Monday, December 31, 2012

technical, difficult: Chris Collision's NFL Picks Column

As 2012 collapses into crumbs, it seems important to recap what was a frankly bumpy series of NFL-gambling columns for The Classical. I thought the idea was sound—a smart, engaged writer takes on the country's most popular sport from the inherently compelling vantage point of wagering on uncontrollable outcomes—but from the feedback I've gotten from readers, to say nothing of the site's editors, and given the minimal traffic the columns generated, it would appear that something prevented my work from generating the reception I expected. It hasn't been as much as fun as I had thought. I'm not sure I would do it again. But I am, alpha and omega, a professional: So here you go.

First, and I suppose most glaringly: No. I didn't as such watch very much football this year. I don't like the sport all that well, and I interact with it primarily as a background for heavy drinking and occasional stabs at cooking or adult-on-adult non-sexual socialization. So, yes: all of my picks were either complete fabrications or copy/pastes from writers who filed before I did, culminating in a real embarrassment for me when I failed to catch that I'd taken my inspiration from a fantasy football advice column, instead of another picks column. Very much a low point for me on a personal and a professional level. More personally chagrinning that week was the my-penis twitpic I mistakenly posted publicly instead of as a direct message to one of my followers—who, as it later turned out, was a member of my next-ex-wife's legal team anyway. More I am not currently at liberty to divulge except EFF OFF, CAROL, AND TAKE YOUR SHYSTERS WITH YOU. That week also proved a bad time to mount a lengthy defense of Chris "don't treat my semen like it's battery acid Jones' cri de pĂ©nis entitled "Ladies: You're Not As Good As You Think". I began to acquire a reputation for misogyny that it has proved difficult to shed.

Two other professional setbacks bear mention. First, yes, it was Week 3 before I stopped referring to the Houston Oilers, who have, apparently, been the Tennessee Titans (!?) for around two decades now. To be fair, I think this is in part a failure of editorial oversight on the part of The Classical itself, but, in the end, I am the one who typed "Houston Oilers" and so I will naturally accept up to half of the blame. Second, I did completely fail to mention football of any kind in Week 4's column, which instead ran some 3,500 words long on the topic of my not altogether successful attempts to organize a birthday party for my middle child, now-three-year-old Ieszikcha. Kourtney's insistent obstructions and general ill-will toward the father of one of her children "helped" me generate my longest column, submitted well in advance of deadline, but, again, the thoroughgoing absence of football earned some notice.

Also notable was the frank hostility attracted by some of my recurring segments. "In the Doghouse at Radio Shack" baffled those it did not alienate with week after week devoted my attempts to attain customer service and technical support for my .mp3 player, cell phone telephone, netbook computer, wireless router, soldering iron, radio-controlled monster truck, and batter charger (Weeks 3-4, 1-6, 11-present, 5 & 8, 13-present, 1, 10, & 1, respectively.) In my defense: (a) as noted, I hardly represent a football expert—or even an enthusiast—and a 750-word weekly quota is a yoke few writers comfortably wear, so a familiar topic was needed if I was to continue filing copy, and: (b) the real subject of a column should, by all evidence, be the mechanisms by which it is produced, and the people involved with those mechanisms. Thus my not infrequent through much reprehended disquisitions on Radio Shack's extended warranties, customer service, and staff attractiveness levels. They played a real role in columns I wrote, and it would be no more fair or accurate to leave them out than it would be to exclude the contributions of [reference TBD maybe special teams coach??] to a football team's success. Or failure.

Another recurring segment that displeased a vocal portion of The Classical's Comment Kadre of Kommunity Konnisseurs (TCCKKK) was my even-numbered-weeks strategy of previewing each game with a lyric from the Screaming Trees album Last Words. Readers argued that a phoned-in last-gasp album torpedoed by a record label and only released a decade after a second-tier band had broken up was not something meriting continual reference—particularly in Week 4, when my .mp3 player was on the fritz and I did an admittedly mediocre job of quoting the lyrics from memory. To this criticism I can only respond: It is not the measure of art's quality that it is popular, or even well-regarded. If I wanted to make easy references, I would use decades-old hit movies like Rocky IV, A Few Good Men, The Shawshank Redemption, and Almost Famous, until you suspected that 88% percent of my cultural consumption consisted of TNT's New Classics lineup. If I wanted brilliant lyrics that cut to the core of the human condition, I would tap Counting Crows. Instead, I use the art(ifacts) that mean the most to me in my inscrutable experience. And if that means readers have to choke on hard psychedelic pop a generation past its sell-by date, then so be it. (Now Playing: Ned's Atomic Dustbin.)

Perhaps nothing got as much pushback, though, as my picks foil. While Simmons had his wife, the Daily Fix had a flipped coin, and Deadspin had an unfunny Nazi (haw haw haw) joke, I had a weekly YouTube clip of "this week's raep scene from a Hollywood movie". My attempt at satire was cruelly rebuffed—and wildly misinterpreted. What I had intended as a savage denunciation of a cheap tactic intended to gin up an emotional response from a numb audience was somehow twisted, and I was repeatedly accused of grim, unseemly wallowing in the worst kind of pornography, simply for curating numerous clips of sexual violence in the context of a football gambling column. It was not gratuitous bad-boyism, nor an indication that my sexual desires are predicated on brutalization; it was satire. It certainly was not a cynical miscalculation, based on the inescapable presence of Nazi, stripper, lingerie, porn, etc., content from other sites. I think it safe to call myself The Accused and the editors at The Classical have informed me that my NFL picks column will be surplus to requirements going forward, so I will be Leaving Las Vegas, if you will. Or, in the words of Mark Lanegan, from the unjustly neglected Screaming Trees album Last Words, [quote TBD, if that fat jerkoff Sandra at Radio Shack ever gives me an .mp3 player with a working SD card slot]. Last words, indeed. Thanks to The Classical for running so many of these columns, and thanks to all who wrote or commented or took out a pointless restraining order, Carol or gave me a place to crash. See you all on the sidelines.

—Collision, road dog for the forseeable

Picks (home team in CAPS, pick in bold, line in italics iff I predict the home team will cover regardless of my pick to win):

Baltimore Steamrollers vs. Chicago Chinooks (-4.5)
Cincinnati Sinisters at Detroit Dynamites (+11)
Cleveland T-Rexes at Green Bay Barrage (+.5)
Pittsburgh Poisons vs. Minnesota Yetis (-18)

Buffalo Bullhorns at Dallas Harriers (+3)
Miami Fangs at Los Angeles Supercocks (-8)
New England Gunners vs. Philadelphia Vengeance (-45)
New York Hardknockers vs. Washington Volcanics (PICK)

Denver Spearheads vs. Houston Heatwaves (+2)
Kansas City Clashers at Indianapolis Narwhals (-10,000)
Oakland Leviathans vs. Jacksonville Immortals (+4)
San Diego Supernovas at Tennessee Tarbenders (-.5)

Phoenix Horntoads vs. Tampa Bay Warheads (-3.5)
St. Louis Cannons at Carolina Carnage (-5)
San Francisco Zephyrs vs. New Orleans Zombies (+5)
Seattle Cavaliers at Atlanta Crossfires (+6)