I Suck at Football 2.3: Time-Travel Beard

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On Sunday, the Bengals apparently became the first team in NFL history to turn a 14-point lead into a 16-point deficit and still eke out a win, which is easily the most archetypally Bengals-ish record ever set.


I’m hanging out in front of my house with my daughter. She’s wearing cat ears. She parades around with a bunch of tall gladioli still wrapped in grocery-store cellophane. I’m taking a bunch of silly pictures of her with my phone, and then I take one where she’s making this surly face that somehow makes her look 10 or 12 years older, and the idea of her someday being that old is terrifying and I put my phone away immediately. It’s one of the most messed-up things about clicking a digital camera in your kid’s face all the time; sometimes you happen to freeze a certain expression and it’s like you’ve aged them with CGI. To all Louis C.K.’s totally valid gripes about smartphones, I’ll add one more: It’s probably unhealthy to constantly be generating all this proof that time is passing.

That afternoon I pick up a “Hulk” comic for the first time in a while. The Hulk has been transported back to King Arthur’s court and he and the Black Knight have to fight the Chronarchist, who’s leaping around the time stream, tampering with history. The Chronarchist blasts the Hulk with a rapid-aging ray. He intends to age the Hulk until he turns to dust. The Hulk instantly grows an oddly stylish white beard, like James Brolin.


There’s an empty seat next to Janet but I want no part of that situation. (Janet’s a seat-saver; Janet is as far as I can tell the only Ye Rustic regular with seat-saving privileges.) I sit down at the far corner of the bar, my back to the Saints-Cardinals game. I’m sitting between a guy who’s rooting for the Cardinals and a woman who’s rooting for the Saints. Saints Girl has a mimosa on a Kenny Powers coaster. Every time I look at it, it triggers something in my brain and I start composing freestyle raps about it. The finest mimosas on Kenny Powers coasters. Testarossa roadsters. Inside my own brain I am basically Jadakiss.

The Cardinals score on the Saints and the Saints Girl makes a frustrated noise. “Don’t worry,” the Cards guy says. “We’ll find a way. We always find a way.” To lose, he means.


“It’s always fun with the Cardinals,” the Cardinals Guy says after his team turns it over, “because we play the team we play, and then we play ourselves.”


The Bengals are up 14-0 before Aaron Rodgers even gets on the field. At one point there’s a scramble for the ball — the first of a few, because today is that kind of game — that turns into a fight, and you can see Rodgers on the sideline, taking care to project a BMOC kind of cool reserve, like he’s watching two freshmen getting into a shoving match in the cafeteria line.

Being in a room with a bunch of TVs tuned to different Sunday Ticket games means you keep half-seeing and half-hearing the same TV spots over and over. I become an expert on these commercials and the things that are wrong with them:

Here are various kinds of young, hip creative people, who are putting on fashion shows and building robots and innovating because, we’re told, they’re “powered by pizza,” which is funny because pizza is the thing you give young creative people when you want them to stay late at work but can’t or won’t pay them extra.

Here is a promo for a show in which Martin Mull and Peter Riegert eat pot brownies and act weird. There’s a TV show in which Martin Mull and Peter Riegert eat pot brownies and act weird, but if I watch it, will my doing so indirectly contribute to Seth MacFarlane not someday being buried in a pauper’s grave? Thanks a lot for the moral dilemma, television.

Here is an ad where an African American dad wants to watch football but his daughter comes into the room in a princess outfit and makes him watch something else, and he’s upset, and then Drew Brees appears in his Saints uniform and talks to you about an app for your phone. I never actually hear the sound on this one, but here’s my speculative script for the Brees portion of the ad: “Ha-ha — that guy has a daughter who loves him. What an asshole. Hi, I’m Drew Brees. Watch football on your phone, dummy.”

Here is a commercial that tries to retcon the Toyota Corolla as, among other things, the favorite car of grunge musicians, which is a real revisionist-historical slap in the face to the punk-rock legacy of the Subaru Impreza. (Word to Daniel Faraday.)

Here is an ad for a movie called Escape Plan in which Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger play guys who have an escape plan. There are also future-cops, wearing masks seemingly purchased from the THX 1138 section of a pop-up Halloween store, who are trying to stop them from executing their escape plan. Everything about this movie looks to be relevant to my interests. I fail to see how Escape Plan will not end up being the best movie of 1986.

Here is an ad that uses “Beethoven’s Fifth” to sell Web browsers. “Beethoven’s Fifth” really cuts through the ambient din of the bar. Ludwig sure could write a hook.


“When you flipped me off just then,” says the Cards fan to the bartender, “I realized who you look like.” He pulls out a tablet and starts scrolling through pictures on a friend’s Facebook profile.

The bartender sets down another coffee in front of me, next to a rocks glass full of half-and-half, which makes me feel like Alex from A Clockwork Orange. “I’m probably going to be offended,” she says. “Someone once told me I look like a hot Monica Lewinsky.”

Best Show on WFMU host Tom Scharpling has been known to argue, correctly I think, that no one should ever, ever instigate a “You know who you look like?” conversation unless what they’re going to say is “Angelina Jolie” or “George Clooney.” Or, y’know, “Tyrese” or “Gong Li” or whomever — someone whose attractiveness is objectively undebatable is my point. There’s just so many ways for it to go awry if you try to draw a creative parallel, and I suggest as much to the Cards guy.

“Oh, I gave up on that three fiancées ago,” the guy says. “I ask chicks if they’re pregnant all the time, too.” He looks up at the game. Arizona has just turned it over, laying the groundwork for what’ll become a 31-7 loss. “Here we go,” he says. “Cardiac Cards.”


And then I spend Saturday afternoon building my daughter her first big-girl bed. We converted her crib into starter-bed mode months ago — you take the front wall off and put this low rail on instead — but it’s time to make the jump for real. So I get down on my knees and take apart the crib with one of those little Allen wrenches and shuttle the pieces of the crib down the back stairs to the shed, in case somebody needs it someday, and then I put together the new bed, which is a real bed, with bedposts and everything. She could sleep in this thing until, like, high school, maybe. The Chronarchist levels his aging ray at me, at all of us, pink time-warp energy like a sprinkler on the widest setting. Hulk melancholy.


Anyway: The Bengals score twice early and then fall into an opium dream for what feels like the better part of an hour as the Packers rack up 30 consecutive points. I know this isn’t saying much, given the number of football games I’ve seen, but it’s one of the weirdest football games I’ve ever seen. Cue Boots Randolph’s greatest hit: Andy Dalton gets hit, somehow gets back up still holding the ball, then fumbles. Cut to A.J. Green looking at the sky like C’mon, dog.

Very #rare Terence Newman interception in the third, after which Dalton gets hit again and goes down for real this time, like a hotel Christmas tree losing a fight with a drunk Kiefer Sutherland. Later every Bengal and Packer on the field puppy-piles on a loose ball, and the ball itself rolls away and Newman scoops it up and runs it in for a touchdown.


Rough week for the Lords Disick, by the way. Let’s just say we didn’t exactly field the strongest possible squad, because maybe the deadline to futz with the lineup came and went with nobody on the coaching staff noticing, because maybe the coaching staff got kinda deep into the new Pynchon and forgot about football for a day or two. Used to happen to Bear Bryant all the time.


Sunday night during the Emmys, two people who know me suggest that Jon Hamm’s beard makes him look like me. I’m not writing this to humblebrag, or because I think it’s true in anything but an all-white-people-with-big-dumb-beards-look-vaguely-alike sort of way; I’m writing this because it’s an example of how to execute the “You know who you look like?” correctly. If you’re not comparing someone to Jon Hamm or the Jon Hamm of their particular race and gender, you’re probably about to make a mistake.


Eventually the Hulk picks up Excalibur, the enchanted sword that can cut anything, and uses it to cleave the time-ray in half.

My daughter digs in her dress-up bin, pulling out a pair of green plastic sunglasses with lenses shaped like four-leaf clovers and a matching headband with four-leaf-clover antennae on little springs. I’m a shamrock. I try to ask her a question while in costume and she snaps back, “Plants don’t talk.”

Filed Under: Aaron Rodgers, Cincinnati Bengals, NFL, Sylvester Stallone

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Alex Pappademas is a staff writer for Grantland.

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