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How Old Are You In Your Dreams?

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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 holding, gambling, barf bowls, and more.

Your letters:


At what age do you picture yourself when you dream? I'm approaching my 50th birthday, but my subconscious self-image is perpetually stuck in my 20s. This doesn't otherwise manifest in any "How do you do, fellow kids?" delusions, only in my default conception of myself when I'm asleep. Do all old people dream about themselves as young adults?

Most times, I don’t know how old I am in my dreams. I see dreams through my eyes, and there’s never a mirror to be had. Given the way that dreams shift and bend, I could be at one point in time one second and then another point in time the next. I don’t even have to be me. I could be a serial killer, or a dog, or late character actor John Heard. Dreams aren’t linear. They’re pieces of your subconscious loosely stitched together. They follow their own logic, and the majority of them vanish the second you open your eyes. So who I am in those visions is undefined. Intangible. Mysterious in ways that awake me can never hope to be.

The only time I truly know my age is if I’m having the classic “Oh no I’m back at school!” dream. I’m definitely 46 years old in those dreams, which makes the dream awkward for all parties involved. Then a door slides and I’m president of Eurasia.


It's holiday time, and as you settle behind the wheel early in the morning for your all-day drive, your GPS gives you an ETA of 4:23. How much time do you spend trying to beat the ETA, grinning inside each time it drops by a single minute and gnashing your teeth when it goes the other way? You arrive at 4:06. Is that 17 minutes manly skill, or dumb luck? 

SKILL. All skill. Maybe the most vital skill a man can possess. And if I beat the GPS just because the GPS believes I won't drive faster than the speed limit, that’s on the GPS for assuming that I’m fucking weak. I’m not. I kick ass.

I live to defeat the GPS. This is odd, given that GPS technology exists exclusively to help me. But I’m an American man. I don’t want help, and I fucking hate being told what to do, especially by some asshole computer. When my wife offers to turn on the GPS on a road trip, I often refuse. When the GPS leads me out of the woods and onto more familiar roads, I can’t turn it off fast enough. I drive this car, computer. Not you. You’re an accessory to this whole enterprise, and don’t you ever fucking forget it.

If you think I’m being self-deprecating when I note all of this, I am not. Asserting your free will, your humanity, in the digital age is a vital instinct. I’m not just gonna give ALL of myself to the machines. I own those machines. If they think they own me, they’ve got another think coming. So when the GPS gives me an ETA, I not only want to beat it, I want to CRUSH it. I wanna make that ETA appear laughable in retrospect: the guesswork of a child. When I drove Dave McKenna back from our Defector annual meeting in Pennsylvania, I beat the guidance’s ETA by half an hour. It was my Super Bowl. I eschewed piss stops all four hours of that drive specifically so that I could run up the score. I regret absolutely nothing. I am the master navigator.


Does it bother you that you are some sort of cursed reverse Nostradamus? Your optimistic predictions inevitably lead to tragedy. The USMNT getting thrashed by the Dutch, the Vikings losing 40-3 to the Cowboys, and of course, the 2016 election. Have you considered reverse psychology? Or just keeping your mouth shut? The future is obviously in your hands. 

Eh, sometimes I’m wrong about shit. It’s not gonna stop me from believing things. Better to believe good things can happen than to be a cynical asshole.


I’m just a few years younger than you and at a similar stage of life, where I’m still learning about myself and regretting missed opportunities for where my skills or talents could have been really useful. For example, I have cat-like reflexes when it comes to catching something as it’s just started to fall. I’ve really only learned I have these types of abilities through years of experience—I suppose that’s some of the wisdom or perhaps increased self confidence that comes with age—and I’m not really sure how I would have known of them at an earlier age. What’s your experience with this? How have you grieved on missed opportunities/the what ifs? How do you make the most of these new(ish)found abilities?

This actually relates to the dream question, because when I go back to college in my dreams, I retain all of the ability and knowledge of 46-year-old me. So I’m better at football (this is a dream, mind you), I can dash off English papers like they’re nothing at all, and I know how to get laid. That last part always weirds me out IN the dream, for obvious reasons. The point, though, is that those are dreams where the old saw of “I wish I knew back then what I know now” comes true, and it’s a strangely bad fit.

This is because the learning is the point. I wish I’d been a natural back in the day, able to pick up both a guitar and women with instant ease. But I wasn’t a natural. I fucked up a lot, to the point where I’m now probably too hard on my younger self for all of his shortcomings. After all, I needed all of those fuck-ups to become who I am now. That’s the human experience. So sometimes I have small pangs of regret. I wish I’d had better game. I wish I’d taken up cycling before the pandemic lockdown and not after it. I wish I’d started counting calories at 16 instead of 46. But I can’t go back and don’t want to. Like Matt said, all of this shit only comes with experience, which means that the progress I’ve made in my life can only feel late. It can’t be late. Life happens as it happens and I’m just glad to have learned ANYTHING. I’m glad my story has unfolded the way it has.

Also it turns out I’m a pretty good defender in basement soccer. Might go pro.


I call your attention to this tweet that introduced me to the concept of a family sick bowl, which is apparently a dedicated vomit receptacle. I’m in my late 40s and I’d never heard of such a thing. Is this a common thing I’ve just missed or an anomaly?

My mom had a barf bowl for us when I was growing up, and we have one in our house now. The barf bowl has always been metal, so whenever I hear a metal bowl make that echoing DOINNNGGG sound whenever it gets lightly knocked, I think of blowing chunks. Force of habit. I remember my mom putting the bowl by my bedside before turning the lights off. I remember reaching for it in the dark when I felt the nausea gaining momentum. I remember heaving bile into that bowl when my stomach had nothing else left to offer. I remember the string of drool hanging from the corner of my mouth as I prayed for better health. I remember all of that. Does that stop me from using our current barf bowl as a mixing bowl? On occasion, but I usually get over it.

It’s another story for our 16-year-old, who has a legitimate fear of nausea that goes back years. If the girl sees that bowl, it instantly triggers her worst phobia symptoms. So I have to be delicate when I use the barf bowl for non-barf purposes. I’m never serving my daughter a Jell-O salad in it or anything. So, if like Kurt here, you grew up without a dedicated barf bowl in your home, that’s probably for the best. You aren’t missing out on anything, I assure you. You might also have better closing speed on toilets than I do when I’m sick.


On two occasions vs. the Pats, CBS cut to Robert Saleh vigorously celebrating Nick Folk's missed field goals. Pete Carroll stands out for similar antics over the years. Am I the only one who has a problem with a head coach doing this type of thing? 

You probably aren’t. I’m sure that First Take has debated the issue vigorously one morning or the other, and that any number of angry grandparents think that Saleh should act like he’s been there before. As for me, I have no problem with it. They’re coaches. They want to win. When the other team fucks up—a missed kick, a turnover, a dumb penalty—they’re happy. Makes perfect sense. I’d rather my coach show he care rather than he bottle it up like some grumpy automaton. I’d rather my coach be human. I don’t watch that shit and think to myself, “Hey, now that’s not very nice to poor Nick Folk.” Why should I care about Nick Folk? He makes more money than I do to miss those kicks.


Is writing about your gambling results any more interesting than writing about your fantasy team? I genuinely don’t care about a writer’s experience with either, but I certainly hear a lot more about the former. I follow a lot of very entertaining and insightful football minds on Twitter, and I frequently read what they are paid to write as well. One thing I don’t really care to hear much about is how they fared gambling. 

This is not directed at Ken, but I find anti-gambling takes as tiring as gambling takes. More so, in fact. I’ve seen so many NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR FANTASY TEAM! takes in my lifetime, many from this website, that it makes me wanna tie everyone to a chair and force them to hear about all of my bad beats until they die. No one cares that you don’t care. You’re not special. You’re not better than me for demanding some magical cone of silence be put around one of mankind’s oldest and finest vices, so dial down the Mushnick a little. I’m never gonna pollute this website with Matthew Berry–grade stories about the time I benched Jalen Hurts or whatever, but I like playing fantasy and I like laying down the occasional bet. Doesn’t automatically make me a fucking Stoolie. Us lowlifes are NOT a monolith.

That said, the expansion of legalized sports gambling has caused a lot of otherwise useful writers—especially football writers—to adopt the subject as a career move. Here’s one such example…

…but there are plenty more where that came from. I’ve spent the past couple of years getting more into the research side of football and reading the work of guys who can illuminate a lot of what that research has to offer. Many of these guys, like Warren Sharp, were already insufferable before they pivoted to gambling. They’ve now gotten much worse. So I’d much rather hear some predictable sad sack story about losing $100 on the Colts from a friend than hear one of these fuckers talk about point spreads like they’ve got a fucking PhD in Sweet Action. Just as the right writer can make any subject fascinating, the wrong one can do the precise opposite.



We’ve all heard that, in the NFL, there is a hold (usually on the offence) on every play. Because of this, holding continues to be a common penalty in any given game, as I’m guessing linemen figure they can get away with it, even though some occasionally don’t. I propose the NFL spend one full season calling a penalty on every actual hold by either team. Sure it would slow down the game for that season. But it would send a message, get these boys playing proper, and benefit the game in the long run. Emma right?

You are not. I promise I didn’t set out this week to disagree with every question I got asked (except for Chase’s, because he can fuck off). But no one wants more penalties in their NFL games. Not even if they’re correct calls. Not even if Roger Goodell promises that they’ll serve some ambiguous greater good down the road. The NFL already loves emphasizing certain calls to “send a message” that landing with your full weight atop a QB won’t be tolerated, etc. I don’t want more of that. I want less. I want no flags at all. Take out a gun and shoot a motherfucker across the line of scrimmage and I’d be down with it.

More important, when a ref calls holding in the NFL, it’s usually for blatant holding. That hasn’t changed since I played offensive line a million dreams ago. My coaches and my teammates all taught me the same thing: keep your hands inside and you can pretty much do whatever you want to a defender. If your hands creep outside, they’re gonna pinch you for it. That was true back in the 1990s, and it’s still true today. You’ll get those outrageous borderline holding calls that negate an awesome play, but there’s a reason those penalties stick out. Most other flags, I watch the replay and I’m like, “OK that was a hold. Fuck.” There’s nothing I hate more than agreeing with a referee, but sometimes it’s a must. All the other times, keep that flag in your fucking waistband, Clete.

And while I’m picking fights…


For as long as I can remember, NFL play-by-play announcers will, when mentioning a player for the first time, always say, "That's Joseph Umptyfuck, a tenth-year man out of Iowa State." You know the phrase. It also, of course, pops up in player self-introductions. My question is this: Who gives a shit? Do I need to know where Tom Brady, or Khalil Mack, or ANY NFL player pretended to go to school? Why does this stupid trope continue to plague broadcasts?

I give a shit. It’s probably been ingrained in me by this eternal broadcasting practice, but I still desperately wanna know where every pro athlete played in college. And if a player uses the SNF starting lineup intros to shout out their high school or do some jokey bullshit like “Akron Skydiving Academy,” I get deeply irritated. This isn’t an open mic night, asshole. Give me the facts, and give them to me straight. I wanna Remember Some Colleges, man. And I wanna remember those guys when they went to college. I like remembering Michigan Tom Brady, who had to split reps with the immortal Drew Henson. That’s a rich vein of sports remembering. 


How old will you be when you stop coasting on the crossbar of your grocery store cart when you return it to its corral in the parking lot?

Oh shit, I don’t do that anymore. I’m usually so hellbent on getting in and out of the store quickly that I forget! Fuck. HERE LIES MY INNOCENCE.


Should fake punts/field goals be accepted as Going For It on 4th Down? You never hear anyone bring up "the analytics" when the punter unexpectedly flings a pass at the third string TE.

If you go by the box score, a fake punt/field goal does indeed count as having gone for it, regardless of whether or not you succeed in the attempt. It’s scored as a routine run or pass.

But that’s not what you’re really asking. You’re asking that a fake be treated the same by the idiot color guy as a normal fourth-down attempt would. There are reasons your average color guy doesn’t do that. One, it never occurs to him. Two, special-teams fakes exist in their own universe, are dictated almost entirely by a unique combination of situation and tactics, and represent a relatively small sample size in comparison with standard going-for-it situations. Third, color guys love fakes no matter the situation because they’re so footbally, and because it gives them a chance to rave about that third-string tight end, who went undrafted out of Augustana and was cut by nine other teams before finally getting a roster spot with the Falcons. YOU GOTTA LOVE THIS SHANE COCKSWAGGON GUY!


Has storming the field lost all of its magic? 

It depends entirely on the game. When all the Tennessee kids stormed the field after beating Bama? That kicked ass. That was, in the context of recent Vols football history, a miracle win. You get to storm the field for miracles. No notes from me there. When it’s just some garden-variety, regular-season conference title you just won? I could care less. You’re still free to storm the field/court/pitch. I’ll never be some tight-ass who’s like THAT LOOKS UNSAFE FOR OUR CHILDREN. But I also reserve the right to say that all stormings are not created equal.

Except in high school football. Win any high school football game and you have my blessing to lose your shit.


No particular reason, but I’m curious if you go/went to AA? I think you’d agree that sobriety is so much more than abstinence. You seem to have achieved it through therapy, same as I did. But so many people don’t have the means or will to go to therapy, and for them AA can serve the same purpose. Like you, I have illness/disability to help me abstain, but I didn’t really start to get sober until I started going to meetings and therapy. Seems like sobriety is a big part of your life even if you don’t use the word. For me, the number of people who know I’m in AA is pretty small, and that’s how I like it. Please keep encouraging people, when you talk about quitting drinking, to see how many other things it makes possible if they keep working on the underlying issues.

I went to AA as part of a court order back when I was arrested for DUI back in 2009. I actually wrote about that arrest, because that’s what I do. I went to AA for eight weeks, as ordered, and only eight weeks. I didn’t necessarily ENJOY it. I wasn’t like, “That was the social event of the season!” But I respected all of the people in our meetings, I understood why they were there and how AA helped them get/stay sober, and I told myself after my eight weeks were over that I’d absolutely go back to AA if I ever got behind the wheel drunk again.

I never did drink and drive after that, but of course I relapsed. Didn’t even think to call it a relapse when it happened. It was just, oh hey I can drink again so that’s cool. But rather than get pinched for DUI to hammer home the whole you’re an alcoholic, Drew point, my brain exploded instead. That was four years ago yesterday. Haven’t had a drink since. Haven’t gone to AA either, but I don’t castigate myself for that. No two paths to recovery are alike, nor is one way the right way for everyone. So I know people who swear by AA, and I know people who think it’s patronizing horseshit. I don’t judge THEM for that, either. You hunt around for whatever works and then you stick with whatever does.

But I do agree with Luke here, along with everyone else who’s told me likewise, that there are usually underlying factors to addiction that you have to treat if you want to get rid of that addiction entirely. Then again, I’ve also been told that heroin really IS that good, so perhaps that’s a bit simplistic on my end. All I know is that I can go to my happy place simply by toking up and then cracking open a crisp, refreshing Bud Zero, and that’s all I need.


Hypothetically, if Trump was so pissed about DeSantis challenging him in 2024 that he decided to just run for the Democratic nomination instead, what are the odds you‘d vote for him? Like, he’s still the same dipshit, but now adopts all leftist positions? Talking about how beautiful abortions are, how he’s going to tax rich people and he doesn’t care because he has so much money he won’t even notice, coming up with nicknames for people you also hate, etc. I feel like I’m so starved for candidates who actually give a shit about winning that I’d be kind of pumped.

God man, that’s what would drive me back to being a non-voter, isn't it? That’s the moment I’d revert to being 22 years old again and telling everyone, “Voting is for suckers. I learned that from South Park, man.” And then Liberal Trump would rise to power, revert to being a heel, jail everyone under 35, and I’d be the smuggest asshole on the planet. Please don’t make me envision such a future.


It’s December, so it’s time to hear Christmas songs for a month. I actually don’t mind most Christmas songs; they are, at worst, background noise, and can be really lovely at their best. But a year or two ago, I really listened to Chuck Berry’s “Run Rudolph Run”, and I’m convinced he had no idea who Rudolph was. Rudy was created in 1939, and his song was a hit in 1949. So it’s not like he wasn’t well-known. But look at what Chuck says about this guy:

“Out of all the reindeers you know you are the mastermind
Run, run Rudolph, Randolph ain't too far behind”

He doesn’t say shit about anything that makes Rudolph who he is. He’s just “the mastermind”, which is weird because I’d argue that’s Santa Claus. And who is “Randolph”? This shit is all I think about when this song comes on now.

All fair, but isn’t it BETTER that Chuck Berry didn’t know who Rudolph was and didn’t give a fuck? That’s a better story than Chuck Berry, the father of rock and roll, being like OOH CAN I SING A CHRISTMAS SONG?! I JUST LOVE CHRISTMAS! I’d rather Chuck be like, “The label wants a fucking Christmas song? Whatever,” and then shitting out a jingle in 12 seconds for coke money. That’s proper rock and roll.

Email of the week!


Do you have any tattoos? I don’t recall you ever mentioning any, so I am going to guess you are a tattoo virgin like I am. Anyway, in 2002 I was a regular at a bar here in SF where we would watch almost every Giants game together. When they made the World Series, all the other regulars decided that, if they won, everyone would get a Giants tattoo that very night. I was the one person who wouldn’t commit, because I simply just wasn’t a tattoo guy! But the peer pressure was intense, especially after the Giants took a 3-2 series lead and then, in Game 6, took a 5-0 lead into the bottom of the 7th inning. They were obviously going to win the title, so what was my decision?

I felt like the weight of the world was on me. I started to convince myself that a small Giants logo on my hip wouldn’t be so bad, but then I started to think, “Don’t tattoos hurt to get?” and suddenly I had cold feet again. I was more nervous about this tattoo than I was about the game! But then everything fell apart (fuck Scott Spezio and the Rally Monkey!) as the Angels came back to win that game and then also took Game 7. It was the most devastating loss of my life. Did I jinx them by not fully committing to the tattoo? Well, that’s a question I will always have to live with. Unfortunately, our watch group had ended by the time the Giants finally won it all in 2010 (and again in 2012 and 2014!) because that would have been really fun to experience together. But at least I didn’t have to worry about getting any tattoos.

I have no tattoos, and now you’re making me contemplate a terribly wicked vow of my own.

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