I Am The Tiger
2:31 PM EST on January 20, 2022
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 Out, through here.
I was 280 pounds in college. Despite the fact that I played offensive line, I didn’t wear the weight well. This was 280 pounds not of muscle, but of fat deposits, stretch marks, and puffy, greasy fingers. I had struggled with my weight all through my childhood and into high school. I tried fad diets. I tried periodic jogs. Far too periodic, it would turn out. I tried Lean Cuisine and frozen packages of Weight Watchers raspberry cheesecake, both of which I can still taste when I think about them. In middle school, my mom sent me to a hospital day camp for young overeaters, and really the only thing I remember about it was a take-home recipe for frozen graham-cracker-and-peanut-butter-cream sandwiches that I really liked. Nothing stuck, likely because I couldn’t stick to it. Nothing worked. Nothing would work.
I remember calling my mom one morning sophomore year. At some point, we got to talking about my weight. I lamented my size, and she said back, and I’m paraphrasing here because I have only my memory to go on, “Well I’d give you pointers but I know you’re not gonna do anything about it anyway.”
Now, my mom was never mean to me about my weight. She wanted me to be healthy as much as I wanted to be, but she was never abusive about it, unless you count taking your child through the husky section of the JCPenney every back-to-school season as abusive. One year she even bought me a rugby shirt with a big diagonal stripe across it, because she had read somewhere that diagonal patterns had a slimming effect on people. The shirt didn’t work, although I appreciated the gesture. But here now, she was resigned. Defeated. She didn’t think I’d change because she had my entire lifetime, up until then, as proof that I wouldn’t. I wasn’t angry at her. I knew that she was right.
That’s when I hit the track. I had dabbled in exercise prior to 1995, but without a regimen and, therefore, without much in the way of results. No more. Five miles a day, I told myself. I’ll run five miles a day, five days a week, no matter what.
And I did. I went to the field house at school, clipped my yellow sports Walkman to my Champion shorts, and got going. Your first time out exercising is always miserable because all you do is daydream about it ending. But that reticence fades away once you work out regularly, and what was once an uncommon fit of labor becomes far more routine. I ran on Colby’s indoor track, sometimes silently cursing people running in the opposite direction. I ran on the outdoor track in the summer, around the football field and visualizing myself as a freshly fit lineman—no wait, a linebacker! No wait, a tight end! No wait, the fucking QUARTERBACK!—speeding from sideline to sideline and courting interest from both girls and NFL scouts alike. When I went home to my parents’ house, I ran on a white gravel track at a local park. I always ran on tracks and not roads, because I didn’t want anything stopping me. I feared that if I stopped running for a red light, I would stop running altogether.
My Walkman was my constant companion on these runs. I picked a tape from my CaseLogic and listened to a full album on every run, even the songs I didn’t like. No one on Earth has reluctantly listened to “Pleasure Dome” by Van Halen more times than I have.
I lost the weight and kept running. I ran in hotel gyms. I ran in place in hotel rooms if there wasn’t a gym to be had. When I was abroad in England, I ran every day on the same track that Roger Bannister did when he broke the four-minute mile barrier. I never broke that barrier myself, though it wasn’t from a lack of effort. If I ever missed out on one of my five runs for the week, I would double up my runs on another day. One time I even tripled my workout and logged 15 miles in a single session: the longest distance I’ve ever run or ever will. I wasn’t obsessed with my workouts; I was much too busy being obsessed with women. I just did the workouts. They were mandatory, as far as I was concerned. A fact of my existence.
Please note that I had no pedometer on me for outdoor runs. Fitbits weren’t around back then, and I was too dumb to note track length and too lazy to count laps. When I pledged to run five miles, I mentally converted that to 45 minutes. That was nine minutes a mile. I was always the slowest kid on the football team, regardless of my weight, but I knew I could run a mile in nine minutes. So 45 minutes would cover the ground I wanted to cover, and then some.
When I graduated and moved to New York, I stuck to my 45 minutes but freed myself from the track, running along the East River Greenway, and around the reservoir in Central Park, and on the treadmill at a midtown Crunch where personal trainers would routinely accost you mid-run to ask if you’d like to sign up for a free one-on-one workout (no). When I moved to Maryland, I did my 45 on the treadmill at a local gym and got so fast that I only needed 35 minutes to cover my five miles. I ran and ran and ran. Even when I gained 60 pounds back of the 80 I’d lost in college, I still ran. And then I dropped those 60 pounds again. Sometimes I would break into a dead sprint, just because I wanted to. Every run ended with me arriving at a better version of myself.
And then, one day, my back gave out and I couldn’t run at all. I had surgery and couldn’t work out during my recovery, even though I desperately wanted to. When I finally got the go-ahead from my doctor to get back to the gym, he told me to abandon high-impact exercise (that’s running) and do more low-impact cardio. That meant an elliptical trainer. You know the kind. Always cross-country skiing to nowhere. I was disappointed but not deflated. I did my 45 on the elliptical five days a week, every week. When my back gave out again four years later, I did a gentle yoga DVD to keep the fat off until I could get back to cardio. I did that DVD so many times that I memorized the routine and didn’t even need to play the disc. I still don’t. I even tossed in a push-up regimen to shape up my top, until I had to stop doing that because it made my neck ache. If I’ve learned one thing from all my back problems, it’s to never do anything that makes my body angry. My mind, fine. My body, no.
When the pandemic hit, I cancelled my gym membership to avoid getting infected. I did my little yoga routine in my office until, desperate, I ponied up for an elliptical for the basement. And now, every day, I go down there for my 45. The rest of my life remains pleasantly sedentary, even if the human body did not evolve to be so. But I get my 45 in, no matter what.
I started working out way back when for the usual reasons people start working out. I was heavy. I was depressed. I felt like shit, both physically and mentally. But in my lifetime of exercising, working out has become something else entirely. Of course I do it to stay in shape, to keep my back happy, and to look mildly presentable in a bathing suit. But I also do it because I love it. Those 45 minutes are when my body and my mind work together most closely. I can sweat. I can work. I can think. I can zone the fuck out if I want to, or dick around on my phone and read every tab I had been meaning to read. I can do anything I like, so long as I just keep moving. You were designed by Mother Nature to move. Anyone who’s ever been on a paleo diet has told you as much. So when you DO move, it’s rewarding at an elemental level. You are doing what you’re supposed to do. So I don’t work out with the end result in mind anymore, because it’s not like there’s a Magic Mike inside of me waiting to show itself. I don’t work out hoping to become someone else anymore. I do it simply to remain who I am now, because I like that guy I lot more than I used to.
A year or two ago, my oldest son told me he was gonna run a couple laps around the neighborhood. He didn’t bother to explain why (he turns 13 today, so explaining himself isn’t high on his priority list). He just went out and did it. I hope he takes to it. He’s a pretty fast kid. Faster than me, no doubt. There’s no telling where his feet will take him.
All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms. And for the playoffs, I also pick the games because I am never wrong about anything.
Bucs (-3) 40, Rams 21. Ever since Todd Gurley’s knee drank from the wrong grail, the Rams have had a relatively solvable offense. But when you add a healthy Cam Akers to all the pre-snap motion and jet sweeps and medium-range throws to Cooper Kupp, suddenly the opposing defense has more problems than I do picking up after my kids. Just exhausting. So if the Rams win this game, and they can, it’ll be because of Akers. And because the Bucs have only one wideout left and the Rams have the best cover corner on Earth.
I know that makes it sound like I’m picking the Rams for this game, but Tom Brady has a way of making any reasonable case against his team irrelevant. I’m not new here.
Chiefs (-2) 38, Bills 19. On Saturday night, I watched all three-plus hours of the Bills throwing the Patriots down an elevator shaft, because I enjoy things that make me happy. I also got the added bonus of this:
That’s Bills head coach and erstwhile serious man Sean McDermott, coaching his heart out while also looking extremely silly in a winter hat. Every time they cut to the sideline during the game, I got to see McDermott with his hat crammed underneath his headset and slightly askew. Like he was rolling out of an office Christmas party shitfaced. Winter hats are the great equalizer. We all need to be warm, and there comes a point where how you look while keeping warm ceases to mater. Even the hardest coaches have to surrender to the power of the hat. Bonus points if they wear one with a little pom-pom on top:
That’s Bills OC Brian Daboll. Majestic. I was actually hoping to lead this post off with a full gallery of NFL coaches looking silly in winter hats, but alas neither Getty nor Google anticipated me requiring such images. Adding keywords like “winter” and “January” and “cold” and “hat” to a coach’s name whenever I searched invariably resulted in failure. This won’t stand. I demand better SEO for coaches in hats. Why else even BE online?
Bengals (+3.5) 28, Titans 27. Even though the Titans might have a fully armed and operational Derrick Henry back, I’m still gonna pick the Bengals every week until they lose. Also, if the Titans DO lose this game, or if they lose the AFC title game a week from now, you and I get to start playing the Choke Artist card with them. I’m very excited for that. [Simmons voice] Are the Titans sneaky chokers?
Packers (-6) 35, Niners 16. If Nick Bosa hadn’t had his cervical column bent like a paper clip a week ago, I would’ve picked San Francisco. They’re the weirdest good team I’ve ever seen: a franchise that had a lost season in 2020, traded away everything to draft a new quarterback in response, and then spent the back half of this season remembering that they still had a Super Bowl roster. They too could win this game. In theory. In reality, I’m clearly hedging every single pick I’ve made here. And I didn’t even bet real money on these fucking things.
None. One drawback of the expanded Wild Card round—which I generally support the existence of—is that it makes the subsequent playoff rounds feel like they barely have any games at all. Almost like teams are being ELIMINATED from the field as we go along. Not sure that’s fair, really. I feel lonely already.
But hey! Time for some random crap!
• Outside of Shane MacGowan, no one on this planet looks unhealthier at every hour of the day than Jim Irsay:
This man looked like he was cursed by a sea witch. Take off his clothes and it’s just a pile of dead hamsters. And he’s so eloquent, too! “It’s certainly something where I apologize for.” That’s exactly what the citizens of Indianapolis needed to hear right now. Wouldn’t shock me if Irsay injects himself with pure maple syrup twice a day. To stay young.
• I didn’t hear or read anyone talk at length about this, but last week’s games were the first playoff games with full crowds in two years. I tolerated empty stadiums all during the pandemic, and even got used to them. I liked the NBA Zoom stands. I liked the fake crowd noise they pumped in for every telecast in every sport. All of that felt appropriate to me, a man starved for civilization to fully return, and also necessary. I needed some reminders, no matter how artificial, that there could once again be atmosphere where there was, at the time, none.
And then the crowds gradually started to return, until they were back in full force all this season. Whether or not the games should have crowds at the moment is, frankly, not an argument I give a shit about anymore. It is what it is, and I’m fucking tired. All I know is that I’m glad that the home crowd was there in Cincinnati to watch the Bengals break their 31-year playoff victory drought. That stadium has been lifeless since its grand opening, and then suddenly it had fans. Real, honest-to-God fans making doing real, honest-to-God playoff fan shit. It was restorative to see that on my television.
Same with the crowd in Buffalo, which had to watch from home last year as the Bills broke their own playoff losing streak (26 years) and advanced to the AFC title game. That crowd had two years of excitement they needed to unleash, and did they ever. I don’t care that the game itself was over almost immediately (against New England, this is a feature and not a bug), and I don’t even care about how shitty the refs were in the Raiders-Bengals game. I was too busy getting a contact high off the crowds. Crowds make the games.
• The four oldest coaches working in the league right now (Pete Carroll, Bruce Arians, Bill Belichick, Andy Reid) have all won Super Bowls and four of the last five. The only outlier there is Dougie Pederson, who is currently a spry 53 years young.
So it’s potentially quite stupid of me to hope, as I currently do, that my team hires a young head coach. Something from the McVay line of coaching products. Meanwhile, the Texans just fired David Culley, who’s currently 66 years old, after just one year in a caretaker role. All Culley did was win four games with a roster that should have won zero, and keep the Texans dignified while their front office and franchise quarterback were busy making the Catholic church look respectable. My man was an undervalued asset and probably still is. Maybe hiring some fresh-faced QB coach who’s also the great grand-nephew of Bill Walsh only sounds like a good idea. Maybe my team should go hunting around bingo parlors for the oldest motherfucker they can find.
[you remind me about the dinosaur they just fired]
OK yeah but that guy sucked.
• The NFL commemorated Martin Luther King Day on Monday night by slapping an MLK sticker on every player’s helmet plus a message of either STOP HATE or BE LOVE. Ultimately, a sticker, or a commemorative jersey patch, or an empty message like IT’S ON US painted in knockout type along the back of the end zone, represents the fullest extent to which the NFL will act on anything outside of its actual business scope. This is them taking action for peace and justice. Very Democrat of them. As Maitreyi wrote two weeks ago, “The trouble with symbols is how easy they are to hide behind.” And brother, does the NFL ever love to hide hind a tasteful jersey patch featuring a dead person’s initials. Fuck your stickers, Roger.
Last week: 3-3
Pregame Song That Makes Me Wanna Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall
“Mr. Motivator,” by IDLES! This is perhaps more Britishness than you can handle, but it’s not trouble for reader Ben and me:
Don’t know if you know of the IDLES and love or hate them, but they’re a group I enjoyed in small amounts until their most recent album came out and they finally “clicked” for me. The song that did it is “Mr. Motivator,” and as the name implies it makes you want to get up and mess shit up. The imagery is as ridiculous as those dumb motivational posters with the added bonus of the song taking a snipe at critics who called some of their previous work “clichéd.”
My favorite Oasis song is “My Big Mouth,” which is all about how much that band hates NME, so I’d be disingenuous if I found the all-too-vast catalog of “clapping back at the haters” songs to be tiresome. Bonus points to IDLES for having a drummer with glasses AND at least one guy in the band who’s bald and has a long beard. If you want cred, you gotta have the bald beard guy. Makes you look like you do pro wrestling on the side.
Worst Quarterback In The League Of The Week
Kyler Murray. Kyler is one of my favorite players to watch, which makes it excruciating when he sucks as badly as he did against the Rams on Monday night. Because he’s only been in the league for three years, I’m just gonna chalk it up to the fact that Kyler’s coach doesn’t know how to do his job once we get past Halloween.
Otherwise, I’d have to believe that Kyler Murray, who can seemingly do anything out there, is an inconsistent little fella with a pronounced ceiling. And I refuse to believe that. Hence, denial. HE’LL STILL BE MVP ONE DAY I PROMISE YOU.
Bad Local Commercial Of The Week!
Allen Wayside Furniture! You thought Maine was the freakshow New England state, but New Hampshire has something to say about that. From Andrew:
You need to be aware of the torturous commercials produced by Allen's Wayside Furniture, a discount furniture chain in New Hampshire. This man has been wearing bikinis and diapers in television and print ads for over a decade. Shit you just can't unsee. They'll sometimes play the same commercial twice in a row, to make sure it sticks. It does, but that doesn't mean I'm going anywhere near the store.
This is the first time I’ve ever seen an ad that has its own banner ads. Can’t say I approve of the practice. But hey, at least I got to watch a middle-aged outlet-store Gronk wear boxer briefs and cowboy boots for no reason.
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!!!!
Urban Meyer – FIRED!!!!
Mike Zimmer – FIRED!
Brian Flores – FIRED!
Matt Nagy – FIRED!
Joe Judge – FIRED!
David Culley – FIRED!
Vic Fangio – FIRED!
(* - potential midseason firing)
We came close to a bonus firing when McCarthy dropped his brain into a Vitamix at the end of that game last week. Thankfully, Stephen Jones stepped into the fray to stand by his man.
I love this version of the Cowboys. I hope everyone involved stays exactly where they are forever and ever.
Great Moments In Poop History
Reader Aaron sends in this story I call DEEP POO SEA:
In my twenties I spent several months living in a beach town in Ecuador. It wasn't as idyllic as it sounds. At one point the city water was cut off for nearly an entire month, which made everyday functions like washing the dishes, showering, and using the bathroom rather complicated. Whenever possible I did my business at neighboring establishments with private water supplies, like the internet cafe. The proprietors always gave me the side-eye when I walked in the door and beelined straight for the bathroom, but never challenged me.
One day I was out swimming in the ocean when I realized it was time to go. I was off by myself, a few hundred feet away from a spot where dozens of families with young children were playing in the water. I figured based on recent experience that it would be diarrhea, which would instantly diffuse into the infinite gallons of water in the Pacific Ocean and provide essential nutrients to all the aquatic life, so I surreptitiously dropped my shorts and let fly. To my horror, after I squeezed I saw a perfect, foot-long, double-tapered log float to the surface and start bobbing on the waves, heading directly toward all the families. I got out of there fast so I couldn't be held accountable for my actions. Never swim in the ocean.
Well I mean, you can swim in it. You just can’t always drop a big brown eel in there when you do.
Gametime Snack Of The Week
Gummi Skittles, which I was introduced to by my sister last month and which are already a vital entry in the gummi genre. I like these Skittles more than the original product, much as I like Gummi Savers more than actual Lifesavers (my kids didn’t even know what original Lifesavers were until I told them).
Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week
Game Day Ice and Game Day Light! ARE YOU READY FOR SOME NOROVIRUS? Reader Steve has the hookup:
What better beer to enjoy during Game Day than delicious GameDay Ice or GameDay Light? I came across these bad boys in a shady 7-11 about a half mile off the Vegas Strip (next to the exotic Ellis Island casino), that my cheapskate friend made us walk to, so that he could save $4 by going to a Bank of America ATM instead of one of the casino ATMs. As cheap as this guy is, however, he was not cheap enough to go for the GameDay Ice or Light.
His loss. In fairness to Steve’s buddy, I too balk at the idea of using strange ATMs. I always think they’re a front for a phishing operation, and they probably are. Plus, one time I used an unaffiliated ATM on the Jersey Shore (already you’re shaking your head) and it fucking stiffed me on the money. I withdrew like $80 and it gave me $40. Can you believe that shit? (You can.) And I had no one to complain to if I wanted recompense. So yes, I would abandon my post at the Ellis Island Spanish 21 table if the only ATM in sight was one in the casino with the brand name MoneyDay National glowing above it.
Dan Campbell’s Clump Dog Of The Week: Josh Allen
“He’s so big! I love that big kind of guy, with shoulders and all that.”
Sunday Afternoon Movie Of The Week For Jaguars Fans
The Long Good Friday. Here I thought that Goodfellas and The Sopranos pioneered the “Let’s watch a mobster endure the most annoying day of his life” genre. WRONG. No, it turns out that some naughty Brits had already cranked out this 1980 gem, featuring hirsute legend Bob Hoskins as a mob boss on the cusp of going legit (for bigger money and no other reason) only to see everything go to shit in a tidy 24 hours. Hoskins’s wife/consigliere is played by a younger and still absolutely shit-hot Helen Mirren, and the rest of the cast is padded out with the requisite cockney thugs doing cockney thug business. I love cockney thug business. If there were a Guy Ritchie channel, not only would I watch it, I would request that it play 24/7 inside my mausoleum when I die.
On the minus side, The Long Good Friday features the most 1980 music you’ve ever heard. It’s not even cool '80s movie scoring like Tangerine Dream. It’s legitimately bad. Intrusive. Fortunately, there’s also a murder in here so grisly that Guillermo del Toro has already vowed to steal it. Three stars.
Gratuitous Simpsons Quote
“Oh, man. I have to go to the bathroom. Why did I have all that beer and coffee and watermelon?”
Enjoy the games, everyone.