Back when I was a little kid, the football St. Louis Cardinals (sometimes called the Gridbirds) moved to Arizona and even though the team consistently and constantly found new ways to suck, they were my team and I was sad they bailed. For a while there after the demise of St. Louis Cardinals football, nobody knew what to do. It was hard to know how to feel. There were too many questions connected to our emotions. Could we keep rooting for a team that abandoned us? How would we decide who our new team(s) would be? Would we switch allegiances? What, exactly, was the plan?

Well, it turned out, for those miserable years from '88 to '95, everyone in St. Louis kind of devised their own plan. For example, my father was raised in Northwest Iowa, so his plan was very simple: the Vikings were his team first because most of his family rooted for them. Second came the Chiefs because they were the closest team to St. Louis and last came Chicago because they were the second closest (perhaps KC and Chitown are the same distance form St. Louis but St. Louis and Chicago have a rivalry so the thought of putting the Bears ahead of the Chiefs was too much for my father to even consider). I followed my father's plan because I didn't know what else to do and the man has a freaking doctorate plus he made some mean chili so why not? But first I flirted with one of my friend's dad's ideas.

One of my friends (I forget his name) had a dad who owned three thousand square foot basement and something called satellite television (which I had never heard of until that time). And his dad was not ready to give up the Gridbirds so he invited everyone over to his place (in week 3 when the local stations stopped broadcasting the Gridbirds) where he could actually display a Cardinals game that we could not see in local pubs or our own homes. The result was a packed basement that started with twenty or so kids and forty or so parents.

By halftime, it was assholes and elbows in that basement. I mean, standing room only (I even drank a whole beer without anyone noticing?good times). Some of the people at the basement party were rooting for the Cardinals, most were pulling for them to lose (myself, included), which was funny because losing was all they ever did anyway and was pretty much a weekly lock.

Anyway, the result of this get-together was good times. Because we were in a friendly, roomy place with all of our friends and few (if any) alternatives to see the broadcast somewhere else, we were captive. We had to deal with one another and (most importantly) we all had to live and die by the same game, which meant we fed off each other's energy, which is fun.

Fast forward to yesterday's NFL Network game. First, for those of you who don't know, the National Football League is run by a bunch of fascist assholes who could give two shits about their fans. They canceled all the Saturday afternoon December NFL games, then switched those games to Saturday night and Thursday night games on their own new network, which wouldn't be such a kick in the teeth if the average fan could actually get the games, but the NFL Network cannot come to terms with a deal with the cable companies because? well, both parties involved are really greedy.

So anyway, much like when the Gridbirds left, I had to devise a plan because two one loss NFC teams were playing and the game was going to be awesome. I mean, I couldn't just not see it; it wasn't a Falcons game.

Fortunately, satellite television is as commonplace as saline implants in this great country of ours, so I went up to the closest pub to watch the game.

And it was freaking packed.

Married couples who usually stay home were there, college kids who usually spend their Thursday nights in the bar districts or near the beach were there. Bisexual softball girls were there, cocaine addicted truckers were there, old friends were there, new friends were there and everyone was all on the same page: we were all there to watch an awesome game and enjoy it immensely. The vibe was simple: this was the place to be and we were all happy for the opportunity to be there. It was like St. Patrick's Day but with football and without the green beer.

The end result was a simple one: I had the best time watching football I've had since the Bucs won the Super Bowl back in '02. The game was awesome (it even featured a hell of an effort by backup quarterback Aaron Rodgers, which was unexpected to say the least), the camaraderie was atypical and, to borrow from Lloyd Christmas, the beer flowed like wine.

And I owe it all to the combined greed of the NFL and the cable providers.

So, to all you rich greedy bastards, I just want to say thank you for not giving two shits about us regular everyday fans. I want to thank you for providing me with a fun night of football and friendship, and I want to thank you for reminding me what it was like back when limited technology practically required friends to come together.

Oh, and by the by, I hope you greedy fucks die slow painful deaths in front of your families. Assholes.

On to picks. HOME TEAMS in CAPS.

GRIDBIRDS (PK) over Browns
I saw a great T-Shirt last night at the smoky pool hall. It offered the words: “I'm an Arizona Cardinal Fan. Please Help.” I gave the shirt's owner a buck. He looked like he could use it.

PANTHERS (-3) over 49ers
If you think this game will be awesomely enjoyable to watch then you're either an idiot, a masochist or on drugs. The Panthers don't know who's playing QB for them, which is bad. The 49ers are starting Trent Dilfer at QB, which is worse.

BRONCOS (-3.5) over Raiders
Once, when I was a little kid, I saw two bums fighting over a cheap bottle of booze outside a liquor store in St. Louis. For whatever reason, that was the first thing I thought of when I saw this game. Just saying.

Jaguars (+7) over COLTS
For some reason, I smell a Peyton Manning injury. Smells like roasted douchebag which, incidentally, is the latest product the quarterback's endorsing this year. In stores now!

Jets (+1) over DOLPHINS
Time for that classic Simpson's quote:

“Yeah Moe, those teams suck. I mean they really suck. I've seen some teams suck before but never like they sucked. They're the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked. Hold on a second, my wiener kids are listening.”

(Side note: I originally had this quote under the Panthers/Niners game, then saw this bag of suck and immediately cut and pasted it down here. Much better fit.)

Lions (+4) over VIKINGS
The Vikings are bringing Adrian Peterson (aka Purple Jesus) back from injury for this one. And I have a feeling that this may be a bit premature and will result in the end of Peterson's career. And there's nothing funny about that so let me just say that like many NFL players, I too talk to God. And he said he had no flipping idea who John Kitna was. Also, he said you masturbate too much. Sinner.

BUCS (-3.5) over Saints
I watched the Bucs play last week with Bruce Gradkowski under center and I realized something very frightening: the Bucs do not even have a shot at going to the playoffs unless 37 year-old Jeff Garcia can stay healthy. That's right, my team's success hinges on the health of an old man who not only plays a very physically challenging sport, but also sleeps with a beautiful, young model, which is enough to injure any man.

I think I just shit myself.

BEARS (+1.5) over Giants
When you think about it, the only difference between Eli and Rex is pedigree. Both are inconsistent, suffer from delusions of grandeur and specialize in interceptions. I flipped a coin for this one.

Seahawks (+3) over EAGLES
The Eagles have a quarterback controversy between Donovan McNabb and AJ Feely. You read that correctly. Sorry Philadelphia. At least you'll always have Rocky.

Bengals (+7) over STEELERS
Toughest game on the board. The Steel will take this one for granted because their remaining games are so important and the Bengals are already making plans for January golf in Ft. Myers. If the players are that interested, imagine how much fun this game will be for the casual fan.

It's times like this I actually appreciate the antics of Chad Johnson. At least he makes this one somewhat watchable.

In the words of John Hampton, “Rivalry my ass.”

Chiefs (+6) over CHARGERS
Once, while visiting a friend in the hospital, I witnessed one of the funniest things I have ever seen: two girls in wheelchairs bitch slapping each other in the hallway. The orderlies, after pushing through the small crowd of onlookers, took about two seconds to break this up (they just turned the chairs around). Anyway, this was the first thing I thought of when I heard that Norv Turner was matching wits with Herm Edwards. Just saying.

RAMS (-3) over Falcons
Picking this game was like picking my favorite color of snot: painful and pointless.

TEXANS (-4) over Titans
I am picking the young, inexperienced white quarterback over the young, inexperienced black quarterback. Which means I'm racist. I learned that logic from half of Page 2's writers on Remember white people, if Michael Vick electrocutes dogs and goes to jail for it, you're racist.

REDSKINS (-5.5) over Bills
This spread is Vegas' way of shrugging and saying, “I dunno.” No one knows if the death of Sean Taylor will leave the ‘Skins super emotional and madly motivated or just sad and deflated. Anyway, because now's not the time to make fun of the team from DC, let me just say that the decision by Bills management to go with JP Losman last week was stupider than the time I gave four-month-old potato salad a chance.

Patriots (-20) over RAVENS
I met a twenty-one year old kid who told me that all the wins out of New England lately are deserved because of all the losing seasons he suffered. I hit him in the throat and told him that the punch was deserved because of all the years of health he enjoyed. Needless to say, I'm no longer allowed in that Applebee's.

Enjoy all the games that don't suck, sports fans.


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