High School Sports Are Out Of Frickin’ Control
12:58 PM EDT on October 5, 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. Drew's off this week.
My older son is a high school freshman. He plays for the junior varsity soccer team. A thousand years ago I played a couple years of high school football (after four years in the pee-wee game), so I thought I had at least a general idea of what this would be like. For two late summers in the '90s I had brutal two-a-day practices for a few weeks before school started; for two autumns I had practice shortly after school every day, and games on Thursday or Friday nights (and one Saturday each season, for homecoming). That was about it, and that was plenty.
The main challenges, as I foresaw them, would be stuff like "Maybe the coaches will be harsh and unfair and that will be really discouraging and sad for him," or "Maybe the team will have a really powerful Jock Dickhead culture and he will be drawn into it," or "Soccer will be infinitely more exciting than school for him, and his grades will reflect that." Those have not been the main challenges! The main challenges have been more like "Nobody involved in running this evidently thinks that the players' parents have jobs or routines or limits on how much time they can give to this shit."
The first place this shows up is the scheduling. When I played high school football, practice happened at the same time every afternoon, something like a half-hour after the final bell of the school day. It allowed just enough time for players to grab a snack, get changed into their pads, and make their way out to the practice field. My son's practice schedule is all over the damn place! Sometimes practice begins at 5 p.m. Sometimes it begins at 5:30, or 6, or 6:30. Sometimes it begins at 4:15. Once in a blue moon it begins a half-hour after the end of the school day, but on all those other days, the only practical choice is for him to ride the bus home and then get a lift back to school, for practice. At a different time each day. Then he needs a ride home each evening. At a different time each day.
This makes it more or less impossible for us to settle into any kind of a routine as a family. On each weekday, smack-dab in the middle of late afternoon or early evening—the time of day best used for, for example, cooking dinner, or getting in an after-work workout routine—there will come a weird, clunky, effectively unusable two-hour period, beginning with whenever one of the adults must leave to drop the kid off at practice, and ending when whichever of the adults went to pick him up from practice gets back home with him. If it were the same two-hour chunk of each day, we could integrate it into a system of doing things—but it isn't! Not at all! It's all over the frickin' place!
I have made sense of this, to myself, by figuring that maybe it reflects the school's efforts to distribute access to practice fields equitably among the 5,000 different fall sports on offer. Or maybe doing it this way at least makes that equitable distribution more possible. If that's the case then, at least intellectually, I am in favor of it. But also my hair is falling out in Muppet-sized chunks. I am a routine-oriented person; it is an adaptation, I think, to my appalling deficiencies in executive functioning and organizational capacity. Adding an unpatterned variable two-hour interruption to my afternoon/evening routine is like unscrewing the top of my skull, lifting it off, and pouring a bucket of lava onto my brain.
This doesn't even get into what it's like on game days. First of all, these are not regular, like football was, with its Thursday JV games and Friday varsity action. The soccer games are scattered all over the frickin' week, like the practices, and usually there's more than one game a week. Moreover, the JV and varsity teams play on the same night—JV first, varsity after—and the JV players are expected to stick around for the varsity games, to help out as ball-runners or just to observe and learn. So on game days, my dang kid is gone from like 4:15 (when he has to head back to school to prepare for a home game or catch the team bus to whatever other school is hosting) until close to 9 at night in the case of home games, or closer to 10 in the case of road games. As a practical matter this means my kid is getting his damn dinner from a high school concession stand in between JV and varsity soccer games, multiple nights a week.
For brevity's sake I will not even get into all of the Extra Shit: team dinners, and outings, all the various game day tasks for which parents are expected—and pressured—to volunteer. Trust me that there's a lot of that stuff.
How is this supposed to work for parents who, unlike me, have normal jobs, or long afternoon commutes? My grim suspicion, which I sometimes believe and sometimes beat myself up for believing, is that it simply isn't supposed to work for them: that what facilitates all of this is an essentially competitive urge, on the part of a certain stripe of parents, to perform, as visibly as they can, both their absolute dedication to their kids' futures and the material comfort that makes that dedication possible. In this way are extracurricular activities (and, oh, say, the boost participation in them is understood to grant to future college applications) maintained as the all-but-exclusive province of the privileged: If you can't manage the deranged contortions demanded by this stuff—if you don't have the type of job that can flex to accommodate it, or the kind of wealth that enables one parent to devote themselves fully to it—then you simply can't participate.
To the extent we've been able to make this work—we're all still, like, eating food, and the lad is having a great time, and I've nervously chewed off only one of my hands—the effort has come with a funny feeling of having infiltrated something. What's made possible for other families either by vast wealth or by heroic feats of organization and planning is made possible for mine, in the absence of any of that stuff, by the amoebic shapelessness of my Weird Blogger Job That I Do From Home. With that in mind, let's get Jamborooin'.
All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms.
Cowboys at 49ers: I have reached that stage of lame-o senescence at which I like all of the major U.S. sports better, and take them more seriously, whenever the flagship teams of my formative years are good. The NBA is better when the Lakers and Bulls are good, and feels ever so slightly fugazi when they are not. The NFL is better when the Cowboys and 49ers are good. The NHL is better when, uh … the Red Wings, I guess? Were they good in the mid- to late-'90s? The exception is baseball, because the Yankees and Braves were the powerhouses when I was a youth, and they can both go to hell.
I don't particularly give a frig about the San Francisco 49ers and I grew up despising the Dallas Cowboys, and in any case over a 30-year timeframe these are just brand names for different color schemes … but still, to me it's cooler when a Cowboys-49ers game means something. These were Main Events during the prime years of my NFL fandom, when the AFC was a pitiable off-brand thing, a low-grade novelty contest played on baseball fields for the right to decide who'd lose the Super Bowl by 40 points. Cowboys-49ers was the biggest game of any season, shy of the NFC championship game—which pretty often was also a Cowboys-49ers game. So it's kind of nice to see that they're both coming into this week feeling good about themselves.
In any case I will not watch this game, or any other.
Jets at Broncos: LOL this is a real butt sandwich.
Eagles at Rams: A big thing online last week was a deranged Twitter thread where a bunch of dudes bragged about, like, doing detailed Jason Bourne–type threat-assessment shit whenever they enter a room. Memorizing exits, and evaluating possible defensive positions, and assessing the other people in the room for their potential danger level or how easy they'd be to take down or whatever.
This was a strong contender for the most pathetic thing I've ever seen in my life. None of these men were, like, spies, or special-ops, uh, dudes, or whatever—if they were, they very likely would not be crawling around on Twitter's rotting corpse on a Wednesday afternoon, boasting publicly to an audience of debatably existent crypto dorks and grindset mutants about how close they are to pissing their pants in terror any time you see them standing in line to order a decaf skim oatmilk latté at Starbucks. They were just regular guys possessed of a desperate need for strangers online to believe they go through life like it is a John Wick movie.
This is what the U.S. has been in the world, at the very least since 9/11: A sweaty try-hard loser festooned in Punisher decals, imposing a simultaneously and in equal measure embarrassing and terrorizing Rambo fantasy on huge portions of the human race, itchy with desperation for any excuse to kill someone. That this stance is pretty much by-the-book fascism scarcely even warrants mentioning, since something like a third of all Americans no longer regard that as a bad thing. I consider this obviously relevant to the Eagles-Rams game.
Jaguars at Bills
Ravens at Steelers: I dunno, man, they both have decent records, and divisional rivalries are fun I guess. Once upon a time my favorite thing to do in old Madden games was score 108-yard kickoff return touchdowns with Rod Woodson. It was totally worth letting the other team score just to do it. They should bring back kickoff returns.
Titans at Colts: I have been learning Italian for a couple of years. I started during the depths of COVID lockdown hell, largely because both of my siblings were also learning Italian. We had an incredibly cool Sicilian grandmother and, I dunno, Italian is also cool. For the most part I've found, as I did while learning (some) French back in high school, that I soak up the vocabulary and pronunciation without too much trouble, and have a much harder time with verb tenses and sentence structure. I guess that's probably a pretty common experience, since that's the harder stuff of any language. Or that is what I tell myself.
One area of vocabulary that should be easy, but that I tripped over a few times back at the beginning is: There are a handful of ordinary nouns that are enough like the Italian word for horse (cavallo) that I am prone to getting them mixed up. Brain: cervello. Gate: cancello. Castle: castello. The worst of these is the word for knife: coltello. My mind just kind of can't help but look for clues, mnemonics, simple ways to attach an Italian noun to its English equivalent. Like tavolo pretty clearly has the same origin as the word "table," and is in fact the Italian word for a table. Well, the "colt" in coltello makes me think of horses, and so it took me a stupid number of errors to detach coltello from "horse" and attach it to "knife." Meanwhile the "cav" in cavallo is sort of vaguely suggestive of "carve," so cavallo initially and for too long made me think "knife."
Plus, the v is pointy! Like a knife!
Texans at Falcons
Panthers at Lions: I guess the Lions are good now? That's cool! Go Lions.
Giants at Dolphins: Maybe the Dolphins will score 80 points.
Chiefs at Vikings
Bengals at Cardinals: Over the existence of pro football, this has to be the least meaningful possible matchup, right? Like not this week's edition specifically, but overall. I'm struggling to describe what I mean here. But I feel like, historically speaking, Cardinals-Bengals games have been appallingly irrelevant. Two routinely crappy franchises, from separate conferences, from separate and distant regions, with no history between them (and for that matter not much history individually either). Both of them pretty routinely without much of anything to play for beyond the game right in front of them. This is the Point Nemo of NFL matchups!
Bears at Commanders
Packers at Raiders
Saints at Patriots
Pregame Song That Makes Me Wanna Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall
I will confess that I had completely forgotten the Hives ever existed. Veni Vidi Vicious was a fun record.
Eric Adams’s Lock Of The Week:
Eric Adams is away this week, due to me not knowing how to imitate his speech patterns. In his place, I pick, uhhh, the Chiefs (-4)! Yeah! They sure are gonna do the shit out of whatever that means I have predicted they will do!
2023 Record: 2-2
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)
Great Moments In Poop History
Reader Lucas sends us this epic tale I call UH THIS GUY SHIT HIS PANTS REAL BAD:
In my early 20s I was in grad school and went back to my hometown over Christmas/New Years break to see family and friends. There was a NYE party at a friend’s house, and since I knew I would be hungover and wouldn't want to see my parents immediately on the morning after, I made plans to stay overnight at another friend’s house about two miles from the party house. Since two miles is a pretty easy drunken walk and we were at least responsible about drunk driving, we were going to drive to the party, walk home and go back to get the car the next morning.
We got to the party and were having a grand time, I was seeing a lot of old friends, all was well. At some point midway through the night, I started to have small rumblings and stomach pains indicating I needed to go Number Two.
Now the issue was this was a one-bathroom house and this was a pretty full party meaning there was ALWAYS a line for the bathroom. Not having to go that bad at that point, and also not wanting to be the guy who held up the line to wreck the bathroom for everyone coming after me for the next half hour, I politely held it until the party was winding down and it was time to make the walk home.
By the end of the party it was getting urgent, but I was still very confident I would make it back to my buddy’s house. Well about a mile into the walk, it escalated severely and we still had about 15 or so minutes to go. At this time, I stopped communicating verbally with my friend as all I could do was focus on holding it in (he was aware I was suffering and was respectful enough to not even attempt to converse with me).
I made it the majority of the remaining mile home and we were only two blocks away when the overwhelming sensation hit and I knew my defenses were useless. Thinking quick, I dropped my pants and squatted to let it rip on the sidewalk. All good in theory, but in my drunken state I could not maintain a balanced squat and wobbled forward such that the explosive shit just went straight into my dropped pants.
We were so close to my friend’s house at this point that there was no choice but to just pull the shit-filled pants back up and get back to my friend’s house to clean up. Quick aside about my friend’s house: This had been our weed and video game hangout house when I still lived in my hometown. On any given day there would be some dudes getting high in the basement and playing video games, and most importantly there were almost never any girls hanging around. With that information in mind, imagine my shock as we approached at hearing a woman’s voice on the front porch. We weren’t expecting anyone to be there at all, much less a woman.
The house had a side yard and back door and I immediately peeled off from my walk to run through the yard and go to the back door while my friend ran interference. I got in through the back door and went straight into the bathroom and hopped right in the shower, fully clothed and shoed, and turned the water straight on. I proceeded to slowly undress and rinse off my body and clothes over the course of the next 20-30 minutes. Fortunately the poo was liquid enough there was no shower clogging issue.
When I was finally clean, I wrapped up in a towel and threw everything else into my friend's washing machine. In the laundry room I found a pair of someone’s boxers and a random fleece jacket to wear for the night while my clothes washed. My last memory of the night is curling up to pass out in a corner of the house while my shoes thumped around in the dryer.
Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week
This is White Lightning cider, brought to us by Defector's own Barry Petchesky, who says: "My drink of choice during study abroad. I think they’ve banned it since then because it was too associated with antisocial behavior." Who can imagine how a cheap cider with a 7.5-percent ABV, sold in a gigantic three-liter plastic soda bottle, could ever come to be associated with antisocial behavior.
White Lightning is no longer in production. Furthermore it is not, strictly speaking, a beer. You may feel this makes it an odd choice for a Gametime Cheap Beer of the Week. But you see, the thing is, I don't drink alcohol. So it doesn't really matter whether this "is beer" or "can be had without a time machine," because I wasn't going to drink it in any case!!!!!! It might as well be entirely fictional for all the difference it makes to me!!!!!!! So up yours, buddy!!!!!!!
Gameday Movie Of The Week For Bears Fans
Evil Dead 2! Evil Dead 2 is to Evil Dead what Aliens is to Alien: More purely fun, far less frightening, infinitely more action-packed, and inferior. But, to the extent that an incredibly deranged and gore-soaked horror-comedy that inside of the first 15 minutes or so features the protagonist bisecting a cackling severed head with a chainsaw can be said to "go down smooth," Evil Dead 2 goes down smoother than Evil Dead, and that is why I am recommending it here today as an alternative to watching the dreaded Chicago Bears.
Gratuitous Simpsons Quote
"You can't protect them every second. Sooner or later you'll let your guard down, and then flush! It's toilet time for tiny town."
Enjoy the games, everyone.