Drew Magary's Thursday Afternoon NFL Dick Joke Jamboroo runs every Thursday during the NFL season. Find links to more of Drew's stuff at his Twitter feed.
Love, as a rule, fades over time. The first time you meet a girl you really like, or the first time you hear a song that you know you'll want to hear again and again, those little sugar rushes of infatuation never seem to last. The giddy excitement you feel when you first encounter that one THING – the instant you realize that yes, this might be something you love and yes, this really IS something you love, and you're just so fucking jazzed that you found this thing and you're so energized by how it makes you feel – that's a hard thing to sustain. It just is.
I have two kids, and part of the joy of watching them grow up is seeing them get really excited over things I started taking for granted long ago. You watch your kid eat a lollipop, and they are fucking enraptured by the thing. They're so excited to see you unwrap that lollipop, they nearly dance out of their skin. Whereas me, I'm just an old asshole. It's just a piece of candy to me. I've been eating that shit for years. It's nothing new to me. But to them, HOLY DOGSHIT. They get psyched.
There are very few songs I can listen to a decade after I first heard them. There are very few movies I'm willing to sit through more than two or three times. I'll go through phases with food where I like to cook one thing a lot, and then after a while I'll never make it again. Virtually every TV show jumps the shark for me at some point. Everything gets old when you get old. There are very few things in my life that I love more each and every day, that always manage to go in surprising directions I never would have mapped out. My family is one of them.
The NFL is the other.
I will never get tired of the NFL. Ever. Not when the Vikings leave town. Not when the NFL expands to 26 regular season games. Not when they put an expansion team in Macao. Every year, the NFL arrives for a few months to baffle, confuse, and delight me. At its core, it always remains the same: blocking, tackling, horrible pregame shows, etc. But within that framework it manages to be this giant, shape-shifting animal that evolves constantly and unpredictably. Jerry Seinfeld once said that cheering for teams is like cheering for laundry. Jerry Seinfeld is a fucking hack. The player turnover is part of what I love about the NFL. I love the idea that there will be an new group of players for my team each year, with different personal dynamics and different skill sets. And I love seeing how that new assemblage will fare against the 31 other new assemblages spread out over the landscape. And I love seeing how the shitty fantasy team I cobbled out from those 32 assemblages turns out as a consequence.
Then, the league goes away long enough for me to ache for its return. And it's never quite the same when it arrives back on my doorstep. There are new coaches. There are new draftees. There are new rules. There are new, very expensive video boards that block goddamn punts. Every year, the league reinvents itself, so nothing you see is quite like the way it was before. And that's what makes it the most quintessentially American of all sports. We are a country that HATES old shit. We make fun of cell phones that are ten years old. We make fun of pop culture trends that are even less aged (Remember Joe Millionaire? OMG that was so fucking lame!!111!!1!). We are in constant demand of something new that we can then discard immediately. And that's exactly what the NFL provides. It gives us four months of both the spectacular and the bizarre, then it all gets chucked at the end of the year and reworked entirely for the next.
Before this season began, I wrote a series of posts detailing why each and every team in the NFL sucked. Now, there's nothing more enjoyable than hating on teams and getting angry readers to join in on the fun. But the fact of the matter is that I love all 32 of these teams, even the Packers. They do NOT suck. Quite the opposite. I could as easily write 1,500 word tributes to every NFL team as I could 1,500 word hit pieces. I won't, because that would be kinda gay. But I COULD. I love seeing how every NFL team changes and grows from year to year. And I love that every season that passes by serves to add to the backstory of each. The history grows deeper and richer with each passing year. The year I was born, 1976, only three teams had ever won multiple Super Bowl titles. That number now stands at twelve. The context deepens as we go along. Traditions are conceived. The games mean even more, somehow.
That's why, against the rules of infatuation, I enjoy every NFL season more than the last. Ufford is right: the excitement for football only grows stronger as you get older. It seems impossible, but it's true. Nothing else in the world seems to possess that quality. Not alcohol. Not a new car. Not even some relationships. Nothing else outside of my family seems to give me the kind of ever-growing, ever-present rush that the NFL does. It's the thrill of first love, made perpetual.
Until they throw that first flag, and then it all goes to shit. This is your Thursday Afternoon NFL Dick Jamboroo. Cue the music, boys!
Now, I say this every year, but this time there's no exaggerating: this could be the most exciting NFL season yet. There are storylines bursting out all over the place.
Brady's Back. I know I poke fun at the Pat fans, and I even put out a gag bounty on Tom Brady. But secretly, I love watching Tom Brady play football. The man is ice fucking cold. I'm a big fan of watching people react calmly in highly pressurized situations, because I know damn well I'd shit a cinder block if placed in the same scenario. I can barely breathe on most third downs during the playoffs, and I'm just an asshole sitting at home. To see guys like Brady deliver like it's nothing… it's a pleasant viewing experience. I've missed the guy. Now $500 to the first fucker that tears his dick off.
Twitter! If you had told me when I was a kid that an All-Pro LB would be arrested for slapping around a TV star, then immediately send direct messages to the population asking for jokes to cheer him up afterwards in a digital forum, I would have called you a liar. Then I would have pooped in your helmet. But here we are. It's the 21st century, and every day brings us at least 50 tweets featuring Ocho rambling on like a fucking idiot. It really adds to the whole fan experience.
Eleven New Coaches! And some of them might even be competent! Even the shittiest teams could show real promise this year. A 5-11 year in Detroit would be like a 12-4 year anywhere else.
Cutlerfucker! Put that game frown on, fella!
Red Zone Channel is on all cable systems! I think! About goddamn time.
LAND BARON! Fucking cock.
Confusing new rules! So, refs can now review fumbles ruled down by contact, but only if there's an "obvious" recovery by the defense. I'm sure that won't be subjectively interpreted at all!
No Madden, No Kornheiser. All we have to do is make a pact to poison Berman, and the cleansing of the networks' coverage will be complete. Unfortunately, this is also the year Matt Millen returns to the booth. And while I fucking hate Millen with every fiber of my being, I do welcome that pure, black invective back into my life with open arms. I've missed cursing at the TV whenever I hear your voice, you incompetent stack of deer shit.
But I do like Gruden in the booth, especially when his voice goes really high when he gets excited, which is every five seconds. Calm down Jonny Boy. You're gonna get ejaculate all over the telestrator.
And that's merely the tip of the iceberg. Let's get into this thing.
All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms.
Titans at Steelers: It's NBC's first telecast of the season, so I assume they'll have horrible new reworking of that Joan Jett song from Faith Hill for the opening credits. And I can live with that, because it's avoidable. But I beg of you, networks: Please don't subject me to anything like that Kenny Chesney song that now runs all through every ESPN college football telecast. Holy shit, that is awful. It makes me not want to watch football, that's how bad it is. It makes me feel UNWELCOME to the game. It aggressively tells me that I am watching the wrong sport. I feel out of place, like I stumbled onto a NASCAR broadcast. Please, NFL networks. Never do that. Just keep the MNF theme, the FOX "Sleigh Ride" music, that horrible shit CBS plays, and what not. Don't change. Whenever networks change sports music, it's almost always for the worse.
By the way, I'll be spending the opening game at the 18th Amendment bar in DC for Tunison's book reading. Drop by and pay the Ape your respect.
Eagles at Panthers: Wanna see something fucked up? Not one of ESPN's so-called experts picked a team from the NFC to win the Super Bowl. In fact, the 16 experts ESPN used chose a grand total of three possible champions. THREE! San Diego, Pittsburgh, and New England. WHAT FUCKING PUSSIES. Seriously, ESPN experts. Grow some fucking balls. None of you even picked Philly, you were afraid to even be THAT mildly unpredictable. Jesus Christ.
Bears at Packers: Peter King picked the Bears to go to the Super Bowl. He picked them to lose to the Pats, like a gash. But unlike ESPN, King at least he tried to be a little adventurous. I enjoyed SI's NFL preview. But every issue of SI I get in the mail now includes a cardboard insert for Camel Snus, which has to be the gayest tobacco product ever introduced to the American marketplace. This is the dipping equivalent of Zima. You may as well fellate a roll of Breath Savers in public. Buy real cigarettes, kids. That's how cool people do it.
By the way, this game will either end up 10-7, or 41-38. There is no in-between.
Redskins at Giants: I was listening to talk radio here in DC the other day, because I enjoy being pissed off. One Skins fan called in and started babbling about some shit or another. At one point, he told the host he never watches the playoffs or the Super Bowl unless the Skins are playing in it. That's not uncommon around these parts, and I find it utterly fucking bizarre. DC people love their Skins, and that's to be admired. But to willfully ignore the playoffs, just because your precious Skins didn't make it in? To pretend like the rest of the NFL doesn't exist, like you're some provincial baseball town? Seriously, what the fuck? This town is so goddamn weird.
Dolphins at Falcons: Tony Sparano has already said that Ronnie Brown would continue to run the Wildcat formation, and not Pat White. So if you still drafted Pat White in your fantasy league, you are a moron. You were a moron even if White DID run the Wildcat, but you're even more of a moron now.
Cowboys at Bucs: The Cowboys don't open The House That The Double J Built for another week. But when you see that stadium on TV, one thing will catch your eye besides the giant teevee that will almost certainly one day come loose and fall onto a poor Punt Pass and Kick winner: the field level luxury boxes. They encircle the entire field, and they are fucking weak. They're the equivalent of the seats behind the backstop in baseball where rich assholes sit and play with their iPhones. I'm not even sure patrons of those boxes can see over the bench players' heads to the action on the field.
Jaguars at Colts: I've seen some of the new Peyton Manning commercials for this season, and they leave a lot to be desired. I especially don't need those ads where Peyton and Eli rib one another. I get it. You're siblings with missing chromosomes. Find a new schtick, showboy.
Jets at Texans: I picked Houston to win the AFC South this year. As did SI. As did MJD over at Yahoo! Then I saw their o-line in the third preseason game. YOU PEOPLE ARE GOING TO FUCKING LET ME DOWN AGAIN. In fact, fuck it. The season hasn't started yet, and I made those predictions right before all those offensive coordinators were fired and shit. Let's revise.
Green Bay 12-4
New Orleans 9-7
Tampa Bay 5-11
NY Giants 10-6*
San Francisco 9-7
St. Louis 6-10
Saints over Skins
Giants over 49ers
Packers over Saints
Eagles over Giants
Packers over Eagles
New England 11-5
NY Jets 9-7*
San Diego 10-6
Kansas City 6-10
Chargers over Jets
Steelers over Jaguars
Patriots over Chargers
Ravens over Steelers
Ravens over Pats
Packers 31, Ravens 19
There. I feel better now.
Lions at Saints: A shitload of college games last weekend featured those Papa John's ads with that Cinnapie pizza you can buy for dessert. I find it alarming that both Domino's and Papa John's are now repurposing their pizza dough so that you can have it for both dinner AND dessert. They will stuff their sticky dough down your gullet at all costs. They will starch you right to your fucking grave. Beware.
Bills at Patriots: It's never a good sign when you dump your offensive coordinator right before the season starts, then he says your head coach wanted a Pop Warner offense, then your team cuts the left tackle it hired to replace a Pro Bowler in order to start a seventh round draft choice at the position. And your first game is against the Pats in Foxboro in prime time. Nothing screams "41-0 asspillaging" quite like that.
Vikings at Browns: Many people were annoyed I used this column as a Vikes preview, in lieu of a full "Why Your Team Sucks" job. And they were more than happy to tell me why my team blows. Reader Paal: