These days, I’m not sleeping well. Every time I close my eyes a certain number burns bright against the red-black darkness of my inner eyelids. I wake up exhausted and drag myself as if underwater to the bathroom, little more than a spectator in my own life. Beneath the white noise of the shower, a low and sinister whisper:
I shake my head and the thought spills out of my ears and gets lost in the thick pile fleece of the bathroom mat. I squint and rub my eyes and fumble for the litany of cat allergy medicines before I haunt my still-sleeping significant other with the morning “I love you; have a great day.” And as the fog clears the number fades, its after-image eventually dissipating like a burned-in Netflix menu. I go about my business. The jokes can wait.
Not today. I’ve put this off for too long. It’s time to face what I’ve been running from.
You want your 32 Jokes™!?
COME AND GET THEM, YOU DEVILS!
New England Patriots
Patriots fans after day 1 of free agency pic.twitter.com/09T6kyusVM— Boston Cream (@itsbostoncream) March 15, 2019
The Patriots must win so frequently because in their minds, and the minds of their fans, they are still pushing for that elusive first championship. Alternatively, this is a team and fan base that has gotten so used to winning that the dopamine spike doesn’t even last the whole day.
In any case, handy-hunter Robert Kraft has unwittingly hung a lantern on a very real human trafficking problem in Florida and elsewhere, which may result in a long-term net positive. Even when New England loses, they win.
It was never about winning. Antonio Brown landed on the Raiders after torpedoing his trade to Buffalo. Maybe he’d rather live in Oakland, or Las Vegas. Maybe he prefers Derek Carr, who is technically a “quarterback,” to Josh Allen. One thing is certain: it was never about winning.
Meanwhile, it’s a cool 61 degrees in Buffalo. Frank Gore is walking his grandchildren through the incomparable Buffalo Zoo. LeSean McCoy takes a date to the Martin House Complex, one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s greatest works. Robert Foster contemplates his sophomore season while basking in the glory of the Peace Bridge, which connects the City to its beautiful neighboring Canada. Like Buffalonians themselves, the bridge reminds us of strength, but also acceptance.
They would have loved him forever.
I’m not in Brown’s shoes. I’ve never had to choose which city I’ll live in for four months a year, working one day a week, in exchange for 50 million dollars.
But Brown had a choice, and he chose the Raiders, perhaps without fully contemplating what his few scant years may have meant in Upstate New York, in front of the loyalest fans in the history of this or any sport.
Aside from occasionally beating New England in spectacular fashion, what even is this team? I can’t name a single player on the Dolphins. Ryan Tannehill? Is that right?
New York Jets
Ha! This team makes me laugh a sincere feel-good sort of laugh. There’s an unusual optimism around these parts.
- Sam Darnold, his outrageous face aside, has the look of a prodigy at the quarterback position.
- They added Le’Veon Bell, one of America’s worst living rap artists.
- Can you imagine a Hakeem Butler, N’Keal Harry, or A.J. Brown landing here?
- Granted, who could ever replace the likes of actual starters Josh Bellamy and Robby Anderson?
Mark my words: this is your feel-good team of 2019.
New York Giants
Maybe a month ago I was talking to DLF’s Bobby Koch about fandom and timeframes. As Dave Gettleman poured toxic waste over the New York Football Giants, Koch voiced his frustration: Eli Manning and the franchise’s baffling commitment to him; Landon Collins; Eli Apple; Olivier Vernon; waiting too long to find Manning’s replacement; and perhaps waiting too long still. (Again, a month ago. Gettleman had yet to shock the world by doing the absolutely unthinkable; unforgivable.)1
I had an idea for an article called the “Anger Index” where I ranked each fan base by how justifiable their frustrations are. When I got to the Giants, I realized I had to scrap the article; the scale was all wrong. Every other gripe paled insignificant when stacked against the agony of 2019 Giants fans. And it’s not even over; each day brings another horror.
NYG 'not kidding' about keeping Eli for 2020 https://t.co/0mZnWI75CN— Rotoworld Football (@Rotoworld_FB) March 31, 2019
I remember reading an article in undergrad about a kid at my school who so coveted a Subaru WRX STI that he sold all of his possessions, stopped paying rent on his apartment, and decided to purchase (and live in) the car. Buying the Subaru that he didn’t need and couldn’t afford sated this great unreasonable want, but temporarily ruined his life.
(You guessed it: Saquon Barkley is the car.)
Before the arrival of Amari Cooper, the Dallas Cowboys were a team without an identity. Sure, they had the gropey Ewok running back and the dick pic game manager quarterback. Yes, they had the “America’s Team” jingoism and Jerry Jones and the red hats and the Cole Beasley dinks and dunks. But for much of 2018, this was a Cowboys team missing the charisma of stars gone by; the Romos, the Bryants, even the Wittens. This team, in that stadium, was a stack of frostbitten Marie Callender’s lasagnas strewn haphazardly about a billion dollar freezer.
These days, the AT&T Stadium is electric. Nurses stand by with stretchers and saline bags because fans so frequently scream themselves catatonic. Cooper is said to arrive to each home game in full Evel Knievel whites, blasting through the rafters on an American Flag Harley Davidson, or crashing fist-first through the retractable roof onto the midfield logo like Iron Man. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott have even avoided TMZ headlines as they sit in quiet, well-behaved admiration of the new face of this franchise.
They called it the “T.O.” but there’s something Christ-like about it. Fitting.
Dallas’ savior has arrived.
“Fourth-and-four; six seconds left to play.
Keenum drops back. Short pass to Adrian Peterson! Contact. CONTACT! Peterson BREAKS FREE! Peterson digs deep, reaches another gear! Nothing but daylight between AD and the endzone! HE’S DONE IT! HE’S DONE IT! THE GAME IS OVER! THE GAME IS OVER!”
Eagles: 63 – Washington: 7
I’m glad I picked the Eagles for my fictional blowout of Washington because I’m not sure what to say about them otherwise. This is a good, well-coached, unexciting team. The fans are surly and defensive and their playmakers are mostly likable. As an aside, this team managed to do what NFC opponents struggled with for years: they found a way to neutralize Alshon Jeffery.
*Tender, slow-motion black and white video montage of Vontaze Burfict cheap-shotting player after player, set to Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You.” Final clip is JuJu Smith-Schuster leveling Burfict, and then a fade to Burfict’s tombstone.*
Ben Roethlisberger is a shithead. His only redeeming qualities are his seemingly positive relationship with JuJu (for now) and that he looks vaguely like Will Ferrell.
My favorite anti-JuJu argument goes, “We don’t know what he’ll do without Brown to relieve some pressure.”
Well, we don’t know what he’ll do in 16 games in 2019, that’s true. But we do know exactly what he did without Brown so far…
DISCLAIMER: Yes, three games is a small sample size. There's the door!— S🤪LIS (@popularffwriter) March 12, 2019
Now that the JERKS are gone, lean in. Got a secret for ya… 🤫
…JuJu has actually played significantly better in games without Antonio Brown. pic.twitter.com/j6ETfHwwJz
Is there a socially-acceptable football formation with no quarterback, three running backs, and five tight ends? Asking for a friend.
When the Chargers left San Diego, it’s not like we found a new team right away. It was like getting dumped, or widowed. Maybe we’d never find another team. Maybe we would have to date a while.
Prior to the start of the 2018 season, after much lobbying, I convinced Ryan, my lifelong friend and fellow former Charger Diehard, to hitch our wagons to the Browns. They’d just drafted Baker Mayfield, they were slated to be on Hard Knocks, and they rostered the drop-everything-girl of my fantasy football life, Josh Gordon. And more importantly, they were losers. It wouldn’t be right, no, for Charger fans to suddenly pull for a proven winner. Not after decades of loss. Not after an entire lifetime of run-run-pass-punt.
So we threw in for the Browns. And we were all-in. We knew we’d have to travel for a game, so we bought tickets to Browns vs. Raiders in Oakland, which would turn out to be Mayfield’s first game. It was going to be spectacular. But life…
Two negatives converged at once:
- I learned that my work group was in danger of facing layoffs (we didn’t, thank goodness).
- The Browns cut Josh Gordon (this one was real).
It was suddenly no longer as exciting to be a Browns fan, at least not the sort of Browns fan who travels by air to watch them on the road. We sold our tickets. And we flirted, dabbled with the Giants, the Lions, the Rams, the Colts, doing our best to embrace our blurry connections to each. Suddenly, we realized we had no team, again.
I called Ryan from my car. I left work, went to my car, called Ryan over the Bluetooth of my aftermarket stereo. We didn’t even say “hello.”
This went on until the air of our conversation was completely polluted, two grown men screaming “Browns!” as Hallelujah at the top of our lungs, with no regard for turn or timing, for call or response. It was as natural as breathing.
We didn’t have to talk our way back to the Browns.
We never motherfucking left.
(If you are a disenfranchised San Diegan and you are still looking for that special team, I encourage you to contact me about the Beach Browns, San Diego’s Cleveland Browns Community.)
Do you guys remember when Kirk Cousins was mic’d up back in Washington? Watching Matt Stafford as a rookie, mic’d up against the Browns, made me a fan for life. Stafford was such a gamer, such a killer. So sincere, and so clever. It’s worth googling.
Cousins’ audio was memorable too.
“High Fives from everyone!
High Fives from everyone!
Everyone get in on the ‘High Five Party!’
High Five Party!
Oh man, that felt good!”
Green Bay Packers
I initially had a long analogy here, with quarterbacks as phones. Drew Brees and Tom Brady were old reliable corded desk phones. No flashy features, not going to drop your call, job done. Pat Mahomes was like the first smartphone after a few years of flip phones. Spectacular. Glossy, new, full of features you didn’t even think you could ever see on a phone. Aaron Rodgers, then, was a Motorola Razr. The pinnacle of the pre-smartphone age. I rambled on about phones for a long time. But, all that to say:
Remember, it wasn’t so long ago that Aaron Rodgers routinely dropped our jaws, as Mahomes does now, week-in and week-out. He’s not dead, he’s still special, and he’s unshackled from Mike McCarthy. No, he probably can’t pull off a no-look pass, but sometimes you just need your phone to make a call.
SCENE: The Chicago Bears have just won the Super Bowl.
“Mitch the Bitch! Mitch the Bitch! Mitch the Bitch!”
The crowd is chanting in unison; they are a hive mind! Loud as thunder, they are a singular voice! The arena QUAKES, the walls ECHO against the volume of their cry!
“Mitch the Bitch! Mitch the Bitch! Mitch the Bitch!”
Mitch “The Bitch” Trubisky’s baffling nickname has never been explained, but one thing is clear: He fuckin’ loves it. He pumps his fist along with the chant, his teammates now having joined in, carrying him tirelessly on their shoulders long into the evening.
Being a Lions fan must be like going to a party hosted by one of your work friends, but all of their real-life friends are total weirdos. It’s good to see your friend but mostly you can’t wait to leave.
The family sedan.
It was your first car and you took it for granted. Maybe you were even embarrassed to show up in it. But a while back, someone loved that car. Someone saved up and picked that car specifically. And maybe it wasn’t the sports car mom or dad wanted, but it did the job. It kept the family safe. And it never let the family down, which is why it was still there for you to kick around once you finally learned to drive. It’s not shiny, sexy, impressive or new, but it’s always gotten you home in one piece.
Lamar Miller is currently available in the eighth round of best-ball drafts.
Earlier I said Aaron Rodgers is a Motorola Razr. Andrew Luck is a really loud guy, just yelling his damn ass off. Yeah that’s right … Andrew Luck is a volume (!) play.2 Threw it 640 times last season, a career-highest, after they said he might never throw again. Add a first-round rookie receiver to the mix and you’ve got yourself a Molotov cocktail.
I bet some imbecile that Derrick Henry could have a better 2019 than Joe Mixon. I don’t know if that’s true; I don’t really care.
I don’t know anything about Florida. The “Florida Man” meme definitely makes it seem like it’s a wacky place to live, but I have to imagine that’s almost any highly-populated area. But there’s also The Good Place, which routinely paints Flordians as affable, well-meaning doofuses with a penchant for total mayhem. If that is true, it is clear: the Jacksonville Jaguars are the most “Florida” Florida team, as this is a group of affable, well-meaning doofuses with a penchant for total mayhem. Nick Foles is Blake Bortles with a Super Bowl ring and two working eyes. It’s going to be a fun year.
Is Julio Jones your favorite player?
If so, totally get it.
If not … are you sure?
In solidarity with Cam Newton, I have also given up sex for all of March, and for several months in either direction. We must be strong!
New Orleans Saints
Earlier this offseason coach Sean Payton vowed that he and his team would “never get over [the blown call]” which cost the Saints a trip to the Super Bowl. This is not exactly “On to 2019,” but no one has accused Payton of being anything like Bill Belichick.
Separately, how is everyone on this team simultaneously incredible and underrated?
Would it surprise you at all if Drew Brees was the 2019 QB1? Michael Thomas the 2019 WR1? Alvin Kamara the 2019 RB1? Jared Cook the 2019 TE1? This team is going to be scary. I hope they don’t waste a season dwelling on what-if.
To paraphrase Last Chance U, “No one cares what happened to you. All anyone remembers is how you handled it.”
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bruce Arians came here to kick ass and retire, and he’s all out of retiring (for now)! This team is going to be fantasy dynamite. I’m expecting firefights, blowouts, fourth-down conversions, 2-point conversions, and onside kicks (as long as they exist). Mike Evans‘ career trajectory is actually better than Julio Jones’. Chris Godwin, finally unburdened by Adam Humphries and DeSean Jackson. More than anything, I am excited to see what promising young running back [INSERT NAME HERE] will do underneath all that firepower!
Los Angeles Rams
Rams fans could not care less that they lost the Super Bowl. Most of them probably didn’t realize the Rams were in the Super Bowl. Even those that were tangentially aware of it probably thought it was just a very large actual bowl.
As an aside, there have been about a thousand permutations of the joke “C.J. Anderson is better than Todd Gurley.”
Guy. If this is your joke, you have to sometimes change the joke. You need to deliver the joke differently. You need to occasionally say something else. Because if you don’t; if you rack up 400 touches on this joke, you’re going to get arthritis, and some fresh-legged jokester is going to C.J. Anderson you.
And then you’ll be the joke.
San Francisco 49ers
Do you remember the first season of Family Guy? At the time, Mila Kunis had yet to provide the voice of Meg Griffin. Re-watching those episodes, the character is completely unrecognizable. I think we will come to look at the 2018 49ers the same way.
Amari to Dallas was a surprise. Odell Beckham Jr. to Cleveland was a stunner.
If Seattle somehow lets Russell Wilson walk away, it will be regarded as the costliest mistake in NFL history. The fans have endured The Interception™ and countless Jermaine Kearse targets. They survived when the team traded O-line stalwart Max Unger for oversized scat-back Jimmy Graham. They thought-experimented their way through the Rashaad Penny fiasco and Pete Carroll’s bewildering commitment to the run game. Most things can be survived. Not this. If you lose Russ, you lose the world. You lose everything.
They will never forgive you.
Today, it is generally accepted that the Cardinals may (and likely will) select 175-pound quarterback Kyler Murray with the first overall pick. But not too long ago, some were stunned at the idea because the team spent a first rounder on Josh Rosen the previous year. However, if you read between the lines, Kliff Kingsbury has been dropping hints about this since October of last year.
Kyler is a freak. I would take him with the first pick in the draft if I could. And if I’m ever in a position to do it, by God, I will. I don’t care who is in my way. Josh Rosen? If it’s him, guess what, he’s gone. Toast. Finito. There is no force on this earth strong enough to prevent me from taking Kyler Murray with the first overall pick. Try and stop me. You won’t like what happens. You won’t like it one bit.
- Brock Osweiler
- Mark Sanchez
- Paxton Lynch
- Trevor Siemian
- Case Keenum
- Joe Flacco
It is not enough that John Elway is regarded as the greatest QB in Broncos history; he also wants to be recognized as the best QB currently on the Broncos.
Kansas City Chiefs
I don’t have anything more to say about Tyreek Hill. Yet.
Imagine being a fan of this team. Jon Gruden runs the Oakland Las Vegas Raiders like George R.R. Martin runs A Song of Ice and Fire. One week they are jettisoning their best and youngest talent, cleaning house for a full rebuild. The next they’re acquiring some of the league’s oldest and most expensive veterans. They’re simultaneously committed to Derek Carr and smitten with Kyler Murray, Drew Lock, and Dwayne Haskins. This is a team that has no idea what it is, or wants to be. A team with no real home, yet a team with legions of fans across the nation.
With these Raiders, only one thing is for sure: they will have a supremely confusing 2019 on their way to a third-place AFC West finish.
Los Angeles Chargers
I was cheering for the Patriots in the Super Bowl, sorry. Not because I like them, but because the good people of St. Louis were living the nightmare of every decent San Diegan: watching their traitorous team find near-immediate success and battling the ultimate villain on the grandest stage. And outside of New England and Missouri, pretty much everyone with a soul was rooting for the Rams. In St. Louis, they’re still paying for that empty stadium. The jersey fires smolder still. But for one day, the team owned by the shittiest billionaire playing for the shittiest city with the shittiest fans on earth got their asses kicked by the “bad guys.”
Of course I cheered.