The Integrity Of The Games Has Never Mattered
1:53 PM EST on December 30, 2021
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.
You and I have had to watch some uncommonly shitty football these past two weeks, with myriad teams forced to play their most vital games of the season while being woefully understaffed. I watched the Ravens tumble all the way out of the playoff field because their promising backup, Tyler Huntley, got relegated to the COVID-19 list. I watched the Colts win a horrific game on Christmas night without the entire left side of their offensive line. I watched the Raiders eke out a win against the ghost of Nick Mullens. Every time RedZone Channel switches games, there’s a 50/50 chance that the head coach won’t be on the sidelines at all.
I spent the bulk of this season treating players who got put on the COVID-19 list the same as any other player who’s been injured. It was an easy bit of mental jiu-jitsu, but less so once Omicron came ashore and spread across locker rooms faster than a Greg Schiano–hatched staph infection. These final games are supposed to matter. A lot. But this time around they’ve been suffused with preseason energy because so many players who shouldn’t be anywhere near the field have been thrown onto it.
Thus, you could reach into your bag of asterisks right now and argue, quite persuasively, that the end of this NFL season shouldn’t be considered legitimate. You could also do so with the current NBA season, and with a 2021 baseball season that featured secret balls. The latter came just a few years after an Astros cheating scandal that reached into the World Series and resulted not with forfeiture of games but with the Astros gleefully rebranding themselves as the Black Mambas of the national pastime. Everywhere you look, the integrity of games is suspect, if not an outright fucking joke.
But truthfully, I don't think that fans, deep down, really give a shit. I know I don't. The “game” between the Cowboys and a decimated WFT on Sunday night—a game that was well over before halftime—was still the highest-rated TV show of any kind that night. I put it on. Of course I did. I’d rather watch bad football than no football, especially if the result of that bad football makes Dan Snyder unhappy. Do you really expect me to sit there and be outraged at this shit? I live in a country where Donald Trump got elected president and then acquitted for urging his supporters to burn down the fucking Capitol. I can’t bring myself to care about who did what steroid or which team was forced to play with three guys. All I want is something to watch. I bore easily.
The NFL knows this, which is why the NFL can keep doing what it’s always done. The NFLPA tried to preserve at least the veneer of "game integrity" two weeks ago when team outbreaks began to grow:
That game did end up being postponed. For two days. The Browns’ head coach and their starting quarterback were still absent for it. No one was made safer by this delay, but it gave off the faintest whiff of responsibility, which was good enough for the NFL and, perhaps, for the NFLPA as well. No one ended up questioning the final result. The inventory is the inventory, and all of this month's hideous games will likely be forgotten anyway now that the NFL has altered (or discarded, depending upon you see it) its COVID protocols to ensure that the January slate features more fully armed and operational teams.
I long ago gave up on the idea of integrity in sports. Believing in competitive purity is for children. Go all the way back to the dawn of sports and you’ll find compelling reasons to question the outcomes: segregated leagues, gambling, game-throwing, foreign substances, cheating, replacement players, shitty officiating, crooked officiating, performance-enhancing drugs, backroom corruption and manipulation, frozen envelopes, sham amateurism, and on and on. None of it has stopped me from watching. If you ever catch me claiming that a game has been rigged or is illegitimate in some other way, it’s because the offending player/team/coach is someone I’ve always hated and am looking to discredit.
Otherwise, the lack of integrity is the point. It keeps the games weird. It’s the chaos agent. Sometimes that results in me having to watch Ian Book humiliate himself in primetime, but Ian Book went to Notre Dame so fuck him.
All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms.
Chiefs at Bengals: There are only two outcomes for this season: a Bucs-Chiefs Super Bowl rematch, or Aaron Rodgers winning it all and showing the haters who’s boss. So forget everything I said up above. This season is invalid and should be stricken from the record book.
Cardinals at Cowboys: I have yet to get COVID and frankly, I’m starting to feel a little left out. I’m gonna go on a barnstorming handshake tour of Texas to make up the difference.
Rams at Ravens: The annoying thing about the NFL talking head complex discovering complaints about analytics 15 years after every other sport did is that these arguments don’t even have to be about math. If John Harbaugh goes for two to win at game, I don’t need to look at the fabled “book” to like that decision. It’s a chance to win a game by gaining two piddly-shit yards. Why would you EVER castigate someone who takes that shot? I’ve never heard a player complain about going for it in that situation, or any other situation, frankly. Shitheads like Phil Simms extol the virtues of Football Manliness all the time, and yet they constantly endorse the most cowardly in-game strategies you’ve ever seen and then get angry at “the math” as a growing number of coaches take risks they themselves would be too chickenshit to take. Math has nothing to do with it. It’s just a straw man for weak egos. I’d fucking kill to have Harbs coach my sorry-ass team.
Dolphins at Titans: Folks, let’s give a round of applause to Ashley Feinberg for hosting last week’s Jamboroo and to Liz Cook for presiding over the Funbag this week. Liz is a fellow Clamato enjoyer, and so this is where I confess that last week was the week I discovered putting Taijin seasoning in your Clamato. It’s a goddamn fiesta in your mouth. Strongly recommended, but only if you’re brave of tongue.
Browns at Steelers: Mike Tomlin wore a gaiter on the sideline last week! Remember gaiters? There are still a few brave souls out there trying to make them happen.
Eagles at WFT: I recently decided that if I were ever an NFL owner—fingers crossed!—and needed a new coach, I would interview that coach by asking him to coach me for a day. Every time an owner interviews a perspective coach, they fly them in and then they have a dinner that, according to Chris Mortensen, ends up lasting eight hours because the two men get along so famously. Worthless. What am I gonna learn about a coach from eating a ribeye with him? NOTHING. I want that coach to make me run drills, force me to study tape, and yell at me when a ball from the JUGS machine breaks my nose. I want the full experience, baby. And then every report will be like, “Vikings owner Drew Magary is a real fucking shithead for doing this,” but I’d be too rich to care. THE PERFECT CRIME.
Falcons at Bills
Raiders at Colts
Vikings at Packers: I had to endure listening to Mark Schlereth do color for last week’s Vikings loss to the Rams, and here is something you already knew in your heart: Bad announcers make a loss even worse. I’m well accustomed to the handiwork of the 2021 Vikings by now. They’re the least reliable team on the fucking earth. They can’t run block. They have a playbook that makes Brian Schottenheimer look like Andy Reid. They hate passing downfield. They love going three-and-out. They’re sixth in the league in turnover differential but NEVER score off of those turnovers. They play impressive defense for 28 minutes and then piss it all away at the end of every half. This is a shit team, so much so that I might get my Christmas wish in seeing Mike Zimmer, Rick Spielman, and Kirk Cousins all run out of town because of it.
But in the meantime, I still have to watch these games. And while the losses come naturally to me, they become actively irritating when accompanied when a talking chew toy like Schlereth gets assigned the game and never shuts the fuck up. Schlereth knows more football than I do and he’s wildly enthusiastic about the sport, so it’s not like he has to suck. But reader, he does. He sucks major ass. He spent all of last Sunday with Cooper Kupp’s dick in one of his meaty hands and Aaron Donald’s in the other. It was an onslaught of vacuous praise and it made me wanna die more than Vikings games normally do. Even when Schlereth said nice things about the Vikings (why would you do that), he was still insufferable. This is on me for not just muting the TV and putting on Enya, but I’d like passable commentary with any loss. It doesn’t have to be good. It just has to be easy to ignore. You cannot ignore Mark Schlereth. Can't believe John Madden is dead and now we're stuck with this shit-for-brains.
Broncos at Chargers
Texans at Niners: Congratulations are in order to the 2021 Texans for being just good enough to be forgettable. This isn’t an easy task when you’ve buried your accused sex offender of a quarterback down on the inactive list all season, fielded a roster that Nick Saban wouldn’t offer scholarships to, and hired a nursing home president as your head coach. But god dammit if this weird, shitty team hasn’t won four games and left the Jaguars to be the league’s shining embarrassment all season long instead. A remarkable feat. Jack Easterby clearly put God on this team’s side.
Bucs at Jets: I heard a dude on NFL Network refer to Tom Brady as TB12 last week. Please never do this.
Lions at Seahawks: My wife and daughter watched Emily In Paris over break and lemme tell you: Some shows don’t require a fair shake. I don’t have to watch a full season, or even a single episode, of Emily In Paris to know it’s a complete piece of shit. All I have to do to is look up from my phone for a minute, look at what’s going on, and trust my gut implicitly. There are Disney sitcoms that have made a better first impression on me.
Giants at Bears: The Giants are gonna fire Dave Gettleman but keep Joe Judge, which means that we’re in yet another wasted season in which an NFL team keeps half its failing braintrust around for absolutely no reason. Pretty fucking sweet.
Panthers at Saints
Jaguars at Patriots
Pregame Song That Makes Me Wanna Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall
“Crack of Doom,” by Kvelertak! Oh fuck yes, this definitely revs my engine. From Jordo:
Turnt to 11? Blistering intro riff? Check. Face melting but not overly serious brooding metal w/ a pinch of Andrew WK party vibe with chants and callbacks for levity? Confirmed. Three guitarists for maximum rocknroll-ness? Damn straight. Featuring a member of modern metal kings, Mastodon? Roger that. Bonus metal street cred for the most Nordic band name possible which translates to “chokehold”? Fuck ya.
I haven’t seriously delved into Kvelertak’s catalog before, so now I know how I’ll be spending the entirety of 2022.
Worst Quarterback In The League Of The Week
Oh hell, let’s go with Carson Wentz. Ain’t like I’m keeping this part of the column around next year anyway.
Needless Public Service Announcement
I deleted Twitter off my phone over a week ago. I’ve essentially never taken a vacation from Twitter, because I always liked it. If I was ever bored, I could open up my feed and HEY PRESTO! There was some news, and some jokes, and some bad tweets to shit on. But I figured that, just this once, I should test out going on a Twitter hiatus over Christmas and then get back on my bullshit immediately afterward.
Turns out I’m gonna keep it off my phone for good. You’ve read enough sanctimonious horseshit from people quitting Twitter. Those people always come back, and the only reason they quit in the first place is because people were mean to them in the replies. But my replies are just fine. It was my FEED that was running me down. And I don’t even hate-follow people anymore. I follow people that I like. The problem was that I would read every tweet, every day. All of them. Sometimes I re-read Twitter when I was bored. And what happens when you read Twitter that much is A) You never put your phone down, and B) Your brain gets put on a rail. No sense in me using my brain when I could let my feed do all the thinking for me. Everyone else's interests became my interests. Their neuroses, mine as well. I’d log onto Twitter and my thoughts would stay there, even after I’d put my phone down. I would think in tweet form. I’d live inside the feed and not really notice much else about my day.
So when I took Twitter off my phone, I suddenly had free time. Inside my mind and out. I didn’t have to care about every tweet. I didn’t have to mentally react to each of them. I wasn’t tired all the time. My mind wasn’t fried from constantly scrolling through a stream of awful news made worse by someone adding a “This is fine” as if that helped, tweetstorm highlights, performative soul-baring, obvious movie opinions, people declaring whatever year it is the worst year ever, and tedious NFL news. I have more energy now. I used to nap every day—which turned out to be because of Twitter!—and now I don’t have to. It’s really fucking weird. I’ve de-aged by 10 years. I might even take up surfing.
Anyway, this is all to say that you won’t see quite as many tweets from me as you did in the past. And if I don’t see your tweets, it was because I was treating myself to a shopping spree at H Mart. If I ever have to download Twitter onto my phone again—a certainty when I have to travel—I’m gonna keep it hidden in the app library and then delete it again when the plane touches back down at home. This will affect your life in exactly no discernible way, but I figured you should know. Only fair.
Bad Local Commercial Of The Week!
Ben’s Kosher Deli! From reader Chris:
The line reading! The frightened man at the end! I can’t get enough! Francesa definitely eats here twice a week.
What I like is that no one in this ad actually seems to care about being in it. It’s like they pulled random people out of dialysis treatment, against their will, to read these lines. Food looks edible, though.
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!!!!
(* - potential midseason firing)
Remember Jon Gruden getting fired? That was this season! I swear!
Anyway, keep in mind that the NFL changed their rules this year so that teams can interview prospective coaching candidates two weeks earlier than in previous years. This was the league saying to teams PLEASE FIRE YOUR COACHES IN DECEMBER, and guess how many teams have done so thus far? None. Pathetic. My team could have been halfway to signing Josh McDaniels by now! And what a coup that would have been.
Great Moments In Poop History
Reader Brett sends in this story I call REMEMBER THE TIGHTY WHITIES:
IN my late-twenties I played in a co-ed flag football league in Washington, DC. the night before one of our games, I went out in Georgetown with my friends. We got absolutely plastered on bad beer and Irish Car Bombs (This was the early aughts, that WAS what was cool).
The following morning, I woke up about twenty minutes before our game in a haze. I threw on a t-shirt and shorts and hustled over to Hains Point for the game. It was a particularly hot fall day, so I had a good booze sweat going by the time I got there. I immediately ran into the field as the game had already started. I was still in pretty good shape from running track in college—age and life hadn't crushed me yet—so I played wide receiver. When I got into the huddle, one of guys on the team who played quarterback said, "You fucking smell like a brewery!" "Just throw me the ball," I said, still buzzed from the previous night.
I lined up, ran a short route and turned back just as the ball got to me. I caught it in stride and ran. I had one guy to beat. As he ran towards me, I juked right, avoiding the defender with a pretty sweet move. However, as I glided around my opponent, a sudden explosion erupted in my butt. It all happened in slow motion like a Michael Bay action scene. I could feel the boiling, sweaty pooh volcano splatter the inside of my shorts as I slid to the right.
Suddenly, I was past the defender with load of hot gravy swirling around in my shorts. I clenched my buttcheeks as tight as I could and duck-waddled into the end zone. I dropped the ball as my teammates cheered and padded right into the bushes and trees. Once I was safely shrouded, I tore off my shorts and thanked God I wore briefs. The underwear had held most of the damage in check. It was like taking off a half-filled water balloon.
I grabbed handfuls of leaves and did my best to wipe the piping hot gravy smeared across my butt and taint. I prayed none of the female players could see me, ditched the underwear in the shrubs and sheepishly returned to the sideline. I told everyone I had to throw up because I drank too much the night before. That was by far the least humiliating story I could come up with.
And a convincing one!
Gametime Snack Of The Week
Terry’s Chocolate Orange, which is delicious and caters to the 8-year-old in me by mandating that I smack that bad boy down on the countertop when opening. So, so satisfying. Terry’s also makes a toffee chocolate orange, which I will hoard in bulk in the event of a nuclear holocaust.
Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week
Bull Max. It’s fuck you in a bottle. From Matt:
In college my friends and I did the "Bull Max Challenge" which involved drinking two 40's before they got warm. It tasted horrible and many of us puked, but it got us drunk so we didn't care.
Dan Campbell’s Clump Dog Of The Week: Cordarrelle Patterson
“I don’t care where they line that guy up, he can play. We couldn’t stop him from scoring the other day, and that’s on me. Not gonna sugarcoat it. I’m not getting the job done. I suck. I am shit. I deserve to be chained to a cinder block and thrown off a bridge. I deserve to decompose at the bottom of the river, with otters and very small river animals eating me down to my bones. I should be forgotten; wiped clean from the historical record so that I never existed. I am fucking weak. I am nothing. I want to die so that the burden of existence no longer plagues me or the world itself.”
[gets a three-year contract extension]
Sunday Afternoon Movie Of The Week For Jaguars Fans
Licorice Pizza. Every Paul Thomas Anderson movie has been, in my mind, either a masterpiece or an incoherent piece of shit. But this is the first three-star PTA movie I’ve seen. Licorice Pizza wasn’t amazing, but it wasn’t a trainwreck. It was just extremely pleasant, and Alana Haim is fantastic in it. It also featured Sean Penn doing comedy, which he’s very good at and which he has steadfastly refused to do since 1982. I could watch a whole movie of Sean Penn being an insane, hilarious drunk. There’s still time!
Also, if you’re wondering “Who’s the better acting failson?” between Philip Seymour Hoffman’s kid and James Gandolfini’s kid, Lil’ Hoffman wins in a rout.
Gratuitous Simpsons Quote
“Uh, Mrs. Simpson, I have some bad news. Your husband was found DOA.”
“Oh, my God he's dead?!”
“Oh, wait! I mean DWI. Heh heh heh I always get those two mixed up.”
Enjoy the games, everyone.