Let’s Wander Slowly Through The Fields Of Joy
1:55 PM EDT on September 8, 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 book, The Night The Lights Went Out, through here.
It was a game. I was at summer camp and our counselor asked us all to write down, on a slip of paper, our greatest dreams. He put those dreams into a hat and mixed them around. One by one, every camper grabbed a slip, read it aloud, and we had to guess who the dreamer was before they stood up and identified themselves. These were 13-year-olds playing this game, so I think you can guess what kind of dreams were recited aloud here. One kid wrote down, “I wish Gary would shut the fuck up at night.” Another cribbed from Real Genius and wrote down, “I’m standing in sun-god robes on a pyramid with a thousand naked women screaming and throwing little pickles at me.”
I, having failed to remember my age, went the earnest route instead. I wrote down that my dream was to walk through a grassy field, with the love of my life holding my hand, and nothing except for sunshine and a few perfect clouds there with us. When the counselor read my dream aloud, there was dead silence. I had killed the party. A few kids snickered before I raised my hand and outed myself as the anonymous cheeseball. I never told anyone that dream again.
But you’re stuck here with me right now, and so here’s the truth: What I wrote on that slip of paper is as true a dream for me today as it was back when I was too stupid to read a campfire properly. I dream of fields, and always have.
One of my first memories is of a field. I’m not certain this is an actual memory. Go back to your own memory’s infancy and you’ll find a nebulous whorl of images, sentence fragments, dreams, boo-boos, and daydreams all floating around one another: all very real to your mind, but so distant as to be barely tangible. But once in a while, something will emerge from that tangle that is crystal clear—no matter its actual veracity—and occupies your grown memory until the day you die.
For me, that’s a field. I don’t remember if I dreamed this field or if I saw with my own eyes. I think we drove past it on a car ride, but I have no one to corroborate that detail because the lasting vision is mine and mine alone. There’s a ramshackle two-rail fence lining a country road, and past that fence is a field: green and healthy and endless, with no forest or man-made structures to give it boundaries. There are no people in this field. No trees. No bushes. No grazing livestock. There is just grass, sunshine, and a few strategically placed cumulus masses. Maybe a stray wildflower or two. But there is nothing more, because there doesn’t need to be.
When I think of Earth, which over its existence has served as home to an ever-evolving number of breathtaking terrains, I think of a field. In my daydreams, the modern world wakes up one morning to discover that all of the planet’s surface has become a lone, vast field. No buildings. No roads. No deserts or mountains, either. Just a rolling plain of grass that touches the horizon, and then goes on past it.
I have lived life on fields. I have played games on soccer pitches, and baseball fields, and park fields, and football fields. I have eaten in fields. I have passed out drunk in fields. I have kissed girls in fields. I have graduated on fields. In none of those instances was a field an inappropriate setting. A field itself is alive, with grass on its surface, insects and invertebrates burrowed underneath, and invisible microbes subsisting hardily in the air above it. So it only makes sense that even more life belongs on a field, no matter how big or small that life may be. Even when a field is torn up and abused, it still beckons more life toward it.
We have a backyard in our house, which isn’t large enough to qualify semantically as a field, but is a field to me all the same. We raised our children in that small field. We set up a water table for them to play with there back when they were barely walking. We hosted a half-birthday party for our daughter there one summer, because her actual birthday falls in the dead of winter. We played catch. One time I even bought field paint and sprayed a soccer pitch on the lawn so that my older son and I could play a real-ish soccer match on it. The lines were not straight.
I am 45 years old, a perfectly fine age to be. When you get to my age, you become more attuned to the imperfections of things, both large and small. You see the world as more imperfect as it is, just as you can tell when a chair is, by the smallest of margins, not as comfortable to sit in as it ought to be. But the field I saw in my youth was perfect, and every field I’ve seen since that time has remained so. Whenever I pass by a field—on foot, on my bike, or in my car—I am happy. The world feels roomier to me in that moment. More open. More breathable. It can be a field of grass, or cornstalks, or wheat. So long as it’s a field, it is my idyll. And whenever I see people playing ON a field, I am envious of them: high school kids playing field hockey, adult immigrants playing INTENSE games of league soccer, toddlers running around with no sense of purpose. I want to be all of them.
This is true even if it happens to be raining outside, and it’s true even though I’ve played on fields myself and have not always been happy about it. I’ve played on fields that were hard and dusty. I’ve played on fields that were desecrated with the blight of mud, back in a time when all fabric stayed wet if it got wet. I’ve cried on fields. I’ve lost on fields. I’ve been embarrassed on fields. But in all of those instances, the field itself was never to blame. It always did right by me, even if I wasn’t doing right by myself.
So for me, happiness is a field. That’s true if I see a field in a dream, on a car ride, on a screen, or in my memory. Sometimes that field has a single tree or animal in the dead center of it, to give it perfect composition. Sometimes there is my family, and not in the “they’re dead” sort of vision.
And sometimes—OK, most of the time—there is football.
I remember watching pro football when I was a kid and seeing players deliberately smear their outfits with mud before the game had even started. You can read that as standard “I wanna look like a manly man” behavior, or you can play the cheeseball as I do and believe that those men found the football field to be so important, so downright sacred, that they wanted to become one with it. Like them, I’ve put my hand in the dirt before a snap. I’ve touched fields. Pressed into them. Communed with them. Wanted to be part of what makes them grow.
Football is the best, and if I ever tell you otherwise, I am lying. It is not a moral sport, but it’s also not an ugly one. Far from it. It’s a fucking gorgeous sport, one that will forever turn my head. And even in football’s worst moments, there is the field to redeem it. That field has been painted with lines and numbers in a hubristic attempt to give it structure, but within those strained boundaries there occurs a conflagration of violence, beauty, and absurdity that all fields, lined or not, host without complaint. The games end, the confetti gets swept away, and the field sits there, unperturbed … waiting for the next round of life to happen atop of it.
That’s what fields do. That’s what they’re for, even when they aren’t made of real grass. A field is a wonderful, eternal thing. And when I die, I will find myself in one: both in form and soul. The wind will always be at my back. The sun will shine warm about my face. The rains will fall soft upon me. And there, in that field, God will hold me in the palm of his hand.
Write that down and put it in a hat. Because fall is here, the fields are alive once more, and THIS is your first Jamboroo of the season. Maestro, hit the music please…
2022 NFL Predictions
I do this every year, and every year I’m always wrong. But since I’m on an earnest streak, lemme tell you that being wrong is the point of this exercise. If the season went precisely how I expected it go, that would be boring as shit. Ask any NBA fan [ducks]. The point is to see how reality ends up contradicting your expectations. Some good teams will suck. Some shitty teams will not. That’s the fun of it all. Now allow me to elicit much quiet snickering by predicting the following:
Green Bay 10-7
* wild card
Tampa Bay 11-6
New Orleans 8-9
N.Y. Giants 9-8*
San Francisco 12-5
L.A. Rams 8-9
Vikings over Eagles
Bucs over Falcons
Packers over Giants
Bucs over Packers
Vikings over Niners
Bucs over Vikings
New England 8-9
NY Jets 6-11
L.A. Chargers 14-3
Las Vegas 11-6*
Kansas City 9-8
Bills over Jaguars
Colts over Raiders
Chargers over Bengals
Chargers over Bills
Ravens over Colts
Chargers over Ravens
Chargers over Bucs
The Chargers don’t need my stink on them to do Chargers things. So as far as I’m concerned, I’m absolved if they end up shitting the bed in familiar ways. Same goes for my own team. Do I really think the Vikings will make the NFC title game? Listen man, the NFC is absolute dogshit, and nearly all of the good teams that were in it a year ago have only gotten worse. Some unheralded team is gonna make a run in that conference, and you and I both know it’s not gonna be the fucking Lions. So it may as well be my team. Worst thing that happens is they blow it, and that wouldn’t exactly throw me for a loop. I may as well get hyped up for my team, as you should yours. I don’t care if I’m wrong. Now is the time for basking in sweet delusions.
Besides, you don’t see me picking Minnesota to get PAST the NFC title game now, do you? I know who the quarterback is. I’m not that much of a Pollyanna.
All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms.
Bills at Rams: No Al Michaels tonight. My dear friend has finally been usurped in NBC’s booth by Mike Tirico, who’s tidy and professional and occasionally good at jabbing the refs, but whose lack of timbre makes any game feel like it’s being broadcast on DAZN3. I’ll watch this game, obviously, because I’m not a dumbass. But when the season is in full stride and I have to decide which primetime game I may opt out of to get my beauty rest? I got Al and I got Joe Buck presiding over the other two primetime games in any given week, so you better fucking believe that Tirico cheapening some asshole Titans game will be triaged right the fuck out of my schedule.
Packers at Vikings: I know you LOL’ed to your heart’s content when the Vikings traded for Jalen Reagor. But let me tell you about another wideout who came to Minnesota right after he busted in Philadelphia…
***YOU KICK ME DIRECTLY IN THE COCK***
Bucs at Cowboys: If you’re new to this column, you should know that I don’t write up every game every week, because some of these games are lousy. Also, sometimes I’ll use a capsule to talk about things that have absolutely nothing to do with the game at hand. For example, what if Twitter started using crowd noise effects? A viral tweet gets applause when you open it, a ratio-ed tweet gets a chorus of boos and FUCK YOUs. Would you disable this option in settings the instant it appeared? Yes. But I still think the idea has legs.
Raiders at Chargers: Also, what if your body could sparkle? I don’t mean slathering glitter all over yourself. But what if you could snap your fingers and suddenly little points on your skin glowed up and flashed like Christmas lights? I’d opt into that superpower. I’d be Disco Man. The ladies would FLOCK to me. Also I hope Josh McDaniels fails right from the start.
Chiefs at Cardinals
Saints at Falcons: Speaking of fields, you ever play catch with someone who casually throws the ball WAY too fucking hard? Like you just wanted a soft toss and suddenly this guy is amicably zipping the ball at you at 90 mph? That always fucks me up. I’m like, “What kinda Jedi mind trick is this shit? He trying to show me up? Well he’s doing a pretty job of it, to be frank.”
Patriots at Dolphins: I’m sure Mac Jones is a nice fellow, and he proved to be more than capable a season ago. I’m just saying that if he takes a step up this season and the Pats win 13 games, I’ll cut his brakes. That’s all. I don’t mean that maliciously; I’ll just make it so that he can’t prevent himself from driving off a bridge.
Steelers at Bengals
Giants at Titans: We talk about backseat drivers a lot, but you know who REALLY deserves your scorn? Backseat remote control havers. You’re with your family, you have the remote, you’re finding something for everyone to watch together. You will inevitably have three to 10 other people telling you what to do with that remote. “Search for ‘NFL’!” “Check ABC!” “That’s not how you open Netflix!” etc. All of that is the worst. That’s why every American should sign a contract stipulating that if they don’t have the remote, they have to shut the fuck up. I’m here to watch TV. I’m not your fucking butler.
Colts at Texans
Eagles at Lions
Niners at Bears
Browns at Panthers
Broncos at Seahawks: No more MNF doubleheaders to open the season. Instead, you get a game that would have occupied the 10 p.m. kickoff slot if that twin bill still existed. Brutal, but at least Buck and Aikman are finally doing these games instead of an assembly line of singing puppets from a Disney World ride.
In other news, someone needs to tell ESPN to stop using bright yellow in their crawl for any score alert. Weren’t you shitheads already told about this? Could someone at a meeting in Bristol not have suggested magenta instead? You guys have an endless number of graphic colors to choose from and you opt, every time, for the one that football fans despise the most? Fuck’s wrong with you?
RE: The Broncos, I watched Serena’s final match at the U.S. Open last week and they kept cutting to Russell Wilson and Ciara sitting in Serena’s box. Any time Russ is out on the town, he looks like he’s thinking to himself, the entire time, I look so fucking sweet. He’s a good-looking man and he’s often impeccably dressed, but goddamn if he can’t pull all of that off without looking like a lacrosse player.
Jaguars at Commanders: Oh come on.
Ravens at Jets: Nope, not this one either.
Pregame Song That Makes Me Wanna Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall
“Blackout,” by Turnstile. From Steven:
The new Turnstile record is one of the best things I’ve heard in years. Just brick-wall bangers from start to finish. They also apparently had someone poop in the pit at a recent show, and all the moshers spread it all around. So the band doubles as the participants in a great moment in poop history as well.
Good on them. Hardest workin’ men in both rock and poop. Speaking of the latter…
Great Moments In Poop History
Reader Barry sends in this story I call TOP DUMP:
When I was enlisted in the Air Force a few years ago, I was testing to become a staff sergeant. For readers who don't know, if you want to be promoted to any of the sergeant ranks, not only are you evaluated on your job performance and time in service, you need to pass a test. Since this was my first time testing, I spent months studying the material so I could pass and become that hip young sergeant who was going to make a difference for his troops. The test was on a Tuesday morning at 0800 and was broken down into two parts, each part 100 questions long. Since I’d studied so much, I flew through the first part of the test, feeling confident that I was going to be promoted. Since I had time to spare, I decided to go grab breakfast before having to come back for the second half. I stop at the Burger King on base not far from the testing center and order some greasy breakfast sandwich, hash browns and a drink. I inhale the food and head back for part two.
The first indication that something was wrong was about five minutes before we were to resume. I started to feel some bubbling in my stomach, but thought it was maybe just nerves. Part two of the test starts, and away I go. One thing I forgot to mention is that once the test starts, you can't leave the room and come back, so to avoid any cheating during the test. At question 24, my stomach begins making sounds reserved for whales during mating season. I try to focus on the test, hoping the feeling in my stomach will subside long enough to let me finish. But by question 50-something, my stomach is at DEFCON 5. My face is covered in sweat, I am trying everything to keep from shitting myself so I can finish this test and leave. By this point, I am half-reading the questions and just filling what I think is the best answer. I remember at one point looking out the door and seeing the latrine across the hall, taunting me. Finally, by question 70, I couldn't take it anymore. I randomly filled in multiple choice answers for the last 30 questions, quickly handed in the test, and waddled out the room to the latrine. I felt like I lost five lbs. in there, but I was just happy to make it to the toilet.
Fast forward to a few weeks later, when the results of the promotion testing is released. Unsurprisingly, I didn't make the cutoff for promotion, and would have to study and re-test again the next year. Out of curiosity, I looked to see how much I missed the cutoff by, and it was by four points. Screw you, Burger King.
That’s always the right thing to say to Burger King.
Which Idiot GM Is This?
You know your team is in good hands when the man in charge of the roster is a professionally sweaty guy who MEANS BUSINESS. Which team does the man below hold in his meaty paws?
That’s right: It’s newly minted Super Bowl champion Les Snead of the Rams, who looks like a former British child star who just got cast in a Michael Bay movie. I don’t trust this man. I bet he’s made racist jokes while playing golf.
Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week
Limbo Yuzu! I spent this offseason acquainting myself with near beer. I found a shitty one that I like (Bud Zero), and then I stumbled upon this bad boy as a fancier option. It’s pricey as shit for a beer that has no alcohol in it, but fuck me if I don’t love a fancy, fruity beer in any form.
Anyway, don’t worry that this’ll exclusively become an NA beer space. I’m still gonna profile only the shittiest, most aggressively high ABV beers that Slovakia has to offer. But for opening week, I figured I’d treat myself a little. It’s never a sin to be good to yourself.
Gameday Movie Of The Week For Panthers Fans
Margin Call, which pre-dates Succession in the “rich people desperately trying to keep themselves from being screwed” genre, but is a more than worthy entry in that canon. Also, Margin Call features an insane cast that you will never, ever see together again. It’s got pre-banishment Kevin Spacey. It’s got The Mentalist. It’s got new Spock. It’s got Stanley Tucci (The Tooch!). It’s got Paul Bettany AND Jeremy Irons both playing irresistible British scumbags. And it’s got Demi Moore playing a normal person instead of being forced to play a woman that every male character on screen wants to bone despite themselves. Fucking incredible cast, plus it’s got J.C. Chandor at the helm. Can’t recommend it enough.
Gratuitous Simpsons Quote
“My foolish capering destroyed more young minds than syphilis and pinball combined.”
Enjoy the games, everyone. We are BACK.