Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Fan Free Agency: Go Team!

The atmosphere is electric in my living room as I type this, hands quivering slightly, heart racing. I'm about to change my life, and that of millions of others. One Man's Free Agent Journey is at an end, soon to be replaced by One Man's Weird Feelings on Sunday Afternoons and the Occasional Monday.

Here with me today (at least in spirit) are representatives of the Patriots (Rob Gronkowski, obviously), Texans (Jonathan Grimes, recently added to Houston's practice squad), Saints (Sean Payton, because he's got nothing better to do), and Colts (my man Jim Irsay, who's spitting beat poetry to my bewildered cat). Irsay brought me another tie, and a giant bottle of milk from the Indianapolis 500. Payton came bearing a Bayou Philly from Cooter Brown's and a Thermos full of Sazeracs. Grimes, since he's so young, didn't think to bring anything, but he gave me some Tribe love, which was nice. And Gronk, as I'm sure you could've guessed, came accompanied by strippers. Had to send the kids to bed early.

Enough with the preliminaries, then. Let's do this. The first two teams eliminated are:

New England Patriots

The Pats were my team by birthright, the squad I first followed. Boston is my ancestral home, and while the Patriots were always a distant fourth behind the Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins in the family pecking order, we still rooted for them. Steve Grogan was my first favorite football player - I had an awesome action figure in his likeness, complete with fully articulated arms and legs (not neck, though, so it wasn't a completely accurate rendering).

I moved to the D.C. area in the autumn of 1983, just in time for Riggo's run to glory. I'd never lived in an NFL town before, and I was swept up in the excitement. For almost 30 years. I remained fond of the Patriots, rooting for them in each of their Super Bowl appearances, but they weren't my team.

But as much as I love Boston, and despite my ties to the franchise, becoming a Patriots fan at this point in history would be the worst kind of front-running. So, apologies to my grandparents, but this prodigal son's not returning.

Houston Texans

Gary Kubiak's squad has a lot going for it. A distinctly upward trend. A superstar running back with a unique approach to life in Arian Foster. W&M's own Grimes. The league's best logo. My man Matt Schaub, possessor of a fantasy football championship ring courtesy of my inspired leadership.

But I'm compelled by all the negative press the Houston metro area has received in these parts over the past few days. I've been to Houston. I was not impressed by Houston. Houston was both hot as fuck and not terribly interesting.

But I do like the logo.

And that leaves us with the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints. Let's break this down, tale of the tape style, into the categories I've loosely and capriciously tossed around during the decision-making process:

Uniforms

The Colts' blue and white is clean, crisp, and simple, while New Orleans' black and gold is a bit more prepared to party. It's as if the togs mirror their respective cities.

Edge: Push, either is light years better than burgundy and gold.

Personalities

The Saints have the edge here in quantity. It's hard not to like Drew Brees. Darren Sproles is one of very few NFLers I can look in the eye without hurting my neck. Mark Ingram went to Alabama. Jonathan Vilma has a huge chip on his shoulder. Marques Colston played in the CAA. Jimmy Graham threatens to overtake Gronk as the league's preeminent tight end. And if you don't know about it, Steve Gleason's story is the stuff of a Brian's Song remake - an amazingly sad and touching thing.

Meanwhile, the Colts counter with the opportunity to root for Andrew Luck from the ground floor. But after him and Dwight Freeney, badass supreme, there's not much to latch onto. Coby Fleener is fun to say, as is Mewelde Moore. Reggie Wayne and Adam Vinatieri are pros' pros. The needle isn't moving much, though.

Edge: Saints, though as Clarence noted earlier, basing this exercise on today's players is a great way to ensure we'll be doing it again in a few years, much to Jerry's glee.

Owners

Irsay's hard not to love (though don't say that anywhere near Charm City). He's equal parts hippie, musician, comedian, raconteur, and businessman. He brings loads of personality and far more importantly, clearly loves his team, his town, and his fans.

New Orleans' Tom Benson is a daft, dancing, whackadoodle with an equally clear love for his team, but he loses a lot of points for his post-Katrina semi-threats to relocate the Saints.

Edge: Colts

History

For the longest time, the Saints were one of the lowliest franchises in all of professional sports. From their inception in 1967 until 2000, they won exactly as many playoff games as G:TB did. The 1980 team lost its first 14 games, prompting fans to wear paper bags over their heads in shame at being 'Aint's' fans. The 21st Century has clearly been kinder to New Orleans, with the arrival of Brees in 2006 heralding a new era, capped by a Super Bowl win in 2009. I confess that this recent success gives me some pause, but it is tempered by the fact that my fictional Saints fan backstory will predate the championship.

The current incarnation of the Colts was birthed in infamy, carried by Mayflower vans from the bosom of Baltimore's loyal rooters. But the Peyton Manning era was certainly one of the more prolific in league history, and though the team only won a single title, their status as an elite team was sustained for a decade. Right up until last season. Which offers an intriguing opportunity for the prospective new fan.

Edge: Don't pressure me. This is hard.

Intangibles

Once again, Indy offers up Luck, while the Saints counter with the possibility of an epic 'us against the world' run that could culminate this season in the first ever home field Super Bowl.

Edge: Saints - I'm looking for instant payback on this new investment. Luck's a long play, while the possibility of Roger Goodell having to hand Drew Brees the Lombardi Trophy (let's not kid ourselves, Benson would totally do that for the 'fuck you' value) is almost too awesome to contemplate.

Location

Hoo, boy. Many of you argued that the city itself was a critical component in this process. I honestly hadn't really considered that point until you raised it.

I had a great time in my only visit to Indianapolis some 20 years ago. I don't remember all that much about it, but I do recall it being friendly, easy to navigate, and fun.

But I had one of the Hall of Fame weekends of my life in New Orleans. It's fucking New Orleans, man. The best food in the world. The best and most sustained party in the world, non-Rio de Janeiro division. The most laissez faire people in the world - or the most laissez les bon temps roulez people in the world. Your choice.

Edge: Saints. Duh.

Until two days ago, I was convinced the Colts were my new team. I already have Colts gear, courtesy of Jim Irsay. I was into the Andrew Luck thing. Honestly, I wasn't even thinking about the Saints. And then I started thinking about the Saints.

The only negative, and it's not really even a negative, is the fact that the Saints' recent success and strong prospects opens me to charges of bandwagonry. But I'd argue that nobody's really jumping on New Orleans' bandwagon. In fact, in the wake of Bountygate, people are writing them off. They've almost got the whiff of the underdog about them. Certainly, they're a great story.

And, as a really smart fellow once said, it's fucking New Orleans, man.

Oh, and the Saints' Week One opponent? The Washington Redskins.

It almost feels like fate.

42 comments:

Jerry said...

That's a real curveball.

One thing I observed in New Orleans is that there are a lot of people walking around town wearing Saints jerseys while the Saints are playing.

G:TB said...

Geaux Team

rob said...

gheaux

Jerry said...

geaughtdhtrhirhtrithirgntrnrgfopstihtirhtr

mayhugh said...

Week 1 gives us great opportunity to see if this journey was real or imagined. I tried to start rooting for the Panthers maybe 5-7 years ago and the second I watched a skins game I was back. So it will be quite a testament to your commitment to your new team if you can actually root against the Redskins. Frankly, I just don't see it happening. At least not this suddenly. Hard to just flip the switch. It's like Macho Grande - those wounds run... pretty deep.

zman said...

This is the scene I envision in mayhygh's rumpus room:

http://youtu.be/jwlYo8EYTWI

rob said...

mayhugh, i think you're dead right. i don't expect this transition to be easy, especially as rg3 runs amok, throwing lightning bolts all over the field. of course, with the skins' o-line, he may well be killed in the first quarter, which i'll take as a sign.

Geoff said...

rob, this seems like an incredibly dumb time to make an incredibly reasonable and justifiable move. I don't get it.

Jerry said...

eBay is currently offering a sweet Morten Andersen jersey. XL unfortunately. You can also get 2002 Saints game pants for $125. A steal at any price. Also a couple of Bobby Heberts.

mayhugh said...

Not saying I blame Rob if he can actually do it. But decades of training and following a team are nigh impossible to de-program, regardless of how reasonable the decision is.

If RGIII dies in the first game, I might be changing my allegiances as well.

Dave said...

this is a fascinating experiment. will rob be able to summon the visceral "that's my team" feeling on demand? i consider myself a logical guy, but i certainly can't explain the gut-wrenching emotions i experience when watching giants game . . . i think it might take a long time to switch your allegiance. but, how are we to know what rob is experiencing subjectively (unless we waterboard him right after the game?)

rob said...

i think disdain for the synderskins will be easier to generate and sustain than will passion for the saints. hell, i've been rooting for my fantasy team players against the skins for a few years now. in fact, i think that was the first sign i was open to a divorce.

mayhugh said...

Last night, for the first time ever, I drafted an Eagle in a fantasy draft. I still don't feel totally okay with it, but I took it as a sign that I don't feel as strongly about the Skins anymore either. Or, maybe I just want to win fantasy football for once.

rob said...

so we're having fan free agency, year two, next season?

rob said...

kinda like a better version of 'the bachelor'

Jerry said...

Mayhugh has his own blog for his ramblings.

Jerry said...

Coincidentally, it looks like he's been doing some rambling fairly recently.

Clarence said...

Rob and I usually exchange text messages during the Redskins game (commiserating). I like his Saints choice a lot and hope to join him at a game at the Superdome, but if I get a Nelson laugh from him when the Saints bludgeon the Skins Sunday, it will be hard to resist the urge to call him traitorous. Benedict Arnold Drummond or something.

mayhugh said...

I'm curious as to what the reaction will be if the Redskins somehow beat the Saints. Is all forgiven? Does Rob look for a third team that plays the Redskins during the second half of the year?

And Jerry, I am trying to recall what we did with your umbrellas and liquor has wiped my memory clean.

Jerry said...

Yeah that was an aggressive level of drunkeness. I believe we left them on a ledge near the door. I did not feel well on Sunday.

G:TB said...

my cab ride went well

rob said...

i'm not a rub it in sort of sports fan, as you know, clarence. yankees schadenfreude entirely excepted.

G:TB said...

sooooo...that collapse by the Yanks...

zman said...

Speaking of Diff'rent Strokes and its spinoffs, you take the good you take the bad you take them both and there you have ... a big project that was going to culminate in October got kicked back to February or March, meaning that my fall calendar is suddenly light enough for me to do social stuff and post more stupidity here. That's the good. The bad is that I had a pre-cancerous nevus removed from the underside of my toe today and as the lidocaine wears off I'm starting to bum. I asked the doctor how bad this will be and he said "It's going to be bad" as he gave me a script for Vicodin.

I think rob's choice of team was fueled by those old Craig "Ironhead" Heywood ads for Zest lather thingies.

TR said...

Roger Clemens did not complain about the lidocaine and B-12 shots he took, Zman. Just sayin...

TR said...

And I think the spin-off of fan free agency will occur this October, when our favorite Persian poster selects a new NBA team.

rob said...

can't wait!

zman said...

Ottis Anderson made me vomit in my mouth.

zman said...

Not the best version of the Anthem I've ever heard. Sounds like they're using the beat from a Lion King song.

Mark said...

I endorse anything that opens the possibility of more trips to New Orleans. Though they are a division rival of Tampa and must now root against Rob during all things football. Even when Satellite plays Melbourne.

zman said...

Adios Roddick.

TR said...

Kudos to the NOLA pick. That city has a soul unlike any other.

Mr. Truck said...

i am going to fall asleep before either team scores. that is lame. i need to move to the other coast.

G:TB said...

I like boobies.

zman said...

Does anyone else see the irony in Ice Cube doing Coors ads?

Dave said...

FG! Awesome!

Dave said...

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

rob said...

looks like the nationals are trying to clinch the division before they shut down strasburg

zman said...

There's another Taken movie? How much bad and similar shit can believably happen to one former green beret's family?

zman said...

Greg Jenning, getting paper!

Jerry said...

Best thing so far was that Assassins Creed 3 commercial.

Shlara said...

Clinton is going to talk until the game is over...and then some