[Editor’s note: This is a guest column submitted by Michael Tunison of Kissing Suzy Kolber. Tunison, also known as Xmas Ape, has done some work for us in the past. His new book, The Football Fan’s Manifesto, was released on August 18. You can buy it right here, and you can watch a promotional video right there. So without further adieu, we’ll turn it over to Tunison.]
Preseason is in full swing. The new Madden game is out. Fantasy drafts
are being painstakingly prepared. Fantasy team names are being loaded
down with dick jokes.
At long last, telltale signs that the slog through another torturous
and soul-castrating NFL off-season, marked as always by desperate acts
of boredom alleviation such as spending time with family, watching dust
collect on tabletops and even watching baseball, is finally coming to a
close. Soon, we will be swept into the resplendent realm of regular
season football, and with it our lives will again attain purpose and
our bodies will experience near-fatal alcohol poisoning.
And, yeah, it
will be glorious.
In matters of football fandom, loyalty matters above all else (save
maybe drunkenness), and the wage of loyalty is all-consuming hatred
toward all those who are not your favorite team. It helps when that
hatred manifests itself in creative put downs and hilarious effigies,
but it need not be necessarily. So long as your black heart is in the
Even a casual reader of this site knows PFT readers bring the hate with
an animalistic fervor. Scroll through the comments of practically any
post and witness dozens of readers [editor’s note: I hesitate to call them readers because I’m not sure some of them can actually read] falling all over themselves
attempting to savage the reputations of winning teams and their
fan bases with the most vicious vitriol they can summon. For this I
applaud them. One is supposed to harbor nothing but irrational hatred
toward a favorite team’s rivals and any other franchise that is faring better
than said favorite team. Priggish folks sniff at such displays of contempt but
they are emotionally stilted homunculi. Seasoned haters will embrace
that hate, let it flow through them, swaddle them and keep them secure
That said, there are always blind spots in hate. Specifically, there are players
who are stubbornly sympathetic in spite of your desire to condemn to
kiddie toucher’s hell everyone who doesn’t don the jersey of your
favorite squad. For the 2009 season, I have pinpointed five cases of
pesky likability that may prove difficult to undercut.
5. (tie) Carson Palmer/Calvin Johnson. There’s nothing sadder than an
immense talent despoiled by being mired in a vortex of insanity and
incompetence, and that is most definitely the case with both Palmer and
Johnson. I mean, Palmer’s still kind of a douche, but you gotta feel
for a guy who could be a top-tier quarterback if only the football gods
didn’t feel like cosmically reaming him for a lifetime. Johnson, on the
other hand, is still young enough to let his rookie contract expire and
flee to a team with a prayer at winning more than . . . zero games. Any guy
who could put up the numbers he did for that Lions offense last season
is deserving of much better.
4. Drew Brees. For one, he’s probably going to win a bunch of people
their fantasy leagues this year with gaudy stats put up in 43-41 Saints
losses. Brees also comes off as a genuinely affable guy who gives back
generously to the community. If he could only come up with a tragic and/or bizarre personal story that makes him sympathetic to the vast majority of the football-watching population, he might just rocket to the top.
3. Michael Oher. I’m a Steelers fan (I’ll pause as Ravens fans — and maybe a player or two — sharpen
their knives) so I pretty much hate everything to do with Baltimore.
The Ravens make this very easy by fielding an extremely contemptible
team supported by even more loathsome fans. So, man, was I pissed when
Oher fell to the Ravens in the first round of the draft, not only
because he’ll most likely be a very solid lineman for many years to
come, but also because he’s a class act with a compelling back story
that involves overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds. WHY DID YOU
HAVE TO MAKE “THE BLIND SIDE” SO HEART WRENCHING!? DAMN YOU, MICHAEL
2. Michael Vick. As the saying goes, the enemy of my enemy is my
friend. And, boy, does Vick have some obnoxious forces going against
him right now. Any defense of Vick has to carry the caveat that what he
did in order to go to jail was horrible, and it’s true. But the guy
served his sentence. That’s not absolute atonement, but it’s as much as
we can reasonably expect out of a guy in order to play football.
Leonard Little is still in the league, after all. Now Vick has to
contend with threats of PETA protests (if you want me to like
something, just tell me how much PETA hates it) and Roger Goodell,
who’s imposed one of his classic intentionally vague policies that
enables the commissioner to ruin Vick’s life for any of several
arbitrary reasons. This alone makes Vick a powerful NFL anti-hero.
1. Jason Campbell. Good lord, this guy has been screwed over the last
couple months. Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato did everything in their
power to let Campbell know he’s unappreciated and unwanted. They tried
to trade for Jay Cutler, they tried to trade for Mark Sanchez, and
there are rumors that if Campbell falters at all this year, Colt
Brennan will be brought in. Yet through it all, Campbell has shown
remarkable maturity few players in the league would in similar
situations. Hell, if Cutler so much as finds out his team’s G.M. so much as looks at another quarterback, he’s
gonna fold his arms, have himself a good pout, then have Bus Cook
calling ESPN saying he wants to be traded within the hour. Granted,
Campbell is not the greatest quarterback in the world, but he’s not the
liability he’s being made out to be by his own team, and he certainly
gives you a better chance to win than Mark Sanchez. So, however you
feel about the Redskins (barf), it’d be great to see Campbell lead the
team to an 11-5 record and a playoff win if for no other reason than
just to make Snyder and Cerrato look like idiots for probably the 300th
time just that week.
Perhaps these guys will commit an unspeakable act that allows fans to
take them down a peg, however improbable that seems. [Editor’s note: Except for Vick.] Otherwise the
haters among us must put our nasty feelings aside and begrudge these
athletes their existence until they make the slightest move towards
Once that happens, the haters will be permitted to strike.