BY MICHAEL QUIRK
Christmas is a time to experience and bask in the warmth of pure, unadulterated, nostalgia-induced joy. You are supposed to don your newly-awarded sweater adorned with caricatures of snowflakes and Nutcrackers, chiseling down the extremities of an unbothered gingerbread man, and dream of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Old Saint Nick. It is unlike any other time of the year, as it is not just a holiday or a pre-destined mark on a calendar, rather an ambiance that feels almost tangible in nature.
The day after Christmas, however, feels like the antithesis of the days and weeks culminating in December 25. The once-pristine tree is stripped down and discarded to a dump, ornaments and decorations are shoved away to the damp and dingy forgotten area of the house, and the added weight on the trunk of your car from new gifts is only surpassed by the new weight felt above your existing belt line. In short, December 26th can oftentimes take a page out of Judith Viorst’s classic children’s tale of Alexander. My December 26 was as no different than many others’, due in large part to the outcome of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions.
I am going to take the lean on a quote from the late Jerry Stiller during another winter holiday season, Festivus, “I got a lot of problems with you people! And now you’re gonna hear about it!” I’m taking my wrath out in print and I am aiming squarely for the Bucs and Lions and whatever gets in the way of it.
Before I get into the meat of why I feel so much heat, let me give some backstory. Yours truly, is on an absolute tear in Gamblin’ Dans with my multi-unit Whammy picks, going 12-2 with an additional cancellation. This week, I felt just beautifully about my Whammy selection: the over 54 in the Lions and Buccaneers game. Then, when I learned that the Lions would not only have Matthew Stafford on offense, but they would be without their defensive coordinator, defensive line coach, linebackers coach, and secondary coach, I was riding HOT, boy.
The Bucs got off to a torrid start, marching right down the field and scoring a touchdown on the opening drive. Tampa kicker – and who appears to be an extra from Two Guys, A Girl, and a Pizza Place – Ryan Succop, proceeds to miss the extra point. Not great, Bob, but not a bad start at 6-0. Tampa scores another touchdown in the first, and Bachelor in Paradise castoff Succop nails the kick this time. Tom Brady does not stop there, leading the offense on three more touchdown drives in the second quarter to bring the away team’s total to 34 at the half!
At this point, you may be saying, “man, Michael, you were sitting pretty for that over if the Bucs scored 34 on their own by halftime. How did the Lions do?” Well, my voracious reader, I am glad you asked. The Detroit Lions, at home, had the football six times: punting five times and running out of clock at the end of the half on the sixth. They had four first downs and 82 total yards in the half. A bicycle seat is better at moving the ball than the Lions offense.
During that onslaught of ineptitude, the aforementioned Stafford left the game in the first quarter thanks to a
strong wind injury to his ankle. Adding insult to (Stafford’s) injury, Brady was done for the game at halftime, meaning it was up to Chase Daniel and Blaine Gabbert to get me three touchdowns and over the hump. Christmas miracles ran out the day prior, so now I was in need of one of the Boxing Day variety.
If you were lost at that reference two paragraphs back, that was a testicle joke. Anyways, all it took was 10 seconds for the first touchdown to be scored in the second half as Detroit fumbled and Gabbert threw a 25-yard score. Praise Saint Stephen! But, no, or in the words of every TikTok in the last few weeks: oh no, no, no, no. That’s right, here is the second aptly-rhyming f***-up of the Buccaneer kicker. Make that two missed extra points for Succop and we are sitting at 40-0.
Following a Lions punt, duh, the Bucs punt it right back to Detroit, but Jamal Agnew takes it 74 yards to pay dirt! Agnew, the pride of the San Diego Toreros, just like his bullfighting college namesake, sees red and makes it 40-7. We are only eight points away. Then, not to be outdone, Gabbert leads Tampa 63 yards for the answer, and we are at 54! We have 2:13 left in the third quarter, and just one more point and the over hits.
The Lions then punt again, earning Pat McAfee royalties somewhere. Tampa drives to the Detroit 32, commits a five-yard penalty on fourth-and-two and then doesn’t get it on fourth-and-seven. Why go for it? Probably because you have Ford Ranger in human form Succop waiting on the sideline to kick for you.
Detroit punts for an eighth time, leading to a 65-yard drive from Gabbert doing Yeoman’s work. Then, so help me God, Succop misses a 42-yard field goal wide left. This game comes two days after, Rick Stroud of The Tampa Bay Times writes an article titled, and I shit you not, “Bucs’ record-setting specialists prove their value each week.”
What other articles has Rick written? “Titanic: the boat trip you don’t want to miss,” “Sammy Sosa tells-all about how he’s able to hit so well while staying so clean,” or “Why Enron is the company of the future.” Anyways, the game rolls to a thud after four more dead-end drives and the game ends in a 47-7 standstill, locking me even with the total.
My ire went in all directions. I cursed everything from Bawitdaba to Buddy’s Pizza to MoTown music for what those damn Lions did. Seven points? Really? How the hell did Chase Daniel outlast Jeremy Maclin as Mizzou guys in the NFL?
And you, Tampa, making third- and fourth-down stops out the ass while blowing the doors off Detroit. You’re a city known for Dick Vitale, the original Hooters, and where pro wrestlers go to die. You can relax.
But my God, Succop, you scored five points, sure, but you left five more on the board. All I needed was one lousy point to hit this over. Going into the game, you missed just two field goals and three extra points in your first 14 games, and you proceed to miss a 42-yarder and two extra-points in this one? Well Merry Christmas to me and a jolly Boxing Day to you, you cut-off wearing, pit crew-looking, cuts-the-crusts-off-his-sandwich jerk. Only 363 days until the next one. Happy holidays, everyone.