The Brian in (Early) Winter

Hello. Not sure if you remember me. My name is Brian, creator of I’ll forgive you if it’s not ringing any bells. It’s been a while since I’ve been here.

The great thing about writing is that even though I’ve wanted to write this for ages and started and stopped and rewrote and deleted and walked away and came back about ten trillion times, when you read this none of that matters. All that sputtering never happened, and this is the first or (for whatever reason) second or third time you’ve seen it because it only started existing for anyone besides me the second I hit publish. And, since you’re reading this, it means I did hit publish, which makes me happy. Little victories count, too.

So, what did I miss? Anything? You’re demanding to know where I’ve been? Well, I wish the answer was more exciting. Truth is I got kinda tired of it. Not writing in general, maintaining the site just seemed like more work than it was worth. Or maybe I was a little discouraged and burnt out because, and not that I’m scoffing at my loyal readers, here, it hadn’t really led to anything after a few years. I had some growth, but not a ton. I was never discovered, I never had my movie moment where I got called up to the big leagues. But it’s not like I was curing cancer, or anything, so burnt out is probably the wrong phrase. I guess I was just kind of out of it creatively. Lost the fire to blog for the love of the game. But, about a month after my last post previewing the 49ers-Chiefs Super Bowl (feels like ten lifetimes ago), I had something planned that was going to launch me out of my comfort zone and kickstart a new era of Brian’s Den. A two-week trip to Japan, decades in the making. It was going to be one of the greatest experiences of my life and check off the number one item on my bucket list. Wait, why am I saying was? Oh, right. My flight was scheduled to depart March 24, 2020. The world stopped a few days earlier.

Outside the loss of my trip, the Quarantine Era was amazing for me. Feels a little scummy to say, but I got out of it with my health intact, and none of my friends or family got seriously sick. This scenario was out of a wet dream of mine, minus the terrifying threat to human life: you couldn’t go outside, I was getting paid not to work, endless free time, being alone was strongly encouraged. No one has ever been more in their element. It would have been a great opportunity to do something on the site. But, after a week or two of binging video games and doing nothing because this was only going to last a little while so might as well enjoy this weirdness, I forced myself to get to work on my books rather than the site. It’s just what felt right. I think it’s safe to say I had time for both, but, oh well. I apologize for depriving you.

I wrote a lot. Between the start of the pandemic until now, I finished a book, did a full revision of said book, wrote a short story, wrote another book, finished a revision of said other book, and am currently in the middle of a second revision of said other book. For someone not getting paid to do it and not getting all that close to publishing, I think that’s decent output. Even if it feels like I’m banging my head against the wall at times. Some days it’s easy to tell myself the success is coming. Some days it’s hard.

What else happened? I quit my job that I hated. Was unemployed for a while. My new job is only slightly better, but it pays a lot more. Could be worse. I could be Roger Maris, Jr.

Believe it or not, I have a girlfriend now. In fact, we’ve been together for two years and just moved in together. She’s made my life better in every way. I know all of you thought it was impossible, but I hope all of you still value my opinion on all loser-related matters. I showed the paragraph about how I treated the pandemic to the Loser Council and they say my bona fides hearing is still looking promising.

I traveled a bit. More than usual, anyway. Went to Austin twice. Went to L.A. for the first time as an adult. Went to Upstate New York a few times. All the hip places. I was tempted to make more videos, but it never really came together. The second time in Austin was for South by Southwest, and I got a badge that said Brian’s Den on it. I really should have made a video. Austin is great, and I could honestly see myself living there, or selling out and moving to Hollywood. People forget Harrison Ford didn’t break out until he was, like, 35.

Right. That happened, too. I turned 30.

Turning 30 is a weird event. You step out of the realms of the young, but are denied access to the realms of the old. Purgatory on Earth. And, like the metaphysical Purgatory, entering this fourth decade of life triggers a lot of reflection. Have I achieved what I wanted to? Am I on track to succeed in the future? Have I been a good person? Does anyone else in the entire world care that I’m grappling with my own aging? Probably not, because, hard as it is to believe, they’re all going through the exact same thing.

In the leadup to my birthday, I was staring into the void almost nightly. I still do every now and then. Probably will forever. Who doesn’t? On the bad days when I was practically living in the void, I would default to one of my favorite bad habits: comparing myself to others. I have the great pleasure of coming from a particularly accomplished and talented high school graduating class. There are engineers and medical professionals and tech wizards and people working overseas and podcasters and artists and parents and even my friend who made Forbes’ 30 Under 30 and countless other amazing journeys. A lot of great accomplishments. It was hard to measure up when I was looking at my life, because it really felt like I hadn’t really done much. That is, unless you count putting like 400 hours into Fire Emblem: Three Houses, 100%ing Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, nearly singlehandedly funding both the Pokemon Company and Wizards of the Coast, eating roughly 1,000,000,000 hot dogs in my life, and creating some of the most legendary posts, videos, and Instagram food reviews in history as not much. But then the good days come and you realize none of that matters whatsoever. Jeff Bezos got a divorce. Doesn’t that tell you everything you need to know? There’s no escape from the trials and tribulations of human life. Whatever I’ve lacked professionally I more than make up for in every other aspect of life: I have a loving family, the best friends anyone’s ever had, a great relationship, multiple enriching hobbies, I like where I live, and the Yankees still haven’t won a World Series since 2009. What is there to complain about? Again, I could have Roger Maris, Jr.’s life. Listen, don’t ask me where this ray of sunshine came from, I’m not sure, either. But I’m glad it’s there. It’s helping me (somewhat) embrace this next chapter.

Of course, there’s a bit of a roadblock in my journey to Nirvana. Like most boys, my childhood hero was an athlete. Unlike most 30-year-olds, my childhood hero is still playing, and seems to be willing to sacrifice everything in order to do so. Tom Brady nearly brought me back. First when he left the Pats, then when he won the Super Bowl with the Bucs, then when he retired, then when he unretired two seconds later. I actually felt guilty not writing a tribute to him. But I think he’s doing alright without me. Or maybe he’s not. It’s been a trying stretch for our pal Tom. Stupid family trying to get in the way of football. We all know how that is. But lost in the endless waves of mockery and belittling and thinkpieces (Everyone takes Giselle’s side, I’m not here to debate the dissolution of a marriage that I have nothing to do with, and I get that a dangerous sport like football puts an entirely different spin on things, but, I don’t know, maybe he just wants to keep playing? Doesn’t what he want matter just as much as what his wife wants? I already feel like I’m wading into deep water, here. Keep it moving.) is some jarring cognitive dissonance: the GOAT, the ultimate Alpha, has lost his way. He’s got nothing left to gain or prove whatsoever, and yet he can’t walk away. I don’t think I’m going too armchair psychologist here to say he’s probably scared of the next step in his life. A lot of athletes do, there’s no roadmap for life after pro sports and society loses its interest quickly when you’re not lacing them up every week. But Brady seems even more extreme. He’s got his sniveling witch doctor Alex Guerrero whispering in his ear, convincing him he can fight off the sunset. He’s got….. whatever is happening with his face. He disappears for days at a time. Tom, if you’re reading this, and I know you are, you need someone in your corner. Like, actually in your corner. Not a hanger-on, not a sycophant, not Grima Wormtongue who interned at an Equinox and thinks he’s a fitness expert, a friend. Tom, I’ll be your friend. I’m not asking for anything, I don’t need anything. I just want to see you thrive. We need to rediscover what your goals are. You’ve made it to 45. You’ve won more titles than anyone ever will, unless you count the theoretical championships Aaron Rodgers would have won if he just played well when it mattered one single time. You, well, had a picturesque family that you forced to eat and act like maniacs. What are we after? What’s the point of playing when you have every record imaginable? Is it because you have something to prove to yourself? That’s fine, we just need to let people know that. Do you secretly need money? That’s also fine, we just need to not let people know that, unless Guerrero stole it, then we definitely go public. Are you so addicted to the process and following your dream that you’d rather die than give it up? Well, to a much less single-minded degree, I know exactly how you feel. Tom, getting older doesn’t mean giving up. I know you’re still playing better than like, 95% of NFL QBs. Football is a taxing, dangerous game. You’ve had one major knee surgery already, want another one? We know the concussion risks. Maybe we transition to a new phase. Or maybe we just keep playing forever. But it has to be what you want. Not Giselle, not any front office, not any teammates, not any snake oil salesmen. What does Tom want? I’ll help you find out, buddy. We can get old together.

The future can be exciting.

I’m planning on going to Japan next year.

Life is good.

Alright, enough of this overly serious and self-important reflection. It’s been a long two years and I’ve got some takes that were clogging up the chamber. Gotta purge them so new opinions can form:

  • Everyone’s talking football analytics incessantly, and I wish they wouldn’t. I used to be a huge numbers guy. Used to love ’em. And I still appreciate advanced stats and making more informed decisions in sports! But it’s so insufferable, now. Everything needs to be framed through the lens of analytics, and all analytics means in NFL discussions is being aggressive on fourth down and two-point conversions. And you HAVE to have an opinion, or else! The only problem is, no normal people like talking about it whatsoever. But we have to be bombarded with the endless debates starting on Monday morning, typically centered around a team that went for it on a fourth down that in previous years teams probably wouldn’t have. If you’re a pro-analytics guy, you have to smugly explain that the thought process was infallible, results-oriented thinking is stupid (even though, again, these discussions only happen when the result is negative, and it’s negative 70% of the time), and that if you disagree you’re a combination of a neanderthal and Hitler, while insulting everyone’s intelligence along the way. If you’re anti-analytics guy, you have to stuff the nerds in the locker, say the only true way to make decisions is with your gut, preparation is for cowards, and that if you disagree, you’re a pansy and a fool. And I hate being on the Old School side, but when the anaytics mafia is a legion of smarmy, insanely haughty media members like Bill Barnwell, Warren Sharp, and an infinite number of 5’8″, 140 lbs white guys who despise football even though they write about it and how horrible and stupid everyone involved with it is, I can’t help but want to see morons like Brandon Staley fail spectacularly. I don’t hate analytics. Smart teams and aggressive coaches are good for the game. I just hate the way it’s presented. Like, hey, generic PFF writer, nobody gives a shit about your models. Why do we need models? This is FOOTBALL! It’s 22 guys banging into each other for three hours! What about it screams that we need to think about it in a “smart” way? Why do I even have to know what a football model is? Why do I have to get talked down to buy someone who jerks off into a spreadsheet? I know I’m fighting against the rising tide, here, but, like, why couldn’t we have football? Why does everything need to be optimized and homogenized and killed by data? Why can’t anything stay fun?
  • Speaking of analytics, when Mac Jones (I’m lukewarm) went down a few weeks ago, I was dying for Bailey Zappe to get in. College gunslinger with a live arm sounds better than Hoyer for the thousandth time. And when he trotted onto the field for the first time, I was fired up. Until I realized it was pronounced zap-py and not zap. He went from Brady 2.0 to Matt Flynn 2.0 in the blink of an eye. A real shame.
  • Aaron Judge, blah blah, whatever. Good season. I was just pumped I finally had a Yankee figure to despise again. Don’t know if you picked up on it, but I hate Roger Maris, Jr. I’ve never seen a bigger loser, and that included the creatures that show up to Yankee Stadium with a replica jersey unbuttoned to the belly button, three gold chains, a horrible haircut, and an ill-fitting hat. I hadn’t been following him before people randomly decided to start caring about the American League home run record, but what an unbelievable dweeb. “Oh, the clean record!” “Oh, my dad is the real record holder!” “Oh, my dad could beat up your dad!” Hey, loser, let me throw some sabermetrics at you: 73 is more than 61. 73 is the home run record. Get out of here with that “clean record” nonsense. Have you seen your precious dad’s stats? Only one season ever going over 40 homers! How the hell do we know he wasn’t doing whatever atrocious drugs they were doing back then? And Aaron Judge looks like a Marvel character! How shocking would it be if he was mixing HGH into his milkshakes? What a goober. And he just kept showing up! He has no qualifications other than being born and we had to see him every single day because Judge got cold. I’d ask what he told his boss to get such amazing treatment, but I know his only occupation is fellating his dead father. Roger Maris, Jr., get off my screen forever!
  • A few weeks into the pandemic, I finally got past the first area of Bloodborne. I’ve played it two or three times since. Absolute Mt. Rushmore-level game.
  • I got really into baking, too. Not to brag, but I’ve got a real knack for it. If only I was British, then I’d be able to dominate the tent and rack up the Hollywood Handshakes at will. Alas. I’ll settle for eating whatever I make. Maybe I should start and sell some stuff. Stand mixers are highly seeded in the Best Inventions Ever bracket.
  • I’ve always been a pepperoni guy, everyone knows this, but I’ve become a bit of a snob: if it’s not EZZO pepperoni (or whatever cupped pepperoni brand you choose) and there’s not about three pounds of it per slice, I don’t want it. That’s not true. I do want it. But the whole time I’m eating it I’ll be thinking it could be better. Then reach for another slice.
  • Watched a ton of Survivor. It’s really addicting when you’re in the mood for it. My GOATs? Boston Rob, Coach, Tony, and Yul. Based on recent casting, I think it’s safe to say I’m not getting the call, but if I ever did go to the Island, I would make it my mission to not be the first person voted out. That’s it. Once I clear the first vote, everything will fall into place, and it’ll be way less embarrassing to get kicked off. Step one: don’t be the alpha at camp, telling everyone what to do and making people mad. Has never worked once. Step two: don’t be the worst at the first challenge. Might be a coin flip, but I just need someone to be worse than me to draw everyone’s ire if we’re at tribal. Step three: don’t mention my YouTube channel or Instagram page. No need to spur any jealousy. Step four: be at least somewhat in the loop. If I’m not, I’ll know I’m on the chopping block. After that, whatever happens, happens.
  • I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that Ben Simmons isn’t a foxhole guy
  • I despise Brandon Staley. I haven’t hated a coach like this in any sport in a long time, and I don’t think I’ll be hating for too much longer. A monkey could do what he does. He’s the ultimate example of the snarky talking head’s fantasy: a coach who’s such a slave to the analytics he loses the ability to think for himself. “Oh, it’s fourth and 11 from out own 24? Let’s go deep!” And then the media proclaims him the greatest thing since sliced bread. But now, stop me if you’ve heard this before, the Chargers are failing to live up to expectations and his idiocy is being put on display every week. Hey, coach, maybe a balance? Maybe use the advanced numbers and, you know, actual coaching and game-managing ability together? I just hate how this analytic circle jerk has removed all consequences for coaches. If you want to be aggressive, be aggressive. Don’t do it out of cowardice because you think it’s what the dweebs in the media want you to do. Again, I ask, why did football have to become “smart?” Who enjoys this?
  • I know I try all of these things, but the new Papa Bowl from Papa John’s sounds absolutely awful. Someone should get fired.
  • This has just become “I’m old and hate the way football is talked about now,” but I can’t stand the new trend of referring to position groups as “the _ room” like we’re on the coaching staff or something. Saying “the Bengals have a really improved d-line room” doesn’t make you sound informed, it makes you sound lame. Same for like QB1 or WR2 or whatever. Bring back Sean Salisbury and Herm Edwards so we can laugh at the dumb things they used to say.
  • If you asked me last year about the NFL’s new jersey number rules, I probably would have had a rant ready about how confusing it is, especially when the Cardinals had 1-9 on the field at once it seemed, but now it’s kind of whatever. Funny how the minor changes seem so big in the moment but given time no one cares anymore. What’s that? I spent a few thousand words whining about football changing? Umm, let’s move on.
  • The Jets don’t deserve Sauce Gardner.
  • I’m sick of the gambling talk, man. Not from everyone, I guess. Hell, picking games against the spread is something I did every week. But now that gambling is so widespread and the leagues are completely in bed with sportsbooks (work that one out, lawyers), it’s just so saturated and I’m just over it. Every pundit now has to pretend to care and give out inane parlays and picks and it’s bordering on fantasy picks. It used to be a fun wrinkle when you found someone that talked gambling. Now it’s suffocating.
  • I can’t remember if I ever talked about the depressing last season of Game of Thrones or not. It sucked. House of the Dragon is pretty good. It pleases me.
  • I love Jokic, but I’m rooting for him not to win MVP this year. The Nash-ification has already begun: public perception of a player becomes so soured because they won back-to-back “undeserved” MVPs over “cooler” candidates that they’ve become severely underrated. I know the Nuggets aren’t winning the championship this year, and so do you. Another playoff exit for the controversial MVP pick would be a horrific look. Plus, everyone’s tired of voting for him and the discourse, so I don’t think either Jokic or Embiid have a shot at winning MVP unless they put up 40-25-10 on 60/55/90% while winning 68 games, or something.
  • Celtics… well, umm, yeah. Making the Finals was sweet. Forget who was coaching them, though.
  • As a Steph Curry hipster, I was glad that he was the one that beat the Celtics, at least. I still can’t believe he’s become a legit all-timer. Most fun guy to watch play in my post-pubescent life.
  • Bucks win the title this year. Book it.
  • There are downsides, obviously, but basketball feels so much more fun to talk about than football or baseball, now. Football because of the beginnings of the data revolution and baseball because of the end of it. I still love baseball but it’s been completely solved. Outside of the playoffs there’s no drama and barely any variance or excitement. Am I a dummy for wanting so see a speedy centerfielder who hits one homer a year but steals a million bases? Because that guy doesn’t exist anymore. The Adam Dunn .210/45 homers/103 walk/185 strikeout season used to be so much more charming. Once again I ask: who enjoys this? Front office people and the handful of media members who turned numbers into their personality? What about the other 99% of the people who care about sports? God, I’m doing way too much complaining about analytics, aren’t I? New Baby Hitler rankings 1. Hitler 2. Zuckerberg 3…. Bill James?
  • After four long years of being in the only area of New York City that had no easy access to a Wendy’s, my new apartment has one that’s a feasible distance away. Things really are going my way.
  • Gerrit Cole is a baby with a stinky diaper.
  • We need to inject some positivity into this. How about this? I like how it seems like young players in every sport come in with more confidence and personality than ever before. We need more characters.
  • More dangerous object in a practice: A Russell Westbrook brick or Draymond Green’s fist?
  • I’m kinda going through the motions with the MCU these days. I don’t really watch the shows and the post-Endgame movies haven’t gotten my blood pumping. They started coming out at the perfect phase of my life, and it was such a tidy ending. Eventually I’ll miss a release and my life won’t be affected whatsoever.
  • Not sure what the best movie I’ve seen since the pandemic started, but I know it wasn’t F9. That was an insult to the Family and Paul Walker.
  • Maybe Top Gun: Maverick.
  • I’m running out of takes, so if I don’t think of anything else, it wasn’t important enough to write down. I’m not sure what this site will be going forward. It might just be me hopping on whenever I have some time or an opinion or something to talk about. Maybe it’ll be more or less frequent. But it won’t be two years.
  • Final take: inflation stinks and I wish it was reversed.

3 thoughts on “The Brian in (Early) Winter”

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