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Wolfgang Amadeus Penix Jr.

3:11 PM EST on January 4, 2024

Michael Penix Jr, seen here pointing at The Distraction logo at upper left during Washington's win over Texas in the Sugar Bowl on 1/1/2024.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Sometimes a podcast will just have like 10 minutes of one of the hosts—it's not important which—telling a story that involves that host barfing. This is just how podcasting is. It's the world we live in and the sooner everyone comes to terms with that the more readily we can get on with addressing the questions that matter most. Which, for instance: Where do you put that bit, the part where Drew talks about barfing in a museum? It needs to be in the episode, obviously. This is the sort of thing the listeners crave. But how close to the start of the episode can or should it go? Can you really afford not to put it right up top, before everything else?

At the risk of giving too much away about our first episode of 2024, you will not have to listen very long to learn the answer. But once we get past our respective holiday experiences with COVID, you've got an episode that is mostly about football and fairly coherent and linear by our (admittedly degraded) standards. There are a number of reasons for this, foremost among them Drew's ongoing confinement to The Germ Chamber enhancing both his interest in and commitment to watching the College Football Championship. But I don't have a similar excuse, there, and I also very much enjoyed the New Year's Day doubleheader, from the powerfully deranging effect that Michigan football has on all who observe it to Michael Penix Jr.'s virtuosic passing and overall heroism in getting Washington past Texas, a performance matched only by my own in not saying Penix's name in a Borat voice for the entire episode.

As someone who removed college football from his sports diet in the name of cutting down on television time (and because I detest the Dr. Pepper Fansville commercials), I was startled by how much fun I had watching and talking about these games. I was less surprised by how much I enjoyed the rest of our football chat, which focused more on the NFL. We began by making our peace with Dan Campbell not just as a successful NFL head coach, but as the strange and busy and stubborn type of successful NFL head coach that he is. We also discussed the end of Russell Wilson's bleak arc in Denver and how his current screwing-over by management both fits Denver's distinctive organizational issues with impulse control and Sean Payton's specific personality defects, while also aligning in an unexpectedly helpful way with Wilson's own personal weirdness. You never go into an episode wanting to talk about the Broncos, but considering that we don't know how much more Russell Wilson Being A Weird Little Guy or Sean Payton Picking Fights the universe will provide, it would've been foolish to pass up the opportunity.

From there, it was just a brief consideration of Aaron Rodgers's latest exhausting/brave acts of personal corniness and the Jets' perverse and dysfunctional relationship with him before we hit the Funbag. By that point, an episode that we'd thought was going to be kind of a low-key affair was approaching one hour of heated "yeah!" exchanges and windy disquisitions about which coaches are and aren't bullshit. The sole Funbag question we addressed wound up being kind of a deep one, about the extent to which the internet is not forever, and the strange sense of diminishment and ambiguity that currently hangs over this present online moment. There was some wistful old-guy stuff in there—Drew talked about Kissing Suzy Kolber, I talked about The Classical, we were deep in the back catalog for a minute—but also some optimism. It's a nice way to end the first episode of a new year: remembering what came before, and looking ahead to whatever is coming down the pike to replace it.

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