Everybody at the airport is dumb.

Sometimes I go through stretches of time — minutes, hours even — when I forget how dumb everybody is. But whenever I need a reminder of the astounding stupidity of the people around me, I go to the airport. Holy cow. Forget the blog, I could write an entire book with all the good material provided by the people at airports.

That’s not to say I never feel like an idiot at the airport; one time I forgot about the unfinished water bottle in my backpack. But that’s an honest mistake, a careless blunder. We’re not here to list isolated incidents of idiocy. No, no, no, what we’re going to talk about is the stuff that stops you in your tracks and makes you look around in disbelief. This is a special kind of stupidity. This is the kind of stupidity that is so pervasive and yet so blatantly obvious that you fear it must be contagious, because what person in their right mind would think this was a good idea. The, “Really? Does nobody here have a brain?” kind of stupidity. I call it systematic stupidity.

Systematic stupidity is not exclusive to airports, but that’s where it seems to be most prevalent. The airport is like one long systematic stupidity exam; every step of air travel quizzes the traveler on one thing or another that a reasonable person should be able to do — you know, common sense. Packing, leaving for the airport on time, checking in, going through security, waiting to board, and getting to your seat; these are all a bunch of little tests of your common sense. And as you fail these tests one by one, I’m standing right behind you, laughing. Every wrong step you take is on display for the world to see.

Of course, it’s not entirely fair of me to laugh. For some people at the airport, this could be their first time on a plane; I should give them a break. And even for experienced travelers, the airport can be a very stressful place; I should put some blame the airlines for not making this an easier process. Last but not least, I suppose I can’t blame people for being idiots. It’s not their fault. But it sure does seem like there are a lot of dumb people out there, all congregating at the airport. The Newark Airport is their Mecca.

When the dumb people congregate to pray to the Deities of Dumbness (The Saviors of Stupidity? The Idols of Idiocy?), they perform a particular series of rituals. I must admit that I haven’t read the all the liturgy, but the rituals are done in such a public manner that I can’t help but pick up on some aspects of this bizarre cult. For what I’ve gathered, practicing members strive to attain a few fundamental ideals, which can be summarized in a series of commandments. This is my best guess as to what these commandments must be.

Thou shan’t leave anything at home.

The first commandment is an exercise preparedness. What if we need that thing while we’re gone? We’d better bring it with us, it preaches; that way we have it. Dumb people adhering to this commandment can easily be spotted carrying pieces of luggage larger than they are. The culmination of this line of prayer is the long-anticipated ritual of checking luggage. The check-in counter is one of the most sacred places of worship for dumb people. In some stupid sects, parents reward the child who packs the heaviest bag.

In addition to their checked luggage, particularly devout dumb people go so far as to bring a carry-on bag that is too large for the overhead compartment. This is the model idiot, the one who extends the that-way-we-have-it mentality to the plane ride itself.

Thou shalt be, like, totally unprepared to go through security.

Going through security is a cleansing experience for dumb people. So that their soul feels fully refreshed, dumb people want to prolong the experience as much as possible. While standing in line watching dozens of people hand their boarding pass and driver’s license to the TSA agent, a traveler might feel the temptation to find those documents ahead of time, in order to speed things up. Dumb people resist that temptation. They pride themselves in the time it takes them to rummage through their wallets and purses to find their IDs once they’ve reached the front of the line.

These idiots also take great care to ensure that their pockets are fully stuffed and have not been emptied prior to arriving at the scanner. It is something of a rite of passage for young imbeciles to go through the scanner a second time, having “forgotten” about the keys or the spare change in their pockets.

Thou shalt remain close to the gate at all times.

Thought of as the “eternal light,” the gate is an everlasting source of spiritual nourishment for dumb people. Systematic stupidity emanates continuously out of the gate and into the terminal. For this reason, dumb people are commanded to stand as close to the gate as possible. To an untrained eye, it may appear that these idiots are standing in line before boarding has even started. You may find yourself waiting in an unmoving line for several minutes after your row has been called, only to realize that the dumb people around you are there strictly for religious purposes. It’s not their turn at all. A quick, “Are you in line?” or “Have they started boarding?” will sniff out a practitioner from a gentile, and should save you some embarrassment.

Thou shalt be first to disembark the plane (even if thou hast not a connecting flight) for thou art the chosen people.

This is the granddaddy of them all. Even the most lenient, reform, progressive dumb people observe this one. It’s kind of like how some people only go to mass on Christmas; if you’re only going to do one religious thing, you’d better make it count.

So instead of making use of the eighteen thousand things stuffed into their carry-on, dumb people are commanded to spend their time on the airplane meditating. They focus their meditation on one thing in particular: an exit strategy. Since dumb people have to be the first ones off the plane, they have to be mentally prepared to leap to action as soon as the wheels touch ground. Watch as the idiots whip off their seat belts, jump out of their chairs, fling open the overhead compartments, yank their bags to the floor, rush to the front of the plane, and… stand there for 10 minutes while they wait for the doors to open.

What’s especially interesting is that another peculiar ritual can trace its roots all the way back to this very commandment. Since dumb people have to take the time to meditate on their exit strategy, dumb people like to spend as much time in their seat as possible. This means that they not only want to be the first ones off the airplane, but they also want to be the first ones on the airplane. No, they aren’t afraid of gate-checking their bags. No, they don’t just really really want the overhead space (although they do really really need it for their enormous bags). No, they don’t think they’re going to get to Atlanta before everybody else if they get on the plane first. And no, they don’t especially like the uncomfortable seats on the airplane better than the comfy ones in the terminal. They just need to get to work on their strategizing, that’s all.

There are several themes common to good exit strategies. Unbuckle your seatbelt before the plane has even landed –– get that mental preparation started early. Be sure to smack people on the head with your bag as you get it down from the overhead bin –– non-believers should be punished for their sins against stupidity. If you can’t reach your bag, demand that somebody else get it for you –– you’ve got no time to lose. If you can’t get into the aisle right away because you’re stuck with a window seat, stand up and painfully crane your neck against the ceiling –– let everybody know you mean business. And, most importantly, do not wait for people in front of you to go –– even if that means disregarding the flight attendants, running over an old person, or separating a mother from her child.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. It hardly seems fair for the dumb people to cut in line. The people who have to rush to make connecting flights should have priority. Or, at the very least, passengers should file out front-to-back. But you’re forgetting something: we are not dealing with the world of common sense. They fail the common sense exam with flying colors. They exemplify and perpetuate systematic stupidity. These are extremely dumb people. They’re the chosen ones.

Professional athletes don’t owe you anything.

Stop criticizing them for a lack of ‘focus’ or ‘effort.’ I hear this a lot, often from tennis fans, and it’s really been getting on my nerves. People will watch a player who has shown immense talent fail to live up to expectations that media has created for him or her, and they’ll be disappointed. They’ll say things like, “Man, what a shame to see talent like that go to waste.”

I was reminded of how dumb people are when I saw a post in the tennis forum on reddit. It was a discussion on Nick Kyrgios, a 19-year-old Australian who made waves at Wimbledon this year by knocking out Rafael Nadal on his way to the quarterfinals:

“I am an Australian who has always supported him live here at the Aus Open, but I just wish Nick Kyrgios wasn’t SO COCKY! Photobombing Serena, flirting with Vika [Victoria Azarenka] and other antics = Mark Phillippoussis [sic] 2.0? Anybody else think these signs might be worrying?”

I was dumbfounded (get it?), so, naturally, I kept reading:

“I support him fully and I don’t want him to become the next Bernard Tomic.”

Ah, so there’s precedent. For those who don’t follow tennis like I do, Bernard Tomic is the most famous professional tennis player never to surpass 27th in the world rankings. (Fact checking for the previous sentence included, and was limited to, googling whether Anna Kournikova ever got higher than 27th. She did.) Tomic was extremely successful as a youngster, winning all sorts of junior tournaments, and was supposed to claim the tennis-superstar-from-Australia throne left behind by Lleyton Hewitt. Tomic’s parents are from Yugoslavia, and moved to Queensland when he was three years old, which explains why there’s an Australian named Bernard Tomic.

Tomic has shown flashes of brilliance on the top level, reaching the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2011 as an 18-year-old (sound familiar?), but he hasn’t gotten that far at a grand slam since then, and has only won two tournaments in that span. His inconsistent (read: not very good) results have been portrayed by the media as being a result of a lack of dedication to the game of tennis. Media often cite his partying, legal troubles, fancy cars, and bad on-court attitude as examples thereof. The Courier Mail, a prominent Australian newspaper, summed up the nation’s feelings on Tomic in an article entitled “It seems Australians love to hate Bernard Tomic — but is that fair?”

“Australia loves nothing more than a bad boy turned good story — but he is giving us nothing to work with. In this case I believe we have the chronicles of a bad boy gone lazy.”

This is dumb. Tomic is a professional tennis player. Currently, he is the 56th best male tennis player in the world. Until you’re the 56th best in the world at anything, you have no right to speak to how he should behave in this situation. Obviously you can’t condone illegal behavior, but other than that, leave the kid alone. I think I’m going to punch the next person I hear say something like, “If I had that much natural ability, I would work so much harder.”

Yeah, sure you would. Get back to me when you’re getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars at an extremely young age for playing a game that you happen to be really good at. It’s completely unfair of you to impose your own desires on another human being who has his or her own personal motivations. Has it never occurred to you that, oh I don’t know, maybe he doesn’t like tennis very much? Maybe he plays tennis because it’s a job and it’s a good way to make a living, not ‘for the love of the game’ or whatever idiotic cliche people ascribe to athletes who look like they’re trying really hard to make up for a lack of natural athleticism. Telling Tomic to take tennis more seriously, i.e., to like tennis more, is like telling every tall person you meet, “Hey, you should play basketball!” It’s ridiculous. Maybe he’s perfectly happy having made $2,413,735 at the age of twenty-two, and not particularly motivated to train hard everyday. He has no obligation to live up to any sort of expectation others have put on him.

Also, this is tennis we’re talking about. Besides sponsorships, tennis players are paid strictly according to performance; as in other individual sports, there are no contracts that players might feel obligated to live up to. Contracts might be a valid counterargument in the context of another sport, but it would only hold for baseball and basketball, where contracts are guaranteed, but even in those then I’d contend that players are not paid for performance, they’re paid for past performance. They’re playing for their next contract, not their current one.

Fans, apparently, fear that the 19-year-old Kyrgios is on his way to becoming the next Tomic or Mark Philippoussis, another outrageously-talented, oft-criticized Australian tennis player whose performance never quite matched the hype. Well I’ve got a message for the critics: not everybody wants to be the best ever. Some are content being merely a star, and there’s no shame in that.

You’re dumb if you think the Browns should start Johnny Manziel.

The Cleveland Browns lost a heart breaker on Sunday 24-25 to the Indianapolis Colts, and many are blaming their quarterback, Brian Hoyer, for the loss. In fact, I can hear the cries of Browns fans right now. Bring in Johnny Football! Hoyer’s been terrible! And who can blame them? Hoyer has, in fact, been terrible: completing 14 of 30 passes with 0 touchdowns and 2 interceptions last week against the Colts, giving him 49.7% with 1 TD and 8 INTs over the last four weeks. Pro Football Focus has rated him as the third worst QB in the entire league so far this year.

But as tempting as it is, Browns’ head coach, Mike Pettine, has to leave Johnny “Football” Manziel on the bench.

Brian “All I Do Is Win” Hoyer is the best option for several reasons, but most immediately relevant is that he gives them the best chance of winning. The Browns have far exceeded everybody’s expectations and accumulated a 7-6 record, good enough for last place in the amazingly-competitive AFC North. And although they have a 3% chance of making the playoffs, they’re not done yet, sitting just one(-ish) game out of a playoff spot.

So how could Hoyer possibly be the best option? Anybody would be an upgrade, especially a Heisman Trophy-winning first-round draft pick! Nope. Wrong. You’re all dumb.

Quarterback is clearly the most difficult position in the NFL. From what I’ve learned, the leap in difficulty level between college and the NFL for quarterbacks is greater than for any other position. Don’t believe me? OK, how well have the other rookie QBs done this year? Blake Bortles (taken well ahead of Manziel in the draft) is last in the league in ESPN’s Total QBR rating, and on a play-by-play basis he’s been far and away the worst QB in football according to Pro Football Focus. The other rookies, Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr, and Zach Mettenberger, are also in the bottom half of the NFL by those two measurements. Translation: they’ve been overwhelmingly underwhelming.

What about second-year quarterbacks? Just as bad. Geno Smith, E.J. Manual, and Mike Glennon have all been mediocre at best. Not until we get to third-year quarterbacks do we start to see some promising results. Of the eight players from the 2012 draft class who have started games at QB this year (Andrew Luck, Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins, Nick Foles, Austin Davis, Colin Kaepernick), three are currently rated as above average this year (Luck, Tannehill, and Wilson), and all but one (Davis) has had at least one such season in the NFL.

Granted, there is some selection bias there. Bad quarterbacks get weeded out of the league, younger QBs get a longer leash, bad teams are more likely to start younger players, have bad coaches, be behind in games and put their players in more difficult situations, blah blah blah. Fine, I didn’t do a particularly scientific study, and if you were convinced Johnny Football should be starting in Cleveland next week, I probably haven’t changed your mind. So how about I keep throwing some more anecdotal evidence in your face?

A few quarterbacks stand out as those who have been consistently among the top-10 in the league for the past decade or so : Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Philip Rivers. Let’s take a look back to see how these franchise quarterbacks performed in their first few years in the NFL. Yippee, story time!

Aaron Rodgers, a late first-round pick, famously backed up Brett Favre during his first three seasons. Rodgers took over in 2008 and was an immediate success, although it took him until 2009 to reach superstar status. His first full season as a starter was easily his worst in every major statistical category.

2008 season (year 4): 64% completions, 7.5 yards per attempt (YPA), 28 TDs, 13 INTs.
2009-2013 average season (years 5-10): 66%, 8.4 YPA, 34 TDs, 9 INTs.

You probably don’t remember this, but Peyton Manning was really bad as a rookie, despite being the first overall pick in the draft out of Tennessee. He had more interceptions than touchdowns for the 1998 Indianapolis Colts, who finished the year 3-13 during Jim Mora’s first year there as head coach. He turned it around in years two and three, though, finishing in the top-6 in passer rating both years. Peyton had a down year in 2001, his fourth season and first under new head coach, Tony Dungy. Peyton improved each of his next three seasons through 2004, when he set the record for most passing TDs in a season and became fully entrenched as the superstar we know him as today.

1998 season (year 1): 57%, 6.5 YPA, 26 TDs, 28 INTs.
1999-2003 average season (years 2-6): 64%, 7.5 YPA, 30 TDs, 16 INTs.
2004-13 average season (years 7-16): 67%, 7.9 YPA, 36 TDs, 12 INTs.

Drew Brees was taken out of Purdue by San Diego with the last pick of the second round in the 2002 draft. He played in only one game as a rookie, was very mediocre when he took over as a starter in 2003, was even worse the next year, but finally broke through in 2004, his fourth season out of college and his third as a starter. In the ten seasons since, Brees has never finished outside of the top-12 in passer rating.

2002-03 average season (years 2-3): 60%, 6.1 YPA, 14 TDs, 16 INTs.
2004-13 average season (years 4-13): 67%, 7.7 YPA, 33 TDs, 15 INTs.

Famously taken by New England with the 199th overall pick in 2000, Tom Brady backed up Drew Bledsoe until the second game of his second season, when Bledsoe went down with an injury. Brady came up big in the postseason, but he was nothing more than a solid NFL QB leading a talented, well-coached roster. Brady never finished better than 6th overall in passer rating until 2007, when Randy Moss came to town and he and Brady broke Peyton’s records. Tom’s been terrific ever since.

2001-06 average season (years 2-8): 62%, 7.0 YPA, 25 TDs, 13 INTs.
2007-13 average season (years 9-15): 65%, 7.8 YPA, 35 TDs, 9 INTs.

The 4th overall pick in 2004, Rivers was swapped for Eli Manning on draft day, and wound up as Drew Brees’s backup in San Diego. When Brees was traded to New Orleans in 2006, Rivers took over as starter in his third season in the league. He was good but not great for two years, but caught his stride in 2008, his first year under new coach Norv Turner, starting a streak of three consecutive years with a passer rating over 100.

2006-07 average season (years 3-4): 61%, 7.1 YPA, 22 TDs. 12 INTs.
2008-2013 average season (years 5-10): 65%, 8.1 YPA, 30 TDs, 13 INTs.

I hope that by now you’ve noticed a tend: it takes a while to learn how to be a good quarterback. Of these five superstar QBs, Peyton was the only one who even started as a rookie, and he struggled mightily despite being universally regarded as the best QB prospect since Dan Marino. Even the guys who didn’t play right away usually struggled out of the gate.

You might bring up Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson, but they are definitely exceptions to the rule. Luck played in a pro-style offense in Stanford under Jim Harbaugh and was considered the best QB prospect since Peyton, and statistically he was barely average his first year (54%, 7.0 YPA, 23 TDs, 18 INTs). Meanwhile, Russell Wilson has been playing under offensive guru Pete Carroll with an absolutely stacked roster, so he hasn’t had too much pressure on him up to this point.

Speaking of coaches, look at the guys whom our stars got to play for: Mike McCarthy, Tony Dungy, Marty Schottenheimer, Sean Payton, Norv Turner, Bill Belichick. Every one of these them is either an offensive genius or an experienced, well-respected, head coach. Or both. Coaching is far more important for the success of a team and its players in the NFL than in any other professional sport, and it clearly helps a QB to have some consistency on a year-to-year basis. Obviously it’s also easier to retain your position as head coach if you’ve got a really good QB, but who’s to say whether the chicken or the egg came first on that one? And I’m still waiting for somebody to call Mike Pettine a genius.

My point is that QB is way too difficult in the modern NFL for rookie QBs, and that Johnny Manziel has practically no chance of playing well in any of these last three extremely important games. He’s going to look over matched, get blamed for the loss(es), and never be given another chance, even though I’ve clearly demonstrated that it takes several years to learn how to play QB in the NFL. Brian Hoyer has been around for a few years, has backed up Brady in New England, and undoubtedly understands a pro offense significantly better than Manziel at this point. The Browns should stick with the guy who’s gone 10-6 as a starter for them over the last two season.

Just go don’t blame Johnny when everything blows up in his face. Or me. Because I told you this would happen.

You’re dumb for thinking the College Football Playoffs fix anything.

The NCAA might not last all that much longer, with its inherently exploitive and morally dubious system and whatnot, but while it’s still around there’s one thing we know for sure: it will always be in the news.

This year, 2014, marks the end of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) era. The BCS was the sponsor-driven, end-of-season pageantry that pitted various big-name college football teams against one another in a somewhat arbitrary fashion. Controversy was sort of the point; the debates it generated were endless. Who should be ranked number one? How much weight should be put on things like margin of victory, head-to-head results, or strength of schedule? Should we trust the computer rankings over the voters’ opinions? How do the computers even rank these teams anyway? And, most importantly, who should get to play for the National Championship? The opaqueness of the inner workings of the system often left us with an unsatisfactory end to the season, as people questioned the validity of the rankings and the ulterior motives governing the voters.

The BCS has been replaced by the College Football Playoff, which is a sponsor-driven end-of-season pageantry that pits various big-name college football teams against one another in a somewhat arbitrary fashion. Controversy is sort of the point; the debates it generates are endless. Who should be ranked number one? How much weight should be put on things like margin of victory, head-to-head results, and strength of schedule? Should we trust The Committee’s rankings? Who’s even on The Committee anyway? And, most importantly, who should get to play for the National Championship? The opaqueness of the inner workings of the system often may leave us with an unsatisfactory end to the season, as people question the validity of the rankings and the ulterior motives governing The Committee Members.

You have to admit, this was a pretty ingenious move. What do people hate most about college football? The BCS! Well, everybody likes the way college basketball does it, right? Right, March Madness is awesome. People like brackets. In-tournament play determines the winner and  (pretty much) nobody’s mad that they didn’t get a fair shot. We’ll make a bracket, too. That way everybody’s happy.

And they were. People were celebrating the death of the BCS as if they had just overthrown an oppressive dictator. But the NCAA really just pulled a Yogi Berra: eliminate the close plays at first base by moving it back a couple feet. They got rid of the computer (and, let’s be honest, college football’s target demographic probably doesn’t really trust all that newfangled technology) and added two semifinal games to the championship, but that’s it. The debates didn’t go anywhere. They still release new rankings every week, and even though they theoretically have no bearing on the final bracket, pundits still salivate over the opportunity to glimpse into the collective mindset of The Committee. What did they think of Florida State’s ugly loss, or TCU’s blowout victory?

You’re all dumb. You were duped. You fell for their ploy. They can do whatever they want with those rankings, and do you know what their primary criterion is for determining those mid-season rankings? Controversy. Because controversy means publicity, and publicity means money. What is the most controversial thing we can reasonably do? Baylor beat TCU? Cool, let’s put TCU ahead of Baylor even though they have the same record and similarly-difficult schedules. FSU hasn’t lost in two years? Awesome, let’s drop them a couple spots even though they’re the only undefeated team in any of the major conferences.

Do you realize that they could turn around and swap TCU and Baylor for no reason whatsoever, despite the fact that TCU won 55-3?  How much was TCU supposed to win by? A hundred? That’s just insane. Yeah, about as insane as ranking TCU ahead of Baylor in the first place. Their records are the same, they played in the same conference, but one team has a victory over a top-5 team, and the other doesn’t. Hello! Shouldn’t this be a no brainer? I’m almost hoping Baylor loses tonight so The Committee doesn’t…

But you see, there I go again. Even I fell for it. The NCAA has us all eating out of the palm of their hand, and they’re reaping all the benefits. It’s too bad the players don’t get to see any of those benefits.