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On Rites Of Passage

Illustration by Angelica Alzona

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

Justin Schmidt is a famous entomologist who, in a quest to learn more about bugs (WHY), has subjected himself to bites and stings from 83 different species and rated them on a Pain Scale of 1 to 4, with 1 being a mere nuisance and 4 being the fires of Hell. The worst sting he says he ever experienced came from the tarantula hawk, an insect large enough to carry your baby away in the dead of night…

His sincere advice for people stung by a tarantula hawk is to lie down and scream.


Schmidt is subjecting himself to this bizarre form of torture in the name of science. You can learn a lot about animals from the way they defend themselves, obviously. But Schmidt is also doing this to learn more about himself as well. Pain is a hobby for him, and one that makes him a bit of a … character, to use the gentlest phrasing. Pain, he argues, is something worth experiencing. It is NECESSARY. It’s an indelible moment that shapes your outlook, much in the same way as traveling to a new country, or waiting in some fucking line and enduring a no-cash policy to eat at some fabled pizza joint. For Schmidt, whether or not the moment is enjoyable (clearly, being bitten by a tarantula hawk is not) is beside the point. What matters is that the sting is a memory, and that memory is a tool for him to draw on later in life. It’s his own rite of passage.

In fact, Schmidt is so enamored of pain that, in this New York Times profile, he openly muses about subjecting his sons to a South American tribal ritual in which young men are forced to wear a mitt full of bullet ants (ANT MITT) and get stung repeatedly…

He told me about the Sateré-Mawé people in northwestern Brazil, who hold a ceremony in which young men slip their hands into large mitts filled with bullet ants, whose stings are so agonizing they can cause temporary paralysis; when initiates pass the test, they’re one step closer to becoming full members of society… He has two teenage boys, and, on this particular morning at least, I found him wondering whether they might benefit from a pain ritual to help introduce them to adulthood. “I mean, it wouldn’t kill them,” Schmidt said. “And I think that may be the key to the whole thing: It can’t kill you and yet something very real is happening.”


Schmidt never actually subjected his kids to the ant mitt. But what would you think if he had? If you’re a reactionary online take-haver like me, you might instantly call him a crazy asshole and accuse him of child abuse. Or perhaps you’d salute the man because he drew inspiration from an anthropological, decidedly PC-approved source for his little ritual, and then applaud yourself for seeing Schmidt in a more nuanced light. Either way, Schmidt would be proven right about one thing: Those kids wouldn’t forget that shit. Ever.

My oldest son broke his collarbone this summer. He was at a birthday party at an indoor soccer venue when he tripped and fell, driving his shoulder into the turf and snapping his clavicle in half. I didn’t see this happen. I was over by the snack bar, staring at my phone, being a lousy human being. One of the other parents helped him off the field and brought him to me. He was screaming pure death and in terrible pain, with his shoulder hanging low, like he was reaching down for something without having to reach at all.


So I drove him to the hospital and they X-rayed him. It was a clean break… like seeing two puzzle pieces waiting to be conjoined. The doctor explained that, since the pieces of bone were in the “same room,” my son wouldn’t need the Tony Romo surgery. All he had to do was wear a sling for a few weeks, get some rest, and the bone would heal itself. I was relieved by this and tried to console my son with the good news.

ME: You don’t need surgery! That’s great!

HIM: Can I still play soccer?

ME: Nah, no soccer for a while.

I said the words without really thinking about their potential impact. I should have been more thoughtful. More measured. Because when I told the boy that bit of news, the life drained from his face. He really liked playing soccer. He got to run around. He got to play in games. He got to be with his friends. He got to be HIM. So hearing me nonchalantly take that away from him was, in some ways, even worse than the physical pain that he had just endured.


I took him home that night and he slept sitting up, because lying down was such agony.

He sat around for a month and a half after that, watching too much TV and finding any excuse to take off his sling. (NOTE: slings suck; a cast sucks more, but a sling still sucks plenty.) At one point, he thought he was getting the sling off for good, but then the doc said he had two more weeks to go, and again the life drained from him.


But when the bone finally healed… when he finally got that sweat-stained sling off and got to play soccer again with his friends… oh, oh you should have seen that kid’s face. His cleats barely touched the ground at the first practice. He was glowing the whole time, and I know that the moment meant just that much more because sports had, for a rather brief period, been taken away from him. The pain had taught him something. The pain was useful.

I turn 40 this week. Like any good American, I will use the occasion as an excuse to drink myself stupid and try to ignore the fact that I probably have more days behind me than ahead of me. (My kid tallied the number of days I have lived on her calculator for me without asking… it was a very considerate gesture on her part.)


But I’m also using the occasion to conduct a vain exercise in looking back at how I got to where I am. I have had pain in these 40 years. Probably a great deal less pain than many people, but still. There’s some hurt. I have had my heart broken. I have experienced crippling back injuries. I have lost all four grandparents. I have lost jobs. I have had to deal with rejected health insurance claims. I have seen my youngest son, at nine days old, go into an operating room with a very real chance of never coming out. My balls exploded. I have had a camera up my dick. One time, when I was three, a swimming coach held my head underwater to get me “used” to it. I nearly drowned.

Oh, and I played football for a while. That was painful. I got my fingers mashed. I got cleats in my foot. I had soreness after two-a-days that left me and the rest of the team unable to climb a flight of stairs. I got my ass kicked by a college teammate in a drunken disagreement, with other kids watching. One time, during a drill, I lowered my head (didn’t mean to) and collided with a pulling guard, blacking out for a moment.


And I know that I would not be where I am without any of the pain I’ve endured. I know that, if I had gone through life without anything in the way of suffering, I would be less of a person. That includes my time playing football, a sport that prides itself on being the ideal rite of passage for young, impressionable men. In hindsight, I probably wouldn’t play football again. In 2016, a lot of people are coming to the conclusion that the long-term damages of the sport aren’t worth the lessons and experiences it may impart ... that letting a young child play football is an act of parental malfeasance.

But at 40, that’s all too late for me now, isn’t it? It’s too late to undo all the violent aspirations that polluted my teenage mind. I remember being drawn to violence back then. I remember thinking of it as a test ... a chance to prove my manhood, whatever that means. I remember being the kind of guy who watched Full Metal Jacket and thought THAT’S AWESOME instead of being appropriately horrified. I remember not understanding the consequences of pain until experiencing it firsthand.


Two years ago, Whiplash was nominated for Best Picture. J.K. Simmons won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for playing Terence Fletcher, the Bob Knight of jazz band instructors. This is the money speech:

I assure you that there were a great many Americans who applauded Terence Fletcher in this scene. For Fletcher, the only way to draw greatness from someone is to push them and push them and push them to the point of pain…to the point of psychological torture: a mental Ant Mitt. It NEVER occurs to Fletcher that people can be relentlessly self-motivated, that you don’t necessarily need someone screaming at you to be a great to want greatness for yourself. The idea is unthinkable to him. And it’s probably unthinkable to a lot of other people as well.


I think about that scene a lot, in part because some people DO need to be pushed. I know I did. Not everyone is an ambitious self-starter. Not everyone is determined. Not everyone seeks out adversity. Or, if they do, they don’t have the purest of motives in mind (I played football because I wanted girls to like me; I failed). And so I think about my poor son breaking his bone, and I think about the kids in Florida I saw getting nearly choked out in kiddie MMA matches, and I think about the line you draw when it comes to your children and pain. I know my son learned something valuable from his injury, but I also know I never ever ever want him to have to experience something similar again. It was a rite of passage for him, but one he stumbled across on his own. Like, if I put mitt full of ants on my kid, that would be fucked up. But if he wanted to go exploring in the woods one day and fell into that ant mitt? CRUCIAL GROWTH.

At 40, I now know that the rites of passage I’ve experienced have been blissfully natural occurrences. No one abused me (except for that nutjob swim coach). Apart for an old high school friend who once made me listen to a Frank Zappa album, no one purposely inflicted pain and suffering upon me. I want my kids to also have moments of adversity, where they grow and they learn because of something awful. But I can’t PLAN those moments. I can’t whip them with a branch and think that’ll be just what they needed.


But what if I’m too soft? Because I’ve seen the Chet Hazes of the world out there. I’ve seen the dreaded end result of people who are coddled and pampered through their formative years. Perhaps I’m one of them. Perhaps I’ve greatly overestimated my own experiences with pain and have no right to speak about any of this. Maybe I’m soft.

So I’m probably gonna have to spend most of my 40s walking that fine line all parents walk, guiding my children through the world but NEVER hiding them from it, letting them get hurt but never hurting them. Maybe they’ll want to play high school football (my parents were never all that crazy about me playing the sport but I was adamant), or maybe they’ll want to climb boulders, or maybe they’ll want to do something else that puts them at real risk. I gotta figure out when holding them back is the right thing to do, or if I should ever hold them back at all. And I gotta figure out when to push them without pushing them over the edge. I gotta let them find their own rites of passage, find the moments of pain that help them plan for the NEXT time they get hurt. Then I’m gonna cross my fingers and hope they come out of all that relatively unscathed.


And honestly, I don’t know if I’m gonna get this right. Because I’m only 40. Life has more pain in store for me. It’s pain that I don’t want, but it’s also pain that will teach me a lot of shit I know I don’t know. I hope I’m ready for it.

The Games

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


 Five Throwgasms

Falcons at Broncos: I can’t tell if the Falcons are good or if their division is just that shitty. It’s probably the latter. We should just purge both of the Southern divisions from the NFL. The Sun Belt is for auto racing and college sports. All of its professional teams should be liquidated, with a portion of the proceeds going to me for proposing the idea.


Four Throwgasms

Bengals at Cowboys: Every time you see a long bomb completed during a game, the announcer says it was a double move that freed up the wideout. If I were a coach, I would make the whole offense out of double moves. Who’s gonna stop me? And what if I have my guy do a TRIPLE move, huh? I bet the cornerback would explode in a cloud of blood if I drew that up.


 Three Throwgasms

Skins at Ravens: You know how you can return a field goal if it lands short? I think you should also be able to do it if it hits the upright. Like, if it DOINKS off the crossbar and lands at the 10, you’re free to pick it up and attempt a kick-six from there. Football is better with more kick-sixes.


Patriots at Browns: At some point in this game, Tom Brady will get all worked up in the sideline and start yelling or throwing a Surface tablet, and the announcer is gonna cry out, “YOU THINK THIS GUY ISN’T FIRED UP TO BE BACK?!” I’m annoyed already. Look at Edelman treating Brady’s return like Mandela just got out of prison…


By the way, you know how the new touchback rule has compelled teams like New England to do squib kicks, resulting in MORE kickoffs being returned instead of less? I bet that’s what the Ginger Hammer planned all along. Who else would institute a rule that superficially makes the game “safer” while actually making it more violent and satiating the endless bloodlust of viewers like me? The man is a blockheaded genius, I tell you.

Giants at Packers: You can only dine out on that catch for so long, OBJ. My man hasn’t scored a TD all season and he’s hewing very close to the standard high-maintenance wideout career trajectory, which is…

  1. Early brilliance
  2. A touch of GLORY BOY behavior
  3. Filthy liberals like me defending that GLORY BOY behavior
  4. Oop, turns out that player really WAS a pain in the ass

Stop making me look bad, Odell. Get your shit together.

 Bills at Rams: My wife does part-time work at a local nursery school and, as part of the hiring process for preschool, even freelancers have to be fingerprinted. That way, no school hires a diddler by accident. Anyway, my wife got her prints taken and then the lab mailed her back, saying the prints were too faint to show up on the scan. I IMMEDIATELY told her to become a serial killer or a bank robber, because her prints are undetectable. She agreed. So if your bank gets robbed OR a string or inconsiderate drivers are found brutally murdered, good luck finding the culprit. MY OLD LADY WILL BE SITTING ON A BEACH EARNING TWENTY PERCENT MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.


Chargers at Raiders: Earlier this season I said the Chargers weren’t the chokingest team in football, based on a very basic tabulation of blown 17-point leads. Thankfully, the people at FiveThirtyEight, an opinion site about politics, did a much more in-depth study that proves the Chargers fuck up late leads better than anyone else. And you know what? I’m happy to be wrong. The Chargers deserve to be shit on forever for their lack of clutchitude.

Texans at Vikings

Eagles at Lions


Two Throwgasms

Jets at Steelers: I have a hot take. Are you for the hot take? Okay, join me in a private, soundproof room and I will share the hot take with you. Are you here? Okay.


[closes door]

Joakim Noah should have gone to that West Point dinner. There. I said it. Don’t tell the other CYBERMARXISTS on the Deadspin staff. Wars won’t end because just Noah turned down the chicken a la king. Besides, if you’re against wars, don’t you think it would be useful to sit down and make your case to the very people who might end up one day ordering them? Go to the dinner, man. It’s not the biggest imposition.


Cardinals at Niners

Bears at Colts

Bucs at Panthers


 One Throwgasm

Titans at Dolphins: I’m a big fan of the “Last 10 attempts” graphic on CBS games, if only because it makes quarterbacking look like a game of Family Feud. Ryan Tannehill’s 10-pass graphic looks like the result of some Mormon family getting a sex survey thrown at them.


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

“Elektra,” by Refused! From Scott:

Crank it up. This one makes me want to headbutt everyone in the room (in a good way)


Amen, amigo. Bonus points for the video up above, which features lots of twirling shapes and stuff. This band knows exactly how stoned you are when you listen to them. I could get stoned and look at kaleidoscope animation for a solid eight hours.

Gregg Easterbrook Memorial Haughty Dipshit Of The Week


There’s nothing WARM about Toronto Sun columnist Joe Warmington, who has a fiery message for any scoundrel who dares protest a national anthem, even one as lame as Canada’s!

Imagine how lucky we are to live in great nations where people are paid to play a game while others get to cheer, boo, have a hotdog and gulp a beer!


Damn right! Joe, I’m with you. I’m forever grateful to live in a place where I can cheer, and boo, and scratch myself, and belch, and threaten the couple behind me for not rooting vociferously enough, and drink until I throw up. That’s my little slice of heaven.

This thanks to blood spilled by brave Canadians and Americans in uniform.

Okay buddy, sure. But come on now, it was MOSTLY American blood. What did you guys do, show up with a few Mounties? Throw a beer can? OOOOH I’M SURE OSAMA WAS QUAKIN’ IN HIS BOOTS WHEN HE FOUND OUT CANADA WAS AFTER HIM. Not the Canadians! They’ll throw maple syrup bottles at us!

All we have to do at Tuesday’s wild-card game between the Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles is show gratitude by standing for our national anthems.


Really? That’s all we have to do? You think that’s the end of it, eh? “Folks, all we have to do is stand for the anthem, and then the troops will beat terrorism for us. EASY PEASY.”

Anything less is spitting in the face of great free countries that abound with opportunity. But to kneel, raise a fist, or lock arms (as the Toronto Raptors did over the weekend) is disgraceful.


Reader Alex notes that Joe was a big Rob Ford supporter. FANCY THAT.

Curt Schilling’s Facebook Lock Of The Week: Giants (+7)

Meme by Patty Red

Schilling 2016 record: 2-2

Fantasy Player Who Deserves To Die A Slow, Painful Death

What the fuck, Todd Gurley? I didn’t draft you NOT to score, you son of a bitch. You and Odell owe me. You owe AMERICA. I’m gonna send you an invoice of $50,000 for every shit game you have. My accountant can work out the legalities of such matters.


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 2016 chopping block:

John Fox

Mike McCarthy

Mike McCoy

Jim Caldwell

Ron Rivera

Todd Bowles

Adam Gase

Marvin Lewis

Hue Jackson

Gus Bradley

Mike Mularkey

Rex Ryan

Sean Payton

Chuck Pagano*

(*-potential midseason firing)

At this point, I think America is ready to launch a fully coordinated effort to oust Pagano and Ryan Grigson and save Andrew Luck. I won’t rest until poor Luck has a coach who will run the goddamn ball on fourth and 1.


Great Moments In Poop History

Reader Edward sends in this story I call THE MONEY POOP:

I’m 39, married, 2 kids, proper job etc etc, and last weekend I shat myself in front of my family. I’ve been needing to tell someone.

We have just moved from New Jersey to Massachusetts, and this past Saturday we were doing some house hunting. The kids had sports in the morning, I did my coaching duties, we then all had lunch (including a shrimp salad that shall never be forgiven or forgotten), and then it was off to check in on some open houses. All was ok at the first house, no sign of anything untoward, but then en route to the second house, I felt the first rumble. My wife was driving, I was navigating, and surely we could travel 5 minutes to the next open house where I would test the plumbing.

The second rumble came ominously soon after the first, I was starting to sweat like crazy, but fatally, I did not ask my wife to stop the car right then. Instead, we drove on to the next open house, and before my wife had even properly parked off the side of the road, I broke the news that I had to go right fucking then. I’d see then inside the open house. I jumped out the car, and hurdled into this mess of brush and thorns which was just about well enough obscured from the road. The hurdling however had started to shake the load from my ass, and by the time I could drop my shorts, a good layer of sludge had already settled in my boxers.

I proceeded to spray an industrial quantity of toxic slurry all over the ground; the damage was immense and the logistics thereafter a nightmare. I first had to remove my boxers without dripping shit all over my legs. I’m giving myself no more than 4/10 for that part of the operation. There was shit everywhere - over my legs, socks, shoes, basically everywhere I looked. The boxers got pitched further into the brush, and I started scraping the excess shit off my legs with sticks and leaves. Given the available equipment, I deserve a solid B+ for this part of the project.

I had to make do with severely compromised pair of shorts, but on they went and I emerged from the brush to seamlessly move on to inspecting the outside of the open house. I took my time, making it look real - and praying no-one would come anywhere near me. My poise in this phase of the challenge gets me at least an A.

The family eventually emerged from inside the house, and I directed them to see me at the car. The kids immediately noticed a weird smell - how much they figured out, I don’t really know - and my wife recoiled at the thought of driving me to our apartment in her car. She had no choice though, we put some reusable shopping backs on the seat for me to sit on, wound the windows down, and headed home without saying another word. I took a very long shower, and then started fielding some probing questions from my 8 year-old daughter mainly. I had no good answers for anything that had transpired. I still don’t. Honesty isn’t a runner here.

Any suggestions?

Tell her! She’ll die laughing. I think. She probably won’t laugh. She’ll probably be horrified.


Gametime Snack Of The Week


A big fucking novelty-size snickers bar. From Chris:

My boss brought this giant Snickers bar in to work this morning. It is, in my mind, one of the most awesome things I have ever seen and eating slices of it feels at least 3x as decadent as a regular, pansy size Snickers bar. Please see the attached picture and despair. I apologize for not getting a shot when it was uncut, but we were too damn excited at that point.


I can’t blame you. Looks like a cake!

Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week


Pabst Blue Ribbon bottles! Did you know PBR came in retro bottles? SO CLASSY. I was at a bar the other night that served these, and they also had a live band (GUHHHHHHHHHHHHH). So I’m sitting there with a couple of friends, drinking my shit, when this scrawny old dude wearing a black MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN t-shirt waltzes in front of the band and starts dancing by himself. He was really into it too, like he was attending Jazzfest and shit. He was downright joyous. And everyone at the bar was just looking at him, because it’s weird to see someone in a MAGA shirt who isn’t making finger guns at a protestor. I didn’t know whether to be comforted or terrified. Maybe he got in early on wearing them ironically.

Jim Tomsula’s Lifehack Of The Week!


“They design those newspaper bins at the train station so that you can’t stick your hand in. It’s that skinny slot thingie. But that’s nothing you can’t work around with a stick, a piece of string, and some used gum. That’s good solid rod for paper fishing. And once you get those papers, you’re in business. You got fire AND shelter AND the lady listings all in one.”

Sunday Afternoon Movie Of The Week For Browns Fans

Other People’s Money. Average movie. GREAT speech.

Gratuitous Miller’s Crossing Quote

“They shoot your horse?”

“If there’s any justice.”

Enjoy the games, everyone.

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About the author

Drew Magary

Drew Magary is a Deadspin columnist and columnist for GEN magazine. You can buy Drew's second novel, The Hike, through here.