| Podcast Review | October 2, 2015 | By

Welcome to Shutdown Fullcast

Shutdown Fullcast makes me want to take myself less seriously, while accepting, even embracing the things I’ll always care about a little too much.

People take college football way too seriously. At first blush, that might seem like a strange maxim to undergird a blog largely centered on the sport. For Every Day Should Be Saturday, however, vigilant and unceasing mockery of the silliness bred by the warped religion of college football fuels the site’s inimitable appeal.  Founded in 2005 by Spencer Hall and unfettered by virtually any editorial restraints, EDSBS  lampoons just about everyone and everything related to top-flight “amateur” football—as well as any other topic its small but prolific staff feels like discussing—with startling creativity and incisiveness. From immersive on-site features to powerful invectives to the sportswriting equivalent of a weekly million-fire-emojis-quality diss track, EDSBS manages better than any other outlet to spotlight college football’s lunacy while celebrating the beauty the sport can inspire. What I admire most about the blog, however, is the overarching sense that Hall and co. are the most hopelessly obsessed college football idolaters of all.  No matter how blistering the criticisms or goofy the asides, the love for college football—a love often irreconcilable with the sport’s more sinister aspects—permeates the site’s voice. Reading EDSBS is like watching a bunch of hilarious, hyper-intelligent, half-baked friends shoot the poop about sports. But you can always detect how much the conversation means to them—how they take this ludicrous and unserious college football thing too seriously because they have no choice.

It makes sense, then, that ShutDown Fullcast literally consists of a bunch of good friends indulging in delirious hour-long bantering about college football and just about everything else they want. Hall, Ryan Nanni (the Big Boi to Hall’s Andre 3000) and Jason Kirk (technically the SB Nation college football editor but certainly part of the extended EDSBS Dungeon Family) comprise the podcast’s main crew, with a special guest or two often joining the conversation each week. What EDSBS’s flagship podcast lacks in the polish and artistic ingenuity of its written content, it makes up for in sheer infectious giddiness: the laughs are frequent, the jokes biting, the lack of pretense in an increasingly pretentious sportswriting climate cathartic. The recorded-couch-conversation format, admittedly, yields less of the overtly poignant observations that highlight the site’s written words. Still, lingering beneath the surfact is always that same tension between the sports’s absurdity and the hosts’ unwavering love for it.

This week’s episode (3.22.0) began with Nanni humming a playful version of that NPR melody unmistakable to anyone who has listened to public radio for more than 28 seconds. Given that this review will never amount to much more than trifling imitation of other, more reputable reviews of podcasts on this site, it seemed like a serendipitous way for the first episode of this review series to open. After a few minutes, the hosts locked in on a target similarly ideal for my purposes in trying to explain this wacky podcast and the wackier sport it covers: the University of Texas football program. “I don’t even hate Texas,” Hall says amidst giggles minutes into the show, “and I like making fun of them.”

To the program’s admirers—and in particular to its affluent boosters—the only rule that has always governed Texas football is that the rules which confine mere mortal college football programs do and should not apply. Perennially and comfortably the highest-grossing revenue football program in the nation, Texas benefits both from a dedicated cabal of financial supporters that would make the Monopoly man seem bougie and the inherent boost that accompanies stature as the most prestigious, visible school in the most talent-rich state in the union. Texas has it all—the resources, the name-recognition, the history of success, even its own dang cable network—and thus an automatic expectation of dominance. Like the state it represents, the program seems like a heavy-handed caricature until you realize that so many things really are bigger in Texas.

Alas, as it turns out, reality confines Texas football same as the rest of us. The Longhorns have not, in fact, won every national championship, and every now and then the most Donald Trump-ish program is just a run-of-the-mill ol’ Flop. Now is one of those times. With the school having just fired athletic director Steve Patterson for managing his duties with a level of tact that would embarrass George Bluth, Texas’s loss to Oklahoma State last weekend dropped the Horns to 1-3 and unprecedented levels of ordinary. That defeat resulted in part because two of the cruelest fates in sportsdom befell the Longhorns and their followers: horrid special teams play and dubious officiating. Believe it or not, many Longhorns fans opted to dwell on the second one.  

Enter the Shutdown Fullcast gang with trademark derision. Many Texas fans, it turns out, have cited the team’s 16 penalties for 128 yards as evidence of the Big 12’s animus against Texas and a concerted effort to thwart the conference’s most prominent member. Now, every single fan has succumbed to conspiracy paranoia now and then. I know, for instance, that Roger Goodell penalized my Saints during the Bounty Gate special to burnish the league’s pro-safety credentials ahead of impending concussion litigation and that every time LeBron James draws a foul on my Pelicans, it’s because of the Illuminati. But here’s the thing: if a college football Illuminati did exist, its colors would almost undoubtedly be burnt orange and white. As the hosts delightfully emphasize, the idea that the Big 12 would enforce a bias against Texas—its richest, most famous, most influential member—is an affront to reason even by college football fan standards. Texas, the crew explains, is the Sun of the Big 12, the supermassive entity around which everything else in the conference revolves. (They also analogize Ames, Iowa to Pluto, which I guess makes Morgantown, WV that barren planet from Interstellar where Matt Damon is a douche.) Even setting aside the obvious Occam’s Razor counterargument to any official conspiracy—Hall rightfully skewers any Texas fans who would explain the 16 penalties with the much-maligned Big 12 officials’ competence—believing the Big 12 would ever actively sabotage its signature program defies all reason. Faced with the same misfortunes of reality that afflict the rest of us, Texas fans clung to delusions of grandeur. And even as I joined in the glee the hosts derived from reveling in the Horns’ encounter with the real world, I couldn’t help but relate just a bit.

Before discussing this weekend’s marquee Alabama-Georgia matchup, Nanni jokes that Athens doesn’t have anything on Tulane. Before writing this section, I took a coffee break and saw one of my friends downing a Bud Light outside the law school building in broad daylight. To reiterate, these guys know what they’re talking about.

The Fullcast’s special guest this week, Doug Gillett, was cautiously optimistic. Although recent history militates against the idea that Gillett’s team, the Georgia Bulldogs, stand any chance to trump Nick Saban’s mighty Alabama Crimson Tide short of Lane Kiffin tripping his own players while loudly calling Bear Bryant a poor man’s Bobby Bowden or something. Hall, for instance, thinks Alabama will expose Greyson Lambert “For the UVA transfer he is,” rightly implying that association with UVa football isn’t the kind of bane you can eradicate with a few months of detox.  Gillett, however, is hoping the Bulldogs’ unexpectedly stout defense, the friendly confines of Sanford Stadium and Nick Chubb bowling over poor infirm defenders propelling Georgia to victory. His positive outlook is startling not only because it precedes his team’s matchup with the most formidable program of the last decade. It is remarkable because, as Gillett admits, he and other Georgia fans usually search desperately for reasons not to believe in their team’s chances.

Gillett’s admission reflects the forced and often disingenuous pessimism underlining both the podcast and sports fanaticism in general. University of Florida fans, Hall and Nanni routinely downplay the Gators’ chances of doing anything other than blasting their hopes and aspirations into smithereens, one abject disaster of an offensive possession at a time. While expressing tepid confidence in Florida’s chances this weekend against Ole Miss, the pair more or less concedes that the Gators won’t be able to keep up with the Rebels’ prolific passing attack. Even Gillet wryly jokes that Georgia will probably beat Alabama only to lose to Missouri (the football equivalent of stale Starkist this season) in a few weeks.

An avowed Virginia fan, I loudly proclaim my expectation for every Cavalier home game to end like The Departed, with widespread heartbreak and everyone mad at a cop. In truth, however, my pessimism—and I strongly suspect that of Hall, Nanni and any other invested fan—obscures the reckless hope for my teams  I can never truly elude. By wedging cold reason between myself and that hope, I know I’m just launching a preemptive strike against the frustration and sullenness I have no real right to feel over a dumb game. It does help, this facade of rational pessimism: it ebbs the sting of the losses, renders the triumphs something like a pleasant surprise and forces you to find the very real and valuable moral victories hiding in the crevices of any game’s story. But reason never really wins. Never in my heart of hearts do I completely convince myself that the magical and miraculous is impossible. The war between rationality and emotion is always raging.

As a result, you learn to savor the brief moments of reprieve from that like the one Gillett is experiencing. Alabama might beat the tar out of Georgia on Saturday; Georgia has yet to play anyone of even mediocre quality, much less the crimson behemoth brigade they’ll face between the hedges this weekend. But at this moment in time, Georgia fans’ irrational hope is intersecting with very rational reasons to think they can win and maybe even vie seriously for a national championship. It hurts like hell when that optimism proves for naught. The mere prospect of seeing that faith rewarded, though, is the reason we all put ourselves through this.

The podcast settles into a pretty conventional rhythm about 35 minutes through, with the hosts reviewing the slate of games and answering reader questions with a healthy mix of legitimate analysis and wit-fueled tomfoolery. The highlight arrives around the 44-minute mark, when the term “Petrino Birthing Shed” is brought into existence. Because Audiologue is a family site, I decline to provide any further context.

I am well-aware that this overwrought, self-serving debut has worn out its welcome. In that sense, it reflects the worst aspect of its subject. What fuels EDSBS and Shutdown Fullcast—its refusal to cover anything but what its staff/cast wants to discuss, in the manner it wants to discuss it—can also make the site and podcast seem self-serving. Listening to a bunch of super-smart, likeminded friends hold a loosely directed but organic conversation for an hour in can make you feel like an awkward, silent interloper at a party with people who know and like each other much better than they could ever know and like you. Nevertheless, the quality of the conversation and the joy with which its participants conduct it make Shutdown Fullcast a must listen. Even when the allusions and jokes sail over my head like a Philip Sims pass, the banter conveys a love for college football the sport’s senselessness can’t defeat. It makes me want to take myself less seriously, while accepting, even embracing the things I’ll always care about a little too much. That’s definitely worth my hour.

About the Author

Fritz Metzinger is a law student and a hard worker in all things except brief autobiographies. He covers Shutdown Fullcast for Audiologue. Follow him on Twitter @KibblesandFritz or e-mail him at fritz@audiologue.xyz.

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