Everyone knows that the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Vikings on Sunday. What this episode presupposes is precisely that.
You could also call this the episode when the Substandard Sitcom goes entirely off the rails. I mean who writes an intro this long? How would a viewer of a sitcom even acquire this sort of information prior to viewing the episode? A Star Wars-like crawl? A narcissistic Chuck Lorre-esque vanity card that flashes before the episode instead of after it? Nobody knows. Anyway, some important background info:
On one episode or another we learned that one of JVL’s sons is a New England Patriots fan. This has made it difficult for JVL to teach him how to be a sports fan. First off, part of being a sports fan includes having your heart break. So when the Patriots were down 28-3 in last year’s Super Bowl, this son said, “Don’t worry, they’ll come back.” JVL was like, “No they won’t. It’s impossible.” Then he smugly sat back and waited for his son to learn the lesson that every sports fan eventually learns: you shouldn’t have become this emotionally tied to a game played by men in tight, colorful costumes who dance when they get excited about how well they are doing at the sports. But to his and every Atlanta fan’s chagrin, JVL watched Bom Bradychick chip away at Atlanta’s lead. Rather than, you know, win the game, Kyle Shanahan in his brilliance decided that plays with deep drop backs – so deep that a sack would take you out of field goal range, and not just any field goal but one that would clinch the victory – would be really cool plays to call at crucial times in the game.
And even Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank came down to field level so he could be ready to accept the Lombardi trophy because how could any team blow a lead like this? Even a football team from Georgia. And then as the Patriots began to come back Blank lost all the color in his face and began to resemble a man who had just found out he had been bilked out of billions of dollars by Bernie Madoff. Or worse. He looked like a man who got bilked by a “Nigerian prince” who asked for his checking account and routing numbers so he could transfer his fortune to Blank. And then took all of Blank’s money. Or you could say the color drained from his face like it would from literally anyone except the POTUS when everyone learned that you had an affair with a porn “actress” (not a star, mind you). We’re not handing out trophies to participants here at the Substandard Sitcom.
This episode opens in the Last family room. JVL walks in and his son who is a Patriots fan is working on something on a laptop. Let’s call him Pat. Seems like a good name for a Patriots fan. For a lot of reasons.
JVL: Pat, what are you up to? The AFC championship game is going to be on in a few minutes.
Pat: Oh, I was just working on some Patriots fan fiction.
JVL closes his eyes, puts his hands on each side of his face, and begins to rub his temples. He is wholly unable to conceal his disappointment in his son’s choices.
JVL: Okay, let’s hear what you have so far.
Pat: Okay. (clears his throat)
Bill Belichick woke up at 4:00 AM on the dot after precisely two hours of sleep. He had defensive schemes on his mind. Would number 53 do his job today? Or would he be sucked up by the play action fake and be unable to bat down the quick slant to the Jaguars receiver? Number 23. Would he show blitz too early and allow Bortles to audible? Belichick never learned his players names. Human attachments have been the downfall of many coaches. Except for tall guy. Tall guy, QB1, number 12, whatever you want to call him. He’s been pretty important for the success of the team. In his weaker moments, after a few Schofferhofers, Bill has been known to acknowledge that number 12 is a “pretty hard worker.”
“I’m going to try to slap hands with the players today,” he thought. “For some reason they really seem to appreciate human contact.”
Tom Brady awoke to the sound of his children playing. He walked down the stairs and into the kitchen. Gisele was humming a catchy samba tune. She handed him a frothy avocado and kale smoothie and said, “Go show those losers who you are, Tommy Boy.”
What do you think, Dad?
JVL: (after a long, painful silence) Good. Good. Um. Good. Yeah, um. Would you…? Just give me a minute to clear my head. You know I don’t like thinking about the Patriots, but I’ll try to give you some substantive criticism. First off, do you really think Belichick drinks Schofferhofer?
Pat: Sure. That’s what all cool people drink.
Narrator: JVL pondered how to answer this. If he told Pat that Belichick wasn’t cool, JVL would lose credibility with his son, thus making his conversion to the dark side to Eagles fandom much more difficult. If he pointed out that Schofferhofer was not in fact what cool people drink his son would (might?) start to wonder if his dad was really all that cool. He would be burning the very bridge he one day hoped his son would cross. Okay, maybe that last line doesn’t work so much, but it is important to get an Arrested Development homage in here and there.
JVL: Let me show you what I would have written if I was a Patriots fan.
How do you like this?
Brady broke the huddle, filled with shame and doubt and self-loathing. He watched as Danny Amendola got set as the left slot receiver. He craned his neck and scanned the defense. “Cover two,” he thought, but as he commenced his candence, the strong safety trotted forward toward the line of scrimmage. “Is he bluffing a blitz? Cover three with a strong safety blitz?” he wondered. Brady clapped, getting the attention of the offense as he shouted, “Kill, kill.” The play hoodie called would not work. He quickly switched the play to one with a crackback block on the blitzing safety, even though they are illegal. But the Patriots love to cheat. The play clock was winding down. “Vamanos, amigos,” Brady barked. Brady received the snap and pitched it to his running back who friscalated around the right end for a one yard gain. Stymied again.
What do you think, Pat?
Pat: Dad? That sucked. It sounded like that writer from that Tenenbaum movie you like.
JVL: You mean Eli Cash? What’s wrong with that?
Pat: Eli Cash really likes plosive consonant sounds, doesn’t he?
JVL: How in the world do you know what a plosive sound is? Aren’t you like 8 or 9 years old?
Pat: Yeah, but I inherited Mom’s intelligence.
JVL: How about my intelligence?
JVL: You know I’m a professional writer, right? People pay to read my work. I’ve published books, Pat. Books.
Pat: I know, but Mom is the one who makes your books good.
JVL: (nodding) No one denies this. Then go ask your mom for some help editing. You know that’s what I would do.
Pat: She always talks to me about the subjunctive mood. I don’t know what that is.
JVL: No one does.
Pat: But I can’t ask her now. She’s upstairs reading. You know we can’t interrupt her during “Mommy time.”
JVL: (takes a deep breath and whistles) Yes, that’s for sure.
Pat: I did once, and let’s just say I’ll never do it again. She can be really scary sometimes.
JVL: Yeah, and sometimes not even in a hot way.
Cut to the beginning of the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship game. The Jacksonville Jaguars are up 17-7 on the Patriots.
Pat: Dad, why aren’t you watching the game?
JVL: Because I know what’s going to happen. The Patriots will come back and win like they always do
Pat: No you don’t. They might lose this time. You told me during last year’s Super Bowl that the Patriots couldn’t come back. And then they did. Now you’re telling me that the Jags can’t win. They might.
JVL: No, because God is punishing me for some reason. Me and every good person in America.
Pat: Dad, the Patriots aren’t that bad.
If this were (somewhere Shannon Last rejoices at the use of the subjunctive mood which was neglected by JVL earlier in the episode – something Shannon most certainly made note of) a cartoon, smoke would be pouring out of JVL’s ears.
JVL: How can you cheer for the Patriots? You do realize they’re evil. They’re the evil empire.
Pat: But Dad, Belichick just wants to bring order to the NFL. He takes in players no one has heard of and coaches them to be the best they can be.
JVL: Don’t give me the whole “the Empire” is good spiel. I invented the idea that Empire is good. I wrote the seminal article. I…Don’t you, just don’t. Just…
JVL walks out of the room muttering to himself, furious at how a child who is loved dearly by his parents would reject the Eagles in favor of the Patriots.
To be continued…