Hello and welcome! Glad you could make it.

For the fourth year in a row, I took some questions from friends and answered them. This year, many of them actually have to do with the Super Bowl, which is a change of pace, but I’m all for it.

As always, I look forward to being unhappy for 3.5 hours this Sunday, and eating 20 pounds of oil, sugar, meat, and spices, and I hope you get to do the same.

Also, if you wanna follow a mostly unrelated Instagram account I made with my brother and a friend or two, then go follow @uglybeerparty. It’s basically us making fun of the craft beer industry, and who doesn’t enjoy that?

But that’s it for shameless plugs. To the questions.

Would a thrown ball travel just as far if you made it with soy?

-Lisa, Detroit, MI

Oh. Okay. I don’t… what?

Were footballs ever made from pigskin?

-Taylor, Denver, CO

Ah, yes, I see where we’re going with this now.

First of all, how dare you guys doubt the reality that is Varsity Blues.

Yes, footballs are made of pigskins because we call them pigskins, so they must be. Case closed.

No, I just read some Gizmodo article from 2014 so that you didn’t have to, and I’ll try to sum up what I learned: Footballs were apparently originally made from pig bladders, not skin, and they inflated nicely and functioned as footballs. That shit stopped in the 1800s and they started using rubber and cowhide, and people continued to call them pigskins because Good God Jesus, Isn’t It A Sweet Word Y’all?

As for the soy question – this is America’s game, Lisa. We will kill animals in order for grown men to bang into each other head-on, and we will like it. If you made a ball out of soy products and tried to throw it, that ball would immediately turn into an invitation to move to Canada because if you don’t like this country, leave it. So in that sense, I guess it would travel really far, but require a passport.

I began grad school last fall, and it has been the biggest time-suck imaginable. A lifelong Patriots fan, literally my only extracurricular existence since starting school has been following the Pats. After TB12 wins his 5th ring this Sunday, what’s the best choice to fill this tiny (time-wise) but huge (in importance) hole in my heart? 

-Sam, St. Louis, MO

God, Patriots fans are so goddamn insufferable. I just cannot wait until Brady dies on the football field at age 47, if his buddy Donald doesn’t kill us all years before that has a chance to happen. (More on that later, I promise).

I suggest making a hobby out of anything that doesn’t involve a screen, which is an answer probably as annoying as writing to someone’s mailbag and presuming your Perfect Pats Are Going To Be Perfect Again This Year, which seems like a good time to say EIGHTEEN AND ONE.

No, but really, here are a couple of suggestions: puzzles. Puzzles are fucking dope. They sound like a bitch, but everyone likes a puzzle they just don’t know it.

Cook! Get a dope recipe book and make every recipe, even if it looks shitty. Download some podcasts (current favs: In The Dark, Reply All, and always This American Life), and listen to them while you cook. I know podcasts kind of involve a screen, but only kind of.

God, the douche-level is about to be turned up to Full Douche, but fucking read, man. Read a damn hard copy of a book. Five, ten pages per day, who cares. Subscribe to some lit magazine you’ve never heard of and actually read it.

I would say do yoga, but let’s be realistic. Also the above list, quite obviously, are things I aspire to do more myself.

Should Belichick trade Gronk this off-season? Hear me out. Gronk’s on his third back surgery, they made it to the Super Bowl without him, and he wants a new contract. It is the ultimate Belichick move of cashing out a year early rather than a year late, and Brady’s window is closing.

-Andrew, Carrboro, NC

Straight up, I’m totally convinced that this is going to happen now that I’ve read this, and I previously wouldn’t have even entertained the idea. So stay woke out there, Andrew.

It makes perfect sense: Gronkowski still has value, the Pats could get at least a second or third rounder – if not a first, or multiple early round picks – for him, and avoid paying him money and continue to build through the draft and plucking wily vets off the ol’ scrap heap.
But, I would be remiss if I didn’t offer a counterpoint.

I think there are two overlapping, yet conflicting narratives about Belichick.

Narrative 1: “Bill Belichick has created a system so airtight that he can run out dudes off the street and win football games, and therefore doesn’t need to put up with his players’ bullshit.”

Narrative 2: “Bill Belichick pushes all the right buttons with his personnel moves and that’s why he wins.”

The reason these two narratives don’t work for me is that the second implies he has the right players, while the first says it doesn’t fucking matter.
Of course, I just made up those two narratives, and they aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.

So here, a couple of examples that might help illustrate the complexity that is Belichick and the way he functions as a psuedo-GM, and why maybe Belichick doesn’t trade Gronk.

Narrative Number One Example: Patriots trade Jamie Collins to the Browns for a third round pick, dick-sucking Pats media goes on and on about how Collins thought he was necessary, but actually wasn’t. HE WAS TOO BIG FOR HIS BRITCHES DUDE, BIHL BELICHECK ALWAYS WINS TRADES YOU WATCH AND SEE!

Narrative Number Two Example(s), or very talented players that bring varying degrees of baggage who Belichick has put up with: Rob Gronkowski (drunk all the time), Aaron Hernandez (literally smoking PCP and killing people), Randy Moss (star power, talking trash – the least offensive of the bunch, to be sure), Kevin Faulk (couple arrests for things as dangerous as marijuana) Martellus Bennett (will call any and everyone a fuck boy at the drop of a hat, but in Randy Moss category in terms of “whatevs” kind of “baggage”), and more recently, Michael Floyd (DWI, dropped by Cardinals, picked up by Pats in December). Granted, Belichick put(s) up with these dudes to varying degrees, but he knows talent when he sees it, and signs the players without really caring what people think about that.

So you see, there is no real pattern to this, as any fantasy owner of a Patriots running back during the last 15 years would be able to relate to – Belichick does whatever the fuck he wants and it usually works. Sure, this probably speaks to Narrative #1, the strong system, but I think it’s ignorant to discount the fact that he will also look the other way when it comes to having really talented players, and he can find more value in Gronk than most other teams can.

Another way of putting that last sentence because it’s pivotal to this whole half-baked theory I’m making up on the fly: if I’m another GM, I’m not giving Belichick too much for one season of Gronk. He’s very injury prone, and though the Patriots can absorb injuries like they never fucking happened, other teams can’t afford to rely so much on one guy and then have him out for the season beginning in mid-November. In this sense, we are back to Narrative One and have come full circle: Gronk and Bellichick don’t need each other, but they do pretty well with one another, and maybe the Hoodie is wise enough to know that.

That is to say, it would be very Belichick to NOT do what “smart” football fans (that’s you, Andrew!) think he’s going to do and cut ties with Gronk, but instead get Gronk drunk enough to accept a contract for $6.9 million a year, if you know what I’m saying. Nice.

Is the uniform advantage a thing, and who has it this year?

-Hannah, Midland, MI

Right, so 11 of the 12 past Super Bowl winners have worn white and the Patriots are wearing white this year, so congrats, New England, you won another damn Super Bowl.

I gotta say, at first glance obviously this is a bullshit trend that has nothing to do with uniforms. And yet, if I’m the Falcons – who got to choose which color to wear, as the “home team” rotates conferences from season to season – I’m thinking long and hard about wearing white!

The beauty of the Super Bowl is that both teams have two weeks to completely overthink every damn aspect of the game – that’s why you always see a couple of crazy gadget plays and a ridiculous onside kick or fake punt. Coaches and players get asked 10,000 questions over the course of several days, so often scintillating things like, “are you excited?” and “how excited are you?” and “do you think the white uniforms give you an advantage?” that they could be subconsciously convinced of anything. If I had two weeks to think about why I chose white uniforms (also, who chooses this shit, the coach? The players? The GM? I have no idea…), I would definitely convince myself I’d fucked it up. I would want the other team to choose, just so nobody could blame whoever was on my team that made that decision.

On the other hand, let’s flip this around – 11 out of 12, in a seemingly totally random draw… it’s gotta even out, right? Unfortunately not this year, because I’m cheering for the Falcons which means they will lose by 100 (for the uninitiated, I’ve successfully fucked up my Super Bowl pick during the last three mailbags, so definitely expect me to try and reverse jinx the Patriots this time).

Halftime! This track comes from my man Dylan in Vermont.

Is Matt Ryan a elite quarterback?

-Owen, Oakland, CA

My thing with this question – which I made up and attributed to a close friend, with his strong endorsement – is that this is what this game is about – finding out if Matt Ryan is elite, or if Tom Brady is truly the greatest QB ever (Brady is clearly the greatest ever, but with five Super Bowls it’s not even up for discussion… a 4-3 Super Bowl record, on the other hand?! THE PLOT THICKENS FOLKS).

The elite question has been successfully, comically, and mechanically dissected and satirized by the greatest thinker of our time, PFT Commenter, because the argument about any NFL QB being elite or not is dumb as hell and will never have a resolution, which is precisely the kind of thing that mainstream sports media feasts on. Anything to posture about, to deliver hot takes about, to tweet out so that people who think they are talking to the sports world, buried 1,200 responses deep into the Twitter thread, can respond: “r u jooking?!?! Matt Ryan is not even close 2 elite.”

But like alcohol, even though it makes us dumber and more unhealthy, we must keep drinking in the elite debate because sometimes it feels like it’s all we have.

So let’s do this in two steps, to try to bring some clarity to the most pressing dilemma that faces our otherwise perfect country in February 2017: any and every starting quarterback who has ever set foot on an NFL football field is elite at what they do. They are one of the 32 best quarterbacks on planet earth, which is crazy (or, maybe more like top 40-45 to allow for some second stringers or tough luck free agent or CFL players or something?) Matt Ryan is especially elite in that sense, having been a starting quarterback for nine straight years with the same team (also, fun fact that might be widespread but I just noticed looking at this career log – he has started all 16 games in 8 of those 9 seasons, with a still respectable 14 starts in his second year due to a turf toe injury).

But… I actually do kinda think Matt Ryan needs a Super Bowl ring to move out of the gray area and make anyone denying his eliteness sound stupid as hell.

Fuck, I just wrote the hopefully non-word “eliteness” and now I need to move on.

If you could murder a homeless man in order to make the Patriots and Red Sox go away, would you? 

-Ben, Nashville, TN

Hells fucking no! What teams would I complain about, despise, and talk shit about in my Super Bowl mailbags?! You gotta have some yin to have some yang.

This is incredibly sad, but as an Indians and Browns fan who does not claim the Cavs (though I like them just fine), my two favorite sporting memories involve no trophies.

One: the time Colt McCoy and the Browns beat the shit out of the New England Patriots in 2011, 34-14. This actually happened and you can watch the highlights, complete with the Browns dousing head coach Eric Mangini with a Gatorade shower. It did, after all, move the Browns to 3-5 in a season that they would eventually finish at 4-12.

Memory number two: this past year, sweeping the Red Sox in the ALDS. I’ve never been so sure the Indians would lose three games in a row that they ended up winning. During the last inning I was walking into my pitch-dark bedroom between pitches to bury my head into the pillow and scream at the top of my lungs.

As far as I know, no homeless people were harmed in the making of those memories.

Now, if you’re asking me if I would murder a homeless man for the Falcons to win the Super Bowl, have your agent get in touch with mine…

Why did the NFL scrub any questions about Trump or Goodell from media day transcripts?

-Gorski, Pittsburgh, PA

Well, because we are talking about a clandestine, money mongering terrorist organization that does not believe common sense and practicing transparency applies to them when it comes to the media – but enough about our new presidential administration, amiright?!?!?

No, but to defend the NFL here for a second, the answer is: because they fucking can. They are a private organization that is looking out for the best interest (AKA the bottom line) of the 32 NFL ownership groups, and apparently that involves, in their mind, doing sketchy ass shit like not publishing press releases that touch on mildly controversial subject matter during media day. Cuz that makes sense.

It’s amazing to me that in 2017 people even try to keep things out of the media’s hands, though, and the question is thus astute. People were there, they documented what was said, and they will disseminate it as they see fit. The information still gets out there, and the league ends up looking strange, crooked, and ignorant. But they are all those things, so give them credit for the honest portrayal of themselves.

Also, I would like to say one more thing on this, and it seems like as good a way to end as any. I’ve seen social media posts by and spoken to a bunch of people who vehemently hate Donald Trump but also do not understand why they should care about Tom Brady being a not-so-closeted Trump supporter (and seemingly the whole Patriots Holy Trinity of Brady, Belichick and Kraft being on that same train).

And I get that to some extent – I’m sure many of my favorite players have sociopolitical beliefs that I do not connect with, and I wouldn’t want to constantly feel on the defense on their behalf.

But fuck Tom Brady. That guy openly endorsed Donald Trump and then backed off when it was no longer convenient. He has a platform bigger than most human beings alive in our country, and he declared, before our eyes, that wealth and privilege were more important to him than the sanctity of our democracy. And if he didn’t know Trump would dismantle our political landscape as we know it, then he should have done more research before he put a damn “Make America Great Again” hat in his fucking locker.

So I get that you want to forget that those things happened, liberal Pats fans, and I get that you don’t feel as though you should be held accountable for your team’s quarterback’s political beliefs. And I get that Tom Brady wants to just “focus on football” because holy shit, he happens to be a rich white male who will never be adversely affected by any law in this country, ever.

But you, and him, should also understand that this is a legitimate reason for the rest of us to be pissed off, and to further our hatred for that walking pile of shit with bleached teeth, and that we reserve the right to cheer our faces off this Sunday, wishing for the impossible: that we can get the next four years of our life back, somehow, if the upstart Atlanta Falcons take down the upper class machine that is the New England Patriots.
It will never happen though, because we are all fucked.

Patriots 41, Falcons 24. Never talk to me again.