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NFL Dad, Week 7: You can’t fight the Pumpkin Industrial Complex

Every week, our NFL Dad tries to watch the full slate of RedZone Channel action while parenting two toddlers. This week: costume parties, pumpkins, and a distinct lack of drama.

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I don’t care for the annual pumpkin craze, but I refuse to harsh anyone’s pumpkin high. I won’t rail against pumpkin spice lattes, I won’t scoff at pumpkin beers, and I won’t even make an official statement against pumpkin yogurt pretzels or pumpkin smoothies. I believe that apples are the better seasonal food, but taste is subjective (even if you don’t recognize that “pumpkin” flavor is just clove and cinnamon). Regardless, your pumpkin habit doesn’t affect my enjoyment of autumn.

This mindset is probably why I went along with my wife’s desire to go to a pumpkin patch on Saturday. Yes, my daughter already went apple-picking, but my son (almost 18 months) had never been to a pumpkin patch, so we needed to give him that experience. Could we buy a slightly overpriced pumpkin at the nearby farmer’s market? Sure, but that would be easy.

Instead, because we live in a dumb city unfit for parents and car owners, we rent a Zipcar for the morning, drive 90 minutes to a Long Island pumpkin patch that serves 4 million New Yorkers eager to avoid driving to a REAL farm in the Hudson Valley, fail to take a picture of the two kids in the pumpkins together, and survive an epic in-car meltdown from my daughter before hitting standstill traffic on the way back to the city. Oh, and my son slept for 20 minutes in the car, ruining his afternoon nap.


Pumpkins are dumb flavorless squashes and I hate them.


— The Saints-Packers matchup, which SHOULD be a Drew Brees-Aaron Rodgers shootout, will instead be a referendum on Brett Hundley in his first pro start. In the rain. WOOF.

Early in the game, Hundley draws the Saints offsides for a free play, but underthrows Davante Adams deep. It illuminates the problem with anyone who backs up Aaron Rodgers: Even if they’ve learned his tricks of the trade, they don’t have the sheer talent to produce the same magic that he does. (The drive ends with an Aaron Jones sprint up the gut of the defense. 7-0, Green Bay.)

— The Rams, playing the Cardinals in London, are wearing their white-and-gold uniforms with the white horns on the helmets. Such an awful look. Anything reminiscent of the St. Louis era should be burned in a Dumpster YES EVEN KURT WARNER.

But for real, just wear the blue and yellow every week. It looks way better.

— Green Bay intercepts Brees in the end zone, but when I wake up from my nap the Saints have fought back to tie the game at seven. Briefly, anyway: Hundley runs it in to reclaim the lead and get his first Lambeau Leap.

— The Jaguars are stomping the Colts 17-0. There’s not much to say here, except Leonard Fournette isn’t playing and T.J. Yeldon looks capable in his stead. There’s nothing about the Jacoby Brissett offense that suggests it’s built to overcome a three-score lead against a very good defense. I’m happy to write this one off — and judging by the TV coverage, so is RedZone.

Jameis Winston is playing with a sprained AC joint, and he looks off-target. Well, more off-target than usual. He underthrows one receiver, then throws off-target on a screen before getting strip-sacked. That tomahawk chop couldn’t have felt good on his injured shoulder.

— With the Bears up two scores, Mitchell Trubisky runs to the left on third-and-goal and dives for pylon. It’s ruled a touchdown initially, but overturned on review. Facing fourth-and-goal less than a yard out, John Fox opts to kick a field goal like the big ol’ coward he is.

Now, I’m getting ahead of myself in the diary, but I don’t want to talk about the Bears again, so let’s just get this dumb team out of the way. The Bears will go on to win thanks to Eddie Jackson’s two defensive touchdowns, which might make Chicago fans ignore the inherent John Fox-ness of their team’s play. I won’t hear any results-based defense of this trash team. Look at this!

The Bears earned zero first downs in the second half and became the first NFL team to win with fewer than five completed passes since ... the last time John Fox coached in the NFL. I’d rather have a block of cement coach my team.

— My daughter is up from her nap. She asks what’s happening on the TV. “The Browns are the brown team with orange helmets,” I say. “The Titans are the white team with blue pants. I like the Titans’ uniforms better. What do you think?”

She pauses for a moment. “I like the orange!” Such a shame that I have to disown her now.

Todd Gurley freezes the Cardinals D with a jump-stop at line of scrimmage, then scampers around the left edge for a touchdown.

That possession came as a result of a Carson Palmer interception thrown while he got hit. Palmer seems unlikely to return (UPDATE: broken arm, he’s out eight weeks), so we can go ahead and cross “Cardinals comeback” off the list. I’ve seen the Drew Stanton Show before.

DeShone Kizer throws a pick that gets caught on the Titans’ 11-yard line. I have never in my life seen a quarterback commit red-zone turnovers like this. He’s like the anti-Mariota.

That realization gives this useless field goal battle some semblance of meaning: Kizer and Mariota are diametrically opposed forces drawn together, as if they’re in a superhero movie like Unbreakable or Hancock. (Speaking of Unbreakable, shouts out to Sam Bradford, the undisputed Mr. Glass of the NFL.)

— With the Dolphins backed up to their own goal line, Jay Cutler throws an interception off a deflected pass. The Jets punch it in for a 21-14 lead. This game has been wildly entertaining throughout the first half, but I’m not wired to accept these teams playing an entertaining game.

— The Rams score another touchdown, this time on a Jared Goff read-option keeper. They’re up 20-0 near the end of the half, and Drew Stanton will have 40 seconds to throw an interception and give the Rams another chance to score.

Stanton’s first throw on the next drive: a pick directly to a Rams defender. I swear this is not some ex post facto insight I’ve edited in; I’ve just watched Drew Stanton before. So has the First Down France account:

Scandaleux indeed! Greg Zuerlein kicks a 53-yarder, and the Rams go into halftime up 23-0.


— I’m not usually in the business of highlighting irrelevant 3-yard catches, but Christian McCaffrey warrants an exception:

Lots of masturbation jokes to be made in that tweet there. Not that I would think about them, because I am VERY MATURE. Father of young children over here.

(*audibly farts and tells the kids it’s a “barking spider”*)

— My wife is taking our kids to a Halloween-ish birthday party, which means costumes are welcome but not mandatory. My son will be a shark, my daughter will be a ghost, and my wife will be harried and stressed out.

I help my daughter into the stroller and put her shoes on, then assist my wife as she loads my son into our carrier (we like the flexibility and simplicity of the Beco carrier, in case you’ve made the mistake of having children and need a recommendation).

And then, at 2:51 p.m. ET: They’re gone. My apartment is completely quiet except for the TV. I am tempted to sleep, to eat, and drink everything in the house, to get on my bike and ride in the sunshine ... but I just keep watching RedZone. The whole premise of me missing the party is that I have to work.

So, I stay and watch Joe Thomas tear his triceps, leading to the first missed snap of his career. After 10,363 consecutive snaps, the NFL’s ironman exits the game. And on such a promising Browns team!

— In Miami, Jay Cutler has also left the game with an injury, though his consecutive sourpuss streak is safe.

— I take my dog for a walk. Stella is a Rottweiler mix that I adopted three or four years before I met my wife, and the dog loves me despite the way I’ve filled her living space with small humans that don’t give adequate belly rubs and suck up the attention that used to go to her.

While outside, we run into a family that dog-sat Stella once, and she nuzzles them all and wags her nub fervently. I leave her outside while I duck into a grocery to buy a tallboy (prep for the Seahawks game), and when I come back she lies down on the pavement and rolls onto her side. No walking until she gets her belly rub.

I say a lot how fulfilling parenthood is (and it is!), but for the record: My life was also pretty kickass when it was just me and Stella.

— I return from the walk and look at my computer while catching up. Something about my TV seems blurry, like the players are in regular definition. Then I notice that I’m getting more Jets-Dolphins than I’ve seen all day. Is RedZone EVER going to show this O.J. Howard touchdown I’m reading about on Twitter?

And then I realize: I’m watching the local CBS feed of the Jets game. I must have pressed “2” with an inadvertent nudge of the remote. I feel like I should get some kind of detox or vaccination.

DOCTOR: And how long were you exposed to Jets-Dolphins?

ME: I dunno, maybe 10 minutes?

DOCTOR: OK, this should be fairly routine — [reads chart]. REGULAR DEFINITION?!?!

ME: Is that bad?

[alarm sounds] [lights flash]

DOCTOR: [on the phone] Yes sir, we’re locking down the wing to contain the infection.

— In order to justify my beautiful peace and quiet, I start folding laundry, which is by far and away the WORST chore. I thought laundry couldn’t get worse, then I had kids. “Oh, you hate folding laundry? What if you had to do it more often and everything was five times smaller?” If we could afford simple luxuries, the very first thing I’d throw money at would be a laundry service.

— With less than a minute left in regulation, the Browns are attempting a 54-yard field goal to tie a 9-6 game. What a sorry-ass state of affairs. Welp, it’s good. The Browns are celebrating, but why? What is there to celebrate when the result is additional Browns football?

[clapping in Roger Goodell’s face after every word] BAN REGULAR SEASON OVERTIME AND SEND TEAMS HOME WITH TIES.

— Cooper Kupp scores a touchdown on a screen to make it 33-0 in London. I know Kupp played college ball at Eastern Washington, but that’s a Big XII name if I’ve ever seen one. Whenever I see his name I just start making white person word salad with it until I come back to his name. Like this:

  • Coop Cooper
  • Scooper Coop
  • Copper Kopp
  • Pooker Puck
  • Pucker Pork
  • Rucker Corp
  • Kurper Carp
  • Cooper Kupp

Ahhhhh, that feels so nice in my brain. The only NFL name that’s better for that game is Blake Bortles.

— There are three tied games as the early slate winds down: Jets-Dolphins, Bucs-Bills, and the trash fire in Cleveland. In reverse order:

1. The Browns and Titans feebly do nothing for most of overtime before Mariota finally gets his team into field goal range. Ryan Succop hits a 47-yarder to end this miserable affair 12-9.

2. After a LeSean McCoy touchdown tied the game at 27, it looked like the Bucs would have a chance to win the game — except Adam Humphries coughs up the ball and the Bills recover in field goal range. Steven Hauschka hits a 30-yarder with 14 seconds left to win the game, but not before the Bucs pull off the longest, most competent failed lateralpalooza in NFL history.

3. Josh McCown attempts to lead the Jets on a game-winning drive. Pretend you didn’t see this game or any highlights: Given that setup, how do you think this ends?

If you said, “McCown interception” without thinking, congratulations: You have seen NFL games before. The announcer scoffs, “15 years [in the league], you shouldn’t make that mistake.” Yeah, no shit. But that’s the result you deserve when “political activism” is a disqualifying factor in your quarterback search.

Cody Parkey kicks the game-winner for the Dolphins. Cardy Poker. Coder Party. Parker Podey. Porky Corder. Corky Pordy. Cody Parker. Ahhhh.


— In Santa Clara, the Niners fumble a punt return, giving Dallas a short field. Zeke Elliott punches it in, and folks, I don’t think the home team’s gonna be able to overcome this 7-0 deficit. It’s just too big a hole with too little time.

— The Seahawks are at the Giants this week, which means I have the relatively rare luxury of watching the local broadcast, which in turn means that this column is gonna kind of suck from here on out. I promise to flip to RedZone during commercials!

(Last week, the Seahawks were on bye, and I didn’t mention that stupid team’s name ONCE in the entire column. I never enjoy the NFL as much as when Seattle doesn’t play.)

— The late games I’ll be mostly ignoring: Cowboys-49ers, Bengals-Steelers, and Broncos-Chargers. I click over during commercial, and there’s Antonio Brown scoring on a slant. Like clockwork. It’s 7-0 Steelers.

— Last season, a lot of people made fun of Ben McAdoo for wearing a giant, oversized windbreaker. Seeing him this season, it’s now clear that he chose the XXL with the intent to fill it out. I’m not trying to fat shame anyone; I love a coach with a long-term vision.

I won’t make fun of anyone’s perceived weight gain, but I definitely WILL make fun of McAdoo’s sunglasses and hair and game-planning and everything else about him, because he’s a total herb who can’t coach.

— It’s so quiet in this apartment. So calm. My favorite team is on television, and I am drinking a beer and watching them without any children vying for my attention. This is nice. I like it? Yes, I like it.

But I also kinda miss the chaos. Not the chaos itself, but my ability to lessen it. If my son falls and cries, I can pick him up and soothe him. But if the Seahawks have 10 plays inside the 11-yard line and come away with zero points because they throw a goddamn FADE on fourth down and JIMMY GRAHAM DROPS IT, there’s not a goddamn thing I can do about it. At least parenting offers a tiny piece of self-determination.

-- I wonder what my kids are doing, but, like, only during commercials. If my wife ever leaves me, she should do it during a Seahawks game. Automatic three-hour head start.

Jason Witten makes a SPECTACULAR one-handed TD grab.

What a great catch by a tight end! Isn’t that right, JIMMY GRAHAM??!?

— JuJu Smith-Schuster gets wide open for a touchdown, then celebrates with hide and seek.

This is a perfectly fine celebration, but I also think a lot of fans are being too laudatory of anything that flies in the face of the old, crappy rules against celebrations. Like, hide and seek is a children’s game. The other week, Kyle Rudolph celebrated with a game of Duck, Duck, Goose/Grey Duck. Are we really going to think it’s cool or funny if players dance in a circle and sing “Ring Around the Rosie?” Trust me: As a man who has sung “Ring Around the Rosie” and fallen down two dozen times in the last three days, it’s not that great.

Ditch the kids’ games and come at me with something that rivals Colombia’s team salsa dance. I am not a crank.

Thomas Rawls fumbles directly into Landon Collins’ arms. Collins returns the ball some 30-odd yards to set up a red-zone possession for the Giants, whose offense suddenly comes to life to score in two plays. Evan Engram scores the touchdown on a play in which Eli Manning play-faked to no one. Cool. Cool cool cool.

I change into sweatpants. There is a knot in the jaw muscle near my temple.

— I get a text from wife. They’re leaving in about 15 minutes. Is she sure? Does she want to stay out a little later? Go ahead, let them play with their friends a little longer. They can stay up late and have some more cake. Bring ’em back around 8. No?

— Doug Baldwin is briefly taken over by the collective spirit of Seahawks Twitter and shoves Tom Cable, the offensive line coach largely blamed as the root of the team’s horrid line play.

The full story comes out later: Baldwin was trying to make sure that Russell Wilson was being heard by the players; the wideout wanted the emphasis to be on the players’ failure to execute, not the coaches’ calls. He even apologized to Cable and said he loves him.

Which, as a Seahawks fan, I guess is fine. But I also would have been OK with Wilson and Baldwin saying, “It’s him or us.”

— Good night, Dre Kirkpatrick:

The Bengals are 100 percent losing this game. You don’t recover from that.

— Zeke Elliott scores his third touchdown of the day, a 72-yard catch and run that puts the 49ers to bed.


— I run a bath and heat up the kids’ dinner. It’s a little after 6 p.m., and we’re going to have to hustle to keep the kids on schedule for their 7 bedtime.

My sister had kids years before I did, and I was the typical ignorant drunk uncle when it came to her devotion to the kids’ naps and schedule. “What’s with the schedule? Why can’t the kids just power through this one time?” Because the schedule is GOD, man! The schedule is all powerful. It is the weather; it is the earth beneath your feet. Reject it and your life will be untethered from reality, a nonstop maelstrom of tears and tantrums.

We had dinner with friends on Saturday night, and ended up putting the kids to bed at 8:30 instead of 7. And my son was WRECKED the next morning, an absolute disaster until we put him down for a nap almost two hours earlier than usual.

— Uh, the Chargers are up 14-0 over the Broncos? The AFC West is a spooky-ass house of mirrors.

— With 14:03 in the third quarter, the Giants get their first third-down conversion in the game. Manning now has 29 yards passing. The next time I complain about watching the Seahawks offense, please remind me that the Giants exist.

— Around 6:20 p.m., just as my family returns, the Seahawks offense finally gets its touchdown:

The touch on that pass is what stands out on first watch, but do yourself a favor and watch the ankle-breaking move that gets Baldwin a free release from the slot.

— I’m as anti-Steelers as a fan can get, but I respect the hell out of any coach who attempts rude shit to stomp on a division rival. TO WIT: With the Steelers up two scores, Mike Tomlin dials up a fake punt on fourth-and-7 to ice the game.

What an absolutely shitty thing to do. I love it!

— Speaking of disrespect, the Seahawks even the turnover battle with a strip-sack of Manning, and the first play they run on offense is this:

It’s slightly underthrown by Wilson, which gives Landon Collins JUST enough time to make a play on the ball, but the simultaneous possession gives the Seahawks a touchdown. If I learned anything from the Fail Mary, it’s that a tie goes to the runner.

— We put the kids down at 7:25, and bedtime goes as smoothly and drama-free as each of the four late games.

Aside from the Seahawks result, I can’t say that I liked today better than the usual pandemonium of being NFL Dad. Given the choice, I’ll take the chaos and love of fatherhood over the quiet stress of being totally focused on my team. Both would be nice, of course, but that would mean more Seattle games in primetime. And I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.