Drew Magary’s Thursday Afternoon NFL Dick Joke Jamboroo runs every Thursday during the NFL season. Email Drew here.
Before we begin, let me just say that the following all falls straight down into the #firstworldproblems mop bucket. I'm aware of this, so let's just pretend that we live in a world with no war or famine or disease or angry warlords and we all hold hands and dance around in circles every day because everything is awesome and we all have PERSPECTIVE, because people who don't have proper perspective should be thrown into jail and tortured. Good? Good.
I have three kids and one television. I have one television because we're trying to limit the amount of screen time the kiddies take in, a noble parenting endeavor that is, like pretty much every parenting endeavor, doomed to fail. As such, I can't always watch football whenever I would like. I know: The horror.
I have a DVR, and that means I sometimes tape games and watch them after the kids have gone to bed. And if you've ever watched a sporting event on tape delay, you know that it has its pros and cons. You can obviously cut through all the ads and replay delays and penalty delays and TV delays and lightning delays and halftime delays and Erin Andrews talking about how Colin Kaepernick once fostered a shelter puppy when he eight years old. That's all super duper.
The downside, of course, is that you aren't watching the game live, with the rest of the universe. You can't text a friend. You can't hop on Twitter and offer up your pithy one-liner. You have to spend hours before the game plugging your ears and going LALALALALALALA and pray the world doesn't ruin the game for you. Two weeks ago, I had to pick my kid up from a birthday party during the Colts' wild comeback versus the Chiefs. The game was on at the birthday girl's house and I had to plug my ears and then explain to the parents why I had to go stand in the hallway while my kid got her coat. Football will make you do weird shit like that.
Sports are a communal experience, and the beauty of the internet is that you can make it a communal experience even if you don't happen to be at a bar or a friend's house or staying on the Bud Light West Side Poop Cruise. Can being a NERDY BLOG NERD on Twitter during the game compete with actual human contact? No, but it's a nice substitute if you're in a pinch and looking for virtual company.
The problem is that having virtual company during the game can often prove to be a massive distraction. I'll watch some game and spend all my time thinking about some tweet to send or wondering what the Twitter folk think of that one fat dude in the stands and I'll completely gloss over what just actually happened on the field. Or I'll send a friend a text and I'll suddenly be like WAIT DID I TEXT THAT OR TWEET THAT? WHAT IF I TWEETED SOMETHING RACIST OH GOD I NEED TO STOP DRINKING. I'm not IN the game. I'm not in the moment. I'm in a kind of mental limbo, with one half of my brain tuned into the cloud and the other barely processing what's on the TV screen. I can feel my focus drift in and out, like a camera lens being constantly adjusted. And you can try to lay off the phone or laptop during live games, but if you're like me, you're pretty much powerless to resist.
Watching a game on delay, at least for me, usually ends with me absorbing more of the game. This is crucial if you want your scorching hot takes to be extra hot the next day. You're into the game, pretty much as if it's happening live. You jump. You scream. You see the shit that the announcers remarkably fail to notice (Dan Dierdorf REALLY doesn't like you taking that safety). You stand up during tense plays. All of the good sporty sports stuff is still there.
But there's nagging feeling to it, the idea that you've already missed out on the group experience and that you'll never catch up. I've been an hour behind on certain games and fucking sprinted with the remote to catch up. What's happening on the internet What's happening on the internet OH GOD WHAT AM I MISSING?! Knowing that you are utterly alone in experiencing the game in at that precise time in that precise way is oddly infuriating. I almost prioritize the conversation around the game more than the game itself, which is STUPID. You're supposed to be there to watch football, not stare at your phone like some kind of asshole.
But I can't shake the #FOMO when I watch a game on delay even though I wish I could. Sports, in general, have a short shelf life. This is why only crazy people watch game tape or full-on replays of old games on ESPN Classic. When you watch it live, you get the energy. When you don't, it's gone.
I belong to the last generation of world citizens to grow up in the pre-online era, which makes me older than I already am. I may as well have been a worker on the Transcontinental Railroad. The way I have personally digested football over the past four decades has changed and shifted in a dozen ways, and will continue to do so at an accelerated pace.
Obviously, I used to watch whatever game local TV gave me when I was a kid, which meant that I rarely got to see my favorite team play once my family moved from Minnesota. I took the rare prime time appearance of my team when I could get it and sucked it up whenever I had to watch the fucking Jets play. Then Sunday Ticket came to bars and I could see my team whenever I wanted, plus glance around at the other games whenever my team bored or annoyed me.
Then cell phones came (if I fuck up the chronology here, it's because I was and still am late to the party on many, many forms of technology) and I could call a friend during a game (I used to work on ads for AT&T Wireless and all of our sports ads were like CALL YOUR BUDDIES AND TALK SOME TRASH JUST FUCKING KILL IT BRO).
Then blogs rose up and I could check out live blogs of sporting events, which really helped improve shitty non-events like the Home Run Derby. You could leave your comments and hope Nibbles the Gawker server hamster didn't eat them, and you could dole out your +1's and pray that someone +1'ed you back because OH GOD I AM ALONE AND I JUST NEED SOMETHERE OUT THERE WHO THINKS NICE THINGS ABOUT ME. I slipped into Internet sports addiction so quickly that I barely noticed it happening.
Then came Red Zone and Twitter and Vine and internet fantasy scoring (Christ, I sound like David Brooks here, I am sorry) and now your viewing experience can be shattered into a zillion little pieces. Watching a game now can be a form of multi-tasking, and recent studies have all shown that people who multitask do every task poorly. I watched the BCS title game two weeks ago and dabbled in the Megacast and fucked around on Twitter and texted people and did all that shit. Imagine watching a game while sprinting back and forth between seven different house parties. That's kind of the feeling I get now, and it's hard not to suppress my inner old geezer telling me to shut everything off and just WATCH. Just sit there and take it all in and enjoy.
But I can't. I'm too far gone now. I'm gonna watch these awesome championship matches this weekend and it'll be a salad of live viewing and frantic DVR fast-forwarding and the constant nagging feeling that—no matter how I do it—I am watching sports wrong. There will come a day—if it hasn't happened already—when the sporting event will be subsumed entirely and act as wallpaper for the virtual activity I have placed on top of it. The same way people rarely just listen to music anymore. Like music, sports are a culture that annoyingly DEMAND purity. Guys that watch the All-22 film of NFL games are like assholes that brag about having an extensive vinyl collection. Watch any game in a distracted state and you will feel the sports guilt rise up within you. I can feel it now. I know I'm a worse sports fan than I used to be—whatever that means—but I like all this fancy new shit too much to stop. And as technology proliferates, the dilemma will continue to gnaw and gnaw at me until I realize, one day, that I really, really, really need more friends.
All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms. And during the playoffs, I pick the games because that's STRONG BUSINESS.
Patriots (+4.5) 40, Broncos 35: You have probably already heard far more about Manning and Brady in this lifetime than you ever cared to hear, so I'll spare you any horseshit about what it means. They're both awesome, and nothing that happens on Sunday will offer incontrovertible proof that one is better than the other. Oh, but who to root for? If you're a fairly neutral party, as I am (lying), allow me to help you make your choice by using this handy Manning/Brady Overplayed Narrative Generator...
IF THE PATRIOTS WIN...
• "OMG Peyton can't win the big one except that one big one but that was only one big one!"
• "OMG is Tom Brady the best ever because he got to six Super Bowls but he didn't win all those Super Bowls so maybe not?!!?!?!!?"
• "If Brady wins his fourth title, JEEM, he's definitely IN THE CONVERSATION for best ever!" (Being in the conversation is so, so key)
• "The Patriot Way wins out once again!" (barfffffffff)
• (random columnist pointing out that Bill Belichick's slogan is DO YOUR JOB)
IF THE BRONCOS WIN...
• Random columnists telling you Peyton is the best ever no matter what
• "Win the Big One, Peyton. Then you'll have shown me something."—spoken by Pete Prisco and Colin Cowherd, in unison
• Extensive reports of Peyton's most freakish OCD tendencies. HE WILL NOT EAT BUTTERED TOAST BECAUSE THE MILKFAT COULD AFFECT HIS GRIP.
• "JEEM, Peeton Meeneeng is playing football at a whole different level right now!"
• "Holy shit, Wes Welker's got a bigass helmet!"
I'll be rooting for Denver.
Niners (+3.5) 24, Seahawks 23: I still think Pete Carroll will do something stupid to blow this game. You can only hide the fact that you're Pete Carroll for so long. Onto the random crap:
• Unlike mayonnaise-slurping tyrant Albert Burneko, I think it's fine to use a fork and knife on your pizza on certain occasions. Sometimes you get a pizza loaded with toppings and if you pick up the slice the front will drop down, creating a toppings trap door that leaves you with a wet red triangle for the your first bite. If you gotta use a fork for that shit, then go for it. Or if you gotta use a fork because the pizza is still too hot, or because you got a runny pizza with 5000-degree cheese magma leaking from the front, so be it. Or if you've ever been to one of those strictly Neapolitan joints that won't cut your pizza into slices (I have to been to one of these miniature dictatorships and they are annoying) and you gotta cut it yourself, that's fine too. I won't judge you. I'll only judge you if you eat your CRUST that way. That would be fucked up.