Tuesday, August 28, 2012

breaking brady

This began as a project for Grantland as an entry into their contest for hiring a fantasy sports writer. Surprisingly, I don't think I'm getting the job but I still thought this short entry was worth sharing here.

Rob Gronkowski (TE - New England Patriots)

If there were ever a Breaking Bad spinoff about the NFL hitmen that make fantasy players disappear, I’d hire Bill Belichick in the world-wearied “Mike” role and Tom Brady to succeed Aaron Paul as the fresh-faced, unexpectedly gritty “Jesse.”

A darkened film room is filled by two shadowy figures and an unopened box of powdered doughnuts. Coach Mike wears a well-worn, gray hooded sweatshirt with nondescript stains. His quarterback, Jesse, eyes a powdery treat as the coach explains this week’s gameplan.



The big bad for the first season would be Gronkowski. There’s no way a man that large is fitting into a barrel designed for hydrochloric acid. Gronkowski might as well be the Walter White of this operation. No matter his behavior or mistakes, he is essential to this operation. With Antonio “Gus Fring” Gates no longer at the top of the tight end food chain, Gronk is in the empire business.

Tom Brady (QB – New England Patriots)

Did you just read that? He’s in a badass Breaking Bad spinoff. That will make people forget this haircut, this feud with Justin Bieber, and these Ugg boots. Okay. Maybe not. But still.

Calvin Johnson (WR – Detroit Lions)

I think it’s time we convene a summit to decide when it is acceptable to retroactively change a player’s nickname because real world events have made it impossible to continue with the current one. This happens in sports all the time. Team names found to be culturally insensitive are pushed to wayside for new monikers, new merchandise, and some hitherto undiscovered shade of teal to use on the uniforms. If Michael Bay continues defecating on my childhood onscreen, Calvin’s “Megatron” be our first order of new business for the summit. Johnson is too good to be associated with something so horrendous… or Shia Lebouf… but I repeat myself. If Matthew Stafford really has transformed into a top five NFL quarterback after his (obligatory injury history reference) then we’re going to need a new handle quickly. I hear “CJ2K” is available. Autobots, roll out!

Arian Foster (RB – Houston Texans)

There are some hard truths in life. As I careen out of my late twenties and into my early thirties, I am learning more of them everyday. One is: If you’re weird, you will have fewer friends. Yes, this truth is as timeless as the sandbox but no matter what our hipster-affirming, participation ribbon-awarding, manic pixie dream girl-pursuing culture tries to tell us, this one stands the test of time. Arian Foster didn’t get drafted higher in the NFL because he was unpopular. NFL GMs probably had no idea what to make of him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he told teams inviting him in for an interview that he would only grant it if he could speak solely in “Pterodactyl.” (Please take a moment to imagine a sit down with Foster and Jeff Ireland involving only mumbled squawks.) Despite his bouts with anti-awesomeness earlier in life, I say we accept Foster for what he is: an insanely talented, too brainy for his own good football player. And when we convene the nickname summit, can we also resolve to make sure this never happens again? Jeremy Lin thought that was in poor taste.

Aaron Rodgers (QB – Green Bay Packers)
I could go on for a couple hundred words about Rodgers’ stats, consistency, and general command of his offense. But the true testament to his greatness is that simply holding a clipboard in his general vicinity got a guy paid tens of millions of dollars. (Seriously, Matt Flynn, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.) One of the most amazing aspects of the NFL is the anti-meritocracy aspect of the game. From players never getting paid their just value to a team until they’re tool old and broken down to provide that value anymore to the enduring popularity of every marginal franchise’s backup quarterback, the NFL isn’t a “what have you done for me lately” league as much as it’s a “what could you do for me tomorrow” league. It’s the opposite of high school where the goofy, gangly tangle of limbs that make up that geeky freshman is the coolest kid in school. The problem for a backup becoming a starter is now you have a backup. And the hottest girl in school just asked him to prom or made Russell Wilson her fantasy sleeper. She’s surprisingly knowledgeable about the Seahawks’ depth chart.

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