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How Facts Went Out Of Fashion

1930s 1940s MAN REPORTER ON PHONE WEARING VISOR SMOKING CIGAR SITTING AT TYPEWRITER (Photo by H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images)
H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/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 famous athlete deaths, turkey sandwiches for breakfast, snowball accuracy, and more.

Your letters:


What is the purpose of an access-merchant like Shams/Dianna Russini at a subscription company like The Athletic? The only news they "break" is news that would become public without them—signings, trades, firings, etc.—and I can't imagine a fleeting traffic bump from stories like that matters much, since The Athletic has so few ads.

Writers have had this gripe since the dawn of blogging. No one cares if you’re first, and the scramble to be first ends up with people like Russini tossing out “Hey, sources are saying this might happen” pre-news tidbits that barely rise to the level of rumor. In a just world, everyone would wait patiently for their news, and that news would be delivered in a timely manner but with full corroboration. This, as you know, is not that world. Everybody wants to know everything right now, and they’ll glom onto any report that scratches that itch, regardless of its veracity. So it pays for joints like ESPN and The Athletic to accelerate a ramp-up to considering enacting a hiring process in which they might find a Shams Charania in their employ. Those reports get traffic, and they feed a content beast that’s always hungry.

This is particularly acute during NFL Draft season, which we’re in the middle of right now. I will read fucking ANYTHING about my team’s draft intentions. I know that none of it is true, and I know that I’ll have to wait until the draft to know what will happen. But I do I want to wait that long? Fuck no. No one does. I want the future this instant, so I google around for any rumor I can find. I’ll even read recaps from one outlet about a bullshit rumor being reported by a different outlet, and then listen to hour-long podcast episodes that dissect both. In doing so, I build up a mental archive of documented speculation that I can, and do, parse for hours and hours. It’s my one true source of joy.

The idea here is that if I stare at these rumors hard enough, the future will make itself crystal clear to me. Kind of like staring at one of those old Magic Eye images (NOTE: I have never been able to see one of those clearly). And you know what? It works. I know exactly who my team is drafting, how they’ll get him, and how many Super Bowls they’ll win after they do (three). Anyone who presupposes otherwise is wrong. I’ve collected all of the intel and synthesized it accurately. So clicking on every unsubstantiated rumor out there not only helps keep The Athletic prosperous, it makes me a smarter fan. In my imagination.

At least since 2016 you have been warned, many times, about the dangers of misinformation. There are a shitload of bad actors out there who want to manipulate the flow of news to suit their agenda, and they do so without compunction. But they can’t succeed in that task without having an audience that WANTS to be fed lies. Some people wanna buy into some really gross lies, like “Vaccines are bad!” or “The 2020 election was stolen!” or “Actually black people were down with slavery!” But shrewder animals like myself are also eager to eat from the bullshit trough. Think back to 2017 Twitter if you need a refresher on that. Back then, anytime any reporter said, “stand by for news,” I was all like THIS IS IT TRUMP IS GETTING THE CHAIR. And why wouldn’t I think that after reading 500,000 different reports all positing that Robert “Champion of Law” Mueller had discovered some VERY interesting, not-ready-to-disclose things about the President while sifting through his files?

There’s an element of human nature to this. You and I always wanna know how the story ends, especially our story. That’s natural curiosity. But this cottage industry of speculation has a corrosive effect on how people process actual facts when they receive them. A fact is concrete. It can’t be played with. A rumor can be bent, shaped, and molded. You can grope it for ripeness, as you would a peach at the supermarket. The rumor stage is when news has the most potential. When it becomes actual fact, it’s almost a letdown. The Commanders will draft Jayden Daniels at No. 2 and half the football fans out there will be like, “No shit. We knew that a month ago YAWWWWWWWN.” In that context, any reporter who endeavors to be first with the actual, official scoop is going to be spiritually late.

With that in mind, my team is getting Drake Maye and yours isn’t. That’s an exDREWsive.


Drew seems to be on vacation a lot. Didn't he just come back from skiing?  Now he's on Spring Break? I demand an investigation.

I took a long weekend to go skiing in February, and then my Spring Break coincided with my kids break from school. I’ll take a couple weeks off somewhere in the summertime, and another week off at Christmas. Same as it ever was. We have an unlimited vacation policy at Defector, but that policy is in place in good faith. I’m not just gonna fuck off for two months without doing anything. I got skin in the game here, as do the rest of us Defector employees. So I take four-ish weeks off a year, and nothing more. And when I get time off, I don’t fuck around. There will be travel, and there will be much electric relaxation.

The only extra thing worth mentioning here is that I took multiple weeks off from writing the Jamboroo this past football season. The previous season wore me down, and the work I did in that span wasn't up to my personal standard. So I asked the editors for a couple of guest hosts in 2023 to help keep me fresh. They agreed, and my work improved as a result. That’s the benefit of load management, boys and girls.

So don’t scoff when I fuck off to the beach here and there in the ensuing months. Those are vital lobster dinners I’ll be eating.


A guy once told me he got concussed by a hockey puck the day Namath won the Super Bowl, so he couldn't watch the game. Have you missed any formative games for similarly goofy reasons?

I wouldn’t call the hemorrhage I suffered in 2018 goofy, but it did put me down long enough to miss this game completely:

Not only did I miss The Miracle in Miami, I didn’t even know it had happened once I woke up. Only when I started researching the following season that August did I learn what had happened. Who said something bad was allowed to happen to Boston sports fans without me around? I demand reparations.

I also missed the second half of the Steelers-Seahawks Super Bowl because my daughter had just been born. So I really don’t know what Seattle fans are complaining about with regards to the refs in that game. I’m not certain they do, either. It was a pretty dogshit Super Bowl.


Mookie Betts is just the 2nd player ever to start 1000+ games in the OF, 100+ at 2B, and 10+ at SS. The first is Ed Delehanty, who famously got kicked off a train for drunk belligerence and stumbled off of Niagara Falls and died. With Mookie certainly surpassing Delehanty by getting to 100 games at SS this year, how do you think Mookie will one-up Delehanty's awesome death? I think he is going to accidentally jetpack into a volcano. 

Well hang on for a moment. Let’s do a fact-check on the death of poor Eddie D here, to make sure Tomark here isn’t playing fast and loose.

“…the man supposed to be Delahanty started to run toward the American end of the bridge. The draw had been opened to allow a boat to pass, he says, and the man fell into the river and was drowned.”

“Delahanty’s body was mangled. One leg was torn off, presumably by the propeller of the Mermaid of the Mist, near whose landing the body was found… Delahanty had five drinks of whisky, says Conductor Cole… Cole says Delahanty had an open razor and was terrifying others in his sleeper.”

Holy shit. This is the greatest episode of Boardwalk Empire never produced. There’s zero chance that Mookie Betts can top that death, because no one dies like that anymore. People die for much more anodyne reasons now, like from COVID, or from having their health insurance deny them an epipen, or from deliberate starvation by the IDF. The most famous athlete death of my lifetime was Kobe Bryant, and how’d he die? By taking a chopper to a basketball game because he wanted to beat traffic. I need an athlete death that has some PIZZAZZ, and I need it to happen to Aaron Rodgers. Let’s get him loaded on artisanal LSD and watch him get eaten by a giant squid. Now we’re talking.


Conference tournament week is better than first round of the NCAA tournament, right?



Who's the MOST famous person you've been next to?  Like, within five feet close. For me, unfortunately, it's Donald Trump.  As a journalist, you've had more chances to be next to a famous person than most, but who is it?

I’m pretty sure it’s Snoop Dogg, with whom I shared a botanical libation just over a decade ago. Otherwise, it’s either Chris Pratt (who I also profiled), or Shaq, who was hanging out on the court near me prior to Game 3 of the 2019 NBA Finals. GQ also sent me to a Trump rally in Iowa in 2015, but Trump was on a stage and I was standing in the way back, so I don’t know if that counts as being “next” to the man. I’m quite certain that it doesn’t. I was hundreds of feet away, not five.

But as Ken noted, all of those encounters were work-related. If you wanna restrict this to accidental brushes with greatness, my answer is Woody Allen. I walked by him on the street in New York once. Soon-Yi was with him. She looked like she was 26. He looked like he was 294. This was over 20 years ago, mind you. He probably looks like a fucking museum exhibit by now.


My wife will occasionally make a turkey sandwich for breakfast, and while I quite enjoy a turkey sandwich for lunch, I just can't stomach one first thing in the morning.  Do you have any time-of-day related food hang-ups? 

That’d be one of them! You gotta add a fried egg to that turkey sandwich if you want me to get fired up to eat it breakfast. Otherwise it’s gonna feel like I’m eating it in the wrong time slot. I’m like the rest of you in that I occasionally question why X food is always eaten at Y time of day and not at others. Why are donuts acceptable as a breakfast food and a slice of chocolate cake isn’t? WHO MADE ALL THESE RULES?!

I’d like to fight the man on some of this shit, but most of the time I just fall in line. I don’t want a turkey sandwich for any meal other than lunch, I don’t want steak au poivre for breakfast, and I don’t want a Cinnabon for dinner. I’m not in college anymore, and I’m not drunk all the time anymore, either. I sometimes make breakfast tacos for myself for lunch, but I consider those a transcendental food item, as do you. I am a normal adult now, which means that I want everything in its normal place.

The bigger question here, Daniel, is this: WHY is your wife making you a turkey sandwich for breakfast? What prompted that? Do you guy have a surplus of turkey and bread around? Did she see you eat a sub for breakfast once 10 years ago and thought that was a regular thing for you? Are you both addicted to heroin? I’d like to know how this all came to be, because the average person isn’t going to, on instinct, make a fucking turkey sandwich for someone for breakfast.



When I was 14, my Dad walked into my room while I was listening to Rage Against the Machine. He listened for a moment, then said, "You know, there's more to music than shouting catchphrases into a microphone." I still love RATM, but I can absolutely see how they would've sounded obnoxious to a person raised on Peter, Paul and Mary. I'm now in my mid-40s. Like every other seven-year-old girl in this country, my daughter loves Taylor Swift. While driving her to school this morning, in a very agitated and fatigued state, I went on an extended (and possibly overboard) rant about T's lack of lyrical breadth and how every single song she has is a variation on a relationship falling apart. I even caught myself repeating my Dad: "There's more to life than crying about a boyfriend or girlfriend! There are other feelings out there!" Will any of this register with my daughter? Is she even thinking about the lyrics, or just singing along? Am I at least planting the seed of critical thinking? Or am I just shitting on something she enjoys? Am I my Dad now?

We all become our parents. That’s no big surprise. You’re not gonna like what your kid likes, because you’re not the proper age to relate to it. The important thing to remember is that it doesn’t fucking matter. None of my kids like hard rock, but what do I give a shit? They listen to their music through their headphones, and I listen to my shit through mine. Our musical paths never need cross, because you know what’d be even worse than shitting on your kids’ favorite artists? LIKING them. If my daughter was super into Olivia Rodrigo (she isn’t) and I was suddenly like, “I just listened to ‘Drivers License,’ totally my jam!” (it’s not), that’d ruin it. Every generation wants something to call their own.

That doesn’t mean you should eschew teaching your kids to think critically about things. If I watch a movie with my son and it sucks, I break it down for him: the effects were shoddy, the plot was muddled, etc. I’m clinical. I don’t adopt a GET OFF MY LAWN tone when I give him my notes. I just try to demonstrate my standards are clearly as possible, which he can then take or leave. The ability to think critically is vital. It helps you understand how a piece of art works, and that informs your own creative instincts in turn. That’s why schools teach criticism to every student. The more you understand why you do or don’t like something, the better you know yourself.

So, if you can bear it, try to restrain yourself from just dumping on Tay-Tay to your kid. She ain’t gonna listen to you anyway. She’d be a nerd if she did.


As of right now, there are almost 200 fewer entries in the women's brackets than the Men's (198 to 378). Fellow sickos, what gives? Has this site not taught you enough about women's sports? 

I can only answer for myself here. I entered a men’s bracket but not a women’s bracket. My internal argument was that I hadn’t watched enough women’s basketball this season to fill one out accurately. Meanwhile, you know how much men’s college basketball I watched during the regular season? None. I knew fuck-all about that field, so I clearly skipped out on the women’s pool because of residual sexism. That’s my loss, because I could have gone batshit crazy over losing TWO bets instead of merely one. Oh, and the women’s tournament featured some of the best basketball I’ve ever seen on any level.

It shouldn’t have taken me 47 years to appreciate the women’s game fully. Then again, it would appear I’m not alone in finally catching up. As our own Ray Ratto said on The Distraction last week, this is a moment for both women’s college basketball and the WNBA. I know the idea of “having a moment” has been lightly meme-ified over the past few years, but it means something when Ratto says it. People aren’t rushing to watch Caitlin Clark because they have the woke mind virus, but because she’s fucking amazing television. This will sound like the kind of opinion that’s preprogrammed into a First Take episode, but watching Clark’s ascent feels a lot like watching Tiger Woods’s. Both are transcendent athletes who have, almost singlehandedly, brought their respective sports to an entirely new audience. That’s a pretty fucking cool thing to live through.

So consider this the last year I skip the women’s bracket. I know what I’m missing out on now.


Looking across the landscape of sports, have we left a sort of "golden age" of professional sports? The MLB has a commissioner who actively hates baseball. The NBA has no stars and has become more focused on the transaction than the action on court. College sports are in the midst of their own version of enshittification where regional rivalries are destroyed, coaches are receiving salaries the size of small island nations, and no one is driving the bus. And don't even get me started about the hellscape that has become professional golf. Is the sun setting on the good old days of sports or am I just becoming a scrooge at the ripe old age of 32?

The NBA has no stars? Spencer, you’re gonna get annihilated for that take. LeBron James still walks this Earth, and an army of newcomers—Victor Wembanyama foremost among them—is already in place to supplant him. The CFP semifinals were mesmerizing, the Chiefs-Niners Super Bowl was one of the best I’ve ever seen, and the aforementioned Caitlin Clark is now the most entertaining athlete in the world. Not to go all Mitch Albom on you, but the games almost always rise above the bullshit. The NFL has always been murderous. College sports have always been corrupt. FIFA and the IOC are both run by aspiring war criminals. And baseball has always had its head up its own ass. Those are all ripe midweek topics, but when the whistle blows I’m just as able to forget all of that shit as I ever have. This is especially true in men’s college basketball, where all of the dictator coaches have been sent to a farm upstate and I don’t have to watch them eat up 40 percent of any game telecast.

So chill out. Shit changes as you age. No sense in fighting it.


In the last Defector Thursday Night Trivia, we learned that Ray Ratto has never eaten a burrito in his life despite living in the Bay Area. Is this the most depraved example of Defector staffers who have never eaten a certain food, or is there something even more egregious?

If Laura Wagner still worked here, I could tell you about the fact that she’s watched a grand total of like, six movies in her life. But that’s not a food thing, and it’s still not as inexplicable as Ratto never having eaten a burrito while living his whole life in California. It’s like being from Italy and never having tried pasta. I can’t understand it, and don’t have any motivation to do so. I could ask Ray directly about it, but then he’d sneer and throw some Ratto-ism my way. “What business is it of yours, you bassoon-shaped fussbudget?” Not worth it.


Do you think men’s college basketball should switch to four quarters like women’s college basketball did?

Yes. Somehow it makes the game go by faster, too. Although that’s probably my imagination. Whatever. Make the men’s game four quarters already. Don’t be stupid.


A few weeks ago, while out back with my dog, I tossed a few snowballs at the one tree in my backyard. Three direct hits, woo! The tree is ~25 feet away, ~three feet wide, and all trunk for the first 15 feet up. You throw 100 average-sized snowballs, how many hit the tree?

From 25 feet away? Half! I can nail that fucker half the time, if not more. Twenty-five feet ain’t shit, especially with a target that wide. Also, you never see me more focused than when I’m aiming a snowball/crumpled piece of paper at a tree/trash can. I am fucking dialed in for those moments. Then I go back into my house and forget that I left the stove on for 16 hours straight.


In a perfect world, football would be more exciting and have less injuries and concussions. Radical idea: what if they just reduced the number of players on the field from 11 to nine? 

Seven-man football teams are common in high school sports, but the official rules of that version of the game forbid tackling, and even running plays. I can’t find any data on whether or not that makes it safer, but I think I can rely on common sense to sort that out. If you want fewer injuries and concussions in football, the only sure way to do that is to get rid of full contact. If you shrunk the game to 9v9 but kept everything else the same, players would still get their shit ruined.

This is why the NFL is outlawing different strains of tackling rather than reduce lineup sizes. Roger Goodell wants to get the sport as close to touch football as he can without it being touch football, so that means no more horsecollar tackles, no more hip drop tackles, no more sacking the QB with your full body weight, and on and on. It’s a slow dilution, and it means that there’ll be a new tackle banned every offseason from here into eternity. I will only care about this if it fucks my team over in a tight spot one day.

Email of the week!


I worked as the Military Advisor on The Covenant and got to interact with Mr. Ritchie (always Mr. Ritchie) on a daily basis. Your article is spot on -- but fact is Mr. Ritchie is just plain brilliant. Funny as hell, too. One scene involved Jake Gyllenhaal's character making a phone call or something, so Jake dialed up and put the prop to his ear and started talking. Mt. Ritchine stopped the entire shoot and asked, to no one in particular, how often (1) people dial numbers anymore and (2) someone picks up on the first ring, if at all. Like I said. Brilliant. 

Oh wow, you have to call him “Mister”? Not sure how I feel about that. I’d prefer he be knighted and we all call him “Sir Guy” instead.

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