Coming Out Flat Is The Secret Disease Of All Sports

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


Back when was SportsCenter was good, they ran a big special report on athletes and "The Zone," that mystical place athletes (pro and amateur alike) go when they make every shot, or aim every throw with perfect precision, or make five birdies in a row… the strange and all-too-brief hot streak where you can do no wrong and you're not quite sure why. ESPN ran the segment after what is arguably the most famous example of this happening: the 1992 NBA finals, when Michael Jordan dropped six three-pointers in one half on the Blazers and gave The Shrug…

When they interviewed MJ after the game, he was at a loss to describe why he nailed virtually every shot he took. “The first one felt so good, I had to take more. I don’t exactly know how to explain it.” He wasn't just his usual, ass-kicking self. He was his NBA Jam "On Fire" self, and despite all his training and force of will, he was still reduced to shrugging when asked to explain how he did it. That is The Zone: when all your talent and preparation and sociopathic competitiveness combine in a run that seems like a gift from the divine. You've seen it happen. Maybe you've even experienced it firsthand. I swear I got on a Tetris run once that would have blown your damn mind.

And then, there's the opposite moment, when you are fully prepared to go out there and kick the shit out of everyone, and you show up to the field DEAD. Your body feels heavy. Your brain feels groggy. All of your teammates are quiet for some reason. It's like a fucking ghost passed through the team prior to kickoff. What happened? YOU HAD A GREAT WEEK OF PRACTICE. You showed up to practice on Thursday and not a single ball touched the ground. You lifted weights real good. You put on your uniform and looked like a STALLION in it. What the fuck happened? How did it all go wrong?

That is what we call coming out flat, and it's the worst.

I am your standard dickhead sports fan in that any time my team loses, I will seek out a reason for that loss. I want one person or thing to blame for the end result. The coach is a moron. The quarterback sucks. We didn't run the ball enough. We didn't pass the ball enough. "We just got beat by a better team," etc. I always want there to be a bulletproof rationale for why my team looked like shit out there. And if you are a turd like Gregg Easterbrook, you can take it a step further and ascribe that loss to some kind of personal failing. The players didn't tackle well, so they are lazy. The coach called bad plays, so he is not a sophisticated thinker. The team punted from its own 45, so THE FOOTBALL GODS WERE DISRESPECTED. Shit like that.

But that's not always true. Sometimes, you lose because you come out flat and your team, collectively, cannot snap out of it. You are in the anti-zone, where every fucking shot bricks and every forehand goes directly into the net. I remember this from high school. It feels like a disease has infected the team. Everyone is hooting and hollering before the game, and the crowd is jazzed, and you feel like Mr. Big Swinging Dick. And then the whistle blows and the balloon deflates. I've seen guys give angry tirades in an attempt to break the spell. I've seen guys run in place on the sideline to reclaim the idea of fluid physical motion. I've heard coaches yell (at me and other guys), time and again, to "get your head in the game," as if we had misplaced our heads in a nearby lockbox and forgotten to claim them prior to taking the field. It rarely worked. Some great athletes (old Tiger Woods, for instance) have the ability to push through flatness and still muscle their way to victory. Your standard high school football team is usually not as fortunate.

But it happens at all levels of competition. Take the Saints last week, for instance. Now, the Saints are a shitty team. They can't play defense. They turn the ball over constantly. They don't deserve to make the playoffs, and maybe they won't. But they were at home last week, and they were playing a Carolina team that hadn't won since Week 5. They were equals with that team, if not better. And they got fucking destroyed. They were flat. You can see it in the highlights. They're not in the game. Here is Drew Brees in the postgame presser and he is baffled by it all:

"The week was good! Preparation-wise: the desire, the energy, all those things, yet you come out and put out a performance like that… this is funny game…"


You'll see that reaction a lot from athletes after they lose a game. They're not just sad or angry… they are CONFUSED as to why they got a case of the flats and couldn't shake it off. They will apologize and say it's unacceptable because they know that the general sporting public isn't going to accept them saying, "Well, we have no fucking idea why we suck, but we're trying not to!" People want answers, especially from well-paid professionals.

But it happens to them, man. It happens to them just like it can happen to you. It can even happen outside of sports: a shit day at work where everyone is simultaneously walking around like a zombie, a bad date where you can't seem to say the right thing, a band showing up to the arena and laying an egg. No one is safe. For every zone you find yourself in—every time the basket looks like a hula hoop and all the girls in the stands are looking at you and only you and a bigass rainbow trails every step you take—there is a bottomless pit for you to fall into afterward. It is the great equalizer in sports, and no one will ever be able to properly explain it.


The Games

All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms.

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Five Throwgasms

Cowboys at Eagles: I'd like to know who came up with the big ACT TWO graphic at the beginning of the second half of every SNF game. Because you know there's a producer who pitched that idea in a meeting and was super proud of it. "Guys, this shouldn't just be a game. It should be a DRAMA. So we're gonna call the second half ACT TWO. That'll pull in the female demographic." They may as well bring in Alan Cumming to introduce the game while standing next to a fireplace.


Bengals at Browns: Johnny Fuckin' Football! IT'S ABOUT GODDAMN TIME. I know this has no chance of happening, but what if Johnny Manziel wins these last four games and then leads Cleveland to a Super Bowl? America would go topless for a full week if that happened. Manziel would never be sober again after that. It would be anarchy. I find that much more appealing that dopey Tom Brady winning another AFC crown.

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Four Throwgasms

Texans at Colts: Right after Jadeveon Clowney was lost for the season (he needs microfracture surgery, which is the kiss of death), both Peter King AND Adam Schefter had very strange ways of processing the injury. Here is King:

A few words on the lost season of Jadeveon Clowney.

Very few. Because his rookie season never really got off the ground. This is what you need to know about Clowney’s freshman year in the NFL, after being picked first overall and having his season wrecked by hernia, concussion and knee issues:

Compensation in bonuses and salary: $14,938,000. Games played: 4. Plays: 143. Tackles: 7. Sacks: 0. Quarterback hits (via Pro Football Focus): 0.

Clowney’s next payday will be in late July, when the Texans will pay him a roster bonus of $922,409.


And here is Schefter:


I don't know Jadeveon Clowney. Maybe he does have a low motor, for all I know. But the guy's knee is destroyed. I don't think that was some grand plan of his. The standard reaction to this sort of injury should usually be, "Hey, that's too bad for him. I hope he gets better!" But here are two NFL stooges, King and Schefter, immediately couching the injury in terms of production. Oh, pity Bob McNair for not getting a sound return on his property! HE'S THE REAL VICTIM HERE. They throw down the damning stats in order to generate the proper amount of fan disgust. Go ahead and look at Schefter's replies and you'll get a good idea of how the NFL would like fans to react to any player who is not considered to be pulling his weight.

Broncos at Chargers: Every week, some team (okay, the Patriots) runs a pick play and the announcer is just like, "Here’s a designed pick play!", as if a pick play is fine to run. It's cheating! It's complete horseshit. The announcer should be LIVID. He should be like, "Look at this dirty-ass pick play. Motherfuckers." Instead they act like they just saw their kid sneak a cookie. "Mighta gotten away with one there!" I demand more irrational anger.

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Three Throwgasms

Cardinals at Rams: I think the Rams should be gifted an entry into the NFC South for the last four weeks, so that they can win it. If any losing team is gonna make the playoffs, it deserves to be the Rams. That's the advantage of having Jeff Fisher as your coach. You will always be the most dangerous 8-8 team in the universe.


Steelers at Falcons: I hate-follow Peter King on Twitter for far too many reasons, but mostly because he routinely coughs up NUGGETS like this:


So is he humble? It's not quite clear here. I'd like to imagine that Peter King will automatically absorb anything you say and say it back to you as an observation on your character.

ROGER GOODELL: We have to get this right.

PETER: Give credit to Goodell, he wants to get it right!

TOM BRADY: I'm just working hard, day to day.

PETER: What a hard worker.

JOHN HARBAUGH: I'm not gonna let an elevator knockout get in the way of me bitching out the refs!


PETER: This guy has remarkable focus!

It's like a coin-operated flattery machine.

Dolphins at Patriots: I buy milk for my kids at least twice a week, and we need greater cap consistency from the milk industry. Red is always whole milk. Light blue is always skim. But between that? CHAOS. Two percent can be ANY color, by God. If we don't get this settled via Congressional mandate, everything will fall apart.


Vikings at Lions: I was at a bar in Texas last week and two friends got me higher than shit. I took a hit on the patio and started coughing all over the place, just so that everyone around could see that I smoke weed like a 15-year-old. Anyway, I smoked too much and ended up with the dog hearing. You know what I'm talking about: When you get so high, you can hear an alarm clock tick in fucking Russia. I tried to go to bed that night and I could hear every last conversation in every room of the hotel. I don't want such acute sensory superpowers. If they ever beat Congress to legalize weed here in D.C. (stupid Congress), I'm gonna go to the dispensary and ask for the NO SUPERHEARING strain.

Fun night, though. I REGRET NOTHING.

Niners at Seahawks

Packers at Bills

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Two Throwgasms

Raiders at Chiefs: I know we all make fun of Mark Davis's hair, but have you seen his face lately? There are blotches and liver spots and weird orange hairs. We are mere weeks away from him rocking bloodied bandages while hanging out in the luxury box, just like his old man did. The Davis family must have some kind of genetic skin necrosis that gives you witch skin the day you turn 60.


Jeff Fisher Pwn3d You at Giants

Saints at Bears

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One Throwgasm

Bucs at Panthers: I think I've had enough of that Bud Light ad where Warren Sapp "surprises" some random Bucs fan by showing up at his house and outfitting the joint with a real pirate ship and all that. I bet that's all crap. I bet they told the guy in advance that they would destroy his yard like that. What if that isn't even his house? The Bucs have no real fans! ADS LIED TO ME AGAIN. If Warren Sapp was in my house and opened his arms wide for a hug, I'd throw a glass at him. I'M NOT YOUR FRIEND, GUY. I wanna meet the Bud Light consumer who's like, "A bunch of strangers festooning my house with branded garbage? Jimmy Johnson playing against me in table football? BEST TIME EVER."


Jets at Titans: We need to find a better insult for unproductive quarterbacks than Captain Checkdown. Check this Twitter search and you will see that Kyle Orton, Alex Smith, Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr, and Blake Bortles are ALL Captain Checkdown. Attach the nickname to any QB and you are essentially dismissing him as a spineless pussy, regardless of whether or not the wideouts can get open or the line can pass block. Find a better nickname. No one is dazzled by your alliterative wordplay.

Jaguars at Ravens

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

"Liquor," by Scorpion Child, submitted by Tony. Glad there's a hard rock band out that's willing to get right to the point when it comes to song titles. I would stream any album that used the word "Liquor" as the name of every track.


Suicide Pick Of The Week

Last week’s picks of New Orleans, Minnesota and Houston went 2-1, making me 30-13 for the year. Time again to pick three teams for your suicide pool and one thing that makes you want to commit suicide. This week’s picks are Baltimore, the Giants, KC, and shopping for clothes. I went to the store the other day because I don't have any nice clothes. Nothing in the store fit, because I am tall and oddly shaped. I brought a few items home and the wife vetoed them all. She was even gonna veto the TIES. She was like, "They're a bit shiny," and I was like NO. NO. I SPENT TWO HOURS DIGGING THROUGH CRAP. WE'RE KEEPING THE FUCKING TIES, MISSY.


I'm done. I'm wearing a hoodie and jeans for the rest of my existence. I will never again suffer through the anguish of standing in a fucking fitting room, picking thirty pins out of a goddamn button down shirt, just so I can try it on and look like an eighth grader headed to a choir recital. I would like to look presentable, but this is not worth it. Never again. Shopping is over for me.

Gregg Easterbrook Is A Haughty Dipshit

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No poets died this week, which means that Gregggg can't use their corpses to sell books. But there ARE Football Gods! Oh, those wacky Football Gods just won't stop their chortley antics ("Outraged, the football gods caused the try to miss."). And of course, there are sentences like this:

Word the Supreme Court will hear a challenge to White House attempts to restrict mercury from power plants made your columnist groan, "Here we go again."


UGH. Must we talk about mercury restrictions once more? Your fair columnist has been on the mercury story for YEARS while the rest of the media was asleep at the wheel. These government GLORY BOYS are trying to keep mercury out of our nuclear waste, while the Brookings Institution recently discovered that a dose of mercury up the rectum daily provides relief from bad humors and fainting spells! AND YET WE ARE BACK TO SQUARE ONE YET AGAIN. If we cannot learn about the health benefits of liquid metal, will we learn anything?

Oh, and here's another horrible thing he wrote:

Because focus for years has been on the Flying Elvii offense, many NFL faithful couldn't even name the New England defensive coordinator, Matt Patricia.


I could. Shut up.

He has a very Belichick-like resume. Patricia played Division III football at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, an academics-first college, just as Belichick played at academics-first Division III Wesleyan. Then Patricia coached at academics-first Amherst College before joining the Patriots in 2004 and slowly working his way up from intern to coordinator.


ACADEMICS-FIRST ACADEMICS-FIRST ACADEMICS-FIRST ACADEMICS-FIRST ACADEMICS-FIRST ACADEMICS-FIRST ACADEMICS-FIRST ACADEMICS-FIRST ACADEMICS-FIRST ACADEMICS-FIRST ACADEMICS-FIRST ACADEMICS-FIRST ACADEMICS-FIRST ACADEMICS-FIRST ACADEMICS-FIRST ACADEMICS-FIRST ACADEMICS-FIRST ACADEMICS-FIRST. If Greggggggg were in charge of the College Football Playoff, Alabama would be playing Matt Patricia on New Year's Day! If NFL teams simply hired all their coaches from the NESCAC, every team would go 16-0! Better than some MEGA WEASEL FACTORY coach who won stuff in the SEC! I hope Matt Patricia gets a head job next year. Belichick coordinators always do well on their own!

Emmitt Smith's Lock Of The Week!

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"This week, I like the Bears (+3) at home against the Saints! I did not expect the Saints to surround her to the Panthers like that! WHAT A DISTASTE! At this point, the NFC Sound is up for grams! ANYONE'S BONG GAME! I think this may call for a re-jaguaring of the NFL's playoff floor mat! The current floor mat, as presently constipated, is not fair! What if the Saints hoist a playoff game at home while the Lions get knocked up? YOU CAN'T KNOCK UP THE LIONS LIKE THAT. You need to rescreed the playoff floormat, regardenless of counterfence affliction! If I am Roger Goodwell, I tell the NFC South, 'In the intern of Ferris, we are clitting the Lions against the 5-screed in the Wild Shark round!' That is what I would say."

2014 Emmitt Smith record: 7-10

This Week In Terrifying Animal News

Judging by that "Eaten Alive" special, anacondas can also kill you by slowing boring you to death. I was flipping over to that special during SNF, and it was god awful. It was like that movie Supersize Me, where the dude eats a shitload of McDonald's and won't shut up about how it's making him feel, because he knows he has to make it interesting for the cameras. Anaconda Guy was just yammering on about his FEELINGS while the snake was coiling around him. In my day, you took your slow suffocation like a MAN. He didn't even get his head in the thing's mouth. Fucking drama queen.


Fantasy Player Who Deserves To Die A Slow, Painful Death

Alfred Morris, who is the perfect bad fantasy back in that he is just productive enough that you can never bench him. You just plug him in every week on your way to a 4-10 record. Not a damn thing you can do about it. Meanwhile, reader Tim says:

"It has to be Peyton, doesn't it? He put up fewer than FIVE POINTS in most leagues, just most of those leagues were having their first round of playoffs. On a day in which the rest of my team either overachieved or met projections, which should've given me a win, Mr. Cut That Meat for Nationwide Papa John's cost me my game. I never thought I'd ever say 'I should've started Dalton over Peyton.' Ever. I wanted to gargle six liters of Drano with a Clorox chaser after that performance."


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 2014 chopping block:

Rex Ryan*

Marc Trestman

Mike Smith*

Jay Gruden

Jim Harbaugh

Ken Whisenhunt

Joe Philbin

Doug Marrone

Sean Payton

Ron Rivera

Tom Coughlin*

Lovie Smith

Dennis Allen-FIRED!!

Roger Goodell

Gus Bradley

(*potential midseason firing)

Strong late runs from Doug Marrone and Joe Philbin. If we can jusssst get those teams under .500, I think that just might be enough for the Bills and Dolphins to clean house in a misguided and ultimately futile attempt at reclaiming national relevance. What if they shared Bill Cowher between them? It could work. He could coach both teams via Skype from some cabin in North Carolina. I bet Cowher and Gruden forward desperate GM texts to each other and laugh all day.


Great Moments In Poop History

Reader Rob sends in this story I call THE FULL POOPY:

When I was 23-24 I dated a woman who was several years older than I (roughly 13-14 years) for quite a long time and also happened to be British and her family would come over and visit once or twice a year. The very first time I ever met them they brought us on a small golf vacation during the fall in the greater Pennsylvania/Gettysburg area.

We go out to a final night dinner and a bit of a short goodbye toast or two because after the next morning's round of golf her parents are gonna stay and keep checking out the area and golfing for the next couple of days while both my girlfriend and I are driving back due to work. As soon as they leave the bar/restaurant we are at I start drinking really heavily. I wake up in the morning with a massive hangover from drinking cheap beer, jager bombs, whiskey and God only knows what else. I feel sick and shaky and my stomach is doing that bubbling thing where every 30 minutes or so you think you are going to shit your pants but it goes away and you hope you can make it to a bathroom.

Shockingly my urgent need to poop literally completely disappeared and as we finished golfing I said goodbye and thank you to her parents. My girlfriend and I got on the highway and headed for home. Sure enough, right along the point on the highway where there are no exits for 30-40 miles, the urge to poop came roaring back. I was convinced that I was going to shit my pants while driving the car, adding the final indignity to a frankly horrible weekend. I put the pedal to the metal and am doing a solid 80-90 MPH and when I see the rest stop I swing the car in and fly out of the car.

I run into the bathroom which is 4 urinals and 3 stalls. I drop trou and unleash the Kraken and it is horrid/glorious/religious/mystical/terrifying and so violent my legs are actually shaking as I purr liquid fire out of my ass. As the pooping subsides I look over to my left and notice that there is a glory hole carved into the stall wall so I can look directly into the other stall. I wad up some toilet paper and fill the hole and proceed to finish up pooping (there were....stragglers if you will). I start grabbing toilet paper to start wiping up the mess that is dripping from my cheeks when I hear the bathroom door open. As I stand to wipe the stall door next to me opens and someone steps inside. I get one wipe in when the person on the other side of the wall goes "psst...pssst...psssst.....what's your name?"

I don't flush, I don't buckle my pants, and I def. don't take the time to wipe again. I grab my pants and pull them up and literally start running out the bathroom and get to the car while still buckling my belt. The second I get in the smell hits my girlfriend and I put the car in reverse and floor it out of there. There were no other rest stops for 30-40 miles and by the time we got there with the windows rolled down the damaged had dried. We made it back home after a stop near the house for baby wipes and I had diaper rash in my ass cheeks for about a week after.

She told her parents the whole story.

Gametime Snack Of The Week

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Peppermint bark cake. Also available in this year's Williams-Sonoma catalog. I bet there's a whole peppermint bark subculture out there that purchases peppermint bark products and then preserves them in cellophane for long-term collecting. Oh, do you have the 2008 bark? That was an amazing vintage.


Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week

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NORM'S AMBER ALE. Reader Rancho sends in this liquid piece of Cheers merch:

I present to you, Norm's amber ale. The can is ugly but the beer is pretty good. And only 79 cents for a 16 oz can!


That doesn’t look anything like Norm Peterson. It looks like they got Peter King shitfaced and then traced his body. I wonder if this is even an officially sanctioned Cheers beer. Maybe it's a knockoff, which would make it horrifyingly bad. It does have "honey added" though. I bet ordering this in Boston makes you look like a local! I MUST HAVE IT.

Robert Evans's MVP Watch!

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Time to start thinking about this season's candidates for the NFL's MVP award. Every week, legendary Hollywood producer Robert Evans will join us to give us his assessment. Take it away, Mr. Evans.

“Baby, my favorite for MVP is still Aaron Rodgers of the Packers! Boy, am I glad I'm happily retired here at Woodland and not running a studio in the Internet age. Edgy? YOU BET! Scary? WHAT IF MY ELECTRONIC CAVIAR ORDER DOESN'T GET PROCESSED?! Back in my day, you settled picture disputes mano-a-mano, or by phone, or with the power of the pen! I'm lucky that I never had all my FUCK YOUs made public like those poor Sony bastards. But this is a transparent age, sweetheart. So I'm gonna share, with you, my handwritten correspondence with studio mogul Dino de Laurentiis! 1970. I'm just getting The Godfather off the ground, and I need a little-known theater rat named Al Pacino for the role of Michael. Well, Dino wasn't too happy about that, seeing as how Pacino was under contract to his studio and set to star in TITBURGLARS FROM SPACE. So I had a fine line to walk! Here now is our phone exchange, as recorded by my loyal stenographer, Gurney:

ME: Baby, we've got a little gangster picture we're trying to shove off on Paramount to even the books. We thought we could throw that little gimp Pacino a bone and star him in it. You know, to enhance his profile before doing Titburglars!


DINO: Horseshit, Evans! What are you plotting?!

ME: Nothing, baby! Honest!

DINO: That kid is a star! I'll feed him to my pet lion before I turn him over to you! Hey, is that Nicholson in the background?


ME: He got high and is convinced Richard III is buried in the furniture. What if I get you laid, Dino? I know you like women over seven feet tall! I found one in Mongolia!

DINO: You can't have the kid! He's doing my picture first! I'll shoot you dead if you poach him!


ME: Well look, Dino. The kid's a punk and not a star. Talks like an accordion. What say you let us have him, and I won't tell the missus about the time you shit on my floor? Like an ANIMAL?!

DINO: (silence) You monster. GO TO HELL, EVANS!

And that's how we nabbed Pacino. Careful where you shit, gang! You might just step in it!"


Sunday Afternoon Movie Of The Week For Raiders Fans

Gone Girl, which I have read but not seen. If the movie's anything like the book, I think we're in for the feel-good romance of the century.


Gratuitous Simpsons Quote

"As an actor, my eyeballs need to look their whitest!"

Enjoy the games, everyone.

Drew Magary writes for Deadspin. He's also a correspondent for GQ. Follow him on Twitter @drewmagary and email him at You can also buy Drew's book, Someone Could Get Hurt, through his homepage.


Animation by Sam Woolley.