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The Birth Of A Scar

Bike crash
Fox Photos/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.

I fell off my bike. This was something I both feared and also expected might happen one day. I had a brainfart cruising down a hill, hit the brakes too fast, and my rear wheel slipped out from under me. Once my bike started to skid, I knew. I remember my thought process in the ensuing second-and-a-half distinctly. The first thought was oh fuck, the moment has finally arrived. The second thought was I wonder what kind of wheelchair they’ll give me; I hope it has good lumbar support.

My third thought was OW.

I slid hard down onto the pathway, with the asphalt taking its pound of flesh in the exchange. I landed on my left knee and the rest of my body followed in its wake, lightly splitting me in half. A few extra mph in the fall and I’d probably be recovering from a hip replacement surgery right now. I was 10 miles from home. I did NOT have my phone on me. It was my birthday. My parents were due to arrive at our house in two hours.

I lay down in the center of the pathway and let out a succession of pained howls and fun dad sounds. An old man biking in the other direction stopped to ask me if I needed anything. His kindness in asking turned out to be all that I required. I sat up. I had not fully split in half. More like a dress rehearsal for being drawn and quartered. My left side hurt like a mother, but I hadn’t broken any bones, nor had I suffered any deep gashes. I didn’t have to go to a hospital, which is a bigger upset than Tennessee-Bama was. I don’t always have such good luck in falling down. I don’t EXPECT such good luck, nor would you if you were my age and had been through some of the shit that I’ve been through.

I told the old man who had stopped that I was OK, and he biked off as I assessed the damage to my body. It won’t shock you to hear that booboos feel different at age 46 than they do at, say, age 11. I’d fallen off my bike many times as a kid, same as any other kid, and had the requisite collection of faint markings on my knees and elbows from those roadside flayings. Now I had another two in the offing. There was a small one on my right wrist that was so deep red it looked like a miniature Lennox Lewis had punched it. The other one—the money abrasion—was on my left leg. It was the size of a wristwatch face, and it sweated blood. Not a gash. Not a wound. A true skinning. I could see tiny droplets of blood rise through the pores of my skin and then, strangely, hold in place and refuse to fall down my leg. If I wasn’t gonna bleed out on the pavement, then I was gonna be all right.

I got back on my bike and rode the 10 miles back home to greet my folks. And yes, I’m telling you the distance to burnish my warrior cred. After I walked through the front door, I immediately played nurse to myself. Have kids for long enough and you become an expert in ad hoc first aid. I cleaned the fuck out of my wounds, watching the hydrogen peroxide foam up atop them. Looked like a grade-school science experiment. I dried the booboos as best I could, busted out the Neosporin, and then applied fat band-aids to my knee that would have to be changed every few hours as the blood finally started to let. I lost a lot of good leg hairs in the ensuing days. Real hairs. Brave hairs. Even when I shaved around the Great Red Spot to avoid involuntary plucking, the adhesive still found a few strays to root out. I didn’t enjoy that part, but I was confident that my jayvee army medic skills have saved my knee, if not my life itself.

I didn’t count on staph mounting a campaign on my body.

If you’re like me and only know staph as the byproduct of playing football for Greg Schiano, you should know that you’ve definitely gotten it in your lifetime, likely many times. Staph bacteria hang out on your skin and around your orifices all day long. So when you get a cut and it gets infected—swollen, a touch of red around the edges—that’s latent staph seizing on a free meal at the buffet. Staph only becomes STAPH when the redness and swelling break free from the grip of OTC antibiotic creams and anti-inflammatories. That’s when you need a pro to handle it.

But I had just biked 10 miles home on a bum leg and then pulled a Rambo on my own lacerations. I was the pro, as far as I was concerned. I could walk this off. And then a funny thing happened: Walking became quite painful. If I stood up, the pain in my knee built to a rising thrum that left me so hobbled that my wife started to get flashbacks to much worse injuries I’d once suffered. Whenever I changed bandages, I was greeted by a skein of yellow pus atop a still dampened patch of raw skin. It looked like I had treated my wound with wood glue. Perhaps I wasn’t the DIY badass that I thought I was.

I went to my nurse practitioner and rolled up my pant leg. When I did, she visibly recoiled. You don’t want health care professionals to be surprised anything you have. You don’t want them being like HOLY FUCK I’VE NEVER SEEN THAT BEFORE. She gave me a 10-day regimen of horse antibiotics, plus tacit permission to take all the Advil I pleased, which I did. She told me to call her if my leg fell off.

I never ended up having to call her, but I would end up needing all 10 days of those antibiotics, because that’s how long it took the infection to go away. The pain slowly abated over the course of those days, and the wound itself finally began to dry. In its place came the biggest scab I’ve ever lucked into possessing. I’m no longer 11 years old, but I remain fascinated by scabs. You should be too, because scabs are proof of every human being’s—every mammal’s—regenerative superpowers. I can’t grow an amputated limb back like a starfish, but I can watch my own skin heal itself in real time. No amount of outside dressing I do is as effective as the natural healing powers that the human body has. You get cut, and the platelets in your blood rush to the site to stanch the bleeding from within. Those platelets work with proteins and other assorted first-line workers hanging out in your bloodstream to form a crude netting at that site that collects dried blood cells and creates a clot: a shield from the outside world. With that shelter in place, your dermis goes about the work of repairing itself. And then, once all that contract labor is done, the scab falls away and hey presto! There’s a reborn patch of skin ready to go: one that’s often as tough and as strong as the skin it replaced.

That miracle, however, can be interrupted by a little boy like me who enjoys picking at his body the way one might pick at a Thanksgiving turkey fresh out of the oven. I spent weeks touching my scab, probing it for readiness. It was harder than a dinner plate and didn’t always take kindly to outside contact. Having a scab on any joint is always dicey because scabs don’t care to be bent or cracked. If I moved in bed, the scab let me know about it. Anytime it cracked, the pain came on loud and fresh. When I felt bold, I’d lift away a part of the scab just to see if the new skin was ready. Sometimes it was, other times a fresh stream of blood would shoo me off. I took to clipping the edges of the scab, like it was a fingernail. I had never clipped scabs before. It’s not as satisfying as picking at them, but it has a far greater margin for error.

Day by day, millimeter by millimeter, the scab shrank. One day I removed the whole thing cleanly and the skin was still raw. A much thinner scab formed over it and I was soon able to pick that away, too. Then came a thinner scab, and then a thinner one. My platelets running the victory formation. A month after my accident, their work was officially done. No more scabs of any kind. Instead, just this…

I still pick at this new skin as if the scab is still there, as if I don’t want the scab to ever leave. But scabs DO leave. They’re only designed to hang around for a week or two. After that, you get a scar. Forever.

I have other scars on my body: from accidents, from surgeries, from middle school woodshop accidents, etc. I don’t prize them like war wounds. I don’t recoil at them like I’m horrified by myself or my travails. I just find them FASCINATING. I find the whole of my body fascinating, really. If there’s some vanity in that statement, so be it. I love getting nose to nose with a mirror and studying the map of my face. I love curling my fingers so that my hands look like doggie paws. I love plucking stray hairs and feeling the pain. I have a touch of eczema on my right knee that’s just the right amount of eczema, enough for me to fuss over it to my heart’s content without it growing beyond its present borders.

And I love my scars. I touch them. I stare at them. I remember their origins. Each one is a signpost. You get older and your life experience grows beyond your memory’s natural capacity. It’s hard to remember 46 years entirely, much less 50, then 60, then 80, and so on. A scar eases that workload. It’s a mark of memory. Best of all, a scar is a reminder that your body WORKS. Mine, after all these years, still does. Quite well, actually.

I kept on riding my bike as my knee healed. Every time I went down the hill where I had my accident, I pumped the brakes enough that anyone walking could pass me by with relative ease. But as the weeks went by and the scar fell away, I loosened my grip on the brakes down that hill. I could go faster. I could regain my command. I could keep living, because my body wants me to. Maybe I fall again one day. Maybe I get another staph infection. Another fat scab. Maybe that happens. But if it does, I know what happens afterward. I get better.

The Games

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

Five Throwgasms

Vikings at Bills: I’m not ready to LIKE Kirk Cousins, because liking Kirk Cousins goes against everything I stand for both morally and football-wise. That said, I am a shameless homer who cannot get enough of my team being happy as fuck. Plus I can like Kirko Chains, because that’s a totally different person. WHO COULD EVER TELL THAT MAN IS THE GLASSES IS AMERICA’S FOREMOST JESUS DORK? Not me!

And here’s another kick-ass moment of team bonding.

And fuck it, let’s get the owner in on this shit, too.

It doesn’t even have to be my team winning for me to enjoy a good locker room celebration. Shit man, I even loved JON GRUDEN breaking it down with his charges before he got nailed for doing all that racism:

And then there’s most iconic locker room moment of all. The catchphrase may have gotten old, but this video sure as shit hasn’t.

I’ve been in winning locker rooms and lemme tell you: It feels every bit as good as it looks. Maybe the Vikings’ magic carpet ride ends this week in Buffalo, or at some other point where the schedule starts to get too real. Maybe that fuckhead Adam Schefter jinxed them by dressing up as Kirko before MNF. But not every win has to be a means to an end. I can enjoy things as they are now, and I can remember that seeing moments of unbridled joy from my team, both on the field and in the locker room, is worth all the heartache that comes before and after. And fuck the Packers.

Four Throwgasms

Seahawks at Bucs (Munich): Germans love American football, so I expect this game to be a full Oktoberfest hoedown, with cheerleaders in dirndls and fans throwing beer steins at the refs and the broadcast crew giving out a giant pretzel to the star of the game after the final whistle blows. Have The Scorpions and Kraftwerk play a twin bill at the half. Don’t fuck around with this.

Three Throwgasms

Commanders at Eagles: Last week I had to listen to Mark Schlereth treat Taylor Heinicke like he was the second coming of Brett Favre, and somehow that was even worse than anything Dan Snyder has done. Mark Schlereth should be forced to sell his hot sauce factory, and then killed.

Chargers at Niners

Cardinals at Rams

Browns at Dolphins

Jaguars at Chiefs

Two Throwgasms

Cowboys at Packers: Aaron Rodgers is gonna shut it down before the season is over. The Packers will get their shit ruined by Micah Parsons and then Aaron will pivot from, “There are some people on this team who aren’t willing to put in the work and we all know who they are” to, “Oh wow my finger isn’t getting better, Pat McAfee. I’ve decided to it needs surgery, followed by at least a month of rune therapy,” and then he’ll peace the fuck out on this wretched season. He’s brave like that. Also his contract is somehow now more onerous than Kirk’s is. HOW MARVELOUS.

On the other side of the ball, it’ll be extremely funny to me if the Cowboys sabotage their own title hopes because Jerry Jones forces them to play Zeke Elliott instead of Tony Pollard, who is clearly the better back at this point. I know that Mike McCarthy will end up fucking Dallas one way or another, but Jerry mandating that Beav feed Zeke the ball 20 times a game for 60 yards just because Jerry and Zeke have the same taste in luxury escorts would put a fresh new spin on the collapse.

Lions at Bears

One Throwgasm

Falcons at Panthers: Poor Al.

Broncos at Titans

Saints at Steelers

Texans at Giants

Zero Throwgasms

Colts at Raiders

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

“Phantom,” by Disfear! From Brian:

If this song doesn't make you wanna break everything within arm’s reach then there is something fucking wrong with you.

Turns out I got nothing wrong with me, Brian! I evvvn juffft burk mahh kybrd.

Great Moments In Poop History

Reader Daniel sends in this flawless story I’ll call THE GREAT BROWN WAY:

A few years ago. I'm in a production of Guys & Dolls. I've been working as a professional actor for about a decade or so at this point, but this was my first show at a place that was kind of a big deal. The choreographer was a Tony nominee. I have no facility with dancing, so I was already intimidated. I'm understudying a bunch of roles in the show, but my day-to-day is just ensemble work: playing small characters throughout the show, one of which is the police officer who breaks up the illegal dice game.

On this particular night, I was sick. Biblically sick. Sweaty-toothed, fever dream sick. But I'm not gonna call out of the show; I've got my pride and I don't want to look like an amateur. So it's the end of Act 1 and I'm about to run in through the audience to break up the dice game. About five seconds before I make my entrance, I feel this desperate urge to fart. I figure I'd better try to relieve a little pressure so that I don't rip a big fart on stage and have a microphone catch it.

Out comes a full throated, pants-filling, symphony of excrement. Two family sized cans of Campbell's Chunky running down either leg.

I look over and the guy who's playing Lt. Brannigan and his eyes are huge. He starts to say, "Don't go out there." But I lock eyes with him and whisper, "It's too late!" and run out for my entrance. What I haven't mentioned is that the comedic bit at the end of the act is I run on to break up the dice game, and the actor playing Nicely Nicely runs into me and knocks me backwards into a reverse somersault. I didn't have time to formulate a Plan B during my half-second of running on stage, so I just sort of went for it: a rolling backward somersault, in a gallon of my own sweaty shit, in front of a sold out house, on stage with Broadway veterans, performing a timeless American classic.

I didn't even tell the wardrobe department it happened. I just snuck my costume home and washed it in the bathtub. Hey, the show must go on.

Encore! Encore!

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?

This can only be Commanders GM Marty Hurney, and you know it. When you’ve got a hairstyle that screams Trent Lott, you’re nut deep in Washington chicanery. I wanna tell you I’m amazed that Dan Snyder recruited Hurney—who was once suspended by Carolina after his ex-wife accused him of harassment—as part of an organizational whitewashing campaign. But I’m not. You saw the Brian Robinson Jr. statement last night. You know exactly who these fuckers are.

Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week

Boxer Light, which looks like the kind of beer you’d find for sale at Five Below next to the toy ball bin. From Matt:

This past weekend, some friends and I traveled from Illinois to Muncie, Indiana to visit a few people at Ball State. There's not a ton to do in Muncie besides drink, so we went to the liquor store to load up. My buddy asked the girl working the counter what the best deal in the house was. She directed us to Boxer Light. $13 for a case of 36. It tasted like Indiana.

I bet it did.

Gameday Movie Of The Week For Packers Fans

Drive My Car. Did I have the Beatles song running in my head all throughout this movie? Yes. Do I even like that song? No. Is it IN the movie? No. It’d be pretty strange for a three-plus hour Japanese movie based on a Murakami short story to suddenly have its main character be like, “You guys like The Beatles? Then this song’ll change your life!” It’s not that kind of movie. It’s an intimate epic about love, grief, betrayal, and forgiveness. Also the cinematography is incredible. I still have a leftover COVID affect where I cherish any movie/TV show shot on location. Real locations, here on Earth. This movie gave me a shitload of Japan. Actual Japan, not one with giant lizards and shit. I even liked looking at the parking lots in this movie. Three-and-a-half stars.

Gratuitous Simpsons Quote

“My dog's name is Santa's Little Helper. One time he crawled under the house and when he came out, he was covered with ants. Then he ran into a church and drank all the holy water.”

Enjoy the games, everyone.

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