Lauren Brownlow

Twitter Mailbag: Brownlow tackles two different hype machines

Posted August 3

It's almost football season. You want to know what to be excited about. You also want to know what chain restaurants are good and what TV episodes I like. So I can only give the people what they want.

Ah, you know me so well, friend. I have gotten to the point where the videos coming out of camp are like my newfound addiction to Facebook links. I know that I shouldn't click them, I know that the sense of happiness I get out of them will be hollow, and I will hate myself both for clicking on them and for that feeling of happiness I do actually get. But I do it anyway.

Sure, Facebook, I'll click through a slideshow of the 90 grossest ways that medieval people died. Yes, Instagram, I will hover long enough over the Panthers' account's video of McCaffrey juking Luke Kuechly. Will I hate myself after both? Yes. Do I do it anyway? Oh yes. I took a Buzzfeed quiz this morning that was supposed to guess my age, gender and relationship status based on which rom-com I picked for each question. It guessed I was a single girl in my late teens. Nailed it! Did I allow myself a moment of triumph that I had the taste of a young teenage girl, even according to some arbitrary Buzzfeed test? I did. And I hated myself EVEN MORE for being such a sucker.

I'm not a sucker. You aren't either. You know who else has really good training camps? Brenton Bersin. That's probably why this is his SIXTH PANTHERS TRAINING CAMP. SIXTH. How many guys get chance after chance like that? Guys that are really good in training camp, I guess. Okay this is unrelated to McCaffrey probably as he's much better than Brenton Bersin and has a roster spot on lock, but whatever. I had some feelings I need to get out.

I know better than to believe he is the next big thing. I do. But my heart wants what it wants. And what it wants is to both watch more McCaffrey highlights that make my football heart skip a beat in between reading about an article how I've been putting my kid to bed 15 minutes too late and it's ruining his development.

I'm not a psychic, Sam. And as the answer to my last question would indicate, I very much can empathize with fans that would rather slow down the hype train to avoid disappointment rather than be run over by it. It's why I've always felt a special kinship with NC State fans.

I've been asked a lot about NC State recently – will they live up to the hype, how much pressure is on Dave Doeren, etc. It will sound like a copout, but it kind of depends, right? NC State could go 7-5 and still have had a really good season, if they lost close ones against, say, Florida State, Clemson, Louisville, at Pittsburgh and at Notre Dame. Those five teams could all reasonably end up in the top 25. Now I would say that other than at Florida State, those are all also winnable games for NC State. And would it behoove Doeren to win at least 1-2 of those? Yes.

But what if NC State goes 7-5, knocks off Clemson and Louisville at home but loses to FSU, Notre Dame, Pitt, at Boston College and at Wake? Would the feelings be so good? I'm not sure. See the difference? I really think it depends on how the season goes and how much progress this team shows. It is time for NC State to take that next step and win a game it shouldn't (all while winning the games it should), but that's easier said than done.

That being said, I think eight wins is the threshold to get to, and I do really think they'll get there. Now, could that include a win over Clemson at home and a loss at Boston College the following week? I may already have that EXACT scenario penciled in.

THE SEC IS SCARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRED, DYLANNNNNNNNNNNNN! THAT'S WHYYYYYYYYYYYYY!

No, but seriously. I think the biggest thing preventing something like that is the fact that four schools – Georgia Tech, Florida State, Louisville and Clemson – already play an SEC foe every year as part of a regional rivalry. They're certainly not going to be eager to add another one to their schedule EVERY year. There have been seasons where they've faced multiple SEC opponents out of conference, but you wouldn't want to do it all the time. And frankly, Notre Dame being a part of everyone's rotational schedule makes that even more of an impossibility. It's the biggest reason we're stuck with eight conference games. Every school at least wants the chance to add Come Take This L University to their schedule.

I would imagine the same is true of the SEC schools, too. At this point, almost every school is aware that they have to play Power 5 teams out of conference, and many big-time programs aren't shying away from big-time early season games. It's great for college football fans, and it's especially cool when teams from different regions play each other in matchups we wouldn't ordinarily get to see. So why lock yourself into an event where you have to play the same schools that are already essentially in your backyard? Doesn't make a lot of sense. Although I agree it would be awesome.

Okay so I don't know if it will ruin this question or not that I have only been to two out of the four restaurants in question, although I do feel like my exposure to the movie "Cable Guy" makes me more than enough to be able to rank Medieval Times properly.

Usually, these places are not about the food at all. It's about the experience. So I'd go this way with it:

1. Hard Rock. The rock memorabilia is worth it. It has great merchandise that's worth buying. And the food is fine. Also, ACC-related note? The Seminole tribe now owns the Hard Rock franchise. Hard Rock bought the naming rights to Miami's stadium. So basically, Florida State actually owns Miami.

2. Medieval Times. You get to watch people joust and sword fight while you eat. I don't care if they serve you gruel. THAT'S putting your customers into the action.

3. Rainforest Cafe. As I said, I've never been to one of these, but a quick Google image search tells me it's quite an immersive experience.

4. Planet Hollywood. By far the least gratifying chain restaurant experience I've ever had, although my experience staying at the Planet Hollywood in Vegas was almost nice enough to bump it up a notch. But I have to be fair to the experience. Which was meh at best. The outside is cool. Inside, not so much.

As Tom knows, I'm kind of a TV nerd. So I'm going to cheat to answer this question a little bit. But I don't consider it cheating so much – shows nowadays, especially the great ones, are immersive experiences where it's hard to re-watch an episode without the necessary context. Which makes the episode I can re-watch in that way – and often do, gleefully – all the better:

Most Times Re-Watched Favorite: "Pine Barrens", The Sopranos, S3, E11. It's self-contained. It's like a movie. It's wonderful. It's funny, poignant, suspenseful, and absurd – all the things that were great about The Sopranos. I don't want to spoil it for you if you haven't seen it, but let's put it this way – even if you haven't seen a single episode of that show, watch this episode. It won't spoil much about the show itself, and it is so good in its own right.

Actual Favorite: "The Son", Friday Night Lights, S4, E5. This episode is not easy to watch multiple times. I've watched it just once since I saw it the first time. I was binge-watching Friday Night Lights and I had to stop after this episode because it affected me so much. QB1 Matt Saracen's father, with whom he had a complicated relationship, dies in Iraq. He comes back to Dillon and the episode centers around Matt dealing with the complicated emotions – grief, anger, sadness – just all of it. And it's seriously the best – and I do NOT say this lightly – performance by an actor (Zach Gilford as Saracen) in an episode of television that I have ever seen. I don't want to spoil it, but there's a moment in this episode where nothing graphic is shown, but you can feel Saracen's horror so vividly without him saying a word that it's almost worse. It's gut-wrenching, but it's such a good performance that I would encourage everyone to watch it. And watch this show, which was great. Although skip Season 2 if you want.

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