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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Literary Guide to the NFL Season

I am a huge fan of the NFL.  I own season tickets to the Bears, I grew up going to most of the NY Giants' home and took a yearly sojourn to Philly for the Giants-Eagles game.  I own a Eli Manning jersey...and wear it a lot! I play fantasy football and am in 2 weekly picks pools.

So you get the point.  I love the NFL.  But, there I days when I feel like my love of football clashes with my obsession with literature and reading.  But the people over at the Page Turners blog (NY Daily News) have helped me to reconcile my two seemingly diametrically opposed loves, with a great essay analyzing the literature that best defines each team.  Use the linked title below to see the original post with pictures, or just read the text copy below.

But first a 2 bits on analysis here:
  1. Their overall point is one I love: there will only be one team with a happy ending, but after the season, each team will have a good story to tell.
  2. What a great way to branch out the concept of readalikes too.  Here are readalikes for you favorite sports team.  Brilliant.  And I thought I was inventive for offering book readalikes for TV shows.

Nerds and Neanderthals: A literary guide to the 2012 NFL season

America makes a clear distinction between bookish types and football types. The Nerd vs. Neanderthal dichotomy is a cornerstone of American culture (at least in American culture as presented in high school TV shows).  
But the truth is that football and literature do not occupy separate realms. As any fan knows, football is driven by drama of the game. Each week’s contests are served up with a mythological importance: Epic battles between the forces of good and evil; tales of impossible redemption colliding with heartbreaking falls from grace; traitors conspiring in the shadows of egomaniacal tyrants. And all of that is just on the New York Jets. 
So to help you make sense of this upcoming season, here is a literary guide to the 2012 NFL season, wherein we identify some of the most compelling storylines and narratives from each team and its literary equivalent.  While only one team’s season will have a truly happy ending  —every team will emerge with a few good stories to tell.  
 AFC East

Buffalo Bills: Tired of wallowing in mediocrity, the Bills have decided to throw caution to the wind.  They’ve opened up their wallets and are looking to a large man (DE Mario Williams) to show them the way to a happier life.
Literary Equivalent: "Zorba the Greek" (Nikos Kazantzakis)

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins are the stars of the NFL reality show, "Hard Knocks." Will they be able to ignore the intense scrutiny of the camera and focus on their craft? Or will these highly-trained professionals succumb to the drama and allow their art to be compromised?
Literary Equivalent: "My Name is Red" (Orhan Pamuk) 
New England Patriots: A misanthropic genius (Bill Belichick) continually tinkers with his team, mixing and matching discarded parts into a fearsome juggernaut. Will his experimenting give birth to a breakthrough or an imperfect monster that ultimately leads to heartbreak?
Literary Equivalent: "Frankenstein" (Mary Shelley)

New York Jets: In the absence of true leadership, a culture arises that values bravado over all other virtues. This volatile mix of personalities must resist a descent into anarchy and choose between two imperfect leaders (Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow) before they tear themselves apart.
Literary Equivalent: "Lord of the Flies" (William Golding)

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens: After years of striking fear in the hearts of men, is this the season that the great Baltimorean (Ray Lewis) finally meets his end?
Literary Equivalent: "The Poe Shadow" (Matthew Pearl)

Cincinnati Bengals: Pinning their hopes to an unproven but charismatic redhead (Andy Dalton), this swarthy crew hopes he has what it takes to lead them to glory.
Literary Equivalent: "The Long Ships" (Frans Bengtsson)

Cleveland Browns: As a Cleveland fan, you had better learn to love the pain.
Literary Equivalent: "Fifty Shades of Grey" (E.L. James)

Pittsburgh Steelers: Led by a man with a reputation as a headhunter (James Harrison), the Steelers play with the ruthless aggression of a bygone era. But has the world moved on and made their violent style obsolete?
Literary Equivalent: "Blood Meridian" (Cormac McCarthy)

AFC South

Houston Texans: Despite making their first ever playoff appearance, the Texans lost several key contributors on both offense and defense and begin the season with nothing but questions.
Literary Equivalent: "The Interrogative Mood" (Padgett Powell)

Jacksonville Jaguars: Compact but powerful, Maurice Jones-Drew packs a concise punch while toiling in relative obscurity.
Literary Equivalent: "The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis" (Lydia Davis)

Indianapolis Colts: Against a backdrop dripping with nostalgia, the team must learn to move on from their rich past. With a lot of (Andrew) luck, they just might be able to carve out their own place in the world.
Literary Equivalent: "The Joy Luck Club" (Amy Tan)

Tennessee Titans: In the world of fantasy (football), Chris Johnson had no equal… until reality came crashing down on him last season. Can he regain his footing in the fantasy realm and scramble his way back into our good graces?
Literary Equivalent: "The Talented Mr. Ripley" (Patricia Highsmith)

AFC West
Denver Broncos: Searching for a more beautiful brand of football, John Elway becomes infatuated with the talented Peyton Manning. In a vain attempt to hold on the glories of his youth, Manning strikes a deal with Elway in an attempt to retain his youth and delay the inevitable march of time.
Literary Equivalent: "The Picture of Dorian Gray" (Oscar Wilde)

Kansas City Chiefs:  Last year everything seemed to go wrong for Kansas City (particularly losing young stars Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry for the season), and yet they managed to come out on the other side, if not better, then tougher. Now the team must regroup and find the strength to keep pushing despite past heartbreak.
Literary Equivalent: "Play It As It Lays" (Joan Didion)

Oakland Raiders: This season will be played in the shadow of departed owner Al Davis, a hard-living Californian who notoriously bypassed prudence in favor of speed (Exhibit A: Darius Heyward-Bey).  As the team races on, will Davis’s legacy be one of triumphant ecstasy or wasted potential?
Literary Equivalent: "Less Than Zero" (Brett Easton Ellis)

San Diego Chargers: The team said goodbye to two legends during the off-season (Junior Seau and LaDainian Tomlinson). Will they be able to cope and do they have the key to unlocking playoff success and leaving their painful past behind?
Literary Equivalent: "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" (Jonathan Safran Foer)

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys: Are they an offensive juggernaut on the cusp of breaking through? An overrated glamour team with no guts? A mediocre team elevated by the grace of being in a high profile market? This team looks different from every perspective, and you're never quite sure which account is accurate.
Literary Equivalent: "Rashomon and Other Stories" (Ryunosuke Akutagawa)

New York Giants: Once again, the G-men are Masters of the Universe —  but can they maintain their perch at the top?
Literary Equivalent: "Bonfire of the Vanities" (Tom Wolfe)

Philadelphia Eagles: Everything seemed to be going their way, but the Eagles found themselves in a rut for most of last season. Will breaking up with Asante Samuel and starting a promising new relationship with DeMeco Ryans be enough for the team to recapture its mojo?
Literary Equivalent: "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" (Terry McMillan)

Washington Redskins: With this team there always seems to be magic in the air--at least during the summertime. Will the arrival of the enchanting Robert Griffin III be enough to finally turn their off season dreams into reality or will Washington fans eventually awake, disillusioned and unsatisfied?
Literary Equivalent: "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" (William Shakespeare)

NFC North

Chicago Bears: Under former offensive coordinator Mike Martz, the Bears strayed from its lunch pail roots and experimented with a more aesthetically pleasing brand of offensive football — with mixed results. Now the team looks to get back to the basics, going for substance over style with the realization that when it comes to football, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.
Literary Equivalent: "On Beauty" (Zadie Smith)

Detroit Lions: The sharp rise from league embarrassment to “it” team has left team this struggling with a major identity crisis. Are they loveable upstarts or menacing bullies? Following an off-season featuring multiple arrests, this team has a lot of soul searching ahead of them if they have any hope of establishing an identity for themselves.
Literary Equivalent: "The Namesake" (Jhumpa Lahiri)

Green Bay Packers: Motivated by his humble beginnings (an embarrassing drop in the 2005 NFL Draft), Aaron Rodgers has climbed to such great heights that anything short of a Super Bowl is considered as a disappointment.
Literary Equivalent: "Great Expectations" (Charles Dickens)
 Minnesota Vikings: Recovering from a devastating leg injury, star running back Adrian Peterson must hold depression at bay if he has any hope of regaining his previous form.
Literary Equivalent: "Slow Man" (J.M. Coetzee)


NFC South

Atlanta Falcons: Last year, GM Thomas Dmitroff gave up a king’s ransom for the right to draft wide receiver Julio Jones, hoping that his rare combination of speed and power would put the Falcons over the top. After a promising but inconsistent rookie season, Jones is out to realize his potential and prove that he is the right fit for this team.
Literary Equivalent: "The Missing Piece" (Shel Silverstein)

Carolina Panthers: In his record-breaking rookie reason, quarterback Cam Newton displayed superhuman abilities, not only with his rocket arm, but with his uncanny ability to escape tricky situations. With his tenacious sidekick (Steve Smith) by his side, the unlikely duo is determined to take the team to new heights and change NFL landscape.
Literary Equivalent: "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay" (Michael Chabon)

New Orleans Saints: After a tumultuous off season heavy with suspensions and fines (including a year-long ban for head coach Sean Payton), New Orleans fans will spend most of their season resentful and sending angry missives to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and other authority figures; letters that will probably never even be read.
Literary Equivalent: "Herzog" (Saul Bellow)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs have put together an intriguing cast of characters, but the question remains: Do they have the skill to successfully weave the different parts together into a cohesive whole?
Literary Equivalent: "A Visit from the Goon Squad" (Jennifer Egan)

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals: Since entering the league, Larry Fitzgerald has been one of the league’s greatest wide receivers and one of its consummate professionals. But since QB Kurt Warner’s retirement, his world has become a truly desolate place. With such scant signs of life around him, Fitzgerald can’t help but feel desperately alone on the football field.
Literary Equivalent: "Zone One" (Colson Whitehead)

St. Louis Rams: Despite a successful track record, head coach Jeff Fischer was unceremoniously dismissed from his position with Tennessee. Known for his disarming nature and straight- forward approach, Fischer will bring a new sincerity to a program that is in desperate need of a fresh perspective.
Literary Equivalent: "No One Belongs Here More Than You" (Miranda July)

San Francisco 49ers: Always the controversial figure, the enigmatic Randy Moss has been largely villainized in the court of public opinion. This is his last chance to prove that the stories aren’t true, that he has been misunderstood this whole time. It also wouldn’t hurt his cause if he could prove that he can still fly down the field.
Literary Equivalent: "Wicked" (Gregory Maguire)

Seattle Seahawks: Unable to find his perfect man, the likeable but unlucky Pete Carroll decided to take a chance on Russell Wilson — despite his obvious shortcomings. Will Wilson turn out to be the Mr. Right with whom Carroll can spend the rest of his life season?
Literary Equivalent: "Bridget Jones’s Diary" (Helen Fielding)

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