Can I Stop Caring About My College Team?
1:30 PM EDT on March 28, 2023
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 worst airlines, a world without podcasts, picking up hitchhikers, and more.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: My family is going on vacation next week to visit the immensely popular spring break destination that is … Boston, Mass. Beautiful, sunny Boston: famous for its hot beaches, fruity drinks, and leisure-time water sports. Yes, I’ve thought about getting away to this tropical paradise for quite some time. Now that I’m finally—finally!—going, I’ll be turning over Funbag duties to Israel Daramola a week from now. Email Iz right here. Ask him all the things that you dare not ask me.
Now for your letters.
Can I stop caring about my college team? I went to the University of Missouri. I was a big fan when I was there, and for several years afterward. Primarily football, but some basketball. I graduated more than 20 years ago, though. Since then, we moved conferences and I also don’t live near Missouri anymore, so it’s hard for me to follow the teams. I went back to campus a few years ago and it’s changed a lot. It’s a lot nicer, but whole buildings where I spent my time have been torn down and replaced. Is it ok for me to just be indifferent at this point?
Yup. Mizzou isn’t even good at sports anyway, so it’s not as if you’re gonna miss out on a string of national titles if you bail. I’m more dictatorial about pro sports fandom. I don’t respect fans who change allegiances on a whim. Or, at the very least, I don’t believe them. College sports are another matter, perhaps because I myself stopped being a rabid Michigan football fan not long after they won the national title in 1997. I don’t know how Colby is doing in football these days, and I don’t really care. If you wanna stay die-hard like some SEC freak and make the pilgrimage to your alma mater in a customized RV every weekend in the fall, go nuts. But if you ditch your team the second you graduate, that’s your right. You don’t owe that school anything, apart from $360,000 in student loans. Fuck ‘em. Get on with your life.
Also, as Reece just pointed out, your school will move on without you anyway. All of your schools will. I’ve been back to my old prep school for reunion, and I visited Colby College a few years back because it was on our way to a different spot. In certain ways, neither campus was recognizable. Exeter has Fuck You money and is building new shit accordingly, tearing down a lot of the buildings where my memories were stored. Colby also has Fuck You money, and was a construction zone from one end of campus to the other. All the new parts were weird and out of place to me, and all of the old parts looked fucking ancient. Neither is the school I once went to. That’s true of your alma mater as well, even if they haven’t changed a single light switch since you left. Time and memory will warp its walls anyway.
This change is inevitable, because things change in life. But also, it gives me a good excuse to leave both schools behind for good. Shit, my childhood home in Minnesota isn’t even there anymore. It’s all gone: a giant, neon bar sign blinking MOVE ON at me. So I don’t have to wallow in nostalgia like some kind of sad, annoying prick anymore. I’m gonna be who I am now. And I’m never going to another reunion. When I went skiing with my old high school friends last month, I was like, “Why would I ever go to a reunion when I can just do this instead?” I don’t need to see random fuckers from junior year and hear about their jobs now. I don’t need to see who’s still hot because A) No one is, and B) I had Facebook for that 10 years ago. I’ve gotten every last drop of juice from my past already. I’m done going back. Time to think to the FUTURE, where my daughter gets into a school like Virginia Tech and then I’m like wait do I have to root for the Hokies now?! That’s the fun shit.
If all podcasts disappeared tomorrow, would the world immediately improve? Obviously there are ones that provide great entertainment value (cough The Distraction) or amplify voices we would never hear. But for everyone one of those, there are like five Jordan Peterson podcasts. It feels like it would be a net positive to get rid of them all, right?
No. Even if I didn’t have a podcast of my own, I’d still vote to keep them around. You don’t eradicate an entire medium just because there are assholes out there who are taking advantage of it. If you did, you’d also have to get rid of television, movies, regular radio (which podcasts have, in many ways, supplanted), print media, and the internet. The U.S. government is already fucking around with the idea of banning TikTok outright, which is nonsensical even if you believe that China wants to mine TikTok’s data, mapping out airtight land invasion plans after learning how many water bottle flips our teens can still do. Hell, I’m still on Twitter even though Elon is probably gonna start charging me five bucks every time I wanna open the fucking thing.
The medium itself is never the problem, it’s what people and corporations choose to do with it. The internet itself is good, but 50-minute YouTube parody videos are not. TV is good, but seeing an AT&T ad every seven seconds is not. And podcasts are good (especially ours), but listening to Joe Rogan hop onto his own show for three hours a day(!!!) to ask fake thoughtful questions to Tulsi Gabbard is not. The good news, and I hate sounding like a reply guy here, is that you don’t have to engage with any of the bad shit if you don’t want to. As a consumer, you have the power to both choose your content (AT&T ads aside) and voice your displeasure to management. It’s not much. It’s not like Elon is gonna LISTEN to everyone in his mentions. He’s just gonna post a shitty meme instead. But it’s still worth being able to listen to, read, and watch the things you DO like with all of this newfangled shit.
This is where I disclose that, while I myself never listen to podcasts in my spare time, my family does. My wife listens to health-centric podcasts. My kids get assigned podcasts for homework, which sounds like dystopian shit to people who love to cry DYSTOPIA every chance they get, but is actually both useful and normal. It’s not like the teacher is ordering them to listen to Rogan. It’s A/V homework, which every kid prefers to the written kind, and it gives many kids another voice—a literal one—to listen to outside of their parents and teachers, adults they’ve already conditioned themselves to tune out. They also listen to STUPID podcasts, but ones that in the harmless genre of stupid and not the “Let’s talk about why Hitler got a bad rap” kind of stupid. And where else would they learn that Bespoke Post will send them a new box of organic driving gloves every month for just $35 a subscription?
Please rank Girl Scout cookies.
I’m sure I’ve done this before, with Tagalongs grabbing the top spot because I worship all foodstuffs that have a peanut butter filling. You don’t need me to do it again. If Samoas are your reigning champ, I won’t get into a flame war over it. Been there, done that.
So, instead, lemme tell you about a terrible revelation that I recently had. My wife bought Thin Mints the other week, because it’s Girl Scout cookie season and few are powerless to resist. So I grabbed a few out of the box, getting all horny for some Thin Mint action. I took a bite and thought to myself, huh, these aren’t as good as I remember. I have a tasting disorder from an accident I suffered many years ago, so maybe that was the culprit. But I’ve long since gotten so used to having that disorder that it doesn’t even register with me when I eat anymore. It’s a whole process that I don’t have room to explain in this space; read about it in the brain book instead.
Also, and this is a key piece of evidence, I’ve liked Thin Mints since that injury. So I have to accept the horrifying possibility that I straight up don’t LIKE Thin Mints anymore. I hate being this person. If someone slandered Thin Mints to me a year ago, I would have wanted them dead. Now I’m all like, “Hmmm, the chocolate’s a bit waxy and flavorless, isn’t it?” I’m a fucking snob now. It’s the worst. I hate myself.
Still love those Tagalongs, though. There are certain parts of me that will never grow old.
Both the NHL and NBA hold their respective drafts, and then go into free agency a short time later. Meanwhile, the NFL opens free agency first, and then holds their draft a short time later. I'm aware trades and extensions can happen during the draft as well, but I just don't understand why they would do it that way.
You’re not alone. Know who else has a major beef with the NFL’s offseason timeline? Kyle Shanahan:
It would be the neatest thing if you could just study the heck out of everybody in the draft, which we all do, and then whoever comes to your spot, just take that [player]. And then you could just look at your board when it's all said and done, and be like, 'Wow, we don't have that position, let's go pay for it [in free agency].'
That quote is part of a deep dive that ESPN’s Kevin Seifert did into the NFL calendar. Free agency arrived decades after the inception of both the NFL and its annual draft. Before it finally became a reality, owners first tried a half-assed “Plan B” form of free agency that they hoped would be enough free agency so that they’d never have to accept the real deal. Plan B that was similar to an expansion draft, where teams could protect X number of players, with the rest able to sign where they pleased. This resulted in a talent pool of available players that was so limited that it didn’t alter much for front offices in terms of draft planning. You could have Plan B free agency before the draft because it was barely free agency at all.
Unfortunately for the owners, a bunch of judges noticed this and were like, This is bullshit. Unfettered free agency arrived thereafter, wedged into that offseason window where Plan B used to quietly reside. The draft is now a hugely profitable television event, with an entire infrastructure of programming—including the combine—built in beforehand. TV is the priority for the NFL, so no one in power at league headquarters has been eager to change the sequence, even if league stalwarts like Kyle are high on the concept.
If you read all of Seifert’s article (I recommend it), you’ll notice one anonymous agent throwing out the possibility that holding free agency after the draft could potentially DEPRESS the free agent market, because teams will have nabbed all of the younger, cheaper players first. Other leagues have rookie wage scales, but none with the kind of influence on roster construction that the NFL’s rookie wage scale does. And this year’s free agent deals were already pretty fucking soft, so I doubt the NFLPA would be too eager to switch the calendar around, even if it didn’t end up making that big of a difference (the CBA already mandates that players get 48 percent of the pie either way).
So really it’s about what you’d prefer as a fan. As it stands now, there’s a big first wave of free agency, then a shitload of draft buildup, and then increasingly smaller waves of free agency after that. Me? I’d rather hold the draft two weeks after the Super Bowl, because that’s a dead spot on the sports calendar anyway, and because I hate waiting for my treats.
As a person who seemingly loves to travel, you must have experiences with a variety of airlines. After some hellish travel back and forth from San Diego this past week, in which I ended up flying three different airlines, I've got a mini-ranking going. United can walk into the ocean. American needs some major renovations. Delta came through for us, so go Delta! It has been a while but I remember Southwest being fine and Sun Country being awful. I've only done international air travel once and that was on Icelandair and I found that experience to be pleasant. So, what do you say about an airline ranking?
I’ve flown so much my whole life that I know, from firsthand experience, that any airline ranking I give you will be worth less than Tom Brady’s crypto holdings. First of all, every airline owns every other airline. So anytime I’ve been like, “Oh thank God I’m flying British Airways this time!” I’ve then been ambushed by a “This flight is operated by ValuJet” subhed on my completed reservation. Secondly, your complaint with a specific airline should really be a complaint about America’s entire flight infrastructure, which is out-of-date in many ways and therefore vulnerable to system outages, labor shortages, crummy airport layouts, political wrangling, climate change, and predatory business practices. Thirdly, the worst airline on earth is always the last one that fucked you over.
So unless you’re flying some fancy, truly international airline like Emirates (which costs a fucking mint and is not owned by the most ethical of petro-states), every big boy airline* you fly is essentially the same. You’re no safer from lost baggage, endless tarmac delays, cramped seating, or any of that shit. I used to hold some airlines in more esteem than others. Southwest had no assigned seating, but was always on time. JetBlue was great, but rarely flew where I needed it to. Alaska was the best airline for flying west. All of those airlines have fucked me (and you) over at one point or another. All of them. None of them are foolproof.
I don’t even get mad at airlines anymore. You either accept all that risk as the cost of doing business when you fly in America, or you don’t fly at all. When I flew to Sun Valley last month on United, the first leg of my trip had to return to the gate because the "check engine" light in the cockpit went off over what turned out to be nothing at all. I missed my connection, endured the hell that is the United customer service desk at O’Hare, got myself rebooked onto a flight to Boise (no more flights direct to Sun Valley that day), booked a rental car on my phone, flew to Boise, got to the National counter, and then realized that I had left my driver’s license at that O’Hare service desk. I almost cried when this happened; why I didn't is a mystery. But I wasn’t angry at United. Sometimes they’ve served me well, other times they haven’t. Airline fuckery is an act of God as far as I’m concerned. It’s something I can’t control, and I’ll only make myself more miserable if I operate under the illusion that I can.
(*My only rule of thumb is that I only fly the big boy airlines. Like Spirit or Allegiant? Fuck no. I’m paying the markup to get fucked by Delta, thank you very much.)
I was in our office's restroom the other day. Guy was in the stall and talking on the phone about something mundane. It wasn’t an emergency, like the stall is on fire and he can't get out. So I run through the scenarios: he's on the toilet when the phone rings and he answers (weird), or he's on the phone and decides it's time to drop one (weirder). I have never done this. I spoke with my son who said he's done it once or twice, only while talking with good friends. Should I be horrified that I raised a monster? Is this something people do?
I can’t imagine ever doing that because the sound quality on voice calls is too good now. A few iPhones ago, I could get away with chatting up my mom while on the can. But now, people know what you’re doing. They can hear the plops. They can hear the pee splashing in the water. They can hear the flush. They can hear everything. So I don’t talk on the phone in the bathroom anymore, not even with my parents, who spent years cleaning up my piss and shit when I was a baby. Still too awkward. And I’m as open about my excretory habits as any person, so much so that my wife will be like, “Do you REALLY need to talk about pooping that much?” (I do.) So if I err on the side of modesty in those moments, it’s fair to say that everyone else should, too.
But you’ve met the rest of society. You see motherfuckers using speakerphone on the subway, and driving pickup trucks that don’t fit into regulation-sized parking spaces, and taking their shoes and socks off on airplanes. These are not people for whom basic manners are, like, a thing. So it doesn’t surprise me when I’m in a public bathroom and Chad Chaddington in the next stall over decides that’s the best time to call his investment broker. But I’ll never approve of them. They can all eat their own shit.
By the way, if you’re a dad like me, you know that the only time you receive an important phone call is when you’re on the toilet. It’s like magic. I sit down, I start pushing one out, and BBBRRRRING!!! And it’s never my dear friend Spam Risk. It’s always my doctor calling to give my biopsy results right before he goes on vacation for six weeks. You people: stop calling me when I’m taking a dump. You’re putting me in a tough spot.
A story ran in my local paper a few weeks ago about a hunter who was attacked in the woods by a pack of dogs. He was fortunate enough to make it to a tree stand, but he had to get himself out of the woods and back to the road once the dogs wandered away. His leg was mangled and the dogs had shredded his pants. So here now stood a bloody, pantsless man on the side of the road with his thumb out. He said three cars passed him before the fourth stopped and gave him a ride back to his truck.
Since reading this story, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about how I definitely would have sped past that man like the first three cars did. I’m not even stopping to hear him out and assess the probability of being knife-murdered if I let him into my car. I feel shame for this, but I think most people are like me and wouldn’t dream of picking up a hitchhiker under any circumstance. That it only took four cars before someone stopped to help this poor guy seems like a statistical impossibility to me. I like to think I’d at least call 911 to send an ambulance to help the bleeding man on the side of the road if I witnessed this, but there is no chance that I pull over in this scenario. Is there any situation in which you would pick up a hitchhiker?
No, because I grew up in the 80s, where I was told explicitly—and many times over—that hitchhikers were the most dangerous people on the face of the earth. Every stranger wanted to molest you with a Hershey bar. Every piece of Halloween candy might have razor blades hidden inside of it. And every hitchhiker was a serial killer. That was core curriculum of every 1980s elementary school. Ever since then, I’ve been terrified of picking up hitchhikers and/or hitchhiking myself. So I’ve done neither of those things, and likely never will.
That means that, like Blake, I almost certainly would have driven right past that dog-attack victim. I don’t like this about myself. Blowing off a hitchhiker isn’t that far off from blowing off a homeless person asking for money, the latter of which I do as a matter of routine. From a very early age, I was told to ignore homeless people. Don’t give them money, because they’ll just use it for drugs. Don’t even look them in the eye, because then they won’t leave you alone. Not the most liberal of approaches, and yet I still rarely give homeless people money and I drive right past any disabled car on the road, not even slowing down and lowering my window for an empty “You all right?” I am, by instinct, selfish. And I can rationalize it by being like, “I wouldn’t have been able to fix that guy’s carburetor anyway.” But even if that’s true, I’m still lacking a kindness reflex that’s worth having. I can’t blame this on the 80s anymore. I’m a grown man now. I can have this kindness if I want to, and I should make more of an effort to do so.
I was on my bike the other day when I rode by a dog lying down on his side on the path, his owner kneeling next to him. Now I’ve seen my own dog lie down in the street, because Carter is a supremely lazy motherfucker. When he doesn’t feel like walking, he makes it very clear. But right after I passed this other dog, I thought to myself, “I don’t think he was all right.” I turned my head for a second and saw another person huddle by the man and his dog. Maybe it was a stranger offering to help. Maybe it was his wife. I have no idea. I didn’t stop to go find out. I kept to my own business, minor as it was. I turned back home 10-15 minutes later and the dog was gone. So maybe that dog was fine. Or maybe it was airlifted to Walter Reed for a double bypass. I’ll never know. I almost certainly couldn’t have helped that dog if it was in trouble; I’m not a vet and the owner had a phone on him to call 911 if need be. But I still should have stopped. I should be wired to help people in a bind and not just carry on as if they never existed.
But I’m still never picking up a hitchhiker, especially if they’re bleeding. Who says that’s THEIR blood on their clothing, hmm?
Email of the week!
The other night, my wife (they pronouns) and I were in bed about to fall asleep, when they let out a fart. No biggie. It happens, except they look at me and ask, in all seriousness, "What was that?" At first I figured they were trying to pass the buck, but once I confirmed for them that it a) was a fart and b) came from them, they just shrugged and said, "Oh, I didn't realize."
After further interrogation, it turns out that ALL of their farts are a "surprise" to them: They have no idea they're coming or even (sometimes) awareness of them after they've escaped. They are convinced this is the standard for the human race. Am I crazy for having fart foreknowledge, or is stomach gas discernible (and, to some extent, controllable) for everyone else?
I have never heard of someone being unaware of their own farts. This is either some kind of disorder or a Trumpian example of pathological dishonesty. They should see a licensed fartologist.