17776: Not Your Grandfather’s Football


If you have not heard of 17776, let me tell you about it. You need to hear about this. On sbnation.com, there is an article entitled “What football will look like in the future”. What would you expect this article to be about? If you are like me, I would think sbnation was pitching in on the heavy discussion surrounding CTE, recently fueled in the public sphere by a great movie called “Concussion”. Well, why don’t you go look for it real quick, and let me know if that’s what you find. Be forewarned, you may want to read this article before you decide to dive into 17776 headfirst.

I actually found 17776 through a friend who likes football as I do. I was very confused as the article I was attempting to read grew and turned the whole screen black. A saga then begins on what seems to be a calendar created in Microsoft Paint with a conversation between two mystery speakers superimposed upon it. The title of the article had said something about “the future of football”, didn’t it? What is this?

I kept checking the web address in my browser to make sure this actually came from sbnation, a website I’m pretty familiar with. I checked the publish date to see if it was an April Fool’s article. It just made no sense. I scrolled along through 30 years of sparse, nonsensical communication.

This mystery had me hooked, and an hour later I was staring at a screen that said “The End” with unblinking eyes, disoriented to the point that I had to consciously remember how I got in this chair.

Sbnation and Jon Bois did something nuts. They attempted to suck in the average sports reader into a bonafide short story. Well, bonafide if we’re assuming that all of the traditional constructs of fiction are thrown out the window. The mediums used within the story and the intense social commentary are unlike anything you have ever read. I don’t know you, but I’ll be very interested to hear of any works you believe match the style of whatever this thing is. This story is bold for a lot of reasons, but partially because 17776 requires a pretty heavy commitment level for the average reader. You have no idea what you’re diving into when you start. You can’t read a summary to decide if you like the plot, in fact you start reading a work of fiction instead of an article involuntarily. If anything the summary, or headline, is the greatest red herring this side of “alternative facts”. Some people hear about 17776 from word of mouth, and some poor unsuspecting souls, I assume, stumble upon it by accident thinking this is an article about declining youth football enrollment.

All in all, at the end, I was left breathless. I appreciate it for many of the reasons Emma Phipps lists here in a way that is more poetic than the rambling you just read above:

Read this because it is a fresh take on storytelling with blinding, unexpected creativity with each succeeding scene. You should also read this because Bois somehow put conversations of god, climate change, human nature, and even quantum mechanics on a sports blog that generally discusses trade rumors and fantasy advice.

I have no idea who Jon Bois is, but he seems like a genius to me.