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Funbag

Do You Eat Meals One Food At A Time Or All Together?

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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 new book, The Night The Lights Went Out, while you’re at it. Today, we’re talking about the Winter Olympics, streaks, Law & Order, reluctant parents, and more.

Your letters:

Michael:

There was an email about the guy whose friend ate an entire meal before having a drink. My fiancée does something similar, but with food. She only eats things one at a time. If she has a burger and fries, she’ll eat the fries first and then the burger. Soup and sandwich? Soup first and then the sandwich. Our first Thanksgiving together was torturous because she ate the turkey, then the mashed potatoes, then the stuffing and so on. Just went in a circle around the plate, eating one thing at a time. I thought this was just a personal quirk of hers until I spent the holidays with her family, and THEY ALL DID IT! Grandparents, parents, siblings, in-laws, nieces and nephews. Is this a normal East Coast thing, or is it just a weird family quirk I’ll have to grow used to?

That’s not a regional thing. That’s actually an eating habit that can become ingrained in people when they’re extremely young. If you don’t grow up mixing flavors both on the plate and in your mouth, you’re less likely to try doing so as you get older. When my kids were small, my wife and I used to serve them meals on segmented plates, like an old TV dinner. Those plates are a standard tool in the young parent arsenal, but they also encourage kids to keep all their food segregated, and sometimes those kids like to keep everything that way even after they step up to normal plates.

This is something I learned from having picky eaters in my house and experimenting with the wonders of food chaining. Some kids carry their infantile (I mean that in the clinical sense, not the derogatory one) food tics well into adulthood. Michael’s fiancée and her family seem to fit squarely into that category, but they’re hardly alone. I’m sure many people do this. I’ve witnessed it myself. There’s not a whole lot you can do to change adults who eat like that, so just chill. Why bother freaking out about it? Does it REALLY matter what order other people eat their shit in? I don’t even notice how other people eat because all I care about is MY stomach. The rest of you can eat fucking live eels for all I care.

John:

Why isn’t basketball a winter Olympic sport?

Because the winter itself doesn’t factor into it. There are many Summer Olympics events that, at least here in America, are played mostly in winter: basketball, wrestling, water polo, etc. But none of those sports are dependent on winter factors—ice and snow—to exist. You can play them anytime, which is why they’re part of the Summer Olympics, which you could argue are the only true Olympics. The summer games predate the winter ones by 28 years, and they’re the only games to feature events from the ancient Greek Olympics: track and field, boxing, wrestling, and equestrian. The Winter Olympics are a novelty by comparison, with far fewer sports and no ancient ones. What I’m saying is that the Winter Olympics are a scam. An illusion. The bored ape of sports.

I have no problem with the current events distribution of the Olympics, by the way. I’d rather basketball happen in the summer, where it can’t steal the oxygen from hockey. This is the only time I ever pay attention to hockey, but that interest would vanish if I knew I could flip to CNBC and watch the U.S. beat Montenegro by 78 points.

Geoff:

My wife and I are new parents to a seven-month-old and we are struggling, so much so that we are leaving where I grew up and moving cross country to be closer to family for help. As I type this, I’m on hour number three of tossing and turning with a fever and a song from one of his toys has been stuck in my head the entire time. I’ve been sick literally his entire life (hooray compromised immune system; no COVID at least). Most people say that they fall in love with their newborns immediately but that hasn’t been the case for me. I know we have it better than a lot of others during this time, but man it’s been tough. All of our family and friends say it gets better but I’m not entirely sure I believe them. Does it?

Don’t go fleeing to Cabo just yet. Those first months suck for pretty much every parent, because you have no idea what you’re doing. You haven’t learned to parent yet, which is a problem when it’s 3:00 a.m. and your kid just threw up on you and you can’t tell if that’s normal (likely) or if it’s a case of demonic possession. You’re confused, tired, and angry. All the time. It’s hard.  

But soon, you’ll start seeing actual growth. Your new kid will sleep better, and smile wider, and walk and talk etc. Right now you’re basically taking care of a feral dog. The kid hasn’t become a person yet, which is why they can feel like a complete stranger to you. Along the way, you’ll see little hints of progress, and suddenly your load feels much lighter. Also, you and your wife will have been responsible for whatever progress you see. You’re putting the work in, and soon you’ll get to watch it pay off. That payoff comes in VERY small increments, but they’re still immensely gratifying. One day, you’ll be the reason your child can shit in a toilet instead of in their pants, and won’t that be an accomplishment for you both.

More importantly—and this is a lesson I learned from reading Howard Stern’s autobiography—you should enjoy even when you’re not enjoying. I remember changing exploded diapers, mixing formula in the dead of night, hearing my kids scream when I just want them to fall asleep, and having them rip out my chest and arm hair with their powerful baby hands. I remember the pain, the smells, the fear, the late nights. And I miss it, as ludicrous as that sounds. I see a random baby on the street and I get a pleasant little flashback to taking care of my own. All of that is indelible. The stuff of life. Since I’ve become a parent, I’ve done so much more with my existence, and I like remembering all that more. My wife and I spent years in the shit, and now we have war stories to treasure. There were definitely times when I was like Oh I have to get the fuck out of here for a few days, but again, that’s every parent. Stress is stress. But then the kid grows and you feel like, for once in your life, you’ve accomplished something.

My daughter turned 16 just yesterday, and every other parent I know is like, “You think toddlers suck … wait till they’re teenagers and shoot you in the face!” That hasn’t been the case on my end. My daughter has grown into a person now. She can drive (on permit for the moment). She has developing career ambitions. The most important thing in her life is thrifting. And she makes me laugh, even when she’s being annoying. I never, ever expected her to become the person she’s become, and that’s true of all of my kids. That work my wife and me did early on … every day now, the payoff feels bigger and bigger . It’s fucking great. Plus my kids wash the dishes now! HEAVEN.

That could be you one day. In fact, it will be. And if you’re still ambivalent about this whole venture, just have a few glasses of wine and see if that helps. And THEN flee to Cabo.

Zach:

Tell me again why I have to be loyal to one team for my entire life? Diana was writing about the pain of being a Steelers fan in the Roethlisberger era, and I couldn’t help thinking: why? I mean, if my wife came home and told me she was in a committed multi-year three-way with Zygi Wilf and Kirk Cousins, every court in America would let me expedite the ensuing divorce. But sports fans are just supposed to suck it up? I don’t get it. Zygi would have you killed for a 2% reduction on the docking fees for his fifth yacht, so it’s not like loyalty goes both ways.

It doesn’t, but I’ve never had any illusions about that. You can ditch your team if you want. I’ll just look down on you for the rest of your life if you do, that’s all.

But I’m with my team for life. This is because I come from a dated archetype of the American fan that views sports bigamy is a mortal sin, but also because this is a long-term relationship for me. It’s an extremely one-sided relationship, but you live in the internet age. EVERYONE online is in 95 different one-sided relationships. Rooting for my shitty football team is, against all odds, one the healthier one-sided relationships I’m involved in. Certainly healthier than my relationship with Ted Cruz.

I have good memories of my team, which sounds impossible but is true. They have won games on occasion, you know. I’ve gotten to know—again, from a distance—every draftee, free agent, coach, and owner they’ve ever had. My team drafted Randy Moss. Your team didn’t. Fuck you. Getting to know those players and then tracking their progress never gets old. In fact, it only gets better the longer you’re a fan and the longer you’ve lived with your team. And when those players and coaches succeed, it feels incredible. Even if you had to wait forever for them to flourish.

Obviously, my team hasn’t won the Super Bowl. I hope they do one day, and that hope has its own value. It’s fun to hope. It’s fun to think nice thoughts about what lies ahead, even when it all ends up turning to shit. My hope might even pay off one day, which sounds naïve but hey man: Ask any Bengals fan if they regret their fandom right now.

But the prospect of winning a title isn’t the only reason I cheer for them. If it were, I’d be the unhappiest fucker alive. If none of my kids end up being President, it’s not like I’m gonna fucking disown them. I love them no matter what. Same with the Vikings. Sticking with them is the point. It’s how they became part of my soul.

Now watch them trade for Deshaun Watson and force me to abandon that soul entirely.

Jonathan:

Is the original Law & Order TV actually a good show, or do so many people like it because it was always on TNT? I love the show and wish Jack McCoy was real so I could read about his surly adventures, but is it an ACTUAL good TV show?

Oh shit yeah, Law & Order is a good TV show. If you’re comparing to, like, Succession, it’s bound to seem flawed. But no one who watches Law & Order is asking it to be that. They want a CHUNG CHUNG sound effect, a dead body, a grizzled detective making wisecracks around that body, a deeply unlikeable suspect who seems like the obvious culprit at first but may not be, and an unrealistically hasty and dramatic trial with a satisfying resolution, all wrapped up in a tidy 44 minutes. Law & Order does that job consistently. I don’t watch L&O regularly, but I’ve never watched an episode and disliked it. This is because I don’t ask much of L&O, and neither does anyone else. It’s as reliable as a bag of potato chips.

It’s healthier to watch TV the way a regular L&O viewer does. Prestige TV has conditioned a lot of people to expect every TV show they watch to be a fucking EVENT. You watch The Sopranos once and then suddenly everything has to be as good as that, or else it sucks. But TV can’t be that good all the time, and it almost never is. There are too many shows and too many networks and too many writers rooms for TV to be anything other than a fat-ass crap shoot. So it’s better to recalibrate your expectations and go into a show hoping that it’s better than reality television, but still harmless fun. This is why I watch Outer Banks.

HALFTIME!

Matt:

How many games in a row does a player have to do something for it to be considered a “streak”? I’m primarily a hockey watcher and have heard, “So-and-so is trying to extend his two-game goal streak.” That’s not a streak. That’s two games in a row. That’s the threshold?

It depends on the feat and who’s doing the streaking. It’s not a streak if Alex Ovechkin scores goals in two consecutive games, but it very much is if his own goalie does likewise. A streak is a streak when it’s either A) uncommon, B) conspicuous, to the point where discussion of the streak may have a tangible impact on that streak, or C) both. With that in mind, here are my benchmarks for various streaks.

  • Baseball hitting streak: 15 games
  • Baseball hitless streak, also known as a “slump”: Five games
  • Baseball shutouts (for pitchers): Two games
  • Innings pitched without giving up a single hit: Four
  • Games with a home run: Three
  • Baseball winning streak: Eight games (no one puts more stock in the L10 column of the standings than I do)
  • Baseball losing streak: 10 games
  • Football winning streak: Three games
  • Football losing streak: One game
  • Hockey goal streak (forwards): Four games
  • Soccer goal streak: Three games
  • NBA three-pointers made streak: Four in a row
  • NBA winning streak: Six games
  • Golf tournaments won: Two
  • Tennis majors won: Three
  • Team championships: Two
  • Hot dogs eaten by me before a game: Three

A streak should be an emotional thing. For fans, at least. The second I notice a good streak, I become terrified that it’ll end because of something I did. I wore the wrong scarf outside and BOOM. Suddenly Ant Edwards can’t make a basket. The second I notice a bad streak, I want everyone involved fired. That’s how it works.

Garrison:

I grew up in a small town. My wife grew up in Houston and then Detroit. As a kid, I used to walk to the post office to mail stuff out because it was a block away from me. I carried this into adulthood and will still go to the local post office instead of just leaving it in the outgoing mail box at our apartment complex (we live in a moderately-sized city in Colorado now for context). Am I weird for doing this? I just enjoy a nice trip to the post office, if anything.

I don’t think it’s weird. Frankly, I wish I liked going to the post office as much as you do, ecause I fucking hate it. One time I told the author Kent Babb I was gonna mail him a package, but that it might take a while because I hated the post office so much. He said OK, I understand. I finally mailed it a year later. That’s how much I hate the post office. I’d rather go to the dentist.

I should have a better relationship with the post office. I grew up before the internet, when snail mail still had the potential to be exciting. I fetched the mail for my parents every day, as both a chore and because I wanted to. My mom used to send me newspaper clippings—including a review of Spaceballs when it finally opened—to me when I was at summer camp. I had a little box at my boarding school’s admin building that I checked routinely. And my parents still go to a small town P.O. for all their mailing needs, every morning. I was meant to like the post office.

Instead, whenever I go, I wanna fucking die. We just had to wait 30 minutes at one to get our kids’ passports renewed and it felt like eight days. I wish I were weirder and enjoyed all of that, but no. No, modern living has destroyed any lingering tolerance I might have had for such matters. Also, there’s Click-N-Ship now.

Matt:

One of the coolest things of playing professional sports is getting to wear all the equipment that makes you feel like a fucking badass that will rip the soul out of your opponent, the most notable example being the dark visor on a football helmet. Wouldn’t basically every other profession benefit from getting to have uniform/attire accoutrements such as this, just so employees would get a little excitement coming into work? And assuming you agree, what would be the office/business casual equivalent?

I don’t agree, because the office equivalent of the helmet visor is the vaunted tactical Oakleys, which are cool in the mind of their wearer and no one else. A helmet visor looks sweet, but also has practical use for the LaDainian Tomlinsons of the world. The same doesn’t hold true of, like, a wallet chain. That’s superfluous and everyone knows it. You know what isn’t superfluous? An insanely nice suit. Regardless of gender. Wear a nice suit and you become that suit. You feel cleaner. Sharper. You get fucking psyched up to be you, and when else does that ever really happen?

This is where I make a terrifying, almost Simmons-esque digression. I fucking hate Conor McGregor, like any sane person does. But good God, I love his suits. They’re impeccable. I watch his shitty whiskey ads specifically so that I can marvel at his fit. I even looked up who McGregor’s tailor was in case I ever had a cool mil lying around to blow in a fit of sartorial ecstasy. The tailor is David August. David August’s custom suits run $5,000 and up. Now that’s a lotta money. But if that man can make Conor McGregor look elegant, that’s who I want dressing me for Defector’s big Zoom call with Siponey. I’ll feel like a god.

Andrew:

We have neighbors who park in front of our driveway regularly. Not on the other side of the street on the curb, but directly in front of our driveway. It’s not just one person either. The old neighbors, their landlord, prospective buyers of their house, the neighbors on the other side. They can’t be bothered to park in any of the other places on the street (requiring a walk of no more than sixty feet), or in front of their own driveway, or even in their own driveway. Does this happen anywhere else, or is this the most mutant behavior in Tallahassee, non-legislature division?

That’s not even legal. Call the cops on those Florida fucks. If anyone ever blocked my driveway, I would smash their windshield with a goddamn crowbar. Even when the UPS truck blocks my driveway—for a grand total if two minutes—I get pissy. There should be RULES in this world, God dammit.

Kevin:

I started a new job and they’re flexible with working remotely certain days of the week. I only have to come in twice a week (days are up to me). Is this how work is going to be going forward? It obviously depends on the job but with COVID concerns, building costs and the state of the world I feel like it will become the norm sooner rather than later.

No. I’m not the best guy to go to for futurism, but this article from The Atlantic in the fall noted that, by spring of 2021, a full 80 percent of the workforce had returned to work in person every day. The pandemic changed how some companies and their bosses think about the traditional office setup, but not the majority of them. Most of them either A) really do need employees on site, especially if they run a service business, B) don’t give a fuck what would make their employees’ work/life balance more manageable, C) live in one of the many, many states that legally allow them to treat their employees shabbily, or D) all of the above. Jeff Bezos isn’t suddenly gonna grow a heart this year and be like, “You know what? Let’s have class outside today.” He and his contemporaries will instead, as they do with every other issue, exhaust millions of dollars and their entire list of contacts in the mainstream media to keep the world precisely the way it is.

The good news is that SOME places—Defector Media, for instance—understand the value of remote work and have embraced it. That 20 percent of workers from The Atlantic article that did not go back to the office five days a week … that’s still millions upon millions of people. That’s heartening, if you have the right outlook. I, alas, do not. I’m VERY bad about accepting change incrementally. I don’t want Medicare for 20 percent. I don’t want the police 20 percent defunded. I don’t want the Senate and the Supreme Court 20 percent abolished. I want 100 percent of what I want. Right now. Plus one of those David August suits.

Jack:

I was thinking about the upcoming Super Bowl halftime show, and how Eminem is assuredly going to play “Lose Yourself.” I don’t understand how this has become a pump-up song for athletes. It is so slow and plodding. A friend of mine plays it for his 12-year-old daughter before every sporting event to get her jacked for the game. I get that memories from the movie make it associated with winning a big rap battle (for the old people who have seen that movie), but I can’t imagine it actually psyching up a locker room full of real athletes. Is there a worse purported pre-game pump-up song?

Dude my college football team used to listen to Rusted Root in the locker room before games, so yeah. There are FAR worse songs to get you psyched up to beat the shit out of someone. As for “Lose Yourself,” that’s a fucking great song. Played to death, but still. “Lose Yourself” fires ME up. It’s the only Eminem song I still like, and the slowness is part of the reason. People get all horny for “In The Air Tonight” in pregame, and that’s not exactly speed metal, either.

With “Lose Yourself,” it’s a crescendo. Eminem’s flow gets quicker and quicker as each verse goes along, until he’s on the verge of being frantic, and then he explodes into the chorus, which is extremely easy to rap along to. Plus it’s a song ABOUT preparing emotionally for something monumental. Like a football game, for instance. Thus “Lose Yourself” stands right alongside “99 Problems” as the only hip hop songs that 40-year-old white guys will keep on their workout playlist forever. Quite the legacy.

Email of the week!

Patrick:

I used to play a lot of pickup basketball, often against people younger and more athletic than me. Despite being in absolutely terrible shape, I was able to play in these games because I could convince myself that while I wasn’t as athletic as I used to be, I was smarter now on the court and that allowed me to play at a more competitive level. Do you think there’s any actual merit to that for a typical rec league athlete, or is it something old washed up farts like me just tell ourselves to try and prolong those “glory years”?

I think you can guess.