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Funbag

Hear Me Out: A Pi Jersey

XXX during the NFL game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on October 17, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Jets 28-3.
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Time for your weekly edition of the Defector Funbag. Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag. And preorder Drew’s next book, The Night The Lights Went Out, while you’re at it. Today, we’re talking about airport toilets, body sprays, piano lessons, and more.

Your letters:

Alex:

I was taking a look at the NFL rulebook and I think a player could legally wear the Pi symbol, assuming it was the appropriate position. What players would be the most fun to see sport an irrational number on the jersey, and how long would it take the NFL to change the rules to shut it down? I think seeing it on a kicker would feel the most appropriate.

John Urschel would have worn a pi jersey. Remember John Urschel, the math guy on the Ravens? Every NFL team has a “This guy is actually really good at engineering!” player. It’s usually a lineman, because linemen are always like, “Hey we can be quirky guys too!” So he would have rocked a pi jersey while campaigning to be the host of Jeopardy!. A pi jersey would also appeal to Cam Newton or any other otherwise stupid player who suffers from Kyrie Brain and wants you to think outside the Matrix. I’m shocked that Cam never applied for such a jersey, now that I think about it. He at least should have worn a 1 jersey with an umlaut.

Of course, there’s not a chance the NFL would ever allow this shit. Let’s go to the rulebook Alex consulted:

Numerals on the back and front of jerseys as specified under NFL rules for the player’s specific position. Such numerals must be a minimum of 8 inches high and 4 inches wide, and their color must be in sharp contrast with the color of the jersey. Smaller numerals should be worn on the tops of the shoulders or upper arms of the jersey. Small numerals on the back of the helmet or on the uniform pants are optional.

Since pi is an irrational number—meaning it has no end—it’s not technically a numeral. Ditto infinity, which has even greater potential jersey appeal among the more dexterously minded players on any given roster. When the NFL says “numerals,” they mean 0–99, and I’m certain they already have bureaucratic obstacles in place if Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (that’s Dr. Duvernay-Tardif to you) thinks he can challenge their definition of the term. And while I’d like the NFL to look the other way on this sort of thing (I love the expansion of single-digit jerseys, for instance), I know that the novelty of seeing Roman numerals on a jersey would wear off really fucking quick.

Mark:

What is your definition of “third and long”? To me it’s anything 10 yards or more, but the MNF crew just deemed a third-and-7 play “third and long”. So anything over five yards then? Please answer this very important question, thanks

I consider it to be any third-down play that’s an obvious passing down but also a DIFFICULT one. The league-wide average yards per carry is over four yards, which means five yards is your tipping point into an obvious passing situation on third down. But third-and-5 is firmly in the area of “third and manageable,” because you have to pass but you don’t have to pass the ball all that far to convert. You can dink or dunk that into a relatively easy conversion.

To figure out where the line is between “manageable” and “oh fuck,” just look at yards per attempt. In 2020, the leaguewide average yards per attempt was 7.4. So there you go. If it’s third-and->7.4, that’s when the house’s cut factors in. That’s third-and-long, amigo. Got it? Round it down and you’ve got third-and-7, just like Steve Levy told you the other night. While everyone I know is pretending to slobber over the Manningcast, Levy is delivering RESULTS.

But don’t take my word for it. Don’t take my word for anything. I asked Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders if his crew had a hard definition for third-and-long. He wrote back:

We define it as seven or more yards to go.

Now you know. By the way, your average NFL offensive coordinator considers, like, third-and-3 to be an obvious and difficult passing down. So then they trot out an empty backfield while I scream at the television. They’re stupid. You and I, we’d actually know how to call a football game properly. NOT LIKE THOSE FUCKING AMATEURS.

Jack:

If you woke up one morning to discover you now had 10 fingers on each hand, would your dog be freaked out or not even notice?

If I can still hold cheese with those 20 fingers, my dog wouldn’t give a shit. He might notice my deformity for six seconds, but then quickly ascertain that it has zero impact on his treat allotment, or on whether or not I need to get him off the couch and out to pee before his bladder swells up like a balloon and he explodes like a giant piss bomb. He’s a dog. He only cares about himself. The only reason he cares about our family is because we care about HIM and give him things he likes: cheese, tummy rubs, a warm house, fecal valet service, etc.

Carter is a relatively smart dog, as dogs go. That means he knows how to get cheese out of me while somehow eluding a walk outside. And anytime we go on a trip, he knows something is afoot. He looks around like, “You people are leaving me here for dead, aren’t you.” But I’ve never had Carter come up to me after a long day and be like, “Oh man, you look like you could use a facelick, Drew.” Never happens. I know my dog loves me, but I also know it’s only because he knows that I’m the creature who fills his dish. However many fingers I use to fill that dish is immaterial to him.

Jon:

I’m using a toilet in an airport bathroom and it’s the kind that isn’t connected to the floor. It’s just mounted to the wall. If you were using one and it broke off the wall, you’re probably getting covered in toilet water that sprays from the pipe. What do you do then? Do you miss your flight because you’re too embarrassed to fly while covered in toilet water?

I do not miss my flight. If anything, I’m going to the counter to get on an earlier flight so that I can get home even faster. I don’t miss flights. I’d rather have my fucking leg chopped off than miss a flight. No amount of piss water is gonna keep me from boarding that plane (the FAA may have something to say about my presence aboard, though).

My dad worked for an airline when I was a kid. One of the perks was that we got to fly for free provided that we were willing to fly standby. My parents were always more than happy to fly standby if it meant saving full airfare for a family of five. Who wouldn’t be? So I’d sit there at the gate while my mom haggled with the agent, never 100 percent sure if we’d get on the plane or not. This was back in the ’80s and early ’90s, before optimized booking systems left every plane packed and every other low-capacity flight cancelled. So we got on board most of the time. Sometimes we even lucked into first class (or, more accurately, my folks would get first-class tickets and pull a Home Alone by leaving us in coach).

But some of the time, we were left stranded. If you’ve ever been stranded at an airport as a child, you know there’s no lonelier, more torturous place on Earth. Especially if you don’t have a screen to stare at. So now that I’m older and properly shaped by that experience, I will never miss a fucking flight again. I don’t fly standby. I buy my ticket. I get to the airport way too early. I hover around the gate like every other pair of docksiders there. If you’re more laissez-faire about flight times and don’t care if you miss your plane, good for you. But also, go fuck yourself. I’m taking your seat, you lazy sack of shit. I got places to be and laundry to do.

Let’s talk more flying!

Matt:

To this day, whenever I fly on a commercial flight, people do *not* use the reclining function of their seats. They might not wear shoes (or socks), they might bring stinky food on the plane, but almost invariably no person, no matter how terrible they are, will recline their airplane seat. Why is this and, more importantly, how can we build on this one seeming common ground of human connection and caring? 

I don’t believe you. I haven’t flown since the pandemic started (this is less about my fear of infection than it is reports of passengers being psychotic dickheads on planes right now; I don’t care to encounter any of that), but before that there were still plenty of reclining passengers around me. That whole friendly skies shit died last century. As such, my expectations for everyone else at the airport remain firmly in the gutter.

I still, to this day, have to use my patented technique of kindly asking the stranger in front of me to warn me before takeoff if they’re going to recline, which almost always results in them never bothering to recline at all. If I don’t use that technique, you better believe that Wanda in front of me will take off her shoes and socks, then kick all the way back like she’s watching a fucking Steelers game at home. I’ve seen no universal détente on reclining and, given that millions of Americans refused to get vaccinated for reasons they’re too lazy to even articulate properly, I don’t expect to. If anything, I expect my first post-pandemic flight to feature at least a dozen people burning their masks in front of the flight crew while clubbing all the vaccinated passengers to death with their unstowed tray tables.

By the way, many intelligent people have realized that it’s not only rude to recline your seat, but that it’s also not even in their best interests. A reclined airplane seat is never comfortable. The seat goes back a whopping eight inches. What kinda fucking luxury is that? If my recliner at home only went back that far, I’d burn it. The current airplane seat design is set up to give you an IDEA of what comfort might feel like, all while keeping your spine at the least favorable possible angle. The only way to be comfortable on an airplane is in first class, or if you get a row to yourself. That’s it. Everything else is crap.

Mark:

My 30-year-old roommate has started using Axe body spray. The scent lingers for about 30 minutes after he sprays it in the bathroom, it spreads through the whole apartment, and it smells fucking terrible. Am I alone in thinking that Axe body spray is only for middle school and high school kids? What’s the oldest a person can be and still be using Axe body spray? I say 18.

No one in 2021 can get away with using Axe body spray. It’s a relic, and an open admission that you’re a member of the Proud Boys.

I remember when Axe first got big in the late ’90s/early 2000s and I absolutely wanted it. I thought it was cool. I was Single Drew at the time, reading Maxim and FHM and all that shit. I thought cologne was for fancy pants but that a glorified deodorant like Axe might give me just the right amount of musk to lure in all the womenfolk. But somehow, I never actually bought it. I don’t have a good reason for this. Knowing me, it either cost too much or some girl at the office said only creeps wear it. Or both. As such, the dream of Axe remained more appealing to me than the reality of actually having it. Also, I once got a bottle of Kiehl’s cucumber lotion for free at some ad event and women liked it so much on me that that became my signature fragrance. I smelled like a really tasty salad.

But I still thought Axe was kinda cool. Even now, when I walk past cans of it at the grocery store, I’m like ooooh Desert Rain; I bet that smells invigorating (NOTE: I can’t smell). Then I grab a shrink-wrapped bargain pack of Speed Stick and continue on my way. If wearing Axe ever got YOU laid, please inform the Funbag. I’m genuinely interested to see if that shit ever worked on anyone besides Kimberly Guilfoyle.

HALFTIME!

Patrick:

Field of Dreams is shit, right? I always hated that movie and thought that I was an outsider with that opinion. But it really isn’t a great movie, right?

Excuse me Patrick, but it’s September and you’ve hit me with a question right out of the August sports talk radio playbook. How dare you.

Anyway, I haven’t seen Field of Dreams since it came out on VHS in like 1989. I hated it back then, because it was an overly sentimental movie and I found sentimentality both annoying and weak. Now I’m the kind of guy who chokes up during any trailer for a Pixar movie, so I don’t have much of a leg to stand on anymore. Besides, hating Field of Dreams has become its own maudlin cliché. It deserves credit for being, at its core, a really fucking weird movie, especially as sports movies go. It doesn’t bother with any of the big-game moments that normal sports movies are oriented around. It’s more esoteric and more character-based than that, which I respect.

Now that respect only goes so far, given that every boomer in a propeller beanie holds up Field of Dreams as a tribute to baseball’s majesty and as their favorite Dead Dad movie of all time. They’re all deeply annoying people who make me wanna hate the film on principle alone. But I bet if I watched that movie alone, right now, without any of them around, I’d probably be like, “Hey, that wasn’t as shitty as I remember.”

Peter:

If you got stuck in a time loop, what piano piece are you learning? I would go with maybe a Bruce Hornsby or Vince Guaraldi.

I can answer this definitively, because my daughter took piano lessons earlier in her life. We even bought her a used piano, which was stupid because you can find a zillion used pianos for free on Craigslist. Anyway, while my daughter was learning scales and practicing for recitals, I took it upon myself to learn a few piano riffs. Are you ready for my playlist? TOUGH SHIT YOU’RE GETTING IT ANYWAY:

  • “Home Sweet Home”
  • “Clocks”
  • “Videotape”
  • “The Daily Mail”
  • “The Vampyre of Time And Memory”
  • “Jump”
  • The second part of “Sonatina #1 in G Major

I didn’t learn the entirety of any of these songs. Just the opening riffs. One time my son asked me to stop playing “Videotape,” because it was depressing him. Perfectly logical reaction. I respected his request and focused instead on the song I enjoyed playing the most: “Clocks.” Coldplay remains the absolute wimpiest rock band that’s ever existed, but the piano riff is that song is fucking perfect. The chorus is a waste of time, but the riff? Perfect. So if I had to endure the Groundhog Day thing and master just one song on a priceless Steinway, that’s the one. Then, once out of the time loop, I’d don a fine suit, put on some Axe body spray, and serenade my wife with it. She’d be blown away. I’d totally get out of washing dishes that night.

Second place is that Beethoven track, because I love it. I tried as hard as I could to figure out how to play it, but that one requires the kind of digital contortions that led to me quitting the guitar. Please don’t ask me to spread my fingers too wide. It’s very strenuous. You’d think this Beethoven guy was some kind of musical prodigy the way he could reach for keys.

While I was teaching myself those riffs (I did so by watching YouTube tutorials; I can’t even read music), I envisioned a future where I could take piano lessons of my own and, after the kids fucked off to college, become a capable piano player in my own right. Not for money or for fame; strictly for the satisfaction of being able to do it. When I played the opening “Clocks” riff for the first time without fucking it up, I was like Holy shit I can’t believe I can do this. That’s an incredibly nice feeling to have, no matter your thoughts on Coldplay’s weak-ass bullshit. I almost felt like an actual musician.

My kid quit the piano years ago, but it’s still sitting in our living room because no one else wants it and we don’t wanna pay anyone to move it out. That’s why all those Craigslist ones are free, after all. Maybe I really should take lessons. Maybe these hands could learn something new before I die. I’m the kind of person who quits any lesson the instant it proves laborious, but maybe I can learn, one day, to not be that kind of person. There’s still time.

(I’ll never do it.)

Brent:

Why are TV commercials so shitty now? I can still remember dozens of jingles and spots from the 70s. The 80s and 90s brought the golden era of beer commercials and Spike Jonze weirdness. In the last decade everything has become bland and instantly forgettable. I blame the insurance business gobbling up all the inventory with their doofy formulaic garbage, but I know you did time in the ad biz; what’s your theory?

Ads have always been shit. I remember every Bud Light campaign from my teenage years because I was the exact right age to think the “I love you man!” guy was the height of comedy, and because I loved any ad that had tits. Any old ad is charming—and I use that word very loosely here—because it reflects the tastes of that age. So the “Yes I am!” guy will have curio value 50 years from now, the same way old 1919 newspaper ads for Dr. Halk’s Talcum Fluid are cool artifacts of a bygone era.

But most ads from any era were dreck in their time, same way as now. The only difference now is that you can skip ads on the DVR, which makes them only feel more intrusive than they already are. So ad campaigns have lower odds of becoming culturally iconic the same way they were back when half the guys at my school collected Absolut magazine ads and papered one side of the dorm room in them. You’re far more likely to notice the shitty ads now instead of the good ones.

However, that doesn’t mean there are NO good ads anymore. I’ll stop the DVR to watch Dr. Rick ads because I think they’re genuinely entertaining. I even thought the first “dilly dilly” ad was amusing (but not the second through 87th ones), because it was so stupid. And Old Spice opened the door for every other men’s product to showcase boutique stoner humor, which I appreciate more than I abhor. Behind every ad is a creative team desperate to make something good and win awards for it, and occasionally they manage to pull it off. I don’t work in that industry anymore, but I still remember all of the big ads I was tasked with emulating, like the aforementioned Spike Jonze:

So as always, never do the “things used to be better!” routine. Not even about ads. That’s still old crank shit. I know I wrote about getting more comfortable with my age last week, but I don’t wanna be THAT old.

Peter:

How do you come up with names for characters? Spur of the moment? Sitting around and a name flashes and you think, “that would be a cool name for a bad guy?” I remember taking a creative writing class and agonizing over names.

Just steal them from real life. If you try inventing a name out of thin air, you’ll come up with David Barrel or some other transparently fictional horseshit. It’s why I could never get into any John Grisham book. Darby Shaw? You want me to believe that’s a real name and not a store at the mall? Fuck off, JOHN.

If you’re an aspiring writer, you’re much better off scrolling through the names of everyone you’ve ever known or read about and then using the ones that sound the best. For The Hike, I stole the name Voris from a friend’s last name, because it was a cool name. For Point B, I stole Bamert’s name from an old classmate. For The Postmortal, I stole the names of Matt and Bruce from my old ad bosses (and based both characters off of them). Not only is it easier to steal names, but they all sound better than whatever failed Hogwarts student name try out on your own. Everyone wins. Unless you steal your best friend’s name and use it for a pederast character. That might ruffle some feathers.

Kevin:

I’m currently recovering from my vasectomy performed earlier today. Leading up to the day, I had feelings I didn’t really anticipate. I’m 37, and we have one five-year-old daughter. She just stated school, so all that sweet daycare money is coming back to us. I had always wanted two kids, but at my age and our stage in life, I don’t want a second one now. I guess my question is, I know you’ve had it done, so did you have any mixed feelings? I’ve thought a lot about it, and I’ve realized the best way I can put it is that I’m sad I won’t be having any more kids, even though I don’t really want to have any more. Did you have any similar conflicting feelings, or were you just happy to lock in your brood as is and be done?

I had no mixed feelings when I got snipped because I had three kids, and three kids was plenty. If we had had a fourth, I wouldn’t be here right now. I’d be living in a hovel, stealing chicken bones out of dumpsters to feed my enormous, needy brood. No thank you. I know damn well that if my wife and I had more children, we’d love them all terribly and have no regrets about raising them, but you have to draw a line somewhere. You can’t have infinity kids. People who do so are freaks. It’s been documented. Also, my wife had serious complications with our third child because she was over 35 when she got pregnant with him. The potential for complications in that age range are considerable, and neither of us cared to take that risk after we had to endure it the first time around.

So no. I have no regrets. Not even after my balls exploded. If you have misgivings about your current family head count, you can always get a dog. That usually makes up the difference.

Email of the week!

Jim:

Lately I’ve adopted a concerning mannerism, after listening to what has apparently been way too many episodes of the Distraction. I can’t seem to help myself. When I walk into the house, if my partner is home I will in my best Drew voice exclaim: “I’m BAAACK, I’m BAAAAACK, it’s the HOMECOMING I’m JIM you’re RAVEN how ya doin’ RAVEN?” Nothing else can happen until after a deep sigh she plays along with a resigned “….I’m good man, how are you?” Do you think our relationship is fine?

I’d say it’s more than fine, Jimbo.