For Independence Day, An EXPLOSIVE Question About Doors
9:34 AM EDT on July 4, 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 candy, old man smell, Christian rock, and more.
Happy Fourth! Your letters:
I saw a sign on a closed and locked door that read, "Do not use this door." It got me thinking, well, that door is in use. Between the phases of open, closed, and moving on its hinges, when is a door not in use?
WHOA. Monte, it’s too early in the day for you to blow my mind like this. I’m not even stoned! A crime. Anyway, that sign clearly meant that no one should OPEN the door in question. According to the sign’s writer (wasn’t me), a door is only in use when someone is either opening or closing it. Perfectly acceptable mindset, unless you’re stoned, doing standup comedy, or picking a fight in philosophy class. But if you ask me, there’s only one true way to “use” a door, and it’s this:
I was recently walking at a busy intersection across from my house and came across a fully wrapped candy bar lying on the sidewalk. It didn’t appear to be tampered with, and my guess is it fell out of someone’s bag as the intersection is a block away from a grocery store. I felt embarrassed even standing over the candy bar considering it for as long as I did. What about you?
The only time I would do this is the morning after Halloween, after neighborhood kids have unwittingly let a stray fun-size bag of Skittles or two fall out of their treat bag the night before. Sometimes I pick up these bags and then toss them into my own kids’ payload. That hobo candy is local. I trust it, and the street I find it on is probably cleaner than the factory it was produced in.
Otherwise, I wouldn’t pick up the candy bar, because I don’t normally eat candy and because a candy bar costs $1.25 at the gas station if I want one. Or I just grab some free candy anywhere it’s available, which is everywhere: at doctor’s offices, at school reception desks, at friends’ houses, etc. Everyone gets horny for candy at Halloween but the truth is that, in America, EVERY day is Halloween. Do you understand how much fucking candy Americans eat as a matter of routine? I’ve seen parents who let their kids have all the candy they want: morning, noon, and night. I’ve seen it packed into preschool lunches, and not because little Brayden got a passing grade in stacking blocks. I’m talking every day.
I know that we’re coming off a nutrition revolution and that there are foodwoke parents like me out there who are a bit stingier with the Rolos. But our influence is overstated (also, we still keep an open chocolate stash in the kitchen that our kids raid). Most kids in America eat like absolute shit. Pediatric dentists are making BILLIONS because every McMansion in this country is a goddamn Willy Wonka factory. There are kids who have to be knocked out with anesthesia because they have so many cavities that need to be filled simultaneously. Diabetes is gonna kill everyone before climate change even has the chance to do so.
So, if you have kids and you see a free Baby Ruth out there on the sidewalk, leave it. Your kid already probably ate six of them for breakfast.
Now that you're getting ready to send a child off to college, do you feel nostalgia for your college days? Or the urge to experience a bit of those feelings through the kid?
I’ve loved nearly every second of the college process with my daughter. I’ve loved giving her advice on her essay (but not rewriting it, I swear). I’ve loved touring campuses with her. I’ve loved poring over the Fiske Guide when it came in the mail (even though it lacks bite these days; a comprehensive Why Your College Sucks almanac would sell 5 million copies annually). I’ve loved all of that shit. The only unpleasant parts of the whole thing have been the prospective cost—a given stress—occasionally motivating her to finish up her list. The girl has one safety school on there, and my wife and I were like, “You’re gonna need some safety-er schools on this list, and more than one. Have you thought about West Virginia at all?”
But nudging her is a delicate matter because she’s in the thick of the teenage gantlet right now: that brutal stretch run from junior to early senior year where you have to deal with keeping up your GPA, taking AP exams, finding more extracurriculars, working summer jobs, experimenting with drugs and alcohol, experimenting with your love life, and figuring out who the fuck you are. So sorting out which college you want to apply to from a stack of thousands is just another goddamn thing for her to deal with. And I get that. But also, I’m not the one who has to take that AP test, so I get to enjoy all of the good parts of this and ignore all of the hard shit. Big win for Dad.
My own college experience was a rough affair. But, thanks to my daughter, I get to re-live the anticipation for college, which I still remember fondly: walking across gorgeous quads, listening to a student tour guide who’s supernaturally friendly, hoping I get a cool essay question, wondering what my life would be like at this place and what kind of friends I would have. Parents love to lecture their kids about the future all the time, but those kids also get to have their own imagination when it comes to that future. Everything is so wide open, and so possible. I loved that feeling, and I’m getting some of that again whenever a pamphlet from, like, Berkeley arrives in the mail.
I get to wallow in the potential prestige too, as any parent does. I only got into one of the colleges I applied to senior year. Right up until then, you better believe that I was daydreaming of getting into an Ivy. Well, now I get to daydream all over again, for better and for worse. I know that the college system in America is hideously configured and should have been reconstructed in the wake of the pandemic. I also know that college is what you make of it. And yet I still reflexively hope that I can get to put a Brown sticker on my rear windshield a year from now. That would be cool as shit.
I can’t guarantee my daughter that she’ll get into her dream school, or any other school, for that matter. I also can’t guarantee that she’ll love her dream school if she DOES get into it. Regardless, she’s in the prime dreaming phase of adolescence right now, and that itself is indelible: a moment of her life I’m more than happy to live vicariously through. Also, now that we’re nearing the end, I’ll take every second with her that I can get.
Is there such a thing as good Christian rock? I’m biased, admittedly, but I’ve never heard a Christian rock tune that was either powerful or catchy. Plus the whole thing seems like a contradiction to begin with.
There’s good Christian rock out there, you just don’t happen to think of it as “Christian rock.” To you, it’s normal rock first and the word of God second, if you think about the religious aspect of it at all. It's when the music is BAD that you mentally append the “Christian” label to it (see: Creed, POD, Evanescence, etc). Good rock usually transcends the label.
To give you a personal example, I went through a heavy Lenny Kravitz phase when I was a teenager. I know he’s known mainly for big scarves these days, but there was a moment when Lenny was one of the biggest rock stars on the planet. I loved him, so much so that I willfully ignored that almost all of Lenny’s albums are aggressively Christian. Did Lenny’s love for Christ keep him from fucking half the free world? No. But when you throw down a song called “God Is Love” (not Lenny’s best work), it’s kinda hard to miss the undertones. Lord knows I tried, though. Even now, I still treat myself to a little Lenny when I’m in the mood. And I still pretend that “Are You Gonna Go My Way” is strictly about a dude who wants to get laid.
I am currently rocking my early 60’s and every once in a while, I get a whiff of something that is musty, like an old leatherbound book or like grass or hay a day or two after it has been cut. And then I realize it’s me. I am getting old man smell. Now obviously (hopefully) you are years away from this, but what are your thoughts on the notion that you too will succumb to old man smell? Do you dread this, welcome this, or could you care less? Now get off my lawn, you damn kids.
I have a built-in advantage here because I have little to no sense of smell, which means that I won’t be able to detect my own body’s descent into living putrefaction. That said, my wife told me I smelled like old man the other day and I damn near tore my own skin off. I remember that smell distinctly, and I do not want it. I don’t even deserve it right now. I’m not even 50. I work out. I shower and wear deodorant. I do NOT deserve to smell like grandma’s curtains just yet. If it comes to it, I’ll take an Axe body spray shower every morning to ward the smell off. I’m not ready to go gently into that particular good night. I’m ready to fight.
I love Twitter. Even after Elon bought it, it was still good enough for me. But after Saturday’s “rate limit exceeded” fiasco, I started to panic. What if Twitter really is cooked? I use Twitter as my personal sports news feed, customized with a mix of the information brokers, hometown beat reporters and snarky friends. I’m not on any other social media apps. How can I replicate this experience?
On Bluesky, which is still in beta and whose servers got so overwhelmed on Saturday that the entire platform busted at nearly the same time as Twitter. It’s since recovered, and it’ll probably end up hosting millions of Twitter refugees once it goes fully public (I have no spare invite codes; you only get one every two weeks). This won’t be an instant thing, because not everyone will leave Twitter, and others will opt to go to Mastodon, or to Threads (Meta's own Twitter, which is due to launch soon and will be linked to your Instagram account), or to just live their lives. Everything that coalesced on Twitter will break apart over the course of months, and likely years.
Because Twitter itself won't die in just a single day, even though Elon’s tenure had made it seem likely. The notorious rate limits on Twitter, at least for me, appear to have been lifted. So again this was another case of people tearfully waving goodbye to Twitter because they thought This Was It, and then still being awkwardly stuck there the next morning. There’ll be more false ends like this. Twitter will keep eroding, with sane people jumping over to Bluesky in the process.
So once Twitter is rendered all but uninhabitable, that’s where people will go. I’ve tried replicating the Twitter experience as best I could on other platforms, Instagram in particular. But none of them do the job the way Bluesky does, because none of them are outright copies of Twitter the way that Bluesky is (Threads likely will be another clone, but Fuck Zuck etc). Right now, the service is working as a kind of Nicer Twitter, but eventually I’m gonna want it to give me all of the shit I use Twitter for presently, especially sports news. Sports is where Twitter is at its best. And while I enjoyed sports plenty before Twitter even existed, I can’t go back to the days where I needed five whole minutes to find out that James Harden wants out of Philly. I would die.
The older I get, the more I tend to just eat through any stomach bug/illness instead of, you know, not eating. Am I an idiot?
I see you more as determined than anything else. This is because I also will eat my way through any malady, physical or mental. The times when I genuinely don’t want to eat are rare; I essentially have to be hugging the toilet to get to that place. Otherwise, nothing is gonna stop me from grubbing on some breakfast tacos.
I learned this the hard way this year. For the past few months, I have suffered from a case of acid reflux so bad that it left me feeling like I was having an hour-long heart attack four times a day, if not more often. I tried everything to get rid of the reflux. I saw every doctor who had a free appointment. I took everything they prescribed. I bought every OTC med. At one point, I even became convinced that the chest pain was the result of a disc injury in my neck and I wore a neck brace, on my own, to heal it. When I visited my spine doctor they asked me, “Why are you in a neck brace? Stop doing that.” (I did.) Nothing worked. One night I was in so much agony that I confessed to my wife, “This has taken over my life,” because it had. I was in so much pain, I was afraid to fucking move.
But you know what I never tried doing that whole time? NOT EATING BAD SHIT. I kept eating pizza, sneaking chocolate, and guzzling coffee, all the while wondering to myself, “Hey man, why is my tummy so mad at me?” Good food was the last thing I was willing to give up to make myself better. Then I cut out all of the trigger foods, put myself on the all-mayo boy diet, and HEY PRESTO! Suddenly the attacks weren’t so bad. WHO WOULD HAVE FUCKING GUESSED. Then I saw a GI doctor and he put a scope down my throat and found a miniature hernia, easily treated with a pill called sucralfate. That doctor told me I could eat anything I wanted again once the tear had healed, and you know damn well that I will. I am gaining my eating strength back. Hot sauce is no longer quite so frightening. When this shit clears, I’m gonna tear myself an even BIGGER asshole inside my asshole. Can’t wait.
(Side note: During my period of abstinence, I realized that I have become a “can’t function without my morning coffee” guy. Awful. Also, no one gives a fuck about your chronic reflux if you bring it up to them. When I suffered a near-fatal brain hemorrhage, my friends saved my life, and I was in a coma for two weeks? THAT story gets people’s attention. Tell them “Ugh! My reflux!” and they think you’re the spicy meatball guy.)
I do want to say that there’s something special about Hard Knocks. For me, it marks a certain time of the year where the wait is over and football is about to start. When they start playing that music, I get really excited.
Lemme use John’s email to tell you that I’m gonna go ahead and start taking submissions for Why Your Team Sucks 2023 right now. Just email me here and put your team’s name in the subject heading, but keep that between us chickens for the moment. If I tell everyone, then the inbox gets flooded and I have to close submissions even earlier than I normally do. My own rate limit, if you will. So consider this an early invite for VIPs only. I’ll start posting the previews the last week of July and we can all get fired up together.
To that end, I understand John using Hard Knocks to get himself in the football mood, even if I have no use for the show myself. Everyone has their own NFL trigger. It can be the opening of training camp, or the first preseason game, or Tua Tagovailoa’s first concussion of the year. Or it’s something fantasy-related. That used to be how I got my football on. We’d schedule our league draft, I’d pick up a copy of the SI Presents fantasy preview (easily the best fantasy preview mag during its short lifespan), and then I’d read it on the beach and get FIRED THE FUCK UP.
These days, my excitement usually kicks off when I get the Football Outsiders almanac, but right now that site is being annihilated by its management and may not exist for much longer. When I emailed Aaron Schatz to ask if there was gonna be an almanac for 2023 (none is currently listed on Amazon), I got a bounceback error message :(.
Is the Big 3 Basketball League just one big session of Remembering a Guy?
Yes, but it’s way more fun to strictly remember those guys than it is to watch them airball threes at 42 years old.
Would the world be better off without smartphones? Not cell phones (the ability to make and receive phone calls), but phones where you can surf "the net", post social media, etc... The answer has to be yes. Less convenient, but way better.
It’s not that cut and dried. You and I know the many evils of smartphones, and are reminded of them every day. They make people more insular and anti-social (especially with the AirPods in). They make it easier for people to forgo interacting with the people directly in front of them to despise people who are not. They use up an ungodly amount of power every time you charge them and produce an obscene amount of e-waste. They have destroyed the world’s collective ability to be bored. They kill any conversation dead the second you pull one out. They’ve reduced the scope of innovation down to otherwise brilliant minds proposing new apps to one another. They’re the official talisman of an age when both the government and industry leaders place no value on art, which leads to worse art. And they make a poor substitute for various tactile experiences that people once had: writing by hand, exchanging physical money, holding a pair of paper concert tickets in your hand, browsing through clothing racks and record store bins, and sex. Having a smartphone is like having your hand forever pressed against the window of an establishment that won’t let you in.
But there’s also no chance I ever go back to living without one. Who could? With a smartphone, you can look at photos of your dog anytime you’re on the go. If your power goes out, you can put in an alert with the power company. If a tornado is coming to your doorstep, you can be alerted in an instant. With location sharing on, you literally know where your kids are at 10 o’clock. You can get work done while you’re getting an oil change. You’re never without a flashlight or reference book. You can listen to any song you want, whenever you want. You’re never lost. And you never have to feed a parking meter again. That last one? That’s the only one that really matters. If you’re telling me that I don’t have to spend another second of my life waddling into a bank and asking for a roll of fucking quarters to keep in my console, that’s easily worth destroying the fabric of society for.
The term “draft capital” seems to have invaded the football lexicon over the last few years. It rings of obnoxious finance bro jargon and it seems misleading (feel like coaches are gonna play the better player, not start an underperforming guy just cause he was drafted high). This term is stuffy bullshit, correct?
It goes hand in hand with “draft assets” as a way of phrasing all elements of football in transactional terms. Then again, I use that term myself, so is it REALLY that bad? I say no. Makes me sound like I run a team, and maybe I do.
Who's the first real asshole you remember? There's a threshold for this; we've all had shit coworkers and friends from school who annoyed us. But who's the first person who you really 100% had a bead on: you remember the incident clearly, and the only justifiable conclusion from what happened was that this person was a big old douchebag.
It was my first swim coach. I was on the swim team at my parents’ country club. The coach was a screaming addict who never looked happy. One practice, I wasn’t keeping my head down in the water long enough for his liking, so he pushed down on the top of my head and held me in the water to teach me some respiratory discipline. I thought I was gonna drown. I was no older than five. This is one of my first memories, almost certainly because it was traumatic. And it came at the hands of a genuine, Grade-A asshole. Don’t sleep on swim coaches being among the worst of their lot. Also: Fuck you, Mr. Willamy.
Between reality TV, competition shows, the news, etc., what percentage of Americans have been on TV?
I’m not gonna count people in crowd shots here. Maybe your sorry ass is hiding like Waldo in that crowd shot at an Angels game, but I can barely tell. I need to make out your face, so that you can point at the TV and be like, “That’s me!” That counts as being on TV.
With those parameters in mind, I’m going with a generous 30 percent. This is because of local newscasts, which will not rest until they have gotten B-roll of every school class in the city waving into the camera to sign off at 11:35pm every evening. I was in one of those shots once when I was in middle school. My fame has only diminished since then.
Email of the week!
On July 4th, 2018, I attended a Syracuse Chiefs game in which they clobbered the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, and catcher Tuffy Gosewisch hit a home run (grand slam, if memory serves). In the spring of 2019, Gosewisch had been called up to the majors for the Milwaukee Brewers (my team) and I attended a spring training game in Phoenix in which the Brewers beat the Colorado Rockies, and in which Gosewisch hit ANOTHER home run.
My question is: how likely is it that me and Tuffy Gosewisch are the only people who were at both of these events at the same time? I did not attend these games with any of the same people, and as far as I can tell nobody who was on the Chiefs at that July 4th game was also on the roster on the spring training game. I feel like there's at least a 30-40% chance that Tuffy and I were the only ones who had these experiences in common. I ask this question largely because Tuffy Gosewisch has a very interesting name and is otherwise not a terribly interesting baseball player.
That is a great name. Also, I say it’s a lock you were the only two people to witness both events live. Not unlike being at both the Kennedy assassination AND the moon landing.
Anyone else remember Tuffy Rhodes?