Watching the premier of “Fear The Walking Dead” last Sunday left me with two thoughts. The first is that AMC really dropped the ball when they fired Frank Darabont for wanting a bigger episode budget than $1.59. The first episode of “The Walking Dead” was a masterpiece. The first episode of “Fear”, by sharp contrast, almost made me doze off. Yes, I understand the need for character development, but come on…that was a snooze-fest. Sans commercials, they likely had a little over an hour to make something (anything!) interesting happen. But alas, the credits rolled and I was left feeling as though I had thoroughly wasted ninety minutes when I could have been doing something slightly more exciting, like cleaning the bathroom or…sleeping.
Of course, at the time of Darabont’s firing, AMC had invested all their production budget into Mad Men, which was a hit with critics but nowhere near the ratings juggernaut that TWD would quickly become. Still, large budget or small, I can’t help but think that the man who helmed The Shawshank Redemption would have done an infinitely better job with FTWD.
The second thought I had was that athletes, by nature of their equipment, might have a leg up in a zombie apocalypse. Yes, guns are still and will always be the accessory of choice (calm down, zombie Charlton Heston), but when it comes to personal protection, football equipment is practically perfect for fending off hordes of the undead.
Before I go into why, let’s examine the “offensive weapons only” strategy.
Have you ever shot a gun? I have, plenty of times. I go to the range every few months. They’re LOUD. Much, much louder than on TV. The kind of loud that after a single shot from a higher caliber handgun, your ears would be ringing without hearing protection. They’re also not as accurate in most hands as is unfortunately portrayed so often on TWD. At least Ash from Housewares used a shotgun (or rather “Boomstick”) when dealing with his ghouls, which as we all know from Bill Burr, has a good spread.
The problem with handguns is that hitting a head-sized object from more than three yards would require a lot more practice than a few years of traipsing around in the backwoods of Georgia with limited ammo. Also, real guns have recoil. Firing one in a split second from a one handed, bastardized Weaver stance won’t yield the results that are taken for granted on the show. And no offense to Chandler Riggs, but that 14-year-old outstretched spaghetti noodle arm isn’t going to be shooting round after round without so much as a flinch. A moderate caliber 9mm would point skyward after every one handed shot. When you don’t have control, the results are far more wild misses than lucky bullseye hits.
And then there’s the katana or any other cutting weapons. Really? I know…I know…it’s a TV show. But the best TV shows in terms of science fiction and fantasy tend to ask the viewer to accept a single fantastic premise and then make the events surrounding that premise conform to real life. They don’t pile on one ridiculous premise after another. Somehow, in TWD, dead people become zombies and their skulls are magically turned into papier-mâché or watermelon rind in mere days or weeks. Do you know how long it takes that to happen in nature with a skull that’s been buried in dirt? I don’t either, but I’m sure it’s longer than a month.
But I digress. For all its flaws, I enjoy TWD. I just wonder why no one in the zombie apocalypse thinks of body protection. When I think protection, I think football.
If you consider the evolution of football gear (and I do; it’s my livelihood), mobility and sight have improved over the last couple of decades while protection has increased exponentially. Today’s helmets are designed to protect the most vital area while allowing players to run, pass, catch and talk trash to opposing players. Ok, maybe not so much that last one. Still, helmets are hard and well padded. There’s no way a zombie could bite through them (no, not even by you, zombie Lyle Alzado). And then there’s the sentimental factor. George Romero’s zombies still retain some degree of recognition of their former lives, so if it’s those types of zombies you’re up against and you happen to be wearing the helmet of their favorite team…well, you can see where I’m going with this.
Pads are stronger and lighter as well. Remember the scene in Shaun of the Dead where a zombie breaks through the bar window and grabs an unwitting idiot who happens to be standing in front of said window, then bites him on the shoulder? Not going to happen if you’re wearing today’s football shoulder pads. Sure, you’ll look like you’re sporting an ’80’s female power suit if you try to put them on under anything but a jersey, but bad fashion is a small price to pay for staying alive.
About the only things football equipment won’t protect are your limbs. And for that, we move on to baseball. Specifically, catcher’s and batter’s gear.
Catcher’s shin guards will protect your front side quite nicely from any leg biters, so as long as you’re on the move at faster-than-zombie pace, your legs will be safe. Just avoid any The Return of the Living Dead style graveyards where biters might come up from the ground (as they tend to do in graveyards). As for the ever popular zombie snack known as “arms”, batter’s elbow and forearm guards will keep everything but your hands protected – hands you’ll need free for holding weapons. I’d recommend “Shock Doctor” forearm pads for this job.
Speaking of weapons, let’s talk easily obtainable offense. This is no time for a wimpy lacrosse stick. As mentioned, Japanese swords would have trouble slicing through a skull. Baseball bats, however, can bash them in with ease. This has been scientifically proven through repeated watchings of The Warriors. You’re probably going to want to go with something aluminum here for longevity, though wood will work fine in a pinch. Just don’t go all “Barry Bonds” and try to knock every zombie noggin out of the park. Too much over-swing can throw you off balance.
So there you have it. When you can’t find a Cabela’s or a gun shop (and let’s face it, everyone else will have that idea and probably get there before you), head for your local sporting goods retailer. It might just save your life. Alternately, you might get killed en route by some vicious, fast moving Zack Snyder Dawn of the Dead remake style zombies and wish you’d stayed home, hunkered down with the blinds closed.
What? I don’t have all the answers, people.