Playing the Man

The Pitfalls of Indie Fame

What Should Jets Fans Root For (Other Than Stadium Collapse)?

And all your other questions answered in this week's Bakeshop mailbag

For the second time in four years I am forced to burn in my own sports hell as a Jets fan, watching the Giants and Pats slug it out for the Super Bowl. This year however is tenfold worse than 2007. After two consecutive championship disappointments THIS WAS TO BE THE YEAR. Rex could say whatever he wanted because, dammit, we were gonna do it! We were gonna take the division from the Pats, and even had the rare luxury of sticking it to the Giants on our march to the big game! Fast forward five agonizing months, though, and my greatest fears have been realized.

On the one hand, a Patriots Super Bowl win would be yet another reminder that the Patriots are our Daddy, the Yankees to our Pedro. The dream that their evil empire was broken was just that — a dream. But a Giants win would mean we Jets fans will be engulfed in a hellish “jokes on you, fatboy” world. While the opening of The Dark Night Rises trailer has offered a glimmer of hope, I fear that the chances the field collapses into the ground are slim. So who should this shamed Jets fan want to lose more?

— Rami L.

Because I can’t even begin to slip into the psyche of someone who’s so devotedly Gang Green — my own nerves are a little too frayed after Sunday night to get all Method in that role — I posed this question on Twitter. I asked Jets fans whom they’d rather see win it all, adding that I figured the answer is probably not quite so clear-cut this season as it was during Super Bowl XLII. After all, it was the Giants who this year helped all but end the Jets’ season. (Plus, Rex Ryan’s Big Mouth has made the relationship between the Jets and the Giants all the more fraught and divisive of late.)

Most people, though, said the decision was just as obvious as before, many invoking Red Sox-Yankees as a comparison. Here were some of my favorite responses, broken down into themes:

The Doctrinaire:
“Giants, no question. Hate for Pats far outweighs dismay at seeing fellow NY team win.”
“rooting for the patsies is like a yankee fan rooting for the red sox, that is never acceptable”
“The answer is ALWAYS ‘Not The Fucking Patriots'”

The Help Me, I’m Surrounded by Massholes!:
“as a jet fan I’m rooting for the Giants. (Note- I live in New England)”
“Giants. I live in Boston, so I enjoy watching the car careen off the cliff.”

The Self-Interested Basketball Fan:
“leaning pats. The more angry ny fans there are the more likely dantoni gets fired when ppl turn back to basketball #WTFKNICKS”

The Self-Interested Hockey Fan:
“Don’t care, as long as they beat the Rangers tonight.” (Note: Too bad so sad!)

The Self-Aware Jets Fan:
“Giants. Fans easily less obnoxious than Pats fans … and Jets fans know about being obnoxious.”

The Shockingly Selfless:
“Giants since I have a lot of family and friends who are fans so at least they can be happy.” (Note: Awwwwwwwww!)

The Dark Knight Rises Scenario of Which You Speak:
“hoping for the dark knight rises scenario where someone blows up the entire field …”
“Outside of the stadium imploding, rooting for the Pats — live in NYC area surrounded by Giant fans — have heard enough from them …”

The Reverse Ray Bourque:
“shaun ellis”

The “Mayhem” Guy From Those Insurance Commercials:
“I’m with the Giants for NYC solidarity and because if they win again it’ll be the greatest act of sports trolling EVER.”

The “Can’t Handle the Truth”:
“I just can’t handle the concept of Eli being talked about as ‘among the greats of the game.’ #sorry #allelialltheguhhhh”

and finally, the Not Our Kind, Dear:
“Gross, don’t talk to Jets fans.”

(That last one may have changed a few minds.)

Now that Avery is out of the NHL (good night, sweet prince) who takes over his mantle as the most-reviled player in the league? I figure Scotty Hartnell made a pretty good case for himself during 24/7.

— Harrison E.

It’s not just Avery who is gone, it’s also, in some ways, Matt Cooke, who has had one of the more unexpected transformations in his play this season. Cooke has served just eight minor penalties for 16 minutes in the box through 49 games — compare that with last year, when in 67 games he racked up 37 minors, five majors, two misconducts, and a game misconduct for a total of 129 PIM. That’s not to say he’s not still hated — reputations last a long time, and he’s recently become tangled in some questionable play — but compared with the last few seasons, he’s really toned down his act.

Hartnell is definitely up there, though, and the fact that he can also score goals — he had his sixth career hat trick the other night in a 6-5 loss to the Bruins, whom we’ll get to in a moment — makes him stick even more in the craw of opposing teams. (Alex Ovechkin and P.K. Subban can fall into this category sometimes themselves.) Other current players, in no real particular order, who incite absolute rage for a living include guys like Patrick Kaleta, Alex Burrows, Maxim Lapierre, Dan Carcillo (more like KARMAcillo; he suffered a season-ending knee injury while delivering an illegal hit, and on second thought is it too late for me to take back that terrible pun?), Steve Ott, Chris Neil …

I’m sure I’m forgetting and/or including players that will send some wronged hockey fan into a frenzy, so to put the cherry on top I’ll end the list with “the Boston Bruins.” (I have to admit, though, that while I frequently root against them, I do kind of harbor some fondness for the sheer unapologetic ridiculousness of that roster. This post by Steve Glynn does a great job explaining why it works.)

Is it too much to ask for Zdeno Chara to start quoting lines from Rocky IV before/during games? I mean, the Bruins are already becoming the most hated team in the NHL, they might as well embrace it fully. If Big Z had said “If he dies, he dies!” after putting Pacioretty into the wall, the whole of North America would have gone insane … but they probably would have built a statue of him in Southie. I also would pay to see Chara skate up to the opposing captain before each game to say “I must break you” in his best Slavic accent. This would start each match on the proper note.

— Joseph B.

See what I mean? And this e-mail hasn’t even addressed Brad Marchand or Milan Lucic, or the White House’s latest public enemy no. 1.

But here, let’s all forget about today’s NHL and rejoice in its filthy, filthy past. (The NO FEAR shirt might be my favorite part. No COED NAKED?) This clip will make everyone feel better, and also possibly worse.

I have a number of female friends whose friendship means the world to me. I call most of them by their last name as opposed to their first name. I’m going to guess that a lot of guys refer to you as Baker, as opposed to Katie. Do you think a guy referring to a girl by her last name implies something deeper than what it is at face value?

— Mike M.

Typically I think it implies that you don’t particularly wish to make out with them … and your description of these ladies as “female friends whose friendship means the world to me” suggests to me that maybe I’m right. Even platonically, though, the last-name thing can get tricky; my own personal reactions to it have ranged from, “Ugh, who is he to think he’s on a last-name basis?” to, “OMGHECALLEDMEBAKESWE’REBESTFRIENDSNOW.” It’s akin to the parts of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind where Elijah Wood tries to reenact, frame-by-frame, the cherished memories that Kate Winslet had with Jim Carrey, but something about it just doesn’t feel right to her, you know? Anyway, the tricky part happens when you try to make the switch from the last name to the first. This is much more of an issue in reverse — so many guys not only go by variations on their last names but are so utterly defined by them that it’s awkward for a new girlfriend to attempt the switch from, say, “Fitzy” to “Patrick” without sounding like a teacher or mom.

In your opinion, when a girl says “its not like that” when referring to a male friend, how often is it like that? 100%?

— Matt A.

It depends. Is the guy calling her by her last name?

I recently got back from a trip to London and during my travels I was introduced to a little magazine called Hello. Now, I’ve been known to read a gossip mag or two, or three, in my time, but I’d never ever been as enthralled as I was by this magazine. Is there something about British celebrities that makes them way more interesting than US ones? I was more transfixed by a story about how Kate Middleton hosted a charity dinner alone (on only two days notice no less!) than I was by “celebrities, they’re just like us!” which is normally my favorite part of the magazine. Anyway I think we need US Weekly and In Style to start covering more British royalty and reality stars. What do you think?

— Will K.

First of all, I love a man who can readily admit he enjoys celebrity mags. Most of my guy pals, when we’re boarding a long train ride or settling into the backseat for a road trip, wrinkle their noses when I offer up my stack of Stars and Us Weeklys. (Remember back in the ’90s when Us was a rival to Entertainment Weekly? That was weird.) Slowly but surely they can’t help but glance over as I study each page, peering close at the enhanced photos of rogue celebrity cellulite and shaking my head in disagreement with Who Wore It Best? because NO JESSICA SIMPSON DIDN’T. By the time I get to the latest on La Lohan they can’t help but weigh in. “Oh my god, that’s what she looks like now? She used to be … ”

“Oh, I know,” I say, handing them their own issue so they’ll stop reading over my shoulder. They always accept it.

Anyway, the thing about British celebrities and royals and D-list reality stars is that in order for them to be fully appreciated, they need to be covered by the British, for the British. It’s hard for me to explain precisely why, other than (a) during the royal wedding the best commentary by far was by catty Brits in fascinators with titles like “Royal Household Correspondent,” and (b) well, just look at this piece from last year, which remains a gem of the genre — make sure you scroll all the way down to see how wonderfully and calmly they bury the lede. Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, what should really happen is that British writers should just take over all U.S. celebrity coverage as well. They may be the only people who do headlines better than the New York Post. I just clicked over to the Daily Mail website (which, if you liked Hello, you should absolutely add to your bookmarks), and these are just three teasers picked at random that are currently displaying on the main page:

Cougar Town Courteney Cox prowls around with her muscly legs on show in a little black dress
Looked far younger than her 47 years

The grandma who’s a mum again at 53 … despite the fact she was still taking the Pill just in case
Debbie Hughes, from Daventry, Northamptonshire, took a pregnancy test after her family teased her about putting on weight, expecting the notion that she was having another child to be swiftly ruled out. But after putting on her reading glasses to decipher the result, the astonishing news began to sink in.

Sending a message? Seal sings Let’s Stay Together on TV while ex Heidi Klum remains silent after split
Seal was happy to show his face (Okay, that one’s just cruel!)

and this, in a section marked “EDITOR’S SIX OF THE BEST”:

So, why the interest in beach volleyball, Minister?
Government claims it is a coincidence MPs “bought double the number of tickets for ‘skimpy outfit sport'”

See what I mean? The U.K.’s Olympics coverage is going to OWN. Oh, one important PS: I don’t think you’ve been reading In Style, as you wrote, unless you’ve recently become interested in which $400 blouses Gwyneth Paltrow uses as smocks for her children. I assume that’s just a mash-up of In Touch and the highly underappreciated Life & Style. (Speaking of which: If this constitutes Kristin Cavallari’s baby bump, then it’s possible I’m currently carrying septuplets.)

Is there a stadium in the world more ironically (and painfully) situated than Bridgestone Arena, home of the Nashville Predators? You walk out the front doors (like I did 5 minutes into the first period of a game vs. the Blue Jackets in which two fights occurred in the first 62 seconds) and you’re surrounded by honky-tonks and bedazzled cowboy boots. Slap-shots and spurs? Face-offs and a drunk Tennessee grad singing “Walkin’ in Memphis” to a crowd of MILFS wearing rhinestone cowboy hats? Tell me there’s a more unlikely place.

— Micah C.

I’ve not yet been to Bridgestone Arena — or Nashville at all, for that matter — but it’s one of the highest rinks on my list, in large part because of the disconnect you describe. (Though I’m willing to bet that there’s “a crowd of MILFs wearing rhinestone cowboy hats” lingering in or around more NHL arenas throughout North America than you might realize.) I can see how the juxtaposition could be colossally depressing in a year where the team was playing poorly and in front of lots of empty seats. But the Predators these days are setting franchise attendance records and holding their own in the league’s toughest division. And this is a team with a promotion in place that gives free Goo Goo Clusters (the “original Southern confection”) to every fan in the arena if a Nashville player scores with a minute to play in the second period. The other night this was done by Mike Fisher, who had managed to get himself traded to Nashville in part to be closer to his country-singing wife … Carrie Underwood. What about this whole “Smashville” situation is not to love? I’d be shocked if an All-Star Weekend isn’t held there within the next couple of years. Really, the only downside I can think of might be how many instances of the phrase “hockey tonk” the fans in Tennessee must have to endure on a daily basis.

Give us one band that you’re listening to right now that we all should be too.

— Bohdi S.

Fitz and the Tantrums! Normally a sentence in a band’s origin story like ” … a week and a half later we’re opening for Maroon 5 on their college tour” might serve as a bit of a warning sign, but hey, we’ve all done what we’ve had to do on our way to where we are now. (I once wrote an article that was essentially about how great all asses look in Lululemon, so I say this from experience.) They’re a six-piece, guitar-free group whose members and sound I’ve seen favorably compared to the likes of Tina Turner, Daryl Hall, and … the Sister Act soundtrack. Obviously, it was that last one that grabbed me. You can read an assessment that uses way more music-y words and includes a wealth of great quotes in Rolling Stone, written by Grantland’s own Andy Greenwald!

Per your question, I actually am listening to them right now because I’m going to their concert in San Francisco this Thursday night and could not be more excited, particularly after reading this review of a show in Boston this summer. (I’m a crier too.) When/if the time comes I fully intend to withdraw the entirety of my 401(k), take on a high-interest loan, and beg them to play at my wedding. (Hey, they performed at Occupy Wall Street with only a drum circle accompaniment, so you never know what they’ll say yes to.) You’re all invited. In the potentially really long meantime, here’s a link to their Spotify page.

On a scale of 1-10 what’s your excitement for this Super Bowl and how confident are you? As a huge Pats fan this is the perfect match up for Brady and Belichick to get their revenge on that stupid, should-have-been-a-sack, lucky-as-only-a-Manning-could-get catch in Super Bowl 42. I can’t wait for this game. Bring it on. Oh, and how are the Eli love blinders?

— Ted C.

I had to special-order the Eli love blinders from an unmarked voodoo shop in New Orleans so they haven’t even arrived yet. On a scale of 1-10 my excitement is somewhere around a 7.5 — I am just way too nervous right now to get it cranked up to a 10. As I wrote the other day, this postseason for the Giants, while of course glorious, is actually stressing me out more than the 2007 run did. It’s just so difficult to get to the Super Bowl, and so many things have to go exactly your way, that this game feels a bit more high-stakes than ’07 did. Put it this way: If it were to take the Giants another four years to get back to the big game again (which, in the NFL, is a VERY optimistic assessment), Eli Manning would be 35 and Tom Coughlin would be at home making exasperated faces at his remote control.

And between the revenge angle for the Patriots and the fact that the Giants beat them in a close game during Week 9, which I think is so hard to do a second time, and the realization that Angry Tom Brady plays with Hulk levels of super-strength … well, my confidence cowers somewhere around a 4. But then I start thinking about how that’s silly and reverse-jinx-y and how Jason Pierre-Paul is going to rip the Hulk’s head off and how Rob Gronkowski will be playing on an ankle that appeared to bend in a way I don’t wish to witness again, and it oscillates back to, I don’t know, a 6.5? The good news is that I live on the West Coast, so either way, there will be more than enough time to drink in the victory or drink away the pain.

Having just watched my beloved Patriots secure a spot in the Super Bowl, I had but a moment to relax. Seeing the Giants win suddenly put me in a somber mood. Forget ’07, I had to deal with another major issue: my girlfriend of 2.5 years is a Giants fan. Worse, much like yourself, she has an uncanny love for Eli Manningface. Every time he checks at the line and screams “Omaha!” she giggles. If the Patriots win, she will always have, “Hey, remember ’07?” If the Giants win, she gets to taunt me on how they’re now 2 for 2 in Super Bowls against the Pats and that Eli is only a Super Bowl behind Brady. Should we even try and watch this game together?

— Ryan F.

Let’s consider the options, and I’m going to assume for this exercise that your respective devotions are equal, or at least close enough. The first is watching it just the two of you, which I doubt is what you meant anyway. (If it is what you meant, though, the answer is NO NO NO SAVE YOURSELVES.)

The second is taking her to a party that will be populated mostly by Patriots fans, because there’s safety (and celebration or solace) in numbers. The danger: I’ve often witnessed that lone-wolf fans of one team, when placed in hostile territory, tend to become not shrinking violets but instead shrieking voices. It’s a me-against-the-world mentality that leads to loud “in your face”s and touchdown celebrations that would, on the playing field, merit a 15-yard penalty. If the Patriots lose, not only will you be devastated — you’ll also be the guy who brought that douchebag Giants fan. (This is a gender-neutral assessment, by the way. If your girlfriend wrote in with the same question I’d give her the same answer with the teams swapped around.) And what if there is, like with gunmen, a second Giants fan there? You could wind up watching hugging and high-fiving all night, and you’re not gonna like it.

The third option is to go to a more diverse or less intense party, hope it has a second TV somewhere, and drink heavily. (This is what I have done in the past.) The fourth option is to split — either for the night, or forever. Not to freak you out, but this is a pretttttty major test of what sounds like an otherwise healthy and long-lived relationship. Godspeed, giggles, and go Giants.

Filed Under: Eli Manning, Hockey, People

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Katie Baker is a staff writer at Grantland.

Archive @ katiebakes

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