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Football is back. Can you believe it? Last night, sitting in my favorite bar with two of my favorite people, I got to yell “WIDE LEFT” drunkenly at a muted television screen just before Graham Gano made contact with the football and turned my words into reality and an 0-1 start to the season for the Carolina Panthers.

I felt alive.

And now that football is back, so is the Hypothetical SuperContest. It’s our fourth year here! We’ve had our ups, our downs and probably a few to many references to Jon Gruden. For those that have been here from the jump (Hi Rory! Hi Dad!): thanks so much for supporting my degenerate dreams. For those new to this space, welcome to my gambling nightmare.

Well, it’s not necessarily a nightmare. Not every week at least.

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Nearly three-quarters of the way to its conclusion, #manypeople seem comfortable writing off 2016 as a failed experiment, the kind of revolution around the sun we’d sooner edit-undo than save as draft so that we know not to make the same mistakes twice. Not that it isn’t tempting, given the tornado of seemingly every sociopolitical attitude storming past social courtesies on its way to enraged prominence, the tortoises of Twitter emerging only to present a counterpoint to happiness and the deaths of nearly every celebrity you never expected to let you down, even against the undefeated specter of mortality.

Largely overshadowed when set against that intense bleakness is the fact that 2016 has been a banner year for redemption. In the last eight months, we have borne witness to: Nick Saban’s Alabama going Omar for the ring[1], Villanova stealing the highest-stakes game of H-O-R-S-E in college basketball history, an outstanding Broncos defense carrying Peyton Manning’s rotten skeleton to a walk-off like no other[2] only two years after an historic Super Bowl humiliation, LeBron James delivering the city of Cleveland a more thrilling high than anything you could read about in VICE[3], Michael Phelps death-staring down Chad Le Clos and, just a week ago, Neymar exacting some revenge against a team which had bestowed such a beating so comprehensive that one hand was not enough to denote it with accuracy.

One could be forgiven for assuming that the next reclamation in line, at the top of her game and coming off a disappointing Olympics, belongs to one Serena Williams.

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OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 19:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers holds the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy after defeating the Golden State Warriors 93-89 in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 19, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Photo: Ronald Martinez, Getty Images / 2016 Getty Images

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

At some point, somebody was going to hit a bucket. Tied 89-89 for what felt like several eternities, because playoff fourth quarters contain multitudes, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors kept hurling rocks at windows several stories above, waiting for the sound of shattered glass. When Kyrie Irving finally shattered that glass to put the Cavs up 92-89, a pin dropping in Oracle Arena would’ve registered many more decibels.

LeBron going down with an apparent injury with just over ten seconds left gave him one more opportunity to lift up a city against the odds, but he’d done that all series. The first missed free throw was vaguely Starks-esque in its presumed defeatism, but then, defeatism doesn’t get you anywhere when you’re trying to win, and it doesn’t seem likely that anybody has ever tried to win harder than LeBron was trying to win Game 7. He did, as we know, and now he is a champion as a Cleveland Cavalier, for the first time and for all time.

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Filed under “nothing we don’t already know,” playing with emotions is tricky[1]. At a turn, it looks like Russell Westbrook punching through a brick wall of defenders at light speed, a grass-fed Novak Djokovic urging the crowd to get behind him or Mark Messier shouldering the weight of a cursed franchise, as well as his own guarantee. It looks like Chris Paul scoring 61 points for his grandfather, or Brett Favre throwing for four touchdowns on Monday Night Football. It also looks like Russian hooligans bringing their country’s soccer team to the edge of disqualification at Euro 2016 over fits of violence with other fans and the police.

In Game 5 of the NBA Finals, we saw two facets of this imponderably massive spectrum. Draymond Green’s inevitable suspension for extracurricular activity gave rise to stellar performances from the four biggest stars in Oracle Arena, as LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson dared each other into the best game of the series thus far. Whether this acts as fuel to Cleveland’s fire or simply delays the inevitable made it an altogether more compelling spectacle.

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“Grantland East” – Rembert Browne

“Happy Thanksgiving!”

Decked out in a red flannel shirt, the kind that suggests a casual work environment, Juliet Litman enthusiastically welcomed her congregation, a throng of young dudes, mostly white, with a few willing and able women scattered about. These parishioners had come to Le Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village, site of the Madden lectures a little over a month prior, to pay final respects to the most important sports blog ever, the recently-deceased standard for longform pop journalism and the sort of offbeat topics you concoct in your dorm lounge late one night after several too many adult beverages. This was the Grantland wake.

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Photo by Rory Masterson

Madden NFL‘s worst nightmare and greatest hope: Jon Bois.

Moving back to what LinkedIn refers to as “the greater New York City area” (read: Hoboken, New Jersey) affords one many luxuries not readily available in other parts of the country. Chief among them are actual bagels, the eternal winter and nightly concerts including bands you’ve never heard of in Brooklyn. One of the underrated aspects of the city, however, is the availability of free events featuring fairly prominent public figures at which you might learn a thing or two about a thing or two. When I learned that three of today’s most important Internet sports writers were gathering at Le Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village to discuss the acclaimed Madden NFL video game series, naturally I had to attend.

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The Stanley Cup is the greatest trophy in all of sports, and if you disagree, you’re wrong. It’s just a fact, you’re not allowed to have an opinion on this.

Part of what creates this aura around the Cup is that when you win it, you don’t keep it. You borrow it for awhile, and if you want to hang on to it, you have to win it again. As a player, you only get one day to hang out on your own with the Cup, so you better make it worth it.

One day doesn’t seem like a ton of time, because it isn’t. But I started thinking about this after the Blackhawks won the other night (third Cup in six years, dynasty, etc. etc. etc.). There are like, seven guys on that roster who have been around for all three. How do they keep coming up with things to do with the Cup? There is only so much you can do with a 35-pound trophy, only so many things you can eat out of the bowl on top, does it ever get boring? (The answer is obviously no, winning the Stanley Cup is never boring, it is always the most awesome thing to ever happen, STUPID question).

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