On Monday, David Roth and the internet's Jeff Johnson attended what was possibly the worst Monday Night Football game in history. This is their story.
David: As a New Jersey Cultural Ambassador -- any past or present resident of the state can get a certificate if you mail a pack of Premio sweet Italian sausage to the Governor’s office -- I was excited to guide you and your son through the Giants Tailgate Experience at MetLife Stadium. But there wasn’t a lot going on. We saw some Vikings fans politely drinking beers in Jerome Simpson jerseys.
Jeff: And a few Fran Tarkenton jerseys that looked like they’d been assembled from the remains of older Tarkenton jerseys, possibly in secret. Under duress. And a sad couple that looked like they were disassembling a turkey processing plant and packing it into their Pontiac Torrent.
David: A couple of little hibachis. But only one long table featuring a black plastic supermarket Sliced Pinkish Meat Tray, and no people in Phil McConkey jerseys eating braciole.
David: And I had a recipe for braciole all ready to share, too. The short version is just taking the tires from a child’s bike and simmering them in tomato sauce for hours, until they are still pretty much inedible but also alarmingly fibrous. Some people also use cheese. Anyway, I feel like I let you down.
Jeff: That’s okay. I haven’t been to many Giants games over the years but once when I went with my dad, we waited for 72 hours in 9 degree weather to take the bus to Port Authority and a male senior citizen began to cry halfway home because he was certain he was going to pee his pants. I feel like I’ve lived it.
Jeff: And at 0-6, tailgating is just rote ritual. Just, "grab whatever leftovers we have and we'll just try to grill them up tonight at that Giants game we can’t get out of going to. Yes, even the mac and cheese."
David: Where there'd usually be a pig roast there were just sad men cooking Lean Pockets with the little push-in cigarette lighters from their cars.
Jeff: Stabbing at them. Well that part’s done.
Jeff: I saw a lot of light jeans in that parking lot paired with dressy leather jackets. Feathered hair and undercover cop earrings and Phil Simms era-correct jerseys, when the collar and sleeves were really fussed with.
David: Overall, there was just a listless, peevish vibe. Which makes sense given that this was a game between teams with a combined 1-10 record on a school night, maybe, but which was also kind of a drag. Mostly everyone stood around like they were waiting for a bus that was going to take them to another bus stop, where they’d get on another bus that would take them to a closed Auntie Anne’s Pretzels.
Jeff: I like to think we played our part in bringing energy by spotting a guy from Anthrax on the sidelines and repeatedly yelling "Charlie" at him, despite the fact that his name was not Charlie, until he wandered over to us, took a picture with us, and did not ever correct us.
David: It was not Charlie from Anthrax, but Joey Belladonna from Anthrax.
Jeff: His hair was blacker than any witch wig I’ve ever seen. Like a cat from a children’s book about Halloween.
David: He seemed like a nice guy and I was honestly delighted to shake his hand. He was on field level, with access to, like, VIP carving stations and bottomless wan salad and various ex-players walking around before the game shaking hands. He’d earned it.
Jeff: It would have been great to send him into the VIP area to get us sandwiches. "Um, I said semolina, Charlie. I mean Joey. No worries. But if you’re going back can you scare me up a Diet Pepsi?"
David: I was disappointed not to see an interaction between him and a strutting Richie Sambora on the sidelines. Joey would've shook his hand and then made a jerk-off gesture after he left.
Jeff: Sambora in an expensive casual cowboy hat and Under Armour mock turtleneck.
David: You know Joey B doesn't play that.
Jeff: I think Joey has developed a taste for the finer things in life, too. But he doesn't have a toilet in his SUV like Sambora.
David: The bad news for Joey from Anthrax was that he was also closer to the game, and thus at greater risk of being injured by one of the dozens of x-treme overthrows that defined this game. Josh Freeman had 33 incompletions all by himself, which when laid end to end traveled a combined three-quarters of a mile further than intended.
Jeff: I almost wish they had a sound effects person making "boing" and "sproing" noises over the PA when those passes landed 17 yards from their target. Followed up by a light rubber Whoopie Cushion flapping noise. I do love that the PA guy still imitates Bob Sheppard, though.
David: The entire game hinged on special teams fumbles and dropped interceptions. I don't want to talk about it. It's the worst football game I've seen in person, including front yard Thanksgiving games involving cousins and elderly aunts.
Jeff: It was the worst football game I've seen on this planet.
David: I had this vision of Eli and Freeman setting out to one-up each other. Eli fires a pass straight up in the air and sits down and starts reading an issue of US Magazine, and then in the next series Freeman comes out in full SCUBA gear. This is what I thought about for most of the game. That and watching the overzealous security dudes try to identify people to kick out.
David: There were three very drunk kids who came in during the first quarter and sat next to me. They had signs and I think maybe even got on camera, but were too drunk even to yell. The one next to me had on a red Livestrong-style bracelet that just said "The Best" and a sign that said "Believe In Eli." He passed out almost instantly, and so I had a strange bro asleep on my shoulder until security got rid of them just before the half. The only one that didn’t pass out had these, like, Jolly Rancher golf-tee piercings and at one point came back to the seats to find them gone.
Jeff: I believe he refused to find them until he finished his meal, no?
David: He wasn’t rushing. He very slowly ate a brown pile of chicken fingers and fries, got one of the dudes on the phone and snippily said something about a lawyer, and then finally bailed them out. They left their signs.
David: One security guy looked like the fat dude from Affleck's crew in The Town and kept making faces and pointing at people and complaining to the dude next to him. Who I initially painted as the bad guy because he was wearing receiver gloves, but mostly just spent the game kind of nodding absently while the balder dude gave people Final Warnings.
Jeff: I liked the receiver glove guy. I imagined Hakeem Nicks giving him those. And the guy driving home from work wearing them and sort of acrobatically taking out his garbage with them on, tip-toeing down his driveway, trying not to go out of bounds, and using his TV remote with them on.
David: His wife gently asks him why he isn't taking them off in the shower and he snaps "They're PERFORMANCE gloves. I am trying to shower like a champion."
Jeff: "I thought you were supposed to give them to our son?"
"There were no specific instructions, dear."
David: "These gloves are earned, not given." In a game whose general thrust can be summed up as Marginal Players Making Crucial Mistakes, these are all reasonable thoughts to have. It had a real sleepy vibe.
Jeff: I felt the spirit of Jim Nantz everywhere.
David: That murmuring Nantz-ian soporific feel. Just rocking you to sleep with smug whispers about Ernie Els.
Jeff: It was really preseason out there for sure. Lots of guys from Coe College who "have a shot…"
David: Gruden being all polite. "You know, I watch this guy play defensive back and can just tell he's probably a great dad."
Jeff: It was the purest Titans Versus Jaguars experience you could have without either team actually being involved. I wanted Marcus Sherels to get that Pick-6. It was perfect somehow that he dropped it though. The biggest thing about the game for me was that Peyton Hillis is back and that he looks like Nick Lachey if Nick Lachey were also the heir to the Chef Boyardee throne.
David: I think there's an actual throne. It is jarringly soft.
Jeff: "The Comeback you’ve been waiting for begins tonight!" I wish ESPN believed the world was "Hungry for Hillis." I also wish ESPN would have done a taunting, sad promo for this game saying, We have a Peyton in our game of the week, too." Really dramatic and somber.
David: And a little asterisk after "Peyton", and below in tiny type a list of health risks associated with watching Peyton Hillis get 25 touches in a NFL game. "Colonic fenestration has occurred in some/most cases."
Jeff: Then a close up of Hillis’ face sweating. I thought John Mayer at first. But he’s really, truly related to Nick Lachey somehow.
David: Pull back to reveal him at Golden Corral, carrying a groaning tray full of iceberg wedges and fried clam strips.
Jeff: Maybe then some footage of him doing those erotic stretches he was doing on the JumboTron before the game?
David: Some of them looked like actual stretches. Some of them were clearly just air-humps the training staff had pranked him into doing.
Jeff: Coughlin "What...what is this? These gyrations aren't in our ‘brand book.’"
David: "Coach, two separate members of the training staff said this is how you do it here." - Peyton Hillis while frantically pantomiming cunnilingus.
David: I for one am glad he's back, even as I'm frankly worried about how he might adapt to the folkways and parm-style foodways of North Jersey. There's a pretty good chance he hasn't even heard of Trixter, let alone formed a strong opinion of "Give It To Me Good," and so the cultural learning curve will be steep.
Jeff: What the hell happened to him? I've seen him get handoffs and walk/scurry to the line of scrimmage like he's trying to make it to a bathroom before puking, or just casually strolling through Macy’s looking at colanders.
David: It has not helped him! Neither has running really hard into people at Bed Bath and Beyond.
David: He did truck some dudes after catching passes, though, and honestly his 2.0 yards per carry looked better than any other Giants player's 2.0 yards per carry this year.
Jeff: Give him screen passes. Let him build a head of steam. No one wants any part of that. I love how they played "Back in the New York Groove" when Hillis scored. He is back in the New York Groove! Pointing out Banksy pieces to tourists, wearing expensive jeans and doing some light social media work for Duane Reade. Just like the Peyton we always knew. I do always dream that guys can come back.
David:It'd be great if he could. The league needs more rectangular Tecmo Bowl-looking dudes getting carries.
Jeff:I still think Samkon Gado and Najeh Davenport will latch on somewhere. And Derrick Ward. Also Ricky Proehl. I still think he has one season left. (I also would love to work with former MLB pitcher Randy Johnson, to become the tallest NFL wide receiver.)
David: I loved Gado. There are only so many things you can do if you're as tall as Alan Cumming and weight 240 pounds, with like 95 pounds of that in your thighs. One of those, I assume, is dance in Juicy J videos. The other is produce like crazy in spot duty but never get the chance to be a NFL back.
Jeff: He is also a doctor I believe? He would run for like 116 yards and two touchdowns then get cut.
David: I always wonder about the dudes who produce but can't keep gigs. Like, how big a butthead is Brandon Lloyd? Because the Vikings receiver corps was Greg Jennings and local Tough Mudder competitors, and the Patriots are starting guys from the Boston College crew team at receiver and Lloyd 1) already knows that team's plays and 2) is quite good at football.
Jeff: Jabbar Gaffney Gumbo over there. I feel like the Patriots are now just an experiment.
David: Absolutely. The roster is now entirely players who were let go by other teams because of knifecrime or hijackings or helicopter DUI, and a few great players the Pats drafted, and undrafted dudes Belichick has on the team because he was dared to by Bill Parcells and Bon Jovi. There is a lot of job creation going on in the NFL. The Giants absolutely need to start working out area bouncers to see if they can run block.
Jeff: Could a guy from Home Depot pass protect in the NFL? Like maybe directly from Home Depot and 45 minutes later is playing against the Chargers.
David: I often wonder about that. North Jersey naturally has a lot of aggressive men shaped like prize-winning eggplants, but to do that job you have to be able to recognize things quickly, and amid uncertainty. And I think most Americans, in a situation like that, tend to rely on handguns.
Jeff: This is about Belichick, a genius, winding down. These are his final experiments. They’re sketched out on napkins. Train schedules. In the margins of one of his mistresses’ childrens’ sheet music. He’s game-planned a "Guard Eligible" play where Logan Mankins would continually run post routes for a whole quarter. He’d approached area cashiers and brazier cooks about repairing cleats and helmets and long snapping.
Jeff: "Gene, you’ve mastered sundae prep. You will now catch a TD this week against Buffalo."
David: Most fascinating to me is how all his assistants are just 29-year-old golf bros. Different flavors of golf bro. They've got that bearded Matty Patricia dude who looks like the fratty brother of Zach Galifianikis. Chad or Thad or Brad or Brand Galifianikis. And Josh McDaniels is the guy who sells gloves and sleeves of balls in the clubhouse and everyone knows not to talk to him about Obama.
Jeff: I hoped more people would respond to my "Todd. Haley. Jeans." tweet. He needs to get back up there.
David: I don't think Steelers fans would be bothered much. And TH Jeans is a good concept. I assume they're wide-legged khaki-colored denim with painfully pinched crotches to keep you focused.
Jeff: But maybe opening Todd Haley Fencing Studios is a better move for him.
Jeff: "I don't know what kind of fencing your kid did before, but this class is about stabbing. We finish!"
David: "We don't use those little two-hand-touch rapiers. Everyone gets a live-action professional-grade machete on day one and just goes at it. That's how we make winners."
Jeff: I know he trashes rental homes. I can also see him announcing, "I make fire happen. Take that anyway you want."
David: /Meaningful glare
Jeff: "It's not a threat."
Jeff: "It's just, get rid of me and...you’ll see. Everyone will see."
David: It's strongly implied that he will use his mind to make it happen. And to be fair to him I wouldn't necessarily be surprised if Haley could set smaller items on fire with his mind. Cotton balls, grapes, Pomeranians.
Jeff: He’s one of the few "aggressive" flunkies I've ever seen. I guess Brett Ratner might be the equivalent in film.
David: Dude ran his team like Darkness at Noon and everyone bailed on him, and the lesson he took from that was The Importance Of Violent Discipline.
Jeff: "Have to grow a thicker skin, guys. Get bruised up. Carved up. You don't deserve glamour. Same thing I tell my pets."
David: "Same thing I scream at my pets."
Jeff: My plan was to find an old Browns Hillis jersey to wear to the Giants Stadium on Monday night. I may do that eventually.
Jeff: I know I would get some "props" from Giants fans.
David: I think Giants fans are ready to embrace him. I also think the wealth of remaindered Ahmad Bradshaw 44 jerseys in area thrift stores makes for a great opportunity for an enterprising entrepreneur.
Jeff: I’m going to go to eBay and find them. And then make a shitload of Hillis nameplates. I will be in the parking lot, working out of the trunk of my car.
David: Weaponizing these jerseys for a nominal fee, basically.
Jeff: "I could charge more for the service, but it’s not about money for me. I mail all my revenues to the Giants. In coins. Peyton’s a good man. Glad we got him. Wherever he goes, that's my team. Giants are my team now."
David: You’d be wearing one of your own hand-crafted Hillis garments by way of advertising, I assume.
Jeff:I will have an oxford shirt underneath to enhance the effect. "I got out of work as soon as I could...which means last March."
Additional photos by David Roth.