Lt. Dunbar's Favorite Team

Boredom, Thy Name is the Browns

    They make all the right reasons to fuck it up
    You're gonna fuck it up

    -- Against Me!, “Sink, Florida, Sink”

One of my favorite literary peripheral characters is “Catch-22’s” Lt. Dunbar, Yossarian’s partner in fear and duty avoidance.  The men are joined by a common desire to avoid dying in the war, one manifestation of which is feigning illness to spend time in the hospital.  While Yossarian tends to fixate on the fact that everyone is out to kill him (a natural result of being in a war), Dunbar focuses more on living as long as possible.  One of his methods for doing this is to seek out things that he doesn’t enjoy, because during such activities, time moves more slowly.  He especially likes shooting skeet, because he despises shooting skeet, and, by hating every second of it, the time passes at an excruciatingly-slow pace and he is able to squeeze that much more time out of the little he has left.  It’s fairly tortured logic, but not an altogether irrational response to what is a pretty irrational situation.

Lt. Dunbar would have been ecstatic during the Browns-Redskins game.

How does one determine just how boring something is?  Boredom, like humor, is a deeply personal thing.  I might find John Tesh music to be soul-suckingly dull, but the fact that he’s sold hundreds of thousands of albums suggests that my view is not entirely universal.  Others tell me that watching baseball is boring, while I find watching golf an invitation to leave the room.  It’s nigh impossible to simply state, “X is boring” and have everyone, but everyone, agree that yes, in fact, X is very boring indeed.  Under the right chemical enhancement, even the Gold Standard of Boring, watching paint dry, can have a certain appeal.

So with this in mind, perhaps we should try to qualify the Browns-Redskins game on both the Dunbar Axis and the Boring Axis, trying to come up with good comparisons for where various parts of the game lie.  Now, the first axis is a bit tricky: it can’t include things that are truly harmful or painful, but must restrict itself to the tedious, unpleasant, and otherwise grinding.  And the second axis … well, with the understanding that CPAs and Merchant Ivory prove that almost anything is interesting to someone, hopefully there is enough of a universal chord to strike.

In the first quarter, the Browns came out firing, combining the timeless classicism of the Derek Anderson overthrow with the fresh twist of a dropped pass by someone other than Braylon Edwards.  In its initial three-play drive, the Browns averaged over one yard per play and generated the sort of buzz normally associated with a new trip abroad by Hagar the Horrible.  The Redskins drove a bit in a variety of uninteresting ways, but the Browns held them at the Sane Field Goal Threshold, and got the ball back.

After an honest-to-goodness first down, Anderson produced his single completion of the quarter before throwing a pass to Not Jerome Harrison.  Good, impressive defense gave way to More Derek Anderson: at this point, one can only marvel at the capability to miss both a short, wide swing pass and a downfield pass to Lenny the FedEx Field Mole.  (It can be argued that the pass was intended for someone other than Lenny.  It would require a very carefully-crafted argument, though.  Sadly, Lenny’s depth perception is poor and the pass fell incomplete.)

And after holding the Redskins to a three-and-out, the Browns once again relied on the comfort of Anderson’s favorite play, “X-wide Canker Sore Flip Right Grass Bounce Throw,” as well as the first (of many) appearance(s) of the old standard, “Z-55 Braylon Edwards Drop.”

Of all the things Lt. Dunbar would have embraced because of its sheer lack of positive reinforcement, this quarter by the Browns would probably have rivaled any he’d ever tried.  More than shooting skeet, I think this would compare to door-to-door prostheletizing for the Church of Scientology.  On the Boring Axis, I would have to go with Andy Warhol’s movie, “Sleep.”  And to prove the rule via exception, the set of people whom this did not bore is directly proportional to the number of people related to Dave Zastudil (with proportional multiplier “one”).  Were this plotted on a sheet of graph paper on your dining room table with the origin in the center, the point would be plotted somewhere in your back yard.

The second quarter … golly, I’m sure there was a second quarter, but no metal images come to mind ... ah, yes, here it is: Braylon Edwards drop, punt.  First down via penalty, first down after time out, Double Derek Anderson Action, punt.  Redskins kicker nails goal post.  Fin.  Anderson ends the half with a barely-conceivable 17 yards on 3-of-14 passing.  At this point, Dunbar has actually had to physically restrain himself from simultaneously gouging out his eyeballs, dying of old age (the last quarter taking approximately 40 years to play in Dunbar Time), and orgiastically screaming in grateful delight.  I compare this to attending a live concert by a Lou Reed tribute band which only knows “Metal Machine Music.”  On the Boring Axis, the value hovers somewhere around the real-time monitoring of South American Quaalude Sloths.

In the third quarter, Dunbar gets antsy as time moves at no slower than half speed, what with 10 points being scored.  In the 4th, he is forced to leave the room in disgust as the Browns put together what passes for a rally by scoring 8 more points and losing by 3.  It’s still pretty boring until the last five minutes.

This was not the most tedious football game ever played: my high school team once went 1-8-1 with a scoreless draw and a 3-2 loss.  I am a bit of a connoisseur of boring football and have lofty (depthy?) standards.  But on a scale of One to Putrid, I would have to give the Browns offense a Putrid for that one.

I have the fever, and the only cure is Less Derek Anderson.

Steve Buffum writes a regular column for and lives in Austin, TX.

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