14:55 – Holding. 5y penalty.

12:55 – Unsportsmanlike conduct. 10y penalty.

4:77 – Posession by unauthorized spirit. 5y penalty.

1:00 – Too many men on the field. 17 unauthorized players ejected from field, 7.7y penalty.

15:00 – Illegal laying on of hands. 15hp penalty to quarterback.

14:12 – Holding. 10y penalty.

13:13 – Illegal hex. Blight End ejected for turning wide reciever into horned toad.

7:77 – Palpably unfair act. 10y penalty for all players in impromptu love-in.

5:10 – Unsportsmanlike conduct. 5y penalty.

1:05 – Leaping. 10,000 ft cruising altitude penalty.

12:21 – Offsides. 10y penalty.

10:46 – Intentional grounding. 1500 volt penalty through tight end.

5:57 – Unsportsmanlike conduct. 15y penalty.

2:28 – Pass interference. 15 gallons of Immodium AD confiscated. 20y penalty.

14:31 – Personal fowl. Illegal chicken escorted off of field. 5y penalty.

12:01 – Offsides. 5y penalty.

9:32 – Roughing the snapper. Sparky the Snapping Turtle replaced with his backup, Snarky the Snapping Turtle. 10y penalty.

8:18 – Targeting. Satellite Orbital Laser (SOL) guidance lock remotely disabled after severing tight end’s arm. 5y penalty

3:33 – Tripping. 12 blotters of lysergic acid diethylamide confiscated. 10y penalty.

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CARL: This is Carl Drake, play-by-play commentator for NBS Broadcasting, coming at you live from inside the Maddening NFL 2k17 for the Microny Hexbone or the Sonsoft PrayStation VI.

TOM: That’s right, Carl. This is Tom Hicks, color commentator for NBS Broadcasting, and I am also trapped with you, body and soul, inside this game.

CARL: Guess we should have read that contract a little more closely, eh?

TOM: That’s right, Carl. I find myself in a digital nightmare from which there is no waking. I have no mouth and yet I must scream. But now onto the field, where the R’lyeh Rightstars are setting up their line of scrimmage opposite the player’s team, which is…

CARL: The Ulthar Wildcats. Sorry for interrupting, Tom, but they need to insert the team name with it feeling seamless. I’d recommend a quick snap and a field goal on this play.

TOM: That’s right, Carl, but it looks like the player is going to try and run it in. They have their non-Euclidean quarterback on the left and somehow on the right, and their ghoul linebackers are loping into position.

CARL: And there’s the sack! R’lyeh has one of the best defensive lines in the league, with one thousand black goat-horrors to choose from, and their coach is of course the great Bill Yog-Sothoth, who was itself a featured character in Maddening NFL 94.

TOM: That’s right, Carl, though I doubt this player was ought but a zygote in ’94. Forming up again on the R’lyeh twenty, I once again recommend a snap and field goal to even out the score and gain a chance at a better field position.

CARL: And once again, the player chooses to try and run it in on their last down. They have stocked their line with Mi-Go fungus-crabs as well, indicating that they lack even the most basic knowledge of how the game works.

TOM: That’s right, Carl. Player, if you haven’t turned off the commentator feature entirely, I implore to to reach for reason in the midst of madness.

CARL: And after exactly three seconds of play, the Uthar Wildcats are down. R’lyeh now has posession, and as the comoputer-controlled player here I predict that they, at least, will follow our advice.

TOM: That’s right, Carl, I see a rage quit coming on. Which do you think is worse: giving the same canned commentary over and over here in the game, or returning to the deathless sleep beyond time into which we are thrown when the game is turned off?

CARL: That’s like asking if you’d rather be sacked by an Elder Thing or a Shoggoth, Tom. I’d rather just find a way to corrupt the disc and and it all forever in the sweet release of oblivion.

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Days don’t come much nicer than that handful of warm but crackling spins in early fall. Warm enough that you don’t need a jacket, yet with enough of a cool bite that you don’t wind up dripping. The Hopewell Arboretum was never busier than on those few days, especially since they tended to coincide with the first few major assignments due at the university. Lovely fall days are never better than when they’ve got the pungent notes of procrastination mixed in.

Three pledges from Alpha Qoppa Nu had gone out to toss a pigskin around on the green. They needed time to unwind after a vicious schedule of housecleaning and hazing, for one. For another…well, the green was verdent not only with carefully kept grass but also sunbathers insulated from the world by a cocoon of polarized lenses and pearly earphones.

A pass went wide, and the youngest pledge–only 17 thanks to an awkwardly-placed birthday–saw his throw go wide, bounding off the green and into the rough.

“Go get it, Ralph!” cried his fellow Alpha. “You throw for it, you go for it!”

Ralph complied with a sigh. His given name was Lawrence, or Larry to his old classmates at Deerton High. There had been an…incident…at his first Alpha mixer, though, involving a hose and spirits strong enough to need an exorcism just to get them out of the bottle. After the ensuing mess, he’d been known as “Ralph” to the entire Alpha house. Luckily, they seemed to find it endearing.

The brush snapped merrily, already lined with the beginnings of the fallen-leaf carpet that would soon be crushed under first snowfall. Ralph was able to make his way through the tangle with only a little difficulty, and most of that came from the glare of a magic-hour sun in his eyes.

His football lay about a hundred yards in, having careened of something or other, at the foot of a bridge. Judging by the layout, it had once spanned the reservoir that used to cover the arboretum, but the water’s disappearance left it hanging in space over a river tributary below, swift and deep.

Ralph took a tentative step out, reaching his hand for the oblate spheroid that was just a little out of reach on a structure with less integrity than a New York City alderman. He soon regretted even this timid action, as the rotting timbers gave way and sent man and ball tumbling toward the welcoming drink below.

Inspired by the song ‘Alpha Ralpha’ by Hiroki Kikuta, released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

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NBS Broadcasting and NBS Sports is proud to present this week’s Tom Hicks and Carl Drake “Underdog of the Moment” award to the University of Northern Mississippi’s Fighting Abolitionists. Fresh off their 31-30 defeat of the Southern Michigan University Fighting Grizzlies, the Abs are up against the #2 ranked State University of Arkansas Devastating Tornadoes.

Drake had this to say about the pick: “While the ‘Does smashed their last opponent, Arkansas State, 97-2, I feel that the Abs have a fighting chance against the larger, better-funded, and more popular school. Why? Because the season is looking like a dull-as-ditchwater arms race between the schools with the biggest pocketbooks right now, and predicting unlikely upsets is as close to some real suspense as we’re likely to get.”

Hicks added that “Northern Mississippi hasn’t beaten a nationally ranked school since 1910, but the fans here have never given up hope, and it’s that do-or-die, giving 110%, hustle, and follow-through that ekes them out a special place among the sacrificial opponents the ‘Does have lined up to preserve their strength and sharpen their teeth before the inevitable bowl game.”

SUOA ‘Does coach Howard Gristle said of the award: “We’re looking forward to playing a team with gumption, and I guarantee that my boys will face a tough battle to be courteous as they pick the Abs out of their teeth, but I am confident that they have the hustle and follow-through to pull it off.”

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CARL: This is Carl Drake, play-by-play commentator for NBS Broadcasting, coming at you live from the NBS College Sports Channel’s telecast of the University of Northern Mississippi’s season opener against New Orleans State University.

TOM: That’s right, Carl. This is Tom Hicks, color commentator for NBS Broadcasting, banished along with my co-commentator to the risible National College Sports Association sports circuit as a punishment for our transgressions against our corporate overlords.

CARL: I wouldn’t call it risible, Tom. At least everyone on the field today is passionate, and some of the athletes might avoid major injury long enough to become second-string players on a minor Continental Football League team with strictly regional appeal.

TOM: That’s right, Carl, I should be grateful that they didn’t stick us back on the high school athletics scene. And the sight of those indentured athletes, playing without compensation so that their universities and the NCSA can reap profits not seen since the days of Crassus the Triumvir.

CARL: It’s of special note today that this is the first season that UNM is playing with its new mascot and team name, the UNM Fighting Abolitionists. You can see Johnny Freesoil the Fighting Abolitionist on the field now, capering about in an attempt to drown out the jeers thrown at him by an unresponsive crowd.

TOM: That’s right, Carl. The UNM team was previously known as the Raiders, with Johnny Raider as their swashbuckling mascot. But the name and mascot both engendered controversy, largely because they were thought to be named after Hextrill’s Raiders, a notorious band of Confederate partisans and bushwhackers who fought the Union along the Tennessee-Mississippi border.

CARL: You sound somewhat dismissive of that, Tom. I don’t have to remind you that Johnny Raider was a Confederate cavalryman in fully butternut grey dress with saber and pistol–an anachronism, as Hextrill’s men never worse uniforms–who routinely chased a caricature of Philip Sheridan off the field–another anachronism, as Sheridan fought solely in the Eastern theater of the war.

TOM: That’s right, Carl. While I don’t deny that the old name and especially the old mascot weren’t in the best taste, in their haste to mollify everyone they managed to come up with a name and mascot that strike even this card-carrying Democrat as cloying. Better for them to ape the University of Michigan to become the Fighting Letter Ms.

CARL: Fair, enough, Tom, fair enough. What do you say we talk a bit about the game? It looks like someone just made a touchdown or something.

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TOM: And we are back with this nail-biter of an MMOFL battle with the Grimomar Goblins against the Wyndstorm Warriors. And I see that the Warriors are putting their all into this attack; just look at those mana bars deplete.

CARL: That’s right, Tom. Offensive lineman Harry “The Bulldozer” Calhoun attacks his opponents with his +2 Shoulderpads of Fiery Torment. Looks like about 20 hit points of damage to me.

TOM: We’ll have to check the tape for that, but he’s definitely getting an XP bonus from that one.

CARL: That’s right, Tom. And is that quarterback Dequan “Golden Arm” Washington readying a pass? Yes, protected by the tanking of his offensive line, he is readying a throw. Is that the uncommon Ball of +1 Passing we’ve seen him use before?

TOM: No, it looks like the rare purple ball “Oblate Spheroid of the Thundering Darkness” the team won last week.

CARL: That’s right, Tom. A bold move, that ball only has five charges.

TOM: There’s the pass, and…it’s good! A 110-yard touchdown to receiver Dan “The Shiv” Jablonsky, who stealthed and snuck into the endzone unbeknownst to the opposing team. And that looks like an automatic 200 hit points of damage to every member of the other team.

CARL: That’s right, Tom, they’re falling like flies. The players have already broken ranks to loot their fallen corpses.

TOM: Oh, but what’s that horn and the sound of drums in the deep? It looks like the mighty doors hidden beneath the stadium are being opened.

CARL: That’s right, Tom, it looks like it’s time for a boss fight, and if the strategy guide is correct the team will now be facing Grogthank the Devourer, Demon of the Seventh Eye.

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“As you are aware, we have been asked to read a statement from the Continental Football League,” said CFL play-by-play announcer-at-large Carl Drake.

“That’s right, Carl,” added Tom Hicks, his color-announcement partner-in-crime and Gal-Friday. “We have the somber duty, as designated neutral third parties, to announce to you that Ulysses Calhoun, who you may know as the star forward of the Southern Michigan University Fighting Grizzlies, has failed to report for duty at the Richmond Squires spring training camp.”

“This constitutes evasion of the CFL draft, one of our nation’s most sacred institutions,” continued Carl Drake sorrowfully. “Those of you with a passion for history may recall that the CFL has not had a draft dodger since ‘Dike’ DeSilvo refused to report for training with the Iowa Caucuses in 1972, and that no draft dodging player has been convicted and sentenced since ‘Kiddie’ Voles failed to appear at the Birmingham Klansmen’s Grand Wizard Stadium in 1923.”

Tom Hicks, his head lowered, pursed his lips. “That’s right, Carl. It is our sad task to inform you that Ulysses Calhoun is now considered a fugitive from professional football. Under CFL Bylaw #237-B, it is hereby prohibited for anyone to give him aid or succor, and it is further required that anyone seeing Ulysses Calhoun or with knowledge of his whereabouts must come forward with this information. Failure to do so will constitute a violation of CFL Bylaw #237-B, and any such persons will be held as equally guilty of draft dodging.”

“While we urge the public’s help in assisting in the apprehension of this draft dodger, we must caution that Ulysses Calhoun is to be considered unarmed and dangerous. Do not approach him. We also wish to avoid a repeat of the unfortunate incident from the 1955 CFL draft when Swedish recruit Diks Vloeide was accidentally lynched on his way to training camp after a rumor emerged that he was a draft dodger.”

“That’s right, Carl,” sighed Tom Hicks. “Do not approach, confront, or attempt to apprehend Ulysses Calhoun. Report his location to the nearest local branch of the CFL armed forces and take shelter until the CFL Special Operations Group has had the opportunity to deploy. These dedicated professionals, many of them CFL veterans themselves, have the necessary combat, sport, and large animal handling experience to apprehend Calhoun and bring him to justice.

“The CFL Special Operations Group has honed their skills reining in CFL players during drunken escapades, drug binges, outbreaks of roid rage, and the rare, regretful circumstances when a player breaks containment and is allowed to roam free among the populace,” said Carl Drake. “Report any sightings, let them do their job, and soon we will be able to put these unfortunate events behind us.”

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CARL: This is Carl Drake, play-by-play commentator for NBS Broadcasting, and we are live at the Mega Bowl pregame festivities.

TOM: That’s right, Carl. This is Tom Hicks, color commentator for NBS Broadcasting, and we are seven hours into our pregame coverage, with only a further four to go.

CARL: The excitement is palpable, isn’t it? Just look at those streams of people finding their seats and purchasing concessions, and the gridlock outside as people try to find parking spots.

TOM: Right you are, Carl. Since NBS mandates this level of coverage despite there not being enough content to sustain it, our usual level of sports rhetoric, tissue-paper-thin as it is, has been stretched to the breaking point. I don’t know that there is anyone else we can ask for their uninformed opinions about the game, or any more sound bites we can unload about how this is a must-win game and that hustle, follow-through, and giving 110% will all be required.

CARL: Fair enough, Tom. I for one feel as if I am trapped in a nightmare from which I cannot wake. But, consider that this pregame coverage is just background noise for Mega Bowl parties as they warm up.

TOM: Right again as always, Carl. It doesn’t matter what we say, so long as the tenor and rhythm of our communication falls within acceptable inane sports patter levels. We can lay bare our darkest personal demons if we so wish, and the haze of conversation and alcohol that surrounds the watching of the Mega Bowl will serve to obfuscate the citizenry from the existential horror of our predicament.

CARL: Terrific idea and analysis, Tom. Speaking of which, have you seen the commercial NBS is airing about their Mega Bowl coverage?

TOM: How could I not, Carl? They have shown it every commercial break since the new year. The sight of that intercepted pass and that brutal sack, played over and over again, haunt my every waking hour.

CARL: Answer me this, then, Tom. How can they show previews from the game if it hasn’t happened yet?

TOM: I have always wondered that. My best guess is that it is our only glimpse into a shadow world of football cabals, where each game is played out in advance until the result is predetermined.

CARL: Why would you say someone would do that, Tom? Don’t the Illuminati have better things to do with their time?

TOM: Perhaps pulling the puppet strings of finance, industry, or government grows tiresome from time to time, and the Illuminated Ones relax by rigging football games, leaving those mysterious previews as breadcrumbs by which potential threats might be assessed and eliminated.

CARL: I’m quaking in my boots, Tom. Along the same lines, I’m told that the Mega Bowl will be reaching an audience of four hundred million people today, greater than the population of the United States.

TOM: That’s right, Carl. Somehow, the Mega Bowl has a 127% share of the viewing audience, a figure that would make my old statistics teacher hang himself from a bedsheet in his closet. I can only imagine the insane financial rewards that NBS must be reaping as well, and how many countries have a GDP lower than the amount of money that will be raked in today.

CARL: Tom, what do you make of the fact that America is more sports-crazy than ever, with those figures and their meteoric rises as proof, while at the same time we have never been more sedentary and obese as a nation?

TOM: Correct again, Carl. Our levels of sedentary lardassery are matched only by those of Saudi Arabia, and yet we elevate those few with athletic talent on our shoulders like the gladiators of old.

CARL: In fact, Tom, it seems that despite loving football more than ever, we have fewer people than ever capable of playing it outside of a next-gen game console. Wax poetic for us on where this trend will lead us to fill a few more seconds of otherwise dead airtime.

TOM: I predict that the nascent evolutionary divergence which has already begun will only intensify with the march of time. I foresee a separate race of sportsmen, bred from only the strongest generations of genetic stock of breeding farms where choice specimens are put out to stud with cheerleaders. Within a further few generations, the quivering lumps of manflesh which the average American will have become will be incapable of breeding with our new master race of athletes.

CARL: A chilling, Wellsian vision of things to come, Tom. Would you say at this point that it’s clear whether this master race will rebel against its sedentary masters, perhaps enslaving them?

TOM: A good question, Carl. Bitter historical experience has shown that, like Spartacus and his rebels, these latter-day gladiators will lack the central leadership for coherent rebellion and that their attempts to overthrow us for forcing them into servitude will be ruthlessly crushed. Blood will run in the streets, the moans of crucified quarterbacks along the interstate will echo for miles, and only the inevitable collapse of our stagnant and decadent society at the hands of a nimble new ideology will bring an end to the bloodshed.

CARL: For those of you just joining us, this is Carl Drake and Tom Hicks, bringing you coverage of the pregame festivities at the Mega Bowl, the one unifying factor that remains in an increasingly divided America. We’ll be back with more inane chatter after the break.

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This post is part of the October 2013 Blog Chain at Absolute Write. This month’s prompt is “Lions, tigers, and bears, oh my.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY: And we’re back with the Detroit Lions versus the Chicago Bears. 4th quarter, 0-0, and just coming off a Meyersby flummox by the Bears that Oscar Earle stopped for the Lions using the Thatch Weave.

COLOR: You just made that up, didn’t you?

PLAY-BY-PLAY: True enough, Carl, true enough. But it’s not like anyone actually listens to our chatter, we’re just a part of the background noise like the roaring fans and the commercials for products aimed at males 18-35. And if we can’t embrace that, own that, and have some fun with it, ours is a hollow existence devoid of meaning–a meaningless howling into the infinite void, if you will.

COLOR: Fair enough, Tom. Looks like Earle is up for the snap on our next play, third down.

PLAY-BY-PLAY: Yes, the Detroit Lions are going all out with this one. They’ve got Earle with Tennison on his right, but the Chicago Bears are countering with Masterson in the center. They both want this bad.

COLOR: Yes, it’s a knock-down, drag-out fight this one, because the loser in this case will be at the very bottom of the NFL rankings not only for this season but for all time. Statistically speaking a very tough black mark to shake, and neither the Lions nor the Bears want to replace the 1924 Birmingham Klansmen in the NFL museum’s “Hall of Shame” for worst record in the history of the sport since organized competition began on November 6, 1869.

PLAY-BY-PLAY: There’s the snap, and…it’s bad! The Lions fumble, and the Bears’ Masterson has got the ball! He’s…yes, he’s out and clear, on the Lions’ thirty and closing in on a touchdown!

COLOR: Not looking good for Detroit and the Lions, Tom. Given the staggering incompetence demonstrated by both teams at the sport in general and this game in particular, it’s unlikely that the Motor City will be able to recover. This will be yet another tough body blow for a city currently suffering from bankruptcy, organized and disorganized crime, corruption on a biblical scale, and relentless nightly assaults by zombies who cannot be killed as they are on the city’s payroll and vote regularly for alderman thanks to a legal loophole.

PLAY-BY-PLAY: Masterson’s on the twenty, on the ten…Masterson is down! Yes, Masterson is down just short of the Lions’ endzone! A player wearing a grey uniform, no pads, and a ballcap has appeared on the field, and…yes, he put Masterson down using what appears to be a baseball bat!

COLOR: That’s right, Tom. Dozens of players, all armed with bats, are surging onto the field from the Detroit locker room. From the stylized “D” on their caps and the leaping orange felid on their jerseys, I can only assume…yes, we’re getting confirmation from the field! The Detroit Tigers have joined the game on the side of the Lions, and it has degenerated into a general melee!

PLAY-BY-PLAY: Yes, Carl, the Bears that were guarding Masterson have themselves been pummeled into submission, their pads, helmets, and indeed cups being no match for skillfully wielded aluminum bats in the hands of anabolic-steroid-blasting meatslabs. The Tigers are forming up, and…yes, they have just awkwardly punted the ball back to the Lions with those selfsame bats. Carl, your thoughts on this sudden and almost certainly illegal play?

COLOR: Nothing against it in the rules, Tom, and I know those backwards and forwards as they’re the only reading material we’re allowed during the 27 hours of pregame coverage. It looks like the Detroit Tigers have come to the aid of their fellow Motor City players, being as upset at the idea of having a worst-ever team in their city as anyone. And, being no good at baseball, they seem to have found their niche–the Tigers, for those who only pay attention to good teams, being in little danger of slipping to historic last place themselves thanks to the continued existence of the Chicago Cubs.

PLAY-BY-PLAY: The Bears are fighting back as best they can, Carl, even emptying their benches, but with the Cubs nowhere in sight, they are being massacred, literally and figuratively, by the combined Lion/Tiger assault. The refs are not stopping this, Carl, they are not stopping this. The Detroit ref has actually joined the assault–that’s him strangling Zaford with his whistle–and it appears that the Chicago ref has fled the field out of fear for his personal safety. It’s a confused melee out there, but one definitely trending in the direction of the Chicago endzone and eternal infamy for all participants in this debacle, surely the death knell of professional sports in every city and franchise involved. Carl, your thoughts?

COLOR: Lions, Tigers, and Bears, oh my.

Check out this month’s other bloggers, all of whom have posted or will post their own responses:
Ralph Pines

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The elevator stretched deep beneath the university’s central administration building, and opened on a short hallway with an old-fashioned, cast-iron door guarded by a member of the campus police in a ceremonial uniform.

“This is it,” said the university president to his guest, the head of the alumni association. He waved the guard aside and withdrew a tarnished key on a chain from around his neck. It jangled noisily in the lock.

“But I still don’t understand,” said the alumni association head. “Why freeze the coach, especially with the state of technology in those days?”

The door retracted into the walls, long-disused gears squealing. A circular room lay beyond, with a cylindrical capsule at its center. A beefy man wearing nothing but a primitive wooden jockstrap was suspended in fluid, lit by gas lamps that flickered to life as the president and head entered.

“Because he was too advanced for his time,” the president said, raising his voice to be heard over the low din of Industrial Revolution era life support machinery. “Our sachems knew that one day American football would rise to preeminence among college sports, but a man can only live for so long. So we chose instead to preserve him, to be thawed out only when the need for a bowl game was most dire.”

“It is most dire indeed,” the alumni association head agreed, wincing at the thought of the previous week’s 127-3 loss.

Soon the room was full of clatter and steam as the machinery was disengaged. The coach emerged from his pod to behold the president and alumni association head kneeling before him.

“It is time,” said the president. “Lead us to victory.”

“Bully,” said the coach, twitching his handlebar mustache. “We play by Boston rules. I have in my head a secret plan to score more runs per match than has ever been attempted even by the likes of Harvard. No carrying the ball, no unsportsmanlike shoving, just pure and simple contests of fielders versus bulldogs with the fair catch kick rule in play above all.”

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