Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Muse is a Whore

I wrote this to my buddy Sebastian a few weeks ago:

I don't buy that "I have no choice; I'm channeling the muse" shit. The Muse is a whore. She promises everything and delivers nothing. She sets you up on impossible tasks and while you work like a galley slave to achieve them, she’s off fucking some other guy.

Well, I don’t buy it. The Muse is nothing more than the imagination hiding behind the image of an enticing woman so you give her everything she wants. The imagination is a presumptuous, if useful impulse that wants to be in charge of your mind. Fuck that shit. The first thing you do establish control by back-handing the bitch as hard as you can. Then, using strict discipline, you throw her down and fuck her for all she’s worth. A resourceful guy knows just how to fuck her because he can read the meaning of every one of her moans, but at no time do you ever let the bitch have control.

Reason and technique are the ultimate S&M whip.

I think that Nietzsche understood this, which is why he was so inventive and prolific. Of course, Nietzsche virtually never got laid, which is good proof that one should never treat a REAL woman this way. And of course, I used to put women up on pedestals and I never got laid either. That's probably why I like the analogy so much. But I’ve told it to feminist lesbian friends and gotten a smile. And I found the attitude really helps improve productivity and skill. The imagination just asks for too much, too much of the time. It'll drive a guy nuts.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A Defense of Brett Favre

I wrote this to my friend Kirk a few days before Christmas:

I don't know about Dudley's article on Favre. The only thing that I agree about is that I really think he should have retired last year. It might have done him some personal good. It's hard for me to love Favre. He's always been something of an asshole. I've worn his jersey for years, because fuck it, he's the star quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, and he's a fucking god. I think dealing with his father and brother-in-law's death, his wife's sickness and his hometown being leveled have done a lot to humanize him. The season has sucked, and believe it or not, I actually feel bad for him on a personal level, and not just for myself because my team sucks. I'd rather he retired last year and and everyone blamed Aaron Rodgers for the big suck.

So yes, we come to the point. The Packers would have sucked this year without Favre and I don't think Favre's the reason our season's sucked. I'm not just being a queer little fanboy. I think you'll recall that I've been very hard on Favre in the past and have often whined and bitched about the game slipping away due to his cockiness. I whined and bitched about it when he was football god and the galaxy went our way and we had winning seasons every year. I've bitched about it since we lost the goddamned Superbowl to the Denver Motherfucking Broncos (to whom, after years of therapy, I am now able to refer by name, rather than choking out "That Team From Colorado"). I call on you to witness that. Just as everyone was willing to shield Favre from criticism when he was winning, so I argue that your John Dudley is ready to lay it on like peanut butter on toast, because there's nothing the media likes better than to frenzy like sharks when someone famous is bleeding. That's one way that sports, politics and Hollywood are covered in the same way.

Let's look at the facts of his career and the structure of this year's Green Bay Packers team. First, Favre has always thrown a somewhat high number of interceptions. I have the stats for 22 QBs in my draft spreadsheet. Averaging their career averages is admittedly not the cleanest statistical move, but I don't have time to do anything more sophisticated at the moment. I should be working on my prospectus rather than self-indulgently writing football letters. But damn it, you can talk such a wonderful amount of shit about football, whereas with politics, because real lives are in the balance, it just hurts too much. I miss that sort of bar-room banter with my buddies. That's been really the only way in which marriage has been a little hard. I don't get to have as much non-sexual male bonding.

Anyway, that admittedly lackluster stats move suggests that the average competitive QB (I tracked the careers of last year's top 30) throws 10 interceptions a year. Favre throws an average of 16. So he's higher than average. Moreover, in his career and has only thrown fewer than 12 in one year: his first with Atlanta. Four years in his career he's thrown over 20. But is that a problem? Not if you throw way many more touchdowns. Doing that same, admittedly poor stats move of taking the average of the averages has our average QB throwing 14 TDs a year. Brett Favre's career average is 27 TDs. Peyton Manning, by the way, has somewhat higher average for interceptions and TDs: 17 and 31 respectively. My theory is that a great quarterback is simply a QB who can maintain pass accuracy while making more attempts. I didn't take career averages on attempts per season for each player when I was preparing for my second abortive fantasy season (I lasted longer this time, though! I'm not a COMPLETE limp-dicked loser. If I can do a little better each year, I might get to finish a season by the time I graduate), but both are on the higher end of the spectrum for 500+ attempts. After all, everyone decent has a rating in the 60s. It's a matter of if you can increase your attempts and maintain that level of accuracy. The good ones can.

There's the rub. Passers don't have unlimited control over their accuracy. Receivers are involved. This is a problem for the Green Bay Packers because WE HAVE NONE. Donald Driver (whose potential, you recall I heralded when he was just a benchwarmer) is good, but he does not an offense make. Receivers are not like the Highlander--there must be more than one. Javon Walker practically died in the first game of the season. Run the ball, you say. There are, after all, other options for scoring in football. Well, fuckin' A, we don't have any running backs either. Ahman Green went out at the start of the season, and between you and me, he's not as young as he used to be. Najeh Davenport went out. Goddamnit, even Gado, our Nigerian Miracle Worker who was doing such an awesome job of just popping out of a clump of defensive players like a young Ahman Green, got injured on Monday night. THERE'S NOBODY LEFT.

What is the cause of this? Well, we started the season with a gaping hole in our offensive line. We lost both Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle to free agency. Sadly, the line has improved a little over the season, but not before we lost two of our top RBs and one wide receiver to injuries. The damage was done. Now this is the heart of the problem. Well, unlike hockey, football is a sport that creates heroes. In hockey, the whole team gets the goal. Yeah the guy who's a leading scorer gets laid, but the truth is most players other than goalies do score occasionally, moreover, the really good players (like Stevie Y) are the ones who know that more assists and more games won is way more important than his or any players' scoring record. Moreover, no one player is pivotal to hockey. A hockey team is a network, a little like the Borg on Star Trek.

Everyone says that Favre works the magic, and its true, he does. But football is fundamentally unfair in that no matter how good your passers, receivers and runners may be, if the line sucks, they're all ground meat. But, ironically, the line can be great and if the backs and receivers all suck, it doesn't matter. So a good O-line is a necessary condition for victory, but it's hardly sufficient. When the action happens, the camera centers on the backs and runners, so either way they get blamed or get the glory. Offensive linemen are just as necessary to victory as a star QB, but they don't get credit or blame. I hope they get laid. Recent team antics on the Minnesota Vikings suggest that isn't a problem. I don't know what everyone is so upset about. If a bunch of teammates want to hire some hookers and have an orgy on a boat, it sounds good for bonding and morale. The only thing I'd do differently is forget the boat and hookers and just get right to it in the locker room. The good stuff's already there.

Anyway, the point is this: No matter how many players it takes to make a successful team, the QB is the ultimate hero. Accordingly, Favre has an ego the size of a Buick. His ego makes him believe that he can make the difference in every game. He doesn't have an ego of the sort that Terrell Owens has--Owens doesn't need the team, doesn't need the line, doesn't need anyone. Owens is an asshole. Favre is a genuine leader. But he believes that no matter what goes wrong, he can compensate. The line goes, no problem, he can handle it. The RBs all die, no problem, he can adapt. No one but Donald Driver to throw to, great, he'll throw Donald a Hail Mary and be back home in time to crack open a beer and throw a steak on the grill. Psychologists call this having "positive illusions." We all have illusions that we believe in to great effect because believing in them helps us adapt when hardship comes along. Try remembering me at USAID or you at that shithole company when that bitch who flashed her rack everywhere left you holding the bag. We both suffered due to our positive illusions, illusions that had previously helped us adapt. It sure sucked ass, didn't it? I LOVE my positive illusions--they're better than weed. And once they're gone, they're gone. You can't buy a nickel bag of positive illusions no matter how good your connections are.

Well, evidence is pretty good that Favre has always had his illusions. He's always tried to pull the miracle out of every bad situation and, often enough, it's worked. But the truth is that his miracles are quite delicate and require a host of talented supporting players. I don't remember if you remember me comparing Favre to Steve Young before he retired. Favre is a fancy player. Young would just do anything to get the ball downfield, even run with it himself if he had to. Favre has actually improved on that front and has shown more practical resourcefulness in recent years. But the truth is he's about the fancy, high tech passing. Just like Liz Taylor can't be Cleopatra without sumptuous wardrobe changes in every scene and a cast of thousands, so Brett Favre can't be THE quarterback without a quality O-line, good receivers and some good RBs to help spread it around (how fucking gay is that analogy... I guess I have changed a little over the past few years, eh?).

But just because you and I know that, it doesn't follow that Favre knows that. So instead of conservatively grinning and bearing it, saying "OK, we have no prayer of winning under these conditions, how do I stoically bear it, making sure we don't look so bad" he tries to pull a miracle out of his hat several times a game. Remember when I said the top QBs are the guys who can increase the number of attempts while maintaining accuracy? Well, he's trying to increase attempts, but there's no way to be accurate with so few passing choices. Favre needs his quality receivers and he's only got Driver. He's trying what's worked in the past, but he's facing his Kobiyashi Maru. He can't win under these circumstances, and he really doesn't know how to play like a respectable loser. He's never lost before. So he throws more hoping to make the magic play and because there's no one to catch the fuckin' ball, he racks up interceptions.

Favre, like many of the assholes who follow him in the media and write articles like the one you forwarded, has always believed that he could work the magic and that he was the magic ingredient. Give him his due--yeah, he is a legendary quarterback. But great quarterbacks don't win games on their own. A team with a great O-line and shit at QB may never be a force to be reckoned with, but a team that has a great QB and no one else in the offense still isn't going to win many games. In all fairness, most of our losses this season have been close. Our defense actually improved from total shit to moderately shitty over the course of the season. And Kirk, I saw almost all the games: my boys went down fighting. Even though we lost, there were some great moments there. They fought a good fight.

But myth is only a myth; legend only a legend. Even drunk Bears fans have to admit that Mike Ditka can't take on a whole football team all by himself. One man versus a team? Fuckin' A, Kirk. Even drunk Bears fans on Saturday Night Live have to admit that's complete bullshit. No, I don't think that Brett Favre and Donald Driver can somehow carry a shitty O-line with no other offensive players, especially with a crummy defense. That sort of miracle is the domain of God alone. Don't think I haven't asked for His help.

Bottom line: Favre is the same guy he's always been. There's no variation at QB. If our O-line and our best receivers and RBs were all out ten years ago, he'd have lost like this ten years ago and probably have been a much different man for the rest of his career. Bottom line: Favre is still a go-to guy. If you want to find blame for the disaster that is this year in Green Bay Packers football, you have to look elsewhere.

Where do I look? Well the first person I blame is Mike Holmgren. He fucking lost the '98 Superbowl and then goes off to become the coach and general manager of the fucking Seahawks because he had to get all of the action into his big, strong hands. He gives up what he openly admits is the best job in football to move to Seattle. And how does he do here? For the entire time he had both jobs, he sucked. I laughed harder and harder every year. Now that he's no longer the GM and has been just the coach for a few years, he's had enough time to work the magic that is by right ours. I have to sit here and goddamn bear it. Even worse, my friend Nimah, who's a Bears fan, can tell me that he's hoping to buy playoff tickets to see the Bears play the Seahawks this winter. This, in my Packers' bar, while I have to watch the Bears score defensive touchdowns on my team's ass. It's just beautiful. The Bears are in the playoffs and the Seahawks dominate the NFC. Gorgeous. My football karma keeps getting better every year.

If Holmgren had stayed and waited two years, he could have been our GM, sucked with us, given up the being GM with us, gone back to just coaching with us and WE'D be back to dominating the NFC. And we'd have loved him for it, because while he might have been a prima donna bastard, he was at least OUR prima donna bastard. And he can win at football.

The other person I blame is Mike Sherman. For most of the years after Sherman left, we still had a superior team. Fuck, we still had a good team last year. And yet there has been no victory.We haven't been back to the Superbowl since Holmgren left. A lot of times the Packers lost because they were cocky. They needed good coaching to regulate that ego. No one was better at holding that in check that Vince Lombardi. Sherman doesn't have Lombardi's gifts, but admittedly, that's an unfair example. Plus, I can hear you saying that in the era of free-agency it takes someone like Belichik to win. I'm not disputing that having a superior sense of value, of finding a way of finding quality, non-star players and molding them into a machine isn't a dominant strategy in today's league. That said, I'd put emphasis on the last element: molding players into a team (I'm not dissing finding good values, mind you, just stressing leadership). If a team is not to be eroded by free agency, it's because it has dynamic leadership that can compensate for that process. Ultimately, that's a rare gift, which is why it is so difficult to form dynasties in this era. But Sherman is not a great coach and our team has been eroded by free agency and our day has passed. If I'm lucky, the Packers may have another rise to glory before I die, but seeing how long passed between when Lombardi won Superbowl II and 1997, I've got to say the odds are against me.

But yeah, I don't think Favre has changed. The team and the times have changed. Except for a little grey hair, Favre hasn't faded. Come on, he threw 30 TDs and 4088 yards last year. Over the past three years he's come to camp leaner and more muscular every year. The difference is that Favre had a team last year and this year, he doesn't.

Your pal,