Ryan Fitzpatrick guests on 'The League'
November, 8, 2012
By Sam Alipour | ESPN The Magazine
As any owner of a fictional football team composed of real NFL players can attest, Ryan Fitzpatrick’s fantasy football stock is, in a word, low.
In three words: Forget about it.
That might’ve been the Buffalo Bills quarterback’s mindset when he signed on for a cameo in “The League,” the popular sitcom airing on FX about one league’s wacky and overly-passionate owners -- forget about it, step out of the pocket and have some fun.
In tonight’s episode, the former Harvard signal-caller and rookie actor pops into a charity event where he’ll gamely mix it up with Ruxin (Nick Kroll), Kevin (Stephen Rannazzisi) and Taco (Jon Lajoie). You can check out his scene in the exclusive clip, courtesy of FX, above.
In doing so, Fitzpatrick joins an impressive collection of NFLers who’ve made a funny and, more often than not, self-deprecating appearance in the series -- guys like Robert Griffin III, Trent Richardson, DeSean Jackson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Antonio Gates, Matt Forte and a number of Cowboys including Jason Witten, Felix Jones and owner Jerry Jones.
Fitzpatrick, who taped his cameo while in LA for the ESPY Awards this past summer, gave Media Blitz a call this morning to discuss his role, his take on fantasy football and whether his newly shorn face is worthy of the small screen.
What do they have you doing in tonight’s episode?
You know what, we did five hours of shooting, and I’m guessing they’re just going to run 10 seconds of it, so I’m not really sure what we’ll see. But it was a lot of fun. The guy who produces the show [Jeff Schaffer] with his wife [Jackie Marcus Schaffer] is a Harvard guy, and we worked it out so that I’d come in and do a scene at this bar. Essentially, I play myself, but I’m playing off the stereotype of the smart, know-it-all Harvard kid. And by the end of it, Ruxin is fed up with me and throws some blows.
Wait, are you not the smart, know-it-all Harvard kid?
[Laughs.] I don’t think that’s my personality, but it certainly gets played up in this scene. The guys on the show are ridiculous. They’re just hilarious. Essentially, they gave me a guideline of what the scene would be about, and then the guys do improv and ad-lib the whole time. They were talking circles around me, and I was just trying to keep up with how witty they are. It wasn’t working.
So, you’re neither smart nor funny?
[Laughs.] You know what, I was just so nervous to do this. I have no idea why. But after the first half-hour, I kinda settled in and felt more comfortable with it.
What was your acting background going into this? Do any theater in school?
No, the only acting I’ve ever done is trying to draw a personal foul call on the field. Which I’m not very good at, either.
[Laughs.] See? You’re good at improv. Funny line. So, the series has an impressive record of securing big-ticket NFL players for cameos. From where you sit, what’s the appeal of the show among your peers?
Well, first off, a lot of guys watch the show. And I think it’s hilarious. It’s on FX, and you’ve seen it, so you know that some of it is not for the ABC audience.
Since it’s on FX, it’s allowed to be a little racy.
Right, it’s racier. I mean, Schaffer wrote for “Seinfeld,” so the humor is similar to “Seinfeld” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” which are shows that I love. They can take it to the next level and make it a little racier for sure. Guys love that. So, I think that’s first. Also, it’s good exposure to the group of people who watch that show, a certain fan base.
Yeah, it seems to me that it’s a unique opportunity to speak directly to the fantasy football audience, the folks who quibble over stats and give y’all a hard time. Are you aware of your stock in the fantasy world and does that play a part in any of this?
No, I’m not into any of that. I don’t know anything about it other than people telling me they did or didn’t draft me. I don’t put a lot of stock into that, but I know some guys do. For me, it was a just cool opportunity, I was going to be in the area anyway for the ESPYs, and it’s something I’d love to do again. Even just being on the set, watching those guys, how they work and how funny they are, it was cool for me to see.
With so many of your peers watching the show, are you nervous to hear from the Monday Morning Quarterbacks in the locker room?
I’m sure after tonight’s episode I’ll come in tomorrow and I’ll get plenty of crap on my acting skills, how I looked, how my suit didn’t fit. That goes with territory in a locker room. But I’m going to keep it hush-hush and hope nobody gives me a hard time.
Now that you’ve wet your beak, do you plan to do more acting in the future? Or are you going to give me some athlete-speak about “taking it a day at a time, focusing on Sunday” and that stuff?
[Laughs.] No, I don’t think it’s in my future. I mean, I’ve trimmed the beard down, so I may be a little more visually appealing than in years past. But I think this is the end of the road for me. But I’ll make sure to buy it on iTunes and keep it in the archives.