Time for your weekly edition of the Defector Funbag. Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag. Need a Christmas present that doesn’t suck? Defector gift subscriptions are now LIVE. And buy your loved ones Drew’s novel, Point B, while you’re at it. Today, we’re talking about guitars, coughing, being interviewed by your ex, and more.
Before we get into the Christmas Funbag, some housekeeping. I’m gonna go on vacation for the next week. Your Christmas Eve Jamboroo will be in the hands of the terrifying Ashley Feinberg. As for this column, your guest host next week will be resident Sports Illustrated goody-goody Rohan Nadkarni. If you wanna email Rohan questions and/or tell him that his alma mater Northwestern eats some heavy ass, do it through our Funbag line here. Got all that?
As for me, I was looking forward to doing absolutely nothing over Christmas break. Then I spent this past Sunday realizing that I actually enjoy the doing of things. Gonna be a real existential struggle. Additional napping may be required. I may even watch Tenet even though everyone hates it.
Now, with all that nonsense out of the way … your letters:
I was driving on the freeway the other day and saw a truck towing a boat with a large American flag flying from it. My instant mental picture of this person was someone on Twitter whose profile pic is a selfie in their truck while wearing Oakleys and sporting a circle beard. A tactical beard. This made me further realize that any time I see someone flying a flag or adorning a flag bumper sticker to their car, my first thought is “fuck this person” based on what I reasonably assume is their conservative views. I instantly can assume this person demands you stand for the anthem and hates black people. Has the American flag become divisive?
I think “become” is a naïve word there depending upon who you’re asking, nuh mean? That flag has portended bad things for a lot of people, both abroad and on our home soil, for a long time now. If the Trump years were useful for one thing, it was giving a certain oblivious segment of the populace just the faintest glimpse of what it’s like to live in a country that doesn’t give a flying fuck about them. Every black person has watched this shit unfold and been like WE FUCKING TOLD YOU. Now it’s all been laid bare for even our dumbest citizens to recognize (and, naturally take advantage of if they see fit). The whole “mask off!” gag got tired years ago because the quiet parts never stay quiet anymore. You know what this country is and what it does, and you also know its flag now serves as the grand marshal of shitty takes. The second I see an American flag emoji in a Twitter handle, I know that a discount Aubrey Huff is lurking behind it.
This is, in a morbid way, a good thing. If you see your home country’s flag and the first thing that pops into your head is INTENSE skepticism and not pride, then your odds of becoming redpilled are significantly lower than if you’re some parakeet who tears up anytime he hears the opening strains of the national anthem. I don’t trust America for jack shit, and I’m better off that way. I got my eye on you, America. YOU WATCH YOUR ASS.
But yes, Trump ruined the flag. It’s just one of MANY things Trump has ruined in four short years. Here now is a list of them:
- The flag
- The anthem
- Going to the movies
- The word “Enjoy!”
- Exclamation points in general
- Your relationship with your parents
- White House sports team championship meals
- The national court system
- The EPA
- The Department of the Interior
- The Department of Justice
- The State Department
- Maggie Haberman’s credibility
- Immigrant families
- Public education
- Our national pandemic response system
- The collective reputation of people who abstain from alcohol
- My children’s childhood
- The journalism industry as a whole
- Herman Cain’s ability to continue living
- Good old-fashioned Russophobia instead of the weird new kind
This list is partial, mind you. It will forever be partial.
When do expansion teams stop being new? I just realized today that the Rockies are like 27 years old at this point, but I still think of them and the Rays as ‘new’ teams. Ditto the Jags and Panthers, even though both have been around since I was like 10 years old. My theory is that teams that spawned during my consciousness as a fan will always have that mental marker for me.
I agree with that. I too think of the Jags and Panthers as “new” even though two other expansion teams joined the league even more recently. One of those is the Texans, which I still think of, and which still very much operates like, a “new” team. The other is the Browns, but they have their own bizarre history. An entire generation after mine has grown up with all four of those teams already established and normal. Old, essentially. Whereas I’m doing the dad thing where I point to a new retail development in town and scream at the kids GUYS THAT USED TO BE A LAUNDROMAT! They don’t give a rat’s ass, and they shouldn’t.
I say expansion teams stop being new after 10 years OR a title (whichever comes first), and that’s a generous allotment. Every expansion fanbase has been trained to be just as impatient and pissy as every other NFL fanbase, so your leash is short and taut. Dom Capers was the first Texans head coach. He lasted four years and had a winning percentage of .281. Meanwhile, the Jags and the Panthers (also coached by Capers at their inception) BOTH made their respective conference title games in only their second season, 1996. I was in high school when that happened and my skull was blown. I remember some people on TV were pissed because they thought those title game appearances were the result of a too-generous expansion draft. In response, when the Browns had their own expansion draft three years later, the rules were tweaked ever so slightly.
But again, this was 1996. If you’re under the age of 30, you don’t care about any of this, and you don’t have to, because Jags and Panthers are old. They may retain certain expansion aesthetics—sucking, the color teal—but they’re oldass teams. The Seattle Mariners were founded when I was a year old. I have never ever thought of them as a “new” team. Remembering the NHL’s Original Six teams is also tricky for me. If it happened before I was able to form any memories, it was always there. So you average expansion team has as much time to get started as it takes a newborn baby to start hating it.
When you cook, do you measure/chop/prep all the ingredients beforehand before you actually start cooking, or do you measure/chop/prep as you go? I’m usually the latter, but occasionally when I have the time I prep everything beforehand so that I can feel like I’m on a cooking show where all the ingredients are in their own little bowl just waiting to be added. It’s a weirdly luxurious feeling. I also hate having to rifle through my spice drawer to find the damn oregano while my sauce is overcooking.
I’ll chop some shit beforehand, mainly so that the butter in the pan doesn’t burn black because I’m still busying dicing a few carrots or whatever. Otherwise, I do everything as I go. I can be a fairly anal cook, but I’ve never had the fabled mise-en-place before me while making dinner. Do you know why? Because I don’t wanna have to wash 57 tiny bowls and plates on top of the shit I already have to clean. Dishwasher space is at a premium in this house. Ditto the sink. I turn my back for six seconds and POOF! The kids have left a million dishes in the goddamn sink. Whatever I can do to avoid using extra dishes, I will.
I even try chopping and setting aside separate vegetables all on the same board, so I’ll be cutting up an onion while a pile of celery four inches away is like WATCH IT WITH THAT KNIFE THERE, KIDDO. When it comes to making dinner, I want the maximum amount of flavor and the minimum amount of post-dinner cleanup. I wanna have my cake and throw out the paper plate, too.
You know what’s a goddamned abomination? Non-fresh potato chips as a default restaurant side. Look here, I’m willingly paying 732% of the material cost of my burger or whatever so that I can have fries or tots or rings or something else that I can’t pull off the shelf of my pantry. Miss me with chips as my side, thanks, unless you fried them up in the last 15 minutes. And don’t think for a second that you can fool me with your Sysco-brand “kettle style” chips. Not fresh. I’m onto you. This rant is brought to you from a lifetime ago, when we could like go to restaurants and complain about restaurant things.
A side of potato chips is a real food-truck move. It’s also aggravating because, in most cases I’m looking forward to the fries more than I’m looking forward to the sandwich next to them. The fries are the star attraction. You throw a bag of Utzes onto the plate and suddenly this is a fucking picnic. RAW DEAL. Country clubs also try to pull this stunt. Rich assholes paying $80,000 a year for a club sandwich and a pile of stale chips next to it. It’s amazing what those people will and won’t spend money on.
I’ve had legit fresh potato chips at a restaurant and they’re very good, but they’re usually part of an entrée that costs $18. You’re paying a 500 percent markup for those bad boys. Don’t get ripped off. Instead, make your own fresh chips at home. I do this for the kids. I slice potatoes super thin (I don’t skin them because fuck that). I lay each slice down on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, then I brush each one with olive oil and salt them to hell. Then I bake them at 400 until they curl up. Is this a pain in the ass? Absolutely. Do the chips taste good? Reader, they do. Plus I get the satisfaction of knowing that I beat BIG RESTAURANT at its own game. Those damn restaurants. No better time than in the middle of their extinction to rub it in their face!
What’s the deal with guitars? My quarantine hobby has been to learn the guitar and so far I can’t help but feel the traditional layout of a right handed guitar (right hand strumming, left hand fretting notes) is backwards. Fretting the notes requires far more dexterity than just strumming the strings unless you’re doing the metal thing and are just mindlessly chugging on your low E string. Therefore, it seems like a more natural task for your dominant hand. Have guitars been wrong all these years?
Judging by the world’s greatest guitarists, no. I think they’ve proven that there are few, if any, design flaws in the guitar. The reason a guitar’s layout feels wrong to you right now is because you’re a beginner, and playing the guitar is fucking hard. I know. I took guitar lessons for years when I was a kid. The only thing I retained from those lessons is how to play the “Smoke On The Water” riff. I also remember complex fretwork being impossible. Like, when your index finger is on one fret and your pinky has to reach out six inches to hit another fret down the board? Miserable.
But it would have been even worse if I had attempted to try all that with my right hand. My right hand is accustomed to grunt work: eating, writing, throwing, jerking off, and strumming out hot riffs. My right hand wants to work. It’s not necessarily gifted when it comes to more delicate tasks. For example, I do all my phone shit left-handed: swiping, scrolling, pressing, typing, etc. I have no clue why. I think it’s so I can leave my right hand free to scramble eggs or something. No matter the reason, my left hand is wired for the phone job.
Now, there are plenty of studies on how the brain assigns tasks to certain parts of the body. I checked out a few of them in the wake of a massive brain injury I suffered two years ago. Some of the brain’s delegation efforts remain a mystery. HOWEVER, I don’t need the science to explain the setup of a guitar when there’s already a shitload of history backing it up. Guitars have never been wrong, amigo.
This afternoon I received an email wanting to set up an interview for a job I would be ecstatic to have. The email laid out the basic who, what, when, where type of thing – totally normal stuff. But looking at how the interview would be conducted, first with the big boss, then with three of the boss’s underlings, I was taken aback. One of the underlings who would be a part of the panel portion of the interview is an ex-girlfriend of mine. How do I handle this situation and is there a worse place than a job interview to run into an ex?
No two breakups are alike, so I can’t answer that definitively for you. I do know that if it were MY ex-girlfriend conducting a job interview with me, that interview would go … poorly. We did not part ways amicably. I would not get the job.
But I would do my best to be professional about it. I would go to the interview. I would NOT be like, “Hey, remember when we used to have sex and then fight?” I might throw down an awkward, dishonest “It’s nice to see you again,” but otherwise I would answer every question like I was talking to a stranger. Then, after the interview was over, I would SPRINT to my car and self-medicate with a Five Guys run. That’s how I would handle things.
You’re never gonna avoid run-ins in life. Being in high school trains you for them. Every day at school, you gotta walk past people you’ve had shitty times with, or people you just outright despise. Working in an office isn’t much different, except that at least you get paid for it.
I just checked the time on my phone (9:19 p.m.) but briefly thought it said 9:49 p.m., and it occurred to me that 9:49 seemed like a rare time for it to be when clock checking (somehow was not high thinking this). Here’s my question: in all the occasions you’ve ever checked the time, do you think you’ve hit every possible hour/minute combo (both a.m. and p.m.)? If no, will it happen in your lifetime?
I have. Let’s say I check the time 10 times a day, and that’s on the low end of estimates, especially if you go back to my time in middle school. That means I’ve checked the clock over 160,000 times in my life. There are only 720 different time combinations on an analog clock. On average, that means I’ve seen every time on the clock over 200 times. Since you wanna be a dick and split a.m. and p.m. times, make it 100. But that’s as much math as I’m willing to do for this question. It would take a wild-ass outlier for me to have not seen a specific time on a clock. There’s a fucking clock in the lower left hand of my computer desktop, right now. It’s always in my periphery, man. Every time I whip out my phone, and it’s constantly, the first thing that greets me is the time of day. You’d have to live in an abandoned cabin to avoid seeing clocks as often as the average American now does. BIG CLOCK has us by the balls.
Recently my wife and I were choosing a pediatrician and had narrowed down to three. We were able to eliminate one based off his bio showing a love for Michael Crichton Novels and his self-reporting of being a huge fantasy football fan. What are some dealbreakers you’ve got for choosing a doctor for your offspring or even yourself?
Outside of them being a shitty doctor or being out of network, I have none. If I crossed off doctors just because I didn’t like them, I’d never be able to visit any doctor. Whether or not my kids’ pediatrician is a Notre Dame fan or whatever, I don’t care. He’s a good doctor. I wouldn’t even give a fuck if he voted for Trump. I just need him to be good at doctoring. Finding a capable doctor is hard enough on its own, especially one for your kids. If you add a bunch of other prerequisites to the search (“Oh, and he has to like Wilco!”), you’re fucking yourself over. Go see the Jurassic Park DFS bro doctor. It’s not a problem. Michael Crichton WAS a doctor, I’ll have you know.
Would you rather audibly fart in a grocery store or have a coughing attack? These days I’m leaning towards farting.
I’d rather cough. I went to the store the other week and had to cough. I had a mask on but covered my mouth all the same. That didn’t stop a nearby lady from saying, “That guy is coughing!” to her hubby with faint alarm. She was being a little judgy, but I get it. Wouldn’t stop me from coughing in public again if I had to do it. I trust myself to do it responsibly. Still beats cuttin’ rotten farts and having EVERYONE look.
For whatever reason your life is on the line: would you rather have to hit two out of five free throws… or 100 consecutive soccer penalty kicks on an empty net? Assume standard pro distances/equipment/venue for both options, and, just for fun, let’s assume there is a crowd to react as well.
The penalty kicks. No doubt. If you asked me to hit two of five free throws with NO ONE looking, I’d still brick all of them because of the whole death thing. But with the penalty kicks, I’m in much better shape. There’s no unforgiving rim to cruelly bat my life away. The goal is low to the ground. And big! So fucking big. I could dribble in all 100 shots, and I would. They would still casually saunter into the net. The only way I would blow a shot is if I tried kicking it like a normal penalty kick. If I did that, I’d sky the ball over the crossbar and be dead on the spot. But I wouldn’t do that. I’d be far more cautious and precise in my cowardice. I wouldn’t even care if the crowd shat on me for it. I’m a big boy. Also, I have deep experience making an ass of myself in front of many people. Wouldn’t faze me in the slightest.
But the free throws? Fuck that. I’d be a goner.
Why the hell is Chris Berman still on TV showing highlights on Monday nights? We’ve all got smartphones and fantasy teams so we already know the Sunday scores and have seen the highlights. Worse, his references are excruciatingly dated. Adam “Danthin on the” Theilen? Come on. I’m 45 and I find that corny as fuck! It’s the same schtick from when I was like 10 years old. I can’t imagine what someone in their 20s thinks about this fossil.
No one in their 20s sticks around to watch the halftime show, though. There’s only one subset of humanity that actually needs a highlight package of Sunday’s NFL action on a Monday night, and that’s Extremely Old People Who Still Find Chris Berman Charming. That’s the demo. Also, Berman is addicted to being on camera and ESPN gives him three shitty minutes of airtime every week because he’s part of the old guard, and because he’s a lonely widower who could use some time out of the house. In that way, he’s mildly sympathetic. In another way, I wish he’d go the fuck away forever. ESPN has fired/laid off 900,000 people the past couple of years. And look who gets to stick around. THAT’S CAPITALISM FOR YOU.
The boss at my company (he’s been here maybe 50 years) has a son in his 40s who doesn’t do a goddamn thing. He shows up to meetings in a total daze, and apparently has his own art (???) studio where he does his own projects that have absolutely jack shit to do with the company. He apparently used to help but was so inept and careless that he has avoided all responsibility with actual work-related projects. Is he actually an evil genius who is a slacker on purpose to avoid all responsibility? Or is he just like that?
The latter. What you’ve got there is your standard, original model failson. A ne’r-do-well. A layabout. A shitboy. He’s not evil, he’s just a flaky idiot. This is how they USED to make failsons before the NFL ownership model was invented, and that’s how all failsons should be. They should wander aimlessly around Daddy’s office and attend glass blowing school all day long. That’s how it was in MY day, dammit. I admire wealthy men with no ambition of any sort.
Email of the week!
My grandfather was a great man. He didn’t like silly names, so we called him by his name, Fran. Fran volunteered for WWII, despite being 28 years old, married with two small children, his wife having no job and his off the boat Irish mother living with him. They wouldn’t take him because he had a deviated septum from boxing at Notre Dame, so he paid to have it fixed. He was a lawyer, so the Navy said, great we need lawyers. He said no dice, went to intelligence school and became a navigator and bombardier on a PV-1 in the South Pacific. He also served as a gunner on the plane, hence his nickname “Gunner.”
Anyway, fast forward to the early 80s. He goes to Florida with my grandmother for a couple weeks and asks me to look after the house. In doing so, I brought my lady friend and some others over, and we did what we did in the 80s. We cleaned up but of course forgot to throw away the Old Style cans. My mom finds out, calls my GF’s parents, calls my friend’s parents, and calls my friend’s GF’s parents. I get grounded for a month and she tells me that I have to tell Fran what I did. A couple weeks later I go to see him in his study and immediately start to cry. He asks me what’s the matter and I said I had a party at his house with girls, beer, the whole nine yards. He then says, “So? I never told you that you couldn’t do that.” He then says, “How are you fixed for money?” He stood up and gave me $20. There was no one else like him.
Hell fucking yeah. Merry Christmas to you, Thomas. And to all of you, too!