Monday, October 5, 2009

On the Beauty of Ineptitude

As an American male who conspicuously consumes light beer, the advice of Charles Schwab and pickup trucks (preferably all at once), I feel it is a patriotic obligation of mine to stay attuned to professional football. The NFL is the denouement to my weekend; I enjoy it immensely, but it is a product that somehow manages to be both physically superior and spiritually inferior to its college counterpart. Pro football, in the modern age, is a supremely crafted corporate exercise whose studio hosts multiply like Tribbles and whose rules are carefully worked and reworked in order to induce parity.

And yet, as with everything in life, it is most intriguing when those rules fail.

Not in a long time can I recall a conflagration of so many truly horrific NFL franchises, from Kansas City to Cleveland, from Oakland to St. Louis, from Detroit to Tampa Bay. Remember those NFL Films Football Follies episodes, an hour-long pastiche of Buccaneers dressed in Hooters orange, fumbling the ball backward forty yards while Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny provided narration of John McKay muttering, "Sufferin' Succotash!" to himself? Well, this season could be a bonanza for Looney Tunes-worthy ineptitude, and while it might seem like a concern, the NFL should embrace the pathetic back end of its product. Losing is good. Losing is interesting. And losing like this doesn't happen every year.

Let's face it: Pro football in the modern age is hard-edged and cruel, a concussive stream of injury and solemnity, and nothing breaks the tension like a chorus of circus clowns. Seven wins and nine losses is not particularly compelling at all; zero wins and sixteen losses is a Homeric epic. I mean, just look around: The career of JaMarcus Russell is shaping itself into a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. The Lions have become a metaphor for the economic collapse of an entire region. Coaches are punching their assistants; fans are in active revolt. All over the Midwest and the Bay Area and Northern Florida, there are children subconsciously crafting memoirs of their childhoods as fans of hapless and pathetic franchises. I guarantee they are leading far more interesting inner lives than children in Boston, who have never known the pain and suffering of their fathers and forefathers, who now presume by the third grade that they will marry supermodels.

If losing breeds character, this might wind up as the most memorable NFL season of the decade. Which proves, once again, that Al Davis is a misunderstood genius.

(Photo: AP)

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