Recently, a friend of mine and all around delightful human being posted the following to that one social networking site we’ve all heard of:
“A little something for fans of both A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE and the NFL. If any of you football-heads out there also happen to dig ASOIAF, please comment and let me know if this article is clever or stupid. (I am gleefully football-ignorant.)”
It was like I could feel the Bat Signal smacking me upside the head with the light of Tailor-Made Ridiculous Fucking Hypos on the Internet. It starts out innocuously enough, though the fact that the first three words were “headless Peyton Manning,” did not inspire any confidence whatsoever. But sure, ok, we’re ostensibly engaging in this inanity because George R. R. Martin is a raging football fan and just did a very short interview involving some minor analogies between characters and players for Sports Illustrated. Is it more likely that we’re yet in the summertime football doldrums and football peeps need shit to discuss, because otherwise we get all twitchy? Probably. I’ll even acknowledge that it’s easier to tear shit down than build stuff and create, so on that level I somewhat respect dude’s effort to do something kind of fun and fluffy to keep folks all entertained and the jonesing to a minimum. That being said . . .
What I want y’all to note, before we go any further, is that GRRM’s individual comparisons – Tebow to Sir Bonifer, Sanchez to Loras Tyrell, are very character based. Sir Bonifer is “pious,” Mark Sanchez is good looking and not infrequently a bit reckless with the ball. When pressed to compare teams to families, GRRM takes the character analysis track once again, stating that, “it depends on what team you root for. To me, the Starks are heroes, so they would be the Giants,” and acknowledges that that reading probably makes the Patriots the Lannisters. (I could not even begin to fathom who would be Tyrion in that scenario; the obvious answer is maybe Belichick, but regardless on what you think about his coaching skills or Spygate, homeslice is not sufficiently likable to carry off Tyrion. Dude lacks flair.) In short, GRRM looks at defining characteristics when making his analysis, and realizes that assigning a character or a family to a player or a team must necessarily impact the casting of those around him.
Guess precisely what this article pretty much doesn’t do at all? WoahMG, y’all’re so damn smart it brings warmth to the cockles of this blogger’s cold, dead heart. (Or maybe it’s the sub-cockular region that’s toasty – it’s hard to tell when shit’s dead.) Sure enough, the Bleacher Report piece is almost purely situational analysis, and for reasons unfathomable. In the BR piece it’s all about which moves bear a superficial resemblance to plot points, which situations seem to resemble surface moments in the books, and as you can guess if you’ve read or watched any of the ricockulously complex plotting of the world of ASOIAF, this is going to stop working feasibly (if it ever worked at all) almost immediately. Despite the excuse that GRRM has no problems killing people off at a whim, people who coulda been contenders, and thus his scripting a football season could make for some spectacularly erratic outcomes, it’s not as if there’s no rhyme or reason to what happens at all; I’ve never gotten the impression that he just kills people off for giggles.
Simply put, you can’t just assign a character based on a singular incident without watching the dominoes fall in an increasingly wackadoo pattern, and that’s precisely what happens here. If we just examine the first six images and the surrounding text:
Ryan Fitzpatrick as Gared of the Night Watch (1) & Shawn Merriman as one of The Others (2): Buffalo, poor, under-appreciated Buffalo, probably is sufficiently cursed enough (and possibly
fan companionship starved enough, outside of the upper New York area) to be the Night Watch, but no one’s getting really sent there. (Especially no one who really would rather not go – that dubious honor probably resides at Miami. Besides, would that make Marcell Dareus Jon Snow?) If the assertion is that Buffalo is, in fact, beyond the wall – flawed, given the represented character, but ok, if you wanna call it “the very frontier of humanity, and host of unnatural, terrifying landforms” – then I would *really* like to know who on earth would be their Mance Rayder. More apt in that case would be perhaps be Detroit – cold, reputation for being a bit spiky and wild and not much concerned with rules, and you can think of a number of potential Mances on their roster.
John Elway as Robert Baratheon (3), Peyton Manning as Ned Stark (4), & Tim Tebow as Jon Arryn (5): This is just peculiar. Sure, Peyton’s incredible likability would remind us as readers of a Ned, but just because the QB changes in Denver have resembled a particularly erratic carousel for the last couple of years doesn’t mean it’s the best place to set that analogy. If you were dead set on it as a predictive for 2012, based on reports coming out of training camp, it would really make more sense for John Fox to be Robert Baratheon, making Kyle Orton Jon Arryn, Tim Tebow Ned Stark, and leaving him to blunder about being noble and only actually accidentally good at his job on rare occasion, followed by Peyton Manning as Tyrion Lannister, who has somehow managed to get an immediate and capable handle on the shitshow into which he was dumped. The analogy doesn’t hold so well for the rest of the Imp’s story line, so you can see why I think this would be a bad setting. And as much as I hate to say it, Elway has been quietly crafting what looks like, on paper, a decent team for the upcoming season. Making him the drink sodden Baratheon, built to win a kingdom but not to run one, is actually pretty insulting to the job he’s tried to do as GM, despite a superficial connection to the fact that Elway won the Superbowl in some epic battles as QB of Denver, but Denver’s never won with him at the helm.
Manning as a Stark also creates a problem with the entire concept of the King in the North – Peyton had no heir, and the 2011 season is all the proof you need. Are we going to say Andrew Luck is Robb Stark sight unseen? (Yes, this is exactly what the author’s going to do subsequently.) He just got drafted like, five minutes ago, and from the warm-blooded Pac-
1012 to boot. Furthermore, the Starks are going to end up all up in it, in one way or another, for much of the story, and currently no one who wasn’t imported is basically at all relevant with the Indianapolis franchise. If Jeff Saturday, the remaining receiving corps, and the Polians constitute Peyton’s family, they have surely been scattered to all hell, but not a one of them are potentially that relevant to the 2012 season (with the possible exception of Saturday, now at home in Green Bay, but even that’s a pretty quiet, if incredibly important, role, plot-wise).
Though speaking of Green Bay, and picking up on the GRRM interview that started it all, though noble he arguably isn’t, I, perhaps like the interviewer, like better the idea of Brett Favre as Ned Stark (though it’s not perfect by any means), mostly for the potential implications, the wishy-washy about making damn decisions and the fact that his tenure as a Jet was pretty short. (And no, not because I’m a Packers fan. Please note that I’m not bringing my team any closer to this mess than strictly necessary.) If that were the case, then fired Jets ex-coach Eric Mangini could be Robert Baratheon, Rex Ryan could be Cersei Lannister, Mark Sanchez could be . . . well sucks for Mark, but he needs to stop with the locker room drama, so let’s just go with the Joffrey for a sec, Tim Tebow could be a potential Tommen, and Aaron Rodgers could be Robb Stark, pre-Red Wedding, of course, but after being really confused about what usually capable Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers, aka Catelyn Stark, was thinking with that defense last year – not to mention that it’s the NFC North, so Detroit would totally be beyond the wall, then. (I could accept Stafford or Johnson as the King Beyond the Wall.) Maybe the Vikings would be Craster’s Keep, in that case – sorry Viking fans, but seriously, no one is quite sure what the hell is going on with your team, though they seem to leave a lot of baby quarterbacks on the rocks to die . . .
Leslie Frazier as Daenerys Targaryen (6): So wait, the Vikings coach is Dany, just because he’s “babysitting” cornerstone players as his dragons? That would require me to believe that Christian Ponder can mature into something ferocious.
You get the idea, and tempting though it is – my fingers are itching to explain why there’s no reason ever that Tebow could be Jon Arryn, much less subsequently be alive to give Jay Cutler the Kiss of Life in the Superbowl later, not to mention that Ben Roethlisberger as Hodor, given his apparent difficulties with his new offensive playbook, is kinda hilarious – I won’t engage in a point-by-point of where I strenuously disagree and for what plethora of reasons.
I will say that not the least of said reasons is where this piece is heading. Remember when I said that the repercussions of the character assignments make things friggin’ ludicrous, like the ever-widening ripples that result from throwing a ball of wacky into a deep pond of nuttiness? For reals, this article posits one of the most seemingly improbable playoff scenarios leading to Superbowl XLVII I have ever seen someone work up the nerve to print.
“The regular season ends with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts, Buffalo Bills, Pittsburgh Steelers, Patriots and Chargers earning AFC playoff berths. [ . . . ] On the NFC end, the Giants—duh—are locks. Besides New York, though, the New Orleans Saints (even in spite of the scandal-led season), San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears and, shockingly, the Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings, all manage to earn berths.”
The Superbowl ends up as Bills-Bears, with the Bears winning. I can’t even. If you’re following along at home but not a huge football fan, the records for the playoff teams indicated by this article for the 2011 season were 46-50 (AFC) and 52-44 (NFC) – this is some late night math, but that should be right. For the more NFL inclined, by way of example, the author’s actual set up requires the Bears (8-8) and Vikings (3-13) to both surpass the Packers (15-1) and the Lions (10-6) – and their league MVP and 5000 yd.+ quarterbacks, respectively – in the NFC North. A hearty bwuh?! to that, right?
So ok, clearly the football analysis wasn’t meant to make any sense, like at all. And the ASOIAF comparisons were weak at best. What was the point again?
And therein lies the problem – way more than in ASOIAF, no one ever really dies in the game of NFL thrones. Big players mostly just get shuffled elsewhere until retirement and the Mythical Land of Commentary, or in the case of coaches, briefly put on ice and then tossed back in again. Perhaps it would be easier/more sensemaking to, like the original interview posits, start with the teams, making franchises places, and then enacting li’l character studies on the particular dramas of those places as a fun and masturbatory historical exercise. (And even then, what is the NFL’s Red Wedding? Bountygate? The lockout? The Jets beating the Colts in Superbowl III? Is Tim Tebow Melisandre if his only power is likability, or does he need actual skill?)
Perhaps most tellingly, it doesn’t work for a reason neatly outlined by the author himself – we don’t know where ASOIAF is gonna go, we don’t know where the 2012 NFL season is gonna go, so using one as a predictor of the other is just an invitation for bored internet blowhards (and sure, I’ll include myself in that number since I got sucked in) to wax poetic about shit that doesn’t actually make any sense at all, but at least tides us over until football season finally gets here. Less obvious is the problem that opinions and actions are subject to our limited knowledge of lockerrooms and management drama – it’d be like understanding ASOIAF if 80% of the time, your only information came from watching the actual battles or listening to other people talk about the actual battles, and the other 20% was based on watching external alliances shift based solely on what the characters would be willing to reveal about themselves or their compatriots. Reading a character onto a person in the NFL is nearly entirely subject to your understanding and reaction to that person based on conflicting viewpoints and limited info cross-referenced with recent pro-football events that might bear some superficial resemblance plot points in the books.
On the other hand, it totally gave me something to talk about besides the Olympic Trials (though I really effing love the Olympics) – at least it’s only a month ’til Training Camp!