Your Worst Football Memories Are Your Most Important Ones

Drew Magary’s Thursday Afternoon NFL Dick Joke Jamboroo runs every Thursday during the NFL season. Email Drew here.

There were two tackling sleds on the practice field. The first one was the five-man sled, which sucked. You lined up across from it in the standard tackle-guard-center-guard-tackle formation. The dummies attached to the sled had a crude white graphic of an opposing football player printed on them, with the words BIG BRUISER displayed across the chest. It looked like you were going up against an 8-bit character of a football player, one with stumps for arms and a single tapered trunk in place of both legs. The dummies were angled slightly downward so that you had to crouch down and push up to strike them. Low man wins, even if it's not a man.

Our offensive line coach usually stood on the sled for drills. Coaches do this because a) It weighs the sled down, making it harder to push, b) They can get down and yell at you from close range, and c) They get a free ride, like a queen being escorted in a litter. WHEEEEEE!!!

I would crouch in my stance in the left tackle slot and stare at the BIG BRUISER, replacing his face with that of a bully, or a teacher I hated, or Stuart—the guy that was dating a girl I liked—or even a WWF villain I was really steamed at. I conjured up all the goofy demons an angry teenage boy can conjure up, the kind of demons that coaches often tell you to exorcise in practice (THIS IS WHERE YOU GET YOUR ANGER OUT, MEN). I would picture myself launching into the sled and blowing the cover off of the dummy, Roy Hobbs-style. One hit, and the thing would go flying into the Atlantic, awing the NFL scouts who just happened to stop by practice at that particular moment.

Then whistle would blow and I would barely move the Bruiser an inch. The dummies were attached to pistons (is that the right word?) that offered virtually no give when you hit them. It was like hitting a padded wall. The wall rarely loses.

"CHOP 'EM! CHOP YOUR FEET, MEN! DON'T STOP!"

We'd push and push and after a bit, the sled would usually start sliding across the field. Coach would roar in approval, and a for a few moments I would be pleased with myself.

But then I would begin to notice that the other side of the sled was progressing downfield much faster than my side. The sled was traveling in an arc, with the weak side—my side—failing to keep up. Or even worse, I would slip and fall and the sled would keep going on, showing everyone that I hadn't helped move it at all. I was the lameass holding the center of the couch during the move. You have to stay low to keep the sled moving, but when you get tired and your form is poor to begin with, you slouch into the sled like a tired boxer, half pushing against it and half resting. Coach would notice this.

"MAGARY, QUIT PLAYING ALLIGATOR AND DRAGGING ASS!"

Other times, we would get on our knees and, at the sound of the whistle, punch up at the sled to shock it forward. You had to time your hit right so that all five guys hit at the same time. If you hit late, the thing would move forward without you and you would fall face first into the mud. It was miserable. The five-man sled was never as satisfying as I wanted it to be.

And then there was the one-man pop-up sled. ***CHORUS OF ANGELS*** It was perfect. It was light and easy to push and too small for coach to take a ride on. It was a simple cylindrical pad and it never hit back—a passive, weak little whipping boy you could terrorize at will. We would line up in front of the sled, all the boys jumping around with excitement, eager to inflict maximum violence upon the thing. You got a running start with the pop-up sled and guys made sure to start from as far away as possible, to really build up a head of steam. Guys would smash into the thing and push it downfield at 20 yards a clip, with everyone hooting in approval. FUCK YEAH SMASH THAT THING.

Then the tackler would slide off and it was the next guy's turn. The sled would travel for miles in a single week, getting slapped around. Some guys could push it farther and faster than others—faster than I could, for certain—but everyone got the satisfaction of hitting something successfully. We also practiced lifting it up, jerking it violently to one side, and planting it sideways into the ground. If I could have kicked the thing in the head, I would have.

Then coach would have us go back to the five-man sled and we would all be depressed. Or we would take turns holding a heavy dummy over a wood plank as a teammate pushed the dummy down the length of the plank. No one holding the dummy liked getting pushed back too quickly, so the guy pushing would always get pissed at the holder for not helping him look good. I know I never liked it when my friend actually gave resistance. I didn't want to TRY. Trying is awful. Hours after hitting the sled, walking down a flight of stairs was agony.

I don't remember enjoying most of these drills all that much, and yet every fall a new football season arrives and I will enjoy REMEMBERING those drills. I don't know why that is. I don't know why it feels good—and I really can feel it when I think back on it; I can feel my cheap practice pants soaking up the mud—to remember things that you didn't enjoy doing in the first place. The warm memory seems to be the only reward for doing them.

Football is a sport that exists in memory most of the time. There are only a handful of games every season, and so the rest of your time dealing with the sport is an exercise in memory—reliving the scant moments of live action the sport gives you over and over again, twisting them to suit your mood. We did a whole WHY YOUR TEAM SUCKS series in the preseason. I wrote those things because, obviously, it's fun to needle other teams (and my own). But the real joy was in seeing disgruntled fans come together and collectively bitch about all the ways their teams have hurt them. Mathematically speaking, your favorite team will give you far more bad memories than good. And yet, those bad memories are kind of the point. You suffer (probably too strong a word) through them, and then share in the joy of commiserating with your fellow fans. It's never fun to live through them, but ALWAYS fun to remember them. You bond over losing because without losing, winning doesn't mean a whole lot. You suck, but you never suck alone.

I've watched enough football in my life to have seen pretty much every outcome a football game could offer: blown leads, last-second touchdowns, last-second missed field goals, a fucking Golden Tate non-catch being ruled a catch, etc. You would think that watching too much football would end up making the sport feel dull and repetitive, that you wouldn't get anything new from watching it.

But that hasn't happened for me yet. I've come to count on football to show me things I've already seen before. I count on my favorite team to go out there and fuck it all up over and over again so that I can bitch about them to friends and exasperated family members. It's a sport of controlled misery. Like music, football establishes footholds in your memory. Mention some old player to me and I'm immediately taken back to that era. I can feel it. I can slip down into the Pensieve and see my old room and touch the little fabric nubs on my old bedspread and go to school and hear my old line coach yelling at everyone and watch our old TV and scream at John Madden for putting every goddamn member of Niners on his All-Madden team. Every season, I get to add new memories and thoughts to the mental scrapbook. And that scrapbook—that little treasure chest in the attic of your mind—is everything you have.

It's a cruel twist of fate that many people who play the game don't get to keep their memories the way fans do.

So tonight, when the season begins and your fantasy team immediately goes into the tank, and somehow every good expectation you had for the upcoming season gets blown to bits, do take a moment to cherish the memory. A year from now, you'll back on it all and laugh. Unless you're a Browns fan. This is your Thursday Afternoon Dick Joke Jamboroo. Cue the music...

YEEEEEAAAAARGHHHHHHHH

/puts on replica jersey

/drinks beer

/swears at children

I'm ready. Let's get our hands dirty.

2013 NFL Predictions

I do this every year because there's an odd joy in playing God and mapping out an entire future NFL season that will exist only in an alternate dimension. None of these predictions will be correct, but I WANT them to be correct, and that's all that matters. Please note that, once again, I have mathercised these standings so that they add up to 256-256.

NFC North

Green Bay 11-5
Chicago 8-8
Minnesota 8-8
Detroit 5-11

NFC South

Atlanta 10-6
New Orleans 9-7*
Tampa Bay 8-8
Carolina 4-12

NFC East

Philadelphia 10-6
NY Giants 9-7
Washington 7-9
Dallas 4-12

NFC West

San Francisco 12-4
Seattle 11-5*
St. Louis 7-9
Arizona 5-11

WILD CARD

Seahawks over Eagles
Saints over Falcons

DIVISIONAL

Niners over Saints
Seahawks over Packers

NFC CHAMP

Niners over Seahawks

AFC North

Pittsburgh 12-4
Baltimore 8-8
Cincinnati 8-8
Cleveland 4-12

AFC South

Indianapolis 13-3
Houston 11-5*
Jacksonville 6-10
Tennessee 4-12

AFC East

New England 11-5
Miami 8-8
NY Jets 6-10
Buffalo 5-11

AFC West

Denver 13-3
Kansas City 11-5*
San Diego 5-11
Oakland 3-13

WILD CARD

Steelers over Chiefs
Texans over Pats

DIVISIONAL

Colts over Texans
Steelers over Broncos

AFC CHAMP

Colts over Steelers

SUPER BOWL

Niners 35, Colts 23

The most aggravating part about making predictions is that, at the end of the season, one surprise team will go 12-4 and it'll TOTALLY make sense as to why they went 12-4, but it won't make any sense right at this moment. No one told me EJ Manuel would run for 15 touchdowns and led the Bills to a stunning AFC East title.

By the way, while I goof on other fans for getting worked up over negative predictions for their team, I'm just as horrible. Earlier this week, Bill "The Zodiac Killer" Barnwell predicted the Vikings would be one of the eight worst teams in football this year and I was like HEY FUCK YOU.

The Games

All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of one to five Throwgasms.

Your Worst Football Memories Are Your Most Important Ones

Five Throwgasms

Ravens at Broncos: Every year, I get too excited for the first game, get drunk two hours before kickoff, and end up a lifeless bag of meat by halftime. Very excited to have that happen again.

Somewhere in flyover country, right at this very moment, there is a mouth-breathing redneck who is all kinds of excited to see what kind of outfit Carrie Underwood will be rocking tonight. "She sangs so purty!" I'm hoping for the legendary "painted ovaries" dress. Either way, you can count on Cris Collinsworth saying at some point in tonight's broadcast: "How about that Carrie Underwood? I tell you, is she amazing or what?"

In other news, you should be aware of what's new in the NFL this season:

  • Running backs can't lower their heads to run over defenders, perhaps finally putting an end to the term "punishing runner". Runners are always so punishing.
  • The Tuck Rule was fixed, which is cute because the odds of another controversial Tuck Rule ending to a playoff game happening were basically nonexistent.
  • NO TEBOW.
  • More tightly enforced celebration rules! Which is good because I think we all know that strictly enforced touchdown celebrations means a 20 percent drop in the national crime rate. BROKEN WINDOWS THEORY, PEOPLE. Every time I hope the NFL will lighten up a bit, they do even more to cater to your grandpa waving his cane at the screen any time a player makes a first down gesture. "That kind of JUNK doesn't belong in the game!"
  • The biggest QB moves this offseason involved Carson Palmer and Alex Smith. In other words, nothing happened.

Giants at Cowboys: The NFL settled their concussion lawsuit last week. You know you're a corrupt enterprise when over 4,000 people see fit to sue you simultaneously. Anyway, deep down, I'm glad that the lawsuit has been settled and that I, as a fan, can once more turn a blind eye to the whole concussion thing. The offseason is concussion season. But right now? LALALALALA CAN'T HEAR YOU RED ZONE IS ON LALALALALA. From the NFL's corporate sponsors to the insane stage parents in Texas high school football to fanboy sheep like me, there are too many people who are too invested in football's success for it to fail. They were never gonna let a pesky thing like, you know, DEATH, get in the way of keeping the sport afloat. The worse something is for you, the more we folks in 'Merica like it. FOOTBALL AND EDIBLE PIZZA BOXES FOR ALL.

Eagles at Redskins: Two of the four primetime games this week are NFC East division games. EAST COAST BIAS!

Falcons at Saints: The return of the NFL means the return of theRed Zone Channel, which is all I've ever wanted. I assume that, as usual, RZC will split hosting duties between Andrew Siciliano (for DirecTV customers) and Scott Hanson (for other cable providers). I'd like them to consolidate the job at some point so that all of us RZC viewers can get on the same page. Any time I mention that Andrew Siciliano is the Red Zone host, Comcast viewers act like I'm from Holland. "Uh, the RZC host is Scott Hanson, you fucking foreign weirdo."

Red Zone will ruin you for regular football because it makes it seem like every other game is much more exciting than the one you've forced yourself to watch. This is a lie, of course. RZC only uses the good bits. But it makes you feel like you're missing out on all the fun when you aren't watching it. Like I said before, I know more than a few kids whose favorite team is Red Zone Channel. That will become standard across all NFL viewers in about a decade. You can't stop it. I eagerly await the day when the NFL releases a 32-team patchwork jersey with the word RED ZONE across the back. It will sell fifty million units.

Packers at 49ers: One reason this NFL will be a lot of fun is because of Vine. The NFL can take down shit from YouTube all they like, but they'll have a hard time stopping the millions of Vines of Tony Romo DERPS that will be posted throughout the season. A Vine is just like a .gif, only I can stop the fucking thing from taking 40 hours to load. That helps.

Your Worst Football Memories Are Your Most Important Ones

Four Throwgasms

Seahawks at Panthers: Here's a story about Seahawks backup QB Tarvaris Jackson from reader Frank. I have no idea if it's true or not but it's a delight either way:

On a team flight, players were debating which movie to watch. One guy suggested Usual Suspects. Tavaris said, "That movie sucks. You never find out who Keyzer Sose is."

Stunned silence all around. Nobody laughed. He went right back to picking through the rest of the DVDs.

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Your Worst Football Memories Are Your Most Important Ones

Three Throwgasms

Patriots at Bills: No Jeff Tuel? I feel so let down. You mean to tell me that the Bills passed on starting a hard-working undrafted free agent in favor of a FIRST ROUND MEGABUCKS GLAMOUR BOY?! Sounds like a recipe for failure if you ask me.

By the way, the Bills fans sent the best emails for our season previews. I desperately want them to crush the Patriots and then go 11-5. Reality's a bitch.

Your Worst Football Memories Are Your Most Important Ones

Two Throwgasms

Bengals at Bears: I got stuck behind an old man in line at the pharmacy the other day and when he saw me whip out my phone, he went the full Abe Simpson on me.

OLD MAN: You have a phone, eh?

ME: Yep!

OLD MAN: (gets right into it) I laid phone cable for Patton during the war.

ME: Oh.

OLD MAN: Four hundred of us working day and night. Only got two meals a day.

ME: Which ones?

OLD MAN: Breakfast and dinner. We were damn glad to get them.

ME: Oh.

OLD MAN: DAMN GLAD TO GET 'EM.

ME: Okay.

OLD MAN: No lunch. People take a whole hour to eat lunch these days.

ME: (feeling guilty because I eat lunch) That they do.

OLD MAN: And they have these phones. Whole new world!

ME: (desperately looking ahead to see if the register will open up)

There's nothing you can do in that situation except be the horrible, ungrateful GEN X-ER. I wanted to do the respectful thing and sit down with the man and ask him his story and write it all down in some kind of leather-bound notebook. But I couldn't because he was a crazy, gibbering old man and I wanted to go home. Old people exist solely to make young people feel like pricks.

Texans at Chargers: BERMAN ALERT BERMAN ALERT BERMAN ALERT DO NOT WATCH

“As it turns out, at least in the early goings, I am the national voice of the San Diego Chargers. And that’s fine with me,” Berman said. “I’ve long had warm feelings for the team."

I'd rather kill myself than have Berman be the voice of my team.

Vikings at Lions: FUN FACT: The Vikings had a player essentially disappear from camp two weeks ago and never come back. Seems like a bad omen.

Your Worst Football Memories Are Your Most Important Ones

One Throwgasm

Dolphins at Browns: I was sitting in the emergency exit row of an airplane a few weeks ago, and before you take off, the flight attendant asks you if you're prepared to handle the duties of sitting in the emergency exit row and you must give oral affirmation that you can. I soberly announced that I could help and immediately felt like a HERO. Why yes, if the plane is crashing, I will TOTALLY not push women and children out of the way in a futile attempt to save my own skin. No way. I took an OATH. We in the emergency row are a band of brothers.

The plane took off and I went to the front bathroom to piss and the front bathroom on an airplane is designed for strictly people 4'3" and under. If you're a tall person, you have to stand all the way at the back, a foot away from the toilet. And even then, there's no room for your head. It's easier to piss in the sink. They should put a toilet where the sink is and a chest filled with PayDay bars where the toilet is. EVERYONE WINS.

Cardinals at Rams: In the spirit of Nathan For You, we thought it might be funny if you texted fake fantasy team or NFL home team scoring updates to your friends and then took a screenshot of their angry reaction when they find out that your information was false. Very simple stuff, like texting "OMG DARYL RICHARDSON JUST RAN FOR A 90-YARD TOUCHDOWN" to your friend who is stuck at a baptism ceremony. Give it shot and email us the results after your friend murders you.

Raiders at Colts: Holy shit, these games are awful. I HATE FOOTBALL.

Titans at Steelers

Jets at Bucs

Jaguars at Chiefs

Pregame Song That Makes Me Want To Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall

"I Appear Missing," by Queens of the Stone Age. If you've got a song to put here, send it in. I currently have the extreme #firstworldproblem of being sick of my entire iTunes library. "Oh, seven full days of music available to me at the click of a button? MEH." I hate myself. Old Man At The Drug Store would have been DAMN GLAD to have a Discman out on the front lines.

Suicide Pick Of The Week

Every week, we'll pick three potential teams for your suicide pool and something that makes you WANT to commit suicide. This week's picks? Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and children getting Labor Day off. I'm all for time off from work, but by the time Labor Day comes around, I want summer destroyed. I just spent three months in the miserable heat, devising all kinds of annoying day trips to filthy public pools and diseased zoos. I don't need one more goddamn weekend where families are expected to trudge to the beach one final, awful time.

Adults should get Labor Day off and kids should have to go to school. Then I could walk to town, eat a hamburger alone, and touch myself in the restaurant bathroom. THAT is what parents deserve at the end of summer. Not one final stretch of bored kids demanding to be entertained. I hope summer never comes back.

Great Moments In Poop History

Reader Max sends in this story I call POOP MERIDIAN:

Last year I - for some reason that is totally fucking inconceivable to me now - volunteered to teach high school English on an Indian reservation in the Southwest. The apartment the school set me up with had no television or internet access, just lots of cockroaches and misery, so I tried to spend as much time out in the desert doing outdoorsy tough guy stuff as possible. One Friday night while my roommate was out of town, I decided on an impulse to wander off to the mesa behind the campus's horse pasture. I had no bug spray, no hiking shoes, no cell phone service because it turns out Verizon's coverage doesn't extend to the surface of Mars, and nobody knew where I was going. I also had, for the time being, clean underwear.

The climb up and around the mesa went well enough, but when I reached the top I realized that not only I did I have to take a roaring shit, but I was racing against sundown too. I probably could have quickly sprinted down the way I came, but instead I decided to go full Nathan Drake and slide down the face of the mesa, because I was an invincible 22 year old retard. Pretty soon I found myself stuck at the edge of like a thirty fucking foot drop, covered in mosquito bites, the sun basically already set, within distant view of the fans at the high school football game, with a fresh diarrhea stew on the burner. It took me 10 minutes to reverse crab walk my way back up to safety while grabbing on to little prickly plant things for support, then another 10 minutes to get back to flat ground.

At this point it's pitch black out, and I'm stumbling around looking for the little hole in the barbed wire fence I need to use to get out of the horse pasture. So finally I decide, you know, fuck it, they'll probably just think it's horse poop, and unload in the middle of the desert - with pride, the way our ancestors would have done it. I had nothing to wipe with, so I used my underwear, which I then chucked in the dumpster outside my apartment before slinking into bed to ask myself some serious questions about the way I've chosen to live my life.

Fire This Asshole!

Is there anything more exciting than a coach losing his job? All year long, we'll keep track of which coaches will almost certainly get fired at year's end or sooner. And now, your potential 2013 chopping block:

  • Rex Ryan*
  • Mike Munchak
  • Ron Rivera
  • Jason Garrett
  • Jim Schwartz
  • Greg Schiano
  • Dennis Allen
  • John Fox

*Potential midseason firing

You can actually bet on which NFL coach will be the first to get fired. It will not shock you to learn that poor Rex Ryan is listed at 2/3 odds. He's lapped the field. What's to keep the Jets GM from betting his salary on Rex getting fired a day before firing him? I mean, apart from the fact that the money would almost certainly be traced directly back to him and then he would be banned from the NFL for life? Apart from that, it's a PERFECT plan.

Gametime Snack Of The Week

The cronut. I was wondering if anyone took the cronut and made a burger out of it, and it turns out that one enterprising Toronto bakery offered a cronut burger that ended up poisoning over 200 freakin' people. If this was a secret plan to commit foodie genocide, I can't say I'm against it. Apparently, the culprit was the maple bacon jam, because of course it was.

One of the dirty little secrets of the food world is that any fancy new nose-to-tail restaurant in your town that serves lobster cronuts and pig's foot hash with goose liver marmalade is just as likely to be run by incompetent people as any normal, boring restaurant.

Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week

Kokanee! From reader Nathan:

On an Amtrak from Seattle to Portland. Had to buy this. Glacier fresh! How could one resist? It is utterly devoid of flavor. I could drink 1,000 of these.

Shitty beer on a train? Peter King approves. That really does look like a refreshing label. Sometimes, flavorless beer is the exact right beer for the occasion. I MUST HAVE IT.

Robert Evans's MVP Watch!

Time to start thinking about who the leaders will be for the NFL's MVP award. So every week, legendary Hollywood producer Robert Evans will join us to give us his assessment. Take it away, Mr. Evans.

Your Worst Football Memories Are Your Most Important Ones

"Baby, my favorite for the NFL's MVP award is Andrew Luck of the Colts! Another fabulous summer has passed here at Woodland. Nude pool skiing? YOU BET! A dead girl covered in silver paint found on my tennis court? PROBABLY HOFFMAN'S.

"As you may have heard, my dear friend Jack Nicholson (you know him simply as Jack) supposedly retired from acting this week because of memory loss. Well baby, I'm here to tell you it's complete BULL. Jack spent two weeks here at Woodland over the summer and I can tell you that the ol' wolf is as sharp as ever!

"'Evans,' he said to me as we were both receiving 'voice work' from a pair of 20-year-old starlets, 'Remember that time we went to the Dominican Republic to see if we could live on just cocaine and water for a whole week?'

"'Sure do, baby!'

"'Evans, I never told you this, but I saw something four days into that binge. I was in my bed and there were a half dozen hookers sleeping on the floor when I saw this... this strange animal hovering over the bed. Evans, it looked like a 300-pound brick shithouse of a man covered in black fur, with fangs that were six inches long. And he spoke to me. He growled in my face and he said to me... THEY ARE COMING FOR YOU. Evans, I swear to you, it was as real as you sitting here next to me. I was terrified. I thought, this is it for you, Jack. You're finally gonna pay for the all the horrible things you've done. I asked the beast what it wanted. And it told me it wanted me to masturbate for it. So I did. I jerked myself till I made five easy pieces on the ceiling and the beast disappeared. BEST ORGASM I'VE EVER HAD, EVANS. I never saw the thing again.'

"DOES THAT SOUND LIKE A MAN WHO HAS RETIRED TO YOU, BABY?!"

Sunday Afternoon Movie Of The Week For Browns Fans

Rebecca. This is the first American movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock and it's creepy as shit. I've figured out that the best way to watch super old movies is to skip the first hour. The first hour of any old movie usually consists of people introducing themselves to each other near a doorway. "Master Baines, this is Constable Fry of the Hempsteads." If you simply skip all that, you get right to the hot action.

Old movies are also amusing because they always turn the female characters into helpless, screaming damsels. You'll see some guy yell at his wife and then the wife will be like, "Oh dear Wellington, have I disappointed you in some way?! I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT YOU! (falls onto nearby sofa crying endlessly)" Old movies are weird.

Gratuitous Simpsons Quote

"Beatles, eh? Oh, yes. I seem to remember their off-key caterwauling on the old Sullivan show. What was Ed thinking?"

Enjoy the games, everyone. The NFL is back.


Photo by David Lee/Shutterstock