Everything In Moderation | Defector

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’m gonna do something out of character this evening: I’m going to eat responsibly. I’m not gonna have seconds. I’m not gonna eat hors d’oeuvres until my stomach and my rectum fuse together. I’m gonna have one plate of turkey/stuffing/taters, and that plate will have discernible, available space on it. This is food that I’ve overeaten every year for my entire life, even to the point of vomiting it back up when I overindulged a decade ago (I wasn’t a child; I was 36). But this time around, I’m going to eat Thanksgiving dinner as if it’s any other dinner, and the strange thing is that I’m happy about it.

Back in July, in an effort to shed the usual 10–20 pounds that I—along with every other middle-aged American—am always trying to shed, I went on a calorie-counting regimen. I did this reluctantly. The day I started, I was already looking forward to the day when I could quit. I’d knock off the weight, find myself back in Sexytown, and then delete my calorie counting app without a single regret. Then I’d be free to overeat again. To be whole again.

My weight has fluctuated over my lifetime, but regardless of where I sat on the waistline spectrum at any given time, I was still an overeater in my soul. I loved overeating for so long that I considered a part of my identity. Permanent. Unremovable. This is because I loved food, but also because of the various external forces that conditioned me to believe that overeating was both fun and an inalienable American right. I loved Sunday brunch buffets. I grew up in the Midwest, where portion sizes are measured in square feet. I read Garfield religiously and said I feel you man anytime Garfield rebelled after Jon put him on a diet. I chuckled at ads where Shaq went to a hoity-toity restaurant only to be served preciously small amounts of lobster. I believed that eating less food was tantamount to eating NO food, and that a meal was great only if it was a substantial one. What do you say if you haven’t had a big meal all day? You tell everyone that you’re STARVING. That was me. I, a very well-fed man, was starving all the time.

So anytime I endeavored to lose weight, sometimes successfully, I made sure to accommodate for overeating: cheat days, binging “healthy” snacks, special-occasion feasts, and on and on. You can see why counting calories would be anathema to such a fellow. It rules out overeating entirely. You don’t get cheat days when you’re living this lifestyle. You don’t get to nish and nosh all day long on whatever’s around, no matter how devoid of fat or sugar those snacks might be. You have to be (ugh) disciplined. You have to (ugh ugh) moderate.

And I fucking hated moderation. Hated the idea of it. Hated the word, even. This happens when you grow up worshipping Mötley Crüe. Gorging was my default setting for food, alcohol, jacking off, you name it. The idea of curtailing ANY of this not only felt unpatriotic to me, but also deeply unpleasurable. Who wants to have just ONE beer? Probably a real asshole. I never wanted to be that pristine. I wanted to be a rock star, even though zero people will mistake me for peak Nikki Sixx when I walk down the street. Moderation was the enemy. Moderation was for tightasses.

My wife, an expert in drinking just one beer, continually insisted that I had the ability to practice moderation within me. I treated her encouragement as an insult. I told her I’m not wired for such a thing, which is such a cop-out. It’s an excuse that people use to perennially indulge their worst qualities. “That’s just how I am” is a statement of desire and not of fact. Oh, but it’s so tempting to think of it as the latter, isn’t it? No one likes changing, because changing requires WORK. And if there’s one thing that Americans like me treasure more than excess, it’s not doing anything.

Alas, my closet had no pants in it that fit, and I was tired of being privately mortified about that fact. So I grudgingly stuck to my calorie budget every day, logging everything that went into my mouth onto my phone. Sometimes I’d grab a bite of chocolate or whatever but not bother to log it, and the guilt would catch me a few minutes later. Then I’d add it to the budget. Some days I went over the budget—not by much, usually 100–200 calories—and I’d feel the usual pangs of guilt that anyone trying to lose weight feels when they fall off the wagon. A moment on the lips, etc. At first, I didn’t even drop that much weight either. I’d step on the scale and weigh the same as I did the week before, and wonder what the fuck I was doing this for. Now I really AM starving, I thought to myself many times over.

And yet, I stuck to the count. Weeks passed and my weight came down in increments that were gradual but hard-earned: far more meaningful than the mythical water weight fluctuations you sometimes get while on a diet. I felt better. More important, I wasn’t THINKING about food all of the goddamn time. I was thinking about work and art and money and sex and weed: all worthy subject matter for my brain. Proper rock star shit.

I wasn’t repeatedly snacking, because the budget didn’t allow for it. At first I struggled with temptation, as anyone would, but the mere accounting for those calories soon trained my mind to not always be demanding more of this and that. It could rest, letting the food I’d already eaten do its job. And if I knew what I was eating for lunch and dinner, I could log both meals in advance and know exactly how many extra calories to play with that day. I arrived at every meal excited and left deeply satisfied instead of constantly wanting. Before this, I was always living inside the next meal or snack instead of loving the food I was already with. But after counting, and counting, and counting away, I realized that my happiness didn’t have to exist in direct correlation with the amount of food I took in. This is a fairly basic epiphany: the kind you’ll find in any issue of Prevention magazine. But sometimes you have to live the cliché to understand it.

I lost the weight. After four months, I went to the nurse practitioner for a BMI test and I’d lost three percent of my body fat but essentially none of my musculature. Beef. Cake. My waist was no longer wider than my chest. My love handles had dissolved into phantom appendages. I could see outlines of muscle under my skin, without sucking in or flexing. I enjoyed looking in the mirror while shirtless and still do (fear not: I will never post photos of such occasions). And the kicker is that I didn’t feel like I’d had to sacrifice anything to make this happen. I was still very much enjoying my food. I could feel the food working inside of me. When you count calories, you come to understand how much they count: what calories are for and how your body is using them. So not only was I savoring each bite of food, but I was also savoring what that food was doing for my all of the machinery housed within my skin. I felt like an athlete, and I haven’t felt that way since the turn of the century.

Also, our grocery bills went down: a miracle in our harrowing Age of Inflation. Whenever I went looking for food in the fridge or pantry, there was still food there! We didn’t have to go get more. I hadn’t already cleaned the house out, the way I usually did. Bags of chips lasted days instead of mere hours.

This is where I tell you that all calories aren’t created equal. The app I use offers a premium package where you pay more for detailed breakdowns of your calorie budget in terms of fat/protein/carbs, but I never bothered paying for that. I still have certain cravings that must be honored, mind you. But this past half-year has taught me that eating is like any other creative endeavor, where both limits and direction allow you to do better (and more gratifying) work than if you’re just flying blind.

I can’t go back now. Not when I know that less does not equal less. Not when shopping for new pants is now a fun activity for me rather than an exercise in American dread. And not when I know that, just as my wife foretold, I’ve had to power of moderation in me all along. I’ve made myself better and deprived myself of nothing. This is the life I was meant to live. This is the life I was starving for. So one slice of pumpkin pie for me tonight, and one slice only. I’m already full.

The Games

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

Five Throwgasms

Bengals at Titans: I have now separated the world’s population into two factions: those who love the Bengals’ white tiger uniforms, and those who don’t. If you’re in the latter group, you can suck my ass. Why even have eyeballs, you joyless prick?

Giants at Cowboys

Four Throwgasms

Patriots at Vikings: This is likely the final season that Sunday Ticket will be on DirecTV. The NFL’s contract with that provider is expiring and there is no shortage of deep-pocketed suitors ready to enter the fray. From the New York Times:

Apple and Amazon … are competing to replace DirecTV for the rights to N.F.L. Sunday Ticket, a package the league wants to sell for more than $2.5 billion annually, about $1 billion more than it currently costs, according to five people familiar with the process. Eager not to miss out, Google has also offered a bid from YouTube for the rights beginning in 2023, two people familiar with the offer said.

I know that Amazon has already snatched up rights to Thursday Night Football (except for tonight’s game, which will air on NBC), but if they or any other streaming service snatch up Sunday Ticket, that’s another matter entirely. It’d be like when Fox got NFL rights back in 1994.

I was alive when that happened. Up until that point, Fox had always been The Other Network. It was the place I went to watch The Simpsons and to see if Christina Applegate was wearing a tight minidress on this week’s Married… With Children (she was). It wasn’t a serious TV viewing destination. Getting the NFL changed all of that, and it’d be the same way if Amazon or Apple get Sunday Ticket. Not only will it free me from having an expensive cable plan that gets disrupted by light rainfall, but it’ll change things for everyone else, too. It’ll change how restaurants and bars put on games. It’ll accelerate cord-cutting in ways that will have a jarring and lasting effect across the entire entertainment industry. It’ll pave the way for Super Bowls to be on the streaming networks. We’re also due for a WGA strike in 2023, so Sunday Ticket might end up being not just the biggest entertainment option in America, as the NFL currently already is, but the ONLY one. It’ll alter the media landscape permanently and make the NFL even more obscenely wealthy and powerful than it already is.

But again, my focus is on the whole rain thing. That’s the biggest part of this story.

Three Throwgasms

Falcons at Commanders: Had my first chelada (a nonalcoholic one) this week while watching the World Cup. Won’t be my last. Also, the Commanders might have the best defensive line in football.

Packers at Eagles

Saints at Niners

Two Throwgasms

Bears at Jets: It’s comforting to know that the Jets can be having their best season in years—the kind of season that gives their fans legitimate and justified hope for coming years—and still be extremely Jets while doing so:

“We have to be detailed. We all have to have a better plan. This shit’s not OK. Straight up. It’s not OK. How many total yards did we have? Yeah, that shit’s not going to fly.”

This team just lost on a punt return touchdown and everyone in the locker room despises the quarterback. They’re 6-4. [earnestly] Only the Jets, man. Only the Jets.

Chargers at Cardinals: I got rid of the Fire This Asshole section of this column for 2022, but if it still existed, Kliff Kingsbury would have 47 asterisks next to his name.

Steelers at Colts

Bills at Lions

Bucs at Browns

Ravens at Jaguars

One Throwgasm

Rams at Chiefs: We’re now in that time of year where I bust out one of my signature dad moves. If we drive by a house and there are a shitload of cars parked on the street by it, I will instantly tell the kids LOOKS LIKE SOMEONE’S HAVIN’ A CHRISTMAS PARTY! Do I then feign outrage that we weren’t invited? You know I do. Most wonderful time of the year!

Raiders at Seahawks

Broncos at Panthers

Texans at Dolphins

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

“Hold Your Tongue,” by Ape Machine! The band name alone has me sold. Reader Mike adds a few (emphasis on few) details:

Ape Machine! These guys rock. Saw them at a tiny joint in town. They killed.

Again, all I need to know. Gonna play this at the dinner table tonight. My way of saying grace.

Great Moments In Poop History

Polygon editor Owen Good sends in this story he calls TO POOP A MOCKINGBIRD but which I will henceforth change to TO KILL A MOCKING TURD:

It’s the late 1990s or early 2000s, around that time, I forget. My Dad publishes a small-town newspaper in the backwater South. Among local governments, it’s known as one of the most litigious newspapers in the state (Diana would be proud). He’s made enemies. It’s so bad, when my brother and I got our driver’s licenses, Mom warned us to always drive the speed limit in the county south of town, cause they all had it out for our family and would throw our fucking asses in jail given the chance.

Anyway, Dad’s coming home on the Interstate from some function in a big city and feels a rumbling in his lower GI tract. Dad fails to heed his lifelong advice to me and my brother—“Never trust a fart”—and tries to release the atmospheric pressure. Bad idea. Instant fudgepants. He pulls off on the side of the road and sheds his trousers. He has his underpants, tangled in his shoes, in his left fist when the highway patrol’s blue light strobes his rearview mirror.

Dad freezes. It doesn’t matter what the fuck is going on here. If there’s a police report with his name and his pants down on the side of the highway, and shit all over the place, it’s going on the public record: public records Dad has sued for to humiliate this deputy’s sheriff, his office, and his board of county commissioners for two decades.

Thinking fast, Dad removes his right shoe. He waves it back and forth in the rearview mirror, as if to say, “Just fixing my shoe!!!”

A LOOOOOONG moment passes.

The cop’s spotlight turns off.

The honey-brown Chevy slowly growls off the side of the highway, leaving my Dad to clean up his business.

I’d read plenty more about Owen’s old man. Like a backwater Dan Snyder!

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?

“I’d love to chat but I’m on my way to my trumpet lesson!”

No, that’s not the CEO who just got fired from Disney. That’s Patriots team president Jonathan Kraft. Look well upon this man, New England fans, because when Bob Kraft drops dead of cardiac arrest after getting too furious of a blowjob from a nearby escort, THIS is the man who will become the face of your franchise. This is your Dean Spanos in waiting. Is there a single good idea housed within that cranium? TAKE A WILD GUESS.

Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week

Olympia! From Matt:

Loved by mustachioed hipsters in Chicago’s finest Wicker Park establishments. The label reads, “It’s the water,” and features a good luck horseshoe and a babbling brook. Also: 95% malt!! I can feel my hangover already.

As can I. I’m just glad the horseshoe says “good luck” on it, otherwise I wouldn’t have understood its significance.

Gameday Movie Of The Week For Texans Fans

Blackhat, which I never watched because it got such awful reviews when it was first released. But then I read Times reporter Jonah Weiner call this movie “underrated,” in an extensive profile of director Michael Mann, and that was all the permission I needed to go back and watch it. This isn’t Michael Mann’s best movie, but it does scratch a lot of personal itches that only Mann can get at: gorgeous nighttime exteriors, characters who have no lives outside of their work, realistic handling of firearms, love stories that never hold up to scrutiny, and mass death. Between this movie, Tokyo Vice, and the incredible Heat 2, I’ve had a peak Michael Mann year. Bury me with that man when he dies.

Gratuitous Simpsons Quote

“Allow me to summarize the proposed transaction: you wish to purchase Bonestorm for 99 cents. Net profit to me, negative 59 dollars. Oh, oh please, take my $59. I don’t want it. It’s yours.

“Eh, eh, eh! Seeing as we are unfamiliar with sarcasm, I shall close the register at this point.”

Enjoy the games, everyone.