This Postseason, Root For The Money
1:49 PM EST on January 11, 2024
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.
The final week of the NFL regular season is rife with meaningless games. As many times as your local color guy will toss out a rhetorical, “You think this game doesn’t mean something to the Panthers?!” the nihilistic reality will be evident on your screen, from kickoff to final whistle. But there IS one exception here, and it’s for players who like you, the discerning gambler, have real money riding on what is an otherwise perfunctory outcome. After Ravens edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney notched a sack in a game that Baltimore was free to lose (and did), he triggered a $750,000 bonus clause in his contract, and celebrated accordingly.
Not to be outdone, Chiefs edge rusher Chris Jones, who got a fresh contract extension right before the season began, triggered a $1 million bonus in that contract when he planted poor Easton Stick deep into the turf. Not only was Jones elated to get his cash, but all of his teammates joined in on the money party:
Sports fans have always had a strange relationship with money that isn't theirs. Alongside their intense emotional connection to the work that athletes do sits a conditioned and bloodless conception of the money that work provides. An NFL player who makes too much money is a liability to the team’s salary cap, and therefore an impediment to winning. An NFL player who makes too little money (or even a college player who is a similar bargain) is a priceless asset that must be exploited while their price remains low. An NBA player who makes too much money is a burden that has to be dumped onto another team in a trade, like an old car. Performance always takes precedent over compensation. It’s not your money, but is it your athlete, and so the money they make is only important when it benefits you, the fan.
That’s why, dating back to Kevin Garnett signing what was then the richest contract extension in NBA history, any player who signs a fat deal has to throw out a “It wasn’t about the money” sound bite at the presser, to reassure both fans and the media that they’re still going to try hard even though they’re mega-rich now. Even in 2024, this Victorian-era song and dance around money remains in place, especially when any athlete is caught on tape spending their money in a way that scared white people would disapprove of (James Harden at the club). Rarely do you get to see pro athletes, in person, celebrating money for money’s sake. So when I saw both Clowney and Jones dancing happily once they secured respective six- and seven-figure bonuses for themselves, I could only think one thing: SHIT YEAH.
These men deserve every penny they get. They’re risking life and limb out there for your entertainment, and they’re bringing in no small amount of revenue to their teams in doing so. And when you dream about being a pro athlete, do you only dream about what you accomplish on the field? I don’t. I dream about the money, and about everything that money can buy: cars, trips, houses, high quality booze and weed, sex ... all of it. Pro athletes spend money exactly the way a lot of Americans would like to spend it, so you should be happy for them when they get to do that.
Because owners spend their money in the most boring way possible. They buy another boring company, or they buy themselves a petty lawsuit, or they jet down to Florida to procure a sad handjob. These are not fun rich people. But Chris Jones? That’s a fun rich person, and I don’t find it rude for him to openly flex about it. He just made a million bucks. If I suddenly found myself $1 million richer, I’d dance all night, too. We all would. And if the league fined me five figures because I lowered my helmet on a bang-bang play, I’d be pissed. Again, we all would. In fact, we should be pissed on a player’s behalf when they get fined. That shit isn’t chump change, the way it’s always portrayed. You get docked $40,000, you’re gonna be upset. And these players DO get upset. Most of them know the value of a dollar, so they celebrate all of their gains and mourn all of their losses, the same as the rest of us do.
So keep that in mind when you tune in this weekend. Every player you see during the playoffs gets a hard-earned bonus that was negotiated into the CBA, and the amounts get higher as they advance. That doesn’t even account for all of the individual postseason bonuses that various players have written into their contracts. That’s a relative pittance compared to the money that these games make for league owners, but it’s still real money, and it’s still well earned. So cheer for your boys to win this weekend, and celebrate with them when they get some extra cash for it. Because these are the playoffs, and this is your Super Wild Card Jamboroo. HIT THE MUSIC.
Let’s make it rain.
All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms. And for the playoffs, I pick the games, because that’s a smart thing to do.
Chiefs (-3.5) 24, Dolphins 17. This is the Peacock game. You can only watch it if you have Peacock, which is terribly inconvenient and has already pissed off the Mike Francesas of the world to great effect. And while I’m also mildly irritated about this setup, I’m also the same guy who has said, on multiple occasions, that I would pay four figures for Sunday Ticket if it came to that. I am completely at the NFL’s mercy when it comes to pricing. I’ll go wherever the games go, and they know it. So I’m practically grateful that Roger Goodell hasn’t switched to an á la carte model where every single playoff game is a PPV that costs $500. Because he could do that at any time and get away with it. To be candid, I’m concerned that I just put that idea out into the ether.
As for the game itself, I was all ready to pick Miami to win because the Chiefs are ragged, and because all of their wideouts are pathetic slobs. The problem is that the Dolphins will be without Jaelan Phillips, Bradley Chubb, Jaylen Waddle, Raheem Mostert, Tyreek Hill’s ankle, and the door to their plane will probably blow out mid-flight. All of these injuries are bullshit. I say we should make tackling illegal.
Packers (+7.5) 30, Cowboys 27. If you think I’m gonna bank on Mike Fucking McCarthy to prevent the Jordan Lovefest from continuing another week, you have another thing coming. The Packers have a dogshit defense, and Micah Parsons is the right kind of player to ruin whatever Green Bay is planning to do offensively. But the Packers are magical little forest pixies, and their young wideout corps is blossoming before our very eyes (awww!), and everyone in the media wants to have their baby, and God himself would never let his precious son Jordan be embarrassed on national television. Also, Brandon Aubrey is suddenly missing kicks.
So I’m gonna pick the Packers to win every stupid game in these playoffs, and then I’m gonna pray for Love to continue following in Aaron Rodgers's footsteps and rip his Achilles in half. Fuck them and fuck you.
Rams (+3.5) 26, Lions 25. Here’s another pick based almost entirely on dark karma. Almost. For pure football reasons, it’s worth noting that the Rams have also won seven of their last eight, with that one loss being an overtime thriller in Baltimore that represented the toughest win the Ravens had to eke out in the entire month of December. Meanwhile, of all the teams in the playoff field right now, only the Eagles have surrendered more points per game than Detroit.
I want the Lions to win this game, I really do. If I had my druthers, Dan Campbell would call for some ballsy-ass halfback option pass on fourth down and the refs would let the ensuing touchdown stand. But that’s never been how things work with the Lions, and I think you've long known that. I need to see them beat the piss out of their old QB before I can believe in them going any further.
Also, I haven’t said nice things about Puka Nacua all season long, so I need to do that here. He’s REALLY good. I can’t believe the Rams took a stab on a wideout in the fifth round and ended up with a second Cooper Kupp to pair with the original.
Bills 30, Steelers (+10) 27. If T.J. Watt were playing in this game, I’d pick the Steelers to win it outright. But he’s out with a bum knee, and I just watched Buffalo win the AFC East despite Josh Allen turning the ball over 50 times in the red zone for the 90th time in his career. So call this one a shootout, with Sean McDermott drawing up a game plan that would make Osama bin Laden proud.
Bucs (+3) 35, Eagles 10. I know the Bucs just won the worst division in football, but who the fuck is gonna give these Eagles an automatic win right now? I wouldn’t bet on them to defeat Nebraska. Also, I hope this season puts Matt Patricia out of the league for good. I wouldn’t let that guy park my fucking car.
Browns (-3) 10, Texans 6. Here is where I abandon fatalism and go all in on Joe Flacco and the Browns defense. You have to root for the backups in these playoffs. I’ve seen backups like Jeff Hostetler, Trent Dilfer, and Nick Foles go on Super Bowl runs. Two of those three Super Bowls were some of the coolest football I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch. More to the point, we NEED backups to thrive in this league. There are too few franchise QBs, and too many of them get hurt in any given year. So I need to know that a backup QB out there still has the ability to upend the starting QB monopoly and win some games that matter.
None. Here’s some random crap to keep you entertained.
-Now ex-Falcons coach Arthur Smith got extremely mad when the Saints scored a gratuitous touchdown on a fake kneel-down at the end of the game last week. Two things can be true at the same time here. One: Jameis Winston is a dipshit for calling that play on his own and then celebrating like he just won a game that was already well in hand. I know he wanted Jamaal Williams to get his first score of the season, but it’s still Jameis, and he still sucks. Two: Arthur Smith is a fucking baby. This isn’t college football, and you’re not some poor schmuck coaching Rutgers (at least, not yet) and chafing because Ohio State just hung 70 on you. This is the NFL. There’s no running up the score here. Take your ass-kicking and deal.
-I can’t watch the Cowboys play without hearing Dak holler "HERE WE GOOOOO" right before every snap. I love it. Dak is letting me know that fun shit is about to happen, and I appreciate the heads-up. It’s fun to shout it out along with him. Here’s me doing it, in case you need a tutorial:
-I never wrote about this when it first happened, but Hall-of-Famer Kurt Warner believes that all NFL games should be played inside of domes.
Warner has hammered this point constantly, and has zero interest in backing down from it. He believes that inclement weather looks good on TV (true), but that it sucks to play in, and that you’re not seeing professionals doing their best work when they have to play outdoors.
Now, that goes against everything that John Madden taught you and me about football. The game of football belongs outside, on natural grass, in the cold. Your jersey should be dirty and there should be a single streak of blood running down from your eye. That feeds into the whole mythology of football as a rugged test of man’s will. So it’s jarring to hear Warner, a guy I genuinely respect, say FUCK ALL THAT SHIT. I have no idea if I agree with Warner, but I have played football in terrible weather and it very much DOES suck. So I like that he’s choosing this hill to die on, probably because I root for a dome team and I get pissy when other tough-guy fans treat dome teams like they’re soft. YOU try setting up to pass block out in a blizzard, shithead.
Last postseason: 8-5
Pregame Song That Makes Me Wanna Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall
“I Want Out,” by Helloween! A classic of the genre makes the Jamboroo for the first time! From Josh:
It's high energy, has great riffs, a soaring solo, and a truly anthemic, sing-a-long chorus. This song was written about wanting to leave the band, and it still became their biggest hit and final encore song (especially now that the guitarist who wanted out is back). You know it's a great song when a member can write about how badly they want to leave the band and the band agrees to record it.
That story is even better when you hear it directly from founding member Kai Hansen:
“It was a statement, yeah,” he says. “It wasn’t just wanting out of the band, it was a general thing relating to everything that was going on: poor management, other people telling us where to be and what to do, never-ending internal discussions… I just wanted to rock.”
That’s my life philosophy in a nutshell, Kai. I just wanna rock. Everything else is bullshit.
Eric Adams’ Lock Of The Week: Texans (+3) over Browns
“Now I’ve lived in Houston my whole life, and lemme tell you: this city LOVES its vegetables!”
(holds up a mason jar filled with slow-cooked brisket)
“We eat so many vegetables like this down in Texas that our cancer rate is 50 percent lower than the rest of the country’s. That’s what a healthy diet can do for you and your blood. You don’t need some doctor giving you this pill and that pill to get rid of your cancer. You just need some good old fashioned radishes!”
2023 Record: 9-8
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 2023 chopping block:
Pete Carroll – FIRED!
Bill Belichick – FIRED!
Josh McDaniels – FIRED!
Frank Reich – FIRED!
Brandon Staley – FIRED!
Ron Rivera – FIRED!
Arthur Smith – FIRED!
Mike Vrabel – FIRED!
Dennis Allen – NOT FIRED!
Adam Schefter already has Belichick linked to Atlanta, mostly because Falcons owner Arthur Blank wants to win now. You never, under any circumstances, want an owner who’s in a Win Now state of mind. That’s Leon Hess shit. Blank is gonna hire Belichick, give Kirk Cousins $100 million guaranteed (I pray), and then go 7-10 for the fourth straight year.
As for Pete Carroll, something bizarre happened yesterday when the Seahawks kicked him upstairs ... everyone was NICE. They celebrated all of Carroll’s accomplishments, and noted that he was a joy to be around. I’m not used to that kind of reception to a coach getting disappeared. I expect rancor on all sides. But Pete Carroll is the rare head coach going out on a good note, which happens in this league about as often as Halley’s Comet passes by Earth. I’m still processing it. He probably IS a swell guy, 9/11 conspiracies and all.
Great Moments In Poop History
Reader Isaak sends in this story I call INTO THE VOID:
About 15 years ago I took a solo trip out west, fly fishing and hiking my way across Wyoming and Colorado. Near the end of the trip, after a steady diet of beef jerky, beer, trail mix and god-awful convenience store food, I found myself in Rocky Mountain National Park, about to summit Long’s Peak.
Long’s is the highest summit in the Front Range: 16 miles round trip with a vertical mile of elevation change. I was up at 3am to start the trek up in time to get off the summit ahead of the afternoon lightning storms. Due to the early start I missed my normal morning constitutional, but the hike to the top is uneventful. It was 8:30 or 9am when I left the summit, about six miles to get back down to the treeline. About 1.5 miles after I left the summit, I passed an outhouse at the boulder field campsite. I could feel a slight pressure in my bowels but thought, “Fuck it, I can wait. I’ll be back at the car in a couple hours, and I’d rather not shit in an outhouse.”
Thirty minutes later, I was seriously regretting that decision. I was another mile and a half past the outhouse with two or three miles of open tundra ahead of me, and I decided I could hold out just long enough to make it back down to the treeline. So I pushed on, in ever increasing distress, for what was probably an hour. I finally made it down to an area with a few scraggly bushes, and I bailed off of the trail. I headed past the first couple of shrubs, fumbling to unclip my backpack.
As I released the waist belt on my pack, it unleashed a white hot torrent of shit straight into my pants. I was screaming “God fucking dammit” as I threw my pack off my shoulders and started fumbling around trying to clean myself up. My boxers were a total loss, and they litter the side of that mountain to this day.
Finally, I somewhat composed myself and headed back to the trail. As I stepped out of the bushes, I saw 2 SUPER hot girls taking a water break alongside the trail, not 50 feet from where I was shitting and screaming and throwing my underwear off the side of the goddamn mountain. I think I barely managed a hello before I got the hell out of there.
Best Coors Light ad ever.
And Now Let’s Down To The Sideline To Check In With Charissa Thompson
“Drew, I just talked to Aaron Rodgers as he was coming out of his ‘mindfulness cocoon,’ and he told me ‘I don’t regret anything’ about what he said about Jimmy Kimmel on Pat McAfee’s show. He also said that I should check the inside of my bottom lip, because he says, ‘That’s where they implant the microchips.’ When I checked my lip and found nothing, he told me that Dr. Fauci and the FDA have developed more sophisticated, ‘invisible’ chips that can’t be felt or even seen. Drew, when Aaron told his Jets teammates about this, they were astounded. Wide receiver Garrett Wilson told me Aaron’s ability to see what others can’t is what makes him so special, and such an inspiration in the team locker room. Then Wilson smashed a dinner plate over his head and accused me of being a shapeshifter. Back to you, Drew.”
Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week
Golden Gobi, from Mongolia! And what better liquid sustenance could there be had while out stranded in the largest, most barren, most lethally cold desert on Earth? From Graham:
A fun one from when I was in South Korea last week: Golden Gobi, a slightly malty lager from Mongolia that's perfect for a nightcap in the hotel room after your wife falls asleep. All for the princely sum of 2,500 Korean won, or roughly $1.75. I'd certainly be overjoyed to come across one in the desert!
I wonder how long you could survive in the desert on beer and beer alone. Beer is dehydrating, but it also has water in it, right? Plus every olde-timey explorer drank wine instead of water, at all hours of the day. So surely, an all-booze diet can help keep castaways alive for at least a week. And what a week! BIG PARTY.
Gameday Movie Of The Week For Panthers Fans
The American, which I had completely forgotten existed until other Defector staffers brought it up the other day. Here’s a tight 90-minute thriller about a hired killer (George Clooney) who hides out in Italy, falls in love with the best looking escort in town (Violante Placido), and then tries to make a clean break from his job: something he’s tried before without success. In lesser hands, this movie would be the same old shit. But director Anton Corbijn does the Michael Mann thing and zeroes in on the details of the job, which makes all the difference. Watching Clooney take apart a rifle, and then use assorted car parts to modify it, puts you deeper into the story than if they skipped over all of that grunt work. Plus, the location porn in Italy is tremendous, and there’s a ton of sex. This may be controversial to say, but I think more movies should have hot sex in them. Three stars.
Gratuitous Simpsons Quote
“Well, maybe you'd get promoted if you worked a little harder.”
“Are you kidding? I work like a Japanese beaver!”
Enjoy the games, everyone.