A Short Break

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans

Folks, as I’m sure you’ve noticed (well, hopefully noticed), I’ve been a little absent from the internet lately. Not many posts or tweets or videos or anything. As much as I’d love to say it was because I was working on some important project or I have an entirely new identity now or that I decided to prioritize my health and backpacking through Europe, the reality is I was just kind of being lazy. I was working on my book, sure, but not in a “this-thing’s-almost-done-and-I’ve-got-publishers-beating-down-my-door” kind of way. Started thinking about a vacation next year. Got really into oatmeal raisin cookies (so underrated). Played an obscene amount of Fire Emblem Three Houses (switch over to my gaming site ledbacklitmonsterenergyrefrigeratorinthecorner.com for my 50,000 word breakdown about why Sylvain is actually the best character in the game). A lot of stuff going on in my life. Listen, it was summer and there wasn’t much interesting news I cared about and I couldn’t watch a lot of baseball until recently and it was just kind of like I didn’t have any time to come up with the level of posts I’m happy with. Or, more likely, I chose not to make time. But, if you really concentrate, you can start smelling football in the air again. Hell, college has been going for a couple weeks now. So, at the very least, I’ll go back to picking games. I like it too much and I’m too good at it to give it up, even if I know no one’s reading. Anything more than that? We’ll see. Unplugged life was good, and I’ll leave it at that. briansden69.com may start to operate on a per diem basis.

But, naturally, there were two stories that nearly dragged me back to the site. The first, of course, was the great Chicken Sandwich War of 2019. Popeyes introduced a new chicken sandwich. It was very good and sold out everywhere instantly. It’s still not as good as Chick-fil-A’s. That’s the take.

The second was the Andrew Luck shock retirement. And I don’t really have a take about Luck, more about the discussion about Luck, which I fully admit is just feeding directly into the cycle of event-backlash-backlashtothebacklash-outrage-forgetiteverhappened that dominates social media, more specifically Twitter, which is easily the worst website in the world but I can’t stop myself from spending all day on it. Anyway, yeah, Luck retired. Crazy. Who knows what he’s going through, so if his body’s saying no, it’s time to get out. Football’s not a game you can be kind of committed to. If you don’t want to take the pain anymore, no shame in walking away. I’m sad to see him go, if only because he was 0-6 against the Pats and always lost by 10,000. But when the Indy fans booed as he left the field (the story leaking mid-game is one of the weirdest things about it), predictably, it quickly became a 2019 sports story. You had to either become “shut up and play, think about the coal miners” guy or one of the nameless, faceless members of the Twitter mob that think if you’re nice to the athletes they’ll become friends with you or something. Like if hell exists, Andrew Luck’s not gonna wind up there because he retired earlier than you wanted him to. But he’s also not a conquering hero, either. It’s his life and he should do with it what he pleases, but let’s not act like it’s out of line for Colts fans to be upset. Their star QB retired two seconds before the season! They can’t be pissed about that? Not even a little? I understand they shouldn’t have booed. I wouldn’t have, were I in the same position (I would never be in that position, though, because that would involve attending a preseason NFL game). But he really screwed the Colts over with this. Unless you want to get woke and say Jim Irsay knew Luck was on the way out but told him to keep it quiet so they could sell season tickets, but even then the fans are really getting the shaft. But hey, it’s 2019 and the fans don’t matter because a couple lunatics were mean to some athletes on Twitter and now if you even insinuate that a player isn’t the best all-time in their sport you’re a reckless hater and deserve to be canceled. This story is why I liked being offline. You check back in briefly and it’s just as bad and eye-roll-inducing as it was when you left. Luck’s not a spoiled millennial who doesn’t care about the little guy and he’s not a brave trailblazer who should be endlessly praised for accomplishing nothing in the league and walking away under his own power. He’s just a really talented guy who’s body said enough, that’s it. But we can’t do “that’s it” in 2019, can we?

Football’s back, hooray.

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There’s a New Bad Boy of YouTube

If you’re anything like me, you’re a massive fan of the official Brian’s Den YouTube account. And, as we approach Independence Day, perhaps you wanted to look back at one of the great athletic achievements of all time. So, you fire up the ol’ Tube and search your favorite video when, all of a sudden, you find out that it’s blocked. For what reason? Violence? Problematic content? Toxic comment section? No, something even worse: music copyright infringement.

Unlicensed use of everyone’s favorite ’70s soft rock group Chicago’s music is usually enough to receive the death penalty, so I consider myself lucky I got by only getting my video blocked. I can still watch it, mind you. But the rest of you can’t. Yet another reason why being me really is the greatest gift you can receive.

I won’t lie, I woke up feeling a little different this morning. I’ve got some more confidence and I can tell people on the street are looking at me through a new lens. That’s what happens when you’ve got an edge. When you’re the new bad boy on the block. When you become the guy parents point out to their kids and say “stay away from him, he used a Chicago song on a stupid video without acquiring the rights from Warner Music Group.” Listen, I’m a rebel and a bit of a villain. What are you gonna do about it? Fight me? Please. I’ve been in the mud with the WMG, you think anything you throw at me is gonna faze me? You’d better think again.

The only question is what does one even do when the laws of society no longer apply? I’ve been permanently branded as a troublemaker. Following established conventions and courtesies would just confuse people. I need to pick up a leather jacket, I guess. Start smoking cigs. Never speak; only communicate in sultry and pouty facial expressions. Always wear pants, even when it’s like 1,000 degrees outside. Buy some pre-weathered converse or vans or, better yet, boots that are inappropriate for nearly every occasion. I’m surprised these things didn’t just show up at my doorstep overnight. How else is the world supposed to know the terrible things I’ve done? The kind of mischief I’ve gotten into after school (that I didn’t go to, obvi) and all the loitering I do? Maybe my new attitude will be enough. After all, I’m a bad boy, now. And bad boy life continues no matter what you’re wearing.

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NBA Draft Guide 2019

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Folks,,, it’s draft night. I love both the NFL and NBA drafts, but the NBA draft is probably the higher quality entertainment. Whereas the NFL draft is a war of attrition against the weak minded “fans” who can’t last all seven rounds over three days, the NBA draft is an efficient sprint to the finish line. I take pride in my NFL draft commitment, but yeah. Give me one three- or four-hour block of drafting. NFL draft is more conducive to eating way too much food, but don’t underestimate the satisfaction of some good pizza (we call it za in the biz) or wings while watching some roundball highlight packages. Everyone’s scrambling over themselves to declare this draft worthless after the first three picks, but the lack of sure things only opens the door for crazy reaches and funny second round foreign guys who even Fran Fraschilla has never heard of with preposterous workout videos. The various injuries and Anthony Davis trade have taken some steam out of the extracurricular aspects of tonight’s draft, but I think we’re still in store for something good. If only everyone still wore XXXXXXXXL suits. Let’s break down everything you need to know about the 2019 NBA draft class.

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Reasons Why I WOULDN’T Take Zion Williamson Number One…

  • None

Do You Say Zi-ON or Zi-EN

  • I’m becoming a Zi-EN guy. Think it just kind of sounds funny.

Good Players in This Draft

  • Zion Williamson
  • Ja Morant
  • Bol Bol, but only in 2K

Bad Players in This Draft

  • Pretty much everyone else?
  • Maybe not De’Andre Hunter?

Guys I Want the Celtics to Draft

  • One of the Good Players
  • Anyone not named Kyrie Irving

Biggest Storylines

  • Does Zion get put in the Hall of Fame tonight?
  • Is anyone else any good?
  • Will Cam Reddish bother showing up? Because he didn’t at Duke.
  • Will anyone break from the monopoly of blue/black/gray tailored suits?
  • How many highlight videos will include warm-ups/empty gyms?
  • Are we positive anyone besides Zion’s getting drafted tonight?

Zion?

  • Zion

I Just Said This Was Going to be a Fun Draft, But It’s Going to be Pretty Boring, Huh?

  • Yeah

Raptors Win the Title?

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The Toronto Raptors are NBA champions. Doesn’t quite sound right, does it?

It’s kind of funny how we frame unexpected champions, particularly in basketball. It felt so bizarre that the Mavericks won the title off of LeBron and the Heat in 2011, but they won 57 games and were top ten in every offensive and defensive metric. The 2006 Heat felt weird as it was happening because Dwyane Wade, not Shaq, was leading them. The 2004 Pistons weren’t as good as the 04 Lakers on paper, but the Pistons allowed a comical 84.3 points per game that season (much, much different league, but still). It seems odd and random that the Raptors would win the championship this year, but it’s only because they’re the Raptors and they beat the Warriors. Other than that, this was likely the second or third best team in the NBA during the regular season and only got better in the playoffs. 58 wins, top five in offensive and defensive rating, and lead by one of the premier singular talents in basketball. A worthy champion and a deserved Larry O.B.

A couple things that merit discussion in the wake of these Finals, so let’s just get the Warriors talk out of the way first. Brutal, brutal loss. Last game at Oracle, lose KD and Klay, got roasted online. Regardless of what Durant and Klay do, the Warriors will look different next season, and their role as the league’s goalpost will likely at least take a yearlong hiatus. Klay and the Warriors’ collective championship spirt availed themselves well last night, but there’s only so much a limited roster can do against a team as talented as Toronto, particularly when Steph (online debates have shredded any chance of having perspective on things currently happening, but Steph is still a top-25 player all time, even if you don’t like him. Took Brady six rings before everyone got the poop out of their diapers and begrudgingly admitted his greatness) struggled like he did. Not trying to make excuses for him, but Steve Kerr didn’t do him any favors in the fourth quarter. Still, even if Steph did make the last shot, they would have just lost on Sunday. Attrition comes for everyone, and honestly, better to lose valiantly in front of your own fans than lose by 40 in front of Drake.

But enough about them. This should be about the Raptors, and, as is the case with every dynastic team that loses, I fear it likely won’t be. So many players are talked about differently now: Kyle Lowry, the human embodiment of lackluster playoff performances, is now an NBA champion who had an awesome closeout game, and now we can finally appreciate his five All-Star games and All-NBA selection. He was really good on both sides these playoffs! Gonna be someone we value more the longer he’s away from the game. Danny Green is now a two-time champion and no one cares he threw the ball out of bounds with the series on the line. Patrick McCaw has literally never not won the title. Fred VanVleet, even if it was just a random hot streak, put his name among all the other role players who unexpectedly swung series and championships and finally gave the college purists a win. Jeremy Lin has a ring now and Carmelo doesn’t. Serge Ibaka gets one before Harden and Westbrook, and honestly, they don’t even make the Finals without him. And Marc Gasol, my sweet, sweet Spanish son. He’s been one of my favorite players for years, ever since Grit ‘N’ Grind burst onto the scene. So smart, so skilled, so unselfish. His ring is for ZBo, for Tony Allen, for Mike Conley, for every fat guy who can’t jump more than 10 inches off the ground and has to rely on positioning and guile. He had a glorious two- or three-year stretch as the best passing big man ever before Jokic redefined what that even meant. I’m just so happy he finally got to taste the air at the top of the mountain, a long-overdue cap to a fabulous career. And what about Nick Nurse? Rookie head coach winning the title by pressing all the right buttons and (mostly) avoiding mistakes. Is he the next great coach or did he get lucky by having a great roster? Only time will tell. Having no context of what GMs make, the Wizards offering Masai Ujiri $10 mil a year seems like a steal.

The main focus, however, is on the Raptors’ two best players- Pascal Siakam and Kawhi Leonard. Siakam, despite having been a far more anonymous college player, is suddenly on a similar career track to Leonard: non-lottery pick, rapid development predicated on extreme length and athleticism, and now the title in the third season. He’s a little older than Kawhi was at this stage, but after what we saw all year you kind of have to wonder what his ceiling is. All-Star, for sure, but could he make it to first- or second-team All-NBA level? I won’t rule it out. It wasn’t perfect these playoffs; there were times where he seemed a little in over his head. But he always recovered, and I’m excited to see what he can do next year as the Raps’ top dog (sorry, guys).

Kawhi now has to be talked about a little differently. Two Finals MVPs is nothing to shake a stick at; only twelve players have ever done it, and only he, LeBron, and Kareem have gotten one for two different teams. He averaged 30 a game these playoffs and, ever since the first championship with San Antonio, has established himself as one of the best playoff performers in NBA history. He’s got the clutch moments, he’s got the huge games, he’s got the consistency and quiet leadership, he’s got the all-time defense. Once he adds longevity it’ll be clear that this is one of the best players ever and it came out of nowhere. He’s probably going to the Clippers in the offseason and, with the Warriors down…. maybe? If he’s got enough juice to overcome the Raptors’ Loser DNA and then the Clippers’ Ultimate Loser DNA he should be put in the Hall of Fame on the spot. I can’t wait for his induction speech, man. Maybe he just won’t show up. Not sure I’d blame him one bit.

No league is ever really over these days, so the Raptors only have a week before the Pelicans capture everyone’s imagination and then whichever team makes the biggest splash in free agency. But for now, at least, the North is king. Insert Drake lyric here.

Who’s to Blame for the Kevin Durant Injury?

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Who’s to blame for a non-contact injury? Anyone? No one? Well, according to Twitter (just a warning, this is going to be extremely “according to Twitter” and if you’re not like me and don’t spend all day on the worst website ever created I’d suggest you kind of move on because this whole thing is going to seem like a gigantic strawman argument against myself), one of two entities is solely responsible for Kevin Durant likely tearing his Achilles and completely changing the course of his career: Kevin Durant himself or the Warriors franchise.

Saying there’s a crowd of people blaming KD is a stretch; it’s more of a “the Warriors aren’t at fault.” That KD knew the risks, he’s a grown man who can make his own decisions, he’s a competitor who chose to be out there, etc. Did toxic masculinity injure Kevin Durant? All of which is 100% true, by the way. Kevin Durant chose to play. Saying this on Twitter has become an explosive take because the echo chamber known as NBA Twitter has decided that every ounce of “blame” for an injury falls at the feet of the Warriors. Why? Well, on NBA Twitter, every faceless, generic media member with a blue check mark has decided that every NBA player is their friend, so they have to take the players’ side no matter what, that the teams and owners are evil, and that the only valid opinion is whatever gets you the most Agreement Points from your fellow NBA Twitter members, save for the one annoyingly stupid opinion you have about some non-basketball, probably food-related topic you throw out on the timeline during the offseason to try and convince everyone you have a personality and weren’t just created in a factory that churns out media passes. Anyway. The argument is that the Warriors shouldn’t have cleared him and that they pressured him to play. Both of these can also be true. Of course they pressured him to play, they were down 3-1 and he’s Kevin Durant. Should he have been allowed to play? I don’t know, and no online doctor knows, either. Hearing Bob Myers and Steve Kerr say that they felt the initial calf injury was unrelated seems dubious. But maybe it was? Maybe this was just a freak injury. Or maybe it was a result of playing 12 of the first 14 minutes of an NBA Finals game on a tendon that may or may not have been iffy in the first place.

It’s easy to sit here the day after and say he shouldn’t have played. No, duh. But try and put yourself in KD’s shoes, for a second. Since he got hurt, every talking head has debated whether the Warriors are better without him or if they need him. It then morphed into KD is being selfish in a bizarre series of stories where unnamed sources in the Warriors were supposedly wondering why he wasn’t playing yet. Not to mention the millions of Twitter users who, before defending him against the evils of a corporation who wanted to succeed, called him a snake for joining the Warriors, constantly downplay and discount his greatness, and have questioned his heart and achievements for the last three years. Of course he wanted to play, how could he not? Maybe we should be blaming the online mob for this, but we all know that will never happen. That would require a level of introspection and nuance that doesn’t exist in 2019.

My thoughts? My thoughts are that it was a non-contact injury so blaming someone seems stupid? Injuries happen. It sucks, but it’s the nature of sports. He shouldn’t have played, but try telling Durant that. I bet you wouldn’t like his response.

The McDonald’s Worldwide Menu Might Cause World War III

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Our American customers will have their pick of four craveable and delicious menu items from several of our international menus including:

Stroopwafel McFlurry (The Netherlands): Our creamy vanilla soft serve, mixed with a rich caramel swirl, featuring authentic chopped Dutch Daelmans Stroopwafel caramel waffle cookie pieces. Cookies and soft serve? Yes please.

Grand McExtreme Bacon Burger (Spain): A quarter pound* of 100 percent fresh beef** topped with thick cut Applewood smoked bacon, smoky McBacon Sauce, real Gouda cheese and slivered onions served on a freshly toasted sesame seed bun.

Tomato Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich (Canada): Made with a grilled or crispy all white meat, juicy and tender chicken, the Tomato Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich is topped with tomato & herb sauce, creamy mozzarella cheese, slivered onions, fresh lettuce and sliced Roma tomatoes served on a freshly toasted artisan roll.

Cheesy Bacon Fries (Australia): Look familiar? That’s right, Cheesy Bacon Fries are back! After such a positive customer reaction to Australia’s Cheesy Bacon Fries in the U.S., they’re taking a victory lap. Don’t miss our World Famous Fries topped with real cheddar cheese sauce and chopped Applewood Smoked bacon.

Folks, you all know I’m not one for hyperbole. I keep things “one-hundred,” as the kids like to say. So when I make big proclamations, they come from a level-headed, rational place. McDonald’s just doomed us all by introducing this new Worldwide Favorites menu.

It’s not the menu itself I’m worried about; it’s innocuous enough. A burger with a preposterous name, a pretty standard chicken sandwich, and a new McFlurry aren’t cause for concern (how about McDonald’s trying to pass off cheesy bacon fries as a new international item when they were on the mainline menu like two months ago? Come on, guys). Its what the menu represents. This is likely the end of international trade as we know it.

Let me ask you a question: why do you travel? To experience other cultures, see the sights, escape your current crappy life/weather, yadda yadda. But the real reason is food. You want to go somewhere that has food you can’t get at home. You want new dining experiences that make you rethink how you viewed the world around you. You want to taste the weird menu items McDonald’s has in different countries. You want to go to Spain and get a Grand McExtreme Bacon Burger. You want to go to the Netherlands and get a Stroopwafel McFlurry. But now that McDonald’s has foolishly decided to bring these foreign agents to our shores? Why leave the house again?

The negative effects of this are far-reaching. First, it’s going to murder international McDonald’s sales. Without looking at the actual data, I’d wager that 95% of McDonald’s international profit comes from American tourists. Why would any of them go now that they can get the funky signature item at home? Soon the margins will get so tight that non-American locations will start closing left and right. And once the McDonald’s start closing, the tourism dries up. Why go anywhere without a McDonald’s? There’s no reason to, really. And once the tourism dries up, the other countries get mad that they don’t have any money anymore. What happens then? They band together and create a league of evil bent on getting revenge on the entity that precipitated their downfall: McDonald’s. They start attacking the only locations left standing, all of which are now in America. And, due to the influx of tourists coming to get their erstwhile comfort food, the domestic McDonald’s will have only grown more powerful and expanded to even more locations than there already were. So now there’s a massive army invading America and attacking every town in every state, most of which completely revolve around the local McDonald’s. Our very way of life will cease to exist, all because McDonald’s decided to put a limited time novelty item on the menu. And when the dust settles and only the strong are left in the new apocalypse state? Well, that’s the plot of John Wick 5, friends.

So, in short, McDonald’s has made another shortsighted decision that torpedoes their own exclusivity to appeal to a market that won’t appreciate it. And we’re gonna be the ones paying the bill. A real shame, if you ask me.