My Son Is A Football Player And Hates It
1:28 PM EST on November 5, 2020
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. Buy Drew’s new novel, “Point B,” here.
I had to get my eight-year-old to play a sport, even with the pandemic looming over every single facet of childhood at the moment. He’s a rambunctious child. He never shuts the fuck up. He breaks as many things as I did when I was his age. He treats every piece of furniture like a jungle gym. He is, in the words of every defensive coordinator who ever existed, a PHYSICAL young man. And it’s important that you let your kids be physical. They need to learn how to roughhouse within loosely defined structures, so that they don’t use all that pent-up energy on, like, arson instead. They need to learn how to use their strength and dexterity constructively. Also, roughhousing is fun.
The problem is that this virus has left children with very few resources to productively burn off energy. I had to walk the boy past cordoned-off playgrounds and beg him to stay by my side. It was clear he needed an outlet desperately.
Turns out there’s a sport that teaches you both self-discipline and how to hit the shit out of people. It also happens to be lethal, which is why my wife and I agreed that our kids can’t play tackle football until they’re much older, if at all (in fact, if you ask my wife, I’m already giving the possibility of them playing too much oxygen in this sentence). The boy loved playing football in the backyard, though. He understood nothing about the game but very much DID understand that he could chase down his older brother and bring him down to the grass. That part he enjoyed immensely.
I played football for a decade when I was young. While I somehow got out of my playing career unscathed (for now), likely due to the inordinate amount of time I spent on the bench, I learned all about the inherent dangers of the sport along roughly the same timeline as the rest of you. So I’m highly aware of football’s evils, and yet I remain blindly loyal to it. My son liked football. He was a fearless hitter in every phase of playtime. A true football player in his soul. Maybe he could be a linebacker. Maybe he could excel on the field in ways that I never did. Maybe he could be an all-pro lining up alongside Eric Kendricks Jr. on the Super Bowl champion 2048 Minnesota Vikings.
Or maybe he could play flag football for a bit. After all, flag football is football without all the bad football shit. WHO SAYS NO?!
I found a flag football league that had sufficient virus protocols in place (masks for everyone, one parent attending a game and no other fans, your kid’s gotta bring a chair to sit in that you keep six feet away from their teammates) and got the green light from my wife to commence the sales job. The boy said no, because none of his friends were in the league. This is standard kid horseshit. They never want to try anything alone. But the window to enroll him was closing and I had no other outdoor sport alternatives for him for the long winter ahead. All I could do was incept the idea of flag football into his subconscious and hope that it eventually grew.
It did. Against all odds, one day the boy suddenly told me he was interested. I took him to the computer to enroll, so that he felt like he had some control over the process.
“You ready?” I asked him, with the cursor hovering over the final SIGN UP button.
“I still don’t know…”
“Just do it. If you hate it, you never have to do it again.”
I signed him up. My boy really was gonna officially be a football player. The coach emailed all the parents and asked for assistant coaches. I volunteered instantly. I KNOW FOOTBAW. I bought my son new cleats, a pair of receiver gloves, and even a mouthguard with fangs on the front. He loved all that swag. I loved that he loved it.
Then we got home and practiced for a bit in his new kicks. He dropped every pass I threw, and turned glum.
“Make a picture window with your hands,” I coached him. I moved to within 10 feet of the boy and threw him the ball underhanded. He finally caught the ball, but didn’t appreciate being thrown down to. I changed to soft overhand passes and he snagged a few.
That night, he told me he didn’t want to play at all. I was disappointed. Not because I dreamed of the boy becoming an all-pro, but because I didn’t wanna be out $270.
“Dude, we paid for this already,” I told him. “You gotta do it.” Really inspiring shit.
He relented and I took him to his first practice. He didn’t catch a single pass in that practice. I also saw him get bored and start sulking around the field, barely paying attention to anything going on. Meanwhile, my assistant coaching duties were organically usurped by every other dad in attendance eager to help out. If you have kids, you know it’s important that they do a lot of shit—school, sports, hanging with friends—WITHOUT mom or dad around. If you’re around, they go running to you anytime there’s something going on they don’t like. You’re their out. My son kept looking over at me and I had to resist giving him that out. I failed at this in the beginning, coaching him and only him, like every other bumbling parent/coach in existence. When he came over and asked to go home, I finally mustered some semblance of backbone.
“You gotta stay. If you have a problem, go to Coach, not me. Or ask your teammates. No one is gonna yell at you for asking a question. That’s the point of having practice to begin with.”
“I just don’t get football,” he told me. He wanted to get it but it was all incomprehensible to him. Worst of all, all the other kids DID seem to get it. They ran their routes more precisely and knew how to catch the ball downfield. I knew this feeling intimately when I used to play. I loved the game and wanted to be a football player more than anything. But the playbook was gibberish to me and all the other kids seemed to possess athletic abilities that I glaringly lacked. All this time I wanted my son to enjoy football, even the safe kind. Now he was already learning to resent it in ways that I myself had fought against for so long. My failures were his, and vice versa.
But again, I had already paid for this shit. I sent my son back out onto the field and tried to look anywhere but at him. He dragged ass all way through to the end of practice.
When I got him back into my Kia, I asked, “So how’d it go?”
“It was fun!” he chirped. No sarcasm. I’ve been parenting a long time and I still haven’t gotten used to the mixed signals kids give. It’s like I’m back in the dating pool all over again.
I took him to his first game. He caught no passes. He made zero tackles. He collided with another boy and got a fat lip. The mouthguard did nothing. I had to replace his mask with a new one because he had bled all over it. He was crying. I was miserable myself, feeling like the whole season was gonna be an enormous slog, begging him to at least pretend to play for six endless weeks. We got into the car and he said the game was fun. My brain exploded (again). When I tucked him in that night, he went back to crying, and told me he didn’t want to play anymore. He still didn’t get it.
On a fundamental level, football is complicated. It’s not like soccer, where all you need is the basic objective of “kick ball into net.” That simplicity is what makes soccer so universal and perfect. You need more time with football to get it. Even explaining the concept of “downs” to a newcomer is a fraught enterprise. And I’m a shitty teacher (or coach, in this instance) because I don’t know how to make children get things when they don’t. In fact, I get annoyed when they don’t get things, because I’m a grown man now and find those things easy to grasp. I don’t know how to build learning curves for people, even for people I love.
Same as when we first signed up, I asked the boy to ride out the six weeks and told him that he could never play again after that if he didn’t want to. He agreed. The next week’s game got rained out and he was crestfallen, which again threw me. There’s another game coming this weekend and I have no clue how the boy will receive its arrival. I feel like Daniel Jones sitting in a collapsing pocket.
This is a cliché you’ve seen in every TV show and in every goddamn Pixar movie ever made, but the hardest part of being a parent really is ceding control. I can try to push my kids in one direction but ultimately they get to be their own people; more and more so as they get older. The hard part is that I have to LET them be their own people. There are limits to this with an eight-year-old, of course. The boy doesn’t get to bail on school, or flush his undies down the toilet (he did that once when he was three). There are boundaries you have to set. But how they behave and feel within those boundaries are just fucking impossible to predict, much less control. That constant element of surprise is what makes having kids both a profound joy and an exhausting burden at the same time. Toss your favorite sport into the mix and it becomes even more dizzying.
There are five games still left to go for the boy. Maybe, in one of those games, the light will go on and suddenly everything that was so confusing to him will become clear as day. Or maybe he’ll still hate the fucking sport and never play again. I have to entertain the latter as a possibility, and the most likely one. But that’s the POINT of youth sports, isn’t it? It’s not a proving ground; it’s a testing ground. You try out a sport to see if your body and mind are built for it, enduring your first season to arrive at the answer. Filtering all of this data through the ramshackle mind of a child is bound to produce a few, uh, unreliable conclusions, if the child can come to any conclusion at all. But all of that experience and all of that processing matters, even when it results in abandoning a sport. I no longer play football, or baseball, or basketball, or golf. To this day, I still keep all of it with me. That’s how learning works. That’s the inside game. If the boy doesn’t get it now, he will one day, perhaps long after he’s played his final down.
All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms.
Seahawks at Bills: We are in the Strange Running Backs phase of the season now, with dudes like DeeJay Dallas arriving on the scene to get 18 carries in a single game. I watch college football (except this year). I watch the Draft. I comb through every roster during the preseason. I study the fantasy mocks. And yet, by law, every season I will be ambushed by 500 DeeJay Dallases, all ready to expose my NFL ignorance. It’s horrible. And the worst part is that they all get snatched up from the wire before I’ve even had a chance to check. I guess everyone else knows who Zack Moss is but me, eh? THINK YOU’RE ALL SO SMART, DON’T YOU? WELL I’LL CUT YOU GOOD.
Saints at Bucs: One thing I didn’t point out in last week’s big Al Michaels profile is that Al is taking a few games off this season—“bye weeks,” NBC is calling them—as a man of his age requires on occasion. Al’s replacement for those games is Mike Tirico, who has already done one replacement game so far and will do a few more before we get to the playoffs. Tirico will clearly take over for Al whenever the old man decides to leave and, in my genuinely objective opinion, the dropoff is fucking STEEP. Tirico is a thin-voiced dipshit who’ll get the field details right but makes every football game he calls feel like it belongs on ESPN7. Al has his flaws, which I highlighted in painstaking detail last week. But at least he’s got the timbre. THE RANGE. I gotta have that timbre to make the game feel like a fucking event. Tirico can piss off into infinity for all I care.
Ravens at Colts: Marlon Humphrey will be back playing by, like, next week. The NFL resides in a parallel reality where you can get COVID, survive COVID, and become 100 percent symptom-free and non-contagious all in a matter of 36 hours. They’ll keep this charade up throughout the entire season, with Adam Schefter riding in on a pony every Sunday morning and squealing, “The NFL has done it again. ZERO positive test results today. Another great Sunday… is on.” I could see all this testing news as the alarming byproduct of a league committed to virus transparency, or I can assume half the players will drop dead in February. The nice thing is that if the latter is the case (and it probably is), we get to repeat this charade all over again NEXT season. Glad my son is already set to quit this sport.
Dolphins at Cardinals: Obviously, the main takeaway from Trump stranding his rally attendees out in the freezing cold is that Trump is a selfish prick who revels in lethal indifference. But more important: my lifelong hatred of parking shuttles has finally proven validated. This is why I never go to state fairs or any of that shit. If I can’t park and then walk to a thing, I won’t go to the thing. I’m not gonna count on some chartered bus service to get my ass back to my car after a fucking day of apple picking. Who’s driving that bus? What other humanoids am I gonna have to share that bus with? How long will the ride back to my car take? Will there be MULTIPLE stops? I can barely tolerate parking shuttles at the fucking airport. Anywhere else? DEALBREAKER. Never count on someone else to get you back to your ride.
Bears at Titans
Raiders at Chargers: Working on a take that the Reese’s pumpkins are better than the cups, but that take will have to remain in the lab so long as the nefarious GHOST pumpkins (coated in white chocolate) remain at large. Those are a deeply unpleasant surprise.
Packers at Niners: In an ironic twist, every player on the Niners roster will die of something BESIDES the rona this season.
Panthers at Chiefs
Lions at Vikings
Patriots at Jets: I’m biased because I’m a lapsed Michigan fan who had to hear him bellyache about the Wolverines’ rightful 1997 national title, but Scott Frost is a TOTAL penis.
I was around for the Bowl Coalition and the Bowl Alliance and the BCS and the Bowl Un-American Activities Committee, where coaches had to spend every post-game presser lobbying (read: whining like giant fucking babies) for inclusion in the national title game. The pandemic has made all of these fuckers realize how much they MISSED being able to piss and moan their way to excellence. Scott Frost now headlines the next generation of diaper coaches. I hope he slips and takes a dried corncob right up his stitched asshole.
Broncos at Falcons
Steelers at Cowboys
Giants at WFT
Jaguars at Texans
Pregame Song That Makes Me Wanna Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall
“Turbo Killer,” by Carpenter Brut! From Kevin:
This video has no lyrics, because words would just get in the way.
That they would. This video is like if The Fifth Element had actually been a good movie.
Gregg Easterbrook Memorial Haughty Dipshit Of The Week
You get an Official Fartsniffer badge for knowing who Thomas Chatterton Williams is. Alas, I am now an official fartsniffer. I never heard of this idiot until he kicked a friend out of his chateau for saying mean things about Bari Weiss (yet another insufferable person whose existence should be, and likely is, unknown to you). The second he got attention for that shit, he wasted no time in becoming Twitter's Main Character Of The Day at least once a week.
This past week, ol’ T-Dub got called out for an old profile of his of Emily Ratajkowski (an assignment his wife was given but then she somehow regifted it to him?) that basically read like, “Wow I can’t believe this woman who has amazing tits can read a book!” Ratajkowski saw the excerpt and was like, “Oh yeah that guy was a fucking shitbag,” which then led to said shitbag doubling down again and again.
When you double down on Twitter, it should be like actual gambling where you lose a significant amount of money.
Magic Johnson’s Lock Of The Week: Saints (+5.5) at Bucs
“Thanksgiving occurs in November, and it is now November! Can’t wait for Cookie and I to join Pristac CEO Kevin Jurn and his family for a four-day excursion to scenic Acapulco that weekend! The Jurn family is in high spirits now that Proposition 22 has passed! That means more wages for all of their personal baggage handlers!”
2020 Magic record: 3-4
Bad Local Commercial Of The Week!
Vern Fonk Insurance! I think you can already tell this one’s gonna be weird, yeah? Reader Tyler gives us the background:
There used to be some local commercials for Vern Fonk Insurance in the greater Seattle area that are delightfully weird. Vern Fonk, I assume, is some predatory insurance company for drunk drivers and such. Anyway the commercials parody some pretty odd things from Back to the Future to a really tasteful portrayal of Osama Bin Laden. Rob Thielke was a random employee who got free reign to make these acid flashback commercials. He died a few years back so no new ones the past several years.
RIP. Rob Thielke was clearly an alias, by the way. I know an escaped convict on the lam when I see one.
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 2020 chopping block:
Bill Belichick ;)
(* - potential midseason firing)
I’m close to taking the wink off of that Belichick entry. I don’t think he’s ever gonna be fired, per se. But I do think he’s capable of growing extremely bored with the sorryass group of leftovers he’s coaching right now and ready to take on a new reclamation project. Also, he clearly fucked up by letting Tom Brady walk. I’m sure every WEEI load is ready to call him a bum for it.
Great Moments In Poop History
Reader Chad sends in this story I call GRIP IT AND RIP IT.
I was around 8 or 9. For some reason, I was constipated a lot when I was little. This made pooping very unpleasant sometimes. One evening, I went to the bathroom to do my business. After a few minutes, I could feel it coming, so I assumed it was going to be a pretty quick process. Once it started coming out though, I knew I was doomed. This piece of crap was HUGE. Easily the biggest thing that has ever left me. It actually hurt me as it was coming out. And when it was about halfway out, it stopped. It was too big to keep coming, and it hurt too much to try to force it the rest of the way out. After a few moments, I knew what I had to do. I reached down in between my legs, grabbed the poop. and pulled it the rest of the way out with my hand. As it finished coming out, I was screaming like I never had before. My mom came running from two floors below because she thought I was getting murdered. I had to hide my poopy hand as she burst in the bathroom.
Over the years, I’ve gotten a lot of Funbag emails from dads-to-be asking about what they need to expect about kids that somehow never makes it into the books and magazine articles. “Will I ever get a blowjob again?!” etc. But I’d say one of the bigger oversights I had to discover on my own was dealing with a constipated baby. Turns out that one last-resort technique in getting a baby to shit is by massaging their asshole using a rectal thermometer. Can’t say I ever expected having to do that. Thankfully my kids are all older now, so I only have to do that for them like, once a month these days.
Gametime Snack Of The Week
Cinnamon sugar pita chips! When you’re ready to give up the illusion that pita chips are in ANY way good for you, the cinnamon sugar ones are ready and willing. One bite it’s like you’ve been transported to ancient Judea!
Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week
Glankrone! Oh this one has serious promise. From Tyler:
I went on a last-minute 200-mile bike trek through Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary with friends this spring, despite being 50 pounds overweight and last having ridden a bike in 1997. I made it, thanks in large part to Glankrone, which I purchased in Esztergom for around $0.33. It tastes like corn cobs boiled in an old undershirt, and its name is onomatopoetic for the sound your guts make after drinking it, but damn if it wasn't a fine road beer anyway.
I have questions about how someone finds themselves on a “last-minute” 200-mile bike ride. But you were fat and drunk for the whole ride, so I can only assume your intentions were noble, sir.
My wife was born in Germany, home of the radler, or cyclist’s brew. You know it as a shandy: beer and sparkling lemonade (Sprite, really) mixed together. I have never cycled while drunk in my lifetime, but the Sprite factor probably adds crucial balance.
Jim Tomsula’s Lifehack Of The Week!
“Old pine needles are good for everything, okay? You need tinder for a good pond fire? PINE NEEDLES. You need a bed and have a burlap sack on you? PINE NEEDLES. Wanna brew some tea that’ll blow your sinuses out? PINE NEEDLES. It’s all pine needles. I’ve even eaten pine needles. That’s a fact, all right? You boil them in Uncle Hayes’ ‘motor syrup’ and it tastes like rhubarb. They won’t sell you that kind of thing at the All Foods or what have you.”
Sunday Afternoon Movie Of The Week For Jets Fans
The original Dracula, which I watched on Halloween. I forgot that the 1931 Dracula has no fang shots at all. I kept waiting for a fang reveal, thinking to myself, “Oh they’re saving it for the end, like the shark in Jaws. Fangs probably cost a lot for studios back then.” But no. The whole movie is fang-free, wire to wire. You also don’t see Bela Lugosi take a stake to the aorta on camera, either. It’s still a great movie, but it’s almost TOO tasteful. Imagine seeing fangs on a screen back in 1931. You’d probably throw yourself out of a window.
Gratuitous Simpsons Quote
“And now, please rise for our opening hymn, uh...'In the Garden of Eden,' by I. Ron Butterfly.”
Enjoy the games, everyone.
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