Every night, around the same late-night time, I start to get an itch. It goes from that to a full-bore gnaw. Then it's biting, hard, on my ass. Soon, I've got shark fear.
I'm a little bit addicted, see.
I'm not a huge football fan. I have yet to watch an entire NFL game this season, and ever since the Cowboys stopped winning Super Bowls (I was raised a Dallas Cowboys fan, which, if you were raised in South Texas, is pretty impossible to avoid), I don't keep track of stats or games. The last time I played any kind of organized football, it was of the wussy flag variety, in early middle school.
My brother, on the other hand, played in high school, follows the Cowboys religiously (along with my dad) and has just about mastered every incarnation of the Madden football games. He could tell you the subtle differences between 2001 and 2002 and from 2002 to this year's narcotics-grade 2003. Ask him about Sega's NFL2K series of football games. He'll laugh at your face and tell you why Sega's games suck.
The truly evil thing about Madden 2003 is that they added online gameplay for the PlayStation2 and X-Box. I knew my brother was going to be excited about that, but I never figured I'd play much 2003 online. I was interested in playing head-to-head against my brother because he's always gentle with me when we play joystick football together. We played head-to-head when NFL2K for the Dreamcast was online (since I haven't had a home phone for years, I had to drag my Dreamcast to somebody's house to hook it up and play over their dial-up) and it was fun. You could trash-talk with a little plug-in keyboard.
I signed on to Madden 2003 under the name King-Crappo and soon I was getting my ass kicked right and propah. After some wrangling with cable modem connections (if you each are behind a router, it won't let you connect -- one of you has to be hooked directly to the cable modem or do some funky configuring), P.J. and I finally played against each other. It was great. I was thrilled that I was leading the first half of the game, given his vastly superior knowledge of A. football B. Madden football C. football video games in general D. the Dallas Cowboy playbook.
Playing against my brother was fun, but I found another, cheaper thrill. Playing against total asshole strangers.
People cheat. You'd think that wouldn't be possible, but they do. They line up their players against the line of scrimmage so that they can get in and sack you every time. They call hurry-up offense on every play so that you can never call any plays on defense. (Hey, non-football fans. Are your eyes glazed yet?) They call the same play that they know will work against any offense over and over. It's annoying. It gets to where you spend half your time just trying to set up a good game that doesn't have a jerk-off on the other with a stuttery Internet connection. (Which can ruin the game, too)
It culminated in an ugly way the other night, when I played against a guy who called no-huddle offense on every play. He was doing this in the first quarter, so there was no "my time is running out" element to it. I finally got annoyed and called up the "send message" window.
"Are you going to do that the entire game?" I asked.
"IS THAT A PROB?" he responded. I hate him already.
"Well, yeah, since that means I can't call any defensive plays except audibles. It's not a very fun way to play."
"TOUGH. YOU JUST CANT HANG."
Me? Can't hang? Motherfucker, I've been hanging. See that big redwood tree over there with a little man hanging from it? That's me, bitch. Hangin'. Don't talk to me about hanging. In the South, I'm feared more than the Klan for my mad hanging abilities.
I got really upset, obviously. And I made it my mission in life to beat this guy. I don't even know who he is. He could be a neurosurgeon in Vermont. I didn't care. I was going to beat his little ass.
The next play after our exchange, I sacked his quarterback. "Who can't hang?" I messaged him, gleefully.
I was feeling pretty good about myself until the guy started coming back, and at one point, was beating me by a few points. I was worried that after my trash talking, I was going to have to slink away with my little virtual thigh pads between my legs. I put all my soul into the next few plays and... I scored a game-winning field goal with just a few seconds let on the clock.
I brought the old "send message" back for my now-favorite exclamation. "WHO CAN'T HANG?!" I asked again.
Then I looked at the clock. It was 2:15 in the morning. I had to be up for work the next day. I was so happy with my victory that I'd lost track of time. So, what am I left with? Money? Lucrative endorsements? NFL groupies? No. I have a sore analog-stick thumb, a creaky back from leaning against the living room couch and bleary eyes. My breath is like grinning black death. I'm a mess.
But it doesn't matter. Somewhere out there, some annoying neurosurgeon went to bed with the words, "Who can't hang?" ringing in his head, the stink of defeat clinging to his malnourished, puny body like a thirsty leech.
I mean, I can dream, can't I?
Oh, and I updated my links. Make sure you visit a new journal, Agonippe, written by a close friend of mine.
Hey, look at this! Stuff to buy! Haaawwwt-Damn!