17776 is a surreal multimedia work, written and illustrated by Jon Bois and presented by the sports blog SB Nation. While at first glance it appears to be a simple article about the future of American Football, things quickly start to get... stranger.
Shortly after visiting the page, the actual story begins to unfold - concerning three space probes and American culture, past and "present" (as in 17776). And that present has a version of football that is very different than ours.
The first chapter was published on July 5th, 2017, and quickly went viral. The series concluded on July 15th.
Not to be confused with 1776.
Due to the impossibility of describing the story in-depth without spoiling at least part of it, all spoilers below are unmarked. It's best if you read the story before reading the trope list so as not to spoil the experience.
This story contains examples of:
- Absent Aliens: Humanity searched for life beyond their planet, but found nothing.
- Amusing Injuries: In-Universe, Ten remarks on her feelings about this trope:Ten: I mean, I love the people down there, I do. I am in love with every single one of those little critters. That doesn't mean the slapstick injury isn't funny.
- Audience? What Audience?: After Eddie addresses the reader in chapter 20, Tim asks him who he's talking to.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Near the end of Chapter 9, Ten makes the mistake of having Juice change the channel.Ten: In the meantime, Juice, maybe you could put on something light for us.Juice: kTen: As long as it's notJuice: GAME 27 IT ISTen: NO!
- Big "NO!":
- Ten drops a couple of these in relation to Game 27.
- It's also Juice's final reaction to a game of 500 destroying a historical artifact.
- Big "WHY?!": During the third part of the intermission, Ten interrupts Nine's rambling with one of these - not in anguish, but rather to lead into her subsequent argument.
- Big "YES!": Juice's reaction to Nine becoming fascinated with Game 27.
- Bittersweet Ending: A minor one. The story ends with Nine needing to deactivate in order to charge. Ten reassures them that they are going to wake up again. At best, it may only take a few months, but it's not like time is an issue anymore, right?Nine: I need to make a partition in my data storage. This is the end, right? The end of this story?Ten: We were always at the end.
It's a free play, buddy. Clock's all zeroes.
It's after the end of the world.
- Also, for a story where one of the major themes is that no one dies anymore, there is a death in the form of the smashing of the Bulb.
- Born Unlucky: Lacrecia Evans, whose poor luck over ten thousand years of a single game of 500 has attracted attention from sports historians and statisticians. If it were pure random chance, Lacrecia should have caught the ball about three hundred times in that time period—but somehow, she hasn't caught it once. And when her losing streak finally ends, even that victory is bittersweet... because she catches the throw that destroyed a historical artifact.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: During Chapter 20, Eddie Krieger decides to personally address the reader in regards to Eleven Jones Cave, specifically that it's extremely dangerous. However, it's also implied that Eddie is actually insane and was talking to no one.Tim: Who are you talking to?Eddie: Don't worry about it.
- Call-Back: Late in the first chapter, Nine immediately asks whether Steely Dan is still together. Much later, chapter 20 opens with Eddie Krieger singing their song "The Caves of Altamira".
- Football has become this in the distant future. The rules multiplied over the centuries—many of them conflicting or outright contradictory—and the readers barely hear about any of them.
- The infamous Game 27 in particular is a Loophole Abuse-laden clusterfuck: as best anyone can tell, it started off as a traditional 21st-century-style game, until one team used a combination of obscure rules to claim part of the field as their legal property, and everything spiraled out of control from there. Now the field is divided into 58 different territories (some of them containing houses, high-rise apartments, or a restaurant), and no one knows where the ball is.
- 500 has become a game where someone shoots a "football" that is 2 feet wide and weighs 120 pounds or more out of a cannon capable of reaching anywhere in the United States. The point system and the first person to get five hundred points becoming the new operator is still the same, however.
- The Cameo: The Hubble Space Telescope briefly speaks in chapter 13.
- Caustic Critic: In-Universe, the podcast Garbage Football serves to mock the worst of the sport's 15,000 year-long history.
- Childless Dystopia: Zig-zagged. For the most part, the world is a pretty great place to live in, with fairly little immortal ennui. On the other hand, humanity's ways of passing the time strike Nine as pretty unsettling, and people tend to avoid talking about the absence of children; one character breaks down in tears after seeing a modern-day mural of a group of kids.
- Collector of the Strange: Chapter 4 eventually segues into a discussion about a group of people who decided to to hold a competition to try and find every ball Koy Detmer had ever autographed.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Different characters have different-colored speech; 9 is red, 10 is green and Juice is yellow. Minor characters get their own colors too.
- Complete Immortality: On April 7th, 2026, all of humanity achieved this somehow. They stopped dying and aging... at the cost of Complete Infertility, so no human babies have been born since about nine months in.
- Contemplate Our Navels: Nine and Ten are prone to this. Chapter 7 and the intermission are dedicated to their discussion about why humans continue to dedicate their lives to football instead of more important things.
- Cool Old Lady: Nancy McGunnell was 72 when humanity stopped aging. She not only plays football, she deliberately jumps into a tornado as part of a game.
- Did Not Think This Through: One possible explanation for why one game of football is currently stuck down a ravine.
- Driven to Suicide: Ten jokingly threatens to crash into an asteroid as the Game 27 conversation continues. Fittingly, this is mere moments before she starts getting legitimately mad about it.
- Don't Try This at Home: Ed Krieger is hiding in Eleven Jones Cave, which has dangerous concentrations of carbon dioxide. Ed blatantly breaks the fourth wall to warn you that you will die should you try to visit the cave yourself—emphasizing that Complete Immortality is the only thing keeping Ed alive.
- Dude, Not Funny!: In-Universe, Juice's increasingly harsh jokes at Nine at the beginning of chapter 9 earns him the disapproval of Ten and eventually causes Nine to snap at him.
- Ending Fatigue: In-Universe - with humanity becoming completely immortal, football begins to become increasingly elongated. Combined with the field being expanded to encompass entire states, and it's become common for a single game to take many years to play. It's only when it starts getting ridiculously slow that people start complaining, however, as evidenced in chapter 6:Thuy: If you turned off the game and turned it back on in a year, the line of scrimmage might be, like, 50 miles away from where it was.
- Establishing Character Moment: The very first thing Juice does in the story is to mock Nine's camera.Juice: HAAAAAAAAAAAA
- Failed a Spot Check: While recounting her story of finding a new apartment in Chapter 4, Lori drops the bombshell that, while doing dishes one day, she suddenly realized she lived in that apartment before.Lori: You know, actually, I went back and looked it up. I'd lived there for two years back in 7174. And I realized I'd arranged the furniture pretty much the same way and everything. Oh God, it was so weird.
- Fantastic Religious Weirdness: It's noted that church attendance dropped dramatically after humanity became immortal. The few remaining believers struggle to reconcile their current situation with the promises of the afterlife—and some wonder if maybe this is the afterlife.
- Foregone Conclusion: Chapter 18 concerns Lacrecia Evans being able to finally get the 500 ball. If you saw the ending of Chapter 17, you already know the end result of this latest launch.IT'S BROKEN! IT'S BROKEN! IT'S GONE!
It went right through the roof. Right just, went right through it.
Oh my God. Oh my fucking God.
- Forever War: Some football matches, such as Game 96249 and Game 27, have already lasted for millennia and continue with no end in sight. And both sides just keep playing because they literally don't have anything better to do.
- Foreshadowing: During Chapter 8, during a discussion about laying down sidewalk, there is a disconcertingly long pause after the line "And it's not like there's any kids around."
- Freeze-Frame Bonus:
— Jon Bois
- Since the reader only has less than a minute to read the starting article before the lettering suddenly blows up, a lot of the finer details turn into these.note For example, there's a fictitious "University of College" advertisement with this quote:
- The first video opens on a rapidly scrolling list of all the presidents of the United States. The list continues past the present day - pausing at the right times reveals various future Presidents (all real world politicians, among them Bernie Sanders in 2049), and also that Donald Trump served two terms.
- Freeze-framing the gif in Chapter 4 reveals major geographical changes to the US◊, later confirmed to be from rising seawater due to the polar ice caps melting: the northeast has been reshaped (alluded to in the dialogue and final chapter image of New York), Lousiana and Florida have disappeared, and the San Francisco bay, now known as Lake Sacramento, runs the length of California, having spilled into the Central Valley.
- From Bad to Worse: Played for laughs: it was bad enough for Ten that Juice wants to talk about Game 27. Then:Nine: I think I'm fascinated by this game.Juice: YESTen: NO
- The Future: Set in the very far future.
- Gone Horribly Right: JUICE, the socialist French satellite, sees Game 27 as the end state of capitalism in its purest form: a bunch of people pursuing their own self-interest, squabbling with each other over some resource, and accomplishing nothing.
- Gone Horribly Wrong: Ten, the American satellite, sees Game 27 as a perversion of capitalism. She agrees that letting capitalism run wild with zero oversight always results in quagmires like this, but she insists capitalism was never intended to work with zero oversight.
- Golden Snitch: Eddie Krieger's football game has a rule (most likely copied accidentally from a prior game) that if a team can keep possession of the ball within their own end zone for 10,000 years, then they automatically win regardless of prior score. Ed exploited this rule by taking the ball and hiding in a cave.
- The Hermit: Eddie Krieger. He lives inside a cave in Louisville so that he could win a losing game by waiting 10,000 years in his team's end zone. So far he's successfully hid for 9,313 years.
- Immortality Begins at 20: As explained by Juice:Juice: 10's wording was a little clumsy with regard to "people stopped aging": to clarify, babies in the womb in 2026 were indeed born and grew into adults, and all the children grew into adulthood as well.
- Info Dump:
- Chapters 3 and 5 consist of Ten informing Nine about things - for the former, how humanity had developed; for the latter, about the proliferation of nanomachines.
- Played for laughs in the final chapter. When the others realize that Nine needs to go offline to recharge, Juice rushes through as many of Nine's unanswered questions as he can in the remaining minute.
- Instant A.I.: Just Add Water!: Space probes just became sentient and developed humanlike minds and emotions from millennia of picking up radio waves in space.
- Jump Scare: Anyone's first interaction with the story is going to be the article's lettering suddenly expanding without warning.
- Late-Arrival Spoiler: Most fan art/discussions/etc. openly mention that 9, 10 and Juice are space probes. Downplayed, in that this is a spoiler only for the first chapter.
- The Law of Conservation of Detail: Juice lampshades the use of it throughout the series by going through a laundry list of things Nine was probably worried about before they shut down to charge. Click here for the list
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
- Ten mentions how people are "tuning out" near the end of chapter 10, and goes on to explain to Nine that people on Earth are in fact listening to them talk (or were, until Juice began talking about capitalism running wild).
- Juice is practically livid when Nine reveals Ten mentioning the population of Earth being around 8 million people, not 8 billion. He even plans to give her shit later for "[killing] almost 8 billion people with a typo".
- Literal Metaphor: Lampshaded in chapter 6:
- Madness Mantra: In the initial article, "Something is terribly wrong."
- Mini Series: Posted and updated daily, from July 5th to the 15th of 2017.
- Modern Stasis: Sure, they have all the advanced technology. They can make self-building buildings, they can fly from Arkansas to Paris in minutes, it's just that nobody wanted those things. People didn't want everything to be as efficient as possible. They instead preferred having to wait in a line at the grocery store or to sit on a bus that smells like cigarettes. Besides, what would be the point of speeding up every task when you literally have all the time in the world?
- Monumental Damage: The Statue of Liberty is halfway underwater.
- The Bulb ends up getting accidentally destroyed by a 500 ball.
- Mood Whiplash: The third part of the intermission builds up to one of the deepest moments in the entire story... with a brief interlude where Nine remarks on the abstract way it's presented:Nine: Uh, the readability of this is kinda
Ten: Shut the fuck up.
- Chapter 17 has the usual smooth jazz playing in a video as the satellites talk about where the ball might land. Then it goes into discordant droning and beeping sounds as the ball is fired and hits and destroys the Bulb.
- Nanomachines: Chapter 5 reveals that they were first deployed in the 2800s, essentially being perfected by the 3500s. They serve to save people from accidents and environmental hazards.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
- Nine telling Juice to go fuck himself is treated like a big moment. Ten acknowledges that this is Nine's first time dealing with anger and Juice is awed by it.
- Just one chapter later, Juice suddenly using proper punctuation when talking about Game 27 gets acknowledged by Ten.
- In Chapter 15, Nine is so affected by Ten's lengthy discussion about humanity's new purpose in life that they start omitting ending punctuation and seem depressed overall. (Juice eventually manages to help them feel better.)
- In Chapter 17, Juice and Ten become horrified as they discover that the 500 ball is heading for Livermore, California. More specifically, the Bulb.
- Played for Laughs with Ten momentarily abandoning proper capitalization and punctuation in reaction to Game 27 and Nine admitting that they believe in a higher power.
- Painting the Medium: The third part of the intermission has a lot of this. As Nine and Ten move right, their text spaces eventually follow suit; Ten interrupts Nine's ramblings with a literal Big "WHY?!"; and when they start to drift upwards, the conversation has to be read from the bottom up (which Nine quickly lampshades).
- Post-Scarcity Economy: Somehow, it's not quite clear how.
- P.O.V. Sequel: Chapter 18 is both this and an Immediate Sequel to Chapter 17, since it concerns Lacrecia Evans's perspective of the ill-fated 500 ball launch that smashed the Bulb.
- Rage Breaking Point: Downplayed, but Juice describing them as the voicebox of a Teddy Ruxpin causes Nine to finally snap at him.Nine: You know what, fuck you.
- Nine refusing to let go of the fact that the Space Program ended causes Ten to just scream "WHY?"
- Rake Take: Juice (and Ten) think these are hilarious.Juice: do u have any idea how goddam funny it is when someone steps on a garden hoe
Juice: back in the day i tracked every garden hoe lying on the ground in the whole world [...] and i'd just sit up here & watch em & watch em & watch em. swear to god for like 200 yrs that's all i did
Ten: He's not lying. He did. I mean, I did too. It was pretty funny.
Juice: and 0.2248257% of the time they'd step on the teeth and itd push up and hit em in the face like BLAAAPP. rarest of jewels.
- Self-Deprecation: Chapter 16 gets temporarily derailed when Juice learns that Ten told Nine that the population of Earth since 2026 was around 8 million.Juice: god
10 thinks shes so smart and then she up and kills almost 8 billion people with a typo
i am gonna give her so much shit
- The error gets alluded to again in Chapter 24, where a character gives the population of Chicago as 3 "billion", then immediately corrects herself to a more correct 3 million.
- Serial Escalation: American football underwent this once humanity became immortal. By the time the story begins, the playing field has expanded to include entire states within their boundaries, and it's common for games to subsequently take decades to finish. There's also the matter of tornadoes...
- Serious Business:
- One of the story's underlying themes is how humanity will always revere games (in this case, American football) throughout all of time.
- The Koy Detmer ball collectors in chapter 4 take their game very seriously. Jason remarks on how another group had hacked into his computer to destroy his notes in where to find the balls.
- Show Within a Show: The podcast Garbage Football, which is the sole focus of chapter 6.
- Shown Their Work:
- Short-Runners: The last chapter was published only ten days after the series started. Notably, it still managed to attract a sizeable fandom during its run.
- Skewed Priorities: A recurring source of humor throughout the story.
- Upon being informed of being a space probe, Nine proceeds to ask two questions: the current year... and if Steely Dan is still together.
- Juice is prone to this - he's not overly happy that humanity got rid of all its ills because it also got rid of Lunchables, and holds the nanomachines protecting humanity from dangers in some contempt because it prevents them from stepping on garden hoes. (Ten admits to agreeing with him on the latter.)
- So Bad, It's Good: In-universe. Chapter 10 revolves around Juice telling Nine about Game 27, a game between the Denver Broncos and the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2080s/2090s that morphed into "a rainbow of failed ideas". Juice views it as this - Ten outright hates it. This divide only deepens when Juice reveals that people still turn up to watch it.
- Spiritual Successor: 17776 was originally conceived as a sequel to Bois's earlier The Tim Tebow CFL Chronicles, and both works revolve around an absurdist take on football and share similar existentialist themes.
- Take That!: Jon Bois takes the opportunity to take potshots at several things in this story. The Burger King patty, for one, is viciously savaged in the Livermore, California chapter.
- Team Mom: Ten is the most caring and level-headed of the group; waking up Nine and explaining most of that has happened since they were launched in the 1960s. She also doubles as Little Sister Instinct, often telling off Juice for harassing them and even formally introducing herself to Nine as their little sister once they properly wake up.
- Tomato in the Mirror: The Reveal at the end of the first chapter - Nine is actually Pioneer 9.
- Unfortunate Names: The hosts of Garbage Football pause their discussion of Game 96249 to mock the rural towns adjacent to the game, for having unimaginative names like Circleville, Meadows, and New Meadows.
- Utopia: The world depicted in the story is a strange case. Technically, it is a utopia - humanity has achieved all its goals, gotten past war and disease, and even become immortal... but now there's the emptiness of a lack of purpose to keep going.Ten: And now boredom is their only enemy. And they get up in the morning and fight it every day of their eternal lives. Recreation and play sustain them. Football sustains them.
- Victory Is Boring: Humanity has rid themselves of all problems, including death. Now they spend all day playing or watching football.
- Wham Episode: The end of Chapter 17 and the entirety of Chapter 18 combined concerns the latest 500 ball being launched... and crashing in Livermore, Calfornia. And smashing the Bulb.
- Wham Line:
Ten: Listen to me. You are not on a space probe.
- From the end of the first chapter:
Ten: Nine, you are a space probe.
- Minor, but near the end of Chapter 10, Ten drops this bombshell:Ten: Aaaand ... people are tuning out. We're down to 106 listeners.Nine: People are listening to us? Like, people on Earth?Ten: Well, they were! Only 98 now. Thanks for that, Juice. Thank you.
- At the very end of Chapter 16, where Juice and Nine discuss sections of the ground that no one has ever walked on, or even thought to walk on, despite having thousands of years of opportunities to do so, ends by bringing up something everyone reading this has thought about, but had yet to be discussed in-story.Juice: you know who would've wandered out there? just to do it?Nine: Children.Juice: children.
- During Chapter 17, Juice and Ten are tracking the path of the 500 ball... and immediately become horrified as to where it's going:Ten: Wait, no. It's heading for San Fran, see?Juice: livermoreTen: Or yeah, Livermore. Just a little bit eastJuice: oh noTen: It's
Looks like it's gonna drop near the(pause)Juice: oh my god noTen: Is it gonna drop near theJuice: it's headed for the Bulb.Juice: it's headed straight for it
- Wham Shot:
- In a meta sense, the initial article's lettering suddenly expanding into black, leading into the actual beginning of the story.
- During the first video, the shot of the Statue of Liberty... only for the camera to pull back, showing it partially submerged in water (firmly establishing the setting).
- What Year Is This?: Nine asks this immediately after learning that they're a space probe.
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: Ten says the following after Nine comments on how all the players in Arizona seem crazy for playing a stalemated game for over ten thousand years:Ten: I think they're just doing the best they can with immortality. A human being will rarely admit this to you, but they tend to be terrified of living forever. They were born and raised with the understanding that their lives would end. They've achieved everything they wanted to achieve, all the ills that plagued them.
Ten: And now boredom is their only enemy. And they get up in the morning and fight it every day of their eternal lives. Recreation and play sustain them. Football sustains them. And if you find yourself in a football game that's such a gargantuan task, that seems undefeatable, that will claim eons of your time and your passion?
Ten: I think that makes you one of the lucky ones.
Jason:No other creature in the universe woke up every morning knowing it was guaranteed to die one day. Just us. Nobody should have to live with that. It's too much, it isn't right. No one ever should have had to bear it.
- Arguably inverted by Jason in Chapter 24, who expresses horror at the idea of mortality.
- Writers Cannot Do Math: In the second chapter, Ten claims that there are 8 million people on Earth by the time immortality came about in 2026 - a stark fall from the 7 billion alive in 2017. This gets addressed (with some indirect Self-Deprecation) in chapter 16, where Juice reveals that the actual number is a more logical 8 billion.Juice: 10 thinks shes so smart and then she up and kills almost 8 billion people with a typo
Juice: i am gonna give her so much shit
- Averted in the first chapter. Ten reveals that she's three and a half trillion miles away from Nine; assuming Pioneer 9 is still in orbit of the Sun in 17776 and Pioneer 10's current speed of 7.479 miles/s, the math actually works out. The distance is also correct for their initial 434-year round-trip speed-of-light radio communications. Bois clearly did his homework.
- Yank the Dog's Chain:
- By pure luck, Lacrecia Evans winds up being in the right area to finally get the 500 ball, with a 99.9% probability of getting it. It's just a shame that the ball in question is the one that smashed the Bulb.
- In the Koy Detmer ball-collecting game, Jason Durabo was in the lead until he got stabbed in the back and had his 26 balls destroyed. He gets a lead on another ball in the ruins of New York City, which would get him back in the game. But he finds the ball in question was signed by Ty Detmer, and worthless for his purposes. On the other hand, the trip to New York gives Jason a great idea for a new football game.