Drew Magary’s Thursday Afternoon NFL Dick Joke Jamboroo runs every Thursday during the NFL season. Email Drew here. Buy his book here.
Chris Berman half-retired this past week and, with the announcement, there’s been a parade of soft-focused tributes to a man who spent nearly every telecast referencing himself. There was even this oral history of Berman cobbled together by Peter King that is just as hackneyed and filled with meaningless drivel as any Berman TV presentation. Here’s Stephen Jones of the Cowboys:
I started watching him in college. A giant in our game. A real game-changer.
Yes, very insightful. Glad they included that. And here’s Mike Zimmer:
I started watching him when ESPN came on the air. I loved, “HE … COULD … GO … ALL … THE … WAY!”
Again, quality nuggeting. Finally, in an accidentally flawless summation of Berman’s career, here’s Mel Kiper Jr.:
I remember in one of the early years, Chris is eating a big tuna fish sandwich. He’s got his earpiece out, and we’re 10 seconds to air, out of the commercial. And I tell him we’re going back on the air. He spits the tuna out, he’s got mayonnaise on his cheek and he’s like, “Welcome back to the NFL Draft!“
That’s perfect. Just a talking mound of Hellmann’s shouting over the airwaves. That’s the definitive Chris Berman memory. Never mind that Berman is STILL going to be on television after this. And never mind that, for decades now, Berman has been an unwelcome presence during The Masters, the Home Run Derby, and virtually every other major sporting event that is not improved when you add in a bunch of Fred Flintstone farting noises. Berman was the heavyweight at ESPN, and he applied that weight liberally, muscling his way into any telecast he pleased, with little regard for continuity or, you know, viewer enjoyment.
But when you are a media person and you retire (even if you really aren’t retiring), you still get your little Der2k J2t2r farewell tour, and you get people like Bill Polian saying this:
Boomer is in status, if not style, the Vin Scully of cable television and of the NFL.
No, Bill. No, that’s grossly inaccurate. Every Vin Scully telecast was a goddamn snowflake: a master class in wit, storytelling, and understated delivery. By contrast, I could tune into Berman at any point in history and KNOW that, at some point, he would blare out THAHHHH RAIDEEHHHSSSSBURPFARTSQUISH. The set list was as reliable as a Men Without Hats reunion concert.
I have some Berman memories of my own. I do indeed remember watching NFL PrimeTime as a kid. I sat there watching games and stuffing myself with Cheetos and PB Maxes all day, and then PrimeTime was when all the gas bloat and self-loathing would come crashing down as it grew pitch dark out. “Wait, did I even go outside today? Christ.” Chris Berman was the perfect avatar for that moment of crippling, football-induced depression. Yep, I remember him going “NFL Primetime is (monster voice) NEXXXXT” right before they showed the old timey production console graphics.
I guess you can call that a fond memory. It was certainly THERE. I remember they even gave his nicknames their own 30-minute show. It was called The Nickname Show.
But then, I also remember this:
And this. And this:
Oh, and of course I remember when ESPN settled a lawsuit with a makeup artist who accused Berman of harassing her. And I remember when Charlie Pierce profiled Berman in Sports Illustrated and we learned that he was so deep in the tank for the Niners that Eddie DeBartolo gave him a Super Bowl ring:
His very good friend Eddie DeBartolo Jr., once the owner of the 49ers out there in San Francisco, who’s out of football now because he had to turn state’s evidence against former governor Edwin Edwards in a political scandal that was messy even by the standards of Louisiana. In 1991 Berman accepted a 49ers championship ring from DeBartolo, only to return it after taking some flak for it, within and outside ESPN. “I know one thing,” Berman says of DeBartolo. “The league misses him.”
I guarantee you that Berman’s still angry he didn’t get to keep that ring. Oh, and he also said this to Pierce:
My job is different from the guys at the network who have to be pit bulls. I mean, I’ve got information that can sink countries. I just don’t need to bury banana republics every day. It’s not my M.O.
No, it certainly wasn’t. Berman’s self-appointed M.O. was to be the NFL’s Head Chum, a job that has become hilariously outdated at a time when the NFL is receiving long-overdue scrutiny for the way it conducts business, from stadium issues to domestic violence to the ever-present specter of devastating brain injuries. Berman was never equipped to handle any of this shit. Talk to him about shady financing deals for stadiums and springs will come flying out of his brain. There was never much in the way of nuance to Chris Berman (takes one to know one, I know). His style never evolved. All you got with Berman was his constant assumption that you loved him. He declared himself the face of the NFL and never, ever let you forget it.
And he’s not even gone! Look at all the mascot duties he’s still gonna do!
Berman will continue to host ESPN’s NFL PrimeTime highlights show from the field after the Super Bowl as well as the NFL Conference Championship games. He will also offer opinion and perspective on historical events in the NFL, including still appearing weekly on Monday Night Countdown. In addition, he will handle play-by-play for ESPN Radio during the MLB Divisional Playoffs and participate in ESPN’s annual ESPYS Awards.
Christ. That’s too much. I’m not gonna be able to relax now that I know that Berman could come back to haunt my television at any moment. One second I’m getting ready to watch some hot postseason highlight action. The next, I’m getting BACKBACKBACKed until my eardrums bleed. I need closure. I need to know when Chris Berman and his mayonnaise cheeks will be out of my life for good.
All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms. And for the playoffs, I also pick the games, because I KNOW VEGAS. I’m tight with all the “sharps,” as they are known to some.
Packers (+4.5) 28, Cowboys 26. The first man to reach Aaron Rodgers NEVER brings him down and I’m getting tired of it. When playing Rodgers, you should be allowed to conceal a foreign object on your person and then cripple him when you come within sniffing distance. Like, you know those clubs that kind of extend out, like a car antennae? The ones that henchmen in action movies whip out from inside their boots? I want to be able to use one of those on the field against Rodgers, particularly if he’s about to throw another successful Hail Mary (God’s perfect little PACKERS just have to have every goddamn miracle throw end in a completion, don’t they?). I see no moral quandary with this.
By the way, the Cowboys figure to be better next year because they’ll have the same core of players but they won’t have Tony Romo’s enormous salary on the books. In fact, you could argue that the ideal personnel arrangement for any team is to put a shitload of money into the line and the defense, and then hope to hit on a cheapass rookie in the middle of the draft to carry them for a few years, just like Russell Wilson did at the beginning of his career, and just as Dak is doing right now.
Teams put a shitload of money into quarterbacks, and with good reason. But putting all that money on one player is an all-or-nothing proposition. If the QB gets hurt, you are fucked. If the QB turns out to be a dud, you are fucked. Maybe it’s not worth it. Maybe there’s success to be had in treating quarterbacks like fungible commodities to be discarded the second they become overvalued. You draft a QB low, start him, trade him for a shitload of picks the second he develops, and then repeat the process in order to keep the rest of your roster stacked. It would be like what the Pats do with their backups, only with starters.
Would any team do this? No. The Cowboys aren’t trading away Dak after striking oil in the fourth round. But if you look around at the rest of the league, it’s clear that teams are paying an almost unbearable premium at the position. The Skins currently find themselves in a legitimate quandary between overpaying their current starter (Kirk Cousins) or having no starter at all. The Colts gave Andrew Luck the contract he deserved but no longer have the cap space (or brainpower) to support him properly. The Rams and Eagles traded away a shitload of picks for their rookie QBs, and may get them killed before they ever have a chance to become something.
Hitting on a low-round QB is the best of everything for a team. You get the most important filled for nothing, with extra flash money to fill out the rest of the roster. Then you can go on a four-year tear before the bill comes due. I have always subscribed to the idea that either you have a QB, or you have nothing. But it’s becoming clear that a lot of teams have both a quarterback AND nothing, which is a shitty spot to be in. It would be wise of the NFL, which just presided over a Wild Card weekend featuring some truly awful quarterbacking, to have a cap exemption for quarterbacks so that there’s some cushion for teams to overpay them and still build a decent roster. As it stands right now, the system punishes you for finding one, which is probably not the best thing for a league that needs ratings like oxygen.
Steelers (+2) 35, Chiefs 27. We’re gonna get a signature Andy Reid moment either in this round or in the AFC title game, and I am jacked for it. He’s gonna have a hard time outdoing last year’s masterpiece of clock butchery, but I have faith. Kansas City will get to the 1-yard line with a minute left on the clock and he’s gonna call four tight end dives in a row. Tyreek Hill will be on the sideline the WHOLE time.
By the way, a lot of analysts have noted Le’Veon Bell’s patience when he’s running the ball, and it really is something to behold. It’s a cardinal sin for running back to hesitate behind the line of scrimmage, but that’s not what Bell does. Bell will run directly into the scrum, pause for a moment, have a cup of tea, calmly survey his options, and then blast into open space like a comet. It’s unreal. I have no idea how he doesn’t get his nuts crushed just hanging out in the middle of all that. He’s like a ghost.
Falcons (-4.5) 34, Seahawks 19. During the Seahawks-Lions game, Collinsworth mentioned in passing that the Seahawks will fake snap counts on defense at the Clink because it’s so loud that the refs can’t catch it. THOSE CHEATING-ASS MOTHERFUCKERS. I would like a full, Wells-style investigation into #Snapghazi, with penalties ranging from heavy fines to reducing Michael Bennett’s shoulder pads by another 20 percent.
Patriots (-16) 23, Texans 0. Patriots Day comes out tomorrow and the ads are killing me. Marky Mark literally says “They messed with the wrawng city!” As if other cities would be like, “Oh man, someone bombed us. We better not do anything about it.” The fact that Marky Mark plays a composite character who gets portrayed as a reluctant hero and says shit like “We gawtta catch these guys before-ah they hurt othah Sawx fans!” is a fucking insult to real-life events. No one from Boston should ever be allowed to make a Boston movie ever again.
None. Here’s your random crap:
•I would like the 4th-and-inches down to be more specific. These are national telecasts with 472 cameras posted around the field and 50 production trucks ready to microanalyze every blade of grass on the field. But then a team comes within a foot of the first down and suddenly it’s like, I DUNNO, CALL IT FOURTH AND INCHES. How many inches, man? You can’t eyeball that shit. Give me the exact number so that I can make fun of Mike McCarthy for punting it away like a complete asshole.
•I’ve already publicly bitched about how much I hate the fade route, but I would like to take a moment here to complain about its ground-based cousin: the toss sweep on third- or fourth-and-short. If you wanna run a naked bootleg, fine. I salute your hefty balls for that. You can even run a little triple option there and I won’t scream. Just don’t run a basic toss and ensure that the back gets buried five yards behind the line of scrimmage. Why would you do this? You’re making the back run 15 yards sideways to gain three inches. Meanwhile, the defense has the line stacked and could not be happier that you decided to not run the ball up the gut or run play action. Now they have all goddamn day to figure out what the back is doing and then set out to murder him. Even Le’Veon Bell can’t escape. I’d give the opposing play-caller a box of Mallomars if he ever ran that shit against me. You may as well order the running back to tap dance.
•My oldest kid had a sleepover the other night and just when we picked up her friend and walked through the door, my youngest kid got sick. And I mean SICK sick. One second he was fine… the next? SIBERIAN ALIEN FLU. He fucking painted his room with barf. He barfed on the pillows. He barfed on his stuffed animals. He barfed on the bookshelf. He barfed on the rug, and the mattress pad, and the mattress itself. He barfed in the DRAWER. He barfed everywhere, and my wife and I spent the bulk of the night changing sheets and then washing them and then changing them again when the next flurry of vomiting came.
Meanwhile, my daughter was attempting to have a slumber party in the next room. I felt terrible. No one ever forgets a barfy slumber party. I even called her friend’s dad to see if he wanted to bring her home so she could avoid being sick, because that’s the good parenting move (telling other parents your house was a festering petri dish of rotavirus AFTER the fact will always enrage them). But it was late enough and cold enough where neither of us actually wanted to get into a car and drive anywhere, so she stayed. Sometimes it’s worth the risk of a child contracting a violent stomach infection to not drive anywhere.
•I didn’t know about Matthew McConaughey’s GOLD movie until I saw the ad. It looks remarkable. They gave him baldness and everything. And it’s clear that the pitch was just some guy walking into a studio and being like, “What if we made a drug opus… but with GOLD? Because gold is, like, just as addictive, AND DEADLY.” I would have financed it WITH gold on the spot. There better be a goddamn scene where Bald McConaughey is sitting in a bathtub full of gold doubloons and cackling, “Gold… GOLD… GOOOOOOOLD AHAHAHAHA!!!”
•That T-Mobile lice ad is fucking disgusting and whoever came up with it should be strapped into a chair and forced to watch Jublia ads on a continuous loop. I already have Chevy guy and Jen Garner’s fucking dad polluting the airwaves during every playoff telecast. I didn’t need literal pestilence added to the mix.
•I linked to this GQ concussion longread earlier but it’s really worth reading if you have a moment alone and no one can see you openly weep.
Last week’s picks: 3-1
Pregame Song That Makes Me Want To Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall
DVP by PUP! As submitted by Jeremy:
This song kicks so much ass that it hurts and the music video is incredible.
It really is. They clearly skipped the whole licensing process to use that footage and I salute them for their recklessness. I can never watch any music video for longer than 40 seconds. But this one? This one I watched for a whole MINUTE. It’s that good!
Also Jeremy compiled a Spotify playlist of every Brick Wall song ever listed. It’s 188 songs long. If you listen to it end-to-end, five of your teeth fall out.
Gregg Easterbrook Memorial Haughty Dipshit Of The Week
Back when I wrote for Kissing Suzy Kolber, we used to have a big email chain where we would send each other shitty takes to hate-read, and you would have to guess the writer just from the URL address in the window. More often than not, the byline usually belonged to Chris Chase, who has been such a reliably awful take provider for so long that it was destiny for him to end up with the CONSERVATIVE SPORTS MERITOCRACY folk over at Fox Sports. If you like bland consistency when it comes to shitty takes, Chase is your guy. He’s the Jeff Francoeur of bad sportswriting. And this week, he dribbled out a weakass single of a #Boatghazi take:
Odell Beckham Jr. went to Miami but didn’t show up in Green Bay.
KABOOM. And we’re off.
How much the former is responsible for the latter will be subject to vigorous debate over the next 24 hours until people forget all about it like Tony Romo’s Mexico trip with Jessica Simpson.
No one has forgotten Tony Romo’s Mexico trip with Jessica Simpson because I just spent a week sifting through takes about how EERILY SIMILAR these two completely unrelated matters are. Oh, look! It’s an athlete in a warm climate! This is just like the last athlete who was in a warm climate!
(Remember that? For that matter, remember Jessica Simpson?)
Damn. What did Jessica Simpson do to deserve that swipe? A coyote ate her dog once, man.
The trip taken by the mercurial Giants star at the start of playoff week is a subject on which there’s little middle ground.
Are you sure about that? Because I believe “Odell Beckham can do what he wants with his free time but can sometimes be an asshat out on the field” is a stance many of us subscribe to.
Before the first retweet of the pic, the narrative was set: If Beckham played poorly against the Packers it’d be because of his mini-vacation. Then the opposing narrative was set: If Beckham played poorly against the Packers and people blamed his mini-vacation, the know-it-alls on Twitter would sanctimoniously mock anyone who thought they were related.
Fair enough. I love a good narrative-off.
How could you argue they’re not, though?
Well, a TWITTER KNOW-IT-ALL like me will argue that Odell Beckham is a fiercely driven player who sometimes lets his emotions get the best of him, and could maybe use the occasional respite—a trip to Florida, for instance—to restore some balance, which is what he did before going out and, six days later, unfortunately taking a steaming dump in the first playoff game of his career.
The connection isn’t cause-and-effect but rather a sequential act that led to way too much talk…
Oh no! THE TALK! People talking! About THINGS! Whatever you do in life, don’t do things that will get people to talk! TALKING IS DEVILRY.
…and had to get inside the head of Beckham, which is a volatile, unpredictable place on ordinary days.
How much is anybody’s guess.
All this media scrutiny HAD to get inside Beckham’s mind. BUT WHO IS TO SAY HOW MUCH.
Was he overexerting himself to prove everybody wrong? Did he get mentally tired this week not because of a trip to Miami but because of a reaction to a trip to Miami?
Did he get thrown off balance because a bad song got stuck in his head? Does he dream about wolves sometimes? Was he worried that he might start sneezing at some point and never be able to stop? ALL FAIR PSYCHOLOGICAL EXAMINATION QUERIES.
Don’t be naïve and act like the field is a sanctuary on which Beckham escapes the blowback from his tumultuous week.
Foolish mortals. Don’t be so CHILDISH as to believe a world class athlete who has to perform in front of TV cameras and tens of thousands of deranged fans can somehow block out distractions!
He was carrying something Sunday.
[whiskey voice] Something HEAVY.
It doesn’t mean he had a bad game because of it.
THEN WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU HERE?
Frankly, the cold weather (Beckham had never played a game in temperatures anywhere close to those in Green Bay) is a much better scapegoat.
“He was carrying something that day. Something cold, and frosty.”
But everything Odell Beckham does is intra-connected.
It’s super-mega-uber connected! A WEB OF INTRIGUE. Don’t be so naïve as to think a cold wind in Lambeau isn’t an emotional trigger to all those cold beers in Miami!
Stat heads find comfort in the numbers because they’re uncomplicated.
Yes I’m sure when Bill James pores through stat tables and makes endless calculations to figure out a way to properly value hitters while adjusting for field and condition variables, he thinks to himself, “I’m glad this is all so simple.”
Human beings are anything but.
BIG IF TRUE. You know, now that I’m really reading through this take, it sucks. You call this a proper Fox take? Whitlock is out here talking about Terrell Owens not being a Hall of Famer because he’s a bad housewife and you’re trotting out some “People are complicated!” shit? Get your fucking act together.
It’s easier to say the trip meant nothing to Beckham than it is to wonder if it might have.
Yes, wonder. IMAGINE. Responsible people speculate endlessly about shit!
Painting the opposition with a broad stroke is easier than trying to decipher the inner working of somebody else’s mind. That stuff matters, though.
I have no fucking idea what you’re talking about. I don’t even know where I am anymore. What year is it? Am I a boy?
The boat trip was an act so foolish and so gullible about the concept of perception that it bordered on self-sabotage, almost as if he was giving himself an out if things didn’t go right Sunday.
I like it. “Odell Beckham deliberately went to Miami and had a nice time and made it public so that the media would go nuts and give him a convenient excuse to fail” is much closer to Fox territory. Keep taking like that and you’ll be tapped to start doing live hard cider reads for Cowherd.
In a way, that’s exactly how it went. Don’t blame me, blame Miami.
Like I said, you can set your watch to this man’s awfulness.
Curt Schilling’s Facebook Lock Of The Week: Chiefs (-2)
Schilling 2016 record: 8-9-1
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 final 2016 chopping block:
Mike McCoy – FIRED!
Rex Ryan – FIRED!
Jeff Fisher – FIRED!
Gary Kubiak – RETIRED!
Gus Bradley – FIRED!
Chip Kelly – FIRED!
Chuck Pagano – JUH?!
I could slap the Jags for promoting Doug Marrone internally. The internal promotion hire is the least exciting hire possible. Imagine being a Jags fan, watching Gus Bradley compile one of the worst records in history over a four-year span. Now you’re finally rid of him, and ready for a new coach to come in and STEAL THE SHOW. And what do the Jags do? They fucking hire the line coach. What a letdown. I DEMAND STAR POWER.
Great Moments In Poop History
Reader Dan sends in this story I call POOPERBOY:
I was a 21-year old junior at the University of Iowa and was always hustling for extra money to cover the rent, pay for odds and ends, but mostly for some extra beer money on the weekend. I was willing to do anything and one job that popped up that look like easy money was the extra $40 you could get for delivering the campus newspaper. The hours were inconvenient because you had to wake up before anybody else did, but from beginning to end it was about a 45-minute job.
Thursday nights were traditionally a night to go out, but the route commanded my attention on a Friday morning, and the temperatures were well below freezing. At the point in the route in which I was the farthest away from my house, my stomach growled ferociously and I could feel my bowels fill up with shit. Not the wet kind, but full-fledged logs that needed to come out. I had no bike. Nothing was open, and the only option was to hope I could make the half mile walk back to my house in time.
I dropped the papers on the corner and made a slow methodical walk. Running was out of the question. Remember, it’s cold, and there is all sorts of snow and ice on the ground. January in Iowa sucks. About 3-4 times I was about lose it, but was able to rebound the turtle head back into the anal cavity. Regardless of the temperature, I was sweating from head to toe. It was pure sphincter trauma.
Finally, I get to the alleyway that leads to my house and I’m making the 100-yard victory lap to the toilet bowl that I was about to destroy.
But something happened. Fifteen feet from the back door, my right foot caught a small pool of ice that was disguised under the loose snow. It caused a sudden drop in anal concentration and it was disaster. A total blowout. My pants filled with a torrent of excrement and there was a sudden rush of heat that filled my bottom. I knew I shit my pants in a bad, bad way. But for a slight moment, I just sat there in relief of my situation. I was at peace. With trousers full of poo, I entered the house and went immediately into the shower and started to disrobe. The jeans were somewhat savable. There was an enormous poop rush that flew out the top of the jeans, and some dripped down the leg. The Hanes boxer-briefs were weighed down so much, they went down to my knees after I took off the jeans. In the shower, I stomped the shit down the drain the best I could and took a good 45 minute hot shower.
It was the first time I ever shit my pants as a person that knew how the whole defecation process works.
Gametime Snack of the Week
Hershey’s Nuggets, which are better than Hershey’s Kisses. Go ahead and argue with me. Why do I want to eat pointy food? The roof of my mouth is too sensitive for such things.
By the way, I am a toffee whore. I’d eat toffee out of Siragusa’s butt if it came to that.
Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week
Jola Gull! From Iceland! It’s not just beer, IT’S BJEER! Here’s Jason:
Jola Gull (YO-la gul) from Iceland. Discovered this seasonal brew on a recent trip to Iceland. The Icelandic people go nuts for Christmas and have Christmas versions of a ton of their products. Instead of Santa Claus they have the 12 Yule lads and I assume that’s what the strange drawing on here is. This tastes like regular Gull beer (shitty Icelandic Stella Artois) but with some strange malt and spices. Perfect for watching 1am football games during 20 hours of darkness a day!
The fuck is a Yule lad? I MUST KNOW.
Jim Tomsula’s Lifehack Of The Week!
“Doctors are just frauds looking to make a buck. If you want real health care, you gotta take matters into your own hands. I’ve self-treated a broken arm, an infected broken arm, gangrene (again, in a broken arm), sepsis (arm), amputation (that same arm), AND prosthetics. I got an arm made of vacuum tubing now and it works just fine. The kids love it. No doctor was gonna help me with any of that.”
Sunday Afternoon Movie Of The Week For Browns Fans
The Garbage Pail Kids movie. So, so disturbing in retrospect. Why didn’t they have kids play the kids? Why did they have rubberized Teevee Stevie and shit?
Gratuitous Miller’s Crossing Quote
“It’s gettin’ so a businessman can’t expect no return from a fixed fight! Now, if you can’t trust a fix, what can you trust? For a good return, you gotta go bettin’ on chance – and then you’re back with anarchy, right back in the jungle.”
Enjoy the games, everyone. Best NFL weekend of the year, every year.