Wednesday, November 16, 2011

#47 -- 10 Ways The NFL Laughs In Your Face (But Football Is Still Great)

"The American man is neither chiseled from stone nor from crispy-chicken batter. The American man isn't helpless. . . He doesn't shirk on his responsibilities. He does work hard and he does not pick on his friends. He loves rock and roll and he hates Nickelback. He loves football, but he's smart enough to hate the NFL's greed."

You are an idiot. You are an obsessed idiot. You are a zealous, obsessed idiot. You are part of a nation of zealous, obsessed idiots. You shall find camaraderie amongst others in that nation of zealous, obsessed idiots. You, and your comrades in arms, know of a deeper love than those who are not part of your nation of zealous, obsessed idiots -- noses turned up at you as if their farts smell like Cinnabon and Carebears. You know that even amongst the other citizens in your nation of zealous, obsessed idiots, in your heart of hearts, there is no doubt that you are unique in your understanding. You know how far, and how strong, this empire, your empire, of zealous, obsessed idiots truly reaches. You, idiot, are part of something so grand that you understand your place in the world, despite that those unlike you will see your idiocy as idiocy, and not as a badge of honor.

That is what the NFL considers you to be. You're an idiot, a charity-case without an identity, and you're a football fan -- specifically, an NFL fan. The league is making bank on that. You adore watching football games -- rightfully so -- but in all probability, the NFL actually laughs in your face, rubbing its crooked fingers through hair greased with Axe Bodyspray. You are the lowest common denominator, and yet according to many a marketing department, that's a good thing. Cuz, c'mon, don't you see, man? We're all football fans and don't let anybody tell you that's not a good thing! In America, we can agree on so few things, yet it's clear that we love football. We're lunatic, all-consuming, stat-grubbing, TV-hugging, truck-driving, cellphone-using, food-devouring, family-loving, beer-chugging, house-painting, work-neglecting, unfocused, inattentive, indifferent, clueless, hopeless, gutless, star-struck, passionate football fans.

We usually watch football on Sundays on the a 72-inch OLED TV that's set up in the What's That From? Recording Studios screening-theater. It's nice, don't get us wrong, the double-wide fridge in there dispenses micro brews, which we can select from on the iPad installed into the front of it. You don't actually open the fridge itself, it just sorta works on its own. We also like to eat those Trader Joe's Organic Blue Corn Chips with spicy-jalapeno salsa dip and our guy Geno comes by around halftime to hand-roll sweet bratwursts back in the kitchenette and we got a PS1 emulator to run on the Android tablet so we can play Final Fantasy IX during the football game's slower possessions. We've gotten pretty far into disc 2!

As far as we can tell though, we're doing it wrong. We aren't tailgating the game under azure skies with sober folks over in the clean world. The ads during the games paint this unfamiliar picture for us because we aren't surrounded by a dozen friends wearing Seattle Seahawks shirts. Children aren't toddling around the floor in our two story, 4-bedroom colonial, large box of Kellogg's Frosted Flakes: Reduced Sugar® clutched underarm, and a disproportionately-attractive woman isn't dangling off the end of the eight-person leather sofa, wholly accepting her options of: "Become a fan myself," or "Mentally warp his fanaticism and neglect into comfortable adoration, at least my mother has stopped haranguing me."

This is the advertised image of what it means to be an NFL fan. Again, are we doing it wrong -- or are we being lied to? Re-watching Mad Men has taught us that dramatized advertising is a message that alleviates fears and reminds you that "You're doing fine; you can do better with this though," and we must say, Don Draper makes a fairly persuasive argument. He probably smells good too and let us state now that there is a stink on the NFL broadcasts that gives us such a headache that getting through the peripheral quagmire to the actual game part of the fucking game becomes a chore. We don't care about what the NFL considers us to be. We want to consume their sport, the rest, well, we could take or leave.

We at What's That From? love football. We do. We love most everything about it. It's strategic and psychological and physical and it can go from zero to ludicrous-speed like *that* and we don't want the game to change. It's changing. It is. It's being repainted and branded. Too many eyeballs are laid upon the product to let the sport part get in the way of the league part. That's why the lock-out ended with such flawless timing before the season's start. Too many parties had billions of dollars about to be lost. Watching an afternoon of NFL games though raises a few questions and concerns with us about what the league thinks of us, the ads on display -- which have undoubtedly been vetted by the league, there's no way they'd let their identity be undermined -- make us think:

1) How many people in America drive pickup trucks into shale quarries on a daily basis? How about haul horse trailers? Judging by the ads during NFL games, dozens of thousands of men do. We initially marked this down as a "con," but upon further examination, shit to that. We need trucks. Many of them. They're so damn awesome. Getting behind a stick-shift truck's wheel adds a friction to driving that has sort of been lost in automobiles. Thanks, Germany! Way to ruin things with your flawless suspensions and perfect transition-timing! No, trucks, man, that's where it's at. Only in a truck can you pull up to work with the paneling splattered with mud and cornstalks sticking out of the grill and have it be socially-acceptable. It's odd seeing them all buffed-up in the Chevy ads. Or was it a Ford ad that we just saw? Damn, we can't even remember.

Doesn't matter! Trucks!

2) Are electronics really that complicated? This is such a terrible stereotype that it's basically a hate-crime. You can't figure out how to use your cellphone, middle-aged cubicle drone? No, not possible. You've played more games of Minesweeper on your BlackBerry than you've had hot meals. There's no way an iPhone or an Android fascinates you that much ("I'm listening to downloaded music!" Are ya sure? It could be a tumor). It isn't magic and it isn't Jesus -- it's just rote handheld device usage. You need some gelled-up spike-head at Best Buy to explain what 1080p is and why you need an HDMI cables encrusted with a million fucking diamonds? You'll be victimized if you let buying consumer electronics be complicated. Go to the Google machine and take 5 minutes before assuming you can't learn the difference between an Xbox 360 and a PS3. Or, ya know, ask your son. He's smarter than you. Already. At basically everything.

3) Most twenty-somethings aren't this good looking and they don't have season tickets to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There's a recession on right now. Who are these trust-fund babies spending a year's pay on NFL tickets and dye-jobs for their girlfriends? Yes, we all go nuts for the bottle-blonds, don't we? Nobody in Florida is that well-groomed and speaks without an accent. Have you been to Tampa? It's like Manchester, New Hampshire, except in Florida, which means it's a concrete-encrusted misery-mire. Also, bros the world over, please, stop wearing open, unbuttoned plaid shirts. That's classless, even for trust-fund baby. You aren't sixteen. Or have you already accepted that you'll always be a disappointment to your grandfather? And shave your neck beard. Don't you watch football? Don't you know that there have been huge advances in shaving technology, thanks to Gillette? They can give you a razor so fine that all the ladies will swear you have alopecia.

4) Twenty-somethings also don't ridicule each other for drinking one light beer versus another. They just don't. They've been to college. They know it all tastes like charcoal and compressed CO2, and there's little difference between Bud Light and Miller Lite, except maybe more bubbles or increased misspellings. Some of these guys in the ads are damn cruel to their friends -- they're kind of borderline-sociopaths. This is how suicides happen. See, football fans. . . love. . . drinking. Football fans that love drinking have been drinking recreationally for a long time. They have a favorite way to get drunk. That guy that's drinking a random piss-water beer that you're making fun of is starting a trend. He's not a lemming. He's the individual in this situation. Somebody's going to see him drinking Buck Range Premium Light Lager, and think, "I bet that beer's terrible. I want to see how terrible it really is." So you have one and it tastes terrible and familiar and, whatever, at least the can's design is sorta different. And then you realize half the beer in the western world is brewed by InBev anyway.

5) Would you actually be impressed if Reggie Bush watched football and ate Pizza Hut with you, or would you be kinda pissed at him for being an overrated fuck-stick? Think about it. You start watching the game, get a few beers in, and then you realize that you took him in your fantasy league with your first pick after he went super-high in the draft right out of college, and that he underperformed. People don't grovel in front of celebrities, even minor ones -- they get obnoxious and envious and violent, especially if there's alcohol involved. In-person, people hate famous people if they're in their company for an extended period. And honestly, in terms of career success in a professional environment, you, reader, have probably had a more successful and proportionately productive career at your job than Reggie Bush has. He's a middle-low tier running back on a shit AFC East team -- that's the equivalent of being an account manager at a Motorola or an intern at Paramount.

6) How desperate are these women that they accept these negligent, cowardly men and their unerring, childish devotion to an moronic product? Fine, pairing a disproportionately unattractive man with a woman of extreme beauty, that's recognizable commonplace, because it's that same lulling-reassurance to the schlub inside men that there is a woman out there that will love you for no good reason, even if they don't do a fucking thing to deserve or earn it -- that's an accepted fact, and it has been since The Flintstones and The Jetsons (and The Honeymooners). But when ads during NFL games frame every household as a miniature kingdom where the queen is one quizzically-raised eyebrow from a shaky, tearful belt-beating from a Kansas City Chief's fan, we're gonna have a problem. No, it's not that she doesn't get football, mister, it's that if you got near an open flame, it's possible a spark might travel up your gaping asshole and ignite the compounded methane that circulates your formless black guts -- if you have any at all.

He knows he's pathetic. He might not know his haircut is half-Lloyd Christmas and half-mullet, but he knows his obsession with the McRib is sickening. He will do whatever it takes (even kill a man!) to hold onto this shaky lie. There is football though -- glorious, simple football. But if she interferes with football, he'll have to talk to her, and if he talks to her, she'll begin to see the cracks, and if she sees the cracks, his always-was-there lameness will crystallize, and if that comes out, she'll take the kids during a bolt in the night, and he'll be alone, so very, very alone. Then he'll have to hang himself on a doorknob with a belt.

7) Will lucrative prescription drugs save you from death? As was foretold by Arthur Miller, American men don't know how to die happily. Maybe it's the crushing misrepresentation and glory that was promised and never delivered. Advertising frames the Baby Boomers on retirement's fringe as short-changed pity-cases. Aging? Nobody told you? Yeah, you're gonna get old, you LSD-soaked pinko-hippie. This is payback for not listening to your 'ole pal Nixon! The Reds are gonna get The Bomb and all your inside-parts are going to stop working correctly. You can swallow chemicals that can hold off those effects for a limited time. You will never age gracefully. 

Hey you, don't you know there's no hope at all? The worms will eat into your brains.

Know what sucks? If the gullible and desperate hadn't bought bad mortgages for houses that that they couldn't afford, Wall Street would have never seen value in bundling those toxic debt packages and imploded the arbitrarily-valued housing market, they wouldn't have needed a government bailout -- draining billions of dollars from other industries -- the country's public and private sectors would have had that money to spend on some form of extended healthcare and livable pensions, and that entire generation would've been able to retire safely years ago before their organs went bust. Then the Millenials would have an actual fighting chance to enter the workforce and stop sponging off of their parents. 

God, if only they would move out of the house! 

Then the Boomers could have all that free time to drive trucks, learn how cellphones work, and watch more football!

8) The American man is neither chiseled from stone nor from crispy-chicken batter. In TV ads, American men are visualized too often as indecisive, mentally-stunted bio-masses. The American man isn't helpless. He isn't frothing in anticipation for his next trip to Taco Bell. He doesn't wear a hoodie everywhere he goes. He can swing a hammer and he can change a tire. He doesn't shirk on his responsibilities. He does work hard and he does not pick on his friends. He loves rock and roll and he hates Nickelback. He loves football, but he's smart enough to hate the NFL's greed. He doesn't shriek for a solid fifteen seconds around live fish. He doesn't shit his pants at the prospect of Christmas shopping. His role model should be Clint Eastwood, not Adam Sandler. He should respectfully disagree with football commentators, not because he needs validation, but because the commentators are pompous and overly-entitled that might know a lot about a narrow profession like football, but don't know a thing about reserved confidence.

9) Now that you mention it, the commentators during the games, especially during the ones broadcasted on Fox, need to go to the hospital and sign up for some surgery to remove the spiraled rebar that's up their collective asses. It's foul. If you ever find yourself reiterating Joe Buck and Troy Aikman's commentary to those around you, do not panic -- simply realize your error and request that somebody club you over the head with a bit of firewood. An honest man, knowing his infraction's severity, will know how large the bit of wood ought to be and whether the wood should be lit aflame prior to striking upside the head.

10) If anything, football players are like obsessed stalkers, so stop referring to them as "warriors." (Come out to plaaaayayyy!) They are well-padded millionaires playing a game that has dominated their lives since age 5. They've been coddled their entire lives to become money-making man-children. They are not warriors. They are not soldiers. They are game-players. George Carlin has a great bit on this subject but it bears reiterating. The players are smart ("A strong Football IQ!") in that they understand how to play a game that most people stopped playing decades ago. StarCraft II is more mentally-taxing than football. The machismo within playing professional games is weird as hell. So adrenalized and so focused on a singular thing, they tackle their day-job with stalker-like obsession, learning everything they can about their prey and exacting swift dominance over them!

It's the players that don't strut with the delirious glee usually reserved for concussion-victims that we can root for. The ones that are, you know, human. Not the cartoon characters that work eighteen weeks a year. But ya can't sell silence, which is why everybody outside of New England hates Bill Belichick. That, and his stalker-like obsession and devotion to exacting swift dom-- oh. Yeah, that's not a very fashionable allegory.

**GET BONUS!!** 11) Want a fun drinking game? While watching a game, drink every time the commentator says the word "football." You will end up poisoned. If you really want to get crazy, drink double whenever they say a made up word like "audible-ize" or "downhill running."

The disturbing thing is that professional football, one of our most expansive societal-touchstones and most universal pop-culture generator, is owned by a calculating, wealthy entity. So much has been done to protect the NFL product as an honorable and spirited competition that brings generations, and our entire nation, together. In doing so, they've limited the descriptive vocabulary that's allowed to be used in respect to this shared popular culture memory is, and will be. Those feelings, real as they are, we know because we've felt it, are bent to the point of exploitation -- they're the property of a thing so incomprehensibly large that it feels better to not worry ourselves than to feel violated.

But you know what? Tune it out. That's what America does best. As a country, to an extent, we can make something die simply by not looking at it -- yes, advertising pointed at the NFL audience will appeal to the lowest-common denominator, and that will never go away, only change (with the times), but this country was founded on the concept that if enough people find something harmful, we can stop its black-magic curse by looking away, just like we did with that shitty Green Lantern movie. We'll talk about the lowest-common denominator as entertainment's double-edged sword another time, but if you want to really fight back, do some research. Circumvent the ways the NFL makes money. Become incalculable and invisible. That's what they fear the most. It's the football games that are our national love-affair, not the ads for Sprint's Unlimited Data Plan.

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-- Ghost Little
on Twitter  |  @GhostLittle_WTF

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