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(Scene: a nondescript room with two doors—one far, one near—but no windows, and two tables and chairs. On one table is a large box with a number of switches on it, and cords running out from the back and through the wall, and a small television monitor and speaker on the top of the box. The far door slowly opens, two men enter)
Scientist: Right in here, sir. Please have a seat.
Man: Okay, cool.
Scientist: As I said, I’m Dr. Milgram, and thanks again for participating in our study. I’ll expand on what I’ve already told you.
Scientist: In a room on the other side of that wall (motions to the wall behind the table with the box and monitor on it) is the other subject. He’s a diehard NFL fan and will be watching the Red Zone channel. What we want to do is measure the effect of cognitive dissonance on a normal NFL fan’s opinion of football.
Scientist: Your role is to condition him against football. The way you do this is to interrupt his Red Zone enjoyment with negative visual stimulus—which you’ll do by flipping the switches on that box, in order, as the negative conditioning strength will increase as you go up the switches.
Man: Okay. Sounds easy enough.
Scientist: If at any point, he expresses dismay or a negative opinion of the NFL or football, we’ll stop the experiment and consider it a success. Any questions?
Man: Why me? Why don’t you do it?
Scientist: As an expert on these sorts of experiments, I have found it best to employ volunteers to do this so I can guide the process from all angles. It’s actually much more complicated than it looks and requires the supervision of someone as knowledgeable and experienced as me.
Man: Well, you know best. When do I start?
Scientist: I will give you the signal.
(The scientist moves to the other table and sits down. He organizes his notes for a moment, before adjusting his glasses. The man sits nervously, looking at the scientist and then the switches. The scientist hits a button on his desk, and the speaker on the box crackles to life; light snacking sounds can be heard above faint football noises.)
Speaker: Aww, man! Goddamn vulture running backs! I needed a score from Bell!
Scientist: Don’t worry, he can’t hear us. Please proceed with the first switch.
(The man flips the first switch. All of the punts from the Niners/Rams late MNF opener play on the screen, as well as from the Seahawks/Cardinals SNF disaster.)
Speaker: What the… punts? Punts are the worst. But you can’t fault the Rams for leaving St. Louis! Gotta get that Los Angeles cashish!
(The scientist frowns slightly and makes a note. The man looks at the scientist, chuckling a little. The scientist looks at him blankly before nodding slightly. The man nods, then flips the next switch. A montage of Deflategate hot taeks from angry talking heads plays.)
Speaker: That’s right! Total overreach! Tommy Terrific didn’t deserve that, but yet I totally get that Goodell needs the power to wield the hammer of punishment as he sees fit!
(The man furrows his brow a little, then looks to the scientist. The scientist makes a note, then looks blankly at the man again. The man fidgets slightly in this gaze, then slightly shrugs and turns back to the box, flipping the next switch. A supercut of Pinktober crap everywhere plays on the screen.)
Speaker: Yeah! Gotta save the boobies! Good for you, NFL! That’s LEGIT philanthropy right there.
(The man shakes his head and rolls his eyes. He glances back to the scientist, who remains stone faced. The man nods, then flips the next switch. A montage of every Cleveland Brown quarterback from this year plays.)
Speaker: What is this shit? Goddamn. I mean, come on, some of those fellas are just out there playing like they are kids again… hell, some of them look like kids. But I guess RG-ME deserved what he got there. Shoulda never let Johnny Touchdown go, I tell you!
(The man looks a little pale and is sweating a bit at his hairline, looks back at the scientist and seems to want to say something. The scientist finishes his note and looks up blankly. The man swallows heavily and turns back to the box. After letting a deep breath out, he flips the next switch. Every Peyton Manning commercial ever made, in order, plays on the screen. The man shivers slightly when they begin.)
Speaker: HAW HAW! Oh, that Peyton Manning, I do miss that guy. So funny, though! I hope they never stop making commercials with him! CUT THAT MEAT! CUT THAT MEAT!
(The man grimaces and grips his stomach for a moment, lets out an uneasy but silent belch. After a deep breath, he looks back up at the scientist, and meets his blank gaze for a bit. The scientist eventually nods and extends a hand at the box, as if to indicate the man should keep going. The man looks at the box and then back at the scientist, then turns back to the box. He flips the next switch before he can have second thoughts. A loop of the game-ending missed pass interference call in the Seahawks/Falcons game plays.)
Speaker: See, now that’s just a bang-bang play right there. Gotta let ‘em go at it at the end of the game. Nothing wrong there. Well, except for that Richard Sherman loud mouth thug, but, hey, I guess it takes all kinds.
(The man takes a deep breath, clenches his hand into a fist before releasing it, briefly closes his eyes, and then opens them again. Without looking at the scientist, he flips the next switch, to which the scientist raises an eyebrow and then makes a note. The screen is filled with a mashup of Bob Costas and Peter King during SNF, interspersed with random words from Cris Collinsworth.)
Speaker: Boy, these guys sure are the best. Well, except for that Costas, who sure could take that stick out of his ass, but I guess he’s still okay. And that Peter King! I don’t read much, but he sure writes a lot, and must be pretty on top of things. At least Cris knows how to call a NFL game!
(The man blinks hard, and then just flips the switch, his hand shaking slightly. Video clips of every on-field injury this year play.)
Speaker: That’s just part of the game, bro! Rub some dirt on it and get back in there! Ain’t no pussification of the NFL here!
Man: (turning to the scientist) None of this is working.
Scientist: Please continue.
Man: I don’t think this is right.
Scientist: The experiment requires that you continue.
Man: …Okay. You must know what you’re doing.
(The man takes a deep breath and seems to relax. He calmly flips the switch, and the screen plays a montage of Kaepernick kneeling hot taeks from talking heads, public figures, and news debate shows.)
Speaker: YEAH! YOU TELL HIM! Don’t let that commie muslim insult the troops! Or the flag! Or the anthem! OR AMERICA!
(The man breaks out in a cold sweat, swallowing hard. He reaches towards the next switch, then stops and raps his fingertips on the table anxiously. His hands fidget again, then dart up to flick the switch. Clips of all the head-smashing hits from Broncos/Panthers opener play in a loop.)
Speaker: YOU JUST GOT JACKED UP, GLORY BOY! THAT’S WHAT YOU GET FOR DANCING AND HAVING FUN!
Man: No. Just… I can’t do this.
Scientist: The experiment requires that you continue.
Man: This is making him WORSE.
Scientist: There will be no permanent damage.
Man: But what if there is?!
Scientist: I will take full responsibility. The experiment requires that you continue.
Man: You keep saying that… but… I just…
Scientist: It is absolutely essential that you continue.
Man: (sighs heavily) Well… okay. I guess.
(The man flips the switch, and onto the screen comes a montage of every taunting/celebration penalty flag this year.)
Speaker: Can’t let those (brief static) get out of hand! Gotta nip that behavior in the bud before it takes away from the integrity of the game. Act the right way! Think of the kids!
(The man, stone faced but pale, flips the next switch. The Ray Rice elevator videos play in a short loop.)
Speaker: Aw, see, that ain’t fair. She apologized for that.
(The man flips the switch. The Greg Hardy abuse evidence photos fill the screen, one after another.)
Speaker: That’s just some he said, she said stuff. Coulda just been accidental, you know what I mean? Plus… dude’s gonna be AWESOME in MMA!
(The man flips the switch. Snippets of news broadcasts play from Javon Belcher’s, Adrian Robinson’s, and Junior Seau’s suicides, Rob Bironas’ fatal car crash, Aaron Hernandez’s trial, and Sean Taylor’s homicide.)
Speaker: Football’s got nothing to do with those. STICK TO SPORTS, GODDAMNIT!
(The man trembles suddenly as he reaches out to the last switch. After a moment of hesitation, he flips it. The Subway “Teriyaki Chicken Day” commercial plays. The man leaps up and rips the cord to the speaker out from the box.)
Man: No more. No more. That… that was it… I just… keep your damn money. I’m getting the fuck out of here and never watching football again. (He races out of the rear door before the scientist can even react. After a moment, an assistant enters through the door the man just left from.)
Assistant: Sounds like he broke. Told you he was gonna break.
Scientist: Actually, he made it all the way.
Assistant: Wait, what? He played the commercial?
Scientist: Yes. In fact, he ripped the speaker wire out so as not to hear the reaction. Could you go reconnect it? We might need to check on Jim.
(The assistant reconnects the speaker wire, which squawks to life immediately.)
Speaker: –a fucking field goal, I needed a goddamn touchdown from Bell! I put my rent money into my daily fantasy team! BELL WAS A GODDAMN LOCK! Goddamnit. I really need some Bud Light. And some Subway. And some Geico lemonade. And a new personalized jersey. And a football family. And to pay for stadiums with public funds. And never to watch anything but football ever again. Yeah. That would hit the spot.
Assistant: You know, he may have had enough… it might not really be good for him to be exposed to that much football and associated propaganda…
Scientist: You might have a point. It seems like the everyday volunteers we get in here all end up swearing off football, but these diehard fans just get more entrenched the more they see the dark side of the sport. We should probably unplug—
(Just then the near door blows open, and in hovers a cenobite Roger Goodell, skin deathly white, wrapped in red tape and yellow flags, pierced through with Mont Blanc fountain pens stabbed into checks written to enormous amounts, held up from the floor by one of Leviathan’s tendrils. The room behind him is filled with inhuman shapes that remain indistinct due to unearthly light that is sometimes pierced through by the humming, throbbing darkness of Leviathan’s beams. His mouth opens, his voice the sound of the agony and ecstasy of millions of souls.)
Cenobite Roger Goodell: THE EXPERIMENT REQUIRES THAT YOU CONTINUE! LEVIATHAN’S DOMINION EXPANDS AS PROMISED! YOUR OBEDIENCE SHALL BE REWARDED WITH PLEASURES YOUR PITIFUL PAIN RECEPTORS HAVE NEVER DREAMED OF! WE HAVE SUCH SIGHTS TO SHOW YOU!
Scientist: Whatever. Just keep the grant money coming.
Assistant: Could you at least fix the catch rule?
Cenobite Roger Goodell: (Hideous, gurgling, sadistic laughs echo in from the glowing door behind him) FOOL! AND DEPRIVE US OF THE DELECTABLE GARMONBOZIA FROM SUCH EXQUISITE DEPRESSED CONFUSION? THE AGONY FROM DEPRIVING FANS OF SPECTACULAR PLAYS? THE HOWLING DISSONANCE INSIDE OF OUR MOST DEVOTED ZEALOTS ONLY GROWS LOUDER WITH EACH ADDITIONAL VAGUE WORD THAT LEVIATHAN ETCHES INTO HIS HOLY TOME! THE EXPERIMENT MUST CONTINUE! BRING FORTH THE NEXT WITNESSES TO OUR CONTINUED ASCENDENCY! (Cenobite Roger Goodell hovers back into the ethereal light and the door silently closes behind him.)
Scientist: I suppose that means the next test subjects have arrived, then.
(They both turn to face the far door expectantly)
Assistant: Yes, it seems so. Where do these poor, dumb suckers come from, anyway?
[DOOR FLIES OPEN]