was torn by the blunt force of playing football, and he continued to attempt to throw a football in a fucking snowstorm. Halliday spent that night in the Pullman ICU.

    Wulff would get mercifully fired. Mike Leach coming in should have spelled something like relief, but Washington State's offensive line was made up of well-meaning mannequins constructed from packing materials and all the heart in the world, with no ability to protect the passer's tender ribs, head, knees, or any other very breakable body parts. The Cougars had little in the way of defense, either. The quarterback would be behind, throwing often. He would have very, very little time to make decisions. And when he made them, he would likely eat a helmet to the chest on every other play from scrimmage.

    The beatings continued despite a coaching change and the arrival of Mike Leach. If anything, Leach's arrival solidified Halliday's identity as a doomed robo-passer throwing hundreds of passes deep into the night on ESPN2. Halliday would throw more, and more, and more, no matter the score, and no matter the lead or deficit. The Cougars nearly beat Auburn, nearly beat Cal, and even upset a derelict USC team, and yet: Connor Halliday kept throwing, and Washington State kept coming within inches of breaking even. Halliday took ghastly hits in the pocket. They got even worse when he dared to lumber outside of it for precious yardage.

    Under Leach, his numbers ballooned. In 2013, Halliday threw for 4,597 yards with almost no support from one of the nation's worst rushing attacks. Halliday was well ahead of that torrid pace in 2014 before he finally suffered an injury he couldn't hide from trainers, limp through, or conceal from a horrified television audience. His leg snapped on a play in the first quarter against USC. His final year of his college career ended as his first began: with Halliday leaving the field on a stretcher, writhing in obvious pain.

    Halliday quit Washington's training camp this week. Reportedly, his only words were "I'm done." And if he says he's done, then Connor Halliday is done, and does not want to invest further physical capital in the name of being a third-string quarterback in the NFL. (Especially the thankless job of doing that for one of the NFL's worst franchises.) His mother wrote this about him prior to the draft:

    I could tell you about his junior year in high school when he threw up from abdominal pain after a particularly hard-hitting game, warranting another trip to another emergency room where another surprised doctor told me he must be in terrific pain, his spleen in danger of rupture, enlarged by the mononucleosis he was sick with, not that any of us knew it. That day, Connor lay on the E.R. table, furious with the doctor and then me as I tried to make sense of it for him, that he was unable to play in next week’s game. You can’t stop me. I’d rather die in the game than not play.

    It will look like another flaky college QB begging off the rigors of the NFL before training camp even starts, and that's so not the story we want, or the narrative Halliday deserves here. Connor Halliday, on both a statistical and metaphysical level, endured one of the hardest and most viscerally unfair careers in recent college football history. He suffered grotesque injury in brutal conditions, played through inordinate amounts of pain, and took the field against teams like Oregon in zero-hope situations so many times it makes the career of Nick Foles at Arizona look like a happy story in comparison. No one threw more or more furiously in impossible games, and few came closer to winning without ever touching the high side of .500.

    Halliday had one shot to be on a winning team, sure. His 2013 team made a bowl game at 6-6, and led the entire Gildan New Mexico Bowl against Colorado State all the way to the final two minutes. Halliday had been brilliant, throwing six TDs to six different Cougar receivers. They needed to run the clock out and not turn the ball over twice in two minutes to Colorado State for quick scores. The Cougs turned the ball over twice in two minutes, and lost. Walking away from a bad NFL team seems like the closest thing to a happy ending football will ever let Connor Halliday have.


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