My wife left me. I had to a shitload of work to do early in August, but she didn’t want to be stuck in the house with three overheated, overly bored kids and one surly husband. So she packed up the car and drove the little ones to the Finger Lakes while I stayed home. I had the house all to myself for a full week the first time in, well, I think ever. I relished the idea. THE FREEDOM. I was like, Wow I can masturbate any time I want to! I was gonna watch violent movies. I was gonna smoke weed after punching out every day. I was gonna make bachelor food. I was going to LIVE.
I was wholly adapted to this sort of lifestyle two decades ago, back when I was a swinging swingle and eating KraftMac right out of the pot for dinner on a regular basis, a sixer of tall boys consistently at my side. I am no longer hardwired to live this way, but goddamn if I wasn’t gonna try to give this one-man stag party a shot. I had a few unofficial goals in mind:
- Never make the bed. I didn’t.
- Never go to the grocery store. I ended up having to go twice.
- Never run the dishwasher. I never did.
- Never do laundry. I had to do it once when I ran out of clean shorts.
I started off by going to the store and stocking up on sad crap. I bought a package of kielbasa, some chocolate bars, and a bag of frozen P.F. Chang’s orange chicken. I also bought a bottle of Caesar dressing and a bag of chopped Romaine. You know, to be healthy. I stocked up on weed by taking Metro into D.C. and ordering from a legal weed delivery service. I had to text the service, meet them at a drop point, then hop into a dude’s car to get my little cartridge. The whole process was appropriately shady. Felt like 1998. I had to get off Metro early on the ride home because I had to piss like a dog.
I enjoy my own company, perhaps more than I should, but as soon as my wife and kids were gone, I could already feel the loneliness setting in. I knew it all too well: from business trips and from hospital stays and even from random moments where the kids would be off at school and the wife would be off teaching. The silence becomes conspicuous. Basking in the freedom feels like putting on an act no one finds terribly convincing. I made two sausages for myself the first night, plus a honeymoon salad and a can of seltzer. I blasted Benjamin Booker through the little Bluetooth speaker in the kitchen because I could, but mostly because I needed some audible company. One night, I ate my dinner shirtless. Seemed appropriate.
I slept terribly every night. When I woke up in the morning, I went right to work because I had no clue what else to do with myself. This week was not turning out to be a rehash of my glory days. Frankly, I was lonely even back then. Instead, it felt like an ominous portent of my future. I didn’t feel like a bachelor. I felt like a widower. I got a little preview of life as an empty nester and knew immediately that my wife and I would probably have to keep a couple dogs around for that phase of our lives.
Speaking of dogs, I wasn’t purely alone for this week. The dog was here. His name is Carter, but he goes by roughly 97 different nicknames in the house: C, CarterFarter, Scooter, Scootie, Scootie Bear, Scootie Pie, Pup Yummy, Yums, Pup, This Lazy Sack Of Shit, and, of course, Dog. Some nights, the dog would come to me with a toy in his mouth, wanting to play fetch. He likes chasing down toys four or five times before retreating back to his normal resting position on top of one of the TV room chairs. My wife almost sent the dog to my in-laws for this week so that I wouldn’t have to deal with him. I refused the offer. I’m glad I did. I needed the attention.
I tried the P.F. Chang’s shit one night and lemme tell you: you’re better off getting it from the source. Crab rangoon, things of that nature. You want those items freshly reheated AT the P.F. Chang’s. You don’t want them out of the freezer case. Tasted like a carton of orange chicken someone had left at a bus stop overnight. On the final day, I went to drag the garbage cans and recycling bins out to the curb for pickup only to realize that they were all empty. I hadn’t produced enough trash to take out while my family was away. I saved the planet, if we’re being blunt about it.
My wife and kids finally busted through the door and I breathed a sigh of relief that I wasn’t alone anymore. I’m no longer built to be alone. It’s not freeing in the least. I indulged every practical vice available to me to distract myself from this fact, but it wasn’t much help. I did my best to clean up for their arrival, but my wife surveyed the house when she got back and ran her hands along the kitchen counter. Then she said, “Did you not wipe the counters at ALL this week?”
Three days later, I walked downstairs and a cockroach was hanging out in the mud room. First time we’d ever had a cockroach in the house. I’m certain that I was somehow to blame for its presence. I killed that roach, but he was still a hardy fellow. He knew how to live off of garbage and rot. I am no longer able to do likewise.
But that doesn’t mean I won’t pretend like I can. I know this is true because, come autumn, I try to live the same latter-day Marty Hart lifestyle every Sunday.
This season, the NFL will once again portray itself less as a sport and more as a communal gathering place for families, and for troops, and for all eight Meghan Trainor fans the world over. But the undercurrent of the sport remains unchanged from my childhood. It is a sport played by men, coached by men, and staged FOR men. All the pink cleats and empty No More initiatives are for branding purposes. The NFL’s bread-and-butter remains positioning itself as a weekly oasis for THE BOYS to escape from all of their relationships and responsibilities. It’s a softcore bachelor party, with all of the accompanying vices. You get to drink. You get to overeat. You get to yell. You get to ogle cheerleaders. You get to get into a fistfight with the Cowboys fan next to you at the stadium urinal. You get to fully indulge your id, and your reward for that is watching the Lions get beaten 20-6.
Football itself is one of those vices now. The league is endeavoring to portray the game as safer (and, given advances in equipment, you could argue that it might be) and as a positive influence on both the community and on young men in need of toughening up. All of that is a sideshow. The money is in the gambling and the violence, and that will never change. There’s no reason for it to. The number of people who have truly abandoned the sport this decade are few and far in between. The rest are posers.
I am in an odd spot this season because I recently survived a massive brain injury. ESPN’s Mina Kimes asked me if that’s changed how I watch football, or if I even want to watch it at all. And even though I have gone on, at length, about the moral compromises I make watching NFL players destroy their future lives out on the gridiron, I’ve still watched football since my recovery. I don’t feel all that different about doing so, even though I ought to.
What the NFL won’t acknowledge, but what is plain in the words of almost every fan and coach, is that the allure of football is IN the fact that it should not exist. It’s naughty. I used to drink even though it was bad for me, and I still would if this pesky hemorrhage hadn’t gotten in the way. I eat garbage even though I know it’s bad for me. I curse out other teams and their fans online even though it’s extremely rude. What’s bad about all these things is what makes them all the more attractive. Football is now one of those overindulgences. It’s not just an excuse to be a BAD BOY. It IS the bad boy shit. It’s a very American thing to like something that moral arbiters say they shouldn’t. You shouldn’t like football. I shouldn’t like football. Shit man, the league gives you every excuse they can to tune out. They had to have multiple committee meetings just to define a fucking catch.
And yet, they still prosper. That’s because football has become the most visible and lucrative of forbidden fruits. The deadliest sin. I’m not strong enough to resist its odd temptations. Come tonight, I’ll be in my recliner, watching two teams I don’t like, shushing my kids so that I can enjoy the game in silence, manufacturing a solitude that I already know I neither need nor want. Perhaps a roach or two will join me. Somehow this all still appeals to me, and it’s far too early for me to feel apologetic about it. This is football. This is the last great American vice, and THIS is your Dick Joke Jamboroo. HIT THE MUSIC:
Stock up on your kielbasas and tall boys. There are games afoot. Let us begin.
I do this every year, and I am always breathtakingly wrong. But I see no reason to stop beating my head against the wall. My big strong brain has survived worse! I try to make sure these predictions come out to an even 256-256, but I usually fuck it up. Maybe this year I didn’t! I probably did.
Green Bay 9-7*
New Orleans 14-2
Tampa Bay 7-9
NY Giants 8-8
LA Rams 11-5*
San Francisco 5-11
Rams over Vikings
Seahawks over Packers
Saints over Rams
Seahawks over Eagles
Saints over Seahawks
New England 12-4
NY Jets 9-7*
LA Chargers 10-6
Kansas City 10-6*
Chiefs over Titans
Jets over Chargers
Pats over Jets
Ravens over Chiefs
Ravens over Pats
Saints over Ravens
That’s five teams I have going 8-8. Picking a team to go 8-8 is some truly cowardly shit, but YOU try talking yourself into any of these teams after you just spent a month shitting on every last one of them. They all suck to me. Especially the Dolphins.
Also: I know damn well that the Patriots will win the Super Bowl again. But there’s no point in picking them to do it. I’d rather daydream about a better world.
All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms.
Steelers at Patriots: It usually ends up being an outlier, but the first game of the season is always a big fucking deal to football teams. Back when I played, our coaches spent the entire offseason demanding we stay LASER FOCUSED on our very first opponent. Everything was geared toward facing down Farthampton in early September and prevailing. Every weight room session, every dot drill, every time we limped back to the dorms after a round of two-a-days … ALL for that first game. The buildup to a Super Bowl is relatively brief and sedate by comparison. Before the season begins, we got months and months of our own coach’s “on to Cincinnati” routine. And then we would usually lose. In a way, players are as hastily let down by the whole enterprise as the rest of us are!
Anyway, I don’t know if NFL franchises also engage in this kind of long-term tunnel vision. I assume Belichick went to bed every night with your mom murmuring PITTSBURGH to himself, but maybe he studied football lore and decided that the best way to conduct offseason training is to use WE’RE ONTO TACKLING SLEDS as a repeated mantra instead. He’d know better than I.
Texans at Saints: I know it’s for security purposes, but there HAS to be a way for coaches on the sideline to use Bluetooth headsets instead of having some poor assistant to the assistant quality control and nutrition coach tail them all game long and making sure they have enough wire slack. Coaches use wireless communication to send plays into the QB, for fuck’s sake. They can use it everywhere else. They need to de-clutter these sidelines. Every game they cut over to Bill O’Brien and he’s surrounded by a phalanx of assistants and photographers and scrubs and Friends of the Owner and 17 different clones of Allie LaForce, all ready to trip over the bunch of wires and discarded, failed playsheets he leaves in his wake. It’s too much waste, starting with O’Brien himself. Clear his ass out and let everyone breathe again.
Packers at Bears: This is tonight’s game and my earnest hope is that Aaron Rodgers gets fed up with Matt LaFleur after just one quarter and openly starts calling long bombs to Jared Whiteboy or whoever else every play. Rodgers has won games this way while playing for Beav (including last year’s insane opening-week comeback against these same Bears), and you know damn well that he believes he can ALWAYS win this way. So LaFleur will be like, “Hey, what if we have Aaron Jones run a wheel route this play?” and then Rodgers will spit in his face and send dead roses to his house at Thanksgiving.
Rams at Panthers: I’ve gotten worse at shaving in middle age. I don’t know why. It’s not the brain damage, I swear. Ever since I turned 40 or so, I now always miss a spot. And not like a tiny spot. I’ll miss, like, a whole cheek. I look like half a Civil War colonel in the fucking mirror. I need to start shaving with a chainsaw. That’ll do a more complete job.
Falcons at Vikings: First-round bust Laquon Treadwell was cut by the Vikings before the season, and what’s interesting about that—apart from nothing—is that Treadwell apparently had an incredible work ethic, but no clue how to use it correctly.
After a nightmarish rookie season that included just one catch — a 15-yard reception against the Detroit Lions — Treadwell admitted that he had never learned the ins and outs of route running that his peers Diggs and Thielen had mastered.
Instead Treadwell spent endless hours with the Jugs machine and working on his physical shape. At the NFL Combine prior to the 2017 season, head coach Mike Zimmer called him out for spending extra time after training camp running stadium steps.
I never thought I’d see the day when a football coach—much less a stubborn old fart like Mike Zimmer—DISAPPROVED of a player subjecting himself to extra physical punishment. And yet it’s worth noting that this kinda shit can happen. I’m like any other fan in that when a player fails, I just assume it’s because he’s either untalented or lazy. But sometimes that’s wrong. Sometimes they’re STUPID. Really refreshing way of looking at it.
Titans at Browns: I think the Browns are way too overhyped, but I swear to you that I pray the hype is real. I drafted Baker Mayfield too high in part because I want him to be a god. I need him to be, because half the QBs in this league are hurt and/or retired by midseason every year. I need bright spots. So if the Browns can’t even beat the Titans at home to start off, I will be needlessly depressed. Cleveland is favored by 5.5 as I write this. That’s gotta be some kind of record for them.
Giants at Cowboys: This is a showcase late afternoon game on Fox, because of course it is. If the networks had their way, you’d watch the Giants and Cowboys play each other every fucking week. I already want to kill.
Bills at Jets: If you’re new to this column, you should know that I don’t always write up every game, especially forgettable ones like Bills/Jets. Also, sometimes I use these capsules to talk about completely random shit, like old Aquafresh toothpaste ads. Look at how much toothpaste is on this fucking brush:
Who needs that much toothpaste? You’d look like a rabid dog every morning and then finish the tube within a week. I would throw up if I had to use that much toothpaste. It’s not right. Somehow this grotesque curl is a brand icon now. You do not need this much Aquafresh. That’s them trying to scam you.
Chiefs at Jaguars: My wife bought an “all clusters” cereal from Trader Joe’s the other day and I got jazzed because I always prize the nut clusters over the lameass flakes that normally surround them. Then I poured myself a bowl of the cereal and my wife said, “Oh, are you trying the granola?” and suddenly the thrill was gone.
Colts at Chargers: The Colts just handed Jacoby Brissett a shitload of money for no real reason at all. If he plays well at the outset, I am 100 percent ready for the inevitable ARE THE COLTS BETTER OFF WITHOUT ANDREW LUCK? takes that will naturally materialize as a result. Look at these fucking idiot fans:
They can’t wait to pretend like Andrew Luck retiring is the best thing that ever happened to them. RIP Black Llama King’s money.
Ravens at Dolphins: Given that the Dolphins are tanking with a cosmic urgency, it makes the Josh Rosen trade all the more baffling. This team has now amassed 800 future draft picks. Why did they give away a third rounder in April for a dude they just benched in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick? If they traded for Josh Rosen to HELP them deliberately lose games, then it’s even more baffling since they’re not gonna play him. Ryan Fitzpatrick will win you two or three games a year by happy accident. For the past 56 years, he has built a career out of making his teams LOOK like they might be worth a shit. You don’t want that. You want instant death.
By the way, I was doing the Dolphins preview this summer and I came across footage of the Miami Miracle and I was like Huh. Man, I forgot that happened. I should have remembered that. Then it dawned on me as to WHY I had forgotten it: I was in a coma. I had no idea that game had happened at all. For eight months. I am the man living under a rock. That’s me! Here I thought the biggest thing I missed while unconscious for two weeks was the Wizards trading away Kelly Oubre.
Broncos at Raiders: This is the late MNF game, which has become a Week 1 tradition for reasons known only to, like, three people inside Bristol. I’m convinced that they invented the late-night Week 1 West Coast showcase strictly to let Chris Berman do play-by-play for the first one. But Berman got sent to the glue factory years ago, and they’re still doing these games anyway. I’m 100 percent in favor of being asleep for every Raiders game, but still. My team played in this slot once and by the time the game finally arrived, I was exhausted. All I wanted was to fall asleep while reading a book. They need to stop doing this to East Coast fans. West Coast fans’ needs are of no concern to me.
Bengals at Seahawks: OH SHIT YEAH ARE YOU ALL READY?
OH WE READY. Horrible interceptions? A 30-point margin of victory? Teams that have absolutely NO internal chemistry? Now we’re talking about a fucking PARTY.
Lions at Cardinals: I am now at the point in fatherhood where I struggle to remember what grade my children are in. The oldest is in eighth. The middle is in fifth. The youngest is in second. But if you spring that question on me when I least suspect it, I shamefully need a moment to refresh my memory. “The oldest is in… oh God, what was her name? Hildegard? Shit.”
Niners at Bucs: Team hashtags are fucking beat. Look at all these limpass rallying cries:
That Cowboys one sure is catchy. Never use these. I hate them all. I’d rather get into a Twitter flame war with Wendy’s than use one of these slogans.
Skins at Eagles: I have no evidence of this but I believe kickers are taking fewer steps on the approach to kickoff now. I was watching some preseason game the other day and the kicker took, like, three steps before booming that shit. It was extremely compact and efficient, but also oddly disappointing. I want the kicker 20 yards away from the ball before he starts his approach, so that he can kick the bejesus out of that poor spheroid. That’s right: I even want violence committed against the BALL, such is my bloodlust.
Let him who hath understanding reckon the number of the Beast
For it is a human number…
Its number is six hundred and sixty-six
Oh hell yeah, shit is about to get EVIL. It really is amazing how classic metal like this feels campy in retrospect—JOLLY GOOD FUN. But when I was a kid, I listened to Iron Maiden and I was like, “Oh my God they said SATAN. This is really dangerous!” I didn’t get out much.
I should really rename this award in honor of current reigning MVPenis Bret Stephens. But I must abide by tradition. Let’s just make fun of Bill Simmons for the 987th time.
[Mark Wahlberg voice] See if I was coaching that team, it wouldn’t have gone down like that.
“I believe the Bills, who are located in Buffalo, will defeat the Jets, who are located in New York! That’s the same state! But the Bills also might lose! You never can tell with sports! Also a big thank you to my friend Richard Branson for letting me hunt the most dangerous game of all on his private island last week.”
2019 Magic record: 0-0
I drafted LeSean McCoy before the Bills cut his ass. When they did, I frantically dropped McCoy and grabbed Devin Singletary, and then the CHIEFS signed McCoy and I was like Oh my god I done fucked up real bad, so I waited a few days for waivers to clear, and then grabbed McCoy and dropped Singletary to get back where I started from. The moral of the story is this: Shady will break his leg in Week 2 and Singletary will become a beast. And then I will jump off a dam.
Steak ‘Em Up! Reader Michael writes in:
Everything awful about Philadelphia rolled up into an extremely low-budget commercial: poor fashion focused on sweatgear? Yup. Cheesesteaks? Fuck yeah. Mafia ties in the logo? Hell yes, buddy. Living way too far in the past and cashing on outdated references? You bet. The grating regional accent? Wudder. Bonus points for stealing the gimmick from a terrible beer.
The date stamped on this ad’s YouTube page pegs it to 2010, a full 11 years after the original Bud WASSUP ad became a thing. That’s just about right for Philly’s cultural timing. Sometime between now and 2020, The President WILL openly ask his supporters whatever happened to WASSUP as a catchphrase. Well guess what? He’s gonna bring it BACK. Then he’s gonna have Steak ‘Em Up cater a White House dinner for Kevin Sorbo.
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:
I still think Gruden is the first to go. Even he doesn’t want to be there anymore. But that Bill O’Brien, man. Bill O’Brien is making some serious moves to become the most widely reviled coach across every sport in every country. The second that poor Deshaun Watson tears both his patellar tendons, O’Brien will blame him for being soft, trade 19 picks for Tom Savage, and then ride out of town in a rusted Ford Bronco. It would be a fitting end for him before he fucks off to coach at the US Coast Guard Academy.
Another reader Michael writes in with this story I’ll call DAM YANKEE:
My Grandpa is a New Jersey redneck, which is my way of saying he has a New Jersey accent but is super racist. He likes fishing, hunting, and working on his boat “away from your grandmother.” In fact, if there are two things you can count on in an interaction with Pop, it’s 1) he will praise something racist that Trump did and 2) he will complain about Grandma. It’s actually kind of sad, but recently I got some backstory on it.
Pop was in the Army, and traveled all over the world in his 6 years enlisted, primarily through 1950's Northern Europe, which sounds really nice. For the least worldly person I know, he actually saw a good bit of it (Amsterdam was his favorite city, not that you could tell he’s been to Amsterdam or really anywhere other than the Garden State). When he came back home, him and his Army buddies from high school decided to hang out in their hometown, get part time jobs fixing appliances, and spend some time with their families before joining back up with the Army. That’s when he started dating my Grandma.
They dated for about 8 months when her birthday came up. When he asked what she wanted, she asked for a very specific type of jewelry box. They had a birthday party with some friends, and family, where he presented to her the jewelry box. Her family went nuts, celebrating and hugging and cheering. That’s when he found out that in her weird German family, that specific box was the equivalent to a marriage proposal, as that box keeps all of the traditional wedding jewelry. She tricked him into getting engaged. Too proud and embarrassed to call it off, he went through with it. They quickly had kids and he wasn’t able to join back up with the Army. Things have been fine, but recently as myself and my cousins have been getting married, we think he’s starting to think about what could been. Also the grumpy old man thing is definitely setting in.
Anyways, that’s the story about how my grandparents met, and how my mother, their first child, got named after the girlfriend that he was forced to leave behind in Amsterdam.
That is some juicy shit!
The infamous Tate’s Bake Shop chocolate chip cookies. This brand got sold to the makers of Oreo for half a billion. Half a billion for thin cookies made by some folks in the Hamptons. $5 for a bag. This world is obscenely corrupt.
Also, they changed the recipe. I can taste it. It’s missing that Hamptons touch that makes me want to run over clubgoers with my Mercedes SUV.
MEGA DEMON! This is gonna be my first NFL season in a decade where I’m off the sauce, and so once again I must once again drink vicariously through your poor beer choices. Like this one from Brian:
My wife and I did a roadtrip through France for our honeymoon and on our last day there I found this beer and bought an assload of it to bring home. MEGA DEMON!! Made in France, tastes like hell, but I’ve got a few cans on ice for company to deal with today and I. Am. Pumped. Mega Demon: Let it possess you.
That can looks like the cover of a terrible Dan Brown airplane novel. I approve. I bet if you drink a lot of Mega Demon, you end up exorcising that croque monsieur you had for lunch.
“Anything can be a sandwich, okay? Rusty Joe will make you a sandwich by toasting a dead mouse on top of a running lawnmower engine, then serving it between two layers of pickled dryer lint. Best tasting sandwich you’ve ever eaten. That mouse has real crunch! You can keep all your fancypants egg salad sandwiches. You’re missing out on a whole other world of tastes.”
BlacKKKlansman, which is a perfect example of why it’s fine if some movies win the Best Director Oscar but NOT Best Picture (this film won neither). Whenever that vote gets split, Movie Knowers piss and moan that the best directed movie ALSO has to be the best movie, as if directing is all that goes into the thing. Why even have separate awards if that’s the case, you dipshits? This is an annoying side effect of the possessory credit and an auteur culture where critics give the director credit for the entire affair. Someone like Spike Lee often DOES deserve the lion’s share of that credit, but other people are vital to the process, too. What about the gaffer? He put in hours too, you know.
BlacKKKlansman was not the best movie I saw from last year. It has the same problems that a lot of Spike Lee movies have, where it’s scattershot and sometimes too heavy-handed. But holy shit it was definitely the best directed one. The movie LOOKS incredible. The composition of it is as good anything I’ve ever seen. Plus Topher Grace plays David Duke, and does it convincingly! Only a best director could pull that off. They gave Spike the wrong award.
“I bet we could buy a nice doghouse for $50.”
“Marge, you’re a tool of doghouse makers.”
“I am not!”
“Yes, you are. You’ve been brainwashed by all those doghouse commercials on TV.”
Enjoy the games, everyone. Football is back once again.