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Funbag

Help! My Kid Knows About Death Now!

A boy in bed with a copy of 'Horror Stories' comic book, circa 1960. (Photo by Hunter/FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Hunter/FPG/Hulton Archive/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 pizza scraps, lite road rage, uniform numbers, Mike McDaniel, bunting, and more.

Your letters:

Mike:

My eight-year-old has just come to the realization that one day he will die. He’s a couple years younger than I was when I figured this out, but nevertheless I remember the near-panic of lying in bed thinking about the consequences. If there is nothing when I die, that is FOREVER; if there’s a heaven when I die, THAT is also FOREVER. There weren’t really any attractive options. Any advice? I’ll try to get him to read The Night the Lights Went Out, but I need more.

There’s nothing you can do. I had the exact some existential crisis when I realized that I would die, and that the world itself would one day die as well. Sometimes it kept me up at night. If the thought hit me at random hours, I would quietly freak out and try to think of anything else. Neither Mike, nor I, nor Mike’s son is alone in this. Human beings spend their entire lives reckoning with death. Some find comfort in religion. Some become determined to build legacies—companies, monuments, political accomplishments, works of art—that will outlive them. Some keep themselves too busy to think five days into the future, much less into eternity. Some people watch a lot of TV. If any of them find peace in the idea of death, it takes them a long time to get there.

That was true in my case. If my parents ever offered me words of succor about death when I was a child, I don’t remember them. Your kids won’t remember yours, either. When my own kids asked me if they were going to die, I said, “Yes, but not anytime soon.” When they asked if I would die, I offered the same answer. That was nearly a lie, but not quite. I’m still here, and I’ll get to watch my kids grow up to answer a lot of their deepest questions not by asking me for all the answers, but by seeking them out for themselves. That’s the point of living. It’s all a quest for answers, even ones that we know we can’t ever find. My kids are old enough now (10, 13, 16) where my wife and I have both agreed that there’s some shit that’ll never register with them if they hear it from mom and dad. We can phrase it as eloquently as we like; it won’t matter. Kids—that is to say, all people—have to learn the art of living from a wide variety of other people outside of their respective families: friends, enemies, teachers, neighbors, reporters, artists, even perfect strangers. Everyone is useful to one another.

So to Mike I would say: do your duty and comfort your 8-year-old with kind words like, “Death is completely natural, and it’s OK to fear it. You’re safe now and we love you.” And the kid will go BUT WE’RE ALL STILL DOOMED! And then you’ll bake the kid some cookies and they’ll forget it for a day or two. But don’t fear their curiosity over the morbid. That’s within all of us, and it’s not necessarily a burden.

Keith:

Am I the only one that is still put off by the new NFL uniform numbers rule? I never realized how much I relied on those numbers to know what was going on. Oh that’s a linebacker dropping back in coverage?! Now it all looks random to me. Very off-putting. It looks a lot more like college football now, and that’s not a good look. It has to be bothering you too, no?

Nope. I don’t give a shit. I was jarred for maybe five seconds when I first saw a running back wearing single digits, but I got used to it fast. Like Keith said, college football has equally lax numbering, so it’s not as if I wasn’t prepared for these changes. Outside of Approved Charity Monikers On Footwear Month, NFL players are given no opportunity to creatively express themselves. So let them wear whatever numbers they want and don’t be a tight-ass about it. I have no interest in giving Roger Goodell dominion over that shit just because he wants to make Marge from Buffalo comfortable with Stefon Diggs’s jersey number.

Ian:

Have Barack or Michelle smoked weed with either of their children?

No, but that’s the next evolution in weed legality. Back when I drank, I would have had no problem cracking a beer open with my kids. We’ve offered them sips of booze here and there, because that’s very French of us. But I’m still a child of the War on Drugs, so the idea of smoking weed with my own kids, especially while they’re still underage, feels oddly taboo. Other parents won’t, or don’t, feel the same way. They’re gonna toke up with Junior on their first road trip to the Grand Canyon and share a genuine bonding experience that fuckhead Nancy Reagan has shamed out of me. I should dig her up, smoke a blunt, and then kill her again.

Steve:

Can we retire the term GOAT? I feel like it’s constantly used for all types of useless shit nowadays. The only real GOAT I’ve seen is Serena but everyone likes to hype up any above average athlete or person with that term.

Oh, it’s not just athletes. People will use it for, like, fast food chains and shit. “Taco Bell nacho fries are the GOAT,” someone has tweeted while taking an endless shit. I noted this two weeks ago, but everyone and everything gets to be the GOAT for 15 minutes now. It’s both hackneyed and groveling, and I have no use for it. But what chance do I have of controlling what gets to be part of the cultural vernacular, or of stopping the Internet from being annoying? Zero. So I can hate the overuse of GOAT (which I do), and I can hate people saying “this rules” anytime they encounter any bad news (which, again, I do). At the very least, I wouldn’t mind seeing some NEW online clichés minted now and again, instead of everyone using the same memes and one-liners from 2017. But those are some doomed battles I’d be fighting. I’d just get a million “ok andy rooney”s thrown my way. NO ONE DENIES THIS.

Dan:

PBS recently had a “Where Are They Now?” special about the kids that George W. Bush was reading to when he was notified of 9/11. If you were one of those kids, would you use that as your lifelong fun fact for introductions? 

Oh hell yeah, I would. Frankly, I should steal it right now. Who’s gonna catch me lying besides, like, 85 percent of the people I tell? It’s worth it. My only grade school story like that was when the Challenger exploded and they herded us into the library to make us watch all the news reports after the accident. It was really, really boring. And hot. Schools are so fucking hot, it’s miserable. All I wanted to do was go trade Garbage Pail Kids out back.

Mick:

Let’s say at some point in the not so distant future, while Rob Manfred is still destroying baseball as commissioner, a player comes along who has incredible bunting ability. He has such bat control that it is almost impossible to defend him, but all he is able to do is bunt. He can easily bunt for a .400 average, but has no power and can’t drive the ball for shit. He also steals bases at an 85% clip. An absolute game changer. Do you think the fun police would institute a rule change to stop this one guy?

No because that’s exactly the kind of guy that Rob Manfred wants to have around. I’m hoping that the current Aaron Judge home run chase has changed the commissioner’s mind and made him realize, “Oh right, we should do all the fun shit we always used to do.” But hoping Rob Manfred will grow a brain is like hoping you magically won’t ever die. He’d love the Bunt God. He’d change to rules to accommodate that guy, not shut him out.

As for me, I’d hate Super Eckstein and want him killed. The only cool bunt I’ve ever seen is the one at the end of Major League, and that was a movie. Otherwise, bunts are fun as a novelty once every dozen games, but irritating at all other times. I paid to watch these guys swing the bat all the way. I’m not paying to watch the baseball equivalent of the Bears offense. Never bunt.

Nick:

I can’t tell if Mike McDaniels is phony, or actually funny, or willing to take advantage of beat reporters’ willingness to laugh at the drop of a hat. Sometimes I think he’s refreshing as far as NFL head coaches go, then I remember that because he’s probably a psycho underneath the candid charm. Not a psycho to his players or anything, but he has to be an internal nutcase to actually aspire to be an NFL head coach. I went back to your Dolphins preview to get your opinion on him, but I think it was kinda inconclusive. Gimme your Hot Mike McDaniels take: genuinely refreshing guy and okay to like, or phony Ivy League douchebag?

Oh I love him. He’s definitely a loon just like every other NFL head coach is. He couldn’t even convincingly lie about Tua’s head injury being a back injury. But he had to struggle through that lie, which was refreshing in its own way. Jon Gruden would have told that lie with the utmost confidence, grinning like a fucking moron all the way through it. At least McDaniel betrays actual human impulses when he’s up there having to play the ruthless sociopath. That’s about as good as you can ask for, ethically speaking, when it comes to NFL head coaches.

Wade Phillips is the only more lovable football coach I know of, and that was strictly when Wade was a defensive coordinator. When Wade was a head coach, he looked like the world’s unhappiest man, as anyone would if they were working directly beneath Jerry Jones. Mike McDaniel, meanwhile, works for an even worse owner but is still brimming with good cheer. Even when he was blowing smoke up Tua Tagovailoa’s ass this offseason, A) It’s good business to say nice shit about his own players to the press, even when those things are a lie, and B) Tua is the second-highest rated passer in football right now. Maybe Tua really does throw the most catchable ball in the universe.

Either way, it’s a happy surprise whenever an NFL coach is charming and his team’s play is equally charming. Even the Butt Punt was charming, because the Dolphins still won that game. Truly, they’re like a bunch of kids out there.

Adam:

I recently arrived at a hotel pool by myself without having applied sunscreen. I can get sunscreen on 95% of my body, but my mid-back is one I just can’t do alone. As a middle-aged man, what does one do? It was mostly couples and families at this pool. Do I ask another man? A single woman? A woman who is there with her partner? Every answer seems at best uncomfortable and at worst creepy enough to get the cops called on you.

RASH GUARD! Oh, everyone (Roth) mocks me for wearing a rash guard whenever I go out swimming, but who’s laughing NOW? I only wear a rash guard because my wife started making me wear one, but now I swear by them. I don’t have to spend hours sunscreening my torso, and no one at the beach has to see my nipple hair. Everyone wins. The rash guard dries pretty fast, which means I have a shirt already on me when it’s time to leave and get some tacos. It’s also a good workout shirt for when I hop on the bike. It slices, it dices, it juliennes!

By the way, I love a good hotel pool but still feel weird hanging out by one alone. People think I’m either a diddler or a lonely divorcé. Or both. Take my rash guard off and the preconceptions become even more acute. That’s when I sulk back up to my room and masturbate.

HALFTIME!

Nick:

What the hell are umps/refs looking at for so long on replay reviews? While there are certainly instances where several angles are needed, there are just as many that are open and shut cases. I am at a bar watching a BOS/NYY game. The runner was called safe at first, but the very first replay review CLEARLY showed the runner didn’t even step on the bag. The broadcast showed that replay no fewer than six times while the umps deliberated before correctly called him out. I see similar stuff every NFL Sunday: a clear catch, fumble, out of bounds that takes like four minutes to decide. Don’t umps and refs have the same camera angles? This is the main argument in, “replays slow the game down.” So I ask, what the FUCK takes so long? One clear view and move on!

Three things. First is that all of the principals involved in any replay decision are dumbfucks, especially in baseball. That’s vital to remember anytime you find any game stuck in replay jail. Secondly, all of these leagues are big on the illusion of propriety, which means that they want you to believe that the longer a ref pores over the replay footage, the more thorough he/she has been in making their decision. This actually goes against in-game officiating, where refs are not only trained to make calls in a split–second using both their senses and their breadth of knowledge of the game, but are often CORRECT in making those decisions. Replay demands those same officials ignore their well-hewn instincts, which often leaves them adrift. Thirdly is that I think their view of the monitor is a lousy one. They can give the monitor a hood and all that shit, but there’s still gonna be glare, or brightness issues, or any of same problems that plague you if you try looking at your phone while standing in the middle of a rainstorm. Put that shit on a Jumbotron and then maybe Clete Blakeman will see something besides the inside of his butt.

If I had my druthers, we’d ditch replay, but you already knew that. Maybe we should replace replay with one official’s timeout per half. If a ref is tired, or hungry, or needs to piss, they call timeout and grab a hot dog. That way, they come back to the game more refreshed and confident, same as you do when you get back from the concession stand. LOOGIT ALL THIS KICKASS FOOD I GOT! AND IT WAS ONLY $75! I’M READY TO LET SOME DEFENSIVE HOLDING CALLS GO NOW!

Adam:

My wife and I just watched Hustle. We agreed it was very good: good acting even by non-professional actors, tight script, and interestingly shot. In addition, I argued it was an EXCELLENT sports movie. In this I realized I have a different scale for sports movies vs. movies, and I can’t imagine I am alone. How much grace should we give sports movies as a genre compared to real movies?

Zero. None. Less than none. Dock it a star for being a sports movie. I mentioned Major League up above. Major League was a good movie that I’ve seen many times, but no one alive needs to discuss it on TV, on the radio, or during a podcast ever again. Sports movies are the grandpa rock of the art form, and they exist mostly to fill the dead spaces on the calendar when no real sports are actually being played, so that some 50-year-old can emphatically tell you that Bull Durham is the greatest sports movie ever made and always will be. I don’t need that discussion rehashed again … and again … and again and again and again. So don’t ask me if I’ve ever seen fucking The Replacements, and don’t try to sell me on watching it once you know that I haven’t. I got better shit to do with my time.

Also, any truly great sports movie ends up ditching the sports movie label and becomes revered actual movie instead: Raging Bull, Juwanna Mann, etc.

Barry:

I found myself switching between CBS and Fox on Sunday and, for whatever reason, my TV was taking ages to load the other channel. It made me remember picture-in-picture from what seems like decades ago. Whatever happened to that? I don’t remember anyone truly using it, so maybe that’s the reason, but it should be brought back! I want quad-box on demand! 

Picture-in-picture still exists. I can summon it from the DirecTV menu anytime I like, and guess what? I never do. Picture-in-picture is one of many technological add-ons that exist to be sold and not actually used. Buy a new car and you’ll become well acquainted with these bells and whistles. My car has a park assist function where you can stand outside of the car, push a button on your fob, and back the car out of a spot without you being in it. They showed me this at the dealer and I was like OH WOW THE GAME DONE CHANGED. I’ve never used it since I drove that car off the lot. Every new iPhone you buy is larded with slight hardware tweaks and new features that make it easier to sell to you for $700 despite it being still, in essence, the same phone you had before. And the Commanders traded for Carson Wentz. None of these innovations are groundbreaking.

I respect anyone who sees it through and actually uses all of these fancy accoutrements, but I usually can’t be bothered. I don’t need picture-in-picture when the LAST button exists on my remote. The king of all remote buttons. Besides, real bros out there skip the picture-in-picture and instead mount multiple TVs in the same room. That way, your mancave really feels like a sports bar. A sports bar that no one goes to and has a broken air hockey table that isn’t even one of the good, regulation air hockey tables.

Louis:

I recently started biking a lot more and driving a lot less, mainly for small errands and for going out at night, as well as replacing some of my commute. Biking makes me happy, and I’ve since realized that every time I get in my car, I am probably angrier and less patient than any other time in my day to day life. How do I kick this temper when I need to get in my car?

I have the same problem. I’ve gone to therapy for over two years now and made tangible progress in my everyday dealings. But all of that progress gets left in the driveway whenever I’m out on the road. I get pissy when another car in front of me dares to turn left when I want to go straight. I fume when I miss a turnoff. If I can’t find a parking spot, I turn into the Hulk. All of the usual fuckery. Lite road rage is one of those conditions I can easily justify by noting that everyone else does it and that, “this is just how I am,” the latter of which is a both a lie and an excuse anytime anyone says it about anything shitty they do.

That said, I ‘ve had good moments in the car. I’m good on long trips because I wrote down rules for myself and my wife reads them aloud to me before we pull out. Writing things down is always a good way of getting your mind to pay closer attention to those things. I note the rules, I remember them, and then I make a concerted effort to obey them through the trip. I could easily do the same thing with shorter trips, and so could anyone else. I’ve changed/quit a lot of my bad habits over the past few years, and the process is always the same. I keep myself aware of the problem, I concentrate on improving anytime it might rear its head, I take note when I handle the situation better than I did before, and then I naturally grow into the improved habit. It’s just practice, is all. Same as anything else. But you have to want to practice, and not everyone does because it’s a pain in the ass. More important, it’s always the hardest when you’re starting off. But after that, it gets so much easier as to be comical. Maybe I’ll even try that park assist function again someday.

Hermes:

When is it okay to call dibs on the fallen/loose toppings on a pizza? I am well aware that you cannot just pick off all or any of the Italian sausage from the remaining slices on the box, but if three pieces fall off as someone grabs a slice, when are those toppings fair game? Is it soon as those become available and fall off a slice, when there’s one slice left? Is it like landing on Free Parking in Monopoly? We recently ordered a few pizzas at work. When I went up for pizza, there was one slice left in one of the boxes along with a ridiculous amount of free toppings. I added ALL OF THEM to my slice. I felt a bit guilty. My one slice looked like something a Roman Emperor would eat. I couldn’t really enjoy it and felt judged. 

Don’t be ashamed. If no one wants the pizza scraps, they’re fair game for you or anyone else savvy enough to grab them. As Hermes noted, it’s rude to pick toppings off of someone else’s slice, or to grab them off of slices yet to be claimed. But rogue pepperoni slices that are just sitting there without a home? YOURS. The idea that someone would leave those toppings in situ is offensive to me. It’s your DUTY to eat that shit. Do not concede them. And take the last goddamn slice if everyone else is too polite (foolish) to go for it.

Email of the week!

Pete:

My (now) late grandmother was a private woman who could keep a grudge, so I she had sworn me to secrecy about this while she was alive. With her passing last week, I now feel free to pass along this story of a particularly long grudge which I took up as my own over 20 years ago.

My grandmother taught first grade in northern New Jersey, which has a history of high profile football players. She had Greg Schiano (“Little Greggy… he was always so much smaller than the other boys”) among her pupils. As a side hustle, she also provides tutoring services to high school students, which brings us to Diana Fronfield. The Fronfields hired my grandmother to tutor their daughter until the end of the school year. However, when the time came for payment, Diana never delivered the money. Rather than make a public affair of the situation, my grandmother internalized being wronged and birthed a grudge.

Diana eventually married Phil Simms and, thus, the grudge transferred to Phil and his family, giving my grandmother an abundant opportunity to grumble, being only miles away from the Meadowlands. She actively rooted against Matt and Chris Simms. In fact, there may not have been a bigger Major Applewhite fan east of the Mississippi. After my wife came home from work at a local insurance company and informed us that she’d cancelled auto insurance on one of the Simms boys due to lack of payment, she took a measure of pleasure when neither of them where able to stick in the NFL.

I know it’s all a story I’ve conjured in my head, but I truly believe that if the debt had been repaid and the grudge lifted, Matt and Chris would be alongside Peyton and Eli as franchise QBs. So, in honor of my departed grandmother, and the stubbornness which she has departed to me, I now lay to rest our family grudge against the Simms.

OK but can I take it for myself?