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Jamboroo

Actually, Teaching Your Kid To Drive Is Fucking Great

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Drew Magary’s Thursday Afternoon NFL Dick Joke Jamboroo runs every Thursday at Defector during the NFL season. Got something you wanna contribute? Email the Roo. And buy Drew’s new book, The Night The Lights Went Outthrough here.

It was early in the pandemic and we were on near-total lockdown. We never went to the store. We never went out to eat or to see movies. We ordered groceries via Peapod and wiped every item down with a Lysol wipe before putting it away. All that horrible shit you don’t wanna remember. We never visited anyone and no one visited us, not even my parents. We had nothing to fucking do. So one day, I pointed to my daughter and said to my wife, “Hey, what if we teach that one how to drive right now?”

“On the road?”

“No no no, like in an empty parking lot somewhere.” No shortage of empty parking lots at the time.

“Sure.”

“What do you think?” I asked my daughter. “You wanna try driving?”

When my daughter is excited, she nods with both great personality and vigor. She tilts her head at an angle, busts out a sly smile, and nods in a brisk staccato. It looks like she’s casting a spell, and it never fails to make me happy when I see it. She nodded when I asked her if she wanted to drive. Oh, did she nod.

I drove her to my wife’s preschool, which has a lot that’s broken into three distinct areas. I owned a little Kia Soul at the time, which was a good starter car. Not too big. Not too complicated. And you could feel every bump, annoying for grownups but enough to keep any teen behind the wheel on high alert. Ten and two, baby.

We switched seats—I got out of the car, she just climbed over the gearshift from the passenger side—and I handed her the keys. I told her to buckle up and check her mirrors. I made sure she adjusted her seat for proper positioning.

“Can I drive this out onto the road?”

“No, because I’ll be arrested if I let you do that. You’re not even supposed to be driving here.”

“OK.”

My parents never taught me to drive. I was at a boarding school when I was 15, so the task fell to a local driver’s ed instructor instead. I loved my instructor, mostly because he kept calling me “an athlete,” which even my coaches never did. He also spared me from having to drive with the withering gaze of my mom or dad on me. I love my parents, but I was as intimidated by them as any child is of their folks. Also, I had already learned that parents teaching kids to drive was a recipe for blowout fights. I learned this from movies, and TV, and books, and comic strips, and ads, and friends, and basically every other external cultural resource at my disposal.

So when my own child got close to driving age, I figured those same tensions awaited me, especially since she wouldn’t be away at school for her automotive education. I also figured that she’d have a greater margin for error if I started her out in an emptied country. And if we started her young (in my mind, every Nebraskan child knows how to drive manual pickup by age 9), we’d have less tension in the car by the time she turned legal driving age. We’d just get all of that rancor and terror out of the way when she was 14. Made perfect sense in my mind.

I made her pull out of a spot and drive to another part of the lot. She aced it. I had her drive around the lot a couple of more times without issues, since the lot in question had no issues of any kind to throw in her way. Then we switched seats again and I drove us back home. Each week, I took her back to that lot and added a wrinkle. I had her back out of a spot (reversing is always scary at first for all parties involved). I had her parallel park between two cones spaced out really wide. I had her park between two parked cars, which she did better than most adult Maryland drivers.

She fucked up once, hitting the gas when she was in drive while thinking she was in reverse. She jumped the curb and braked before crashing into a tree. I stayed cool, which is a small miracle given my usual temperament. Meanwhile, she scared the shit out of herself with that little escapade. There is nothing you can teach kids about the awesome power of a car that they can’t learn better FROM that car. She never jumped the curb again after that. I’m not sure our commenters have had similar good fortune teaching their young to drive, so I’ll take my luck where I can get it.

My wife got in on the fun, letting our daughter drive around the neighborhood at odd hours, when other cars and dog walkers would be infrequent sights. One day I was in the yard when the girl pulled up with my wife in the passenger seat, surprising me. And lemme tell you: You don’t forget that moment. It’s one thing to be in the car with your kid, but the sight of them behind the wheel from outside the car is the real moment. I saw other kids in our neighborhood grow up and take the wheel and I’d always be like HOLY SHIT ROBBIE IS DRIVING! whenever they crossed my line of sight.

Now it was my own kid zooming by, looking like a real and functional adult driving alongside all the other real and functional adults. It’s not always easy for me to detect my kids aging. I’m with them every day, so all of their changes in appearance, voice, and intellect come gradually. Imperceptibly. But when you see your kid behind the wheel, they change before your eyes in an instant. All of the work and care and love that you put into them manifests itself in this real-time moment of them operating a car that they’ll one day drive anywhere and everywhere. Suddenly I could see her driving to school, to friend’s houses, to the store, to college, on beer runs (uh oh), to California to start her career, etc. I saw this girl be born into the world 15 years ago, and now look at her. Every corny, proud feeling came to the surface. This is why you raise kids. These are the moments.

She went to driving school. She aced her test at the DMV and got her learner’s permit. She was more nervous behind the wheel than I was riding alongside her, and so I had to push her out onto real roads, with real traffic lights and real, other, horrible drivers hanging out in her blind spot. It was the only way for her to learn, but I wanted her to, if only so I could stop picking her up on weekend nights at 11. The day she’s free to make those drives on her own, I’m free.

Last week, she drove me home from a couple of miles away. She swerved too close to the adjacent lane a couple of times and I had to lightly correct her, but otherwise we got home alive. The light’s on now. She wants to try driving at night, and on highways, and in snow, and to New York for Christmas. And I’m gonna let her. I can’t wait. All roads are open now.

The Games

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

Five Throwgasms

Rams at Cardinals: My kids all like having subtitles on during movies and TV shows and I get mad every time they do it. I find the captions distracting. Plus I’m a deaf person, so it pisses me off when able-eared people are too goddamn lazy to use their hearing capacities in full. All you motherfuckers have to do is LISTEN and you should be good. You would think that I’d want subtitles on myself given my disability, but I’m the stubborn opposite. I wanna put my hearing aids and my cochlear implant to work and let them process the sound while my eyes stay focused on the picture. Most of the time it works, although I need it pretty loud. But it’s still what I generally prefer.

And it’s what I’ve preferred for years now, to the point where I’ve had legit arguments with my son about it. Then I read this Ben Pearson deep dive into Hollywood’s negligent sound design and had to rethink my stance.

“There are a number of root causes,” says Mark Mangini, the Academy Award-winning sound designer behind films like “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Blade Runner 2049.” “It’s really a gumbo, an accumulation of problems that have been exacerbated over the last 10 years … that’s kind of this time span where all of us in the filmmaking community are noticing that dialogue is harder and harder to understand.”

Like everyone else, I know Christopher Nolan is serial offender when it comes to sound mixing, but I never realized how deep the problem goes and how complex it is. The sound has to be mixed 27 different ways for 27 different formats and, despite that, isn’t given priority on the set the way so many other things are. So I read Pearson’s post and told my kids that I gave up. They can watch with subtitles now. I won’t fight them. But I will tell Hollywood to get its shit together. “Quiet on the set!” used to mean something, dammit.

Four Throwgasms

Bills at Bucs: I got one year off from Pats fans’ horseshit but that respite is now over since Bill Belichick invented running the football a week ago against these Bills. Now it’s happening all over again, with Pats fans once again exulting like the pigs that they are:

Every Boston shithead—even if they aren’t really from Boston—has gone right back into their patented brand of smugness, where the Patriots are the only smart team in football and every other team is SO FACKIN’ STOOPID. Always acting like Bill Belichick’s football IQ is their own. This is why the Geneva Conventions deserve to go ignored. These fans know FUCK-ALL about this sport. All they know how to do is beat traffic when their team is down at the half.

Niners at Bengals: George Kittle is back in full force, which is a good thing because the NFL has an unwritten rule that states that a maximum of three tight ends are allowed to be great during any given season. Annoying.

Three Throwgasms

Cowboys at WFT: These Cowboys are fun because they can throw the ball a million miles, they have a defense that makes as many big plays as it gives up, and they’re coached by lobotomized sack of potatoes. They’re flawless entertainment, and that’s why I have no choice but to root for a Jerry Jones–owned enterprise if it ends up encountering one of the Bays in the NFC title game. Ideally, Kyler Murray ruins everyone’s shit on his way to a Super Bowl, but if that doesn’t happen (and it probably won’t), this is my next best option. The NFL is nothing but a series of evils to choose a lesser from.

Ravens at Browns: John Harbaugh went for two to win the game in Pittsburgh last week because, by his own admission, he had run out of cornerbacks and didn’t think his team would survive overtime. The Ravens failed on that conversion, much to my consternation, but I don’t know anyone who had a problem with the call after the fact. I now expect every team to go for it on the final conversion instead of settling for overtime. That’s the fourth-down revolution at work. No sane fan is gonna complain about their coach going for the win when it’s just two yards away. Unless that coach calls a fade route.

Raiders at Chiefs: The Chiefs are my only hope to prevent a Mac Jones Super Bowl, but I’ve already tried relying on this team to put an end to Tom Brady and they NEVER can. We’re getting that Bucs-Pats Super Bowl and that will be the moment I finally summon up the courage to leave America.

Two Throwgasms

Steelers at Vikings: It’s December, which means we get to endure yet another round of this bullshit:

Every year, man. Every. Fucking. Year. Brett Favre retired with more dignity than this fat fuck ever will. If you make a big show of your retirement decision—and if you and your coaches DENY you’re making a show of it—you should be stripped of your Hall of Fame eligibility. And you should be killed.

Bears at Packers: When they started displaying Pro Football Focus rankings in the SNF starting lineup graphics, I was like, “These are bullshit. And Collinsworth owns part of that company! FRAUD! MASSIVE FRAUD!” I have since adopted them as absolute gospel. I’ll be like, “Oh wow Brent Innawaski ranks third among all centers! He must be really good!” As both a fan and a sportswriter, it’s very handy to have a nebulous cabal of analysts working behind the scenes to grade players and then rank them so that I don’t have to. I cannot resist.

Giants at Chargers: Pitchfork just released their top albums of 2021, so once again it’s time for me to delve into their selections to see if I recognize any of these musicians:

Dry Cleaning: New Long Leg

Nope. No fucking idea. Let’s check the copy.

One way to hear New Long Leg is as a cringe-tinged dramedy—like Fleabag or Girls—with Florence Shaw as the performer who knows exactly how to deliver her own script. This album is not the type to be nominated for a Grammy, but it really ought to get Emmys for writing and acting. 

Totally. Anyway I Ctrl-F’ed for MASTODON here and got nothing, so this list gets a 0.2. Ten years from now I’ll revise it up to a 0.3 to account for shifts in the monoculture.

Falcons at Panthers: This is the time of year where I use Santa as a cudgel on my children. I’m running out of years to do this, since they’re all over the age of 9 and pretty much know the lay of the land. But I can still bust out a “Santa’s watching!” when they’re out of line and have that threat cool them down. Would I ever actually strip them of presents? No. Am I such an ineffective parent that I have to rely on an imaginary Christmas surveillance state—Elf on the Shelf included—to control my own offspring? Still yes. I should probably be better at fatherhood by now.

One Throwgasm

Saints at Jets: You now know that Taysom Hill is a player best used in small, infuriating doses. Excited for the Saints to give him the first-ever contract extension paid exclusively in NFTs. Those NFTs will ALSO not be guaranteed.

Seahawks at Texans: Speaking of NFTs…

I am now convinced that 90 percent of all celebrities entering the NFT space don’t actually know what an NFT is. NFT owners too, frankly. This is for the best. I hope that companies start cranking out jpegs with easily replicable code, call them “NFTs” for shits and giggles, and then customers are suckered into buying something they think is one-of-a-kind. Is this fraud? Yes. Would it be hilarious? Also yes. And at least it’d be normal fraud and not a form of disrupted fraud that requires 9,000 megajoules of energy to be expended every half-second. Fucking Matt Damon, Mister “please conserve water because the earth is so precious,” is out here shilling for crypto.com like it’s the way of the future and not him cashing out all of his phony liberal cred in a tidy 30 seconds.

Jaguars at Titans: By rule, I avoid all modern sports documentaries because the majority of them are bankrolled and produced by their subjects, which means they’re just fancy PR. However, I’m gonna make an exception for that Madden documentary on Christmas, though. It’s gonna be overly fawning and it’s gonna have a bunch of players wistfully going, “There is no NFL without John Madden,” but I’ll still watch it.

I never appreciated Madden enough in his prime. I was young and pissy and got mad anytime Madden complimented a player who wasn’t a Viking. Now every color guy is a pair of thick hands with the vocabulary of a dog. I never realized what I had in Madden, so I need to pay my respects. Madden was the rare color guy to have the timbre. Just a delightful man in every respect.

Lions at Broncos: One of my favorite games to play every Sunday is “Let’s Spend All Game Yelling At Our Worst O-Lineman.” It’s a fun game to play, especially if you’re a Bears fan and ALL of your linemen are fucking awful. All you have to do is single out the one that holds/false starts the most and then, whenever they fuck up, throw up your hands and go OH FOR FUCK’S SAKE, PETERS! Then you turn to everyone else in the room and tell them, “We gotta get rid of this guy.” Then they false-start again two plays later and you EXPLODE. There this guy goes again! Why is he playing? How is he even on the roster? This is all the general manager’s fault. FIRE EVERYONE.

Pregame Song That Makes Me Wanna Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall

“Die To Live,” by Volbeat! From Brandon:

I first heard the band Volbeat while I was at the grocery store of all places. Don’t let that fool you, though: they have some riffage. “Die to Live” feat. Neil Fallon is like a house party in music form, which is what the song is about, so that makes sense. The middle of the song has a guitar solo, and some piano and sax action all happening around each other. Also, the line “dance the boogie-woogie and fire up the booze” gets me every time. This whole album is just a blast, honestly.

The piano and sax bring us dangerously close to Broadway Rock territory, where your Springsteens and your Eltons John reside. But the riffage keeps this song on the right side of things, which reassures me. Keep an eye out for the bonus singer popping up midway through. You thought Volbeat only had one singer and then BOOM. Two.

Worst Quarterback In The League Of The Week

Andy Dalton. Andy Dalton was a franchise quarterback once. He lasted in Cincinnati for a decade. He threw for yardage. He went to the playoffs pretty much every year. And look at him now. All the great quarterbacks age well. Just below that echelon are guys who were once good enough to be franchise cornerstones but never good enough to win fuck-all. Those guys go to shit. My team presently employs one such quarterback. Andy Dalton is another. The Andy Dalton you see before you now is the Andy Dalton that every fan suspected was always lurking within him. Devastating.

Bad Local Commercial Of The Week!

Mile High Flea Market! From Adam:

This is for the flea market in Denver, which is not quite local for me in Fort Collins but local-ish considering the TV markets in the state. This one is promoting their new theme song.

Hey man that flea market has a roller coaster! And a lucha libre ring! A fresh fruit! I would go to this flea market. Your average open-air market in America is a scam. They all have overpriced vegetables, PTA-quality baked goods, and a crepe station for some reason. If I say the words “farmer’s market” to my sons, they get viscerally angry. Meanwhile, open-air markets in the rest of the world are fucking incredible. You could find a freshly unearthed T-Rex bone at one of these things. So I appreciate Mile High trying to replicate that authentic flea-market feel.

[All the Yelp reviews say it’s a piece-of-shit market that’s overpriced and its booths are never open]

Ah, well again I said I appreciated the attempt. I didn’t say it would be successful.

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 2021 chopping block:

Jon Gruden – FIRED!!!!
Sean Payton
Urban Meyer
Mike Zimmer*
Vic Fangio
Matt Nagy*********
Joe Judge
David Culley
Matt Rhule
Kevin Stefanski
Arthur Smith

(* – potential midseason firing)

I can’t get over how dumpy Arthur Smith always looks. Look at this dumpy guy.

“I said I wanted extra pickles! WHERE ARE THEY?”

Thanks to the Trump family, the common perception of a failson is some toothy shithead who greases his hair, marries an Evangelical mannequin, and wears expensive shoes he’s somehow too tacky to pull off. But there’s a whole other category of ne’er-do-well to account for: dudes with rich parents who look like they have absolutely no money whatsoever. Arthur Smith looks like drinks alone in shitty bars at 2 p.m. every day. Only Belichick can get away with such derelict appearances.

SHAMELESS BOOK PLUG         

You are now running out of time to buy The Night The Lights Went Out as a Christmas gift, so move it. I didn’t almost die just for you to drag ass.

Great Moments In Poop History

Reader Hai sends in this story I call ASSIE COME HOME:

A few winters ago, our son made a bunch of money shoveling neighbors’ sidewalks. I helped him take the cash to the bank not to deposit it, but to convert it into a $100 bill, because when you’re 11 years old, a $100 bill is pretty cool. He put the big bill, along with a $20 note, on his desk to admire. One day, however, he came home from school to find his money missing. A family crisis ensued. Had his older brother stolen it? What about his younger brother? He eyed my wife and me suspiciously. After lots of screaming and tears, he decided to walk our family golden retriever, who promptly hunched over a neighbor’s yard and crapped out two fully intact but disgusting bills — the $100 and the $20. Our son brings home the shit-covered money in a newspaper bag (one good reason to continue our newspaper subscription) and he asks me what to do. I figure what the hell, he’s my son, I’ve changed a few thousand diapers in my day, so what’s the big deal? I wash the major chunks off the bills and put the wet money in a Ziploc to take to the bank later for exchange. Except my son can’t wait. He walks down to the neighborhood Einstein’s and buys a $2 bagel with the $100 bill. Then he goes to 7-11 to buy a Big Gulp with the crappy $20. Next time you check your wallet, you might think twice about where that money has been.

And here I am feeling like a dick whenever I ask to change out a hundred that has NOT traveled through a dog’s intestinal tract.

Gametime Snack Of The Week

Zimtsterne! You can also call these cinnamon stars, and you will. Either way, they’re the shit. My wife was born in Germany, and so I have spent our marriage being introduced to all manner of German beers, pastries, breads, sausages, and cookies. It’s been an incredible … Ger-ney (thank you).

Anyway, to the stars. They’re made almost entirely of ground nuts held together by sugar and beaten egg whites. This means they’re a total pain in the balls to make, which is why we buy them at the local Rodman’s instead. It also means these cookies taste many levels beyond regular-ass cookies. More desserts should be made with nut meal. Who isn’t appetized by that prospect?

Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week

Arsenalnoye. Something tells me this beer has nothing to do with the soccer team. From Nick:

While strolling through Gene’s Sausage Shop in Chicago (a near religious experience) I stumbled upon these massive two liter soda style bottles of various Russian and Baltic beers. Made of sturdy plastic and boasting a price of $3.49, the good folks at Gene’s were even nice enough to post include a recent review from Chicagoist on the display that noted: “tastes like prison wine mixed with sharp cheese” and “smells like despair.”

Beer in a plastic bottle is always a rough decision. I don’t even like SODA out of a plastic bottle, so imagine cracking open a lukewarm plastic bottle of this beer, which is fit only for POW consumption. What terrors await you? I MUST KNOW THESE TERRORS.

Dan Campbell’s Clump Dog Of The Week: The Detroit Lions

“THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT! THAT IS WHAT THE FUCK I AM TALKING ABOUT!”

[grabs your jersey and pulls it in and out violently]

“That’s why you play the games, gentlemen. You guys got down and dirty in there. You showed ‘em your wolf fangs. You let them know that you drink piss and eat sawdust round the clock! I’m so fucking proud to be a part of this team. Less than two minutes clock and no timeouts left, other teams would go cocknesting. Not us. We scratched and clawed and crobbed and knobbed right to the gun. YOU MEN WERE SCRAPHERDERS OUT THERE, and no fresh-mouthed web apes can take that away from you!”

Sunday Afternoon Movie Of The Week For Texans Fans

Interstellar, which I never saw until last week. This was the right move because, as this post over at Nü Gawker correctly noted, being behind on pop culture means freeing yourself from The Discourse surrounding any high-profile show or movie. You can watch it on your terms and think about it without every critic’s and Professional Twitter User’s trying to sway you one way or another. Hard to be disappointed by Interstellar when I’m watching it on a Saturday morning seven years after its formal release. And I wasn’t. I loved it. I could even understand the dialogue without turning on the subtitles. Incredible.

I love all Profound Space Movies, and we’re living through a second Golden Age of that genre: Interstellar, First Man, Ad Astra, Gravity, The Martian (which is less serious than the others but still immensely entertaining), etc. You give a big-shot director a fat budget and the creative license to shoot a bunch of dead silent shots of a tiny space vessel, populated by at least one taciturn astronaut, passing across Saturn, you have my money.

There’s also another burgeoning genre of movies that Interstellar fits into, which is the “Matt Damon shows up unbilled in a vital role toward the end” film. That crafty Matt Damon: always the ringer.

Gratuitous Simpsons Quote

“No offense, kid, but your mom’s a dingbat! There’s no silver lining here. I was a big cheese. A HUGE cheese. And now look at me! I gotta ride the bus like a schnook. I gotta live in an apartment like an idiot. I have to wait in line with a bunch of nobodies to buy groceries from a failure!”

Enjoy the games, everyone.