Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Underdog Stories Are Poison

Illustration by Sam Woolley/GMG
Illustration by Sam Woolley/GMG

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


The Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl on Sunday and I was rooting for them because they were underdogs and because fuck the Patriots. But the Eagles, of course, were underdogs only in relative terms. They are still an ongoing multi-million dollar football concern. Any delusion you have about an NFL team being a scrappy underdog usually dissipates the second the Ginger Hammer hands the Lombardi Trophy off to some dipshit owner. In this case, said owner was Jeffrey Lurie, who, if you ask Mike Silver, allegedly wanted this title more than anyone else in Philadelphia:

The measure of this man’s obsessive quest to win the big one was deeper and more primal than all but his closest friends and family members could ever have understood.

Nah, I think I understand it plenty. Was Lurie so desperate for a ring that he’d be willing to eat horse poop if the Eagles won the Super Bowl? My friends, he was not. Now, horse poop guy… there’s a guy who really wanted it. Didn’t even have to eat the poop, but he did because he was just that gritty (and so was the poop).

I am like many sports fans in that I am conditioned to root for the underdog. Not only do I root for the Vegas underdog, but I also want to cheer on the LIFE underdog. Watch an NFL pregame show and you will see any number of soft-focus features about players who made it all the way to the big time despite humble, even tragic backgrounds. When the Winter Olympics begin, you’ll hear NOTHING but these stories. You’ll hear more about some cross country skier growing up the son of a hardscrabble rat farmer than you’ll actually see footage of that skier in action. NBC knows what jerks those tears.

Sports, along with the entertainment industry, is not only the most visible producer of underdog stories, it is perhaps the only industry left in America to accommodate them. Look around you. Almost every day, the American government enacts some kind of horrible new endeavor to cut off oxygen to the poor and disenfranchised. If you like underdogs… holy shit is America ready to produce a whole lot of candidates.

This is some real commie-ass, Debbie Downer shit, but it’s always worth remembering that the extraordinary ascent of people who have been down on their luck doesn’t need to be an extraordinary thing. This is a society that is, as of now, not setting up people to succeed. The schools are shit. The health care is shit. Debt is our most thriving industry. Whenever you see some dewey-eyed profile of someone who made it out of the muck, they rarely stop and note why that muck is there, and how it came to form. We could have a nation where people don’t have to overcome impossible odds to succeed. The odds could be, you know, better. But they are not. Instead we have tens of millions of people who are fucked and just hoping for some kind of lottery ticket—be it literal or genetic—to get them out of being fucked.


And all it takes is ONE rags-to-riches story for all the rich assholes in charge to be like, “See? The system works! You have a chance!” That is all they need to sell you on the business model, and to get you to demand unfettered freedom for gazillionaires just in case you happen to become one yourself. A lot of times, the underdog stories you hear aren’t underdogs stories at all. Look at this:


“Ultimate” is pulling a lot of weight there. Nobody expected Nick Foles to tear it up in the playoffs, but he WAS a third-round pick who played ball at Arizona, and he seems to have a good head on his shoulders. Also, he’s got a huge dick. Life gave him some advantages. He didn’t come out of some Gobi Desert shantytown, you know what I mean? People love to make underdogs out of anything, including themselves. Sometimes I like to think of myself as an underdog. I’m no underdog. I’m an asshole.

This is not me telling you to root for the favorite instead. I still hate the Patriots as much as I did yesterday. But the underdog narrative contains its own insidious sales job. It celebrates the miracle of making it in America when that shouldn’t have to be a miracle, and it shouldn’t require you to be a big-dicked quarterback to pull it off. Football has long billed itself as the ultimate meritocracy, and that could well be true in some instances. And yet, what’s it say about my country that its ultimate meritocracy is a sport where dudes bash their fucking heads into one another?


When you are presented with an underdog story, you are being sold a polished brochure of the American Dream that was proven invalid a very, very long time ago. It’s a brochure that, to this day, aids some very wealthy people in some very repulsive efforts to fuck you over, and to set the masses against each other. I remember one time I watched that movie The Pursuit of Happyness starring Will Smith and his kid. It’s a good movie. It’s corny as shit, but still pretty watchable. It tells the story of Chris Gardner, a single dad who’s dead broke and forced to sleep in a train station with his son as he tries to painfully eke out a living selling outdated medical supplies. At the end of the movie, he gets a job at EF Hutton and ends up rich and you’re supposed to feel good because he finally made it.

Now that’s based on a true story, and it’s a nice one. It’s an underdog story. And like any other underdog story, it is superficially heartwarming and inspiring. But stew on it much longer and you start to think about the millions upon millions of people who experience the same sort of toil and grief and end up with nothing at all to show for it. You only hear about the ones that make it, and they are always portrayed as being special and worthy of elevation, often in contrast to those they leave behind.


And if some people have their way, one day no one will make it all. The ladder will be yanked up from the balcony. I’m well aware that even if you do everything possible to level the playing field for everyone, there will still be winners and losers. There will always be favorites and underdogs. I just wish the point spread were a little tighter, you know? But the way shit is going now, there’s gonna come a time when the underdog never wins at all… when the underdog never even gets to set foot on the fucking field.

Now that we’ve that feel-good chat, let’s close out the Jamboroo for the season.


The Games

None. There’s nothing. Before you stretches the barren frosted plains of the NFL offseason… a blinding expanse of silent death that will test the very limits of your endurance and reveal unto you the ugly heart of your soul. Or you’ll just get into basketball for a while. That’s my fallback plan. Hey! How about some random crap now?


I find it endlessly amusing that Kirk Cousins made $24 million this season but still felt strapped enough for cash that he made THIS local ad that aired during the Super Bowl:

That this ad aired after the Alex Smith deal only makes it funnier. By the way, because I don’t like you, here is a sampling of the YouTube comments from that ad:

HimanXK1 day ago

This is gold

Ethan Hickey1 day ago

I feel like this is mocking the president

John Pringle1 day ago

funniest super bowl commercial

Def Tye1 day ago

People gotta relax and be entertained! I love President Trump and this commercial is hilarious and spot on! Good job!


We’re doomed. There’s no crawling out of this hole.

Fidget spinners are no longer a thing, but you know what still are? Squishies. My kids are still absolutely batshit over squishies. In case you don’t know what a squishie is, it’s just a big stress ball shaped like any number of things: birthday cakes, big pieces of fruit, milk cartons, etc. It’s like an emoji you can choke to death. All of these squishies are made from a borderline toxic Chinese foam product that smells like a magic marker smelled a magic marker. Ten years from now, there will be a garbage patch in the Pacific that’s the size of France and comprised entirely of squishies purchased from 2017-2018. They are evil. They’re also dirt cheap. You see my conundrum. Daddy likes to save cash come birthday season.


They should have given Justin Bieber a halftime show instead of trotting Justin Timberlake out there in a Three Deer Moon shirt. I profiled Bieber five years ago and the subtext of that whole thing was that Bieber was trying to become Timberlake and probably wasn’t going to make it. It will not shock you to learn that I was wrong. You could easily create a shitty Ringer post called “Who Won The Justins?” and have Bieber as its champ it now. Bieber makes some catchy songs. I say give him the halftime and let him pop mollies on stage and drag race Ferraris into the concourse.

I took my family to my folks’ house for Christmas and when we got back to our house I made the cardinal mistake of drinking water straight from the faucet. If you drink from the faucet, you should usually let the tap run a little to get the stale water out. I did not. I drank water that had been stuck in the faucethead for a week. And lemme tell you, it was some exquisite poison. I felt like I had swallowed straight anthrax. If I die sometime within the next year, you’ll know why.


I went to my old high school back in Minnesota (I was only there for freshman year), and they let me walk around and I got to peek into the school auditorium. This was early morning, so kids were just in there quietly doing homework before the bell rang. I was in a play in that auditorium. I also sang in choir there like a fucking dork. The best part of being in plays or choir or any other art period shit is when you have the auditorium to yourself and can just fart around in it. I very much enjoyed standing on an empty stage and pretending there was a deafening crowd packing the house to see my band DRAGONSLAYER. That whole, “We’re gonna put on a show!” vibe never gets old. I also like sitting in the seats when the stage is empty and pretending I’m some finicky casting director. “[sighs] NEXT.” If I were a billionaire, I would buy some theater on Broadway and just drink in it all day. I see nothing strange about this.

Also, it snowed while we were in Minnesota. And if you think I’ve outgrown waking up to snow and RUSHING to tell everyone the news, you would be wrong. I am the snow herald. Nothing gets me off more than coyingly asking people, “Didja look out the window?!” Yes, my friend. It is snow. I have brought you news of its landing. Together we shall frolick in its magic fluffiness. GET YER MOON BOOTS!


Not to go all GREGGGGGG on you, but I wrote this earlier in the year about the trend of players trying to leapfrog defenders:

When even the tight end can jump over a dude, it kinda loses its luster. I think guys just studied tape and realized that was a move that could actually work and started doing it en masse. So I’m excited for the correction, for defenders to start faking guys out, going low, and popping up like a fucking jack in the box right as the guy is hurdling and tackling him by the dick.


Well well well, lo and behold, the Super Bowl gave us a goddamn dick tackle. ROLL THE TAPE!


Oh yeah, that’ll learn you to try to jump over a dude. That trend is gonna die out real, real fast now. Todd Gurley is already in mourning.

Before I finish off the year in random bullet point garbage, let me give a shoutout to the REAL heroes of Super Bowl week. I’m talking, of course, about those little charcoal hand warmer thingies. You know the little packets that heat up and you stick them in your gloves and boots? Those things rule. To think that Shackleton crossed South Georgia Island without them… truly the greatest underdog story of them all.


Last week’s picks: 0-1 (0-1 straight up)

Playoffs: 8-3 (4-7 straight up)

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

“The Witch,” by Forming The Void! From Grant:

Not much to say. Heavy with nice clean vocals. The whole album is pretty good. Play it loud. Also, they have nice clean vocals, just for you Drew.


I appreciate that. My sensitivities require clean vocals.

Gregg Easterbrook Memorial Haughty Dipshit Of The Week

Illustration for article titled Underdog Stories Are Poison

Have you ever thought to yourself, “Hey, is there a way to combine the NFL AND social media influencers?” My friend, you are in luck. I know the NFL has issues with crooked owners and brain trauma and horrific officiating, but that’s nothing a little bit of Insta love can’t solve. Read this writeup about it from Racked if you feel like dying:

To extend its reach as a legit brand, NFL Fan Style also takes a page from successful fashion brands and has assembled a group of lifestyle bloggers, dubbed the Lifestyle Council.


See, now I’m picturing one of those old Miller Lite Man Law ads, where they had Triple H and Burt Reynolds and Jerome Bettis vote on Man Laws and shit. Only this time, the table is surrounded by even bigger assholes.

The Lifestyle Council bloggers aren’t big-name fashion folks (no Man Repeller or The Blonde Salad here)…


Ah yes, the worldwide phenomenon that IS The Blonde Salad.

…but rather The Blonde Side, Mimosas & Manhattan, Frosted Events, The Whole Smiths, Chic Talk, and other bloggers you may not have heard of.


Why does the name of every lifestyle blog have to sound like the title of a Jessica Seinfeld book? “As you can see from my blog, Pinot More…”

But they love football and have engaged fans. “We have seen that micro-influencers, because they have such a loyal following, a lot of times do have stronger engagements than some of the larger ones,” says Reddy.


“Only a thousand people read Mimosas & Manhattan, but all one thousand of them started a blog.” –Lou Reed

“It’s a brand’s responsibility for socializing what the brand means in the life of the people they target,” says Tom Ajello, global chief creative officer at strategic consulting firm Vivaldi.


This is somehow more depressing than those gas fireplace ad comments.

“The NFL needs you to see how the brand fits your whole life. They need you to see, say, the man cave in your future home that has way too many Giants things in it.”



“We also have a food element too, because we’ve got #homegating — which is bringing the spirit of the game home — to highlight our breadth of drinkware and servingware and entertainment accessories,” says Reddy.


Love food elements. Anyway, it’s fun to know that people are no longer human!

Rex Ryan’s Lock Of The Week

Illustration for article titled Underdog Stories Are Poison

“Men, I’d stick around to say goodbye but I have a LOADED offseason itinerary. First stop is Cabo to drink overpriced tequila with Sammy Hagar! THE BOTTLE IS BLUE! HOW ABOUT THAT SHIT! Then I’m gonna windsurf nude! Then I’m gonna rub steaks on my sunburns! I get sunburned on purpose just so that I can do it! Then I’m gonna fuck a foot! YOU WON’T CATCH THIS COACH STUDYING TAPE LIKE A FUCKING PANTYWAIST! I make my offseason count!”

Ryan 2017 record: 12-8-1

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 2018 chopping block:


Hue Jackson

Todd Bowles

Dirk Koetter

Vance Joseph

Adam Gase

Marvin Lewis

Jay Gruden

Jason Garrett

Mike McCarthy

As you can see, we’ve already got a fantastic head start on next year’s firings. Also, I’ve decided to leave Marvin on this list until either I die or he does. Very excited to find out which one of us goes!


Also, few things warm my heart more than to know that Josh McDaniels is the EXACT same kind of turd he was when he got kicked to the curb in Denver. Belichick’s gonna coach ten more years and, as every year passes, McDaniels is gonna look pissier and pissier on that sideline. I’m into it.

Great Moments In Poop History

Reader Matthew sends in this story I call WORKING POOP:

I had been an associate at a big law firm in New York for about 5 months when I had to pull my first all-nighter to meet an early-morning deadline. At least it meant I could order all the midtown delivery I wanted on the client’s dime.

For dinner I got a tremendous amount of sushi and some diet cokes. Come 3am, feeling a bit delirious and a little entitled, I ordered every fried item on a local diner’s menu. I ate half of each (fries, onion rings, calamari, fried pickle, chicken tenders, etc.) and washed it down with more diet coke.

My gut shortly thereafter began to feel like a lava lamp filled with ice cream. But, having pulled a few all-nighters in school, this was a normal feeling come 4am, so I didn’t pay it much heed. As it grew light outside, I focused on the final stretch of work and was able to ignore the discomfort. I only wanted to get home. O, what a glorious poop and sleep I would have while the rest of the city trudged to work! At about 7am I finished the job, packed up, and sped to the elevator. I didn’t exactly feel like I had to poop, I just felt like utter shit all over. I just wanted to get out of the office before my coworkers arrived (typically around 9am) and saw me looking/smelling all gross.

I’m about halfway down the elevator from the 50th floor when - classic mistake - I try to relieve a little pressure by unclenching my asshole a millimeter to allow gas (and gas alone) to escape. Although I feel bloated, nothing comes out. So, I try apply some pressure, and of course a poop-cork pops into my underwear, followed by a slight spray of something unimaginable before I’m able to re-clench. By the time I hit the ground floor, the elevator is filled with an unholy smell. I chuckle, thinking this will be a funny story, and how lucky I am nobody is around.

The elevator door opens, and I’m confronted with 3 or 4 women I work closely with coming onto the elevator to go to work. See, it’s actually 9am after all. As I swim-move through them, ignoring their hellos and willing immediate death on everyone, I glimpse their smiles turning to looks of abject terror as they confront the Lovecraftian horror I’ve left on their elevator. Nobody speaks of this even ever again. I hope one of them reads this, and forgives me.


They won’t.

Offseason Snack Of The Week

Illustration for article titled Underdog Stories Are Poison

Mini donuts! One final bit of Minnesota goodness to close out the year. These are like regular donuts, only mini. They are good. Every donut shop should serve both donut holes AND mini donuts, so that I can choose between small donut products.

Offseason Cheap Beer Of The Week

Illustration for article titled Underdog Stories Are Poison

¡INDIO BARRIOS DE LOS MUERTOS! Reader Hank sends in this Mexican brew:

Was in Puerto Vallarta celebrating my birthday this past weekend when I saw this 16 peso (80 cent) can of festivity in a local convenience store. The can art was absolutely not indicative of its contents; it tasted like tap water and gave me the runs. But look at that Aztec skeleton warrior!! INDIO!


Hell yeah. I wonder if this beer was timed to capitalize on the release of Coco. Regardless, the can is awesome and the beer is shit and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Truly, it is the beer of the dead.

Jim Tomsula’s Lifehack Of The Week!

Illustration for article titled Underdog Stories Are Poison

“You can hibernate like a bear, you know. People don’t know this, okay? But you can absolutely sleep all winter if you time your bio-harmonies and what not. What you do, see, is you find a cave. That’s not hard. Lotta good caves in Oregon. Got your cave? Okay, then you line it with dead leaves, then put a roll of used insulation on top of that, then ANOTHER pile of dead leaves. Then, you eat 40 corncakes and drink a WHOLE bottle of Old Crow. You will want to die, but that’s just your body readying itself for slumber. Then you douse yourself in kerosene to keep varmints away, cover yourself with a hogskin, and you will NATURALLY sleep for two months, minimum. Don’t worry about food and water. You’ll sleepwalk for those. I saw Caboose Lou sleepwalk through a whole seven-course meal once. You can be a bear.”

Sunday Afternoon Movie Of The Week For Browns Fans 

The original Tim Burton Batman, which still holds up, even if the costumes are now remarkably outdated. If you ever need to explain 1989 to someone, just show them a still frame from this movie. There are some bigass clothes in it. Also, Batman’s cape looks like a rain poncho.


Regardless, the creepy parts of Batman will still make you uneasy in your seat. You know how the one newscaster starts giggling and then keels over dead, with a poisoned grin on her face? That’s how every Instagram influencer looks in real life.

Gratuitous Simpsons Quote

“Can we have a pool Dad? Can we have a pool Dad? Can we have a pool Dad? Can we have a pool Dad? Can we have a pool Dad?”


Enjoy the offseason, everyone. See you back here in April for the Draft.

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