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Could A Normal Person Finish A Tour de France Mountain Stage On An E-Bike?

COMBLOUX, FRANCE - JULY 18: Olivier Le Gac of France and Team Groupama-FDJ sprints during the stage sixteen of the 110th Tour de France 2023 a 22.4km individual climbing time trial stage from Passy to Combloux 974m / #UCIWT / on July 18, 2023 in Combloux, France. (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)
Tim de Waele/Getty Images

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 Threads, parental self-loathing, toilets, weed, and more.

We’re in the most boring part of summer right now: the time of year where the idea of installing a pool at my house for $85,000 actually sounds like a perfectly sane investment. But the barest of salvation is close at hand, because Why Your Team Sucks begins a week from today. If you’d like to participate, you can email your submission to this address. Now, as always, here are the ground rules:

  1. Put your team’s name in the subject heading.
  2. YOUR TEAM ONLY. Someone already tried to email me with DOY UHHH I’M NOT A BEARS FAN BUT I THINK JUSTIN FIELDS IS LAME. I wanted to find that emailer and kill him with my bare hands. This is an exercise in self-loathing, people. If you don’t get that by now, fuck off and die.
  3. To that end, every year I’m light on submissions from fans of a handful of teams, most notably the Jaguars, Chargers, Rams, Falcons, Titans, Texans, Panthers, Bucs, and Cardinals. Shocking, I know. So if you love any of these also-rans, I’d advise you to send something in. There’s a very good chance I’ll use it, even if it’s crap.
  4. Don’t drag ass. I close submissions early so that I can still get some sleep.

Get it? Got it? Good. Get it. Also, donate to the Entertainment Community Fund if you have the means. It’s more than just giving striking Hollywood workers money to live on, it’s a good investment in the quality of your future TV and film options. The better that writers and actors are treated, the better work they’ll do.

Your letters:

Garrett:

Like many others, one of my favorite pastimes is to imagine what I, a regular guy, could do in various professional sports situations. With the Tour de France going on, I've been thinking about whether it would be possible to complete a single mountain stage if I had the assistance of an e-bike. I think with all the benefits of the bike, plus drafting the other riders, I could do it. Is this outrageous overconfidence?

It is. The answer to this genre of question is always, always no: you can’t do what the pros do. In your case, the average mountain stage of the Tour is over 100 miles, and the average e-bike battery charge won’t get you that far. Especially on a mountain, and especially if you’re barely pedaling. Even if you got a charging break, you’re still gonna have to put in some work, and that’s not easy given how heavy most e-bikes are, how steep the Alps are, and how thin the air is up there. Frankly, I wouldn’t be able to ride a motorcycle through these stages without getting exhausted halfway through.

Here is where I confess that I’ve never ridden an e-bike. Because I ride a normal bike every day, there’s definitely a part of my brain that thinks using an e-bike is cheating. But there’s another part of my brain thinks fuck it would be nice to have one of those, usually when I’m going up a hill. E-bikes are good for the environment, they give you a break when you’re tired, and if you crash one, you only break three or four bones. I’m gonna ride one sooner or later, and you will too. Given the climate crisis, I can already picture a future that looks exactly like Fury Road, only everyone is riding a dorky-ass e-bike instead of a tricked-out funny car. Maybe I’d like my netherworld e-bike. Maybe I’d even paint flame decals on it and give it name like Sally or something. But one thing I’d still never be able to do is ascend a goddamn mountain with it.

Kevin:

My father-in-law had about a dozen guys over to watch the Fury vs. Wilder fight the other night. Everyone was well-mannered enough to show up with food or drink, ranging from cold beer to shrimp cocktail to a bottle of good whisky. One guy brought a vegetarian pizza topped with broccoli, onions, cauliflower and more. Almost every guy who walked into the room opened the pizza box and then closed it with a look of disappointment on his face. Veggie Man was the only person to eat the pizza that evening. Veggie Man is an asshole, right?

Whoa hey, you’re gonna have to bro it down a solid 30 percent here, Kevin. Now, would I eat the veggie pizza? No, because I still have a great many bro tendencies: hard rock, joking about my penis, loving tight sweater tanks on the ladies, etc. If I see a piece of broccoli on my pizza, I riot inside.

But I also live in a house with four other people, my sons included, who do NOT eat meat on pizza. If I want a pepperoni pizza, I have to order a small for myself while plain pies and the occasional veggie pizza get top billing. I do not think LESS of people who want a veggie pizza, because this isn’t 1990 and I’m not Tim Allen. Vegetarianism is normal, and growing increasingly popular. It’s everywhere. Fucking Burger King sells fake meat now. So even if I’m going to the broiest party that ever broed—and a boxing match is pretty much that—I wouldn’t feel weird bringing a non-meat option for the guys, even if no one touches it. Better to have it there in case there’s one vegan bro in attendance who’ll feel like a freak if he doesn’t touch any of the porky offerings, know what I mean? It’s not like everyone else will starve as a result.

Kyle:

Do you think you can get yourself sicker if you spread your own sick germs on your own stuff? Can I sneeze on my sandwich and not cause further damage? Note: I'm sick and making a sandwich. Thanks.

Yes, you can sneeze on your sandwich. It won’t make that sandwich taste any better, but it won’t cause you further harm. If you’re sick, your own germs are already inside your body. If you have a functional immune system, those germs can’t make you sicker than you already are, otherwise you’d just stay sick forever. I have tried to explain this to my wife many, many times when I’ve been sick and she doesn’t want me eating a sandwich without wearing latex gloves.

Aaron:

I got some serious side eye during lunchtime this afternoon from a guy in my office building's gym for choosing the elliptical right next to the one he was on because, I assume, there was another one open that was not right next to the one he was on. Should I treat my choice of elliptical at the gym the same way I choose my urinal? 

Oh I used to get so mad if someone hopped on the machine next to me at the gym. I was like who the fuck does this guy think he is? As far as I was concerned, I owned the place. That remains true now that I have an elliptical in the basement. I really DO own this place, so anytime another member of my family comes down while I’m pumping along to Bob Mould, I’m like EXCUSE YOU CHILD, BUT YOU DON’T BELONG HERE. I’m so in deep inside my headspace when I’m working out—imaging myself as a rock star who moonlights as a Super Bowl–winning quarterback and porn actor—that the mere presence of other people punctures the illusion. My ego can’t have that. It’s much too delicate.

Leonard:

It is my belief that, aside from spouses/children/very close family members, people should only be able to contact you in one way, and you should be the one to dictate that way. In other words, I am an e-mail dude. I only want to get e-mails and I only want to send e-mails. It is my preferred method of communication. Not everyone has to pick the same method, but we should get to express a preference. Am I being a dick?

Not as much of one as Kevin, but yes. It’s not rocket science to answer emails, texts, and DMs, you know. Takes all of 10 seconds to check those things. If you’re super picky, you can always note “the best way to reach me” in an autosig or voicemail greeting. I see that all that time. But going to your kids and being like, You must only contact Daddy through his Hotmail account is some weird shit. You can multitask.

That said, if anyone attempts to contact me by voice call, I will ruin their life.

Tim:

Before my daughter was born, a friend of mine said you are doing a good job as a parent if you feel like a failure. I now have a second daughter who is six months old and I definitely feel like a failure sometimes. Especially when the oldest repeats bad language I say, and when I scream in frustration when the youngest is fighting a nap. Do you feel there is any truth to this feeling like a failure adage?

Yes, because it means you care. You can take it too far and beat yourself up constantly, to the point where you’re actively harming yourself and others. But yeah, I felt like I was a lousy parent a lot in the early days, because in some ways I was one. I yelled. I cursed. I let them watch too much Youtube. One time my kids refused to go to bed and I became so I enraged that I screamed at them, “You will go to bed or I WILL FUCKING BEAT YOU!” I screamed it so loud I didn’t even know I had that register in me. Anyone else within earshot would have called the police. I didn’t beat them, but I wanted to, and that’s an awful moment for any reasonable parent.

I didn’t forget that moment, either. It’s stuck with me to this day, and I regret it as much as I’ve regretted anything. Another time, I got so frustrated with my daughter than I collapsed onto the ground and started crying while pounding my fists on the hardwood floor. My son, who couldn’t have been more than two at the time, walked up to me and said, “Deddy, are you OK?” which broke my heart. He was the one who had grace in that moment. I had nothing.

So yes, there were times I’d say to myself, “I’m an awful parent,” and then ruminate on the future consequences of that. My kids would grow up unhappy, damaged, and jobless. All of my worst fears, all of it my fault. The kicker is that it’s only natural to feel this way when you’re a parent, because you’ve never done this before and because your kids have never grown up before. All of you are growing and learning in real time, which means that failure is baked into the model. If you’re self-aware about this—and if you’re COMMITTED to being a good parent—you recognize your failures and then seek out ways to improve from there. But it’s not a smooth process, and it’s certainly not a quick one.

I am now, without question, a better parent than I was at the beginning. Too good, frankly: I don’t want these kids so happy with my wife and me that they refuse to ever leave. When I look at my kids now—healthy, smart, and self-reliant—I’m more likely think about what my wife and I did right than what we did wrong. But it took a long time to get from there to here, and even now I’m not done figuring all of this out. I never will be. All I can do is be there, and try.

HALFTIME!

Kevin:

Are you going to join Threads? My first few days were like Instagram on acid, but the algo seems to be calming down and I found myself forgetting it wasn’t Twitter. It’s still clunky, but I like IG just fine, and this seems like could end up beating Bluesky to the punch.

I joined Facetweet at its inception but I’ll never use it unless I end up having to. I tried it for a day (10 minutes) and it didn’t give me what I wanted, namely: a chronological feed of posts from accounts that I follow. That’s all that I want. That’s all that ANYONE wants. But Mark Zuckerberg won’t do that, because Threads is his attempt to give you a Facebook news feed disguised as a Twitter feed. It is Glenn Youngkin to Facebook’s Ron DeSantis. Both are unappetizing, and both are proof that these companies have no interest in giving customers what they want. Instead, they’d rather you “discover” new brand accounts that pretend to be people, new thirst traps, new news orgs (likely Nazi ones), and new products. That keeps you on their networks longer than if you had full control over your account and were able to check it as you saw fit. In the process, you are constantly being sold shit you don’t want, including the innermost thoughts of Matt Yglesias.

This is true across other tech products. My Spotify homepage LOVES to suggest podcasts to me. The “continue watching” submenu on any streaming service I have is buried beneath 56 entreaties to watch Richie Rich 5. And if I order something off of Seamless, the app always asks me if I’d like to add a mango smoothie to my order for just nine bucks before I hit PURCHASE. Every time I open my phone, I am being upsold, and I’m way too old for that shit. Get to my age and you can smell a weak pitch from 500 miles away. I have better things to do with my life. So I’m not keeping Facetweet open, not even if Twitter dies.

And like I’ve said before, I lived without social media most of my life, and I can do it again. I already know it’s easier than I think it is.

Jesse:

What non-home, non-work establishment have you taken a shit in the most? Can be either sheer number or percentage. For me by percentage, Trader Joe's without hesitation. For some reason (maybe because I always go there right after I've had a rare-for-me coffee), I've probably taken a shit in TJ's 80-85% of the times I've ever been in one. And the bathrooms are immaculate, so hey, why not. By sheer number? Probably Target. Also, I'm very white, apparently.

It’s school, even if you don’t factor my early life into the equation. All three of my kids went to the same elementary school, over an unbroken stretch of 12 years (!!!). I went to that school for Back to School days, parent-teacher conferences, band recitals, basketball practices, and more. And every time I went, I carved out at least five minutes of Drew Time by politely excusing myself to take a shit. Is it weird taking an adult dump with a random 6-year-old pissing just a few feet away? Yes, but I got past that. There could be a nuclear war outside and I’d still find a way to shit in peace.

Second place is either National Airport or Dulles. The second I get to either of those airports, my brain is like YOU BETTER GO TAKE A SHIT BEFORE GETTING ON THAT PLANE, MISTER. Then I head to the loo and awkwardly wedge my roll-aboard into a stall with me. It’s the only quality time I’ll have with myself for another six hours.

Third place is Starbucks. “Excuse me ma’am, what’s the code for the bathroom? I’ll swear I’ll buy something when I’m done.”

Otis:

You need to heat something in the microwave for a minute and a half. Are you a 1-3-0-start guy, or a 9-0-start guy?

The former. I’ve gone rogue and punched in :60–:99 on a handful of occasions, but I’m so used to measured time that I almost always opt for proper minutes and seconds. The really punk move would be to punch in 2:80 or something like that. They might arrest you if you do that.

Elliot:

You are a cannabis user and a calorie counter. How do you balance these parts of your life, as I find them mutually exclusive? Do you shamefully log five bowls of Fruity Pebbles? Or do you somehow have the willpower to eat normally while under the influence? 

I hold off the munchies pretty capably. I’m not telling you this makes me a superhero, just ALMOST one. If I pop a gummy before dinner, and that’s a safe bet, then HEY PRESTO! I’ve already factored munchie fulfillment into my evening anyway. I’ll get to eat, and it won’t be overdoing it. And if I’m hungry after that, then I go for a small bowl of cereal, which does the job capably. Cereal is our finest snack. No one denies this.

This wouldn’t have been the case with me 20 years ago. I know because I’d get drunk and then go out for banana pancakes at 2 a.m. many times. But here’s another instance where I traveled a long road to become a more disciplined, functional dirtbag. I’m so used to working out and watching what I eat now that it’s all second nature to me, even when cannabis would like a word. So if you have a hard time staving off the munchies, just get into good sober habits first and see if that steels you for the cravings ahead. I think I answered this question horribly.

Anthony:

What movie do you think the most people have seen exactly one time? Schindler's List and Citizen Kane jump to mind as movies people would feel obligated to check out but have no desire to revisit.

You’re dead wrong on Citizen Kane, because the people who love that movie REALLY love it. Plus it’s the kind of movie that rewards multiple watches, particularly for its writing and direction. I only watched Kane for the first time a few years ago, and parts of it have stuck in the forefront of my mind ever since. I’d gladly watch it again, and almost certainly will. It’s not like it’s fantastically depressing or gory, like a lot of prestige movies. It moves fast and it’s juicy as shit. Why, it’s original Succession!

***THE DRUNKEN GHOST OF ORSON WELLES APPEARS BEFORE ME AND CUTS MY HEAD OFF***

I wouldn’t even put Schindler's List in there because, as ugly as it gets, it still has the Spielberg gloss on it, and it’s still an objectively engrossing story. That’s not true of a movie like Leaving Las Vegas, which racked up a shitload of Oscars and which I will never, ever see again. I’d rather BE Nicolas Cage in that movie than watch it another time. Leaving Las Vegas fits right into Anthony’s genre of “classic movies you watch out of obligation and nothing more,” and it remains my lead standard for it.

But I don’t think it’s the definitive answer to his question, because Leaving Las Vegas was still a relatively small indie picture. So my No. 1 answer there, and I don’t think I’m alone, is Attack of the Clones. Or either Avatar film. Absolutely no interest in revisiting those hours of my life.

Eric:

Is album cover art even worth it anymore? Vinyl records used to have big epic designs (Pink Floyd, Journey, Boston) that you could frame or hang posters of on your wall. Now that every music playing device is tiny, is every artist now destined to use an extreme close of their face like Adele or Phil Collins records?

No. Cover designs aren’t used quite the way they once were, but they’re still important. The cover goes on the tour merch. Its elements are worked into the stage show. It’s on the artist’s website. It headlines every review and every piece of promotional material. It’s the most vital branding device (an unpleasant turn of phrase, but the only way I can put it) that an artist has when they’re pushing new material out into the world.

Also, and this is the important part, artists still care about album covers. If they didn’t, every album cover now would just be a black background with PETE’S NEW ALBUM in white font, and what artist worth a shit wants that? Imagine you just got a deal to record your first album for a major label. How fucking psyched would you be, even in 2023, to see the cover for it? It’s not that different from being an author (me) and living the dream of seeing your own book get a proper cover (me again). That cover is a permanent, visual representation of your work, and therefore you. It’s part of your artistic identity, which is why you want it to look cool as shit. That part of the dream never goes away.

Chris:

I keep a plate and knife at work for the sole purpose of cutting up and eating my afternoon snack, which is usually a tomato or an apple or some other fruit or vegetable. If I cut it up and eat it within about 15 minutes and then go to the sink to wash the aforementioned plate and knife, I can just rinse them off and not use soap, right? 

Yeah, I don’t have a problem with that. You’re alone at work, which means you’re allowed to slip into bachelor habits. I’m just shocked you brought a real plate to the office. This isn’t anywhere near as precious as all of the Adam Rapoport–era Bon Appétit staffers keeping entire spice racks in their desks at work. That was insufferable. But having your own apple plate at the office is definitely a grown-up move.

Alex:

I lost what I thought was my dream job as a cushy in-house attorney. However, I’ve realized that despite the money, I simply can’t deal with that level of stress or the expected hours again. I’ve been horrible with networking, so I feel like I’m really at a loss. All of this makes a potential career jump seem even more daunting. I know all is not lost, but I’m having a hard time to even figure out what I should do even do next. You’ve been open about your own job search struggles and I was curious if you had a recommendation for a bum that’s looking for work, or even changing careers?

In my experience, the key is that you can’t start networking once you lose a job. Every new job I’ve gotten has largely been thanks to contacts I’ve made—real relationships I formed with people I liked, not just cold-messaging strangers on LinkedIn—while still gainfully employed elsewhere. So once I was a free agent, those same people were like, “Oh, my friend Drew is looking for a job,” and not, “Some strange guy keeps sending me his resume.” Networking, like the NFL, never sleeps. A disturbing thought, for certain.

But it’s too late for that now, Alex. So your options are to visit a career counselor, to reach out to whomever you have a genuine and existing relationship with (even if they don’t work in your chosen field), or to ask people in the comment section below, even though they’re all lawyers just like you.

Or, and you won’t like this, you find another lawyer job, and then spend your time on that job laying the groundwork for the job/career after that: meeting as many new people as you can, finding out what other passions you have, applying elsewhere if you see a sudden opportunity, etc. It’s not a perfect endgame, but at least it gives you a chance to map this out long-term rather than cram it all into a single period of unemployment. That’s just too daunting, especially if you don’t even know what you wanna do with your life. Give yourself more time, and more capital, to sort that out.

Email of the week!

Cousin Eddie:

Lord help me, I know I am flirting dangerously close to "I Hate Myself Because I Don't Work For Buzzfeed" territory with this, but: I just can't get good at social media and it drives me crazy. A bunch of my colleagues have large, active followings, first on Twitter, and now (long sigh) on Bluesky. They seem to rack up likes and followers with ease. I’d like to think I'm as funny and interesting as they are, and that the work I share is high-quality and engaging, but nothing I do ever seems to get traction. They all interact with and follow each other, while I'm often left feeling ignored, like I'm some sort of Cousin Eddie at the Griswold Christmas dinner table.

Of course I know the rational answer is that none of it matters, to delete it all and give up caring about it completely (my therapist and I are working on that, trust me), but it's hard not to feel like my inability to resonate with people despite giving it the old college try means that I'm just flatly unlikable. So until I finally do come to my senses and trash it all for good, how the hell do I get better at this?

By stealing jokes.

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