Three Chicks Talk Football
Meredith: Author of Sass-a-Thon; native of Philly, graduate of Emerson, current resident of Texas; self-described obsessed Eagles fan.
Sam: Aka Boston Fan In Michigan: art / zoology major at the University of Michigan, fan of the Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots due to a curious web of family origins. Also a follower of college football. Maker of wonderful arstuffs.
Beth: Yours truly, but of course. Devotee of the Patriots, daughter of an offensive line coach, and the author of this blog.
We're chicks, we're sportsbloggers, we're content to spend a ridiculous amount of time emailing, and we know football. In this exchange, (modeled after those seen on All-baseball.com) we will discuss the game, our teams and the ways our gender affects our relationship with them.
Without further ado...
Who do you see making the playoffs at this point? Any predictions for after that?
Mer: First off, the NFL is a big disappointment to me this year, in my opinion. There are 3 exceptional teams, a handful of really good teams, and then everyone else is just blah - every week, any team could beat any other given team. Because of that, there really aren't any upsets or rivalries, which is bad for the sport. Now that I have that off my chest, here are my playoff predictions.
NFC East - Philly. Obviously.
NFC North - Green Bay. Favre is a winner and I don't see him choking in the stretch run. Minnesota is falling apart, as always, and Moss' absence doesn't help. The Vikings remind me of Dave Roberts. You know he's going to steal, but you are still overjoyed when he does. Likewise, you know Minnesota is going to find a way to miss the playoffs, but you still celebrate when they do.
NFC South - Atlanta. Their record speaks for itself.
NFC West - What a shitty division this is. Can they be annexed from the league? The Seahawks have completely fallen apart, the 49ers are a joke, Arizona is still Arizona, despite what Emmitt Smith will tell you. That leaves St Louis, but I refuse to pick a team coached by Mike Martz. That guy is the most atrocious coach in the NFL. I still can't believe he wasn't fired after his performance last year. I'll go with Arizona. They've won 2 in a row and aren't led by a monkey masquerading as a head coach.
Wild Card - The Giants are switching QBs, so they're out. New Orleans and Minnesota always find ways to lose, so they're out. I'm going with the Lions, my surprise pick of 2004 before the season started. They showed life at the end of last season, and they've looked pretty decent thus far.
AFC East - Pats. Obviously.
AFC North - Pittsburgh. Obviously. Oh yeah, and fuck you, Pittsburgh.
AFC South - Indy. I have no faith in Jacksonville. Plus, I'm secretly hoping that Peyton Manning gets to the playoffs before he chokes. It will make it all that much sweeter.
AFC West - San Diego. They're a fun upset pick. The remainder of their schedule is pretty easy, however I reserve the right to change my pick if they lose their game against Denver on Dec 5.
Wild Card - Tough one. Cinci appears to be hot, but their division record is still 0-3, so I can't pick them. I'll go with Denver.
Sam: *AFC East: Patriots. The Pats would have won it in any event, but the Jets would have made it interesting with Chad Pennington. Without him they're in trouble.
*AFC North: Steelers. Cincy could make a run, but not enough to knock off Pitt. Baltimore can't win with only defense. This might be the division with the worst uniforms... the hideously overstriped Bengals, the black leggings of the Ravens, the overall color scheme of the unfortunate Browns. The Steelers deserve to win it because of that, if nothing else.
*AFC South: Colts. They're tied with the Jaguars right now, but you have to believe that Indy will pull ahead even with a defense that's flimsier than A-Rod's protestations of heterosexuality. If you could merge the Indy offense with the Baltimore defense the world would be agape at the sight of the resulting team. But the Patriots would still beat them.
*AFC West: Chargers. I just don't see the Broncos outplaying them, if only because the Chargers seem to have good momentum right now (they've won three in a row). If they continue wearing those powder-blue uniforms I just might join the rest of America get on the Drew Brees bandwagon.
*AFC Wildcard: Toss-up. I'm going to go for the upset and say Bengals, even though Chad Johnson is a TO-wannabe. Jaguars are going to have trouble with Leftwich out. I had the Ravens at first, but I just looked at their upcoming schedule and they have New England, Pittsburgh, and Indy ON THE ROAD. Look for the Ravens to crash and burn in the upcoming weeks.
*NFC East: Eagles. Barring a major breakdown of team dynamics they're not going to be caught in that division.
*NFC North: Packers. This is the most exciting division in football, and I'm not just saying that because the Lions are in it. The Packers and Vikings are 5-4, while the Lions and Bears are 4-5. The phrase 'on any given Sunday' was made for these guys. With Randy Moss out, I say Favre leads the Packers to the top of it. You can never count the Bears out, though, especially as they're on a 3-game winning streak right now.
*NFC South: Falcons. Michael Vick is overrated, but being 7-2 in a relatively crappy division is not.
*NFC West: Cardinals. I just have a feeling about the Cardinals. If you're not from Arizona, can you name anyone on the Cardinals? Yet they're 4-5 and have won their last 2. It's perfectly possible that Hasselbeck is washed up for the season anyways, and the Rams I object to on principle because they signed Jeff Fucking Smoker, former Michigan State quarterback, and proof that State really is a school full of the drug-addicted back-town dregs of humanity.
*NFC Wildcard: Lions. Uh. Because. RESTORE THE ROAR! If not the Lions, maybe the Bears. I always have this nagging sense about the Bears. This weird, sort of upwelling thing, like they're always just about to cut loose and unleash their fury upon the NFL, but not quite yet. Most people call this constipation, but I call it a feeling that the Bears might still be in the playoffs race.
Beth:NFC: South: Atlanta
North: Green Bay
Wild Card: Seattle
AFC: South: Colts
Wild Card: Baltimore
Wild Card: San Diego
I know nothing whatsoever about either league's West divisions. From what I can see, it's a crap shoot, emphasis on the crap. I think Baltimore will be a surprise team this year. They've already given Philly a run for their money and stunned New York. They could be a real force to be reckoned with.
Not sure how it'll work out, but I think the Pats and Pittsburgh are on a collision course for the AFC playoffs. After that I think the Pats will face Philly in the Super Bowl.
What team do you love the most and why? What team do you hate the most and why?
Mer: The Eagles are my team. I grew up in Philly, and the Eagles are the only team I've ever followed or had any love for. We have a bad reputation but Eagles fans are the most passionate fans I've ever seen. If the team went 0-16, the Linc would still sell out every single game. The atmosphere is incredible at games. Sure, we've made mistakes. I'm not proud of the Dirty Thirty booing McNabb on draft day, but we know how to admit when we're wrong. We love our Eagles and we're demanding to a fault. E-A-G-L-E-S - EAGLES!
As for the team I hate, I don't know if hate is strong enough for my feelings towards the Dallas Cowboys. All Eagles fans hate the Cowboys - it's in our blood. As a kid, I wasn't a huge football fan, but I can remember being on the school bus in junior high on a Monday morning after the Eagles got spanked, once again, by the Cowboys. I hate the Cowboys for the same reasons Red Sox fans hate the Yankees - they were always the team in our way. Plus, growing up in the age of Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman, I automatically think "Criminals" when I hear "Cowboys." That team was always getting in trouble with the law - drugs, prostitutes, you name it. And yet still the NFL shoved the whole "America's Team" bullshit down our throats.
No, I'm not bitter.
Sam:I love the Lions. I'm a Pats fan because they're my home team, and I've rooted for them for years (since '97, when I was in 7th grade and my school went nuts with Patriots fever, and I finally realized that the Lions were not, in fact, my home team), and they're just so damn lovable. But the hapless Lions are the team I was raised on. My first football experiences were at the Silver Dome. My first jersey of any team or any sport (even before the Red Sox, horror of horrors) was a Herman Moore Lions jersey. Much as it pains me, the Lions are my team, for better or for worse.
I have a simmering bitterness towards the Dolphins lately, mostly because I give them support and they drag my heart through the Everglades mud, but I don't really hate them. I strongly dislike the Minnesota Vikings. There's just something about Daunte Culpepper that annoys me, and Randy Moss is a germophobic diva. Mike Tice always looks like he's seconds away from liquifying like that guy in the XMen movie, and I'm ashamed that I just made that comparison.
That said, my true hatred for football teams is reserved for college ball. No matter where you stand on the pro/college debate, you cannot deny that the rivalries are a whole lot more intense in college. I dislike the Vikings, but I truly despise Ohio State and their entire cheating program. I hate Michigan State with a passion that is pure and undiluted. I hate Notre Dame, with their superiority complex and their ridiculous Touchdown Jesus. The Michigan Wolverines, however, are clearly the best football team to ever bless a field with their cleats, playing in the best (or, at least, biggest) football stadium in the US, in front of the best fans in college football. Not that I'm biased or anything.
Beth: Patriots--they're my home team, and watching Belichik coach and Brady play quarterback is one part chessmaster to one part ballet to one part Roman gladiator.
My second favorite team in the league, at least this year, is probably Philly. As a Sox fan my heart goes out to them after the last few years. I like Donovan McNabb, not a huge fan of T.O., but I just think the franchise and their fans deserve a break.
I hate, hate HATE the Colts. I hate the way people kiss their ass even though there's no real reason to--they haven't won a damn thing yet. I hate the way they collectively whined, as a team, about the Patriots beating them to the point where they CHANGED THE RULES OF THE GAME...ok, need to change the subject now.
Watch yourself, Sam. My sister goes to Ohio State. And need I remind you that Derek Jeter went to Michigan? Yeah, I saw him AND Posada draped in the blue and yellow last year.
But then again, Tommy was a Wolverine. So it's tough. but my family loyalty prevails. My father and sister will actually be at the OSU-Mich game this weekend, proudly wearing maroon and grey, and sporting Buckeye hats.
How did you come to be a fan of the Dolphins, btw?
Sam: Hey hey hey. Jeter was at Michigan for what, possibly a semester? He's FROM Michigan, so maybe he's a fan, but I thought he went to the Yankees right out of high school. Barely counts. Brady was here for all four years, and Ty Law for three.
I will sadly not be at the UMich/OSU game, but I will certainly be watching it with a whole crowd of people, all of us infinitely blue and maize, screaming for blood. Blood! And the Rose Bowl.
The Dolphins. Sigh. My mother's from Miami, so she tried to rear me on the Dolphins, but it just never took quite as firmly as the Lions or, eventually, the Pats did. I have my Dan Marino jersey, though. Yeah, my mother's from Miami, my dad is from Detroit, and they ended up in Boston. Thusly: bizarre sports affiliations.
The mental image of Jeter and Posada 'draped in the blue and yellow' just made me choke on horrified laughter in the middle of class. I think I pictured them cuddling under a blanket with a big block M on it. My teacher is staring at me.
I hope you're happy now.
What player(s) do you love the most and why? What player(s) do you hate the most and why?
Mer: The Eagles have changed so much in recent years that I don't have a favorite player. I love watching McNabb play. That 14.1 second play on Monday night against the Cowboys was orgasmic. He's magical in the pocket - he's so big that he can avoid a sack that looks like a sure thing, and he can run if he has to, which adds a whole extra dimension to his game. And he's always having fun out there, which is refreshing. I want to see him bring a Super Bowl championship to Philly so that he can get the credit and respect he truly deserves. I love Brian Dawkins' leadership. I love Freddie Mitchell's attitude. And yes, I love T.O. and the fact that he loves playing the game.
As for players I hate, that's easy. Emmitt Smith - now there is a guy that really does deserve to be playing in fucking ARIZONA. That guy is a selfish ass who has forgotten why he started playing football in the first place. I detest him with a white-hot hatred that cannot be measured. I'm also not a big fan of the Manning family and wish eternal failure on them.
Sam: Quarterbacks are such marquee players, we either love or hate them. I think it goes without saying that, as a female Patriots fan, I have an intense love for Tom Brady. That doesn't require explanation. I also love Joey Harrington, despite his troubles, because he's cute and earnest and trying very hard with a group of receivers who are determined to drop everything he throws. It's a rueful sort of love, and quite different from the slavish awe I have for Brady, but it's love nonetheless.
Apart from the quarterbacks... hmm. I'm going to go with Tedy Bruschi from the Patriots. He's built like a quintessential football player... looks shorter than he is, stocky while giving the impression that there's not an ounce of extra fat on him. He's not gorgeous in the movie-star way that Brady is, but he's attractive in a square-jawed, working-class kind of way. He always, ALWAYS seems to come up with the big plays when we need them, and he's almost the definition of a good natured, nationally underappreciated Patriot. What's not to like?
On the Lions I love Eddie Drummond. Yes indeed. He is often the only reason to even watch the Lions play. He's a special teams player without whom the team could not operate. The other team KNOWS that he's going to run a kickoff or a punt back for ridiculous yardage, but he does it anyways. This might make him the Dave Roberts of football, and a baseball-loving lord knows that I love Dave Roberts to small, Dave-Robertsish bits.
I don't really hate any individual players right now. I get exasperated with TO(sorry Meredith), and I think Ray Lewis is a bit of a punk. I want to hate Roethlisbergerererer for encroaching on the Brady legacy by attempting to repeat it, but I don't know enough about the kid to get anything more than a general antipathy going. I suppose I hated Charlie Batch back when he was playing for the Lions, simply because he sucked all the life out of that team. Story of Detroit right there, really.
Beth: I love Tedy Bruschi--he's the heart and soul of the Patriots defense. I love his toughness and his cheerfulness and the fact that he bears a passing resemblance to Erik Estrada. He's funny and intense in interviews and roars like a lion on the field. Of course I love Tommy and Adam, that goes without saying. I also love the Patriots' left tackle, Matt Light. I think he's attractive in a Viking kind of way, and he's also witty and smart as a whip.
On other teams, it's cliche, but I LOVE Ray Lewis. I heard him miked up for a MNF broadcast and it blew my mind. At one point he says on the sideline, "It's almost time for my pick." And then he went out and did it on the next series. I mean, what the fuck.
Michael Vick, too. He has the potential to be the Michael Jordan of the NFL, if they can find a system that will fit him.
I hate. hate. HATE Peyton Manning. I LOATHE Peyton Manning. In fact, I dislike his entire family. I hate the fact that Peyton Manning gets made out to be the Second Coming of Christ and Tom Brady is consistently underestimated. I hate his arrogance and his crybaby antics when things don't go right. I hate his control-freak tactics on the field, rearranging his O-Line past the play clock because he obviously can't trust anyone else to be smarter than him. What an asshole.
I also can't stand Kurt Vanderjagt, the Colts' kicker. He's a bona fide dick. Even his quarterback said he was a drunken idiot. At the home opener against New England, Vanderjagt made a hand gesture toward the Pats' bench before lining up to kick what would have been the tying field goal as if to say, "I'm money," (that little finger-rubbing gesture) and proceeded to miss it. Which lost them the game. All I have to say to that is: HA HA HA.
Mer: (To Sam) What is it about TO that bugs you?
Sam: Sometimes you just want the guys to play the game, you know? I'd rather have the news be full of the fact that TO had three touchdowns than the details of his touchdown dances. Personally I thought the Sharpie thing was funny, but after a while you get the feeling that it's too premeditated and he's scrambling to keep the spotlight on himself. But I'll bet it's quite lovable if you're a fan of the team.
Discuss your upbringing with football, if applicable. How did you get into the game? What is appealing about football as a sport?
Mer: I was actually not a fan of football as a child. Hockey was a religion in my household, and I would always be angry with Philly sports fans for talking football in April when I thought they should have been talking about hockey. I was a casual fan in junior high, mostly because of the Cowboys rivalry. It took over the city and was hard to be unaffected. I remember watching Randall Cunningham. I remember the day Jerome Brown died. I remember Buddy Ryan and Ray Rhodes. I remember Norman Braman, the worst owner in Philly history. In college I finally became pretty passionate about the Eagles. I guess it took leaving home to appreciate what I had.
I don't love football in the way that I love hockey or even baseball. However, I do see rare moments of beauty in the sport, such as the previously mentioned McNabb 14 second play on Monday night. And 4th and 26 against the Packers. I love sports, I love competition, and so I love football. I love watching games played in rough conditions. There are very few cooler things in sports than a football game played in falling snow. I love watching a guy in double coverage make a fantastic catch. I love the drama. I love the intensity that builds up over the course of a full week. I love that football has a rich tradition and history in most cities. I love the way it united entire cities of people who have no similar interests other than a love of a team.
Sam: As I said before, I was raised on the Lions. My dad and brother would be watching the games, so I would too. I have family in Michigan, and we would always head out there for Thanksgiving and the Thanksgiving Day football game. Watching football in the Silver Dome was always a bit like making a pilgrimage, since it was out in the middle of godforsaken nowhere (i.e. Pontiac). We would park a million miles away and take a shuttle bus to the stadium, smiling at all the other Lions fans jammed in there with us, Midwestern accents in varying levels of thickness rolling over the vowels in the names of players and coaches. You would be rattling down these empty roads through what looked like war-blasted fields and suddenly a gleaming white, flattened bubble would rise out of the brownish gray desolation. Then you would shuffle off the bus, hit pavement, and find yourself surrounded by tailgating fans, blue and silver and the smell of cooking meat everywhere, a token cheesehead or two almost always floating around, even if the Packers weren't playing. The giant, inflatable Flying Lion would float around the dome, Barry Sanders would dance down the field, and sometimes we would even win.
In recent years the games have moved to Ford Field, which is in downtown Detroit. It's a much nicer field (the turf at the Silver Dome was a painfully artifical shade of green) and the stadium is gorgeous. The pilgrimage has changed, the shuttle buses have been exchanged for a downtown parking spot, the tailgating fans for the pregrame crowd at a boisterously overpacked Coney Island in Greektown. The Flying Lion is no more, and while Barry Sanders jerseys are still seen on many backs, many more sport 'Harrington' or 'Williams'. The blue and silver still turn out en masse, though, and the smiles exchanged with perfect strangers who share all your heartbreak and overwhelming, completely unfounded hope are as bright as they've ever been.
So, er, that's how I got into football. And that's why it still rocks.
Beth: My father was a high school offensive line coach when I was a kid. His team made it to their super bowl at Foxboro Stadium. Film was being broken down on a fairly regular basis in my house for a long time. My dad and grandfather, meanwhile, have watched and rooted for the Patriots as long as they've existed, and never anyone else. I pretty much became a Patriots fan the same way I became a Red Sox fan: genetics.
How do you think being female affects you as a football fan? Is being a female fan of football harder than other sports? Why?
Mer: It's a well-known fact that football is the most popular of the major sports among women. I wouldn't say being a female football fan is any different than being a female hockey fan or female baseball fan. Though, it's rare to be whistled at walking through the parking lot of a baseball game. A football game is another story. Male football fans seem to be more likely to whistle or catcall, which isn't a surprise given the presence of cheerleaders and beer. Lots of beer.
Sam: It's hard to say how being female affects me as a football fan. Of course I can enjoy the game on multiple levels that most of my male counterparts are barred from. I imagine that it's much more fun to watch the game and enjoy it as football in and of itself, but also because the tight end looks really good in those shiny spandex pants. I've run into a few instances where people had a hard time believing that I actually knew what was going on, could name the players, and so on, but it hasn't been much of an issue. Possibly this is because I am at a school here football is so prevalent that you would be mad to not enjoy it, and it's assumed that the majority of people know at least a little about it.
It always seems that people are much more shocked that I'm a baseball fan than they are at the fact that I'm a football fan. Perhaps it's because more casual female fans will say they like football, while more casual female fans tend to find baseball boring. Paying so much attention to the game itself makes it difficult for me to step back and look at how bein' a lady changes things for me as a fan.
Beth: Being a female fan of football is a bit tougher, because (and wrongly so, I think), it's seen as a less cerebral and tougher game than baseball. Personally, I think you need only look to a coach's playbook to realize football's not simple, and Curt Schilling's ankle to realize that baseball's not weak. But the perception is that women who like football are either un-feminine or ultra-feminine, the groupie type. Being a normal, middle-of-the-road woman who loves football doesn't seem to compute for some people.
It's not so much the violence or the athletic butts in Spandex (although those don't hurt) that attract me--it's all the patterns and the precision of football, as well as its grace. Just the fact that a wide receiver has the control to bring both feet down in bounds while he's catching a ball in midair is something that fascinates and astounds me. All the different mini-games and matchups within the game. To me it's a highly complex sport. Maybe even, because of its pace, more complex than baseball.