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Stop Fussing With The Goddamn Rules

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 26: Referee Land Clark (130) looks at a replay for the second time during the game between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles on December 26, 2021 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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 Outthrough here.

The Eagles got fucked on Monday night. They were trailing the Commanders by nine, scored a touchdown to pull within two, and then picked off Dollar Store gunslinger Taylor Heinicke to get the ball back. You’ve seen this type of game before. You know what happens next, especially when the team in the rearview happens to be an overwhelming favorite playing at home. Philadelphia would retake the lead, right there and then, and never give it back.

But then along came the horseshit.

It’s unlike me to defend the honor of the Eagles and their fans, even when they’re playing against a Dan Snyder–led enterprise. But come the fuck on. Not only did Commanders linebacker Jamin Davis bring down Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert by the face mask, but he did so in such a violent fashion that Goedert had to go on IR this week. The refs still missed throwing the flag on the play, and could only review it afterward for possession and for the spot of the ball. That was all they were allowed, and the result was Washington keeping a ball it never earned. If it strikes you as a glaring inconsistency that replay can correct certain obvious things but not others, well there’s no shortage of other fans and talking heads who agree with you and are eager to apply a remedy that’s well-intentioned but will solve absolutely nothing.

Unlike judgment calls, no discretion is needed to determine whether the video evidence shows a clear and obvious grabbing of the facemask. It won’t be until at least 24 owners decide to make it reviewable. That should be a no-brainer for March 2023.

It’s easy to propose that penalties be reviewable when you’re presented with an example as clear as what happened to Goedert and the Eagles the other night. Recency bias is useful like that. But the NFL already tried reviewing pass interference in 2019, after the Saints got boned by a no-call in the NFC title game against the Rams the season prior. That experiment lasted exactly one season and it was fucking miserable. It stamped a giant TBD onto even more great plays than replay already had, it resulted in more needless stoppages in a sport packed tight with them, and—most importantly—the refs still usually fucked up the ultimate call anyway. This is because while replay is meant to correct obvious mistakes, it still gets used for plays that are far more subjective, in any situation. And how far do you go in changing the rule? Do you make all personal fouls reviewable? What about holding? What about PI, again? What’s the standard if you do?

Other people have proposed more efficient, elegant solutions to the facemask problem, and yet I have no faith that even those suggestions would be implemented gracefully. Even if they were, it would never stop both the NFL and everyone within its massive sphere from wanting to tinker, tinker, tinker. They want to constantly re-work the overtime format. They want to let coaches challenge calls within the last two minutes of either half. They want instant fixes any time they’ve been wronged, or even if another team has been wronged because OMG WHAT IF THAT HAD BEEN US?! And the NFL obliges them, because Roger Goodell loves empty competitive gestures even more than he loves socioeconomic ones. Major League Baseball enjoys doing likewise, both as a form of salesmanship (look how new and improved our game is!) and to give fans a certain sense of agency: the idea that they can exert influence over these rules if they simply complain loudly enough.

I am one such fan. I’ve demanded changes to a sport and then felt validated when those changes have been implemented. Then something goes awry—it always goes awry—and I scream out YOU DIDN’T CHANGE IT THE RIGHT WAY, YOU SHITHEADS! But I don’t have the energy for that shit anymore. I’m done putting put on my old-man pants and demanding replay evolve, or that it go away completely. Replay is never leaving us, no matter how often I shake my cane at it. Also, now that the NFL has papered over most review processes with a commercial break, I don’t notice the intrusion as much as I used to, and I’m also happy when calls are properly held up or overturned. In other words, I’m fine with everything as is. And if the Eagles get fucked over by things being the way they are … well now I’m not THAT sad about it.

Because you can only optimize so much. I live in a country where every leader of industry thinks everything that can be optimized to perfection, with consumers following their lead and demanding instant fixes any time they notice any flaw in anything. It’s a process where everyone micromanages the shit out of everyone else, and it’s enervating. Nothing can be perfect—certainly not the sport of football—and nothing ever SHOULD be perfect. Perfect things are boring at best and really fucking annoying at worst (see: Brady, Tom). The magic of football lies in all of the ugly parts. There’s a part of my mind, one I don’t make a concerted effort to hide, that loves watching refs and coaches alike fuck up. Those moments are the blue veins running through a wheel of aged stilton. They add character to the sport. They add wrinkles to the plot, and they remind you that everyone out there is both fallible while also being quite good at their jobs once they’re taken off the microscope slide.

That’s still not good enough when high-profile fuckups affect high-profile games. I don’t like it when my team is on the wrong end of such imperfections (and they nearly were a week ago), but in the broad view, I accept shitty reffing just as I would any other act of God that disrupts the game: bad weather, bad bounces, freak injuries, etc. You can try to legislate human error out of things, but those efforts are destined to fail. You can even be right in wanting them fixed, but still end up dissatisfied with what you get, because you’ve been conditioned to be dissatisfied with every goddamn thing. This is still a game of winners and losers, which means that injustices will be visited upon teams from time to time. There’s no stopping it, and there are diminishing returns when you fuck with the rules over and over again. At a certain point (now), the fussing becomes the point entirely.

And I’m not here to fuss. I’m just here to eat nachos and laugh at your team getting fucked sideways.

The Games

All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms.

Five Throwgasms

Cowboys at Vikings: I’m gonna spare you any extended homerism in this capsule because I got plenty of that out of my system in this other blog post. I’ll also tell you that my homerism levels, presently, are absolutely toxic. I don’t wanna hear anyone pooh-pooh my team right now, even if (especially if) it’s OTHER Vikings fans doing the pooh-poohing. My fatalism is gone, and I’ll rip your dick off if you try to reinstall it into my system. I was already approaching dangerous homerism levels when the T.J. Hockenson trade went down and I read Bill Barnwell saying, “If he had originally been drafted in the fourth round, we likely would not think of him as much more than a solid player. His receiving production is right in line with Tyler Higbee and Evan Engram since entering the league,” and I was like EXCUSE ME, YOU MOTHERFUCKER? EVAN ENGRAM?! I’LL FUCKING KILL YOU.

So anyway, I have to keep all that in check. Also, Dak Prescott is gonna have to get his shit together at some point. It’d be annoying if his career ended up playing out exactly the same as that of the guy he replaced.

Four Throwgasms

Titans at Packers: Here’s Mike Vrabel explaining to Titans beat guy and Hall of Fame voter Paul Kuharsky why his team doesn’t use an offensive coordinator:

I actually don’t wanna focus on Vrabel blowing off Kuharsky’s follow-up, I just wanna focus on the meat of his answer:

“As long as the play calls are given to the playcaller in a timely fashion and that we have time to get out there … I think players are more important than plays.”

Playcalling is, bar none, the easiest target for fans to pick on because of hindsight, and because it’s very easy to call the right play in your head. I do this all the time when my team is facing eight in the box and, for some reason, audibles to a run. Every single goddamn time. When it happens, I think to myself, “Fuck you man, I’d never call that run. I play MADDEN, buddy!” But then again, I’ve watched teams with superficially bad playcalling (like the Titans) win many games. So maybe it really is as simple as just making sure everyone knows the play and knows it on time. Maybe that’s 90 percent of the job. Remind me to erase all of this when Tennessee blows another home playoff game two months from now.

Three Throwgasms

Eagles at Colts: In case you missed Jim Irsay going full metal diaper earlier in the week, here’s that:

If Irsay’s sad-ass team manages to beat Philly this week, well then I guess I have to give him some modicum of credit for nuking his own team’s season, but I somehow doubt they’ll pull off that little miracle.

Jets at Patriots

Bears at Falcons

Niners at Cardinals

Two Throwgasms

Chiefs at Chargers: Yes, you have to watch the Chargers on Sunday night for the second straight week. This is still preferable to watching the Broncos in primetime, but we’re talking about a team that has a grand total of three healthy players on its roster at the moment. It’s not ideal.

Speaking of things that aren’t ideal? Blake Shelton…

Why? Why must I see this man’s raggedy face everyone I go? I don’t watch The Voice. I hate country music more than I hate organized religion. And yet everywhere I turn … Blake Shelton. I can’t check out at the grocery store without Joanna Gaines staring at me with her dead eyes, and I can’t watch football without this mouthbreathing hayseed gollying up whatever shitty reality show/album/award show/Christmas tree lighting ceremony that’ll have him. You listen to me, Blake Shelton: if I ever see you out in public, I will strangle you to death with your own Wranglers. I hope Gwen leaves you to marry the Bush guy again.

Bengals at Steelers

Panthers at Ravens

Lions at Giants

Rams at Saints

Browns at Bills

One Throwgasm

Commanders at Texans: For the past year and a half, the Texans have been able to toil in safe obscurity thanks to other teams being consistently louder embarrassments: the Jaguars, the Giants, the Commanders, the Colts, the Raiders, etc. They could hide in the shadows while amassing draft picks, kicking the preacher man out of the front office, and seeing if Davis Mills was a viable long-term quarterback. And Deshaun Watson comes back to play next week, surely giving them even further cover to avoid close inspection.

But alas, they can only avoid it for so long…

That’s not good. Well look, what about Mills? Maybe he’s got potential!

Ah OK, well, maybe head coach Lovie Smith has a plan to address all of these problems…

This team was founded 23 years ago. In that span, they’ve never gone to a conference title game. Their best coach was one who won his only Super Bowl title after they’d fired him. Their all-time leading passer is Matt Schaub. Their most promising era was when Watson was paired with a failed dictator of a head coach. The most memorable moment in their franchise history was when their late founder referred to NFL players as prison inmates. And they still have the stupidest nickname in professional sports. So do spare some hate for this organization in the coming weeks. They’re gonna fire Lovie, bring in more failed Patriots coaches and execs, draft a new QB to ruin, and live at the bottom of a tapped oil well for the rest of eternity.

I do like the red helmets, though. Those can stay.

Raiders at Broncos

Pregame Song That Makes Me Wanna Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall

“Wet Blanket,” by METZ! No, not the baseball team. This is a group of people that actually fulfill their potential! From Brad:

If I listen to this too long at work, I worry that I will punch a hole through my computer screen. Awesome. Also, the music video for this is hella creepy.

Sure is. If it weren’t, I’d be disappointed.

Great Moments In Poop History

Reader Hamilton sends in this flawless story I’ll call ALL THE RIGHT POOPS:

One day my freshman year of high school, I was getting ready for football practice and had to take a dump. As I was approaching the locker room bathroom, my heart sank a bit when I saw one of our largest senior linemen leaving as I was going in. The guy was around 280 pounds, which incidentally was exactly double my own body weight at the time, and he had left a disaster in the toilet that was by far the largest shit I'd ever seen and, to this day, still have ever seen.

There were two huge logs, each roughly the length and girth of an empty paper towel roll, coiled around the bowl in opposite directions, plus a third one disappearing into the hole that was propped up on one of the other logs and breaching the surface of the water by like four inches. Oddly there was no toilet paper in the bowl.

This was 25 years ago and this image is still vividly melted into by brain. I was so shocked I audibly yelped, "What the fuck?!" and started laughing. One of the other seniors heard me and came in to investigate. He played it cool like, "What's the problem, it's just poop. Look, see how easy this is?" and walked into the stall and performatively flushed it. The water swirled around and drained normally, but the logs didn't budge at all, even the one that was already halfway down the hole. The dude was like, "Oh. Hmm, yeah sorry man I can't help you there." And at that point I understood why there wasn't any toilet paper in there.

Bad form by that other senior to not call the rest of the team over to gaze at that dump. You call yourself a high schooler, Todd? Read the locker room.

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 filthily named Packers GM Brian Gutekunst, who is somehow NOT the beneficiary of leaguewide nepotism. One look at Gutekunst and I think to myself, “Oh well he’s clearly the nephew of Mike Munchak.” Can’t believe he got here on his own merits.

Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week

Big Hurt Beer! From Kevin:

Big Hurt Beer comes to us fully backed by Frank Thomas of the Chicago White Sox. Seven percent alcohol. Only comes in 24 ounces.

As it should. And you might think to yourself, “Well, Frank Thomas probably just licensed his name out for that shit and never actually drank it.” Au contraire, mon frère. When Kevin says that Frank Thomas fully backed his namesake poison, he wasn’t exaggerating.

Just imagining a couple of rent-a-cops strong-arming some poor fan who dared to walk into this beer signing with just a hat.

Gameday Movie Of The Week For Texans Fans

William Friedkin’s Sorcerer, which I watched on Roth’s recommendation, and because it cost a whopping 74 cents for me to rent on Prime Video. This movie kicks hefty ass, AND it has the bonus of being the least PG movie to ever get a PG rating. If you grew up in the '70s and '80s, you know that the there are a lot of contenders for that title. I know because I’ve seen most of them, but NONE of those other pre–PG-13 masterworks are as demonstrably not for children as this one, I assure you.

The fact that Sorcerer, which has no sorcerers in it, came out the same time as Star Wars only makes its wildly inappropriate MPAA rating more hilarious. I can already picture some out-of-it dad taking his kid to Star Wars, seeing that it’s sold out, telling his poor kid, “Hey Billy, why don’t we do see the magician movie instead?” and then subjecting little Billy to a two-hour bloodbath featuring four underworld fugitives driving a convoy of trucks containing wet nitroglycerin across the Colombian rainforest. I would watch a movie ABOUT Billy’s life after that trauma, that’s how taken I was with Sorcerer itself. When I saw that Roy Scheider was in the cast, I knew right away that Roth hadn’t steered me wrong. Four stars.

Gratuitous Simpsons Quote

“Fellow citizens! When I learned about the impending crisis, I caught the very next plane to Springfeld... field.”

Enjoy the games, everyone.

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