The Vast Wasteland of February Football and a Big Guy R.I.P.

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Early February is a weird time for American football fans -- unless you like hockey. In that case, Heaven's Gate has no idea what the word 'commitment' means. If you aren't into the game with world class sprinters performing ballet on ice with sticks waiting to crush, maim and torture one another in front of 20,000 fans, you should be. Seriously, Sid Crosby is cut out of granite, scores at will and played with his jaw wired shut sans many teeth and is called a "cry-baby-pretty-boy" by haters. Thats a pretty high bar. Plus, they're all Canadian (I'm counting Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin as honorary Canadians for this purpose) momma's boys that are polite, gracious and charitable with their time. Plus Olympic hockey is the best way to gamble this side of ex-Survivor cast death polls. And its happening NOW. I digress. Football. We were talking about football. Well, the Super Bowl is over. This one sucked because we knew that we were supposed to be watching football, not some creepy snuff film made by the same director who brought you "USC Fucks Up the West Coast IV: The Kicker Just Gave Herpes to Your Fantasy Girl". I mean seriously, when it was 15-0, I was thinking "Ehh…Peyton…maybe?" When it was 36-0, I decided to leave, but then remembered that DUI checkpoints are in effect, so I decided to watch the rest of the game. So early Feb is weird. There are three categories: 1. My team won and Ill never stop drinking! I wish I had a child so I could compare this moment to the graphically gross time of your birth! Do they let you drink in the delivery room? (Move along Cleveland and San Diego fans) 2. My team lost and football is an egregious waste of time, money, litigation, effort and THAT RECEIVER WAS WIDE FUCKING OPEN IN THE CORNER OF THE ENDZONE, YOU FUCKING IDIOT! SERIOUSLY ALL YOU GET PAID TO DO IS THROW AND/OR CATCH A FOOTBALL! THATS IT! DO IT! I'D GET FIRED IF I COULDN'T DO MY JOB! DO YOURS! It's all good, honey, its just football (a single rose drops out of my hand and onto the floor) 3. I cooked an absurd amount of food for relative strangers and assorted coworkers. They brought chips and salsa. One person brought shitty wine, which I didn't serve and will find in like 6 months, and then serve to another set of strangers. Because? Because? The commercials were good? They weren't and now I'm out like 80 bux.

There is a fourth state of matter for football junkies? Yessir. Its called "Recruiting" as in old(ish), exorbitantly paid (mostly white) college football coaches get down on one knee and promise the world to underserved (mostly) low income, 16, 17, 18 year old (mostly) people of color. Its a really creepy deal. And not because of the coaches or the calculating, loosely affiliated hangers-on of the athlete-student*. Not entirely at least. Its the industry thats popped up around these people. There are many pay sites dedicated to giving obese, bald, adult men unfettered information on the aforementioned 16, 17 and 18 year olds of desire. A great site called Black Heart Gold Pants actually calls this phenomenon of recruiting "Caring is Creepy" after an awesome (I cant believe I'm typing this. Or can I?) Shin's song. The sentiment is true. Football junkies want to KNOW. We thirst for knowledge. Some of that is hipster competition. The other part is this unknowable chamber of the soul that connects with hope, struggle, despair and optimism. I call this part "Fandom". So, during the first week of February, the College Football World celebrates or laments "National Signing Day", where young men are sworn to loyalty for four years. No matter hell or high water. So if you're  going to get the stud quarterback, you're going to either slick back your hair and Always! Be! Closing! (hat tip: David Mamet). Or you are going to lie like hell to get that signature in blood. I imagine its easier to lie because once you start lying, I mean, you're gonna keep lying. You're gonna lie until you get to a truth. And you're gonna sit on that truth like Gibraltar (See? I wasn't lying at all). That player is yours for eternity (or so it seems). So now, coach, be sure to use your current job, which you've just sold the virtues of to this awestruck kid, as a stepping stone to a better paying gig from which you will be fired from in a few short years.  But thats all in the future. For now, we bloodthirsty fans are dying for a little football. Or something that looks like football. Or something that has to do with football. Just say the fucking word "football" already and we will be soaking your carpet like Pavlovian dog-men. "Dog-men". I like the sound of that. "Dog-Men of the Apocalypse" could be on a shitty grind house marquee and it would still pretty much tell the tale of those thirsty souls searching for a pigskin shaped fallout shelter.

This is where it gets good. Why? Because in three years, the tables oh so sweetly turn and we get the NFL Scouting Combine, which is soooooo fucked. I can't wait until April.

* Don't you dare tell me that they are students first. Yes, many thrive on the academic structure of the athlete support system of a football program, but those safeguards were put there solely to keep players eligible to play sports.  Do not kid yourself. Your school is probably much worse than the norm.

Another type of thought: One which is a bit more serious, but still absurd. Why? Because I hardly mourn anything or anyone, but I was feeling this one:

Philly "Blunt" Seymour Hoffman, RIP. You were a talented, thoughtful, discreet party monster. Through your eyes, we glimpsed a cautious distance that gripped your inner soul. Was there something else in there? Yea, I guess so. That chill that was so present in your characters' machinations was really, in a way, your own. Not some Strasburg method, but truly turning the actor inside out, to squeeze some bit of truth from some forgotten but ferocious past. That distance was a survival mechanism it seems. It worked for 23 years, 43 years too short.

I'll bore you with an anecdote: When I first moved to Humboldt County in 2005, I had a neighbor (surprise) who was a trained Shakespearean actor. He was gregarious and inviting and quite honestly a lot of fun. He was also a degenerate soak in many respects. He had wet brain, so after 10 am and right between the 3rd and 4th gulps of his first Steel Reserve, he would turn into a stuttering, repeating, slurring train wreck.  At least the early mornings were fun. He had acted in so many plays, commercials, summer stocks, festivals and films, that he himself was in some way just an amalgamation of the roles he had played. Just when you thought you may be getting deeper into who he was, 10 am would creep up and the digging would be postponed until the next day. I only really managed to see through the curtain once. We were watching the American version of "The Office". At the end of the second season, there is a well written line about unrequited love. Upon seeing this, my neighbor broke down into uncontrollable sobbing. Blubbering, snot, the whole deal. I was stunned. I had only seen this from him on the stage, and not to this great of an effect. "It's so true," he said. "What they are living is from themselves, the actors. It is so true that they have to use small, rough words. The only words you can rely upon in those moments of blinding clarity and regret. When you act it, you have to crush your own pain and grief to get the job done. You never get to mourn for that memory you just called upon. Thats what they pay you for- your ability to present and separate from the truth. From your pain. Not unless you see another actor during that type of moment, where they, someone else, must push down that memory, can you mourn. That is when I can mourn." He paused as if to laugh it off, tears streaming down his face. He turned to me. "When it's so real, you can hear your own grief in their words, that is when I can mourn. When I can heal." With that, he excused himself. It seems to actually feel, he had to see it in someone else. That's some fucking empathy. Or is it something else?

Before Brando, they say actors acted, and after, they behaved. Hoffman behaved. The nurse in Magnolia and the hobbled playwright in Synecdoche, New York, among countless others, were people we never knew, filled with pain we never experienced but could imagine the very short distance that could bring us there. Hoffman was very good at what he did. Very good. So good, we didn't care that he was fat or toothy or sounded like a rich kid. His death reminds me that we often take for granted the lengths at which these people go to to "entertain" us. Yes, he was rich and famous and probably OD'ed on the best heroin money could afford. No, he wouldn't stop and talk or give a fuck that you liked his work. There is something to that. Im not sure quite what that is, but I know that I'll miss him. I can see those moments of pain he used to excel at his craft; to behave, not act. I mourn for the moments he couldn't get too close to. The moments he may have never seen in another actor. The moments he could have used to heal. I mourn for that distance.