I can never play organized tackle football again. This isn’t a terribly dramatic proclamation, given that I was a horrendous football player, and given that I am currently a 42-year-old man with a spine made of wet oyster crackers. In theory, I could maybe join some shitty beer league team and strap on some pads one final time, but I’m not a fool. That would end in obscene levels of pain. I am done. In fact, I never even bothered to finish out my college football career in full. I quit before my senior year, calling up my position coach (an EXTREMELY intense man) and giving him the news personally, because it’s very much my thing to attempt to wring drama, this post included, from personal news that is relatively uneventful. I told him that I was burnt out and that my heart wasn’t in it anymore. Both those things were true, though I may have failed to mention certain other decisive factors. My coach warmly thanked me and told me they’d miss me out there, and then he said a few other very kind, perfunctory coach things before hanging up and going back about his business.
But of course this was a big deal to me, because I was giving up a specific activity for good. I was only 20 years old at the time. I was not used to things ending forever. When you’re young, it feels like your possibilities are only expanding. There are bigger and better things coming, and you’re gonna be able to do them all if you’re allowed, yes you are. You could be President! You could go to space! You could be rich as balls! You’re gonna get laid a lot! That’s why it’s so jarring—devastating, perhaps—to be young and to realize that you’ll never get to do a certain thing again: play a sport, go to school, kiss your now ex-girlfriend, etc. The first things you lose are the hardest. That’s your first dose of finality, and it often takes time to accept something ending permanently, especially when you’re young and conditioned to believe that anything is possible. I think that’s why so many people try to relive their glory years in whatever form those years happened to take on. They’re not over the loss.
That was not the case with me and the sport of football. I spent my senior year drinking beer, playing N64, dabbling in rugby, chasing women, and using my time in other productively bro-ish ways. I was fairly happy to leave football behind. The team went 0-8 that year, by the way. I’m extremely sad that happened, but I also strongly doubt that my absence was a contributing factor to the malaise. If I hadn’t retired from the sport, the team probably would have found a way to go 0-9.
I’m older now, and I have found that where the world once opened up for me, it has now begun shuttering certain avenues. I can still venture out into the great beyond and be a tiresome experience collector like every other dipshit out there. Maybe I’ll try parasailing one day if I’m willing to pony up for it. But where life formerly seemed to expand, it now seems to be contracting. Certain things that were once possibilities are now memories: moments consigned to a kind of reverse bucket list in my mind. I can never play football again, nor can I do the following things anymore. Some of these are things, like football, that I gave up of my own volition. Others … others were taken. Like:
1. Play hockey. I played hockey once, too. Here’s a photo of me, ready to goon up the Mite division:
Last year I played competitive broomball when I returned to Minnesota for the first time in nearly 30 years, and it dredged up a lot of fond memories up from the floor of my psyche. On a primal level, I deeply enjoyed sitting in a locker room on an absolutely fucking frigid night, putting on gear and joking around with new teammates. Sometimes getting ready for a game is more fun than the game itself… sometimes a lot more fun. Even at the rec level, you walk into a sporting event and the air becomes suffused with giddy anticipation. I liked that. Then I went out on to that broomball rink and slipped all over the place. When I took a break to pop a cold one, the beer had already frozen over. That game marked the ignominious end of my career in contact ice sports.
2. Go to summer camp. You can actually go to designated adult summer camps now, which are designed for insufferable professionals and almost certainly attended solely by journalists working on stunt pieces. I could go to one of these camps and probably enjoy myself, but it would just be me trying to recapture the sensation of what it was like to REALLY be at summer camp back in the 80s, learning about cigarettes and blowjobs and what not. At the end of every camp session, we would sit on benches around a giant bonfire and sing songs to close out the summer. In my last year there, I saw another kid I’ll call Brad bawling his eyes out. Like me, he had reached the age limit for campers. After this, it was become a counselor-in-training or nothing. Brad wiped away the tears from his eyes and said, “I don’t wanna go home.” He knew this was it. So I can plunk down X amount of dollars on a counterfeit summer camp week for adults, but I know I won’t leave that camp feeling the way Brad felt. It wouldn’t be the same. It shouldn’t be the same.
3. Go to high school/college. The entire American dive bar industry is built on patrons who desperately want to re-live their college and/or high school years. I’m not above pining for those days myself, even though my actual college years weren’t exactly Animal House shit. If I could go back and do it all over again, I would do things differently. Of course, that only makes the pull of the memory stronger. I’m going to my high school reunion in two weeks and I don’t know whether to embrace my old classmates or apologize to them for being such a prick back then. When you graduate, all the administrators and miserable grad speakers like to frame the occasion as the beginning of your next phase in life. But there’s a lingering, bittersweet atmosphere to the whole affair, especially if you were some lucky bastard who had the BEST time at college. That was not me, but I still grapple with the fact that it’s too late now for me to go back and re-do all of the things I did wrong.
4. Impregnate a woman. Not sad about this one! Nossir. In fact, I deliberately asked a doctor to open up my nutsack and solder my tubes shut specifically so that I could never relive this experience. My balls then exploded, and yet somehow I still have no regrets. Beats changing diapers and washing formula bottles ever again. CHECK THAT OFF.
5. Hear properly. Nearly five months ago, I suffered a severe brain hemorrhage while I was just standing around at a work party. When I collapsed, I fractured my skull. That fracture tore through the inner ear on the right side of my head, rendering it inoperable for good. I’m looking into ways to make up for that loss, but they all appear to feature old-man hearing aids, and such remedies likely won’t bring my hearing all the way back to where it was. On the plus side, my children are now half as loud to me. Also, Stephen Colbert is deaf in his right ear as well. That makes us practically related.
I wish my senses were back at full strength, but then I remember something the late Roger Ebert wrote when the ravages of cancer had permanently robbed him of the ability to eat and drink:
I dreamed. I was reading Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree, and there’s a passage where the hero, lazing on his river boat on a hot summer day, pulls up a string from the water with a bottle of orange soda attached to it and drinks. I tasted that pop so clearly I can taste it today. Later he’s served a beer in a frosted mug. I don’t drink beer, but the frosted mug evoked for me a long-buried memory of my father and I driving in his old Plymouth to the A&W Root Beer stand (gravel driveways, carhop service, window trays) and his voice saying “...and a five-cent beer for the boy.” The smoke from his Lucky Strike in the car. The heavy summer heat…
I began to replace what I had lost with what I remembered.
And so I must as well. My ears are a wreck but my memory can still hear just fine.
6. Watch Star Wars for the first time. In the future, they’ll invent Eternal Sunshine-style memory erasure service and the FIRST thing customers will do with it is wipe away movie memories so that they can relive Star Wars and Marvel shit and porn all over again. Mostly porn. Porn always leads the way.
7. Buy mole sauce from Trader Joe’s. They discontinued it! They discontinue items at that dumb store all the time and never warn you. BULLSHIT. That was one of their best items, man. Now I have to go eat ACTUAL mole sauce made by real people. Such a tragedy.
8. See my grandparents while I’m still alive. My last surviving grandparent—my grandma on my mom’s side—passed away years ago. She’s the one who taught me how to play Scrabble and also bought me all the virgin piña coladas I could drink (many). I have faith that I will see her again one day after this life has ended. It’s a great reason to have faith, after all. But while I’m still here on Earth, I have to appreciate the time I had with her and with my other grandparents, rather than anguish over the time I must now spend without them. I don’t always succeed in this effort. I miss her. I miss them all. One time my grandma and I were dancing at some random banquet and she told me, “Oh, Drew … never settle. NEVER SETTLE.” I had never had a girlfriend at the time. She thought more of me than I thought of myself.
9. Play golf. Golf is designed specifically for people to play until they’re old and decrepit and can kick a ball farther than they can hit it. But it is NOT designed for people who have back trouble, Tiger Woods possibly exempted. You can bend, you can twist, and you can lift, but you shouldn’t do all three at once. A golf swing is all three at once. Thus, I and my 98 handicap have been permanently banished to the clubhouse. All my future good walks will be left unspoiled.
Golf is normally an exception, but you tend to lose sports before you lose most other things. This is the part where I work in a mention of the NFL Draft, because this is ostensibly a column about football, and tonight you will be introduced to a group of gentlemen about to enter, hopefully, the prime of both their physical abilities AND their earning potential. They are at the beginning, which is a lovely place to be. All of them, regardless of their accomplishments, will reach an end to football at some point. But their triumphs will live on—tangibly exist, really—not simply in their own memories, but in the memories of millions of others. That’s no small consolation prize. Sometimes it’s nice to live in the afterglow.
The other day I took my youngest son to a football field and, for fun, we went over to a practice chute that was sitting around behind the end zone. I taught the boy how to get into a three-point stance and fire out, staying under the bar. My football career is over. But well, that little drill was more than enough of a taste to keep me going. The afterglow was warm and soft and inviting. There are things I can never do again, and there are things that you will one day never do again. But that doesn’t mean those things end. What lives on in your memories can never die.
All draft days in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms.
The whole thing. Tonight’s draft comes to you live from Nashville. Every draftee gets a free dead cherry tree to commemorate the occasion. Also, the draft is moving over to broadcast television for the first time ever this year. Judging by the promos, ABC is going to Olympic-ify the broadcast by 70 percent. This used to be a weekend purely for football junkies, but the NFL wants to rope in as many casual viewers as they can, and they want also want to visibly brand every player before they enter the league, so that each player is recognizable to passing fans but not so famous that they can demand too high of a salary. It’s gonna be one long, horrifying variety show.
ESPN and ABC personalities and other “special guests” will be part of the multi-night ABC presentation.
Awesome. Because what I’ve always wanted during the Draft is an in-depth chat with the stars of Whiskey Cavalier. Can’t get enough of that shit. Ten minutes in and I will absolutely bail on ABC’s holiday parade-style coverage and watch this on the NFL Network, because DURRRR I’M JUST HERE FOR FOOTBAW DURRRR. Then Michael Irvin will stab someone with scissors on the set and I’ll go right back to George Stephanopoulos asking Roger Goodell how important it is for the NFL to defend American values. By the way, if you to go to the NFL’s website, here’s how they trumpet the simulcast info:
Disney pays nearly $2 billion a year to the NFL. In return, they get the “Puppet Show and Spinal Tap” treatment for the league’s premiere offseason TV showcase. What a bargain.
• I’m ready to be let down because when NFL teams trade away picks near the very top of the draft, they tend to do it weeks in advance. I think the Rams traded up to draft Jared Goff before he had finished middle school. The Odell and AB trades were the bigass moments of this offseason and they both already happened. So while I can usually trust the Cardinals to loudly fuck up, somehow they’re gonna bore the world, keep the pick, and just take Nick Bosa instead, so that he can finally live among his brethren out in the desert wastelands. Michael Bidwill will probably let Bosa carry firearms around on the sidelines. That’s my prediction for this draft.
[RAIDERS SWOOP IN AND TRADE THEIR NEW VEGAS STADIUM DEED FOR JOSH ROSEN, CHARLES CLAY, AND A PAIR OF LOAFERS… BUT SOMEHOW NOT THE NO. 1 PICK]
Okay then … Anyway, let’s talk about more random crap.
• Here’s the most inevitable development of the offseason:
Of course. Of course the Steelers would run Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell out of town on a rail, and then turn around and give Big Ben—a dude who mulls retirement every other week and openly slags his own teammates—a bazillion-dollar golden parachute. Join us in November when Ben freezes out 16 other Steelers after a loss in Cleveland and then gets a $45 million spot bonus for it.
• I was stuck behind a cop at a traffic light the other night when the light turned green and the cop didn’t move, like he was busy texting or something. And I was this close to giving him a courtesy honk, like to wake his ass up. But I wisely refrained. Honk at a policeman and your ass will be locked in a cell within seven minutes. It wasn’t worth the risk, no matter what my horrific driverly instincts wanted to do. When the cop finally saw the light, he went up to 90 in the blink of an eye.
• I’ve been watching the NBA playoffs and if you watch sports on TV, you’re gonna see some Subway ads. Subway buys up ALL the primetime sports ad slots. Apparently when people aren’t watching sports, they’re ordering sweet chicken teriyaki subs in bulk. I know I am. Anyway, lately Subway has been like, “Fuck it. We’re a burrito joint now.” I do not trust them to make 87 different kinds of wraps, no matter how much glazed pig tendon is bursting out of one.
• My uneducated hot take is that if you wanna be good, you should draft more guards. It’s one of the least sexy positions to draft, but when you draft a guard high, good things can happen. The Colts drafted Quenton Nelson sixth a year ago and suddenly they WEREN’T a colossal embarrassment. The Skins drafted Brandon Scherff at No. 5 four years ago and, a season-ending injury in 2018 aside, he’s easily been one of their best players. They still suck because they’re the Skins, but that’s not Scherff’s fault. There are more: Kevin Zeitler, David DeCastro, Zack Martin, Mike Iupati, etc. I have conveniently left out any busts from that list in order to cherry-pick data to support my thesis, so you are welcome. It’s worth being bored to death on draft day—all offseason really—in exchange for a team that’s fortified in ways that help everyone at every other position on one side of the field. I want my team to draft a guard, then I want to spend the rest of the weekend failing to get fired up over it.
• It’s spring now, which means that I get to step outside and marvel at all the blooming flora, take in the fresh spring air, and then spot a bunch of wasps loitering right outside the door before I hightail it back inside. One giant bee has been buzzing around my deck all spring, and he won’t stay still long enough for me to kill him. That bee owns the deck now. It’s his.
• Endgame comes out tonight, so prepare yourself by watching old episodes of the Iron Man cartoon:
This show is before even my time, and holy shit is it glaringly evident. It’s not even animation, really. It’s a slideshow. I myself could hand-draw this cartoon in under a minute. Iron Man is ruined for me forever now. Anyway, enjoy the movie!
• I was walking my dog the other day and someone had left a doggie bag filled with shit along the road. In other words, they had curbed their dog, but didn’t bother to complete the process. It’s not even the only time I’ve come across a shitbag in the road. Why would you do this? Why would you bag the shit but not throw it out? Why make half the effort? Why not just leave the turd as is? This offends me as a lazy person.
• One more time, just to savor it…
I demand those two to REALLY think outside the black hole for this one. The Raiders are gonna alternate between Gruden selecting retired quarterbacks and Mayock drafting converted volleyball players from the NAIA, and it’ll be glorious. I’m counting on this braintrust to publicly shit the bed every hour, on the hour. It’ll justify the entire weekend’s viewing.
Pre-draft Song That Makes Me Want To Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall
“About to Crack,” by Vitamin X! Reader George demands you let this song rip your fucking face off:
I’d never listened to this band till I watched Brent Hinds give a tour of Mastodon’s tour bus and he was wearing one of their shirts. I decided to give them a listen and was not disappointed. Though I’m not normally a punk guy, this song, and especially the video, rule! It clocks in at under two minutes, never lets up, has a skeleton main character, a dope Simpsons reference, and hides easter eggs of other bands throughout. Enjoy!
Oh, I did, good sir. I very much did. Any song under two minutes already has a head start on its way into my heart. Just scream at me and then leave me.
Gregg Easterbrook Memorial Haughty Dipshit Of The Week
Tuesday was a banner day for Resident Shithead Andy Benoit of SI. Look at this pair of tweets:
You might think those tweets suck, but I went back and watched the film on them, in IMAX, and, in my opinion, they’re two of the greatest tweets of all time. Expertly schemed. It’s what you DON’T see that makes them so compelling.
Let’s see what our man had to say about the Frank Clark trade…
Our Albert Breer recently reported that most people within the NFL believe Clark is clearly better than Ford. From having watched almost every snap on film of both players the last three years, that’s not surprising. Ford’s get-off and pliability are tremendous, making him potent off the edge and on stunts and twists inside. However Clark’s get-off and pliability are unparalleled
Love a man with an unparalleled get-off. You’ve seen other get-offs before, but never a get-off like this. The man just spurts into your backfield unannounced.
Cryptkeeper Al Davis Lock Of The Week: Sixers 7/1 To Win The ECF
“EEEEE HEE HEE HEE HEE HEE! Excuse me while I dip a severed toe into the END-B-A, kitties! But I can’t pass up a chance to tell Giannis Anteto-TOMB-po that his days in the playoffs are NUMBERED. Because I believe the KILL-adelphia Seventy-STYX-ers will lead Milwauk-EEEEEEEEE to an EARLY GRAVE. They have no answer for Jo-HELL Em-BLEED, nor for SLAY SLAY Redick, nor for Jimmy GUT-ler, nor for Mike ROTT, nor for REMOVED FRONTAL LOBE-an Marjanovic! TRUST THE ABSCESS!”
[rises from the grave and orders son to draft D.K. Metcalf three times over]
Bad Local Commercial Of The Week!
Not Just Pizza! From the appropriately named burg of Sicklerville in New Jersey comes the Naughty By Nature throwback ad you never knew you wanted. Here’s Patrick:
My bad local commercial of the week comes from a Philadelphia pizza place called NJP, and features both bad rapping AND a gratuitous gorilla costume. We were watching football one Sunday and the horrific commercial inspired us to order from them and we were surprised to find out they had decent wings.
Go to the :18 mark and the ad really soars, because the V/O starts listing off other menu items and the pictures don’t time up with her list at all. I have transcribed it just for YEW:
V/O: Specializing in steaks…
[photo of pizza]
[a hoagie but then ALSO some sort of sad pasta bowl covered in cheese and bacon… pasta nachos, really]
V/O: ..even ice cream!
[quickly cuts from ice cream to a man in a gorilla costume and a man in a banana costume]
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 2019 chopping block:
(*potential midseason firing)
Yeah yeah these guys will all be dead meat at some point or another but let’s focus on the fact that Mike McCarthy is still out on his ass.
About once a week, a meeting would start up and McCarthy was MIA. Players weren’t quite sure where he was while, for example, an assistant coach would run the team’s final prep on the Saturday before a game. Eventually, word leaked that McCarthy, the one calling plays on game day, was up in his office getting a massage during those meetings. One player had the same massage therapist, and she let it slip that McCarthy would sneak her up a back stairway to his office while the rest of the team prepared for that week’s opponent.
Chisel that in stone and put it outside Lambeau. The McCarthy era was always destined to end in petty arguments about procrastination via deep tissue massage, and I’m glad I was here to witness it.
Drafttime Snack Of The Week
Chicken-fried mushrooms! I know that eating a chicken-fried mushroom sounds, uh, interesting, but these are good. It’s got mushrooms. It’s got chicken frying. It’s a solid pairing. When my family lived in Chicago, my mom would pick these up from the local Brown’s Fried Chicken joint. I could eat my weight in these mushrooms, and then eat whatever subsequent weight I gained in them from eating my original weight in them. I’m not afraid.
Drafttime Cheap Beer Of The Week
LEO! The fiercest jungle cat of all terrible Thai beers! From Ben:
Spending a night in Bangkok on my way to Laos, and found this in the minibar for the equivalent of $2. Couldn’t pass it up. Not sure how a jaguar got himself the name “Leo” but here we are. Tasted like carbonated battery acid and was just what I needed after flying for 20+ hours. Would drink again!
Look at that jaguar, man. He looks ready to fuck your shit up good. Just like this beer!
Here is where I note that, after my sudden brain hemorrhage, one doctor advised me to not drink alcohol for at least a year, if not forever. Drinking could cause me more internal bleeding, seizures, and possibly worse. No thank you. All those gags about alcohol killing your brain cells became dire warnings in a hurry. Turns out alcohol is bad for you! WHO KNEW? So I’m off the sauce, but that doesn’t mean I cannot marvel at YOUR adventures through the shitty beer minefield. Keep ‘em coming, people.
Jim Tomsula’s Lifehack Of The Week!
“Five-second rule … That’s just stupid, all right? What, you think after another five seconds that a candy bar you dropped turns into a live ferret? That’s just foolishness, okay? Nothing wrong with eating something off the ground that’s been there a while. Original Americans, as honored by Mr. Snyder (who owns a boat), used to cook their food IN the ground. That ground is sacred. That’s why the Koch brothers are having a clambake at our 50-yard line this preseason. The ground is natural. Food COMES from the ground. I’ve eaten a hot dog I’ve found on the ground. No idea how long it was there, okay? If I hadn’t eaten it, Pennsylvania Skaggs would have, and I’m not lettin’ that sumbitch eat my food. Boys, I had the purple runs for a week after I ate that thing. No big deal. That was a good hot dog. Plus… more nutrients for the ground!”
Movie Of The Night For Browns Fans (No first-rounder)
Bumblebee, which I liked. Granted, my expectations were somewhere south of Antarctica, but still. When you eliminate Michael Bay and his mandatory 150 extra minutes of incomprehensible CGI battle footage, you can make a watchable Transformers movie. This one won me over because Soundwave is in it for 12 seconds, and because they littered the thing with enough recycled ‘80s hits to entice virtually any milquetoast child of that era. That’s me. Put on some Simple Minds and remake ET but with homicidal alien cybernetic organisms and I fall in line. Also, Hailee Steinfeld plays a teenage outcast in this movie forced to work a shit job along the Santa Monica pier. But also, her family lives in a baller house overlooking the Pacific, with a garage large enough to house a fucking 30-foot tall robot. As a lifelong Transformboy, I expect a little bit more verisimilitude from a Transformers movie, thank you very much.
Gratuitous Simpsons Quote
“What’s so special about this game anyway? It’s just another chapter in the pointless rivalry between Springfield and Shelbyville. They built a mini-mall, so we built a bigger mini-mall. They made the world’s largest pizza, so we burnt down their city hall.”
Enjoy the draft, everyone.