“I really want to win this Challenge. I feel like I’m one of the best competitors to ever be on The Challenge, and at the same time I feel like the Dan Marino of The Challenge. One of the best quarterbacks ever, a Hall of Famer—doesn’t have a ring. I don’t want to be Dan Marino. I want to be Tom Brady.” —C.T.
“I will be shot before I let Camila and Jemmye beat me to that yacht.” —Emily
People complain a lot about gimmickry in sports. Of course, what makes something a “gimmick” usually depends on your perspective. Baseball’s second wildcard certainly seems like a gimmick… until you’re a Yankees fan with no other hope of seeing the postseason.
Still, one gimmick I am decidedly against is eliminating players in the middle of a challenge. It seems to me that the whole point of devising these long, elaborate Final Challenges is so the teams have to be good at a lot of different things in order to win. That way, teams that fall behind after one event can make it up in the future. Conversely, teams that build big leads are always in danger of blowing it if they run into something they can’t do.
But eliminating a team after the first leg of a multistage challenge erases these possibilities. If the thing you’re weakest at happens to come first, then you are shit out of luck. This looked to be the case for Cooke/Cara Maria on Wednesday night, when Cara Maria, who had been violently dreading any swimming on the Final Challenge, had to swim her way to the first puzzle. And, indeed, Cooke/Cara Maria were the last team to start the puzzle, but luckily they were able to make up ground on the puzzle itself. Camila/Jemmye were not as lucky—their weakness was puzzles, and their inability to finish the puzzle on “Dream Island” got them eliminated from the game for good. Continue reading
So here we are: This is it.
I should have asked earlier; do you want an epigraph? Only one?
Knock yourself out: “It seems to me I am trying to tell you a dream—making a vain attempt, because no relation of a dream can convey the dream-sensation, that commingling of absurdity, surprise, and bewilderment in a tremor of struggling revolt, that notion of being captured by the incredible which is the very essence of dreams.” —Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
“All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning.” —Albert Camus, “The Myth of Sisyphus”
“In truth the way matters but little; the will to arrive suffices.” —Ibid
“This, to use an American term, in which discovery, retribution, torture, death, eternity appear in the shape of a regularly repulsive nutshell, was it.” —Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
Those last two sound familiar: There are only so many that work that well for a Super Bowl.
Are you at least excited for this one? Obviously. But two weeks is still too long. This game needs to be played the week after the championship games.
But a week’s too short! Play the game on Wednesday!
Let’s dispense of the formalities and get right to it:
#2 BALTIMORE AT #1 NEW ENGLAND
You ready to get Gronked? That sounds disgusting.
What percentage of Patriots fans have worked the verb “Gronk” into their regular vocabulary? I haven’t heard it yet, but I assume 100. “Gronk,” interestingly enough, is almost always modified by the adverb “totally” and takes the direct object “workout.”
Now seriously, can the Ravens stop Rob Gronkowski? I wouldn’t frame the question that way. Stopping the Patriots isn’t about stopping any one of their wide receivers/tight ends (and like, what’s the difference; we can even throw running back into that slash line) so much as it is about stopping Tom Brady. How does one stop Tom Brady? You get pressure on him, obviously.
“The mind’s deepest desire, even in its most elaborate operations, parallels man’s unconscious feeling in the face of his universe: it is an insistence upon familiarity, an appetite for clarity.”
“In truth the way matters but little; the will to arrive suffices.”
–Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus
So, you excited for this Super Bowl? It’s almost exactly like last year to me. Look, when your team is in the Super Bowl, those two weeks are amazing; you think about the game every day. When your team is not in the Super Bowl, you almost forget football season is still going on. I’m watching Saturday night’s SportsCenter as I type this, and the Super Bowl wasn’t mentioned until 20 minutes into the show.
You can’t expect it to be ahead of BYU-UNLV, can you? Fredette is the Mountain West’s all-time leading scorer? Where’s Keith Van Horn at?
So I’m guessing you don’t think the Pro Bowl is a perfect lead-up to the big game? You know what jumped the shark three years ago? “Irrelevance of the Pro Bowl” jokes.
So I’m guessing you don’t think Super Bowl Media Day is a perfect lead-up to the big game? Ugh, Super Bowl Media Day. If you ever want to talk about the media falling in love with itself…
“It’s not so easy to become what one is, to rediscover one’s deepest measure.”
In his playoff preview column last week, ESPN’s Bill Simmons talked about how the rules for playoff football had changed: Running the ball and stopping the run were no longer prerequisites for playoff success. Simmons pointed out all the crazy quarterbacking statistics this year—with 11 guys throwing for over 4000 yards and all—and how last year’s Super Bowl became a back-and-forth aerial assault between Roethlisberger/Holmes and Warner/Fitzgerald. Teams that didn’t excel in, or even especially try, running the ball could still win in the playoffs.
You might remember that way back in Week 1 I mentioned the downfall of the running game in American football. In that post, I said, among other things, that there was a lack of correlation between having a star running back and having postseason success (see: Chris Johnson this year). I also asked whether a team that passes the ball 60-70% of the time be successful in the NFL.
What neither Simmons nor I could have predicted was the efficacy of a one-dimensional rushing attack. It used to be that, in order to stop an offense, you made them one-dimensional. Take away the run and make the quarterback beat you, or vice versa. But throughout this NFL season, some of the league’s best offenses were so good in one area that it didn’t matter what they did in the other. And the success of a one-dimensional offense was reiterated and furthered on Wild Card Weekend, when three of the four winners won with unbalanced offensive performances.
There are sundry reasons Tecmo Super Bowl is the greatest video game ever. There’s the fact that the Giants are really good in it and Lawrence Taylor is unstoppable. There’s the flex done after every sack and that the computer’s quarterback is always left-handed. There’s how there’s always that chance you’ll block the other team’s extra point and the ridiculous number of safeties. There’s how poorly the other team punts and that flea flicker from Simms to Stephen Baker Touchdown Maker that works practically every time. There’s its most recognizable feature: that zig-zagging down the field on a long play is preferable to running straight, implicitly teaching a generation of children how to escape from alligators.
But maybe my single favorite thing about Tecmo Super Bowl is this: When you get to the playoffs, the background music changes. It shifts from the simple regular-season music, which you zoned out about 10 games ago (if you listened to it at all), to a more intense version that immediately reminds you it isn’t the regular season anymore. It’s playoff time.
This week in the NFL, the music officially changes. It seems an especially significant break this year considering the relative uneventfulness of the last few weekends of the season. The NFC playoff teams were determined by Week 16, and the AFC required the Jets and Ravens to beat the resting Bengals and the abhorrent Raiders, respectively, to get in. I can’t think of a Week 17 with less drama.
Aught Lang Syne mercifully comes to a close today, 33 days after it started so grandiloquently with that maudlin eulogy to the Aughts. We finish by counting down our top three athletes of the decade. You can find Part I of the countdown here.
5. Torry Holt (157 G, 868 rec, 12,504 yds, 68 TD, 7 Pro Bowls)
4. Tony Gonzalez (158 G, 828 rec, 9,939 yds, 67 TD, 9 Pro Bowls)
3. LaDainian Tomlinson (140 G, 2,878 att, 12,489 yds, 138 TD, 5 Pro Bowls, 1 MVP)
2. Peyton Manning (159 G, 65.9% comp, 42,159 yds, 314 TD, 9 Pro Bowls, 3 MVPs, 1 SB MVP) Continue reading
Here’s what makes rivalries so great: There will come a time in the moments before the game starts where you as a fan will feel internally a contradiction between the overwhelming excitement at the thought of beating your rival and the crippling fear at the idea that you might lose to them. It will be great, or it will be terrible. There is no in-between in rivalry games. There is nothing else in sports that provokes such a paradoxical sentiment in a fan.
That’s why we’re taking the time to figure out, “What was the best sports rivalry of the Aughts?” John S, Tim, and Pierre all took different stances on this one, and they anxiously await your opinions. After all, they’re kind of rivals themselves. Continue reading