Driving Is The Nemesis Of All Parents
1:21 PM EDT on September 28, 2023
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 book, The Night The Lights Went Out, through here.
Compared to other parents, my wife and I have it easy. We have three children, but only one of them plays an organized sport. And he’s only on one team, which is an anomaly when the average young athlete plays for 56 different teams simultaneously. So, relative to many other American moms and dads, we have little to complain about.
But I’d like to complain. I’d like to complain so, so much. Because fall is here, and I will be stuck in my goddamn car for 90 percent of it.
Parenting involves busywork at every stage. You know about the workload new parents have to endure: changing diapers, feeding babies, putting them down to rest, scouting out daycare providers, washing bottles, etc. I thought that that I would be free of such tedium once all of my kids were older and more self-reliant. I was wrong. Your workload as a parent never ends; it merely evolves. Once you’re done with diapers, you’re onto orchestrating playdates, scouting out preschools, asking the kids to pick up their shit over and over, doing their laundry, and helping them with grade-school homework that you yourself don’t even understand.
And once that’s done, you’re driving. You drive and you drive and you drive. Forever.
I’ve logged more miles than a fucking ice road trucker. It started when my daughter became a gymnast a decade ago. We had to drive her to the gym three to four nights a week. Pick-up was well after dinner, when daddy would have preferred to be drunk at home than sitting in a darkened parking lot waiting for the girl to saunter out. On weekends, we had to drive her to meets that were never held nearby. You have kids and discover far-flung exurban pockets of this country that you never knew existed, and then you live in them for hours at a time. You end up navigating every inch of these pockets, as if you’ve been tasked with mapping them for the Queen of Spain.
This was only mid-level gymnastics, mind you. Our daughter hadn’t even gotten to the aspiring Olympian level of competition, where you gotta drive to Toledo just to watch your kid get smoked by an army of prodigal tween acrobats. But the driving was still a bear, so I remember sitting in my Kia on those dark nights, waiting for a train to pass nearby just so I’d have something new to look at. Sometimes I’d go inside to wait for her in the lobby, but there’d always be at least two people in there on speakerphone, plus siblings playing on iPads at full volume. Worse.
The girl eventually quit gymnastics, because girls mysteriously quit sports en masse as they get further along the adolescent curve … perhaps because they’re eager to start their own worker-owned sports blog. But just as our daughter left the uneven bars behind, our older son got deep into soccer and our younger son began testing out sports that might interest him: flag football, parkour, fencing, swimming, tennis, and kung fu. Our driving schedule grew. Metastasized. More practices, many of them conflicting. More meets. More games. More nights where dinner was “just grab some shit out of the fridge cuz we gotta go.” If we were lucky, we could find other parents to carpool with (and god bless those other parents; take the keys to my kingdom forever). But many times, we were doing both legs of the trip, and we still are. Sometimes the window to go back home is too tight and I just stay for the whole practice and walk to get a decaf. That walk usually gives me reflux.
Sports are only part of the driving equation. You raise kids to have lives of their own, and for a long time you have to drive them TO those separate lives. So not only are my wife and I driving these kids to soccer games, but to friends' houses, to parties, to rehearsals, to high school football games, to the mall, and to fucking Bangkok if that’s on the calendar, too. All of it happens either right at dinnertime, during the last two minutes of any kick-ass football game, or when I’ve had a long day and need to pop a gummy. None of this driving is convenient. We live in an area notorious for its traffic, so plotting out each drive requires a logistical meeting that makes any all-hands staff meeting at WeWork look like the model of concision. Complicating matters is the fact that my daughter can now drive but has no car of her own, which means we might be down a car in key moments. If I’m not driving, I’m planning. And if I’m not doing either of those things, I’m writing a column about annoying all of it is.
No times are set in the parental automotive universe. Soccer practices run late. So do games. So do social calls. Especially social calls. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve arrived to pick up one of my kids, parked the car, grabbed my phone, and seen a text from them that says “can u get me at 11 instead” that was sent five goddamn minutes before I got there. Because if you have kids of any age, you know that they either want to leave places right away or never. Getting them out the door is often a process that unfolds in stages:
- Texting them “i’m here”
- Getting out of the car and knocking on the door
- Making small talk with the other adult inside and yelling downstairs at them to come up
- GOING downstairs to prove that I have arrived and am standing before them in corporeal form
- Fighting with them because actually, they wanna sleep over now
- Waiting for them to get all of their shit
- Going back because they forgot their water bottle
This is the sacrifice you make as a parent, understanding that your children’s lives are the priority over your own. But I’m only human. I want SOME of my life to myself, and that craving has resulted in some of my worst recent moments as a father. I’ve only told you about the scheduled drives I have to make. Those are hardly the only ones. Kids are always ready to surprise you with more of them. They make plans with their friends, usually in slipshod fashion (kids are worse at making plans than even their parents are), and then they announce those plans the second they have to be enacted.
I’ve been sitting in my recliner on a seemingly free and blissful evening when suddenly I get a HEY DAD and then a request to drive one or more kids to the fucking froyo stand. I have handled these moments poorly, and to my kids’ faces. I’ve regaled them with, “Oh come ON,” “Are you shitting me?”, “Your mother and I are tired,” and other loving bon mots. No matter what I said, the message was always unmistakable: your life is inconveniencing me. I have the right to put my foot down with them, and I have the right to assert some time for myself. But I can do both of those things in a gentler manner, and I can do it when I have actual plans beyond sitting there and playing phone Scrabble for the rest of the night.
My kids are no longer small (they’re 11, 14, and 17), but that doesn’t absolve me from modeling good behavior in front of them. Quite the contrary. No matter how old your kids are, you remain their foremost role model. Everything they see you do echoes through their psyches and reverberates back out of them. So when you act like a dick in front of your children, it’ll reflect back on you sooner rather than later, and you’ll forced to reckon with the wicked lessons you’ve unwittingly taught them. These moments are little failures, but they feel rotten to endure all the same.
Thus, I’ve tried to keep a more level head about driving. I try not lose my shit anytime one of my kids has the temerity to make me miss an hour of whatever thoroughly average football game I’m watching. And again, I’m one of the lucky ones. I don’t have to commute for work. None of my kids are on some deranged travel team. I can afford, both in terms of time and treasure, to the driving I do. It sucks. It will never not suck. But it’s the job, and I’d rather do my job well than do it poorly.
So I drove my son to soccer practice the other night and stayed in my car the whole time after dropoff. I didn’t take a walk. I didn’t make awkward small talk with the other parents. Instead, I watched the first half of Eagles-Bucs on my phone. No one knocked on my car. No one texted me to drive somewhere else. Everyone left me the fuck alone, and I found myself at peace. You look for peace anywhere you can find it when you have kids, and sometimes that peace happens to be in the last place you wanna drive to.
All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms.
Dolphins at Bills: The Dolphins had a chance to set the single-game, regular-season scoring record against Denver a week ago, but head coach Mike McDaniel eschewed the record-setting field goal because sportsmanship:
"I'm very okay with the decision, and I think the team, notably the leaders of the team supported it, the captains supported it," McDaniel said. "It's not the way you want to get the record. I would hope that if the shoe was on the other foot, the opponent would feel the same way. That's called karma. I'm trying to keep good karma with the Miami Dolphins."
That’s all well and good. McDaniel did the right thing and said all the right things afterward. Now let explain why that’s all a crock of shit. He should’ve gone for the record anyway because:
1. It would have been cool.
2. There’s no such thing as running up the score in the NFL.
3. These same Dolphins already danced a conga on the opposition in that game anyway.
4. YOU WERE PLAYING THE FUCKING BRONCOS. Sean Payton at head coach. Blue Steel at quarterback. If ANY team deserved to be on the wrong side of a historic ass-kicking, it’s this one. Kick that field goal and Sean Payton would’ve started crying blood right there on the sideline. It would’ve been truly legendary.
But no, instead I have to pretend that the Miami Dolphins—the organization that tampered with Tom Brady, bribed its last coach to lose games, and also fired him—just banked themselves a surplus of good karma. The fuck outta here. You get a clean shot, you take it.
Lions at Packers: This is the best primetime game on the slate, but I’ve become such a crusty old homer that the mere idea of watching any Packers game disgusts me. Somehow I hate them even more now that Aaron Rodgers is gone, especially after they came back against a crippled Saints team and I had to hear about what a genius Matt LaFleur was for going for two while down eight toward the end. Fuck him in the pants and fuck those booger-eaters fawning over him. I hate the Packers so much that I’m this close to pulling a Woody Hayes and refusing to ever gas my car up in Wisconsin, even when the needle hits E. And you know what? I have no problem with it. The Packers are a disease.
Yeah Drew, but your own team could’ve spiked the b—
We’re getting off topic here.
Falcons at Jaguars: Every morning at 9 a.m., Immaculate Grid flickers on and says to me, Fuck you we’re making you think of players from all of the South divisions. I swear if I see the stupid Texans logo one more goddamn time…
Ravens at Browns
Commanders at Eagles: I counted numerous instances last week when a bunch of teams had a chance to run the push sneak on third- or fourth-and-short, didn’t, and failed. So allow me to state it plainly: If you don’t run this play on short yardage, you are stupid and deserve to be fired. It’s the highest-percentage play in football by orders of magnitude, and it’s probably not gonna be legal for much longer, not if all of Peter King’s favorite sources have their way.
“I am on record last year many times loudly saying it's an abomination. It's an idiotic rule. And the NFL has made, in my opinion, a terrible mistake in not legislating a rugby play out of the NFL… I can tell you there are significant, important people in the NFL that blanch every time they see this and they just shake their head.”
You can’t have players pushing one another! THIS IS FOOTBALL! Mister Mara is shaking his head so hard, his monocle just fell off! I know the Eagles have the best interior line on the planet and a QB who can squat the Empire State Building, but the design of this play is airtight. I know because I’ve seen random college teams run it to spectacular effect. So exploit that rule while you still can, head coaches. Otherwise I’m gonna get under your pad level and send you into a fucking wall.
Cardinals at 49ers
Patriots at Cowboys
Raiders at Chargers
Bengals at Titans
Bucs at Saints
Rams at Colts
Steelers at Texans
Chiefs at Jets: Here’s your SNF game. Last week’s SNF game was in Vegas and NBC’s pregame show, seemingly out of need to provide their own form of Tayvis-like content, had Mike Tirico interview Carrie Underwood on the FNIA pregame show. Underwood now has more Botox in her than an abandoned food pantry, and Tirico is a robotic munchkin who’s also long been alleged to be an overly handsy shitbag. So this made for uncomfortable television, especially when they cut to footage of Underwood’s Vegas show from the night before with Tirico and the NBC crew in the crowd, singing along. I wanted to crawl under my living room rug.
Thankfully, Taylor Swift herself is coming to this game. My hope is that she overthrows Carrie during the shitty intro song. Just comes into the frame mid-chorus and suplexes Carrie through the stage.
Broncos at Bears
Vikings at Panthers
Seahawks at Giants
Pregame Song That Makes Me Wanna Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall
“DOA,” by Isotopes! Is this the greatest song in the world? No. Does that matter? No, because the video for this song is a compendium of MLB catchers getting their shit ruined at the plate and, my friends, is rock and roll. From Jim:
I never knew I needed to hear baseball-themed punk rock until I heard these guys. Bonus points for obvious Simpsons reference and random guy on stage in a jockstrap. Every time I stumble across this video, I watch it at least five times.
Can’t blame you there.
I've been writing this column for over a decade now and have reached the point where I require a bit more load management during the season. So we're gonna have a few guest hosts rotate into the Jamboroo over the next four months, starting with Albert Burneko next week. My guess is that it'll be just like the Funbag where the guest host drops in and you guys are like, "Oh shit, this is WAY better than when Drew does it."
Eric Adams’s Lock Of The Week: Packers (+1.5) vs. Lions
“Now I’ve lived in Green Bay my whole life, and lemme tell you: When it gets cold, we go bold. We don’t back down from that snow and ice, we lean in. So whenever winter comes around people tell me, ‘My landlord turned the heat off!’ what I say to them is, ‘Sounds like the heat is on YOU to go find yourself a job!’ GO CHEESEPACK!”
2023 Record: 2-1
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 2023 chopping block:
(*potential midseason firing)
Let’s go back to that Seth Wickersham profile of Sean Payton that dropped before the season opened, because I know it's gonna be a reliable source of laughter for the entire year:
He showed the team a video of a 2022 Ford Bronco driving off a cliff, letting players know last year is over.
LOOKS LIKE YOU’RE GONNA HAVE TO FIND VIDEO OF A 2023 MODEL DOING THAT EXACT SAME SHIT, BUDDY BOY.
Great Moments In Poop History
Reader Justin sends in this story I call IT’S THE GREAT BLUMPKIN, CLEVELAND BROWN:
I was at the MLB wild card play-in game in Cleveland with my older brother in the fall 2013, driving up from Columbus. The game goes about as expected with some beers, some concession food, and some disappointing Cleveland sporting. We head back to the car after the game to make the two-hour trek back to the Cbus.
We are on the road, about 100 feet away from the parking lot, when my brother starts mentioning that he has to poo. Definitely not unusual, but it escalates rapidly. Within another two minutes he’s beginning to sweat. Another two minutes and he has the chair laid back to try to ease the tension. Another two minutes and he’s audibly groaning. We are now about 200 feet from the parking lot at this point. It's midnight on a Tuesday. Nothing is open.
We finally make it on the highway and I reassure him that I’ll stop at the first place I see and ask him to please not shit in my car. All the while, we’re coming up with contingency plans, such as emptying a duffle bag in the back seat for him to shit into.
The first exit there has a McDonald’s, but the dining room is closed and not a single other building is in sight. We get back in the car and I get ready to turn back on the highway. He isn’t going to make it. The pleas for help start and I know it’s going down RIGHT NOW. I step on the gas and fly down some back road in the Cleveland ‘burbs. It was a surprisingly well-lit street, which didn’t bode well for hiding a Cleveland Steamer. Luckily I found a dark alley between some backyards and he practically barrel rolled out of my car before I can come to a stop. He quickly waddled into a stranger’s backyard and dropped trou, propping himself up against their fence like he was doing a wall squat. I tossed him the freebie rally towel they handed out at the game for him to wipe with. We eventually made it home after stopping another handful of times and different rest stops.
We went to a Browns game this year. I made him drive.
This is why I never attend live sporting events.
Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week
Kaiserin! From Brian:
Kaiserin is bad, but mostly it just tastes of the sea. I ordered it at a good stall in Da Nang while eating the worst tacos ever (dubbed "Spanish-style" on the menu, which seemed legit until I remembered that tacos are Mexican and don't have red cabbage in them).
“What is the worst taco you’ve ever had?” is a line of inquiry I’d like to further explore. I’m sure our comment section can offer a great many candidates. Anyway, Kaiserin looks like my kind of shitty beer. Green light.
Gameday Movie Of The Week For Bears Fans
Fast Five, which is the first Fast & Furious movie I’ve ever seen. I didn’t want to fuck around with my entry point into this series, so I made a beeline for one of the consensus best installments (which, according to the kids on the Defector staff, are Five and Furious 7, with Luis also insisting that I try out Tokyo Drift). I was not disappointed. All of the stunts were legit. I spent most of the finale being like, “I don’t think a Dodge Charger could tow a 10-ton bank vault down the street like it was a tin can,” but that was exclusively a me problem. My job with this movie was to embrace the stupid, not run away from it. Because it was stupid as fuck. But I said HOLY SHIT during most of the action sequences, and that’s 90 percent of it.
Now for a few extraneous notes:
- Not the greatest script ever filmed.
- I finally got to see what all the “Nothing is stronger than family” jokes were about, and I have to say: The barrier for entry into this family is quite low. They even let The Rock into the F&F family after he just spent two hours trying to kill all of them.
- Is Vin Diesel’s acting in all of the F&F movies this shitty? Because I’ve seen enough of Vin’s early filmography—Saving Private Ryan, Boiler Room, the excellent Pitch Black—to know that the man can act. He does no such thing in Fast Five. He just stands there in every shot looking like he just did three sets of three. In fact, the only defining attribute to Dominic Toretto that I could discern is that every other character must say his name in full. “Oh shit, that Corvette belongs to Dominic Toretto!” “You don’t fuck with Dominic Toretto.” “I’m not leaving Rio until I have Dominic Toretto in handcuffs!” I know I skipped over the first four movies before watching this, but I’m not confident I missed a lot of character building in any of them. Vin just lets his forehead do all the acting for him.
- The Rock is the best American actor in this movie, almost certainly because A) None of the other American actors (or Israeli ones for that matter) here can act either, and B) The Rock is 500 times cooler any time he plays a bad guy. When his face turn arrives at the end of Fast Five, I was instantly disgusted by him.
- But kudos to the studio for hiring Joaquim de Almeida—a.k.a. Evil Phil Hartman—to be the bad guy. Why couldn’t HE be welcomed into the family, too?
Three stars. I’ll watch the seventh one at some point and then report back to you. I ain’t watching Fast X, though. I know better.
Gratuitous Simpsons Quote
“Come on, lucky seven! Poppa needs a new pair of spats. I want some of that sweet, sweet Do Re Mi. Fat City, here I come!”
“Please throw the dice now, please, now.”
“Don't rush me! I have arthritis!”
Enjoy the games, everyone.