Time for your weekly edition of the Defector Funbag. Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag. And buy Drew’s new novel while you’re at it. Today, we’re talking about masked coaches, lost clothing, political hopelessness, LeBron, and more.
If you open a menu in Middle America, what promised item will make you the most excited and leave you the most disappointed? I assume for you it’s the lobster roll. For me it’s the California burrito… I’ve never had a decent one outside of San Diego, and I’ve tried. I feel like anyone putting a New York pizza or Philly Cheesesteak on the menu will at least have the vague competence to pull out something decent.
It’s actually not a lobster roll for me, because the average lobster roll has mayo and so it’s stricken from my choices anyway. Lemme suggest some other culinary war crimes instead:
•Sliders. This is my top choice. Sliders aren’t some bastardized regional food. No, no, they suck on their own merits. They always sound amazing. You can have a little burger and then a full entrée! Who says no? I DO. In order for a burger to be good, the patty has to be a minimum size so that the outside gets a nice crust and the inside stays pink and juicy. The patty on a slider is too small for that to work. You get an air hockey puck served on a dinner roll, plus a toothpick you gotta yank out. Fuck sliders. Never order them.
•Flatbread pizzas. Oh, this isn’t just REGULAR pizza. No no, this pizza is served on stale pita bread and was topped with mushrooms of questionable origin!
•Caesar salads. Caesar salad is the best salad in the universe and yet every time I order one out, I get a pile of dryass shit that came out of a Dole salad kit. And the grilled chicken on top costs an extra $12.
•Fish tacos. I’ve had enough good fish tacos to instinctively go OOOOH anytime I see them on a menu at, like, a Chevys. DO NOT ORDER THEM. For some reason you can only get a decent fish taco in places that are near oceans. SO WEIRD.
•Any noodle bowl at a restaurant not known for noodles. Ramen costs what? Seventy-nine cents a packet? You’d think an average-ass hotel restaurant could serve you ramen or udon or soba and not fuck it up. WRONG. I see noodles on a menu that is otherwise dominated by mayo boy food and I’m like, “Well that sounds cool and different!” WRONG. Leave restaurant noodles to the noodle experts.
•Any spring roll at a restaurant not known for spring rolls. Same deal.
•Any dessert you think will be served hot but actually turns out to be served cold. My feelings on cold pie are well known, but other desserts are similarly booby trapped. Even when they’re MEANT to be served cold, they make me angry. Ever see some rich, decadent chocolate cake on a menu and it turns out that it’s been sitting in the fucking walk-in since morning? Awful.
My contempt for Trump is bottomless and longstanding; such that the mere fact of it is no more painful than, say, some passing bodily discomfort. Worse, far worse, is that so many other people see… what, exactly? What is there to see other than a vile cretinous racist cowardly pitiful reflection of everything that is awful about human nature? What is it that causes so many to vote, enthusiastically, with an appalling vigor, spittle flying, in contradiction to principles they once claimed so loudly to cherish beyond measure?
So much ink has been spilled trying to answer this question definitively that it’s long been proven to be a lost cause. Some people just suck and there’s only so much you can do about it. I could knock down every door and scream in every face—and I have—but if some hillbilly wants to vote for the death cult, I lack both the power and the individual charisma to stop him. Wiser political minds may be able to. But me? Nah. My charms only go so far.
The twist is that I’ve accepted it. Took me a while. Four years, roughly. Right now, with the election a mere week away, I should be huffing into a paper bag and chewing my own fingertips off. Last night was not the best I’ve felt about things, and I can’t even imagine how fucking pissed other Americans are about it.
But I’m not gonna lose hope. You’ve heard it a million times. They want you to feel powerless because then it makes it easier for them to rile you with an iron fist. Ah, but I don’t feel powerless. This is in part because I’ve voted already, and in part because I’m better off than most people. But it’s also because there’s more of us than there are of them. And thanks to Jamaal Bowman and other newcomers in the offing, there’s gonna be more of us where it matters, too.
We’ll never live in a world without evil. I wish evil in 2020 took on a more compelling form, but this is the evil we’ve been given. Even if Biden wins next week—and I’m the last fucker alive allowed to make predictions about it—Mitch’ll still be in the Senate and the courts will still be run by Jesus Freaks with an open Nazi streak. Even if Mitch dies, and you bet your ass I’m gonna outlive that rat fuck, some other shrewd Nazi prick will pick up the slack on his behalf. We’re always gonna have to deal with these pieces of shit.
As long as there’s been mankind, there’s been evil. You can’t stop what’s coming, etc. One of the many curses of being alive in the Internet age is that everyone now knows far more than they can control. If this were 1702, the only evil I’d know would be coyotes trying to eat my sorghum crops. But now I know every evil thing that happens every second. This is by choice, mind you. I could simply unfollow everyone I follow on Twitter and then concoct a gentle lie to explain why I had to unfollow them if they asked. But then I’d be practicing willful ignorance. So, for a long time, I felt like I was stuck having to choose between taking in the news and never know a moment’s peace, or putting my head in a fucking box.
Instead, I asked my therapist about it and came away from out chat more sanguine than I thought I could ever be about the whole thing. I still want Trump to eat curb, of course. I’m still gonna piss and moan about what an everlasting chump Chuck Schumer is, etc. But I’ve accepted that dealing with this shit is part of being an active member of society. If you’re a filthy progressive liberal like me, it’s gonna be your job to NEVER shut the fuck up. You keep making your voice heard until it can’t be denied. Expanding the Supreme Court wasn’t an official “issue” until RBG died. Now it is. Ditto abolishing the police until this past summer. Those ideas have been incepted and they’ll only grow. That’s how this is gonna work. You’re not alone and you’re not powerless, and never let anyone tell you otherwise.
I’m also gonna try to limit my news intake. Twitter encourages you to be always reading the news. This is a deadly habit. I can be well-informed by checking it OCCASIONALLY, instead of flicking down, watching the wheel spin, and hoping the next tweet says global warming is actually now over.
Meanwhile, I’m still gonna vote (for Biden, so that I can yell at him), protest, volunteer, give money to worthy causes, and teach my kid to not be Nazis. The other day we drove by a gaggle of Trump supporters and I let the 14-year-old roll down the window, hoist double birds, DeAndre Hopkins–style, and scream FUCK YOU at the top of her lungs. Chip off the old block, that one. If I can pass on my contempt for corrupted institutions to my offspring, they’ll have a better chance of fundamentally changing those institutions that I ever will. This is gonna be a generational shift. That’s how long it’ll for America to get its shit together, if it ever does.
It may not. Trump might win on Tuesday, and then Nate Silver can run around jizzing I TOLD YOU SOs at everyone within jizzing distance. It’ll be fucking miserable, but I’m used to misery now. I’m not gonna purge the world of it. But I can set an example by calling it out when I see it and telling it to get fucked. If you accept that evil’s gonna evil, then you’ll be better equipped to help extinguish it wherever it may pop up. You and I just gotta do the work and remember that fighting evil—win or lose—is its own reward.
Let’s say you were cursed and sent back in time to your first day of middle school. No “Back to the Future” possibilities to get, uh, back to the future. Just stuck there, in your 6th or 7th grade body with your adult brain. So, to make the best of it, do you think you could become the most popular kid in school, or, would it be impossible to fit in and you’d wind up a complete outcast who got the shit beat out of him regularly? More context: Thought about this a lot while (stoned and) trying to fall asleep last night.
I would get my ass kicked. My grown-man brain would make no difference at all. I’m good at interacting with other adults and shit, but those powers are rendered worthless against ANY preteen. My own kids think I’m a fucking dork. The fact that I’ve written books and that I co-own the only sports website worth a shit makes no difference at all. I sent my daughter some of James Austin Johnson’s Trump impressions, and she ignored them. I’m a dad who forwards things now. I wanna think I’m different somehow when I text my kid a link, but I’m not. I’m as boring and cheesy as every other parent.
I’ve also gone to a local middle school and talked to a class of eighth-graders. I told the class my job and told them about the famous people I’ve met. They gave ZERO fucks. I may as well have been speaking fucking Pig Latin. Nothing I say or know could possibly make me cool to them.
That would be doubly true if a sorceress appeared and turned me back into a pasty fat kid. I lived that hell already. Being smart/funny was of NO help. In fact, those qualities were downright repellent in middle-schooler form. Supersmart kids were fucking losers and no one wanted anything to do with them. All my jokes fell flat and still would. And what would I do if I wanted to ask out Emily Hansen? My brain is 44! I’D BE A DIDDLER! The only thing I could/would do with your little switcheroo is try to score beer and weed for the other kids. In this, I would also fail.
How many championships will LeBron need to bring the Lakers to get his jersey retired? Will any team retire his jersey?
The one title was all LeBron needed to win, if he needed to win a title at all. The Lakers will retire his number, and then their fans are gonna claim him for themselves eternally and pretend he never played for any other team. The only reason I feel MILD affinity for the Lakers is because I fucking hate Bill Simmons, and he’s probably already gone out of his way to discredit their bubble title, because LeBron’s agent wouldn’t return his call one time or something.
But in a vacuum, Lakers fans are absolute pieces of shit. As with Boston fans, they’ll pounce on any excuse to expand their self-reverence. LeBron’s jersey is getting retired in an instant. Bump up the ceremony an extra year if he ever rapes someone.
The Heat and Cavs will also retire LeBron’s jersey, of course. But I wouldn’t expect his numbers (6 and 23) to be retired by any other team besides the ones he’s played for. It would be weird if, like, the Wizards did it.
Do you have any movie quotes you use regularly that nobody else uses/recognises?
Sure do! I pepper my daily vernacular with quotes and references that no one else in this house knows or gives a shit about. When I give a weather report for the day, I say the word “sunny” like Jeremy Irons said the name “Sonny” in Reversal Of Fortune. See, I’ve already lost you. Anybody calls me a baby (all the time), I make like Pterri from Pee Wee’s Playhouse and go, “I am not a bebe. I AM NOT A BEBE!” I can’t even find Pterri saying this on Youtube, it’s so fucking old. I may have just imagined him saying it. I also throw out Simpsons references with no warning and no context. My wife, who never watches that show, is so confused by the references that she doesn’t bother reacting to them at all. Too often, I expect the real world to be the internet. It’s an issue.
I haven’t got to the worst part of my repertoire, which is ACCENTS. I know the screenplay to Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels by heart, so if one of my kids fucks up and demands sympathy, I make like Vinnie Jones and go WOT, AND I KEH? Or if we’re buying something online, I got the full Statham and cry out TEW LATE TEW LATE WILL BE THE CRY WHEN THE MAN WIFF THE BARGAINS HAS PAHSSED YEW BY. Sometimes my wife will hear me making a reference and go, “What are you saying?” That’s when I feel like a complete dipshit. FANNY BY THE GASLIGHT.
Retribution has already proven swift. All the kids are starting to test out British accents on each other now. I’ve created a monster.
There has to be some better phrase than “dietary restrictions”, right? Cooking for other people is great, but I really hate asking “do you have any dietary restrictions?” I don’t care that people HAVE these restrictions, vegetarianism is cool and allergies happen, whatever, I just really hate the phrase, it makes you sound like a narc. Can we have another phrase for it?
Just ask them if there’s anything they can’t or won’t eat. The term “dietary restrictions” exists so that whoever has those restrictions doesn’t feel like a freakshow for pointing them out. You can lump foods you hate in with foods that you’re allergic to… all under the same, vaguely medical umbrella. That’s why they use that term in school lunchrooms and what not. Keeps kids from feeling self-conscious, even though they totally will. If you’re just cooking for a friend, you can ask them more bluntly. THEN you make fun of them for hating garlic. What a dipshit.
Assuming they wear it properly (big if), for which coach is a mask the biggest improvement over seeing their actual face?
Mike McCarthy. Not close. McCarthy looks downright professional with his mask on, which is hilarious because he turned the Cowboys to rubble in a mere seven weeks. This isn’t like Green Bay, where Beav painstakingly obliterated Aaron Rodgers’s prime over the course of many years. No no, he goes to Dallas and OH SNAP! Dak immediately has to get his leg super-glued back together, Zeke can’t hang onto the ball, and the defense has more holes in than Jerry Jones’s brain does. A masterful job all around.
The fact that McCarthy’s face is covered during this insta-wreck lends him five percent more credibility than he ever deserves. You don’t get to watch him pout and grimace and act like a huffy restaurant customer who wants to know when his table is ready. You’re not getting the full McCarthy experience, which is sad. All you’re getting is veiled idiocy. Such a shame.
By the way, I’ve watched enough rona football now to say definitively that coaches in masks/gaiters look much better than coaches who opt for the face shield. I’m sure Matt Rhule opted for a shield so that the refs can see just how mad he was about that call, but he still looks like a moron. Every coach with a face shield looks like a nursing home resident who just came back from getting his pupils dilated.
Given the choice between these two mundane superpowers, who ya got?
1. You have the power to find out what happened to any lost article of clothing (excluding socks). You cannot get the clothing back, but you’ll have a flashback vision to the exact moment it left your possession.
2. You can summon any person, anywhere in the world, to come up to you and give you a hug (assume no Covid), while also exclaiming generically about how great you are (so long as you can physically see them). For example, you’re on vacation with a friend in Laos, and approaching a vendor. This vendor would then act as if you’re a long lost friend, for a few minutes, if you should choose. No other benefits or favors.
The lost clothing. Not close. I don’t want a hug from some random asshole. Even if it’s, like, Obama, I don’t want it. I’ll just know they’ve been spellbound anyway. I demand, and deserve, REAL adoration from Obama. I don’t want it sullied by magic.
By contrast, I still don’t know what happened to that one Patagonia jacket of mine that got stolen from the Colby dining hall 22 years ago. It was a nice jacket. Very warm. Had a strange green/plaid thing going on. I thought I looked cool wearing it (this was 1997, mind you). Then some assfuck yoinked it right off the coat hook. I want to know who did it. I want to find them in 2020, hunt them down, and make them PAY. Vengeance is worth far more to me than false idolatry.
I also lost a nice watch in Grand Central Station once. I know the exact moment it left my possession, but if I could see the next 24 hours on tape as it gets trampled underfoot and kicked off the platform onto the Metro-North tracks, I would be grateful. Kind of.
I miss crowd shots more than I expected to. When Adam Gase dials up a punt down from the opponent’s 40 with 1:32 left, I need someone in the crowd reacting with the vitriol I know fans are experiencing at home. So here’s my pitch: every week one lucky fan gets to attend the game, sit wherever they want, and be the designated reaction shot. The whole game, every big moment, we cut to Gary waving his arms in disgust/triumph. Throughout the game, you develop a real love and or hate for Gary, then you get a new one next game.
There are crowds now. Although when they cut to the crowd these days, I’m just looking for who’s wearing a mask and who’s a selfish prick. So yes, I would like a Gary. Put him in a lucite booth so that he doesn’t have to wear a mask. An attendant can hand him beer, nachos, and a bib through a slot, like he’s in solitary. It could work. You could also use a young couple in there instead of Gary. They’d be fans of an SEC team to be named later, and they’d look sad and angry all game long. Never gets old.
I’ve done fine without big crowds across the pandemic seasons. That changed when I saw the crowd reaction at the end of Game 4 of the World Series. They made that moment legendary:
That pause between Arozarena appearing to be caught and Will Smith biffing the relay… that gave me the full Playoffs Experience. The crowd made that ending feel the way it deserved to feel. And the game wasn’t even in either team’s home stadium! Just a bunch of random Texans and transplant fans all going HOLY SHIT in rapid fire succession. Was this a potential superspreader event? Yup. Did I care? Not really. I was too busy remembering how awesome a good crowd was. I had managed to live without one for nearly a year. But then it all came back, amigo. If I need Gary as my crowd proxy while we ride out the pandemic, so be it. That game reminded me of what I was missing, though. I’m not gonna forget it this time.
I saw your FUNBAG in Vice on March 31st and the very first submission about dating resonated with me. I’m currently a 20-year old man and in college and I’m feeling the same things you did. I’m a virgin and I’ve only been on one date my whole life. You’re right, it is starting to feel like a permanent condition. My 18-year old brother has already had one relationship and it feels like I’ll never have a girlfriend. In that column, you said you didn’t have the same sample size the woman who asked the question, but as a 20-year old virgin, I DO have the same sample size as you did back then. So, what’s your advice to a 20-year-old virgin?
I’d tell you to be patient, but that’s just the WORST shit to hear if you’re someone desperate for love and terrified of dying alone. How much longer are you expected to wait? So I won’t be a pedantic shithead and tell you that everything will improve one magic day an indeterminate length of time from now.
Instead, I’ll tell you to get to WORK, and I don’t mean the standard “put yourself out there!” spiel, because there’s nowhere TO put yourself in the middle of a goddamn pandemic. Use that time instead to work out, read, develop attractive skills (cooking, photography, playing the saxophone), and shape yourself into the kind of person you think other people would wanna fuck. The more you feel like that person, the more confident you’ll be. And it’ll be a genuine confidence. “Be more confident” is an awful thing to say to people. There’s work that has to go into it. When you obtain that real confidence, you’ll know it. Other people will, too. That’s when you STRIKE, like a cobra. I’ll be cheering you and your penis on, amigo.
Has LeBron ever been in a fight in his life?
Email of the week!
I wrote an article about the actor Jackie Coogan (who was a badass) like four years ago for my personal blog, and Ann Coulter randomly tweeted it the other day. It gave me a huge boost in page views, and a lot of shitty people are saying nice things about it, but how should I feel about this? (I made a point to quote tweet her post, calling out her racist bullshit). What’s the proper response when someone you think is loathsome publicly endorses/supports something you’ve written?
I think you handled it exactly right. The Nazi bird lady liking your shit doesn’t make YOU a Nazi bird lady. Let her play herself. She’s got a lot of experience doing so.