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Funbag

Dan Le Batard Was One Of The Last Good Things At ESPN

ESPN

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 the Capitol riot, the Browns, PCP, and more.

Your letters:

Brian:

What are your thoughts on Dan Le Batard leaving ESPN?

When I first heard the news that he was leaving I was like OH GOD HE’S JOINING THE RINGER. And then he didn’t and I was like Phew! That was my true reaction. I should probably talk to my therapist about that.

Anyway, you don’t need me to join the DLB tribute canoe that circumnavigated the internet six times over last week when he signed off. Instead, I’ll tell you about the first time I watched Le Batard on TV. This was back in 2000. I worked an office job in New York and, on days where I managed to get off at five on the dot, I SPRINTED back to my apartment across town so I could watch PTI in time. That’s how much I loved PTI. I swore by it. One time I for back to my apartment and, to my dismay, Le Batard was there as a replacement host for Wilbon. I groaned. I was like Who’s this dipshit?! I wanted Tony and Wilbon only, and I couldn’t believe they were allowed to go on vacation. I didn’t want Le Batard (of course, Le Batard had the good cheer to openly joke that he was an unwelcome substitute any time he went on that show). I had mental ranking for all of the PTI replacement hosts. Bob Ryan was at the bottom. Jason Whitlock, back when he was sane, was near the top. Le Batard and Norm Chad lived somewhere in the middle. I tolerated them, but I didn’t go rushing home if I knew they were in the chair.

Then Le Batard got his radio show, and then he got Highly Questionable, and then he became a much more important part of ESPN—culturally, not necessarily profit-wise—than Tony and Wilbon. I was too stupid to get Le Batard’s radio show at first. I heard his old man do the intro, “Dannn Le Batarrrrd,” without knowing that it was his old man doing it. I thought they were using some gag announcer, as a weird joke I didn’t understand. This was not only incorrect but also racist, given that Gonzalo Le Batard was just talking in his regular Cuban accent. One time I complained to Billy that Le Batard’s radio show was exclusively about itself, but that was the point of it. I worship Stern and his radio show is built with a similar aesthetic. You feel like you‘re not in on the conversation at first, and then you get to know the cast of characters and they become your distant friends.

So I tuned back into Le Batard on the radio, got properly acquainted with Papi and the rest of the crew, and ended up enjoying myself whenever I was driving around listening to it while doing errands. Le Batard was always good company, and he wasn’t one of the cookie cutter dipshits littering every ESPN studio show, and like Tony and Wilbon have themselves become. Also, Le Batard gave us his Hall of Fame vote back when we were at Deadspin. He was the sane one, along with Bomani Jones and Mina Kimes and Pablo Torre. He got it.

The fact that Le Batard is leaving ESPN now signifies, at least to me, that the four letter’s flirtation with getting it is at an end. Jimmy Pitaro has a sheaf of papers tucked into his Haggar khakis that tells him viewers like it better when his network sucks. So I doubt he shed many tears when Dan announced that he was leaving. Pitaro has already replaced Le Batard with Mike fucking Greenberg, a waiting room of a human being. That’s just the beginning. He’s gonna replace Bomani with another Mike, and Mina with Lara Trump, and Pablo with one of Chris Berman’s grandkids. And then ESPN will triumphantly re-assume its circa 2007 form: bland, outdated, and worthless.

The good news is that Le Batard is apparently starting a media conglomerate of his own. With a little luck, he may build a billion-dollar conglomerate, just like Defector.com is. I hope he succeeds. Given the current sports media landscape, he has to.

DISCLOSURE: Sometimes I text with Dan. Also, Craggs and I went on Le Batard’s podcast last month but he told us he wasn’t posting it until this month because he wanted to leave ESPN first.

Mike:

What NFL team had the most fans at the U.S. Capitol riot? I’m sorry I can’t come up with a better way to cope than finding someone to mock endlessly.

My gut answer was the Steelers, and then I remembered:

That riot (“insurrection” is way too cool of a word to use for it) featured a disproportionate number of realtors, rent-a-cops with misplaced ambitions, and idiot Texans. Guess which NFL team features a similar demographic makeup? Barbara from Highland Park has a lovely six-bedroom to show you. It’s a little bit above your budget, but no black families live within 10 miles of this cul-de-sac. It’s PERFECT.

By the way, I spent the bulk of Wednesday afternoon numb to what was happening 10 miles from my house. I watched it unfold on TV, of course. But I wasn’t shocked. No one alive the past four years should have been. I didn’t cry. I wasn’t horrified. I should have freaked out, but honestly: what’s one more fucking thing to deal with? Donald Trump is President and nearly 400,000 Americans are dead. Of course this had to end this way, with a bunch of disgruntled boat people storming the Capitol and asking cops if they knew the password to Nancy Pelosi’s laptop. Everything was building up to this: mob violence borne out of jayvee revolutionary cosplay, with a bunch of Capitol police either frozen in place or letting them waltz right in.

I grew up in the ’90s and the stereotype of ’90s kids was that they were jaded. The ’90s has NOTHING on this century. The ’90s were a fucking baby shower compared to all this. You could pull a gun on my children now and they wouldn’t even blink. All the shit that shouldn’t be normal is very much normal now, no matter how often people on Twitter try to remind you that it isn’t. I put on the TV on Wednesday afternoon and, in my best dad voice, I said to the family, “Look at this. This is crazy!” That was my contribution to the riot discourse. Not terribly useful. Every goddamn day is crazy now. It’s when normal shit DOES happen—members of the Capitol police actually being investigated and punished, for instance—when I’m pleasantly surprised.

Then I watched the wild card games over the weekend and shithead Mike Tirico solemnly intoned, “Well, our nation’s Capitol was in the news this week.” Now, I have the right to be jaded, because I’m a private citizen and I’m exhausted. But if you’re a national broadcaster and THAT’S all you have to say about what happened, you should be fed into a fucking wood chipper. And whatever Pitaro clone ordered you to gloss it over deserves to be fucked with a steel beam, too. We need every high profile person in every profession to say, “Hey man, that was insanely wrong,” so that everyone else gets the hint. That’s the bare minimum. Even Mitch McConnell, who deserves to be executed in front of his family, was able to say it. But Mike Tirico didn’t DARE state the obvious. Our nation’s Capitol was in the news this week. Jesus Christ. That was really all you had to fucking add to the proceedings, Mike? The Capitol was invaded, you cringey piece of shit.

I don’t wanna get into a “stick to sports” rant, because we’ve trampled that ground already. But it’s the people who are not in politics who need to speak up the MOST when fuckery happens. Otherwise you’re treating impactful, lethal history that’s unfolding in real time as an inconvenience, and you’re encouraging everyone else to do likewise. God, Mike Tirico fucking sucks.

But anyway, it’s Cowboys fans.

Patrick:

I’m watching my Steelers being utterly humiliated right now, and Twitter is filled with glee. I totally get it: our QB is a rapist piece of shit, our owners are sanctimonious hypocrites, our redneck fanbase won’t shut up, and then there’s whatever JuJu is doing. But deep down, I want to unironically yell “FUCK YOU, MAGARY” every time I read one of your anti-Steeler takes. Does every fan feel this way? 

Oh yeah. I know I get pissy when people taunt the Vikings mid-loss. That’s one of many Faustian bargains I made when I became a fan of them. You fall in love with a team, and then you shit on them, and then you become protective when other fans shit on them, because you don’t feel like they have the right to do it the way you do. All totally normal. I get cranky when other fans shit on KIRK now. There’s no more universally accepted punchline of a quarterback than Kirk Cousins, and yet I bristle at outside criticism of him even though I was one of those outside critics back when he was in a Washington uniform. It makes no sense. I used to be a normal person. Now I’m a reflexively defensive asshat.

I’d tell you that’s the beauty of sports, but it’s not. It’s miserable and it makes you a worse person. ESPECIALLY if you like the Steelers, because Ben Roethlisberger is a fat drama queen.

George:

Whatever happened to PCP? I’m about your age, by which I mean, old enough to have heard of PCP, but not old enough to have seen the after-school special in which a PCP-addled Helen Hunt throws herself out of the second floor of the high school on anything other than YouTube. 

Good question, George. Why AREN’T our kids into the PCP these days? Here’s a fun(?) fact: PCP abuse actually spiked at the tail end of the 2000s. But the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) says that spike represented merely “less than one-quarter of 1 percent of… admissions aged 12 and older.” We have to do a better job as a country getting ourselves hooked on PCP. And what better time in history to do so than now, I ask you? We must UNITE behind the snorting of angel dust.

I assume that angel dust usage has been curbed by things like weed legalization and prescription drug abuse. The only time I ever saw someone do PCP, they didn’t even know they were doing it. My friend bought a joint in Mexico laced with it. Fucked him up for three days. He thought everyone was plotting against him, and this was before QAnon even existed. That friend’s bad trip and that one scene in Trading Places were all the PCP education I required. No thank you, ma’am.

There are certain drugs out there that don’t even look like fun the FIRST time you try them. Like, I know heroin addiction is bad, but I also know that the first time you use heroin is WONDERFUL. Everyone says it! High marks all around! Meanwhile you got drugs like PCP where you don’t even get a honeymoon period. You just go straight to robbing your grandparents and having your skin fall off. Americans have much better taste in drugs these days than to bother with that shit.

John:

Do you think colleges that are located in states that have legal weed would attract better athletes than the ones that don’t?

Sure, even though I don’t think the procurement of weed has ever been a problem for college athletes. If Justin Fields wants a joint, a joint will appear in front of him in under five seconds. It’s not a challenge. HOWEVER, if you know a stoner, you know that they get excited for legalized weed, even when they have contraband weed sitting right next to them. Legalization is both a convenience and a cause. So could Oregon attract one or two extra five-star recruits because there are—and this is true—multiple dispensaries within walking distance of campus? Let’s say yes for fun.

Please keep in mind that the NCAA does test sporadically for weed, as do individual schools and conferences. So the legality of weed is probably beside the point for authorities. All I know is that, regardless, the average male recruit’s priorities still fall in this order.

  1. Women
  2. Weather
  3. Booze/weed, or where my place ranks in the party school rankings
  4. $700 million training facility that regular students aren’t allowed to go near
  5. Convenience
  6. Ease of class
  7. Is my coach really famous
  8. My boy Hank also goes there!
  9. Is there enough PCP for me to eat

That’s the master list. Please note that the gulf between the top two and everything else is nine miles wide.

HALFTIME!

Tim:

Bit of a quandary here as a lifelong Cleveland Browns fan. Am I allowed at some point to dip my toes into the murky waters of obnoxious fandom? My jerk reaction is to say string a few championships together first before you can go full Ohio State Buckeyes on your circle of friends. but this may be as close to the dance as I’ll ever get. I mean, it’s the Browns. A situation like this may only present itself with as much frequency as Halley’s Comet.

You’re allowed. There’s a cycle to this. You start off as a punchline, then you become a Cinderella, then you become a dynasty, and then everyone fucking hates you. You guys are in the Cinderella period right now, which means you’re fun. You even took care of the Steelers, for which I am eternally grateful. How can I hate the Browns when they rid these playoffs of its most noxious participants?

I was rooting HARD for Cleveland on Sunday night. The Browns were my second favorite team as a kid (kids are always shameless sports bigamists). I loved Bernie Kosar. I loved Kevin Mack. I loved Frank Minnifield. I loved all those old fogies. Watching the Stefanski Browns the other night was the closest I’ve felt in a very long time to that old affection. This is an intensely likable team, and they’re WAY more exciting to watch than the Kosar Browns to boot. Browns fans have been annoying in their own way over the past few years. Their capacity for belligerent denial is terrifying. But this season, I’m more than happy to put all that aside and be happy for them. Look how excited they are.

Yeah yeah the maskwork in that crowd is … uh … inconsistent. But I’m used to that. This clip is as close as I’m gonna get to a packed stadium going apeshit, or a packed bar in Cleveland exploding after that Maurkice Pouncey snap. This is as close as I’m gonna get to feeling all of the good sports feelings. When he wasn’t openly cheering for a Steelers comeback on Sunday night, Cris Collinsworth took a few spare moments to be like, “If you’re not a big football fan you can’t even imagine how big this is in Cleveland right now.”

But of course, you have to imagine it. My sports imagination has had to do a lot of work over the past 10 months. So it’s nice to watch that video of Browns fans at the airport and NOT have to daydream about it. The joy is real and palpable. Wait till next season when sports are all the way back (and despite the botched vaccine rollout happening right now, I believe 100 percent that we’ll have a normal fall in 2021). It’s gonna be fucking DERANGED. Everyone’s gonna be naked. Maybe Browns fans will go the full Boston shortly thereafter, but for now I say let them cook. They, and Buffalo fans, deserve this.

Jeff:

My three-year-old brought home strep from daycare the other day. As you know, any trip to the local pediatrician these days comes with a COVID test party favor. So now we’re self-quarantined awaiting the results. In the meantime, my daughter is on a steady diet of amoxicillin and kid’s Motrin. I’ve known this for a while, but kid’s Motrin is loaded with sugar. My three-year-old has started faking toothaches to get more Motrin, looking like Tyrone Biggums. How do I keep BIG PHARMA from streamlining our children’s future opioid addiction?

I dunno but you’ll take my Children’s Motrin from my cold, dead hands. I can cure any child using it. It’s my Robitussin. You use Motrin to get them to stop crying, and then you use Benadryl to knock them out. The perfect 1-2 combination. When my wife and I first had kids, my mom told us she used to rub sherry on my gums as a teething baby to get me to stop crying. I was like, “Well obviously we won’t be doing THAT. That’s illegal!” Then our daughter cried all night and I was like WHERE’S THE HARVEYS BRISTOL CREAM, HONEY? I never did give the kids booze, but you better believe that the 1970s option appealed to me on many levels.

Then we found Children’s Motrin and that solved the problem 10 percent more ethically. I’m not worried that OTC pain medication is a gateway drug to Percocet addiction. If it were, we’d all be dead by now. I’m as terrified of the opioid crisis as any other American. But I’ve had grownup ibuprofen, and I’ve had opioids. There’s a big-ass difference between the two. You’re not setting your child on a path to hopeless addiction by giving them 7.5 mL of cherry booboo juice once a week. Give yourself more credit than that. You and your kid do have some free will of your own, you know. You’re not powerless against the Sackler clan. That family hasn’t started marketing oxycodone as dinosaur-shaped chewables just yet. They’ll start doing that in the fourth quarter of 2022, but for now? You’re all good. You can’t worry about all the bad shit that exists out there. As your kids grow older, you just have to teach them to recognize it and reject it.

Also, ibuprofen fucking works. It’s the best drug in the universe. It’s more reliable than a good car. Will it puree your liver? POSSIBLY. But that’ll happen when you’re 60 and ready to die anyway.

Daniel:

Which state has the worst shape? It’s gotta be Maryland, right?

Hey man I live in Maryland! I take offense to that.

(looks at Maryland on a map)

Okay yes, that’s an idiotic looking state. Someone in my Twitter replies once said that Maryland looks like it was gerrymandered into its present shape. I have zero doubt that EVERY state got its shape because of gerrymandering. But yeah, Maryland looks like someone corrupt census official outlined it to avoid every minority settlement in the mid-Atlantic. And hey, at least Maryland looks INTERESTING. Wyoming is just a goddamn box! Maryland’s flag is still ugly as sin, but I prefer a state shaped like a kid tried to cut out a really shitty looking tree over an anonymous rectangle. So, to that end, let’s rank the state shapes!

  1. Texas
  2. Nevada
  3. Michigan
  4. Alaska
  5. California
  6. Illinois
  7. Louisiana
  8. Hawaii
  9. North Carolina
  10. Idaho
  11. Mississippi
  12. Alabama
  13. Oklahoma
  14. Minnesota
  15. Indiana
  16. Massachusetts
  17. Virginia
  18. Georgia
  19. Tennessee
  20. Florida
  21. Washington
  22. Vermont
  23. Ohio
  24. Arkansas
  25. Montana
  26. Wisconsin
  27. Maine
  28. New Hampshire
  29. Maryland
  30. Missouri
  31. Kentucky
  32. South Dakota
  33. North Dakota
  34. Iowa
  35. Oregon
  36. New Mexico
  37. Arizona
  38. West Virginia
  39. Utah
  40. Nebraska
  41. Colorado
  42. Wyoming
  43. South Carolina
  44. Connecticut
  45. Kansas
  46. Rhode Island
  47. Delaware
  48. New Jersey
  49. Pennsylvania
  50. New York

New York’s shape is fucking embarrassing. It needed to be said.

Vince:

About a year ago I accidentally left ONE Kleenex in my jeans pocket before putting them in the washing machine and dryer. So for a year now I have been finding little bits and strips of Kleenex throughout my apartment that must equal about 20 fucking Kleenexes. How is this physically possible?

Because God enjoys fucking with you in his spare time. In all seriousness (kind of), a single tissue is bigger than you think. It’s 8.25” by 8.25”. And, like toilet paper, Kleenex is made to biodegrade quickly. So it looks and feels slight while also containing enough fibers to do the assigned task. Your Kleenex is strong enough to contain a loogie (although I often double up on tissues to make sure no snot breaks through). But once you flush it down the toilet, or accidentally put it through the washer, it’s designed to break into 100,000 separate pieces, with each one going its own way. That’s how you end up with microscopic pills all over the place. It’s like an advent calendar. Every day, you get a new little piece of garbage. What a treat!

Going back to the subject of newborn kids, I remember freaking out when my daughter spit up for the first time. I thought she had spit up a gallon of fluid. My doctor was like, “Listen Drew, go fill a tablespoon with water and spill it onto your floor. It makes a bigger mess than you think it will.” The doc was right. Little things make big messes. That’s not a metaphor.

Andrew:

What is the best way to end a song? Fade out, sudden stop, thrashing?

I like sudden stops, especially when all of the instruments die down and the lead singer belts out one last thing, without anything else backing them, to finish the job. “Panama,” for instance.

Also, I still love any metal song like “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” that ends with the drummer freaking out on the cymbals and the guitars dying down before they give you one final BUUURRRNGHHH!!! at the end. It’s like a little fireworks show. No reason Taylor Swift can’t end all of her songs the same way.

Email of the week!

Kenneth:

I have a coworker we’ll just call the Canadian. Best described as a libertarian POS (his reaction to people hoarding sanitizer and cleaning supplies at the beginning of the pandemic was to say it was a smart business idea). He also doesn’t like taxes. If he orders stuff online from Amazon and such, there are extra taxes and that’s a big no-no for him. So he does what every genius does and has those packages shipped to work and then takes them across the Canadian border when he goes home.

Shipping and receiving hate him because we work in a massive test facility and get dozens of packages a day. They don’t need to deal with his personal stuff as well. He’s been asked to stop. He hasn’t. Right around Christmas time he received a package at work through the shipping docks. The dock guy took it to our check-in tech, who then came back to the lab with the package and said, “Guess who got another package.” Now we were about 95% certain that this was a personal package. But we get shipments from all over the world for testing, so it was possible some supplier or plant shipped parts to the Canadian to make sure it would reach our lab. He happened to be on vacation that day.

I volunteered to open it because I was covering for him, knowing full well it was probably some stupid book and not actual parts. Sure enough it was a book. A dinosaur erotica book. He claims that he and the “old lady” were looking for dinosaur toys for their son for Christmas and that book popped up in the results. He though it would be a great gag gift for the wife. Sometimes we put plastic dinosaurs on his desk when he was out at lunch for him to discover when he came back . Always great for office morale to rally around hating one guy.

Indeed.