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Way Of The Gunslinger And The Eli Apple Redemption Arc, With Andy Behrens

Matthew Stafford, seen here going deep in the direction of the Distraction logo.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Every year, the Super Bowl arrives as a mercy. In years past, this has been because of the way that it caps off two weeks of absolutely extraneous and impossibly protracted NFL-branded garbage—the literal Pro Bowl sandwiched between days of increasingly impatient play-fighting in the sport's media. This year, characteristically, it was all even less fun than that. Brian Flores's charges about the league's backwards and bigoted executive folkways were instantly, utterly credible on their own, and then were borne out through the league just continuing to do all the things it reliably does. Predictable statements were issued; predictable hires were made. That the game itself looks as good as it does—which, at the risk of spoiling this week's episode, is "extremely good"—is happy news for everyone. But it's also necessary, if only as a reminder of why anyone would put up with all the rest of this.

In the episode, we talked about all of that—the game itself, and all the luridly dumb and prototypically NFL shit that it has to make up for—with returning champion guest Andy Behrens of Yahoo Sports. It is a peculiar strength of the NFL that even its ridiculous stuff is fun to talk about, and while I consider myself very lucky not to be a fan of the Houston Texans I sure do enjoy thinking and talking about what a weird clammy mess they are. But after a speed-run through the bad-but-fascinating teams, we tried to devote some time to appreciating the pair of good-but-interesting teams that have fought their way through to the Super Bowl. While they're each identifiable as a specific type of good team, they are very different types of team, and like every NFL team quite possibly getting their last, best shot at winning a Super Bowl. This has less to do with either the Bengals or the Rams and more to do with the unreasonable sport they play and the unpredictable league in which they play it. They are, like every Super Bowl team, in this game because everything went right for them at the right moments. They are, like every team in the NFL, not only not guaranteed a repeat of that good fortune but guaranteed something much more like the opposite. I was permitted to discuss My Personal Eli Apple Journey, but not for too long.

So that's fun. But that is not all that you will find within this unusually packed episode. We discussed in some depth Major League Baseball's worrying and dreary lockout situation and the mediocre billionaire owner types who seem determined to keep it going as long as possible. We also considered, in entirely too much depth and with entirely too much enunciation of his last name, the enduring legacy of plodding Bears bust Curtis Enis. And this was before the Funbag was cast open, which afforded us a true feast of goonery. Drew, Andy, and I considered which Olympics sports we might do best at, which quickly became a consideration of which ones were most likely to do us significant physical harm.

We also discussed the broader concept of The Grim Men's Evening and remembered Grim Men's Experiences of our own, thanks to a very helpful reader request. I said some things about my friend Mike's chili cookery, at least in its early days, that are both harsh and true. I will qualify them, here, by mentioning that he is now a very good cook, and mention again that the grim men's afternoons in which I shoveled that dangerous slurry down my gullet were some of the happiest times of my life despite the fact that they were mostly spent watching Aaron Brooks quarterbacking the New Orleans Saints. This, again, is the magic of this whole thing—even when it's bad, it's somehow good enough to keep you coming back.

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