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Battle Red Bag Vol. 22: The Writing Of Things

The answers to all sorts of irrelevant reader questions, headlined by something that makes me feel like Bob Costas. It's the return of the Battle Red Bag!

(Author note: I never intended for there to be a gigantic break in the bag schedule. In fact, I intended to write the thing the Friday after Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, the real world intervened. I was pretty sure my computer was going to have to be entirely wiped until last Monday, and playing catch-up from there on my Real Job Duties (TM) left me unable to put in a couple of hours on the bag. Here it is, it still exists.)

I'm going to spend the holiday season writing a lot of letters.

The idea started when I was having a hard time communicating with my ex-girlfriend. I don't think I need to spill any more words on that situation, so I won't. All I'll say is that if you presented me with the option of giving someone a speech or writing them something, I am better off writing 99 percent of the time. (Which isn't to say public speaking isn't fun, it's just hard for me to be quite as nuanced off the top of my head.)

So one of my Christmas projects is to write a letter to someone every day - it's like a Christmas card, but with a more personal touch. I haven't exactly figured out everyone who deserves one yet, but I'm anticipating writing about 20 or so. Some of them will be to friends who helped me out over the past two years, some of them will be to people I wish I was closer to, and some of them will be to the deceased. The idea is not so much to change as it is to explain. In some ways, it's kind of an exercise in humility. An exercise in being grateful for what you do have.

I'm not too stingy with money, nor am I going to turn this into an anti-capitalist rant, but I always felt like Christmas presents were only meaningful up to a certain age. Eventually, stuff all fades into the background, and you're left with only the memories you had shortly after opening it or the ideas it gave you at the time. For example, the present I will always remember getting was the Game Gear my dad bought me in 1995 or so. I don't remember this specifically because it was a good present - in fact, the opposite. I played it for a good two hours and thought it was horrendous. I remember it because my dad asked me if I liked it, and I lied about it because I didn't want him to feel bad. "Oh yeah, it's great."

My mom has bought me a multitude of gifts. The only one I specifically remember is the Megazord toy from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. And I remember it because I remember going with her to every store in town trying to find the damn thing, back in the days before we could just plug something into the internet and order it. I remember this hailstorm of effort that she put in, and I remember feeling really validated and appreciated as a person. It didn't have a damn thing to do with the toy (though it was fun!) - it was all about the experience.

And that is the thing I've remembered looking back on so much of these old memories that I had to sort through while moving. I can't tell you even 80 percent of the things people have bought for me at this point. I remember a scant few, and it's all because of the story around them. I remember Street Fighter II because I remember trying to teach my grandfather why it was such a cool game and him being utterly confused. I remember getting Final Fantasy Tactics because it took place on the day of the Grand Slam Single game, and I left during the middle of the game to get it and was stunned when it was still on by the time I got back about two hours later. I remember getting a whole box of nice basketball cards because I'd accused one of the teachers at my old school of hitting people, then returning it because I'd lied, and I figured I didn't really deserve it.

Presents are as much about the circumstances behind them as they are the objects themselves. I've got a swarm of cards from people that mean way more to me than the presents that went with them. Someone I had only met three or four times gave me $50 at a Christmas party the year after my mom died - but I don't remember that. I remember the hand-written card that I kept, that said energy can be whatever we use it for, and to not let this turn into an entirely negative experience.

So, that's my aim with this. To create words that are more cherished by the people in my life than any stupid piddling thing I could ever buy them. No pressure!

(Shit, it's already the 5th? Where do I buy gift cards?)

falling4popcorns writes:

Say the Texans make it to the Super Bowl. Which team from the NFC, that you believe has a chance to be in the Super Bowl, would you like to play? Why?

If you had the money to live anywhere you wanted in the world, what would you do?

I think the easy answer for me is Atlanta. Not only do I think they've built their record on a fairly soft schedule, but I am also not a believer in their defense: they have (currently) the 24th-ranked run defense in DVOA, which plays right into the hands of Houston's offense. They have a completely one-dimensional offense, with no run game whatsoever. And, of course, there's always the opportunity for some great "Pay Me Rick!" signage.

As for the second question, I'm going to have to assume you mean that finances are never an object. I would probably live in Victoria, Canada. Close enough to Seattle or Vancouver to drive in for the odd sporting event, gorgeous island scenery, and still enough of a city for me to not feel like I'm in the middle of nowhere. Plus, free healthcare! Though I assume if finances were no object, that wouldn't be a big deal. Still, every bit helps.

(If I ever leave Texas, I am almost positive it will be for the Pacific Northwest. Assuming I stay on this part of the globe.)

Alex writes:

J.J. Watt has been slightly less his "grizzly bear vs. river of salmon" self the last 2 games, but the rest of the D has stepped up huge. Is this an opposing O-line overreaction to his previous dominance and the gameplan becomes "stop Watt"? As the remainder of the D core has ensured that the league knows there are more weapons to stop than Watt can we expect a more balanced focus in future or will this Watt-centric approach persist?

J.J. Watt will always be the focal point for opposing offenses. Outside of the Tennessee game, the rest of the pass rush has not stepped up in a meaningful way. Until it does, even more obstacles will be put in front of Watt.

And you've seen how little that has stopped him so far.

Taco Joe writes:

1) If you were offered a job at both ESPN and NFLN to become a regular on one of their programs, which Network and program would you choose? And would you tout the Texans even if they had another 2-14 year?
2) If you then became famous from said appearances, and got a call from both Kat Dennings and Jennifer Lawrence, which woman would you chose to have a relationship with?
3) If the actress you chose demanded a Menage Trois with another BRB writer with no consequences that could harm relationships, who would you chose and why?
4) I owe you a drink for putting up with my ridiculous questions and personality. What would be your poison?

1) Yes; if I had to pick a specific show, I'd take Merill Hoge's place on NFL Matchup. But I am all for any opportunity in the football television field and the money that it would provide. I would tout the Texans proportionally to their success, as I have always done. I know that we're in a world that carves out little sections and generate the "with us or against us" feeling, but admitting that something about your favorite team sucks or is shitty does not make you any less of a fan.

2) Uh, well, I'd probably choose someone who actually had traits I was interested in having in my partner. But, for the sake of the question, I'll assume that both women have demonstrated that up to a point for me. I'd probably pick Kat Dennings because a) she's shorter than me and b) she never appeared on the Bill Engvall Show, which is probably something I'd try to have erased from my Wikipedia page if it happened.

3) I would end the relationship at this point. Oh gosh, so many people on staff to possibly offend. I'm picking DreKeem because, with any luck, he'd flake out and I wouldn't have to go through with it. I'm not really big on threesomes, even when they actually have two women. I'm not saying it's not fun to think about, but ultimately it's not worth the shattered intimacy to me.

4) Can't go wrong with bourbon. Especially Texas bourbon.

Swikky writes:

Hey Rivers,

First off, let me say I love reading your posts. You're such a genuine and heartfelt writer. Your writing never feels contrived, and you have a way of taking an ordinary mundane story and turning it into something dynamic and poignant. Alrighty I guess I'll get to my questions.

Where were you when you ate the best taco of your life, and what was in said taco?

Who do you see as being more valuable to the team, Foster or Watt?

If you could make any one person to tell you THE TRUTH for day, whom would that person be and why?

Thank you, kindly. I always save comments like these on a notepad. Then, when someone (inevitably) trashes me, I compare and contrast. It makes me feel better, especially when I find out through Falcons fans on the internet that I am gay.

1) I was in Chicago, with my pal Juan, and he ordered us these crazy tacos that were about the size of three fists. Steak, cheese, beans, rice, guac, tomatoes, and onions, if I recall correctly. But, like I said earlier about presents, it was more about eating big-ass tacos with a good friend than it was the taste itself.

2) Watt, and it's not even close. Arian Foster is awesome but even star running backs can only be so valuable in a league where the pass has become more important than the run. And, as we saw multiple times over the past few years (and just last week), the Texans can still win pretty handily when Foster has an off-game, needs a break, or is injured.

3) My first instinct was to take that as a really personal question. I guess I'd say that the people around my life who won't tell me the truth tend to get weeded out really quickly. I don't really get on well with people who aren't authentic about themselves or put on a lot of facades. But, since you've given me the access to anyone, probably the president. I want to know how deep the rabbit hole goes and what the best course of action would be from there.

Benjamin writes

It seems like everyone has been absolutely smitten with the Broncos' rise this season but i'm just not sure. I am generally in awe of Peyton Manning's comeback and obviously as a Texans fan we all understand and respect what he's capable of but looking at their schedule I'm not sure what everyone is so impressed with. They're three best wins were against the Steelers, Saints, and Bucs but all of them were at home and in the three games they've played against division leaders they've lost 3 times plus they're schedule is undoubtedly bolstered by getting to play the chiefs, chargers, and raiders twice. Do the Texans have something to be worried about if we run into the Broncos in the playoffs or are they overrated?

Oh, I think the Broncos are very much a legitimate threat. Manning has seemed to work a lot of the early kinks out of his system -- I think the Texans caught him at the right time. Also, if Wade Phillips changes to a prevent against Manning in the middle of the game again, I will find some way to smack him.

Anyway, the Broncos have a strong offense, they have a strong defense, and Trindon Holliday has added some explosiveness to the special teams. It's almost like (as stupid as he was in a few games here) the Texans can't block on special teams to save their life. The Broncos haven't played many strong teams since the beginning of the season, but they've consistently demolished the bad teams they've played.

Off the cuff, I would like the Texans' chances against the Broncos, both because I think safety play (probably the biggest weakness on Denver) is more important than traditional underneath coverage against the Texans and because I don't think they can bottle up Arian Foster. But they are legitimately worth worrying about, yes.