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Funbag

Hear Me Out: Safe Bears

Bear at the Wuppertal Zoo on April 8, 2009 in Wuppertal, Germany.
Christof Koepsel/Getty Images

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 college football, Sonic, lost wedding rings, and more.

Your letters:

Joe:

If you could ethically (dream scenario) domesticate and keep any animal as a pet, what animal would you choose, and why would it be a kangaroo?

Here is where I’ll reiterate my desire for safe bears. Bears are adorable and have super soft fur (I think). I would like to cuddle with them. I can’t do that with bears in their present form. I saw a whole documentary about what happens when people try. So I need science to engineer me a safer, smaller bear: about 25 pounds, no claws, a calm disposition. A toy bear. One that I could kiss and hug and push along the street in a pram.

Imagine how great safe bears would be. Every family would have one. Every only child would have a best friend. All burglars would have to retire after seeing BEWARE OF BEAR signs in every yard. And there would be no more wars, because we’d all be too busy playing with our beloved cubs.

This is not a big ask of science. I’m not demanding that we bring back the T-Rex, or one of the lamer extinct species. I’m asking for a simple DNA tweak here. On a technical level, it’d be like upgrading an iPhone camera. Or so I would imagine. So why the fuck am I still living in a world where bears are still big and scary and will eat everything in my pic-a-nic basket if I leave it unchecked? This is bullshit.

Also, despite my Aussie birth, I would not pick a kangaroo because kangaroos are a known pest down under. People there hate ‘em.

Kevin:

Who's taller: Winnie the Pooh or Mickey Mouse?

Winnie the Pooh, because he is a bear. A safe bear (oh to dream), but a bear nonetheless.

Jacob:

Can you please tell your well-intentioned colleagues and other non-bads in the media that they don’t have to carry water for Florida State? Whether or not they deserve to be in the playoff means squat. They’re a crap program that’s been run by crap people more often than not, and their largesse has helped create the monster that just bit them. I feel bad for their athletes since Jameis isn’t on the roster but beyond that, they ain’t worth the words. 

Complaints about this year’s CFB field aren’t about Florida State specifically. The next sportswriter I meet who’s like, “The Seminoles are a rare beacon of light in the sport of college football! How dare the committee job such an honorable program!” will be the first. This was about FSU players (who already have your sympathy) getting hosed because Jordan Travis had the gall to break his leg. It was also about SEC commish Greg Sankey openly saying that an SEC team will never, ever be left out of the bracket:

"That's not the real world of college football. Let's go back to like 'Sesame Street' so we're really basic -- one of these things is not like the other, and that's the Southeastern Conference… When you put us up actually against the teams, rather than in the committee rooms, we stand alone.”

The game is rigged, and there a few things that Americans love to piss and moan about more than their sports being rigged. And who’s gonna side with Sankey, who exudes pure good ol’ boy imperiousness? And who wants Alabama back in the playoff for the 857th year, especially when they’ll definitely win it again? That’s shitty television, which ironically is the reason that an undefeated-but-hobbled FSU team got left out to begin with.

But if you think I want to go back to the days of the bowl system and of split national champions, as Bomani Jones does, you are wrong. Because guess what? Most of those big bowl games ALSO sucked ass. I know because I watched them. I watched Tommie Frazier and Nebraska annihilate Florida. I watched Florida State—poor Florida State!—end Michael Vick’s run at Virginia Tech with a 46-29 paddling. I watched Steve Spurrier’s Florida team hang a 50-burger on FSU in a national title game, avenging their only loss of the season in a rematch that no one wanted.

Blatant favoritism isn’t new to college football, and the old favoritism was significantly worse. You were either robbed of a definitive national title match-up because WE JUST CAN’T GET THE DADGUM ROSE BOWL TO PLAY BALL, or you got one that turned out to be a dud. I count a grand total of three unofficial title games from this period that I enjoyed watching: OSU-Miami in 2003, USC-Texas in 2006, and a 13-2 Oklahoma upset of FSU in the Orange Bowl that was only compelling to me because it was such a big upset. After that, nothing.

Meanwhile, the CFB has trotted out all of the usual suspects like Bama, but that stasis has at least resulted in three barnburner finals in consecutive years (2016–2018), and a batshit semifinal between Georgia and Ohio State a year ago. Plus, the format expands to 12 teams a year from now, so all of the fake Cinderellas will get in, and I’ll have even more games to watch.

In the end, I couldn't care less which bubble teams get fucked by this format and which don’t. They’ll be forgotten by spring and the CFB winner will be undisputed champ. This is college football: a sport built almost exclusively on whining. The fans whine. The schools whine. The coaches whine. The media whines. Michigan whines, even when they win. If your argument is that there’s no good way to crown a champion in college football, you’re also a whiner. I suppose, in that way, you’re helping to keep the most hallowed of traditions alive. Bobby Bowden would be proud.

Kristopher:

Do you ever willfully make a sit down visit to the toilet without your phone?

Kristopher, I routinely double back for my phone if I find myself walking to the shitter without it. I try to be discreet about this sortie, because I don’t want my wife to notice that I plan to use my phone while grunting out a turd. But you better believe that’s my plan, amigo. What else am I gonna do while shitting? Think? Plan out my next novel? Enjoy the peace and quiet? Contemplate how much I love my parents? Don’t be absurd. I need to see what clueless shit Linda Yaccarino just posted to X, and I’m not gonna WAIT to see it. It’s an urgent matter … almost as urgent as having to take a shit in the first place!

In all seriousness, my only good phone habits are never using it at the dinner table, and leaving it downstairs when I go to bed for the night. Otherwise, every other effort I’ve made to reduce my screen time has been fleeting or nonexistent. I know I should limit my phone use, but I don’t want to. I don’t monitor my screen time. I don’t have set time limits. When I get up in the morning, the first thing I do is check my phone, even though it’s 6:30 a.m. and nothing has happened yet. And sometimes, if I’ve posted a particularly brilliant Bluesky missive right before going to bed, or I made an excellent point in Slack, I will sneak back downstairs under the cover of “I forgot to do something” and then check the replies, to make sure that my geode was acknowledged. This is fine living.

Maybe one day I’ll ease up; the fact that I’ve grown tired of everyone else online has already partially weaned me off of social media. But I don’t see a future where I live without my phone, unless they invent something cooler. Why the fuck haven’t they invented something cooler yet? Where is my bionic, WiFi-enabled exoskeleton already? YOU’RE ALREADY BEHIND ON MAKING ME A SAFE BEAR. Fucking scientists.

However, I do have one area where I am making a concerted effort to improve, and that is looking up from my phone when other people are talking to me. I get annoyed when I’m talking to someone and they refuse to put down their phone. Of course, I’ve often had no problem pulling that stunt myself. It’s like driving: Everyone else is the asshole, not me. But whenever I do this, I’m setting a bad example, I’m angering my wife, and what am I looking at when I’m not paying attention to you? Chances are, nothing at all. I’m probably refreshing my mentions on Bluesky, or playing Yazy, or mulling over an unfinished game of Immaculate Grid. The ratio of time spent on my phone to time spent engaging in vital activity on that phone is roughly 500:1. There’s no sin in wasting time and dicking around, but it is nice to look people in the eye for more than 30 seconds a day. Helps you remember that they’re people.

Dan:

What movie do you think you’ve seen the most times in your life?

I could give you a predictable answer for a guy my age, like Empire Strikes Back or Caddyshack. But in my case, I’m virtually certain that it’s Revenge of the Nerds. I had a dubbed copy of it on VHS when I was in middle school and I rewatched it at least once a week. This was back before streaming and on demand and all of that shit. The movies you watched were the movies that you had.

As far as 13-year-old me was concerned, Revenge of the Nerds was the only movie I needed anyway. It had booger jokes. It had tits. Most important, it contained the only moral lesson that I wanted to hear at the time, namely that if you were a nerd with no friends, you could organize with other nerds and eventually become cool enough to bag a cheerleader via extremely problematic means. As far as I was concerned, this was less a movie than a roadmap for the rest of my life. Imagine my surprise when I got to college and still couldn’t get laid.

Cliff:

You recently wrote about how you need to be warm and cozy all the time. When Armageddon arrives (possibly 2024 come election time), would you stick it out up north with your Vikings Fleece blanket or Mad Max it down to Florida to stay warm?

Not Florida. I enjoy visiting Florida, but I also know enough about that state to know I would never, ever want to live there. California is a different matter. There’s a lot of L.A. in my daydreams. I haven’t visited the city since 2019 and it’s killing me. I wanna go hang out on the roof deck at Le Petit Ermitage again. I wanna eat shitty tacos. I wanna go see my L.A. friends and talk with them about local traffic, as if I’ve always known how congestion patterns on the 5 work. I even suggested that Defector send me to L.A. to cover the WGA strike. Given that our Diana Moskovitz already lives in Los Angeles, my pitch was ignored.

But the west still beckons, because I am getting colder in middle age. I am never without my beloved hoodie. When the mercury drops below 50, I feel like I’m on the verge of hypothermia. When I come in from the cold, I shiver for a solid hour. When I shower in January, I savor the heat like I just got out of prison. I always goofed on my grandma for being cold all the time, as all grandmas are. Now it’s my turn to be the one who angrily squawks WHO TURNED DOWN THE THERMOSTAT?! at the younger people living in the house.

And I’m not even 50 yet. I live in a place that gets half an inch of snow every winter and I’m still fucking freezing. I go to sleep cold and wake up colder. The center cannot hold. Eventually I’m gonna buy that pied-à-terre in Santa Monica. I won’t even keep a mistress there; I’ll just have it so that I can go someplace sunny and enjoy a hot cup of decaf.

HALFTIME!

Asherdan:

A couple of years ago, as a surprise, I had my wife’s wedding band, engagement ring (my grandmother’s from 1930) and a 10-year anniversary ring (one-carat solitaire) all banded together into a single unit. It looked pretty swanky and my wife was happy.

At some point in the last year, my wife took them off and put them aside in the master bath. I haven't seen them since. I mentioned it in passing several months back, and got a, "Oh, they'll turn up" response. Well, they haven't. So I'm kinda on the horns of a dilemma here. I'm 99.994% certain there's not some bullshit going on. My wife isn’t selling stuff to finance a secret affair. That leaves me thinking stuff got shuffled around and just plain lost. I'm thinking there's no use to me harping on it if that's the case. Part of me is thinking I'll just get my wife a nice ring as a gift, and not cry over spilt milk. Go ahead, judge this deal.

I’d have questions for my old lady if she lost (ditched?) the engagement ring I gave her and never explained why. A lot of questions. All of the questions. If I took off my wedding band one day and my wife never saw it again, how do you think SHE would react? She’d fucking alert the FBI, man. She’d want to know where the ring is, what I did with it, and why I’m not wearing it anymore. She’d be right to ask. And if I told her, “Oh, I’m sure it’ll turn up,” she’d throw me off a balcony.

So you have the right to be inquisitive here, if not downright pissed. Your wife lost three rings—likely of high value—in one go, without explanation, and you’re not gonna ask what the fucking deal is? She’s your wife. She’s not your auto mechanic blithely telling you that your car will be another week in the shop. She doesn’t get to just brush off something that’s both so expensive and so important. That was her wedding ring: the designated token of your eternal love for her. Why doesn’t she give a fuck about it? And why are you so willing to let it go, amigo? Why would you buy your wife a new ring if she treated the last one with such remarkable indifference? Is this an arranged Scientology marriage or something? All respect to you, your wife, and your superhuman levelheadedness, but none of this smells right.

(The simpler theory here is that wearing all those rings fused together was wildly uncomfortable for your old lady and that she didn’t have the heart to tell you, but that’s not as fun as me getting all worked up over this. Either way you two still need to communicate better.)

Craig:

What if you woke up one day and everything and everyone in the world was 1% smaller except you. You would remain your normal 100% size in this 99% size world. How long would it take for you to notice that something was amiss? I don't think that I would notice anything until I put my shoes on or tried to button the top button of a dress shirt.

I’d never notice. I’m 6-foot-3, Craig. Everything and everyone is already one percent smaller to me. I go to the nearby Uniqlo and they’re all out of my size. I get into a rental car and my head rubs against the roof. I check into a hotel and my feet hang an inch off the bed. I can only use a coffee mug with a handle that accommodates three-plus fingers. Every restaurant is too tight, every airplane seat puts me in a stress position, and every taco platter is at least one taco short of my appetite. This is my life as Big Daddy Drew. If you shrunk the world down even further, I’d try on a new t-shirt, groan, and tell everyone that BIG ITALIAN DESIGNER has fucked me over yet again.

JJ:

How many days after a haircut does your hair look best? I think one week post-cut is optimal: still neat and tidy, but removed from the “somebody got haircut!” phase. NOTE: I go every five weeks to the barber, so I recognize the answer may change for those (like Drew) who have in-home hair styling. 

I’ll go two weeks, because I have my wife cut my hair extra close every time. Otherwise, the top of my hair gets too frizzy too fast. So she shears me like a sheep, and then I need a fortnight to let my hair breathe. After that, it looks both polished and natural. Baby frat boy wings begin to sprout, and I look boyishly handsome again. Then another two days pass and my Drewfro is suddenly out of control.

NOTE: All of this timing can prove flexible if you just use a little product in your hair. I can tame my shit anytime I like if I just remember to use some leave-in conditioner after I shower. But if I forget, the fro pops up like a fucking jack in the box.

Doug:

Despite living in a midsize US city, visiting a Sonic Drive-In would require me to make a multi-hour round trip. As a result, I've only ever visited a Sonic one time, while on a work trip (it was good.) Yet, I'm sure I've collectively spent 10+ hours of my life watching Sonic commercials on TV. What in your life do you think has been advertised to you the most that is also the most impractical for you to actually obtain?

Before I answer, lemme tell you a Sonic story of my own. Like Doug, I live too far from the nearest Sonic chain to ever go. In fact, I’ve only gone to Sonic one time. It was 10 years ago, when I flew to Monroe, La., to profile the Duck Dynasty family for GQ. The story that I eventually wrote got Phil Robertson suspended from A&E for being an open homophobe. I’ve never told anyone this before, but I knew this story would be huge as I was interviewing Robertson. He was saying the most outlandish shit you could imagine directly into my recorder, with zero compunction. I kept a poker face throughout the interview (I even liked Phil, to be frank), but the second I drove away from the Robertson family compound that night, I couldn’t contain myself. I never can.

So I pulled into the first place I saw, which was a Sonic. I got a milkshake (dunno which flavor, but it was good), dialed up my editor, and told him that I’d gotten the goods. When the story published, it blew up more than any story I’d done before or since. It was fucking everywhere, and somehow nothing else popped up in the news cycle to budge it out of the spotlight. I spent that entire Christmas keeping a low profile, because I was getting online death threats and all kinds of other, horrible shit. Then A&E reinstated Robertson, the show died a natural death, and Phil and his family fulfilled their destiny by becoming B-list MAGA dipshits in the ensuing years. They have a show on Fox Nation now, if that sort of thing interests you.

So whenever I see a Sonic ad on TV, I think about the night I got the Duck Dynasty guy told me, "It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man's anus.” Then I drank his milkshake.

Anyway my answer to Doug’s question is a Carnival Cruise. Not that I’d ever go on one.

Geoff:

If you slapped smartwatches on all the players who would have the highest step count in an NBA game? For my money, it's TJ McConnell. The dude is always skittering about the court like a squirrel on a cocktail of PCP, cocaine, and Monster energy drinks. Who cares if he plays less than half of the minutes? He must easily triple the nearest step count. What do you think?

Chris Paul. I have never seen a player who loves dribbling to nowhere more than that man.

Mike:

One of my neighbors put up holiday decorations, but they spelled “Christmas” wrong, so my girlfriend and I have been singing to the tune of Mariah Carey “All I Want for Chistmas is R”

Oh wow, the woke police won’t even let us SPELL Christmas anymore. Someone get all of the Ivy League presidents in front of Congress to answer for this. I want heads to roll.

29 Sunset:

At our work Christmas party this year, with about 200 people in attendance ranging from Gen Z to Boomers, employees and their significant others, we had a DJ. He started the evening playing classic Christmas songs during cocktails and dinner, and then was the emcee for raffle prizes. But pretty clearly, he was itching to get a party going because as soon as the raffle was done, he called for everyone to hit the dance floor and played, in order: "Uptown Funk,” "Low," and "Yeah!" As an Elder Millennial, I know every word to these songs and therefore shared some uncomfortable glances with other people my age as soon as we heard T-Pain's voice. Did I mention this was a Thursday night and we had work the next day, so we didn't have the full weekend to let the memories of Dan from Accounting backing that ass up recede over a few days? Am I being weird, or is it weird for the DJ to play songs explicitly about being horny as hell at the company Christmas party?

All apologies, but you’re being too much of a tight-ass. This isn’t a birthday party for a 5-year-old. It’s a party for grown adults who have heard songs about fucking before. You can safely play “Uptown Funk” for these people. If there’s a shitbag at the party, he’s gonna sexually harass someone even if “O Holy Night” is the house music. There’s no Trenchcoat Mafia effect to be had otherwise. Just chill out and go do some cocaine in the bathroom. It’ll be all right.

Steve:

I am not a Yankees fan but every year I secretly root for the biggest free agent available to sign with the Yankees with the condition that he gets to keep his long hair and/or beard. Am I unreasonable for wanting the Yankees to have something nice just so they have to get rid of their stupid, antiquated rule?

It shouldn’t take signing Brandon Marsh for the Yankees to ditch that rule. It’s the stupidest rule in all of sports. Yes, it’s stupider than the end zone fumble rule. I don’t even know if banning facial hair at work is LEGAL. It shouldn’t be. It’s prejudiscriminatory.

And what good does this rule do the Yankees anyway? George Steinbrenner is dead, their fans are all slobs, and they’re not gonna win the World Series again for at least another decade. No one gives a flying fuck if their players are clean-shaven or not. That rule is some real Chad Curtis shit. I hate it.

Email of the week!

Rooney:

When does the current crop of top QBs get weird, and who’s it gonna be? Once upon a time Brady was a likeable, everyman sixth round pick. Rodgers was a hypercompetitive, quirky dude (who benefited from emerging from Favre’s dickish shadow), and Peyton was the football dork who was charming enough to host SNL. Are we getting PM15? Does Josh Allen go on Rogan to let us know about the powers of psilocybin? Do we find out Joe Burrow sleeps in an inversion tube to facilitate oxygenation?

Tommy DeVito is one more upset away from becoming the Official Quarterback Of Barstool, so I’ll pick him.

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