Thursday, February 04, 2010
Mister Answer Man: Special Nawlins Edition!
Hello again sports fans! It’s time for another visit from Mister Answer Man. You’ve got questions, he’s got answers—that’s why he’s called ... oh, hell, you know the drill by now. To the mailbag:
Dear Mister Answer Man: I would open this letter by flattering your prodigious prognosticating skills, but I expect that you’re tired of hearing that sort of thing by now. After all, six straight correct Super Bowl picks, some of them uncannily accurate—it’s routine to you, I’m sure, but it remains totally awesome to us mortals. So I won’t bore you by telling you how much I admire you and want to be you. Instead, I’m going to ask whether you think that maybe, just this once, you could reconsider your position on the fleur-de-lis. Five years ago, you famously wrote,
my research shows that the fleur-de-lis, in and of itself, is the single most enervating thing you can put on a jersey. The New Orleans Saints have great colors, but they’re wearing a Frenchy flowery thing on their heads, so it’s really no mystery why they spend January watching the playoffs on TV. If they could just keep the jerseys, lose the “Saints” motif, and maybe rename themselves the Devils, they’d give themselves half a shot.
Well, it’s February, Mr. Answer Man, and the Saints are not huddled around the TV. They are in the mother-loving Super Bowl at last. They have twelve or fifteen different receivers who can score, and their running game isn’t bad either. Don’t they finally have a chance at winning it all? —B. Hebert, Cut Off, Louisiana
Mister Answer Man replies: No.
Dear Mister Answer Man: Seriously? How can you be so brusque and dismissive? Aren’t you aware that quarterback Drew Brees has a long history of playing in manly black-and-gold jerseys, all the way back to his time with the Boilermakers of Purdue? Surely if anyone can offset the deadly fleur-de-lis with a sufficiently virile, masculine performance, Drew Brees can! —J. Tiller, West Lafayette, Indiana
Mister Answer Man replies: You people just don’t get it, do you? All right, I’m going to post that Québec Nordiques jersey again:
See? See what I’m talking about? Powder blue jerseys and rings of fleurs-de-lis. And who’s wearing ‘em? Adam Foote, Joe Sakic, and Peter Forsberg—three totally awesome players. How many Cups did they win in Québec? That’s right, none. Indeed, the 1994-95 team also included Owen Nolan, Mike Ricci, Scott Young, Valeri Kamensky, and Wendel Clark. That’s a scary good lineup. And they didn’t make it past the first round of the playoffs. And at least they made the playoffs for a change! Just look at Sakic’s career:
With deadly fleur-de-lis (1988-95): 234 goals, 392 assists, 626 points—and only 12 playoff games (two six-game losses).
Without deadly fleur-de-lis (1996-2009): 391 goals, 624 assists, 1015 points, two Stanley Cups, 160 playoff games.
Clearly, Sakic was the same hall-of-fame player in Québec City that he was with the Colorado Avalanche. He even had much of the same lineup playing alongside him. So what accounts for his postseason success in Denver and total epic fail in Québec?
How many times do I have to say it?
Dear Mister Answer Man: But, but, but ... it’s not as if the Indianapolis Colts have very manly jerseys either. I mean, actually, they’re kind of boring, don’t you think? —F. de Saussure, Geneva, Switzerland
Mister Answer Man replies: See here, Monsieur de Saussure, if that is your real name, it’s not a question of whether a jersey is manly “in itself.” It’s a relational thing—though I don’t expect you to understand this. See, in my system, there are no “positive terms.” It all depends on a system of “difference,” where each jersey takes its place in a larger signifying system. Thus, as I pointed out last year, even the red-and-yellow-wearing Kansas City Chiefs were able to defeat the Minnesota Vikings in 1970 because the Vikings (as advanced uniform science research has shown) wore the most beatable Super Bowl jerseys ever—just masculine enough to get there, but not nearly masculine enough to play competitively once they got there. And in response to the question of how the beaujolais-and-prosecco-wearing 49ers could have won five Super Bowls, I replied,
If you’re asking whether I’m forgetting a dynasty that defeated (1) a team with stripy orange “tiger” helmets, (2) a team wearing aquamarine and orange, (3) see (1), (4) a team wearing orange (55-10!), and (5) a powder-blue team pretending to be a midnight-blue scary-lightning team, no, no I’m not. Now, I don’t mean to belittle your epoch-defining victories in the NFC playoffs throughout the 90s, in which you handily defeated more mightily-attired teams with your “West Coast offense” and your frosty champagne helmets. But seriously, your Super Bowl opponents might as well have been wearing bathrobes. And in Super Bowl XXIV, they basically were.
The Colts’ uniform, which you consider boring, is what famed head coach and former cornerback Roland Barthes once called “jersey degree zero”: two colors, two shoulder stripes, no piping, no embellishments. It is a jersey that emphasizes playmaking precision and error-free football. The Saints’ jersey, by contrast, is out to have a good time: it’s exciting, dynamic, and bold ... and will induce two New Orleans fumbles all by itself.
Still, even those fumbles will not doom the Saints, because their color scheme is just so kickin’. They will, in fact, have the lead at halftime, just as the Jets did; and in the second half, the hidden weaknesses of their secondary will gradually be revealed to them, just as the Jets’ were. And then, painfully, in the fourth quarter the fleur-de-lis will work its baleful magic, and the Saints will wind up on the wrong end of a 34-23 score.
Dear Mister Answer Man: I can’t believe you’re rooting for a Wonder Bread noncity like Indianapolis against the long-suffering French-and-funkified capital of the Black Atlantic. What the hell is wrong with you? Though I suppose that if I got to ask, I ain’t never gonna know. —L. Armstrong, Corona, Queens
Mister Answer Man replies: Mr. Armstrong, I’m just a soul whose intentions are good; oh Moloch, please don’t let me be misunderstood. When kickoff time comes, I’m going to be sitting with a crawfish po’ boy and a frosty mug of Blackened Voodoo, screaming for the Aints to avenge 42 years of profound suckitude and all-around futility and bring a championship home to the ancient town of Marie Laveau, Professor Longhair, and Peyton Manning. But you don’t mess around with wearing a fleur-de-lis in a contact sport. You just don’t.
I wish I were Mister Hope-Against-Hope Man or Mister Cheerful-Delusion Man. But I’m not. I am Mister Answer Man. And the Answer to this Super Bowl question is, I’m afraid, clear and unambiguous. Enjoy anyway, everyone!