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.
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.
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:
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
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!