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When Your Kid Can Drive, They Can Do Anything

Rear view of car with handwritten sign reading Student Driver, warning other drivers that the person operating the vehicle is learning to drive, Dublin, California, May 2018. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)
Smith Collection/Gado/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.

At the outset, parenting is a series of milestones that pass by in relatively quick succession. You have your first kid and then you chronicle all of their firsts. First bath. First steps. First word. First trip away from home. First time eating X food (repeat dozens of times over). First Christmas. First day of school. First time daddy cursed in front of them and they repeated the word back right away. Etc.

And then, after my daughter went to elementary school, there were no more firsts to tick off. We still had birthday parties, we celebrated good report cards (their report cards are updated in real time online, so Report Card Day isn’t the big moment of truth it was back in the dark ages when I was a kid), we showed her her first R-rated movie (Blues Brothers). But all of the classic milestones were already behind her. She “graduated” from elementary school, and from middle school, but she didn’t give a crap and neither did anyone else.

Instead, we experienced more lasts than firsts: our last day walking her to the bus, her last time dressing up like a princess, her last time trick or treating ... all of these lasts passed by silently. Imperceptibly. I stopped taking a zillion photos of her every waking second. I wasn't like OMG MAH BABY’S FIRST BOX OF KASHI whenever she picked out a new breakfast cereal. We had entered the more everyday phase of parenting, where our daughter knew the rhythms of her existence (school, homework, phone, eat, sleep, repeat) intimately, and knew how to interact with us as an ordinary person and not some wild beast we had to corral.

When a kid becomes a teenager, there are still a scant handful of firsts to be had, but mostly ones that parents are conditioned to FEAR, not log in a fraying birthday book. Her first drink. Her first smoke. Her first night out late. Her first significant other. Oh god, what if she starts dating a fucking lacrosse player? Terrible. She turned 16 but we didn’t throw her a big party because that one old MTV show taught me to fear both the expense and the tastelessness of that kinda shit. So all of it passed without a ton of formal recognition. She was not new to us anymore, and life was not all that new to her.

Until she learned to drive. We put the girl behind the wheel starting when she was 14, and she became skilled enough that, when she got her learner’s permit, I didn’t hesitate to let her chauffeur me and the rest of the family around. God knows the girl owed me some miles after all of the goddamn playdates and gymnastics meets I’d driven her to over the years. I even let her take the wheel for the bulk of a road trip to New York. She was ready to drive on her own. Hell, she as already a better driver than I was. Than I am.

Again though, these are not the dark ages anymore. Getting your license is no longer a matter of watching a couple hours of vehicular manslaughter porn (my sister once had to watch a driver’s ed movie called Mechanized Death), turning 16, and then passing a test at the DMV. In our state, you have to turn 16, log 60 hours behind the wheel (10 at night), log another six with an instructor, turn 16 and three-quarters, and THEN take your test. And even after that, your license is provisional. You can’t drive other kids around unless they’re your family, and you can’t drive after midnight or else Greggggggg Easterbrook pulls you over and forces you to read all of his books.

My kid was undaunted by all of this. This isn’t always the case. Getting your license is no longer the holy grail it once was for teenagers. Fewer of them are getting their licenses right off the bat, because of the legwork, and because Uber exists, and because why drive anywhere when you can just be on a text chain with your friends all day long instead? Millennials who are not technically millennials killed driving: you heard it here first-ish. Probably 50th, actually.

I am a standard dad in many, tiresome ways. I’ll serve myself food first at dinner and then get pissy when everyone else takes too long to get to the table. I never hesitate to tell the wife and kids I had a “rough day” at work. I want everyone to leave me alone and then I feel lonely when they do. And if I’m at a restaurant and the waiter has just left the table, I’ll whisper to the rest of the table, “Oh she’s very good; let’s be sure to leave a fat tip.” But there is one way in which I am NOT boilerplate dad material, and it’s not that I’m incredibly good-looking. It’s that I am a patient and encouraging driving instructor. I never yelled at the girl when she was driving me. If she ever fucked up, I kept my voice low and even. And she DID fuck up on occasion. She jumped a curb or two. She drifted to the right. She didn’t wait for pedestrians to FINISH crossing the road before taking her foot off the brake (that was the worst offense of the bunch). But I never screamed out YOU’LL KILL US ALL!, or demanded the wheel, or any of that. I just said, “Don’t do that,” and then she listened, and then she didn’t do it again. Mostly.

So when the day came for her to take her test, she was ready. Both of her parents had failed their initial driving tests. My wife jumped the curb during hers; she’s her daughter’s mother, all right. I couldn’t get out of my parking space at the DMV. But our girl had no such problem. She passed right off the bat, and a week later her license came in the mail. I almost cried. I should have, given the occasion. Crying consecrates vital life changes. And after so many years without milestones, I was holding a hard-earned one in my hand. She’d done it. Once upon a dream she was just a baby. Now she was a goddamn COMMUTER. I didn’t cry, but the tears were right there at the starting gate. They were primed to fall.

But I held them back out of needless dad instinct, and I let her go. She drove to work. She drove her little brother to soccer practice. She drove to her friend’s house and back. She drove to a high school football game. I was very proud of her for doing all this motoring, but mostly I was relaxed. I didn’t have to drive her anywhere anymore. You know how fucking nice that is? I haven’t had that big of a drop-off in parental labor since she stopped using diapers. It’s AWESOME.

One other mom I talked to the other day had a kid who didn’t want to drive and she told her daughter, “You have to do this. I ain’t carting you around all over the place until you’re 26,” and then the kid got her license. That mom knew what I now know: that having a kid who can drive is well worth all of the work, all of the time, and all of the fear. This is true for pretty much all aspects of parenting, but it’s real nice to see that payoff arrive from the DMV in the form of a hard plastic card with your kid’s mug shot staring right back at you. I couldn’t be prouder of the girl, and I couldn’t be more excited for the extra nap time.

Although one day, when she was out a bit longer than I had anticipated, I started to worry. Just a little. I tried to resist calling her to check in, but sometimes it’s okay to be overbearing. It’s in the job description. So I called.

“Where are you?”

“I’m five minutes away.”

“Oh, OK.”

And then I hung up. She was all good. My kid knew exactly where she was going.

The Games

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

Five Throwgasms

Eagles at Cardinals: Eagles fans are getting all chesty again, which means I would like Putin to nuke their town FIRST, please. It’s the least he could do.

Four Throwgasms

Bengals at Ravens: I’m worried that the fourth-down revolution is losing steam. Brandon Staley has dared to punt this season, and John Harbaugh had to convincingly explain himself to the world yet again after he went for it against Buffalo late with the game tied.

The Ravens have had two monumental collapses in less than a month, so I understand if their fans aren’t exactly thrilled with Harbaugh right now. But we have to stop having these arguments. Harbaugh wasn’t gonna settle for a field goal when his offense was two yards away from redeeming itself, and when a heated-up Josh Allen was waiting in the wings, nor should he have. That the resulting play was a shitty interception is worth your scorn. I’m not gonna deprive any hater of their rights. But we don’t need every goddamn coaching decision subjected to scrutiny from strategic cavemen. It was the right call, and no debate over it is gonna be worth a shit.

Three Throwgasms

Giants at Packers (London): Since I keep dad hours, I’ve always been down with the London games airing early in the day. Gives me something to do. But last week I failed to account for how much watching my own team play in one would fuck with my circadian rhythms. I was invested in that game. I couldn’t just leave it as background noise for making pancakes, like I do all the other London games. So by the time the 1 p.m. games kicked off (1 p.m.), my body clock thought it was 4 p.m. When the 4 p.m. slate came, I was ready to eat dinner. And when Mike Tirico squeaked hello to the audience for SNF, I felt like I was staying up late to watch Korean baseball during the pandemic again.

Dolphins at Jets: Joe Flacco is getting handsomer as he ages and again, it’s screwing with my mindstate. I’m used to Joe Flacco being dull first, cooked second, and handsome third. But look at him over on the sidelines now, looking like he just starred in a kick-ass Western. It’s disorienting.

Lions at Patriots

Two Throwgasms

Colts at Broncos: We have to do something about the Broncos appearing in primetime. It was amusing for one week, and one week only, to watch Nathaniel Hackett call a surprise onside punt and Russell Wilson attempt (and fail) to play like he’s 10 years younger than he is, but enough is enough. I already have to deal with NFC East teams be-tumoring the primetime slate every year. I don’t need a spiritual FIFTH team from that division entering the fray.

Bears at Vikings: Neither of these teams have a losing record but do you really want me selling you on watching it? You know better. Everyone does. If your team says, “We’ll take a win any way we can get it!” four or five times in a single season, it’s probably not that good of a team. These two particular teams have a combined net point differential of minus-seven. Even their own fans don’t think much of them.

Any metrics pervert worth their salt will tell you that point differential is a more telling stat than win/loss record when it comes to overall team quality. So it’s not enough for your team, or mine, to eke out every single goddamn win they accumulate. Here you are within your rights to act like a deranged Bama fan and call for DOMINANCE. Aaron Rodgers himself said his team—which is 3-1 but has a point differential of plus-six—is not winning games in a “sustainable” fashion, and Aaron Rodgers has won enough games by double-digit margins to know that those margins are the hallmark of a true good team. Running up the score is not only permissible in the NFL, it’s downright mandatory if you’re a contender. I have written too much in this game capsule. I refer you to the matchups in the above sections if you’re one of the three people alive who actually use this column as a viewing guide.

Seahawks at Saints: How come no one ever offers ME a free cart ride to take a shit, huh DK Metcalf? Your privilege is showing, sir.

Steelers at Bills

Raiders at Chiefs

Titans at Commanders

Falcons at Bucs

Texans at Jaguars

Cowboys at Rams

Chargers at Browns

One Throwgasm

Niners at Panthers: The Matt Rhule firing watch has been fun because his head could get chopped off at ANY time. Could be this week. Could be next. Could be December because David Tepper wants to toy with him. There’s no way of knowing! That’s the primo shit.

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

“Awakening,” by Unleash the Archers! From Anthony:

It's a driving metal song about an ancient being awakened to do horrible things again. Plus the video is one where the band just plays, and you can see just how fucking hard it is to make this music. My fingers hurt just watching it.

Anthony isn’t lying. This is one of those videos where all of the band members have to play their instruments with such studiousness that they have no room to unleash ALL of the archers. It’s pure, uncut shredding. Heroin for muso assholes.

The biggest upset here is that this band is NOT Scandinavian. Once the lead singer opened her mouth I was like, “Oh this is one of those Norwegian opera metal bands.” WRONG. Unleash the Archers are from British Columbia, which is either a welcome surprise or a disappointing one, depending on your perspective. Me? I’m just here to watch the fingers going TAPPITY TAP TAP at blitzkrieg speed.

Great Moments In Poop History

Reader Jeffrey sends in this story I’ll call PANTSES WITH LOAVES.

I was a picky eater from birth to about the age of 24. In college, that wasn't often a problem, even at the small college I went to. But one night, none of the three options in the dining hall really worked for me. So I went with one of my lifelong staples: egg noodles. Three servings of oily, dining hall egg noodles, spooned out of a hotel pan.

About an hour later, there was a sponsored lecture from an invited (non-professor) guest about Native Americans in the region of the Northeast that I'm from. I never went to things like that, but the topic piqued my interest. Somehow, this lecture quickly turned into a rambling, crackpot effort that would have a place on the modern internet, but at the time (2008) seemed shockingly tinfoil hat.

I was sticking it out, even as other people were walking away in irritation, when all of a sudden my stomach started to rumble. I ignored it, but it kept rumbling, soon growing into pain, then agony. At that point in my life, I was horrified of the idea of shitting in public. But I couldn't take it. I rushed out of the lecture, into the nearest bathroom, and let it happen.

What came out was unlike any other intestinal distress I've ever experienced. There was no form: just a black toilet bowl so filled with oil that you could see it separating from the water.. Inky black. And no real mess, just a desperate evacuation. I immediately felt better after it was over.

I walked back into the lecture five minutes later, then ditched five minutes after that. The speaker had become even more insane, and it just wasn't worth it. My main learning of the night? Never eat too much of one thing at a dining hall.

Someone’s college didn’t have a PB&J station.

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 Cowboys CEO Stephen Jones, who just spotted himself one fine 19-year-old from across the field. “Mmmhmm, I do declare that this is my finest scouting effort to date,” he says to himself while his old man walks around with mirrors taped to the top of his shoes.

Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week

Zagloba! From Poland by way of reader Alex:

I got this beer for the low low price of free. There’s a table in the lobby of my condo where people leave things they don’t want to take with them when they move out. I found this next to a roll of paper towels, an ice cube tray, and a peach scented candle. I was worried they left it because it had gone bad, but it ended up tasting perfectly adequate.

We’ll call that the upset of the year right there. The shrink-wrapped three-pack is what’s really doing it for me here. I require exactly three Zaglobas so that I can wake up nude at the bottom of a mineshaft.

Gameday Movie Of The Week For Raiders Fans

Bullet Train. Most of the time, I can rely on film critics to be accurate with whatever’s out there. If they tell me the newest Adam Sandler comedy is a piece of shit, I take them at their word. But once in a while, there comes a nonfranchise movie where I KNOW, well in advance, that their opinion will mean precisely jack shit. Where they’ll protest from behind owl-rimmed glasses, “Don’t get me wrong! I love genre fare, but this one just didn’t do it for me!” Sure, buddy. Why don’t you go fuck off to Denmark.

Bullet Train is one such special entry into that canon. Someone went to a studio and said, “Let’s make a movie just for Drew. It’ll be like all of the best ultraviolent 90s indie movies for bros, but also it’ll have a train. And every line of dialogue will sound like it was ghostwritten by Guy Ritchie.” SOLD. Will I see a better movie all year? Unlikely. Will YOU like this movie? That’s not of my concern.

Gratuitous Simpsons Quote

"You're right! I've been wasting my life away in that dump for years! That's it! I'm going to find a NEW bar to drink in, and I'm going to get drunker than I've ever been in my entire life!"

Enjoy the games, everyone.

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