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Help! My Daughter Eats Soup Like An Animal!

Femmes âgées ?faisant chabrot?, en ajoutant du vin rouge dans la soupe, en Bourgogne, France. (Photo by Alain RIVIERE-LECOEUR/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Photo by Alain Riviere-Lecoeur/Gamma-Rapho via 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 Taylor Swift, toilet reading, realtors, Best Actor, and more.

Your letters:


My daughter is 11. She is bright, physically capable, and able to think critically about complex social issues… but she is not capable of leaning over her bowl/plate when she eats. I have seen other, much younger kids who instinctively can do this. You lift the spoonful of soup over the bowl and bring your mouth to it, so that anything that falls drops back in the bowl. I have to remind her of this literally every time she eats. Will she ever get this, or is it a lost cause and should I resign myself to doing extra laundry until she goes to college?

When I was around your daughter’s age, my mom was a real drill sergeant about manners at the dinner table. My napkin had to be in my lap. I couldn’t put my elbows on the table. No chewing with my mouth open (still a struggle). If I cut my steak but then didn’t transfer the fork to my right hand to take a bite, she’d correct me. Every time. If my sister hunched over her plate, my mom would correct her. Every time. I spent the bulk of my tween years being corrected at the dinner table, and I found it deeply annoying. I’d roll my eyes, and then ask my mom why she was such a tightass about etiquette. Then she’d tell me THAT was rude, too.

Fast forward three decades and WHO’D HAVE FUCKING GUESSED. It’s now I who am the manners cop at the dinner table. I hassle my kids, especially the 14-year-old, all dinner long. I don’t like them burping at the table. If my older son eats roasted vegetables with his fingers, I chastise him on the spot. If the youngest hogs all the fries, I give him an angry, “DUDE.” Even my wife thinks I’m being too much. I was about to type up a set of rules for the dinner table to give these kids, and she gave me the stiff-arm. There’s a very good chance she calls in Dr. Rick. But good manners mean a lot to me, and I’m just trying to ingrain them into the kids the same way they were ingrained into me: through constant, endless nagging.

It’s funny that I’ve been raising kids for 17 years now (18 years next week!), and have somehow managed to forget some of my best practices. When your kids are small, you learn that lecturing them is a waste of time (studies show they tune you out after roughly five or six words), you teach by modeling, you praise good behavior more than you condemn bad behavior, you explain why you want them to do things a certain way, and you let them learn from their own mistakes. I adhered steadfastly to those tenets until a few years ago. But I’ve let them slide as the kids have grown, feeling more free to berate them when they do gross shit at the dinner table. The irony is that my kids already have good table manners. It’s all but certain they’re already on the right track and will grow more polite as they age, as they interact with peers, and as they start to better understand all of that annoying shit that Dad was talking about. Same cycle I went through. Same cycle every kid goes through.

That goes for Adam up above. You can spend all of your time raising kids and saying to yourself, “Hey how come every other kid does this one thing right and my kid doesn’t?” You can get stuck in that proxy inferiority complex forever if you like, but it’s not gonna help you or your kid. You just try to be patient (this often feels impossible), you do the best you can, and then you see how shit turns out. If your kid’s worst trait is eating soup like a caveman, well then you’re luckier than most. They could have gotten into country music.


What if Taylor Swift had announced at halftime that, if the Chiefs won, she would hold an unplanned performance after the trophy presentation as consolation to the city of Baltimore? If the Ravens still lose, how many people actually stay in the stadium? 50%? 75%? How many Swifties make their way to M&T Stadium and try to get inside? Does the network extend coverage and preempt the postgame analysis to televise her performance? Do they shorten the trophy presentation? Does she break the NFL? 

Aaron, nothing could break the NFL at this point. I could hit Roger Goddell square in the face with a Louisville Slugger and it wouldn’t even leave a mark on him. He’s the Terminator, and he presides over a league so all-powerful that Taylor Swift has been more than happy to adopt one of their teams and become its unofficial mascot for free (perhaps). So if she had tried to pull that stunt at halftime of the AFC title game two days ago, a cadre of lawyers from the NFL, the networks, and the Department of Justice would have swooped in immediately to demand she get the express written consent of the National Football League and its partners, and then all parties involved would have demanded a cut of the postgame gate. These negotiations would have lasted into April. Goodell and the owners are not the kind of people who take kindly to spontaneity.

Also, if you were a Ravens fan, would you really appreciate a free Taylor Swift concert as a PRIZE for blowing that game? She just spent three hours dying for you to lose and jumping for joy every time you committed a braindead penalty. That’d be like Kid Rock offering to play at my mom’s funeral. Place and time, man.


Will the Super Bowl halftime show ever be anything different than it is right now? A current pop star or aging legend plays a medley of their hits, some people online declare it the best halftime show ever while others say that it was the worst halftime show ever. Most people will forget about it by the fourth quarter. Any chance we could get a cool drum battle? Cirque du Soleil Show? Frisbee dogs? Seems like there are a ton of cool things they could do, but the NFL is happy with the paint-by-numbers shows they put out now.

The NFL has done all of those novelty halftime shows, and they were received about as warmly as a rancid seven-layer dip. It took a whole lot of trial and error for the league just to get the halftime show to where it is now. We used to have to deal with Up With People, or with Michael Jackson stationing clones of himself all around the Rose Bowl. Now we get a crisply produced mini-set from a broadly appealing musician who hasn’t joined AARP just yet. It’s like a Grammys preview. That’s as good a halftime show as I can ask for. I don’t even need a good halftime show. I’m content to use that time to take a dump and get my 10th helping of chili. So “We have to fix the Super Bowl halftime” is my lowest priority. It’s sufficiently entertaining, and it’s not the Pro Bowl. Check and check.

Also, that show is the only time the rest of my family wants to sit on the couch with me during the game. Once the football starts again, they want nothing to do with Dad. So I cherish those 12 minutes we get to bond over Jennifer Lopez walking onto the stage looking hot as shit.


What's more important in the NFL: great players or great game plans against your opponent?

Talent. This is a players’ league. You can fuck a good roster up with shitty coaching, but you can’t magically scheme your way to a title using nothing but undrafted free agents. Bill Belichick blurred this perception throughout his career, because he’d always pluck some random guy off the trash heap and turn him into a valuable contributor. But he also won titles with Tom Brady, Ty Law, Rob Gronkowski, Vince Wilfork, Darrelle Revis, Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, Richard Seymour, and a bunch of other studs at his disposal. I don’t like trying to disentangle coaching achievements from player achievements when the two are, in many historic instances, dependent on one another. But even NFL coaches themselves would tell you that they need good players to work with, otherwise they’re fucked.

Frozen Cusser:

The Chiefs owner, through the MLS team he owns, was nearly ready to start back up doing business with Russia through transferring a player to one of their teams. Fortunately for everyone, a slightly less evil organization (the MLS head office) rejected the deal. Does this change Clark Hunt's placement on the list of the NFL's worst owners?

Not really. NFL owners exists on a spectrum of evil, from Mildly Evil to Full Antichrist. At the latter end is David Tepper, and at the former end is a gaggle of old moneyed dipshits like Hunt: ne’er-do-wells who are too lazy to actively participate in war crimes but too dumb to realize that funding war crimes is a no-no. Clark Hunt gets to play dumb his whole life, and only has to come correct when an assistant sidles up to him and says, “Actually, we’re not allowed to do that.” It’s a real teaching moment, and that’s why Hunt isn’t as evil as the likes of Tepper, who is currently cutting the brakes on your car because you looked at him funny once. It’s all relative.


I don’t understand why so many people (or is it just men, as I don’t think I’ve ever heard of women doing this) sit on the toilet reading or messing around with their phone. I assume they are doing this because they expect to be there a while, but why do they expect to be there a while? And why would they even go into the bathroom if they weren’t ready to go?

First of all, don’t assume that just everyone can take a shit efficiently. This is especially misguided in middle age, when going to the bathroom introduces all sorts of cool new surprises about the working state of your body. You get to learn what a fissure is, and isn’t that fun?

But you’re clearly asking about the sociological effects that lead people to sequester themselves inside the shitter for longer than they need. For that, you’re about to hear a list of reasons that you’ve surely heard before. The bathroom is a refuge for many of us. In a busy house or office, it’s often the only place where you can find peace and quiet. It’s the only place where you can read, play Solitaire, or waste time as you see fit without anyone bothering you. This is well known amongst the dad set.

I’ve milked the clock to the extremes in the past—not for hours, but certainly more time with my pants down than needed—and have since taken pains to not bring distractions into the can with me, because otherwise I’m succumbing to one of my more stubborn tics. But I’m not gonna frown at other people who wanna catch up on the news while they’re pinching a loaf. We’re a country that is constantly exhorted to multitask, so it was inevitable that such conditioning would bleed into even the most intimate of spaces. More to the point, I really don’t wanna be a pooping coach that no one else asked for. Bro, why you taking 20 minutes to shit? I can shit in 90 seconds and then write King Lear. Get on my level! That’s too far.



Recently my wife’s friend was lamenting the large number of poker players and influencers she was matching with. She went on to share that she just matched with someone who had listed their occupation as “Athlete @ NFL.” Five seconds after my wife gets his name, she figures out it’s a former player who is currently a Real Estate agent. This potential beau is none other than former Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh. So of course we had to reach out to you to ask: Does being a former NFL player outweigh being a player who will always be known for their famously bad moment? And would you buy a sun drenched loft from him?

Yes on both counts. I’m gonna steer this answer away from Blair Walsh specifically, because the Vikings aren’t relevant in any way at the moment. If you played in the NFL, and you made millions of dollars in doing so, that outweighs pretty much anything that happens while you played. That’s extremely simplistic of me, and of course players care a LOT about how they perform, especially in big moments. They wouldn’t have made it to the NFL if they didn’t take pride in their work. But if you’re telling me that I could make a mint as a kicker, but be best known for blowing a field goal? I take that deal. In fact, a Buffalo reader made a point of emailing me a follow-up to last week’s bag to remind me that Scott Norwood had a Pro Bowl season after blowing Super Bowl XX (by missing a genuinely difficult field goal), and then gracefully retired. That ain’t a bad life.

Now, to the more important matter: sun-drenched lofts. I’d kill for a good sun-drenched loft, and I could give a fuck who sells it to me. You’ve met realtors. Half of them were at January 6th. All I want from a realtor is for them to find me a great place before anyone else can make an offer for it, negotiate me a decent price, and give me a free jar of apple butter. I don’t even want sexual favors. I just need the basics. If fucking Aaron Rodgers could do that for me, I’d hire him. A realtor is means to an end. Just like a kicker.


The Oscar for Best Actor seemingly always goes to the best performance from a *good* movie. But what about performances that single-handedly elevate execrable movies to tolerable ones? Shouldn’t there be an award for the best performances in the worst movies? What is the all-time greatest performance in a shitty film? What films would we judge to be shit if not for a single extraordinary performance?

I don’t agree with you. All you have to do is go back to last year’s winner, Brendan Fraser in The Whale, for proof of concept. Most people I know didn’t think that movie was anything special, but they did love Fraser in it. Go back another year to The Slap and Will Smith won it for King Richard. Does anyone still give a shit about that movie? Nope. It’s been over a decade since one movie won for both Best Actor and Best Picture, and it was The Artist. No one has watched that film since Obama was President.

As you can see, guys win Best Actor for all sorts of odd, extremely Hollywood reasons. Some are due (Pacino for Scent of a Woman), some are having the proverbial Moment (McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club, Jamie Foxx for Ray), some are the centerpiece of a movie that will win no other awards (Forest Whitaker for Last King of Scotland), and some are Daniel Day-Lewis. The Oscars cover all of that ground; none of it reliably. Paul Giamatti and Jeffrey Wright are both due this year, but Cillian Murphy just anchored the most successful biopic in film history. Oh, and the Academy loves its Bradley Cooper. Also, some other guy got nominated. Asking the Oscars to sort all of this properly is like asking Aaron Rodgers to sell you a home. Adding more specified categories (Cinematic and Box Office Achievement!) won’t help matters.

Therefore, it’s always best to keep your own personal Oscars shortlist instead. Mine has Miller’s Crossing winning Best Picture every year. Also, my favorite performance in an awful movie is Tom Cruise in Magnolia. I fucking hated that movie. You likely disagree. Either way, Cruise should do more roles like that. Time’s running out for him.


My friend just described Home Alone as a movie with Kieran Culkin’s brother. I know Kieran just won an Emmy, but isn’t this still wrong? Macaulay is still, by default, the more successful/famous brother, right? Or is this an age-dependent thing?

It has to be age-dependent. Macaulay Culkin hasn’t been a relevant actor this century, and doesn’t appear interested in being one anymore. Meanwhile, his brother was a revelation on Succession, and has more than earned the right to be thought of as more than just Kevin McCallister’s brother. Both Home Alones are a Christmas staple in my home, mind you. I watch them every year, and Macaulay is the reason they hold up (unless you wanna do the whole “actually Kevin is the bad guy” take that got old circa 2010). So I appreciate ol’ Mac’s work, but Kieran deserves the spotlight in 2024. It ain’t wrong.


Granola is a scam right, in so far as it being any healthier than cereal? Seems like the best work from a BIG foodstuff since Big Banana got its cake classified as bread.

It’s a huge scam. Our ancestors invented granola as a portable, calorie-dense food that you could take with you for vital energy as you hike up a fucking mountain. But as I said the other week, we live in a country where the tactical is now the luxurious. You aren’t supposed to eat two cups of granola and then go sit on your ass in an office all day long. But that’s exactly what people do, because Big Granola told them that their product is the best way to power through a hard day of writing Powerpoint decks. They also mix in enough chocolate chips and M&Ms and entire Charleston Chews—mmm … Charleston Chew—to negate the originally intended health benefits of granola anyway. I’m onto Big Granola and its nefarious scheme. Do I also chug Michele’s dark chocolate cherry granola right out of the bag when it suits my needs? Yes. It’s only 500 calories per tablespoon; how could I not?

By the way, never try to make your own granola. I know it sounds easy, and I know that Ina Garten has a recipe for it sitting right there on the internet. But my wife and I have tried making it, and we both realized that we were much better off leaving that job to our industrial corn syrup overlords. Unless you like your granola bone dry, too low in sugar, and lightly burnt, you’ve been warned.


Now that the regular season is in the rearview, I’m wondering: with all that ESPN is investing now, Buck & Aikman, Manningcast, etc., has Monday Night Football become the premier game of the week again? I haven't been comparing the games too closely lately but I know NBC took the crown a long while back. Did ESPN reclaim it?

No. MNF is a much better product now that they have Buck and Aikman in the booth, but it still has two other primetime games during the week that it has to compete with. Both Sunday Night Football and Thursday Night Football, the latter more recently, are demanding main-event games, which MNF used to have a monopoly on back when it was the only primetime game. It took literal decades, but ESPN/ABC finally grasped this, and are now finished trying to recapture the Cosell years by trying out every asshole in the world in the booth. They’ve got a solid telecast that fits into the schedule nicely, and they’re content to leave it that way. You never want these network execs to get too thirsty.

On a related note, two years ago here I dropped the not-really-all-that-controversial take that I loved Joe Buck on the mic. Well, here’s another lukewarm declaration where that came from: Troy Aikman? He’s pretty good! I know everyone goofs on Aikman for agreeing with Buck constantly and never meeting a field goal attempt he didn’t like. But I’ve been watching Aikman call games for 20 years now. He’s more than happy to point out shoddy quarterbacking, shoddy coaching, and shoddy refereeing. He’s not as detailed breaking down plays as J.T. O’Sullivan is, but he puts the telestrator to good use when necessary.

Most important, he’s not annoying. I’ve been annoyed by a great many color men throughout history: Paul Maguire, Joe Theismann, Tony Kornheiser, Dennis Miller, Bill Maas, Mark Schlereth, Isiah Thomas, Cris Collinsworth on a bad night, and on and on. Thus, I have a low bar for what constitutes a tolerable color man. Aikman clears it routinely. I’m not gonna buy his jersey or anything, but he’s as good as I can ask for.


If Kyle Shanahan wins the Super Bowl, will it be the biggest achievement ever by someone wearing a flat-brim hat? The current leader is “guy who dealt the most drugs at my high school in San Diego”

Buddy, I’m so out of fashion on hats I couldn’t even begin to tell you what’s hot and what’s not in brim shapes at the moment. I remember back in the '90s when other people started rocking jerseys with the tags still on them and hats with straight brims and I was like THAT’S SO FUCKING STUPID. Then I’d roll up the brim of my Go Cocks hat and secure it with a rubber band to break it in. That was my idea of ultra-hip fashion back in the day, and guess what? I still bend my hat brims like that the second I buy a new one. It’s not like I’d suddenly become 19 by doing it some other, more cred way. I have to make do with what I have now at 47. Kyle Shanahan, three years my junior (!!!), has to do likewise. And you’ve seen the guy. He ain’t sharing a marquee with Sydney Sweeney anytime soon. He’s a coach, and his fashion sense will reflect that 24/7. We can’t all be Mike McDaniel.


Seeing a picture of a Las Vegas Elvis impersonator got me wondering: when, and at what number, will the number of Las Vegas Elvis impersonators stabilize? I assume the number of active Elvises has been dropping, given that anyone who remembers him performing live is pushing 60 at the youngest. However, I also assume that Las Vegas will always have at least a few Elvises knocking around, much as you can still find Lincolns in Springfield and Franklins in Philadelphia.

The number of Elvis impersonators might actually be growing. The King’s legacy was built to last, same as Shakespeare, Marie Antoinette, and Frankenstein.

Email of the week!


I spent an afternoon at the Taipei Fine Art Museum, which at the time featured a retrospective on the life and work of filmmaker Edward Yang. I wasn't familiar with his filmography at all, but it was interesting to get some insight into someone who was both incredibly influential and prolific in his output. Included was a handwritten letter to Yang from Werner Herzog, who was apparently a friend of Yang’s. He talks about watching the Super Bowl at someone's house, and includes the gem of a line:

"I shall holler for the Green Bay Packers, because there is no team at this moment which controls both the opponent and the caprice of the ball as well as they do."

I can't help but hear that in Herzog's voice. My friend remarked that Werner has better command of his second language than most do of their native tongue. I've never seen the phrase "controls... the caprice of the ball" anywhere else!

Nor I. Werner Herzog truly is the most interesting man in the world. I shall holler for him.

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