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A Boston Sports Fan Asks If His Kind Can Ever Be Forgiven

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - DECEMBER 20: A Boston Celtics fan holds a sign during the game against the Detroit Pistons at TD Garden on December 20, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics defeat the Pistons 114-93. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Time for your weekly edition of the Defector Funbag. Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag. And buy Drew’s novel, Point B, while you’re at it. Today, we’re talking about meatloaf, coaches in jeans, owner’s manuals, long hair, and more.

Your letters:

Andy:

When do Boston fans get paroled? The Patriots are fucked. The Red Sox are probably back to staring at the ass-end of the Yankees for a while. The Bruins let their egregiously sized captain walk, and the Celtics are super fun to watch and inspire lots of hope right up until you remember there’s still a Western Conference. The Bs or Cs may sneak a title in somewhere, but the days of people from Greater Boston getting to actually gloat about recent victories are mostly over. So, how long do we have to eat shit before we can go back to being just another fanbase? I’m just looking for the baseline of assholery. Five years? 10? 20? How long until we can just be, like, Philadelphia-level abhorrent again?

It’s gonna take a LONG time, Andy. A long time. You told on yourself with this sentence…

“The Bs or Cs may sneak a title in somewhere”

That’s not only presumptuous, it’s spoiled. “Oh, we might win a throwaway title here and there.” I don’t see Seattle fans being like, “Sure, the Mariners might win it all on a fluke, but that wouldn’t count.” So you clearly have work to do before you get back to a baseline where ANY title is seen as both worthy and frighteningly distant.

Furthermore, Boston fans were NEVER just another fanbase. When the Red Sox were in their title drought, Boston fans never shut the fuck up about it. They prized that drought like they’d won the world championship of melancholy. Pats fans were caustic assholes. Celtics fans were and are racist. And Bruins fans publicly jerked off to that one photo of Bobby Orr flying sideways.

So I have very little hope that time and failure will cultivate anything close to introspection among Boston fans. Asking me to forgive them is like Republicans going JEEZ CAN’T WE ALL MOVE ON? after the Capitol riot. You fuckers have been committing sports fan atrocities for two decades now, and it hasn’t stopped because I know damn well there are Boston fans out there currently celebrating the Bucs’ Super Bowl win as if it was their own. So this is gonna take time. You don’t just get to go OOPS SORRY ABOUT BARSTOOL just because the Patriots missed the playoffs for a crippling one consecutive years. Recompense must be provided.

I doubt any is forthcoming. No matter how Boston teams do this decade, their fans will still continue to make every goddamn thing about themselves and no other team. That’s their track record, and it’s not a short one. Also, Boston sports fans are still WAY overrepresented in all of American culture, especially in comedy. You know what a fucking letdown it is to discover a promising comedian and then hear them say, “Hey, I fuckin’ grew up outside Boston!” halfway through the set? THE WORST. When pop culture has an equivalent number of Anaheim Angels, Calgary Flames, and Jacksonville Jaguars fans, AND when you’ve sucked for two decades so we can all laugh at you the whole time, then we can talk.

But for now, Boston fans need to shut the fuck up. No one’s forgetting what you did anytime soon.

Jon:

I’ve started becoming obsessed with reading and saving manuals for the gizmos and gadgets in the house. I’ve also started compulsively registering products for the manufacturer warranties for every trivial piece of plastic in the house. I’ve been confidently operating a blender for twenty years but nevertheless I have a drawer with a blender manual in it. Am I alone in this compulsion, doomed to give personal information to every company in the world? Or is this just part of getting old?

My wife saves all of our manuals in a file folder and has for years now. So whenever we buy new shit, I take the manual and stick it in the file. I never READ the manuals, mind you. I’m too lazy to ever do that. But they’re handy to keep on hand, especially for electronics hardware. You can call that old man shit, but really it’s just a useful habit. Older people are the ones most like to do it because older people know things. Something you own inevitably breaks, and when that happens, I’m gonna need to know the serial number, or the model number, or the customer service number that isn’t listed on the website, or the assembly instructions (which, in a moment of need, are useful disassembly instructions). Or I’m gonna need run through the troubleshooting section of the manual to find the problem I’m having.

And then, of course, there is the warranty information. In the early part of quarantine, we couldn’t go anywhere. Couldn’t even go to the local pool in the summer. So, to help compensate for the loss, we dipped into our savings and bought an inflatable hot tub. All last summer, I became a Hot Tub Guy. I tested the pH levels every week. I changed the filters. I scrubbed buildup off the sides. I bought a weird little pool vaccum. I also discovered that the key to keeping any pool or hot tub clean is using 500 times more chlorine than they suggest.

At the very end of summer, I discovered a small hole in the hot tub. The air was leaking out at an imperceptible rate. I could jam my finger into the tub like it was pizza dough. Not good. I scurried to the manual. The warranty was due to expire in 10 days. I filed a claim as quickly as I could, uploaded photographic evidence of the hole, and BLAMMO. They approved the claim that day and sent a replacement tub a couple of week later, gratis.

So yeah, I’m fully into saving manuals now. Again, I will never read them until disaster strikes.

Matt:

Could a football coach get away with wearing jeans on the sideline? 

OK, so I checked the NFL rulebook and there’s no language in it specifically prohibiting coaches from wearing jeans on the sideline (they ARE prohibited, however, from using bullhorns and other loudspeakers). In fact, there’s no dress code of any sort for coaches in the rulebook the way there is for players. I know that coaches ARE forced to wear team-branded apparel during games, but I didn’t know if that mandate extended to pants, given that you usually only see coaches from the bellybutton up during any given game telecast. So I contacted the league’s PR department and asked if coaches can wear jeans. Here is Senior Vice President Michael Signora’s response to my inquiry:

No. Nike contractually owns all sideline product.

So there you go. Until Nike makes jeans—and why wouldn’t they?—NFL sidelines will remain denim-free. So sad.

Phil:

Would you rather be a sideline coordinator or a booth coordinator?

The booth, pandemic or no pandemic. I understand why a lot of OCs stay down on the field. It’s useful to talk to players face to face to get an idea of what they’re seeing out there on any given play. But I can talk them about all that shit on the radio, too. Plus, from the box, I can see the whole field, check replays and game stills on the spot, and THINK. I won’t be distracted by crowd noise, or needy scrubs begging me for playing time, or the injury cart running me over. I just get to call my plays in relative peace and quiet. Also, it’s easier to take a piss and grab a snack if I need to do either. If I were an OC, I’d never stop snacking in the booth. They’d cut to me and my hands would be painted with Flamin’ Hot Cheetos dust.

Brian:

Can you make meatloaf out of chicken, or is that county jail shit?

LOL yeah you can make meat loaf out of chicken. I’ve seen turkey meatloaf on restaurant menus and in cookbooks, so swapping in ground chicken wouldn’t make much of a difference.

This is provided you ENJOY meatloaf, and I don’t. I’m on the record with this take already, but I fucking hate meatloaf. I also resent the presence of meatloaf at supposed upscale comfort food restaurants. “It’s meatloaf, but with clarified sherry butter!” Man, fuck off. Diner food tastes better (and costs less) at a regular diner, and meatloaf tastes like shit at ALL venues. I dunno how pre-COVID restaurants got obsessed with all this Norman Rockwell shit, but I hope they knock it off once we hit The After. I don’t need a $30 mini-crock of Hamburger Helper.

Brad:

What if we made the team that tied the game in regulation ALWAYS kick off in OT? It removes the whims of the overtime coin flip, and prioritizes winning in regulation. 

I don’t give a shit about the OT rules anymore now that they added the field goal tweak. The NFL has much bigger rulebook issues to rectify: replay, onside kicks, jeans on coaches, etc. There’s no way to make overtime 100 percent fair. You can implement your rule to punish the team that fell behind early, or reverse it to punish the team that blew a lead. But really, every proposed OT solution I see is from people who essentially want to make it so that neither team can ever lose. This is why I say we get rid of OT altogether and just go back to ties. All of the ties. End the fucking Super Bowl in a tie for all I care.

Lance:

Should college football lower its scholarship limit to make it more competitive?

It wouldn’t make a difference. The NCAA introduced scholarship limits in 1973, then lowered them in 1978 and in 1992. Since 1992, eight teams still won multiple national titles anyway (Alabama, Nebraska, FSU, LSU, Florida, LSU, Ohio State, USC, and Clemson). And only six schools—SIX!—have made the College Football Playoff in its entire seven-year history. That’s with scholarship restrictions already in place. If you lower them even further, Bama is still gobbling up every future first-rounder Nick Saban has ever sent a form letter to. If he loses 10 scrubs a year to the likes of Tennessee, it won’t matter. He’ll still obliterate them. The new limits wouldn’t magically make UConn football a powerhouse.

This is because college football exists in a perpetual state of oligarchy, and the oligarchs only change when the TV money and the conferences do. These are teams well-versed in the art of rule-skirting, so they’d adjust to whatever extra restrictor plates the NCAA dared to put on them (and they won’t ever dare). You can’t stop college football from being what it is.

Really, the only solution is … [screeching liberal voice] … to let schools pay the players outright. Make them employees. Let kids sign endorsement deals with whoever. Let boosters openly hand them rolls of hundreds. Shit’ll still be top heavy, but not when Defector donates a cool $500 million to Cal to help them build a sparkling new practice facility. Open the market up and see what kind of NEW chaos results from it. College football is always more fun when it’s a shitshow anyway.

Matthew:

Which country has the most dudes with long hair per capita?

When I first read your question, I was like, oh okay, which country has the most hippies? But then I was like, well wait a second, this isn’t fucking 1992 and I don’t drive a pickup truck. I had to get at the FACTS of the matter.

The best way to guess at that answer is to look up which religions forbid haircuts, and here are a few of them: Orthodox Judaism, Sikhism, Rastafaris, and the Amish. Let’s go ahead and dismiss the Amish factor right now. The country with the largest Sikh population in the world is Canada, but Sikhs only make up one percent of Canada’s total population. The country with the largest Orthodox Jew population in the world is, naturally, Israel. But only a fraction (12 percent) of Israeli Jews identify as orthodox. So then I was like, “Okay, well that leaves Jamaica,” but LESS than one percent of Jamaicans identify as Rastafarians. And you could be like, “Well but a lot of regular Jamaican guys probably have long hair,” but then I would say WHAT ABOUT USAIN BOLT HUH?! Not so easy now that you’ve been outed as a racist!

Therefore, my answer is Denmark. It just strikes me as the type.

HALFTIME!

Matt:

At what age are kids capable of eating yogurt without requiring extensive cleanup? This stuff gets everywhere, foreheads, elbows, calves, floor, back of chair, door knobs, you get the idea. My kids are relatively neat eaters, but my oldest is six and it’s still such a hassle to clean up afterward. And somehow with my two-year-old, I’ll wipe her face with a wet paper towel when she finishes, and 20 minutes later she still has it where I previously scrubbed.

Your oldest will break through soon. If you already taught your kids basic manners like using utensils and napkins (and practiced those manners yourself), the light goes on in early elementary school. Kids become more self-sufficient. They know how to clean up on their own, and they don’t want other kids making fun of them for having a yogurt ‘stache. They come around. You can speed the process up by giving your kids jobs around the house, establishing a set schedule where they pick up their rooms and clear their place settings and even vacuum small areas. All of those jobs stick. My 12-year-old is now cleaner than I am. It’s weird.

In the meantime, enjoy the mess. One of the big adjustments to parenthood is learning to tolerate messes. Not just diapers. We all know the diaper experience sucks. I mean all the tiny messes past that. I know bachelors are sloppy dickheads but even your average bro doesn’t enjoy having to clean puddles of spit-up, and pick up Legos, and mop up spilled apple juice. All of that blows, but it’s also small potatoes in the end. Better your kid paint the table with yogurt than develop a nasty krokodil habit and what not. Some mistakes kids make are a result of them learning to be human beings, and you gotta sort out which ones are alarming and which ones are a relatively harmless pain in the ass. Most of the time, it’s the latter. Only took me 14 years to figure that out.

But if you truly hate messes, NEVER give a small child rice. I learned that lesson all too well.

Jay:

Is there a more overrated fast food menu item than the McRib? Who fucking cares when it makes its annual return from wintering in Florida each year?

I had a McRib when I was a kid and loved it. The fact that I haven’t eaten one since is probably the reason I think more fondly of the McRib than it deserves. But hey, it’s a long sandwich made from barbecued pig tongues. It’s probably still pretty good. There are far more overrated fast foods out there, anyway. Lemme list some of them right now so that you can get mad at me (NOTE: This is list of overrated things, so I didn’t put things on here that are universally hated, like Shake Shack’s fries):

  • KFC’s bone-in chicken
  • Any Jimmy John’s sandwich
  • Shake Shack’s burger
  • Shake Shack’s shakes
  • Any exotic Subway sub, like sweet chicken teriyaki or whatever
  • Papa John’s pizza (some people actually like it; the free pepperonicini is the only good part)
  • Basic glazed donut from Dunkin
  • McDonald’s Spicy McNuggets
  • Everything on the Wendy’s menu except their fries and the Frosty
  • Popeyes tenders
  • You know what? Fuck it. Popeyes chicken sandwich, too

Going boneless at a Popeyes is ALWAYS a mistake.

Tim:

As a dog owner, would you rather step barefoot in warm poop or cold vomit?

This is the dog’s poop/vomit, yeah? I’ll say the vomit. It wouldn’t be fun to step in that while barefoot, but stepping in dogshit activates the smell. Plus, I’d have to worry about tracking the dogshit elsewhere after the fatal step. If I track Carter’s vomit around the house, that’s somehow less of a crisis. If there’s stray dogshit around? DEFCON ONE.

By the way, Carter barfs at random times on the carpet. Absolutely no reason for it. He’s not sick. He didn’t eat a whole turkey. He just barfs without warning or explanation. I find dog vomit strangely fascinating. Whereas my barf is a terrifying stew of pink fluid and assorted chunks, Carter’s barf sits on firm pile on the rug. It’s not even that hard to clean. It’s a vile substance, of course. But compared to some of the things I’ve seen come out of that dog’s asshole, his vomit comes practically gift-wrapped.

Anon:

Drew, I work in the emergency department and let me tell you, PCP is ALIVE AND WELL. I get PCP overdoses multiple times a week. It’s like sprinkling some crack on top of a ketamine k-hole with a side of meth psychosis. I recently had a patient smoke PCP out of his tracheostomy then shoot loogies at my coworkers and myself. He ended up being COVID positive. I feel like this is an accurate representation of my pandemic experience.

Please note that Anonymous sent this email after I claimed, with only loosely googled evidence to back me up, that an alarmingly scant number of Americans were hooked on PCP. Turns out I was wrong! FANCY THAT. Also, don’t do PCP. Very bad for you! Instead? COCAINE. Who has cocaine ever hurt? No one. I googled it.

Jason:

After waking up to see the Blake Snell trade the other morning, it has got me thinking about whether or not teams actually care about winning championships. Obviously the fans do, and for the most part the players do, as they’re generally hypercompetitive sociopaths (I say this with love), but do owners really give a shit? Even the worst teams make obscene amounts of money just by existing, so it seems like the best option for them is to have a mediocre season, just enough to keep fans coming but not too good as to need to hand out big contracts. And of course, the darker question here is if they’re not trying to win, why do we keep caring?

Roth has written about this extensively before, because MLB is now rampant with owners who are actively trying to lose. Even the Red Sox are shedding payroll because they don’t give a shit anymore. But the problem isn’t exclusive to baseball. You already know that the Bengals are skinflints, and you may know that Dan Snyder doesn’t REALLY care about winning titles so long as the sponsorship money and exorbitant parking fees keep rolling in. MLB’s owners are aggressively heading into a collective tank job, whereas certain NFL and NBA and NHL owners are more diligent about keeping up appearances but still ultimately indifferent to actual team success. But none of them give a fuck about you, and never have.

They don’t have to, because most of you will keep watching. It took Snyder 20 years of alienating fans and associates until he finally suffered any tangible consequences, and he’s an exception. Also, he’s a fucking lecher and STILL hasn’t been formally sanctioned for it. So you see how far owners have to go before their indifference costs them.

This is because all of the leagues have shrewdly exploited the fact that local sports teams are unofficial public trusts. I’ll root for my team forever. I’ll never give them up. I’ve come too far to stop now. Even if they suck (which they do). Even if the Wilf family sold the Vikings to the Ricketts family. I love the team, and its players, and my fellow fans, and the merch, and all of the little culture that surrounds it. I can’t let any of that go, which is what owners are banking on. They know fans can’t help themselves. They know that fans love to be tortured, wearing lost seasons like a badge of honor anytime someone brings up the Lions at a party and what not. They know that fans love using the team as an excuse to get drunk. They know you’re gonna gamble. They know that ANY winning season—even if it’s a fluke—will bring lost fans back into the fold immediately. And they know that if they use hundreds of millions in public funds to build themselves a stadium, the city has no financial choice BUT to support the team so that the stadium investment pays off. Owners know all of that.

Now, if I were a crank, I’d say all fans are suckers. Or I could again go full liberal and be like THAT’S CAPITALISM FOR YOU. But it’s not that simple. These teams are beloved by many despite the vagaries of leagues and owners exploiting and punishing that love the way they always have. But the love endures and that’s its own reward. I just watched the NFL stage an extremely dangerous season, front to back, that culminated in a wet fart of a Super Bowl. I couldn’t have been happier they did it. I would have been a wreck without it. As long as there are always more games, I’m a happy man. If owners cynically profit off of that, that’s how it is.

Ryan:

How many sports owners have personally had somebody killed?

All of them.

Jeff:

You (Drew F. Magary) are magically transported back in time fifty years (which sounds like forever ago but is only 1970) where you are immediately hired as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings (sorry Bud Grant). You maintain your current knowledge of which NFL players (and assistant coaches) from the 70s and 80s have amazing careers. Armed with that (plus your general awareness of analytics and whatever plays you remember from Madden), could you put together teams and results that would result in you being considered the greatest NFL coach of all time?

Nope. My best shot would be hiring good assistants and then letting them do pretty much everything. But even that would fail. My assistants wouldn’t respect me. My players would know I was a fraud. Any attempt I’d make to instill a high-octane passing attack would be ignored. Everyone would look at me weird if/when I raised two fingers after a touchdown in the fourth. The league would forbid me from coaching from the booth. It’d be a total fucking disaster. Fran Tarkenton would spit on my sideline jeans.

Email of the week!

Chris:

When my wife and I first started dating, we were boozy brunching in DC when something I ate gave me a mild allergic reaction. Like, a couple hives on my face. I went across the street to the DuPont Circle CVS, and not wanting to wait for pill form Benadryl to kick in, bought a bottle of liquid children’s Benadryl. I had no idea what was the conversion rate of children’s to adult forms, so I decided to be safe and chug the whole thing. About 30 minutes later, my limbs started convulsing uncontrollably. This was a symptom of Benadryl overdose, as I had pounded the equivalent of 12 entire pills. My now-wife asked if we should go to the ER, but, in between my arms and legs twitching, I told her I could walk it off and we took a cab home. Somehow she still stayed with me. 

The more you know…