For a show with no clear or compelling reason to exist, Showtime's "Inside The NFL" is pretty good. It's not necessary, just in the basic sense that television already has a wealth of programming built around rectangular suited men swapping beefy banter between NFL highlights, but it's less stupid than its peers on balance, and is loose enough to allow for the occasional moment of honesty or insight or astonishingly vivid diaper-related metaphor for futility. On Tuesday night, when Jets receiver Brandon Marshall joined the show, there was room for all three.
That's a short video up there, and there's a good chance you've already watched it at least once, but I'm going to go ahead and transcribe it for you anyway, both because journalistic best practices demand it and because these are words that deserve transcription. James Brown asks Marshall to put the Jets' season in perspective and, with a lack of hesitation that suggests he has given it a great deal of thought, Marshall responds: "to answer your question, the best way I can describe it is having a diaper on and never changing it. And just sitting in that diaper the whole year. That's how our year was." Marshall also says "it was a bad year" at the end of the statement, presumably for those viewers who had just tuned in at that moment and had not just heard the bit about how his NFL team's season was like walking around in a soiled diaper around for four straight months, or the ones who heard it but did not understand it as a bad thing.
The Jets are, in this sense and only in this sense, an inspiring team. After a comparatively encouraging 2015, they played the majority of this last season not so much like a team with a brutal, brain-splitting hangover but like a team attempting to capture, through its performance, the very essence of a brutal, brain-splitting hangover. There are different ways that experience might manifest, and as such it makes sense that there are different ways it might be described. There's no gainsaying Marshall's assessment that this last Jets season was like wearing a horrific sodden diaper during every waking moment across roughly one-third of a year; that's simply how it felt for him. Maybe for other Jets fans it felt like having a fat, oily pigeon flying into your face, over and over. Maybe it felt like eating room-temperature Hardee's in a highway rest stop far from your home. Maybe it felt like being Mike Francesa's toothbrush. Any of those can be true. All of those can be true.
But there's no reason to stop here, really. The Jets might have inspired a devastating flight of lyrical fancy from their receiver, but they are not the only NFL team capable of inspiring such strong and distinctive and harrowingly particular emotions. The NFL would benefit from more of this sort of expression, and the culture would, as well. We are locked, as a culture, into these ways of seeing and expressing that, increasingly, feel like blindness and empty signifying. We say "disappointing" when we mean "sitting down on the couch after a long day only to discover that it is now made of expired pudding." We say "the Los Angeles Rams" when we mean "driving to work in a Ford Festiva with one of those police department parking boots on every wheel." We do not make ourselves understood, because we are afraid to use the most effective language, and it is not helping us.
So let's start that work here. Here are some attempts to create urgent and accurate metaphors for a few of this year's more evocative NFL teams.
The Buffalo Bills... are like being trapped under a pile of frozen hams in a Dollar General.
The Los Angeles Rams... we've been over this above, but they are also like experiencing a sudden, uncontrollable nosebleed 45 minutes into a 13-hour bus trip.
The Jacksonville Jaguars... are like Charlie Sheen's inner emotional life.
The Cleveland Browns... are like the collapse of the social compact and the very idea of democratic governance.
The Chicago Bears... are like being in the front row to watch Papa John Schnatter front a cover band that only plays Bachman Turner Overdrive's "Taking Care Of Business."
They are not perfect. This is iterative: we say what we mean, over and over, until we have something that means something. It's a process. But this work is too important to abandon.