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Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

The NFL Has No Idea How To Treat Its Stars

Illustration by Sam Woolley
Illustration by Sam Woolley

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

Everyone has theories on why NFL ratings have fallen down a laundry chute, from the election to anthem protests to concussions to game stoppages to a potential growing distaste for football in general. The NFL even sent out a memo about it, which is hilarious to me because Roger Goodell will sit on his ass for years when it comes to defining a catch, but tell him ratings have slipped and he goes into full-on No Pizza Mode. THIS IS A REAL CRISIS, FOLKS.

But what about star power? Peyton Manning is gone. Marshawn is gone. Gronk is hurt. Tony Romo is hurt. Tom Brady was gone for the first month of the season. Apart from Cam Newton, who is having his own struggles, Manning and Brady were the two biggest stars in the NFL, perhaps in NFL history. You can’t take them out of the equation, along with so many other luminaries, and just expect everything to stay hunky dory.


This is when the NFL’s war on individuality—enforcing strict uniform codes, doling out penalties for shaking your ass—comes back to haunt it. The NFL wants you to root for the jersey and not the player, which means they suppress GLORY BOYS at every possible opportunity and dutifully nod when flamboyant players like Odell Beckham get the “troublemaker” label. In order to become an NFL superstar with huge crossover appeal, you have to be charismatic (I know Peyton is an ugly bastard, but he’s not without his charms) AND you need an unreasonably accomplished resume that includes seasonal trips to your conference title game. Oh, and you need to play quarterback. And you have to stay healthy. There are very, very few players who meet all of those criteria.

I hate making this argument because it’s the kind of empty, ambiguous, Bad Grantland kind of shit I’ve been goofing on for years. There will always be a baseline number of people like me who will watch the NFL no matter what, because we like football and/or gamble on it. But in order to maintain the kind of insane ratings the NFL has had lately (and frankly, no one outside of network HQ should even give a shit if ratings are good or bad … it ain’t YOUR money going to waste), you need familiar faces. I bet you that, when the election is over and we get to flex season and NBC puts every possible Patriots game into primetime, you’ll see those ratings tick back up.

But in the long run, the NFL has to do a better job of promoting players instead of constantly disciplining them like an angry schoolmarm. I’ve written my share of Cam Newton takes, but his Super Bowl loss was bad for the league because it reinforced the notion that players who stand out are prima donnas who deserve a karmic boot back into anonymity. The NFL needs MORE Cams, not less of them. Here’s how they can do it:

  1. Stop suspending everyone.
  2. Enforce late hits and head shots more consistently.
  3. Let guys wear cool shoes if they want to, for God’s sake.
  4. Get rid of the ticky-tack end zone celebration penalties.
  5. Get rid of pads and helmets.
  6. Stop trying to suppress cool gifs and videos on social media.
  7. Fire Chuck Pagano.

Got all that? This isn’t rocket science. Every league depends on its players to be watchable, but only the NFL treats its own players like they’re a danger to the audience. If they just took the stick halfway out of their ass and let their players flourish, maybe your grandma would tune back in.


The Games

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

Illustration for article titled The NFL Has No Idea How To Treat Its Stars

Five Throwgasms

Falcons at Seahawks: There are some fantastic games this week, none of which are in primetime. This is another problem for the NFL, because I can usually count on at least one primetime game a week to have a fucked-up ending with one or more of the following occurrences:

  • Tony Romo pick
  • Horrible officiating call
  • Epic clock management gaffe
  • Frantic 10-plus-point comeback

All of that has been lacking in primetime this season, and there are two easy fixes to remedy the situation. First: make flex-scheduling a year-round thing. Second: Put Jeff Triplette in charge of every SNF game. All I need is Triplette hitting Tom Brady in the veneers with an errant flag every week to be happy.


Eagles at Skins: Su’a Cravens has a bad concussion (or does he?) and I think the Skins use any concussion as an opportunity to take a player, lure him into a dark room, bring in a hypnotist, and incept his brain with #RedskinsFacts. Think about it. It’s the perfect time for Dan Snyder to fill a softened mind with dickhead propaganda. No wonder there’s now confusion as to whether Cravens needs glasses or not.

Cowboys at Packers: Big ups to Dez for rocking the sleeveless hoodie. Every Cowboys game feels like a Kylie Minogue video now.

Illustration for article titled The NFL Has No Idea How To Treat Its Stars

Four Throwgasms

Broncos at Chargers: I’m not missing a Chargers game for the rest of the season. Every week, they guarantee both an epic collapse and an insane SEC-style shootout. Verne Lundquist should announce all of their games. “MY GOODNESS.”


Chiefs at Raiders: I don’t mean to belittle Jack Del Rio going for two at the end of games or going for the end zone on fourth and 2, but that’s what coaches are SUPPOSED to do. Analysts keep branding that shit as risky and ballsy when, statically speaking, it gives you the better chance of winning. Del Rio shouldn’t be an anomaly. It’s idiots like Jeff Fisher—who kicked a goddamn field goal on fourth and short with less than six minutes to play when the Rams were down a touchdown—who should be the odd ducks. “Meet the exotic idiot who punts from inside the 40!”

Bengals at Patriots: Here’s a Mark Wahlberg tweet:


I know there’s a dearth of quality teams out there this season, but we can’t let these people get their revenge championship. It’s like the prospect of Trump winning the election, only more terrifyingly plausible. Someone needs to unearth a tape of Tom Brady bragging about shooting stray dogs or something.

Illustration for article titled The NFL Has No Idea How To Treat Its Stars

Three Throwgasms

Niners at Bills: Oh hey it’s Colin Kaepernick starting his first game in front of the drunkenest, whitest fanbase possible. There WILL be a Bills fan in blackface and a Kap jersey getting powerbombed through a table in effigy three hours prior to kickoff.


Ravens at Giants: Someone out there is gonna make a million dollars by opening a pop-up haunted house that opens BEFORE 7 p.m. Listen, haunted house proprietors: I know darkness makes shit scarier, but I need you to open earlier. A 7 p.m. opening time is useless to me. It’s the DAYTIME that really fucks me as a parent. You should open at 2 p.m. so that I can scare my kids shitless and burn some valuable time off the clock. I don’t care if I can see the strings holding the zombies up. I’m sick of BIG HAUNTED HOUSE catering only to horny teens who stay up late.

Panthers at Saints: There have been a lot of thinkpieces about locker room talk this week because of the Trump tape. This is annoying because HE WASN’T IN A LOCKER ROOM WHEN HE SAID THAT SHIT. You don’t get to conjure a “locker room” forcefield anytime you start talking out loud about pussy.


More importantly, there’s no real way to characterize a male locker room. Some locker rooms have horny teens saying awful shit (I was once one of them). Some of them have stoic professionals. Some of them have old men clipping their toenails with terrifying regularity. Using the term “locker room banter” suggests some kind of special safe space where guys are free to say all the things they really think. But honestly, most guys do that EVERYWHERE. We do it at bars, and while golfing, and at work, and on this site. I assure you that there’s no forum on Earth that I am not happy to pollute with crude dick jokes. Like Trump, all the pigs are already in plain sight. So never listen to some guy who assumes a locker room is a free pass to talk like a groper, or some other thirsty asshole who’s like, “Well in MY locker room, we only discussed 19th century French poetry.” That’s not how locker rooms work.

Also, if I’m talking about anything dirty in a locker room, it’s dicks. I’m all about the dick talk.


Rams at Lions

Illustration for article titled The NFL Has No Idea How To Treat Its Stars

Two Throwgasms

Colts at Texans: I am genuinely terrified of the Arby’s pork belly sandwich. I have a hard enough time trusting the BEEF from Arby’s. Now they’re making like they’re David Chang and serving whole slabs of pork belly like it WON’T have a wad of tummyworms inside of it. If you try this sandwich, please let me know if you survived the ordeal. I can’t trust Arby’s to do pork belly right. That’s like going to your weed dealer for back surgery.


Jets at Cardinals: I was on a train last week because I am a fancypants. And this guy sat next to me. He had three carry-ons and put them ALL on his lap. Then he got off the train and another lady sat next to me. Again, she had many bags and rested them ALL on her lap. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this on a train or a plane either. With readily available overhead room, some crazy asshole will choose to turn his lap into a cargo bin. Why would you do that? Aren’t you overheated? Do you have the Russian microfilm on you? Put your fucking bags away, people.

Jaguars at Bears

Illustration for article titled The NFL Has No Idea How To Treat Its Stars

 One Throwgasm

Steelers at Dolphins: I need the cumulative passing stats for Big Ben for when he plays in the jailhouse bumblebee uniforms. Every time the Steelers break those retro unis out, he throws for a billion yards. Big Ben always plays at his best when he’s at his fattest and ugliest. If I were the Steelers, I’d force him to gain 20 more pounds and play every game in a striped utilikilt.


Also, the Steelers need to make their two-point policy full time. As it stands now, it makes NO sense to just randomly go for two whenever Mike Tomlin feels gutty. There’s plenty of statistical support for the idea that you can gain more net points by going for it on every TD, but that’s only if you actually DO it. You don’t reap the math benefits if you spin a funtime conversion wheel after every score.

Browns at Titans: There’s been a ton of Amazon Echo ads during game broadcasts and I’m still amazed by the number of tech companies that think voice commands are the way of the future. Motherfucker, the whole reason I HAVE a phone is so I don’t have to talk out loud. If I had my druthers, I’d just cut my tongue out altogether to avoid having to make contact with any human, animal, or voice-enabled tech device. I’ll pay you double for a household assistant that promises NO verbal exchanges. Talking into thin air makes me feel like a complete idiot.


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

“High Chair,” by Wrong. From Jordan:

It’s so 90's-era Helmet, full of chunk.

Indeed. I like my music chunky. Big, moist chunks of riffage. I don’t fuck with smooth music. That’s for dipshits and failed womanizers.



Gregg Easterbrook Memorial Haughty Dipshit Of The Week

Illustration for article titled The NFL Has No Idea How To Treat Its Stars

The St. Louis Cardinals failed to make the playoffs this year because they’re sucky losers. But that’s not gonna stop me from doing a reckless hatchet job on them and their closet Trumpkin fanbase. Thankfully, Christina Silies at Odyssey (I do not know what Odyssey is) has provided just the take I need to troll Will Leitch and be a complete penis. Let’s dive in!

Cubs fans,

Did I mention this was an open letter? Well, now you know. Christina is a college student, so this is, once more, a fine moment to conduct a proper Take Seminar. Lesson one: Everything terrible in the world comes in open letter form.

First of all, congrats on a great season.

You don’t mean that. You’re lying. Politifact gives your take 8 Pinocchios.

Honestly, they deserve to win the whole thing.

Again, lies. Please do not lie when you issue takes. I feel icky already, like I’ve been eating potato salad with you.

Before you go on a spree of bashing the Cardinals, though, we have some things to say to you. You do not have the best fan base in baseball. The Royals tried to pull this with us last year when they were good, too. Where are they now? Gone. I was so blessed to grow up in St. Louis, so I got to experience how amazing and dedicated Cardinal Nation really is.


Prove this wretched point with data.

When you walk into Busch, the people there are there for the Cardinals.

That’s every baseball stadium. No one goes to a baseball stadium because they’re there for a Kenny Loggins concert.

Our hearts break for them when they lose and we are filled with happiness when they win.


Again, every team.

We also remember in 2004 when our amazing team got beat in the World Series by the Boston Red Sox. We are second in World Series Championships behind the amazing New York Yankees.


OMG everyone is AMAZING! [Taylor Swift face] The Yankees are so AMAZING! But the Cardinals are also AMAZING even when they lose to other AMAZING teams!

In October, people only wear red.

That’s because your fanbase is 100 percent Ken Bones.

You go to Walmart on a day that the Cardinals are playing?

I bet you do.

At least seventy five percent of people will be wearing red.

Burn that AMAZING Walmart.

We love our old players and will almost always offer them a standing ovation when they come back on other teams to play against us. There is a reason Albert Pujols talked about missing his “home” is St. Louis when he left. There is a reason why players like Jim Edmonds and Willie McGee consider St. Louis the best place in the world.


Because you would find him and murder him if he said otherwise. I’ve seen how Cards fans operate. They are children of the popcorn.

One of you guys told me, “Cardinal’s fans will shut up if the Cub’s win, they will have nothing to say.” That isn’t true.


I bet it isn’t. I’ll give her credit for the botched grammar though. That’s solid takeage right there. Toss in a your/you’re mistake and you’ve got yourself a job at The Blaze.

We might not make Titanic jokes anymore, but we still have eleven rings… So quit acting like you’ve already caught us in championships. If you win or lose this year, we will still make fun of you.


Oh, now I kind of like this take. Starts off polite, then reveals its black Midwestern soul. If Christina starts dropping Chicago gun violence stats, we’ve got ourselves a prodigy.

The Cubs may have been really good this year, but you cannot say that the Cardinals would not have been a threat to them if they would have gotten the chance to meet in the playoffs.


So true. If the Cub’s can’t enter an alternate dimension and put away a theoretical 2016 Card’s team that was good enough to make the playoffs, does your World Series title REALLY count? I say no. You would not have been emotionally prepared for the number of people wearing red.

Moral of the story, celebrate this year, but don’t have this chip on your shoulder that you’re the best organization in baseball history, because you’re just not. Also, learn to care about the actual Cubs winning instead of just beating the Cardinals.


That’s a lie.

Cardinal Nation

Ban all nations.


Curt Schilling’s Facebook Lock Of The Week: Niners (+8)

Meme by Patty Red
Meme by Patty Red

Schilling 2016 record: 2-2-1

Fantasy Player Who Deserves To Die A Slow, Painful Death

Reader Joe is steamed at Randall Cobb:

Randall fucking Cobb has ruined me for two straight fantasy seasons. He was my keeper the year after he had all those TDs. Jordy Nelson gets hurt and I assume he’ll be the number 1 target. He struggles all year. OK this year Nelson is back and he’s over his injuries so I keep him again. 5 games in, no fucking touchdowns, the one he got this weekend was called back. He finally put up decent yardage this weekend so of course his neck is injured now. I hate this guy.


That’s the problem with gifted quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers. They spread the ball around and mange to get touchdowns to every skill player except the one YOU own. Much better for your fantasy player to have a SHITTY QB who locks eyes on your guy 50 times a game. That’s the ideal fantasy ball distributor.


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*****

Jeff Fisher

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)

I think John Fox is already at the point where he leaves practice at 6pm every day and goes to pound beers at the hotel bar. I can’t blame him, honestly.



Great Moments In Poop History

Reader Jon sends in this story I call MEET THE POOP:

This was when I was a senior in high school. I had just started dating this girl maybe a week or two previously — we hadn’t even gotten to the point of introducing each other to our parents yet. It was about 9 PM and I was dropping her off from a dinner date. I came in, and the high-school-appropriate level of couch makeouts began. Her parents were the “in bed by 8:30" type, so by 9:30 they were already upstairs and asleep. Then my stomach started rumbling.

No big deal I figured, I just went to their guest toilet downstairs. And I pooped. And pooped. And, somehow, more poop.

Feeling completely satisfied with myself, and considerably lighter, I flushed the toilet and washed my hands...but the flush doesn’t finish. I look over — toilet still crammed with poop. I flush again. And again. I look desperately around the bathroom for a plunger but can’t find any.

I come out, feeling (rightfully) shamed. My girlfriend asked what was wrong and I just mumbled if she knew where they kept a plunger. Being the not-particularly-handy type (and I’m not casting exclusive aspersions here; I’m more useless than she is with tools), she had no idea. So I had to go upstairs, into her parents’ bedroom, and wake her father up, introducing myself in the process, to ask where the plunger was. He gives me a much-deserved look of sleepy derision and just says he’ll take care of it.

I went back down and sat on the couch with her in silence as her father dealt with my titanic poop load. Somehow, we survived that and have been married for ten years now. Her father & I never discussed the poop incident again.


That’s how you know you’ve got a keeper!


Gametime Snack Of The Week

Illustration for article titled The NFL Has No Idea How To Treat Its Stars

Boursin cheese! Ever think to yourself, “Boy, I just don’t binge-eat cheese enough”? Well, the makers of Boursin have designed a proprietary blend of cheese and herbs that can be ingested at a rate of 12 pounds per second. They should feed this to people recovering from cancer. The weight just APPEARS on you, in real time.

Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week

Illustration for article titled The NFL Has No Idea How To Treat Its Stars

Taiwan Beer! From Emil!


Featuring a Piano Can! $5 for a six pack, it will get you both drunk and shot on the mainland! You’ll be talking to giant crabs in no time.


The piano can sells it. No one has EVER put a piano on a can of shitty beer until now. I MUST HAVE IT. No joke. I would like to drink that beer and then go to lounge and then slug the pianist the second he busts out a Billy Joel song. Tell me that wouldn’t be a great night. I’m ready right now. LET’S GO.


Jim Tomsula’s Lifehack Of The Week!

Illustration for article titled The NFL Has No Idea How To Treat Its Stars

“Lotta rich guys … they buy a shirt and then just throw the buttons away. That’s when you strike. You can do lot with those buttons: trade them, stack them, kill rabbits with them by shooting them out of a slingshot, fasten tarps, grind them to make button oil, place them over your nipples for good luck … stuff like that. These rich guys don’t know what they’re missing. Hopper Bob had a collection of over five million buttons that he kept in a hold in Southeast Ohio. The man NEVER had to pay cash for a can of sardines in his LIFE. All paid with buttons.”


Sunday Afternoon Movie Of The Week For Browns Fans

 Predator 2. This is the one where they couldn’t afford Arnold, so they fused together a Voltron of the greatest D-list actors ever assembled to make up for it: Danny Glover, Ruben Blades, Gary Busey, María Conchita Alonso, Bill Paxton and Robert Davi. It’s quite something. This is the one where it turns out that the predators (yes, there are many!) can kinda speak English. It’s one of the great movie clichés. WHOA HEY, YOU CAN TALK! Just once in my life, I want to be surprised by a mute human or creature who ends up having perfect command of English, but keeps it secret from me until the right moment arises.



Gratuitous Miller’s Crossing Quote

“If you want me to keep my mouth shut, it’s gonna cost you some dough. I figure a thousand bucks is reasonable, so I want two.”



Enjoy the games, everyone. 

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

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