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Funbag

Beware Of Assholes Trying To Co-Opt Mental Health Awareness

FUNBAG header art, it's a B&W image of a woman hitting a guy with a briefcase or book or something
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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 book, The Night The Lights Went Out, while you’re at it. Today, we're talking about the two-minute warning, T-Larry, rocks, Lou, washing machines, onerous fruits, and more.

Your letters:

Anon:

To what extent does someone disclosing that they have a mental health issue absolve or excuse their behaviour? In this case, a former colleague of mine always says, "you know I have [this particular mental illness], and because of that you know that when I feel backed into a corner I lash out.” This person then proceeds to send countless unhinged emails to dozens of people, including some that threaten to show up at people's offices and houses because those people are, "out of time." He has not taken any steps to address those underlying mental health issues. I try to be sensitive to others' struggles, but am I the asshole for refusing to engage with this person today and for probably never forgiving this person for the threats they've made against me and my family?

You are not the asshole. I’ll refer you to this passage from James Robins’s recent review of Walter Isaacson’s biography of Elon Musk:

Isaacson suggests Musk lacks an empathy gene, or might just be wired differently. At multiple points he implies Musk may be autistic. Musk himself has claimed that he has Asperger’s, though he hasn’t revealed whether a doctor told him this. (Asperger’s is an outdated diagnosis anyway, its characteristics since folded into the autism spectrum.) Again, Isaacson is asking the wrong question. It is not a trait or feature of the condition of autism to be cruel. 

Same deal here. Just because you suffer from a mental illness doesn’t mean that everything you do is the fault of that illness, nor does that illness always absolve you of the worst things you do. In the case of—for example—certain retired NFL players who are suffering from severe brain damage, the line there can be indistinct. In the case of Musk, and your co-worker, it’s not. You can be mentally ill and still be a complete asshole.

I know because I’ve used my own brain damage as a crutch to excuse my own poor behavior. I didn’t threaten people or anything that severe, but I definitely lashed out and was a general dick, even to those I love. Blaming all of it on my mental health issues was a cheap way of excusing myself and to avoid proper treatment. I didn’t deserve a Get Out Of Jail Free card for any of that, and many other fuckheads do not.

I don’t think that’s a controversial thing to say, even in the age of mental health awareness. The goal behind the current movement is to get everyone to recognize mental health problems both in others and in themselves. That recognition requires nuance. It involves familiarizing yourself with a loose range of mental health issues, where they originate from, and how to potentially treat them. It doesn’t mean making “mental health issues” a blanket term for an impossibly wide range of conditions, because that allows for shitbags to game the system. It’s incumbent on the rest of us to intuit when such people are leaning on that crutch far too hard, and for their own ends. Musk is a perfect example of this, as is a work colleague who makes direct threats to his colleagues and should be disciplined for it. (I also wouldn't hesitate to notify law enforcement in this instance.) It’s no sin to call those people out on their horseshit. It’s necessary, in fact.

Fuck that guy, is what I’m saying.

Dan:

I don’t mind long runtimes for movies, but I always have to piss midway through, and it seems to me that being able to piss and maybe buy more concessions during an intermission would benefit everyone. Why can’t we bring intermissions back?

Excuse me, but having an intermission would cost theater chains precious time. There are only 24 hours in a day, and every showing must include the film itself, 16 trailers you’ve already watched on Youtube, a reminder to silence cell phones that no one will heed, and the Nicole Kidman ad. You find the dead space in there to carve out an intermission. Go ahead. [Crosses arms] I’ll wait.

But seriously, theater chains don’t have the time, the budget, or the interest to accommodate the limits of the human bladder. All they wanna do is cram as many showings into the day as they can, especially with the strikes eating away at their profit margins. So they’ll never bring back intermissions. Given my well-documented struggle with overactive bladder, I’d be relieved (no pun intended) if they changed their minds. I spend the entire first half of any movie worried that the urge to piss will strike, and then I case my row to see how hard my trip will be. Then I have to time my excursion for when I sense a break in the storyline. It’s exhausting.

So I’m with Dan. Please bring back the intermission. It only needs to be five minutes long. Ten, tops. It can come between the second and third acts of the film (as a side benefit, it might force all movies to have a three-act structure). Chains could prep the concession rush with pre-filled bags of popcorn and champagne flutes ready to go. They could have ushers direct audiences to open bathrooms down the hall. They could flicker the lights in the lobby when the movie is about to resume. They could even have intermission music, like so:

We’re talking a really classy affair, here. Like going to the opera, only two hours shorter.

Dan and I are hardly the first people to endorse this idea. A cursory Google search turns up a million op-ed pieces begging for the intermission’s resurrection. None of these pleas have been heeded, nor will they ever be. All we can do is take comfort in knowing that we, as Americans, all want the same thing. Or we can all stay home and get up five times during the flick if we want. That’s what I do. Sometimes I’ll pause a movie just to check my phone. It honors the director’s vision when I do that.

Brian:

What is the goddamn point of the two-minute warning in football? No other major sport has anything like it (the closest thing being the 7th inning stretch in baseball, but even that's not very close). And do you see the NFL ever getting rid of it in the interest of speeding up games?

The two-minute warning was invented by the NFL in 1942 to do exactly what its name promised: to warn game officials that only two minutes remained in the game, because stadiums had no visible clocks back then. So we’re talking about a rule that had well-intended origins and remained a lasting quirk in the rulebook ever since. I like weird shit like that. Keeping those old odds and ends imbues every game with a bit of vestigial history.

Obviously, the warning is no longer necessary from an officiating perspective in today’s NFL, but its value to the television product is obvious. Every team gets three timeouts of their own, plus a universal timeout at the end of each half to strategize around. That makes for more comebacks, more tension, more chances for Josh McDaniels to elect to kick a field goal, all that shit. And all it costs the NFL is a couple of minutes each game. They’ll never get rid of it, and I don’t want them to.

Because I don’t think that NFL games are too long. You already know that college football is a different matter, especially because of that sport's halftime length. You also know that CFB is fucking with its rulebook to prevent games from running upward of four hours (and to a small extent, that effort is working). By contrast, NFL games are decidedly shorter and run more efficiently. The league even did away with of the dreaded ad break after every kickoff, and they’ve consolidated a lot of ad breaks with replay breaks as well. So the only time I bemoan an NFL game’s length is if it’s in primetime and I want to go to sleep. That’s not the NFL’s fault. That’s on me for being old and tired.

Otherwise, I don’t give a crap if the games last over three hours. I don’t care about the ad breaks, especially since I have a phone to dick around with. Shit, sometimes I even get caught off guard when the broadcast comes back quicker than I’d anticipated. So of all the problems the NFL TV product has, length is not one of them. I’m good.

Unless it’s a Jets game. Those can’t be over soon enough.

Martin:

What has happened more recently? Trump eating an apple or Trump doing the dishes? 

Do caramel apples count? Because Trump has definitely been like me and eaten only the caramel part of a caramel apple and thrown away the rest. For him, that counts. He has never washed a dish in his life, nor has he placed a dish inside a dishwasher, nor turned a dishwasher on. I doubt he even realizes that dishes NEED to be washed.

Matt:

Immaculate Grid is fun and all, but it would be so much better if it used defining player characteristics in the rows. For example, Cincy Reds, Chicago Bulls, Orlando Magic across the top and “wore rec specs” on the side would be Chris Sabo, Ho Grant and Bo Outlaw. Or it could be guys famous for dreads? Or muttonchops? What are some other good ones?

You could also do an entire Immaculate Grid simply using categories of criminal and/or civil accusations. I’d be in favor of this, because I’m in favor of any tweak that makes it easier for me to get all nine squares correct.

That said, I have entered the beginning stages of Grid Fatigue. It happened this weekend when I discovered—long after everyone else did—the “Past Grids” button. I had not done every NFL grid, so I spent the weekend doing as many of them as I could. I may as well have tried to smoke an entire carton of cigarettes in one sitting. It was too much football. Too much brainpower. Too many Guys. I’d breeze through the first six to eight squares of every grid and then spend literal hours trying to remember someone, anyone, who played for both the Dolphins and Seahawks.

And then my brain was like, “No, stop. I don’t wanna do this anymore.” One grid a day was already enough. Doing 20 of them in one day turned me into a drooling idiot. Also, I think I only got one of those past squares perfect, so I ended up feeling both tired and stupid. Also, there’s ACTUAL football going on right now. I don’t have to play Grid to scratch my football itches. I can carve out time to think about, like, food instead. Mmmm… food.

By the way, Immaculate Grid has gotten me wondering the minimum number of guys you’d need to cover all 32 NFL teams. Like if I grouped together Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Johnson, Calais Campbell, and three other journeymen, could I hit every single team? Unfortunately, finding the answer to this would necessitate “research,” and I’m too rich and powerful for that sort of thing.

Austin:

As an Iowa State fan/alum, do I have permission to cheer for my guy Brock Purdy and the 49ers instead of my own shitty team (Bears)? What’s the protocol for cheering for guys from your college in the pros over your own favorite pro team?

If your pro team is the 2023 Bears, you can turn on them for any reason you like and be excused for it. You can even say it’s better for them to lose because you’ll get a nice draft pick out of it. Process-trusting has made betraying your home team much easier in this regard.

Personally speaking, I used to be a huge Michigan fan back in the '90s but never carried that loyalty over to the pros. I liked Tom Brady a lot when he was at Michigan, and even briefly at the start of his pro career. Then I turned on him like it was nothing. I certainly never cheered for him, or any other famous Michigan alum, to beat the Vikings. I’ve always viewed my NFL fandom as absolute, which is a pretty dumb move considering the franchise I adopted as my own. SPIKE THE FUCKING BALL, KIRK.

So yes, go ahead and cheer for Brock Purdy. Enjoy the ride while Kyle still thinks highly of that little fucker.

HALFTIME!

Ian:

How many rocks could you carry in one hand for a whole day and still go about your business without anyone noticing? These are rocks about the size of a marble shooter. I think I say four.

Does “anyone” include my wife and children? Because if it does, I wouldn’t last more than six seconds. Hiding anything from my wife is impossible. If I start digging into a bag of Cheetos while she’s out, she’ll come through the front door at that exact moment to catch me in the act. I could rob Fort Knox easier than I could have an affair. So the idea that I could successfully spend a whole day walking around with a handful of gravel without her or my kids noticing is laughable.

But if we don’t include them in this question, the answer is a full calendar year. This is because I don’t go out unless I have to run an errand. One day, the media will brand me a “recluse” and I’ll be as mysterious as J.D. Salinger. But until then, I’m just some random asshole who can inexplicably buy groceries with one hand if he feels like it.

Amanda:

I opened Funbag today to find a question from Lou that I absolutely knew was my friend Lou, due both to the context of the question itself, and the fact that emailing the Funbag is a nontrivially consistent topic of conversation in our friend group chat (I once got Lou in trouble with his wife for outing him in our chat as the author of a different Funbag question about slugs in salad). So, is the Funbag just responses to questions from the same ten people who email you constantly, or are we just a bunch of weird pervs for immediate thinking of each other every time we see a question in here?

The fact that Defector is a subscription website means that the pool of Funbag emailers has, indeed, narrowed a bit. This means that I get a lot of repeat emailers (Two guys, one named Ian and one named John, stand out in particular), so your Lou and Funbag Lou are probably always going to be the same guy.

In addition, as the reader pool has become more … exclusive, shall we say… the scope of their emails has also narrowed. I know this is the case because, right after I quit Deadspin, Vice paid me to bring the Funbag over there for a few months. Due to a flaw in my gmail filter that I’ve still yet to fully nail down, I never saw many of the emails that Vice readers sent me in that interim period. The good news is that I’ve since been able to log into the old Deadspin Funbag Gmail account separately and have been able to recover them, even using some of them for Defector when the current stockpile gets too low. And whenever I have to sift through that old pile, the difference in names, questions, and range of subjects is readily apparent. Take this email from Vice reader Mason, for instance:

“Currently have a bet with a co-worker. Is it more degrading to tell someone to ‘suck a dick’ or to ‘suck my dick’? We both agreed that saying either out loud vs. muttering it under your breath makes a difference.

I think you can glean the Vice-ness inherent in that question. It’s just a tick off from a Defector reader’s query, and I don’t mean that as an insult. I welcome all perspectives in this column, no matter how rude. And for the record, “suck my dick” is the more pointed insult, regardless of decibel level.

One more thing: We at Defector tend to use throw around “pervert” and “sicko” liberally, just as Amanda is doing up above. But that’s a bit of an overstatement, isn’t it? It’s not perverted for her and Lou to chat about this website together. And you’re not a sicko if you’re, like, really into your favorite basketball team or whatever. All of that shit falls on the normal spectrum of human interest, only to get blown out of proportion by the internet hyperbole factory. In other words, please don’t feel ashamed for reading this column, discussing it, obsessing over it, building a shrine to me in your home, and explicitly requesting in your last will and testament that your ashes be scattered in front of the Defector office in Brooklyn. Those are acceptable human impulses.

Evan:

Why do washing machines have to be such dicks and can't tell time? Its timer says 39 minutes, I set an alarm for 40 minutes, the alarm goes off, I go to get the clothes, and it still says five minutes. 

Could be a metric system thing. What I suggest is that you NOT set a separate alarm for the washer. Just check it three to four hours after you’ve put it in. And if it’s a public machine you’re using, someone will kindly take your shit out of the washer anyway if you come in too late. Either way, you win.

Now let me tell you MY own bizarre appliance mindfuck. I have an oven. The oven has a timer, but its timer counts hours and minutes only. The only occasion when it displays seconds is when there’s less a minute left for my food to cook, in which case it goes the full NASA and commences countdown.

I’m gonna explain my hang-up with this set-up, and then you’re gonna lump me in with bodybuilders who don’t know how many days there are in a week. But fuck it, here I go: let’s say the timer is showing “:03”. That means that there are more than three minutes remaining. Could be 3:55. Could be 3:02. I have no idea. This fucks me up. I see that “:03” on the oven and my brain—to this day—takes it to mean that there are only three minutes left to go for my food to be ready. No more than that that. I am unable to comprehend the existence of additional seconds without seeing them on display. So whenever I set my oven timer, there’s potentially a clandestine extra minute that I have to wait. If you didn’t understand any of what I just told you, that means that you are “a functional adult,” and not a time pervert as I am. I envy you, because I want my goddamn dinner NOW.

By contrast, the toaster oven displays seconds all the time and I never have an issue with it. My toaster oven is good people.

Conor:

I know we all like to treat bumper stickers like we're bragging that we like this team, or this politician, this NASCAR driver, etc. But recently I've seen a big trend of seeing cars on the road with anime characters. Like the full body of Sailor Moon on the back of a Honda Civic staring at me while I'm at a red light. I've always thought anime was dumb, so I can't believe people decorate their cars with something like this. Where do we draw the line on bumper stickers?

I’m like Conor in that I don’t care for anime, but I keep that on the DL because everyone would shit on me for saying it. Especially my 11-year-old, who loves Naruto more than I love napping.

But I have no problem with someone festooning their car with all of that shit. I’d rather see a One Piece decal on the back of a Civic than a bumper sticker in 12-point type that says “I’m anti-Trump because I’m anti-stupid” or whatever. We’re never getting rid of bumper stickers or stick figure windshield decals (or decals that make fun of those stick figures), so I support expanding the scope of car art into anime, Star Trek, Kevin James fan art, and every other genre. Let’s get nutty with it. You’ve already ruined your car, you may as well do it with panache.

Ryan:

Which fruit isn't worth the effort? At first I was thinking mangoes, as they are a pain to cut up. However, they are quite delicious. It's got to be oranges, right?

Mangoes are a sincere pain in the ass, no matter how many Youtube hacks I follow to cut them. But as Ryan notes, they’re eminently worth it. A god among fruits. Citrus is nearly as irritating to prepare, with a higher risk that you’ll get a dud orange with pith thicker than human skin, or a grapefruit that was randomly bioengineered to be sugar-free. Always a rough moment when that’s your payoff.

But I have a more controversial answer for Ryan, and that’s papaya. Oh, papaya SOUNDS delicious. It’s a tropical fruit, and we all know that tropical fruits are the A list of fruit: mangoes, pineapples, guava, passion fruit, etc. Papayas should taste as good as all of those, and guess what? They don’t. Papayas are bullshit. You spend 10 minutes cutting one open, scooping the seeds and out, slicing the rind off, and cutting it into pieces, and what’s your reward? A foot melon. Papayas aren’t worth the effort. They’re smoothie filler and nothing more. Come at me.

Eric:

While watching the games Sunday, I realized that all the NFL refs are jacked now. Is this a Hochuli thing? Will this spread to other sports? I wanna see a home plate ump bust through his shirt sleeves on a third strike call.

This was the result of a shitload of NFL refs retiring this past offseason. All of those old fogies have been replaced by younger officials, who are naturally more interested in working out and have the vitality to do so. So it’s not like every other ref saw Ed bust out the guns and decided to hit the weight room. It’s strictly a generational thing.

Also, these new refs seem fairly competent, but I’m ready for that to change by midseason. I’m ready to learn these guys’ names and catalog all of the reasons why they’ve rigged every game so that the Packers always win. The bastards.

Email of the week!

Ryan:

On opening NFL weekend my 14-year-old daughter, who has never shown the slightest interest in football or any other sport, joined me on the patio while I was watching Red Zone. Mostly because she wanted the chips and salsa I was eating. But she actually stuck around for both the early and late games. She seemed legitimately interested. At some point, she decided the Jaguars were her team because she liked Trevor Lawrence's hair. So about 10 beers into the day, I drunkenly ordered her a #16 Jags jersey customized with "T. Larry" on the nameplate, since she had taken to calling him that. 

Predictably, she hasn't watched a minute of football since then, and wasn't nearly as impressed with the jersey as I'd hoped. So if any Defector readers (or Hamilton Nolan) want a T. Larry Jags jersey, hit me up. 

I kinda want it. Unless it’s a Fanatics jersey.

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