The one thing guaranteed to make you miss something you love is a teaser.
Whether it’s the draft in your favorite sport or a trailer for your favorite show, teasers somehow evoke both nostalgia and anticipation at the same time, but leave you purposely unfulfilled. You’ll need to wait just a few more months in order to really plunge back into your obsession once more.
This is the situation I’m in right now with two of my nerderies: football and Game of Thrones. The NFL is in its preseason, where the games don’t count and the best outcome for your team is that none of your players suffer debilitating knee injuries. Game of Thrones is in the process of filming its fourth season, with only blurry set photos and vague casting announcements to tide one over.
The two have a lot in common — there’s violence, betrayal, ridiculous mascots, and all sorts of high drama. Considering the number of characters in the series who are self-identified knights or warriors or assassins, you could even come up with quite the football team from Game of Thrones’ cast. Which — oh look! — is exactly what I’ve done.
For the duration of the season, all rivalries, blood feuds, oaths, and liege lord obligations are suspended.
Otherwise, the entire team would murder one another in training camp. We don’t want that.
Similarly, all players are assumed to stay out of trouble off the field at least until the Super Bowl finishes up.
Character cannot be a concern here. We could try making a team out of people unlikely to get in a knife fight at the club, but we’d probably be limiting ourselves to Barristan Selmy and Bonifer Hasty.
Players have to be human.
No Others, giants, children of the forest, mermen, unicorns, dragons, stone dragons, mummer’s dragons, warg-controlled creatures, or Robb Stark with Grey Wind’s head.
Rosters are limited to people alive as of the original books, at their ages in the original books.
So, we can choose Barristan Selmy, but he’ll be in his sixties. We can’t choose Rhaegar Targaryen or Arthur Dayne. We could also choose Ned Stark, even though he dies in the first book. We could choose Jaime Lannister with or without a sword hand, or Theon Greyjoy with or without his Lil’ Theon.
Players can be a combination of their book and show versions
We’ll try to keep this to a minimum — the two rarely contradict one another, but I like certain aspects of the show better than the books, and vice versa.
ONE FINAL WARNING: SPOILERS FOR EVERY SINGLE BOOK IN THE SERIES ABOUND. WE ARE GOING DEEP DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE HERE.
Part I: Defense
Middle Linebacker: Khal Drogo
I’m leading off here with the pick I’m most confident about. Drogo’s fate in the first book is a bit of a buzzkill — you’re all set to see him lead his 40,000 Dothraki screamers over the width and breadth of the seven kingdoms, but he dies due to what amounts to malpractice. Fortunately for him, the Westeros Dragons take care of their investments — just ask our team doctors, Thoros of Myr and ex-Maester Qyburn. I see Drogo as a Ray Lewis-type, from his nose for sacking the quarterback to his flamboyant pre-game haka.
Weak-side linebacker: Victarion Greyjoy
In a series full of schemers and plotters, Victarion is hilariously straightforward. If he encounters something he understands, he uses it to further whatever goal he’s working toward at the moment. If he doesn’t understand it, he kills it, or sacrifices it (to multiple gods — good job hedging your bets, Vic!). He doesn’t screw around. As a result, he has more forward momentum than practically any other character in the series. He’d be notoriously unimpressed by complex offensive schemes, could harness his rage at life and his brother to great effect, and would generally be a holy terror against the run. The image of him in full plate, with a kraken helm, leaping aboard an enemy ship and laying about with his axe, is very nearly enough to get me to name this team the Krakens. I won’t, because the Iron Islanders are otherwise a bunch of miserable cusses. All their rules seem to be made with the ethos of “what will make our already harsh existence somehow less appealing? I know! Let’s play catch with axes.”
Strong-side linebacker: Strong Belwas
Belwas’ absence is one of the few times where I’ve disagreed with a difference between the show and the books. He’s not exactly essential to the plot, but the guy fights some douchebag knight from Meereen while on foot and unarmored, kills him without seeming to try all that hard, and then takes a dump on his corpse while the Meereenese futilely fire arrows at him from their city walls. Then he goes and eats some liver and onions. Belwas is actually one of the few characters for whom we have an estimated weight — Dany thinks he’s about 20 stone, or 280 pounds. That’s a bit hefty for a linebacker, but Belwas is quick enough on his feet to sidestep a charging horseman, so I don’t think chasing down a running back is going to be a problem.
Left defensive tackle: King Robert Baratheon
This isn’t made totally clear in the show, but back in the day, Bobby B was probably one of the finest fighters in Westeros, if not the world as a whole. The Baratheons as a whole are a large and athletic bunch, and while Robert’s diet of ale, whores, and repressed grief caused him to gain way too much weight, I’m willing to consider that an asset as a nose tackle. I figure that, free of the pressures of ruling and the poisonous influence of Cersei Lannister, Robert would be legitimately happy playing football, and he’d be back to his smashing-Rhaegar weight by mid-season.
Right defensive tackle: Robert Strong
This is cheating a bit. Robert Strong is technically undead, seeing as he doesn’t have a head and all. I wanted to put Gregor Clegane in here somewhere, but the problem is that, while the guy is eight feet tall, he’s eight feet tall. He’d last maybe a game before some terrified guard took out his knees, and then that’d be that. Undead Gregor, rechristened as Robert Strong (you know it’s true. Who else could it be?) would be able to bear up under the wear and tear much better, and could shut down the mid-range passing game on the left side of the field with his ridiculous wingspan. We’d have to bolt his helmet onto his shoulderpads, but his lack of a head means that he’d avoid any nasty concussions.
Left defensive end: Sandor Clegane
I’m not complaining exactly, but the show hasn’t been great about casting folks according to size. Both Stannis and Renly are much smaller than they’re described as in the books — same with Jorah Mormont and a few others. The only four “big” characters the show has used size-appropriate actors for are Brienne, Drogo, Sandor and the first guy who played Gregor Clegane. It’s not a big deal, honest — they’ve batted a thousand in terms of casting — but it’s occasionally a little jarring. Anyway, considering the Hound only takes pleasure in killing, I figure the best place to play him is in a position where his only real job is to kill (metaphorically) the quarterback. I’d put him on the blind side, but given that he looks like a monster, I want the poor guy lining up behind center to see him coming.
Right defensive end: Archibald Yronwood
Here’s all you need to know about Archie: when Quentyn Martell gets set on fire by Viserion, Archie tries to put out the fire with his bare hands. That’s a man who’s not afraid of anything, and thus a perfect choice to take on whatever monster the opposition has as their left tackle.
Is Doran Martell overrated or underrated as a plotter? His daughter Arianne thinks of him as weak, but the guy is playing a much longer game than any of us realize. That being said, I feel like he could have given the various members of his plots a bit more instruction. Like “Oberyn, if you get the chance to kill Gregor Clegane, don’t screw around. Just kill him.” Or “Quentyn, if Daenerys happens to say no to our secret marriage pact, don’t try anything stupid. Mosey on back to Dorne and we’ll figure something else out.”
Is there anyone who doesn’t like Bronn? He’s practically designed to be a fan favorite — he’s good at killing folk, is cheerfully amoral, and talks back to pretty much every highborn character he sees with zero consequences. GRRM cheated a bit when he created Bronn, I think — he’s almost too much of a trope character. I half-expect him to trade in his horse and helm for a motorcycle and sunglasses the next time he shows up.
That being said, he’s a perfect cornerback. Bronn’s quick, clever, and not remotely intimidated by pedigree or perceived talent. He actually comes off as a bit of a crazy person in the TV series, because he’s ready to throw down with pretty much everybody. Seriously, he gets right up in Sandor Clegane’s face during “Blackwater,” and insults two Kingsguard to their faces in “Valar Dohaeris.” Each time, he’s got his hand on his knife and is only prevented from fighting by frankly-unforeseen interventions. I very much doubt he’s going to go all weak-kneed when he sees Calvin Johnson across the line of scrimmage.
Cornerback: Salladhor Saan
Book-Salladhor is a fancily-dressed older white guy; Show-Salladhor is a fancily-dressed youngish black guy. He’s just enough of a minor character that he’s avoided the racist sob-fests that burst out on the Internet when a formerly-white character’s race is changed. People who took Viking religion very seriously (i.e. neo-Nazis) were outraged when Thor cast Idris Elba as the god Heimdall. How could a NORSE GOD be BLACK, they asked, ignoring the fact that a) Idris Elba could play Marilyn Monroe and he’d probably make the performance believable, and b) Norse gods also didn’t hang out with freaking Captain America. Fans of the Hunger Games series actually said that they felt less sad when a black character died in the movie because they’d pictured her as white — the character was described as having dark skin, but surprisingly, the racists failed at basic reading comprehension.
This is really a privilege issue at its heart. The stunning amount of media available to the modern consumer means that, if I don’t want to, I can go months at a time without seeing or hearing anything that’s remotely challenging to me. If a man whose most notable achievement is his collection of vintage Nazi war memorabilia hears that a god he (possibly) non-ironically worships is being played by Stringer Bell, then the sky has fallen on his head. He’s confronted with the fact that black people actually exist, which is very likely way too much for him to handle. The only recompense he has is spamming IMDB’s comments sections with ASCII swastikas and working up NOBAMA memes.
Anyways, show-Salladhor seems pretty damn crafty, so I figure he’ll be a good ballhawk.
Free safety: Jaqen H’ghar
A significant percentage of the words written by fans about Game of Thrones entails theoretical “who would win?” discussions. You see this a lot in fandoms — would the Enterprise beat a Star Destroyer and so on — but the sheer number of characters, battles, and distinctive fighting styles in the books and series makes this line of discussion particularly lengthy. Could Drogo beat the Mountain in a wrestling match? What if Barristan Selmy faced off with Arthur Dayne in their primes? Could Arya Stark beat Boros Blount? It’s a testament to how popular Jaqen is in the series that he’s usually at the top of these lists, despite ever only getting in one fight in the books. He kills a guard in the cellars of Harrenhal while aiding Arya. Seriously, that’s it. Every single one of his other kills is offscreen and indirect — he causes Weese’s dog to tear out his throat, pushes Chyswyck off a balcony, and so on. I don’t know how much his magical ability to change his face would aid him on the gridiron, but I bet he’d be the most versatile player on the field and would probably lead the league in interceptions. I’m thinking a red-and-white-haired Ed Reed.
Strong safety: Ramsay Bolton
Yeah, I know. Hear me out.
In a series that features slavers, rapists, pedophiles, cannibals, abusers, killers, and Joffrey, the Bastard of Bolton is far and away the most evil character. It was close for a while — I would have given the nod to Gregor Clegane — but the Reekification of Theon Greyjoy put Ramsay in contention, and all the extra stuff he’s implied to have done in A Dance With Dragons gives him an insurmountable lead. It’s the thought he puts into everything that does it, I think. Gregor Clegane’s evil is misdirected and random. He’s basically a particularly large thug with very little oversight — he kills and tortures, but there’s no real purpose behind it. His atrocities kind of just happen, and it seems like he doesn’t really care.
Ramsay, on the other hand, holy shit. He cares a lot. You get the impression that Ramsay spends all day trying to think of ways to be a better psychopath. To wit: the man’s main forms of entertainment are a) cutting pieces off of Theon Greyjoy, b) allowing Theon Greyjoy to ‘’escape’’ and then recapturing him, and c) skinning women he’s hunted. He is The Worst.
Fortunately, we’re ensured of his good behavior due to our aforementioned “no trouble off-the-field” clause. I’d also retain his father Roose as kind of a special “Glare At Ramsay When He Starts Getting That Look In His Eye” coach. This won’t make him any nicer on the field, so I’d probably send him on his share of safety blitzes. I’d also set aside a large percentage of his salary specifically for paying unnecessary roughness fines. I’m thinking two a game. Minimum.