Regular readers will know that my main Nemesis, globally speaking, is a guy called Mike Tanier who writes for Football Outsiders and The NY Times, among others. I don't confer Nemesis status on monkeys, and last week Tanier wrote a brilliant essay on the disjointed, illogical structure of publicly agreed hatred that made me think of the ludicrous way it seems impossible to enter into any kind of rational debate about Tony Blair without some idiot declaring, as if it were an undeniable truth, that TB is 'evil'.*
Tanier was writing about Donovan McNabb, the quarterback released this summer by the Philadelphia Eagles (Tanier's an Eagles fan). Philly has a 'robust sports culture', and McNabb is hated by a huge and increasing number of vocal fans who don't understand stats and blame him, despite his having been the most successful QB in franchise history, for never having won a Super Bowl.
Tanier calles these people McNabb Denialists. They will not listen to any form of argument. The clear facts are that Philly has had its best ever NFL decade, that McNabb has clearly been a major part of this, that he holds all the major Eagles passing records, that he was, conservatively according to the stats, the fifth of sixth best QB for the decade of his prime (a great decade for QBs in general), and that he never behaved in a way that brought his organisation into disrepute.
The Denier agenda is that he only cared for numbers, choked in big games, and that his team-centred demeanour was all an obvious front for a selfish passive-aggressive agenda. They say he didn't win 'big games' but he won a load of them. They basically define big games as ones he lost.
Read it yourself, even if you don't know about American football. It's as nice a dissection of an irrational mindset that solidifies into a comfortable truism as you're likely to read this year. The explanation of 'two sides' is particularly recognisable to anyone who gets told at dinner parties that science vs aromatherapy is just 'two points of view'. The Tony Blair thing is slightly less of a neat fit, but it is what I instantly thought. The way in which people persuade themselves to one side of an argument as if they never felt anything else and in denial of all common sense is incredibly annoying.
Ok, fun to finish. In this year's Football Outsiders Almanac, the site's head honcho Aaron Schatz wrote the Buffalo Bills chapter. Buffalo is the smallest media market in the NFL and it's a perennial problem, especially when the team has spent a few years without any identity or charisma. Schatz signs off: The Buffalo Bills have now gone ten seasons without making the playoffs. Unless the rest of the AFC East completely collapses, 2010 will extend that streak to 11. Usually that’s one louder, but when a team falls in Buffalo, it doesn’t make a sound. Tell me these guys aren't good.**
* Important note: you can't say that anyone bleating 'Blair is evil' as a truism is being silly and not say the same thing about people who say 'Thatch is evil.' The world isn't black and white. Surely, for goodness sake, we all know this?
** My all-time favourite Tanier piece, I think, is also about McNabb - it's a Beau Geste inflected piece describing McNabb's departure that perfectly captures the awful tedium of football reporting (here and in America) between seasons. You absolutely don't have to be into the NFL.