Reviewing Buzz Bissinger’s Nick Foles Masterpiece

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Apparently Harry Gerard “H.G.” Buzz Bissinger III (Obviously I checked his Wikipedia page for his full name, since I didn’t assume anyone but the Cheerios mascot was legally named Buzz. Question, though: Is he the third Harry Gerard “H.G.” Buzz Bissinger? Do all the Bissinger men go by Buzz?) wrote something for the July issue of Philadelphia Magazine. Apparently Buzz was able to write the profile without actually meeting Nick Foles, which is convenient for me, since I can write this review of Buzz’s piece without the sour chore of actually talking to him about it.

On Foles’ time in high school:

Maybe he was too obsessed with cool, and the middle of the Commons was, well, the middle of the Commons. But Hager noticed something else about the middle: the one person who never wanted to be there.

This is about a former teammate of Foles’, and though it doesn’t appear meaningful here just wait until it makes its appearances again later in the article.

The truth was, Nick Foles was something of a nerd, a guy who hung around with a small posse of mostly non-football nerds — eggheads, kids who would go on to careers in finance and private equity and engineering. A hot Saturday night was getting together at his house to play video games like Call of Duty, or hanging out at Zilker Park on the shores of Lady Bird Lake. “Dude, come on, you’re the quarterback, go out and have some fun,” high-school teammate Matt Nader pleaded with him, fruitlessly.

You’ll never believe this, guys, but Nick Foles didn’t like shoving “nerds” into lockers in order to fulfill an old, convenient stereotype about jocks–instead, he actually befriended people with interests beyond sports. Would Boobie Miles approve of such behavior? Buzz has his doubts (I assume!)!

He was the kid you wanted dating your daughter, because he would have her home at 9:30 after you said 10. He was socially awkward, with a naive and goofy sense of humor. He dressed as if he had never seen clothes before. His hair was oddly styled in an ersatz pageboy, curling below his ears like a drainage ditch and covering his forehead in uneven wisps, thin grime on a windshield. His face was a cup of Napoleon Dynamite and a tablespoon of golly-gee-willikers and a teaspoon of Gomer Pyle. He tried at school, and even took Latin.

Would you like to date Buzz Bissinger’s daughter? While I presume not–given that having him as a father-in-law seems like the type of nightmarish scenario you’d propose to a friend in a game of “Would you rather?” opposite an alternative of, I dunno, taking a bath in Bengay– here are his prerequisites: Lack social skills, have bad hair, literally just try at school. Also he does not have a daughter, which is lucky for her.

On Foles today:

I asked Nick Foles for an interview for this story. My request was rejected. According to his agent, Justin Schulman, Foles doesn’t want to do anything at this point that highlights his success and not the team collectively. Uh, it’s a little late for that, son, given that you’re the hottest-rising quarterback in the NFL. You are the attention draw.

Oh, word. So you’re just going to write about him anyway. I also love Buzz calling him “Son.” I think Buzz is under the impression that all Texas high school football players belong to him because of Friday Night Lights. This guy writes one damn book about the Texas high school football scene and acts like he’s the godfather of it, despite the fact that I can’t imagine anyone willingly talking to him. I am convinced that the only reason he endorsed Mitt Romney for President was because he used the “Clear eyes” phrase in his campaign.

I was asked to do the story because of the enormous common bond that Foles and I share: Texas high-school football. He’s defined by it, and I memorialized it in the book Friday Night Lights. The request for his time went from a couple of days to a couple of hours anywhere in the country. This story isn’t about wrenching sensitive secrets. It’s obvious and legitimate.

Translated: “I was asked to do this story because I WROTE FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, YOU GUYS. PLEASE NEVER FORGET THAT I DID THIS ONE COOL THING AND WILL NEVER EVER LET GO. Anyway, Nick Foles is defined by what he did in high school, because nothing matters but for what we accomplish in high school and people will never grow or change in any way. I also asked to hang out with him and my story is totally legit. Please validate me.”

On How Nick Foles Grew Up:

No one will ever say that Nick Foles is snotty. But he is obviously white, and his family is rich — very rich, well into the many millions, based on Securities and Exchange Commission filings. It isn’t farfetched speculation to think that he comes from the richest family of any player in the NFL.

What.

Larry Foles had nothing growing up. He told hiladelphia[sic] Daily News Eagles beat reporter Les Bowen (Larry Foles and his wife, Melissa, also declined to be interviewed for this story) that his parents split when he was 13, prompting him to drop out of high school and move to Oregon in the early ’60s to work manual labor for 90 cents an hour. He returned to Mississippi and became the general manger of a Shoney’s.

So now we’re writing a profile on a guy without speaking to him or the two people who probably spent the most time around him. Really closing in on ground zero here. Also, please observe the puffery about Nick’s salt of the earth father, because this is the kind of thing about which writers like Buzz Bissinger can’t wait to pop off. Also please note the emphasis in that quote was mine, for whatever that’s worth to you.

On Arrogance:

THE GREATEST ATHLETES all have arrogance; no matter how thick the playbook of humility, it still seeps through. You can see it and you can feel it. Except with Foles.

Nick Foles is literally the only player who’s had a great season and wouldn’t boast about it. Now you know.

Michael Vick is a great guy. It was an extraordinary team effort. The offensive line deserves all the credit.

Give it a little bit of a rest, kid.

Ugh. This Nick Foles is just too humble. I wish he would assassinate the character of his teammates more often.

But there’s still an aura of softness about him, no fire. Maybe it’s the hee-haw face. Maybe it’s the stream of selfless platitudes about others. Maybe it’s that at 25, he’s still very much a boy among men with the Eagles, with no interest in the extracurricular world of clubbing. Or maybe it’s the reality that if he fails in football, he has the likely cushion of going into an enormously successful family business. It’s the intangible hunger factor that appears to be missing.

Pro writer calling an a pro athlete soft. Also, I love the assumption here that Nick Foles doesn’t feel like he needs to succeed in football because he can always fall back on his career in the family business. To be able to judge that just from his “hee-haw” face takes levels of telepathy that I will never reach. Buzz is magical, ya’ll.

It goes back to his sophomore year in high school, when he was being groomed to be Westlake’s starting quarterback. Foles was also an excellent basketball player, with a chance of playing Division I. He wasn’t sure about his degree of commitment to football in a program that, as with all Texas high-school football, doesn’t welcome indecision. Teammates remember him being hurt a lot of the time. “What’s the deal with Foles?” was the sentiment of wide receiver Staton Jobe. “Is he going to be injured his whole career?” Adds head coach Long: “We felt like he was going to be able to step in, but we weren’t sure. … We knew he could throw, but there’s a lot more to being a quarterback.”

A 16 year-old Nick Foles was not able to take injury like his, clearly, much tougher counterparts. You should factor this into your judgment of him.

Then Foles, who has a pattern of reducing expectations to nothing only to exceed them since there no longer are any, stepped it up.

Because he did it once in high school? For what it’s worth, Nick Foles has statistically outperformed all of his 2012 Draft classmates thus far. But sure, let’s assume there were low expectations in Philadelphia for a quarterback taken with a top 100 pick. OK, Buzz. I guess you could argue his expectations were lowered to nothing after that Dallas game where he had a concussion, but that might be a little overzealous even for Buzz.

He started as a junior. He became a star in Texas. His senior year, he led Westlake to the state championship finals against Southlake Carroll, which was undefeated and ultimately named the top-ranked team in the country. Westlake actually led at the half, 15-7, on its way to a major upset. But then, early in the second half, came a most unusual play that not even Chip Kelly has installed and that bears mentioning:

Southlake Carroll quarterback Riley Dodge, operating out of the shotgun, projectile-vomited right before the snap. This stunned the Westlake defense (talking about it today, some players still seem stunned), which resulted in Dodge throwing a touchdown pass. Westlake was never the same after that and lost, 43-29.

Riley Dodge (Great name!) throwing up is the best part of this whole mess.

Foles broke the career passing-yardage record at Westlake held by Drew Brees, throwing for 5,658 yards. But he wasn’t a hot recruit. The rap was that he was too slow, a system quarterback in a school that has produced nine quarterbacks who have gone on to play that position in college football since 1992 — at best, he was a backup.

Sure, that seems like a logical conclusion on everyone’s part. Plus we all know how well being a five-star recruit has translated into being a successful pro.

Duke made an offer, which back then was slightly better than being chosen last in a pickup game. Texas El Paso sought him out, which was the Gulag. The major Texas schools weren’t interested. 

Remember that, high school athletes. Being recruited by two division-1 NCAA football programs is like being picked last in a pickup game. Never try.

On Nick Foles in college:

Foles signed late in the recruiting season with Michigan State. He got into the first game of the season in 2007, and that was all.

He even played as a freshman at a major conference program. But yeah, he was not looked upon favorably.

Foles transferred to Arizona. He battled with Matt Scott for the starting job and lost it, until Scott played poorly and Foles got his chance. The team went to two consecutive bowl games under Foles, in 2009 and 2010. His senior year was a team disaster. He put up great numbers, throwing for 4,334 yards and 28 touchdowns. But Arizona won only four games. Head coach Mike Stoops was fired in the middle of the season.

Foles’ senior season was a disaster. Oh sure, he was the one redeemable thing about a terrible Arizona squad, but the fact that they only won four games should be pinned back on their soft leader with the “hee-haw face.”

On Nick Foles in the NFL:

But former Eagles coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg saw something in Foles that no one else did, and they drafted him in the third round.

Of course, because the top half of the draft is when you go after the guys where you see something nobody else does. That’s a stretch even for the latest days of the Andy Reid era.

Foles still doesn’t inspire full faith among fans. He shouldn’t. One-year wonders in professional sports form an endless chain. He was unknown last year, and the unknown is often a player’s best asset until it becomes known.

They do not scout players in the NFL. At all. Ever.

When Chip Kelly talks about Foles as the franchise quarterback, it always feels like he’s lying, because he’s both good at it and a smug wiseass.

Remember, Buzz Bissinger knows when you’re lying, even if he doesn’t ask you a single question. His powers are real.

Foles isn’t a pressure quarterback. He lost the state championship in high school, lost both of his bowl games, and looked confused in the second half of the loss to the New Orleans Saints in last year’s playoffs.

High school championships and meaningless bowl games matter. Also, Nick Foles “looked confused” while leading the Eagles to 17 of the 24 points in the 2nd half of that playoff game against the Saints. Buzz Bissinger sees what the feeble-minded masses cannot.

A sentence from his profile presented without comment:

And yet.

Anyway, here’s a random flashback to high school:

There’s actually a passage here that’s very long about a tackle, Matt Nader, that Foles played with in high school, who during an especially hot game received an icy towel to the neck for relief, only to fall to the ground and stop breathing. He didn’t revive after chest compressions or mouth to mouth.

By some miracle, Westlake carried an automated external defibrillator to games. There was no state requirement at the time to have it on the field; it had been given as a gift. It had never been used — another piece of equipment lugged around by the trainers. But it was charged and ready to go.

Tucker applied the pads of the defibrillator, with its rush of electricity.

Paul Nader watched. He could tell it hadn’t worked. He turned to his fellow physicians in a desperate last measure.

“Aren’t you going to create an air path for him?”

It didn’t happen.

There came a pulse.

He came to consciousness.

So then, it did work? I’m glad Matt Nader was OK.

An hour later at the hospital, there was nothing wrong with Nader. He was fully alert. It all seemed so freakish and unreal. Except that he would never play another down of football. He had gone through ventricular fibrillation, a condition in which the heart stops pumping blood. While there was no certainty it would happen again, the risk was too great. An implantable cardioverter defibrillator was inserted into Nader’s chest, to control irregular heartbeats.

This is still, somehow, a story about Nick Foles and whether or not he’s ready to lead Philadelphia to a Super Bowl victory.

The next paragraph, somehow leads with:

Nick Foles knew the power of football dreams better than anyone

HMMMM?

and how awful it must be to give them up when it isn’t your choice. He sat with Nader afterward at a hospital in Austin. They talked about what happened, to the extent that Nader wanted to talk about it, because Foles was (and is) never one to take anyone out of his comfort zone.

I think that had already been sufficiently accomplished.

Foles seemed almost philosophical, in his own way. “He just wanted to make sure I was okay,” says Nader today. “That I still recognized there’s more to life than football. Everybody has to stop playing it at some point.”

That’s good, Nick Foles is an actual human person capable of compassion.

 

Here comes the flourish:

So maybe Nick Foles doesn’t have the edge of Peyton Manning. Or the come-from-behind fearlessness of Tom Brady. Or the gravitas of Drew Brees. Or the feet of Russell Wilson, or Colin Kaepernick, or …

This is the most useless rhetorical device employed by a writer who has shown a boundless capacity for uselessness.

He carries with him the fragility embedded into everything. The dividing line you never know. It’s something that no championship ring can ever teach him and few NFL players truly understand, clinging to their careers long after they’re over.

Seems like a stretch!

“He has remained true to his natural person,” Matt Nader says, “and that goes to show you how strong of a kid he is.”

I’m not going to knock the kid with the heart condition for saying it, but I will knock Buzz Bissinger for including a quote that brings nothing to the table. Read literally it means Nick Foles has remained a person. Read figuratively and it means nothing. Thank you.

But unless he stops being chickenshit and goes into the middle, he will never guide the Eagles to the place that only tantalizes us. We are tired, Nick. We are already dependent on you. So man up to be the man.

There’s a lot to digest here. Apparently Buzz Bissinger finds “chickenshit” to be an apt descriptor of a guy who routinely gets hunted down by men of what should be physically impossible size who seek to destroy him. But we can’t all write for a living, I guess (though for some reason I keep trying)! But, yeah: If Nick Foles never chooses to find the middle, a random term of arbitrary significance, he will never win a Super Bowl for the Eagles. Buzz also uses “us” a lot to talk about Philadelphia, which, for his own good, he should probably stop doing. Also “Man up to be the man” sounds like the title of a song from the worst 80′s sports movie you’ve ever seen.

Sidle up to a bar on the road and order a slug of single malt, not a double shot of milk. It’s okay to address LeSean McCoy as “Shady” instead of “Sir Shady.” Don’t ever publicly say again that your favorite movie is The Lion King.

Acolytes get to heaven. Strut gets you to the Super Bowl.

Well, there you have it. Nick Foles needs to drink more whiskey, stop calling LeSean McCoy something I don’t think he’s ever really called, and stop admitting that he likes my generation’s version of Hamlet. Also, he needs to not go to heaven.

I’m not sure what any of this has to do with football, but Buzz knows best.

Steve Sabato is the editor of The New Philadelphian. You can follow him on Twitter @steve_sabato

PS: If you read this, Buzz (you will not), I am totally willing to talk about it!

 

 

Eagles Training Camp 2014: A Picnic

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I’ll be candid with you, America. I’m not ready for football season just yet. I love the sport, but I think we can all agree that it’s gotten a little bit overbearing in the last half-decade. It is especially hard to choose the heaviness and tiresome nature of football season over the light happiness of summer. None of this changes the fact that the Eagles are reporting to training camp on July 25, and if I actually plan on writing about them this year, I should probably kick off that coverage with a training camp preview. So, let’s look at the Eagles’ depth at each position going into camp–only, we’re going to pretend “Training Camp” is a picnic, and each position’s depth is going to be rated by what they are bringing to the picnic.

Ranked in order of quality:

Potato Salad: Offensive Line.

I bet you hate this format already. Tough. This is my picnic. Potato salad is the king of the summer picnic. If you don’t believe this, it’s because you were never #blessed enough to experience my grandmother’s. There was one person on this earth who could make a potato salad that outshone the best fried chicken in the Delaware Valley (which she also made), and it was her.

So, what make the Eagles’ offensive line worthy of this high honor? Despite the fact that Lane Johnson has found himself in Roger McGruff Goodell’s doghouse for the first four weeks of the season, I still think this is the best unit the Eagles have at the moment. Allen Barbre has filled in well in the past, and will be asked to do so again. But enough about Right Tackle. Jason Peters is one of the best Tackles in the NFL. Look at this metric that proves it! Look how good Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans were too! And RJ’s spirit animal, Jason Kelce continues to be a stud. There’s reason enough to be worried about their depth on the line beyond the utility knife that is Barbre, and maybe Dennis Kelly. Julian Vandervelde, Matt Tobin, and Karim Barton are all essentially unproven. However, this is definitely the Eagles’ most potato salad-worthy group.

Fried Chicken: Running Backs.

Look at our running backs, bringing the other most important part of a good picnic. So thoughtful. Fried chicken is essential, because if the picnic food isn’t going to kill you, then it’s probably not going to be a very good picnic.

What makes the running backs so special? We could start with the fact that the Eagles have the best running back in the game right now. LeSean McCoy is right at home in Chip Kelly’s offense, and barring injury should be poised to produce at the same levels of efficiency he did last season. Adding Darren Sproles was good for the offense in that it lightens the burden on McCoy, and provides a better dimension-shifter than Bryce Brown. Chris Polk performed fairly well in the opportunities he was given last year, and could have pushed Brown for carries this season. I don’t know anything about Matthew Tucker, David Fluellen, or Henry Josey, but one of them might make the team!

Watermelon: Defensive Line

In the words of Dave Chappelle, “If you don’t like chicken and watermelon, there’s something wrong with you.”

The defensive ends were really super awesome last year, man! Vinny Curry made his bones in passing situations, where he could do what God put him on this earth to do: Put on the blinders, sprint, and tee off on a quarterback. He managed 5 sacks, 5 QB Hits, and 22 Hurries in only 322 snaps. Fletcher Cox had 3 sacks, 10 QB Hits, and 39 QB Hurries, fully growing into the defensive end spot he moved to in Billy Davis’ scheme. Cedric Thornton, the resident run-stopper, was also a beast. He rated behind only JJ Watt and Sheldon Richardson in PFF’s run defense ratings. Bennie Logan seemed to grow into his role as well after the Eagles dealt a floundering Isaac Sopoaga to New England. We’ll have to wait and see what the Eagles have in Damion Square, who has shown raw ability in his limited time, but will compete with rookie Beau Allen for the 2nd spot on the depth chart. Beau Allen, by the way, is awesome.

Sweet Tea: Corners

I told you, my picnic is going to straight up kill you. “What about lemonade?” “What about any other beverages at all?” Again, this isn’t your picnic, so I don’t know why you’re being such a pest with these questions. If the sweet tea is good, you don’t need anything else. It tastes better than the other non-alcoholic beverages, and, if brewed properly, tastes so good that you’ll want to avoid being numbed by alcohol. You will want to be so starkly sober that every drop of this sweet, sweet nectar of the heavens hits you like a euphoric Madden 2007 Bob Sanders hit stick.

The corners, on the other hand, you might want to watch with alcohol. I’m probably going to end up looking stupid for putting so much faith in them, but this entire premise has already done this, so there’s not much I can do to avoid it. Brandon Boykin played exceptionally well in his second season in the league. The only game where Boykin visibly struggled was against Peyton Manning and Denver, for which I can’t really get mad at him. Bradley Fletcher was perfectly average for the Eagles, as was Nolan Carrol, who they signed from Miami in free agency. Cary Williams looked great in some moments and truly lost in others. However, I think he showed enough of the good that Eagles fans can have a tiny bit of faith in him. You could argue that the Eagles have four corners who could start for your average NFL squad, which makes them relatively deep, but they don’t have the rare shutdown corner that can help elevate a defense to the top of the league. They’re going to need some help from Jaylen Watkins and, if they keep a sixth corner (for whatever reason), it will probably be Roc Carmichael, and you hope he doesn’t play much.

Grillable Meats: Tight Ends

Gotta have something to supplement that delicious fried chicken. However, in my possibly sheltered 23 years on this earth, I’ve only ever had average burgers and dogs from the grill.

There’s a lot of potential here. If Zach Ertz and Brent Celek realize that potential, they can elevate themselves to fried chicken or watermelon status. They combined for less than 1,000 yards last season, but each was useful in the red zone, and can actually block. When we have the 2015 picnic, I believe they will be higher on the list. Footnote: I don’t have a lot of faith in James Casey, and less so in Emil Igwenagu and Blake Annen.

Pie: Quarterbacks

Pie is pretty hit or miss. Too many people think that simply because they own an oven it means they can bake. Great pie gets elevated to the top of the list immediately, while bad pie can ruin an entire day. Quarterbacks, as fate would have it, are no different than pie.

If Nick Foles stays healthy and produces at like 80-90% the level of efficiency he did last season, the Eagles won’t worry about what’s going on under center (haha, like they would ever line up under center). The problem is what happens if Nick Foles doesn’t stay healthy. They currently have the world’s most entertaining and least intimidating battle for the backup quarterback position. Matt Barkley is spending his offseason getting into tiffs with Jimmy Kempski. Mark Sanchez, well, I’ve just seen too much already. Sanchez, at his best, has performed kind of like a decent starting quarterback in the NFL. If he proves in camp that he has maintained that capacity, he will take the 2nd spot from Barkley, and depending on their depth elsewhere on the roster, jettison him from the team entirely.

Assorted Fruit: Linebackers

I guess there’s nothing wrong with non-watermelon fruit. It’s just not as good as the rest of the list.

The Eagles’ linebackers saw a lot of action last year, but it wasn’t always pretty. Trent Cole had something of a renaissance last season in his new role, notching 9 sacks, 14 QB hits, and 40 tackles. He scored pretty high with PFF, and the same was true of Brandon Graham. Connor Barwin led the league in batted passes, with 7, which was kind of neat. He was also solid against the run, which is what the Eagles need him to be. Marcus Smith will have training camp and the preseason to show his stuff, and he is expected to compliment the pass rush at the OLB position. The inside linebackers are another story. Demeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks both struggled mightily in coverage last season. They also both came up with 103 and 79 tackles respectively. Ryans is the one calling the defense, so the success of the defensive line is at least partially attributable to him. Additionally, the inside linebackers in this scheme are tasked with occupying blockers, so that’s another reason these numbers could have skewed so negative. It’s just something I think Eagles fans could stand to be a little more worried about. Najee Goode performed well when called upon, but he, Emmanuel Acho, Najee Goode, Casey Matthews, and Jason Phillips all have a lot to prove in the next couple months, which is what puts most of the weight on their depth here.

(BTW: For more info on PFF’s grades and the reasoning behind them, check here. It’s not stupid, I promise!)

Deviled Eggs: Wide Receivers

This is even more hit or miss than pie. Deviled eggs at their best can be incredible. Deviled eggs at their worst can leave you in the hospital. There isn’t much more to it than that.

The Eagles are either going to look like geniuses or imbeciles for the DeSean Jackson move this offseason, and it directly affects how their receivers will be judged this year. Jeremy Maclin is back, which is great. He had a respectable 857 yards in 2012, and should be fine as a weapon in this offense. Riley Cooper could end up turning back into a pumpkin this season, but I can’t speculate as to whether or not that will happen. What will really move the needle for these guys is how the rookies, Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff, perform. I think Matthews has the potential to have the best season of any receiver in this draft class. But I’m just some idiot on the internet. If Huff can be 1/3 the player Jackson was last season, he’ll have had a successful rookie campaign as well. However, if these guys go in the tank, there’s no telling the trouble it could cause the offense this season. As for the rest of the depth chart, well, they have about a hundred receivers. Just look at this mess.

Plates and Napkins: Safeties

Honestly you just hope someone remembers to bring them.

None of these guys will remind you of Brian Dawkins at any moment this season. Instead, you just hope they’re OK. Malcolm Jenkins is the newcomer, and it turns out he’s actually pretty funny. Nate Allen came around toward the end of last season as well. You hope that Earl Wolff can grow into a solid everyday NFL player, and the rest is a roll of the dice. Chris Maragos was brought in to help on special teams, but could see action if Jenkins gets hurt. We don’t know anything about Ed Reynolds yet, and the rest is camp fodder. This group isn’t going to terrify anyone, but if they at least show up, it might not be a disaster!

So that’s all. After trying to avoid anything tired and heavy, we’re almost 2000 words deep and I want to take a nap because I just imagined eating all of that stuff. So good night, everybody! See you for the start of camp.

Steve Sabato is the editor of The New Philadelphian. You can follow him on Twitter @steve_sabato

Preview: USA-Belgium

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Fittingly, as I spent two solid paragraphs talking about how much Cristiano Ronaldo sucks, is one of the worst people in the world, and doesn’t deserve his next-level hot girlfriend last Thursday, he did the U.S. of A. what seemed to be a big solid at the time.

The situation: The U.S. is down 1-0 to Germany, and Ghana had just knotted up their match with Portugal at 1 apiece.  The U.S. had come into the day with a +1 goal differential, while Ghana had come in -1.  As it stood, the U.S. was now at 0, and Ghana still at -1.  Another Germany goal coupled with a Ghana goal to take the lead would have put the U.S. behind Ghana on goal differential, and out of the knockout rounds.  Things were dicey until the 80th minute, when Ronaldo buried a juicy rebound to put Portugal ahead 2-1, effectively ending any hopes Ghana had of going through.  The U.S. managed to hold Germany off and lose 1-0, so Ronaldo’s goal didn’t actually end up mattering at all.  But he gave us peace of mind 10-15 minutes earlier than we expected to, and for that, he is slightly less of a horrendous person in my eyes.  That being said, I still dislike him, the way he plays the game, and his dashingly good looks.  He should, however, feel incredibly blessed that I put that on hold for 15 minutes, because that is no small feat.

If you are looking for a breakdown of the Germany game, you unfortunately came to the wrong place because I was only able to watch from the 60th minute on.  The noon start time directly conflicted with an impromptu meeting at my grown-person job that tied me up until 1 PM, when I was finally able to race out of the office to the nearest bar, grab a beer and watch the last half hour of the game.  It would therefore be a waste of everybody’s time for me to try and tell you how the U.S. can improve on the Germany match – I don’t know what I’m talking about.

Instead, I’m going to choose to look ahead.  The Group of Death is behind us – we survived.  In front of us stands Belgium a pre-tournament dark horse for a lot of people, including myself.  I personally predicted this matchup in the round of 16, and that Belgium would be too much for our darling red, white and blue, and then I brazenly picked Belgium to defeat the Lord Messi and his band of Argentinians.  Yeah.  Screw that noise.  I’m here to give you some actual and significant reasons why ‘MERICA is gonna wipe the floor with these waffle-loving buffoons.

  • We’re more battle tested.  Belgium underwhelmed their way to three wins over Algeria, Russia, and South Korea while we were out here trading haymakers with the best team in Africa and two other top-five teams in the world.  ADVANTAGE: USA.
  • EDEN HAZARD IS A FREAKING MONSTER. WHO DOES THIS. Their best player spends his time kicking helpless ball boys and getting sent off.  Ours spends his time not giving even the most miniscule of shits about anything, including a broken nose.
  • Would you rather have a goalkeeper named Thibault Courtois (NERD ALERT) or TIM MO’FO’ING HOWARD.  I’m pretty sure Howard has more hair on his face in this picture than Courtois could grow on his entire body.  For reals.
  •  Belgium didn’t even make the World Cup in 2006 and 2010.  The U.S. has been to 7 straight since 1990.
  •  Michael Bradley is going to come up huge.  If I predict it enough times, it will come true.
  •  I believe that we will win.

There you have it.  Seven completely reasonable and undeniable reasons the U.S. is going to win and set up a day-after-the-4th-of-July showdown with Lionel Messi. What more could you ask for?