13 Reasons 2016 Didn't Suck After All

Forget everything you've heard about our recent annus horribilis. Here's why life is not so bad after all

13 Reasons 2016 Didn't Suck After All
ILLUSTRATION BY PJ TAMAYO

So a whole bunch of people died, and America elected a dude with a terrible combover. Big deal! Twenty-sixteen wasn't so bleak, really. Here are thirteen things to celebrate as bid farewell to everyone's least favorite year in recent memory.

1. Because no steampunks were elected to lead our government

The year 2016 certainly has propelled a number of questionable people into positions of power. With Breitbart News' Steve Bannon (who looks like he could play the estranged brother of Philip Seymour Hoffman in a movie about conning people out of sailboats) and a variety of other characters plucked straight out of Cobra Command and cast into political roles, things seem particularly volatile at the moment. In times like these, we must be grateful that some unseemly groups remain politically isolated and confined to the safety of damp basements, illuminated only by their laptops and the glow of their coal-powered espresso makers. Yes, that's right — we're talking about steampunks. We all need to be thankful that these faux-Victorian madmen still haven't managed to secure even a single seat in Congress, thus saving the country from the flawed decision-making of gyrocopter-piloting dorks. Instead, we just have a bunch of racists in charge. — Drew Ailes

2. Because the Chicago Cubs finally have to drop their sad sack act

The Chicago Cubs and the city that loves them both pride themselves on a certain lovable loser schtick. Or rather, they did. No longer can the Cubs and their fans get by on being hapless schmucks. The team's owners spent a reported $900 million to buy the team and a slice of SportsNet Chicago (your source for hot takes about bad baseball and shitty pizza), and then hired Theo Epstein, curse-breaker for the Boston Red Sox, to be team president. Epstein earns a reported $10 million a year, and he must be worth it since the Cubs are the current World Series champs.

But now the pressure's on. The team's World Series success could be chalked up to "small sample size," as the stat guys love to say (one occurrence in 108 years does not inspire confidence), and history has shown that "sustained success" is the Cubs' kryptonite. Still: What happens if guys show up to spring training a little fat and happy from the winter of celebrating? What happens if the Cubs aren't division leaders by the All-Star break this year? What happens if they resume course and crash out of the playoffs? Grumbling by the fans. Sniping from inside the front office. Oh, sure, all the experts are saying the Cubs are built for long-term success, but they said the same thing about Epstein's Red Sox, and they're now known primarily for their douchey and entitled fans and the team's inflated payroll and lack of recent success. So the best the Cubs can hope for is to become the Red Sox, Jr., and the worst is that they flame out and sink back down to the bottom of the standings. Either way, it ain't all bad for Cardinal fans. — Paul Friswold

3. Because St. Louis won the Rams debacle, morally and financially

In the best of all possible worlds, the Rams still reign supreme in St. Louis. In this fantasy, Sam Bradford's knees are forged from unbreakable meteorite alloy; Jeff Fisher is a Super Bowl-winning coach whose mustache is dyed in permanent stripes of blue and gold; the defense, led by Aaron Donald, tears apart offensive lines with avalanche-force.

Admit it, former St. Louis football fan: You entertained some version of this dream as the opening kickoffs boomed to start the 2016 season. But it need not trouble your mind any more, for as tantalizing as the fantasy may be, the reality of the Rams' magnificent collapse in Los Angeles is arguably the greatest shitshow ever gifted to a spurned city by a departing team.

For the Los Angeles Rams aren't just a bad football team. They are a slapstick circus of terrible coaches, players and upper management who collaborated to give LA fans one of the worst performances in the history of the sport. When your Rookie of the Year award-winning running back compares his team to a "middle school offense," you know you've reached the promised land.

And watching from on high, presumably with a villainous scowl, was Stan Kroenke. The real estate magnate gaslighted his way out of St. Louis, claiming that taking the local's $1.1 billion stadium deal would lead to the team's "financial ruin" and described the same city that marveled at the Greatest Show on Turf as a place that "lags, and will continue to lag, far behind."

In fact, it is the Los Angeles Rams that lag, and apparently will continue to lag, far behind the rudimentary goals set by professional teams. The same trends that made the team's final years in St. Louis so agonizing did not disappear in LA — instead, the Rams devoured themselves in a breathtaking display of on-the-field self mutilation. Disgusted fans are already deserting the team, leaving the stadium stands as empty as the Rams' playoff hopes.

After years of coddled treatment in St. Louis, coach Jeff Fisher lasted just three months into his first Los Angles season. And when Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff delivered a press conference on the firing, an emboldened Fox 2 (KTVI) ran a graphic beneath his name reading "Professional Liar."

Of course, the station apologized later (this is still St. Louis, and seldom does passive-aggressive nice cross the line into pure aggression). But tell us this, o former St. Louis football fan: Can you feel the hair standing up on your neck, the blood pumping through your temples? That's the feeling of being alive, more alive than you've been since the championship season in 2000. That's the feeling of revenge served on a cold, cold dish, piled high with Ramsenfreude. — Danny Wicentowski

Missouri is now utterly invasion-proof. - ILLUSTRATION BY PJ TAMAYO
ILLUSTRATION BY PJ TAMAYO
Missouri is now utterly invasion-proof.

4. Because Missouri is now invasion-proof

Missouri's motto is "The Show Me State," but now the question implied by the command finally has an answer: your gun. As in, "Show Me Your Gun." Come the new year Missouri's gun laws are downgraded to gun suggestions, as almost everyone — even those with questionable backgrounds — will be entitled to carry a concealed weapon.

You might be one of those doom 'n' gloom types who sees this as an unfortunate development, but the realistic know in their Kevlar-and-ceramic-plate-protected hearts that this is a key point in Missouri's state safety plan.

Consider the fact that Missouri shares a border with eight states, each more potentially deadly than the last. Any one of those states might decide to invade our borders, perhaps to get access to our excellent school system (it'll most likely be Arkansas or Tennessee, since those are the only two that rank lower than the Mediocre MO in education). Yet in 2017 it just won't happen — even Arkansas' slowest citizens will think twice about facing our well-armed citizenry. And the genius part is that they won't even know which of us are packing, thanks to our concealed carry law.

That same Missouri law holds force in every surrounding state except for Illinois (state motto: "Did you forget us? We're Illinois."), so our forces will be able to infiltrate these weaker states at will. That's supposing anybody sees the need to invade Arkansas (state motto: "Durrr, not Kansas?"), but what's the point of having guns if you're not going to use them?

And lest you think this state will be overrun by free-shooting toy soldiers, remember that our commander in chief is a former Navy SEAL with the supernatural ability to shoot at an open field until it surrenders in a fiery explosion. With Governor Rambo's tactical know-how, he'll be able to hold the state together even as its citizens are shooting each other to bloody gobbets in mutual stand-your-ground incidents (also protected by law) or firing away at one another with large-caliber handguns in duels (which also may be sanctioned by these new laws). What a great time to be under-educated, angry at the world and armed at all times, eh? Surely the few survivors will thank their legislature for the generous gift of total security. The only thing you'll soon have to fear is friendly fire. —Paul Friswold

The big guy upstairs? Still knows what He's doing. - ILLUSTRATION BY PJ TAMAYO
ILLUSTRATION BY PJ TAMAYO
The big guy upstairs? Still knows what He's doing.

5. Because God called home His finest

David Bowie. Harper Lee. Garry Shandling. Merle Haggard. Leonard Cohen. Muhammad Ali. Prince. Carrie Fisher. So many beloved people passed away in 2016, it was easy to posit that God had simply given up.

And yet.

Yet.

As any Sunday School student could tell you, God isn't just omnipotent, able to force the winds and the waves to obey him. God is also omniscient. He knows everything, and He knows that shit before it goes down.

Which means God was fully aware of the sort of troubling political trends that flew right over the head of presidential pollsters and New York City-based journalists. God was aware Hillary Clinton simply couldn't be bothered to visit Wisconsin. God knew that Arizona was not ever in any way shape or form remotely in play. God saw the writing on the fucking wall.

And so God — all-knowing, all-loving, slow to anger and rich in love — called home his faithful servants in 2016. One at time, so as not to alarm the rest of us, he enfolded them in his everlasting embrace.

He knew 2017 was going to be a shitshow. He knew that moving to Canada is way hard even for people with tons of money — and remember, these people were seniors. Anywhere north of Missouri is far too cold for a snowbird.

So God in his mercy called his finest home.

Rather than mourn their loss, we should praise his munificence. The year 2016, in fact, might stand as the ultimate proof that there is a God — and that He cares for His people. Or at least for elderly celebrities. — Sarah Fenske

6. Because it has been 9,312 days since Guns N' Roses trashed a St. Louis venue

The fecal stain on the over-worn boxers of the mainstream rock & roll world, Guns N' Roses, may have completely trashed the legacy of once-respectable Pale Divine guitarist Richard Fortus (GnR's guitarist since 2001, a St. Louis native) — but at least the group hasn't trashed a St. Louis venue in some 9,312 days. Though douche lord Axl Rose threatened to bring his insufferable band of washed-up has-beens to town this summer as part of the band's "Not In This Lifetime" tour, it turned out that, for some strange reason (*cough* hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage last time *cough*) no venue in town was willing to play host.

Sadly, 2016 may be the final year we are able to celebrate this winning streak, as GnR recently announced a show at the very brave Dome at America's Center for July 2017. But before you rush out to buy tickets, be aware that reasonable seats for this musical abomination will run upwards of $250. — Drew Ailes

7. Because people are finally realizing that social media is a bullshit echo chamber — an epiphany they're posting on social media

Not to fuck up your day here or anything, but there's something you should know, something that people have finally started addressing since the 2016 election: Social media networks are not advocates for the public good. They are not elaborately constructed to disseminate useful information, cultivate well-researched opinions, or even help you cruise swimsuit pictures of your old high school classmates.

Nope — they're for-profit corporations that exist for one sole reason: to provide a return to their investors. Do you know how they make money? It's similar to the way that any content-generating organization works. They sell ads.Why do people buy ads from Facebook?

Well, there are a lot of reasons. Facebook boasts a gigantic number of potential customers — 1.7 billion monthly active users. Seems like every company would love to market to that number of people, right? Sort of. What they'd really like to do is market to the maximum number of those 1.7 billion who are ready to buy exactly the product they're selling, so the company can spend less money while still getting good results.

In earlier years, marketing was a mixture of educated guesses plus intuition. If you wanted to sell a device that helped old people call for help if they fell, you'd want to create a compelling commercial featuring that same demographic and pay to air it during television shows that these targeted buyers generally watched. You'd run an ad during the 1 p.m. showing of Loud Stupid Court Show on The Channel That Also Shows Murder She Wrote, Matlock and Some Shitty Baking Show.

But even then, advertisers didn't just reach quivering old grandmothers who frantically searched their musky purses for their Diner's Club credit cards. They also wasted money marketing to day-drinking kids who were failing out of college and tiny children who were plopped in front of the television after preschool by their parents (who tragically had no idea that, even when that child grows to be a 33-year-old who writes smarmy pop-culture lists for alt-weeklies, the voice of The Woman Who Had Fallen and Can't Get Up would reverberate in his skull forever).

Much as technology has improved in nearly every area aside from the fossil-fuel-driven auto industry, today's content producers are smarter and eliminate some of the headaches from marketing. Networks like Facebook do this by gathering as much information about you as possible. They figure out who your friends are, what kind of subjects appeal to you and what format you prefer it in. Then they take this distilled, hyper-focused demographic information and sell the opportunity to market to you directly, for better rates than anyone has ever seen.

The longer you spend on Facebook, the better they know how to market to you. Do you get that part? Their goal is to keep you there.Why do people decide to stop looking at Facebook? There are a lot of reasons — and Facebook already has a solution for most of them.

a. You see too many people you don't give a fuck about.

No problem. Facebook tailors your news feed and gives you more of the people who you have shown an interest in through wall posts, post replies and private messages, pushing everyone else out of sight.

b. You're bored.

Hey, you know what? Facebook can fix that, too. They can engineer what comes up first based on what works on people just like you. Check out this video about the mathematical underpinnings of beehives after we show you this opinionated post about Subway sandwiches from your male porn star friend and some pictures from a rock-climbing expedition that someone you almost slept with just posted. Now you're hooked again!

c. You're pissed off and want to go outside.

Lucky for you, Facebook can hide all the bad things that signal to the rational part of your brain to stop fucking staring at an endless feed of corporately mediated reality. You won't get frustrated and walk away just because your friend's dad posted an article about how climate change isn't real; you won't close your laptop just because your old co-worker shared four posts by Papa Roach to try and win concert tickets. Instead you simply click the little "hide" button and poof! Like magic, all discomforting opinions vanish.

Once refined, all that's left in your supposed representation of reality is what is called an "echo chamber" — rather than engaging in dialogue with people with varying opinions coming from different backgrounds and learning from each other, social media presents us with a carefully curated picture of what the world is. It's the same 300 people patting each other on the head, agreeing with every single word you say and occasionally offering a slightly different perspective that still aligns with your general paradigm. The newsfeed we see bears some resemblance to the privacy fences we erect between our homes and our neighbors' homes: We'd rather stare at a piece of comforting wood than see something or talk to somebody that might challenge us to think.

But finally, thanks to an election season that resulted in two entirely separate and distinct realities emerging among the left and right sides of the electorate, people are finally waking up to social media's troubling echo chamber effect. And wouldn't you know, they're racing right to Facebook to post about it? — Drew Ailes

click to enlarge American innovation at its finest. - SHUTTERSTOCK/GREENART
SHUTTERSTOCK/GreenArt
American innovation at its finest.

8. Because more foods than ever are shaped like America's esophagus

A year piled high with dead celebrities and the dashed hopes of Democrats cannot deflect from the fact that 2016 was a magnificent year for meat-foods shaped like my esophagus.

This isn't some kind of puerile dick joke. I am utterly serious: I am a time-conscious millennial whose many social and professional engagements require meal solutions which can be eaten anywhere, whether I'm tweeting in the boardroom or snapping pajama selfies while also tweeting in the boardroom. It's not an easy balance, and you learn a thing or two living this jet set-life — and the most important lesson is that a throat is a terrible thing to waste on foodstuffs not already processed into tubes which can slide down your throat with the satisfying convenience of feedings batteries into a TV remote.

And so I look at 2017 not with mounting existential horror but with the satisfaction of a man fed well with meat torpedoes. This year alone Taco Bell has brought back Rolled Chicken Tacos, Burger King has busted out a brown-tinged hot dog and, as a bonus, a rolled-up version of its famous burger, the Whopperrito. (Be still my meat-choked heart.)

The trend of tubular meats began several years ago, as a niche offering in perhaps a handful of gas stations. From such humble beginnings, the cuisine has blossomed into a glistening field of protein cylinders, an array of tortilla-wrapped delectables which turn alongside sausages and bratwursts on roller grills across the country. In 2016, their calm, sizzling rotation composed the soundtrack of American life.

Some still whine about how America used to make things, man. But these naysayers miss the point — America still makes things, just not the kind of stuff you'd find in a factory 40 years ago. In our new age, America is all about making things easier. Easier to understand, easier to compress, easier to flatten into two-dimensional concepts that can be rolled into missile-shaped simplicity.

In 2016, we became a country of post-things: post-fact, post-work and, in its best version by far, post-chew foods that require knife and fork usage. We are a nation of Popsicles and corn dogs, not industry. This is the national progression of the future, and we, the multitudes who happily tilt our heads to swallow the nutritional equivalent of a fatty sawdust, are the inheritors of this modern kingdom.

Inside my local QuikTrip, the roller grills are stocked with taquitos, brats and sausages that strain against their blistered casings — here is the future. Egg roll? Classic hot dog? Steak and cheese wrap? Screw decisions; just stuff them all in a bag. I devour every last one in my car, and lo I am become my own taquito, a container of many meaty multitudes. I wash it down with a Diet Dr. Pepper, and in this moment 2016 doesn't seem so bad after all. 
— Danny Wicentowski

9. Because the Loop Trolley has yet to actually kill anyone

"Clang clang clang," went the trolley, "ding ding ding," went the bell. "Oh fuck, shit," went the bicyclist, lurching forward as his tires unexpectedly locked into the tracks embedded into Delmar Boulevard. "Ow ow ow," he muttered after landing, surveying the bloody damage to his face and hands. It is a scene that has played out repeatedly since construction began on the Delmar Loop Trolley — except forget about the clangs and the rings. The trolley isn't even running yet, and already those ill-advised tracks have sent multiple two-wheeled vehicle enthusiasts to the hospital.

But there is a bright side: Nobody has died yet! That may seem like a low bar, but consider that the same cannot be said of Seattle's First Hill Streetcar. In May, 27-year-old Desiree McCloud was biking along when her tires locked into the tracks, sending the Seattle resident flying face-first into the pavement just before 10 a.m. Though McCloud was wearing a helmet, it did not save her life. Now that's something to get upset about. A broken arm? By next year, we may look back on 2016 as the good old days. —Daniel Hill

10. Because Francis Slay is finally free to return to his natural habitat

Mayor Francis Slay is one of the St. Louis region's most fascinating creatures. Scientific name Mayorus Laidbackus, this specimen is known to spend its formative years in poli sci programs and law schools before moving onto seemingly never-ending leadership roles in second-tier U.S. cities.

But now, after an unprecedented four terms in public office spanning sixteen years, the creature known as Slay is entering the part of his life cycle when he must undertake the long journey up the Mississippi River to the gravel beds of his birth. The migration is treacherous, and as Slay swims, using geomagnetic and chemical cues to sniff out the shores where he was spawned, he will sometimes leap as high as twelve feet in the air to bypass waterfalls and other obstacles. This will leave the mayor susceptible to predators such as bears and eagles — many of his kind wind up serving as lunch rather than reaching their destination. But with more than a little luck, Slay will make his way to the spawning grounds, where he will deposit his eggs in the gravel and spawn future Slays, destined for mayorships of their own.

And then Slay, who hasn't been "off" in public since Bill Clinton was in the White House, gets to relax the way the rest of us do. He can swear in public, fart in an elevator and wander around Mardi Gras with a beer bong in hand and a song in his heart.

Speaking of songs, the old prog rocker can finally get the band back together and resume gigging. As for the city he's guided for almost two decades, maybe it will start skewing a little more progressive as well. Stranger things have happened. — Daniel Hill

click to enlarge ILLUSTRATION BY PJ TAMAYO
ILLUSTRATION BY PJ TAMAYO

11. Because we've entered the void, and nothing matters

Here we are at the ass-end of 2016, our faith in democracy shaken and all of us worried about what the future holds. It is vital that we remember how we got here, both to assess blame (there's plenty to go around) and to build a historical record for the young to learn from. If we don't do it now, we'll have to do it from inside the Trump-branded re-education camps when Steve Bannon is elected president in 2020. Here is what we know to be true.

Nate Silver got his dick kicked in the dirt. The man with all the charts and graphs and the ability to interpret and explain their data points was predicting a Hillary Clinton victory up until the very end, like a geekier Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf. Silver's synthesis of data was the security blanket for many deluded NPR listeners. "He's correctly predicted every election since the Pepsi Challenge!" they'd crow when you expressed misgivings about Trump's momentum. "Nate Silver is never wrong." But he was wrong, just like al-Sahhaf, and Silver hasn't been seen since the day after the revolution (also like al-Sahhaf). Now we're free forever from prognosticators and oracles, and can just lay in the fetal position in our unlit rooms until President Bannon announces it's time to turn on the ovens.

Donald Trump is now the ultimate Washington insider, which means he hates himself? Hillary Clinton remains a free citizen (well, as free as anyone who hasn't kissed Trump's wee little pinkie ring can be); Trump has stocked his cabinet with Goldman Sachs executives; and he seems to be softening his rhetoric when it comes to immigration and global warming. The ultimate outsider has become a lying insider so quickly that even his hard-line supporters regret what they've done, and you can laugh at their fury on trumpgrets.tumblr.com. Think about it: Trump rose to power on crazy nocturnal tweets and feculent nonsense, and even he's powerless in the face of Washington's chthonic powers. It doesn't matter how many thin-skinned shitbag narcissists you vote for, nobody will ever beat the Washington machine. It was built by the worst elements of society, and it's powered exclusively by dirty money and broken promises — and renegade outsider cowboy billionaire Donald J. Trump has already bowed down before it. How unhappy is he with this turn of events?

The Russians are coming. The CIA has gone public with its belief that Russian hackers manipulated the election process in order to swing a Trump victory. Do you realize what this means? The CIA, which is at the root of most great conspiracy theories, has its own conspiracy theory. We are through the looking glass, people. Nothing is true, and anything — anything — is possible. Is Trump a Kremlin stooge? Was Ken Bone a Russian sleeper agent planted to sow confusion? Was the X-Files revival a tip-off? How many of our electoral college representatives were involved in Project MKUltra and are still trippin' balls on government LSD? We went through the longest and worst election cycle in history and all we learned from it is that America is about 48 percent racist — and about 38 percent of America already knew that. — Paul Friswold

12. Because a Missouri McDonald's is serving unlimited french fries

McDonald's franchisee Chris Habiger shocked an unsuspecting world in April by announcing that his store in St. Joseph, Missouri, would be offering unlimited french fries. The chaos generated by the national press convinced Habiger to scale back his plans, and when the location opened in August the concept was said to be a temporary promotion, likely only to last a month or two. Yet here we are at the end of the year, and an employee tells us the fries are still flowing. Habiger, a prescient man, probably saw the writing on the wall: 2016 is the year that Americans made clear they want that which is viscerally satisfying but devoid of substance, golden in color but poison within. Stuff fistfuls of french fries in your mouth and sinuses, and fear not for terrible toll being inflicted upon your body's vital systems. How much damage could they possibly do? — Daniel Hill

13. Because the dead remain dead

Despite everything that has happened this year, every beloved relative and celebrity who died has remained dead. This may not seem like much to celebrate, but it's potentially huge. Despite all the jokes about the Cubs' championship and Trump's ascension to America's Tweeter-in-Chief being sure signs of the impending apocalypse, that has not proven true. The faithful departed have yet to claw their way out of their graves, ascending to heaven (if they're good Christians) or staying on earth for more suffering and tribulations (if they're sinners like us).

And even if you don't believe that faith-based stuff, the dead rising from the grave is a sure sign of the zombie apocalypse, which is generally bad for everybody regardless of faith (except for perhaps American survivalists; the jury remains out on this one). This one fact — the dead remain safely dead — is the only thing getting some of us to sleep at night. And here in the short, dark days of winter, we'll take what we can get. — Paul Friswold


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