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 time travel, protein bars, gambling, the mysterious diaeresis, and more.
Before I get into the FUNBAG and tell you whether I’d prefer to fight an angry bat or an angry beaver (I’ll take the bat), I’d like to note once again that The Night The Lights Went Out is currently on sale and that pretty much everyone who’s read it has liked it. Even the Swear Police reviewers at Goodreads have given it favorable ratings, and you know a book is good if it’s even winning over people who were apparently born in 1868.
But more important, I wanna do a bit of advocacy with the space I have right here. I am deaf. To help mitigate the effects of that deafness, I wear a hearing aid in my left ear and I have cochlear implant in my right. Both of these accessories have improved my quality of life SIGNIFICANTLY since my accident. They are miraculous. In the case of the cochlear implant, that meant undergoing surgery yet again. And given that some people’s experiences with cochlear implants have been scattershot (Sound of Metal, a really good movie, depicts a character whose experience getting them comes out the opposite of mine), I’m not gonna bang my drum for them all that hard. That one really IS a personal decision.
I will bang the drum for hearing aids, though. Hearing aids are not cheap (they should be) and often not covered by insurance (ditto). They also make you look like an old fart, which I believe is the reason many Americans are too proud to ever use them. I told NPR as much over the weekend.
None of those factors should matter in the end. Hearing aids are simple and they work. So regardless of your age, get your hearing checked. Even if you don’t suspect you suffer from hearing loss, make sure that you don’t. And if you DO have hearing loss, get the aids. I swear to fucking god you’ll be glad you did, even if you need a moment to get used to them.
That’s it for me and the soapbox. Time for your letters:
Why do online publications show a graphic of a tweet, and then directly quote the text contained in the graphic of said tweet? This makes no sense. Is this dumb, or should I just shut up and stop telling people to get off my lawn?
I assume it’s to accommodate the blind if they can listen to the article but can’t see the tweet in question. But I’m probably being too generous to online publications, most of which are run by drunken hairpieces. That redundancy is insulting and pointless, but most websites are deliberately engineered to be both of those things, because they think you’re stupid.
Which is why I’d like to break away from Jamoosh’s point here to make an adjacent complaint. If I’m watching the news (unlikely) or a game (likely) and the on-air talent mentions a tweet, do you know what they always do? They post the tweet on the screen and then they read the goddamn thing out loud to you. Happens every game. Happens every 10 minutes on CNN. And it’s not just tweets, either. If Andy Reid had a money quote about how there’s a secret assassin lurking underneath Patrick Mahomes’s friendly exterior, you better fucking believe that Michele Tafoya will read me that entire quote out loud, even though I can read it myself and even though the game action has already resumed. No matter. These TV people are gonna read you that shit whether you asked for it or not.
I hate this, and I know it’s not for the blind because that’s what radio broadcasts are for. Also, TV people have no brain and no soul. Some exec gets into their earpiece and said, “You know what? Better read that tweet in case they’re on the toilet.” Then the puppet behind the mic goes right ahead and does as they’re told. “I’m Ron Burgundy?” I’m deaf but that doesn’t mean I gotta hear everything. Either read the text or show it, but don’t do both. You’re wasting daylight and treating your audience like they don’t know how to pour a glass of water. Fuck you.
I noticed your pretentious diaeresis usage in spelling naïve with the unnecessary mark. Every major dictionary writes that the diaeresis is archaic, and I am on a campaign to eliminate its usage. The only remaining holdouts seem to be you and The New Yorker. PS I am not a crackpot.
Wait, that’s not an umlaut? You’d think that I, married to a woman born in Germany, would know an umlaut when he sees it. But no! Turns out this is a whole other pair of eyeballs perched atop a vowel. I didn’t even know the word “diaeresis” existed until Frank sent this email. Not a word that sounds like what it means AT ALL.
Anyway, I don’t use the diaeresis in naïve as a matter of principle. It’s just that I write everything in Microsoft Word. When I type out naïve in Word, it automatically adds the diaeresis to the top of the i. And that is my remarkable story. If Word didn’t make that correction, I wouldn’t go back to add it. Similarly, I’m not gonna go back now and REMOVE the stupid diaeresis just so that I look more casual. The small per cent of you that disapprove of my accidental pretentiousness will simply have to deal with it. Don’t expect me to coöperate.
Which are the better Twizzlers? The individually wrapped ones (also the mini fun sized ones), the regular candy bar sized ones, or the large packs? I say it’s the individually wrapped ones as they’re softer, my wife says the large packs.
I hate the individually wrapped ones. First of all, it’s wasteful to wrap a single goddamn Twizzler. Secondly, I want my Twizzler NOW. I don’t wanna have to endure some elaborate unboxing process every time I want another one. That’s absurd. Sometimes the wrapper sticks to the Twizzler and suddenly I’m trapped in a Feats Of Strength contest. And fuck off with the candy bar ones, too. Those all come fused together, again burdening me with intensive labor that is in direct opposition to my goals at snacktime.
Give me the fucking one-pound bag of Twizzlers, all loose and separate. I wanna tie them all together into a rope and escape out a prison window with them. I don’t care if they’re not as soft as the individually wrapped Twizzlers. I like my candy chewy, and all Twizzlers are made out of used candle wax anyway.
How many NFL teams would improve with no head coach?
Zero. I know the Raiders just beat the shit out of Denver with the delightfully named Rich Bisaccia as a last-second stand-in for Jon Gruden, but Rich Salsiccia got elevated because it’s a very bad idea to leave that position empty and assume that a professional football team can coach itself like they’re playing on a sandlot. That kind of daydream gets spewed by commentators as a matter of routine anytime Patrick Mahomes improvises an underhand throw or does something else from the “he’s just like a kid out there!” grab bag. But it’s still a daydream and only that.
Head coaches are rarely as important as they think they are, and as the football media industrial complex makes them out to be, but they’re still important nonetheless. As Kevin Clark wrote last week, head coach in football is the most important coaching job—success-wise—in North American sports. You need a head coach to hire capable assistants, coordinate game plans, map out the practice schedule, connect with players, and manage the flow of communication both on the field and in the organization. It’s a big-ass job, and as awful of a head coach as someone like Mike McCarthy is, you’re better off having a person in that role than leaving the rest of the coaching staff and the roster to fend for itself. Can’t believe I said something nice about Mike McCarthy just now. Don’t count on it happening ever again.
Are protein bars a sham? I currently eat two a day, but should I quit fooling myself and just by Kit Kats instead?
Are you ready for the weakest, lamest possible response? Great, because that’s what I have. It all depends—say it with me—on the protein bar. I have spent my entire life eating junk food repurposed as health food. Like Kudos. Remember Kudos? Kudos were so fucking good. They were also definitely made from 100% corn syrup that was brewed by amputee child laborers, but they tasted AMAZING. Were Kudos marketed as a healthy alternative to chips and candy bars? They were. Fucking Snickers were marketed as a healthy pick-me-up back in the 1980s, like the peanuts in it offset everything else in it clogging your rectum.
So you can label anything a “protein bar”—just as you can label any food as “natural”—and it’ll sound like something that MIT nutritionists designed using a space-age nut collider. But you have to look at the label to see all the ingredients and sort out exactly how much protein this supposed miracle snack is delivering to your body. And even if it’s a lot, you’re still probably eating one as a snack in between fistfuls of Smartfood. It’s the same trap that I wrote about last week with exercise, where you do or eat one healthy thing and you then feel entitled to eat many unhealthy things in the wake of it. If you’re eating two protein bars a day just for fun, they’re probably not serving their intended purpose.
We have a shitload of Z Bars around this house because they have good ingredients and because they’re a reliable thing to pack in the kids’ lunches. We also have the dark chocolate cherry Kind bars because they’re the GOAT kind bar and my favorite emergency airport meal. These bars are “good” for you in the sense that they have vitamins and other vital nutrients. They also help with picky eaters who need calories to burn. But I’m under no illusion that eating them is gonna make me, or my kids, into Olympic gold medalists anytime soon. They’re snacks. They’re “better” than other snacks, but they’re still snacks. You probably don’t need them, especially if there are tasty Kit Kats to be had instead.
Since when did being young and handsome become a requirement for being an NFL head coach? Sean McVay, Matt LaFleur, Kliff Kingsbury… all very good-looking! Is this some sort of knee-jerk reaction to Ben McAdoo?
It’s marketing. If you draft a guy who looks energetic and handsome and seemingly bright, then fans will think he’s got his shit together. If you draft some old slob who look like a Dow Scrubbing Bubble, fans will think that guy is an old, stubborn, tired jackass. Meanwhile, the last five Super Bowl champs have all been won by men over 60, and the greatest coach in NFL history is a 69-year-old bridge troll who looks like he eats cigarette butts for dinner every night. Maybe having no head coach at all IS the answer.
So what’s with all the loud, obnoxious, in-your-face sports book advertising? Is this stuff everywhere with the volume turned up just because legal sports gambling is so new in most places (meaning it’ll hopefully calm down in the near future)? Or are these companies so rich, with such huge advertising budgets, that this shit is our new normal?
It’s all of those things, but I don’t give a shit. Some of my colleagues have bemoaned the growing pervasiveness of gambling-related content, but I grew up with NFL lines printed in the back of the sports section every week, and old-ass Hank Greenberg making his stone cold locks on SportsCenter every Sunday morning in between being openly horny for Chris McKendry on the air. None of this shit is new. The only difference now is that sports books have become legal in more states, which means it’s all on the books now, which means I have to see JB Smoove in a toga and Jessie Coffield screaming at me to make it rain every commercial break.
But it’s not as if the other advertising during NFL games is pleasant and enjoyable. It’s all loud, invasive garbage. Same thing goes for NFL pregame shows, which now have gambling lines added to the mix but have always been screeching yukfests you have no business watching either way. Let them show fucking snuff films during FOX NFL Sunday. What do I care? If I start complaining about gambling, I may as well age another 30 years and take a board seat for the NCAA. It’s all prude shit. At least with legalized gambling, I get to see Ben Affleck all cleaned up and nice in those Wynn ads, which is incredible because when I think of Ben Affleck now, all I think about is him being fat and vaping sadly in his car. Hard to believe he’s actually a handsome movie star.
If I have one beef with the new gambling ad blitz, it’s that I’m not in one of the states where sports book apps are legal, so now I’ve been infected with the urge to gamble but no legal outlet to do so. This is a tragedy. I’m just a young man on the hunt for some sweet action. Is that so wrong?
What do you think is the worst possible food allergy? I’m allergic to the entire nightshade family: potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant. As a Midwesterner with a love of pizza, Italian and Mexican food this has wreaked absolute havoc on my available meal options.
Wait, potatoes are a nightshade? All this time I’ve been making hacky Tom Brady jokes about nightshades and the only nightshades I’ve mentioned are strawberries. Look how much other fresh produce I’ve left on the table. These jokes could be so much FRESHER. Isn’t it crazy how picky of an eater Tom Brady is?! More like Tom BABY.
Anyway my answer is onions. This is because one of my friends is severely allergic to onions. Onions are in everything. I know I piss and moan about mayo coming in every food unannounced, but that’s nothing compared to onions. Every sauce, broth, and seasoning has onion lurking somewhere in it. The worst part is that I ALWAYS forget that she has the allergy. Even when I remember! Even when I make sure there are no chopped onions in some soup we’re making for her, I’ll add seasoning to it and forget to check the label. And I can’t just shrug off onion powder being in that seasoning because our friend’s endocrine system will very much notice its presence. So I’ve made dinners for our friend, only to realize my folly and then made them all over again. As for her, every restaurant she goes to is a minefield. It’s a brutal allergy, man. Potatoes and other nightshades are rough, but being allergic to onions is almost like being allergic to water.
If time travel was possible (into the past only, not into the future), what time/place would you go to? I have a feeling most people would say the Wild West, or even much earlier to Medieval Europe or something, but I think those places would actually suck to be in. I would definitely go to pre-WWII 20th Century America. And once I had fully explored that, then I guess I would check out those other things. This thought came to mind as I just watched this video of San Francisco in 1940. Man, I would love to be able to experience what SF was actually like back then! It seems so glamorous in this video, but would it actually suck compared to today? (Yes, this is where I live.) That’s what I want to find out! Come on science! Make this happen!
Jack, you won’t believe this but you’re the first person to email the Funbag with that specific question. No one has ever asked me, “So time travel … what would you do with it?” Every other time travel question I get comes with some sort of killing Hitler clause. I’m so used to the Hitler part of the equation that I’ve never thought about what my historical tourism would be like with no strings attached. So lemme think about it right now.
First off, I would travel to the turn of the 20th century. 1900ish. That’s the period of history I read about most, so I’d very much like to go back there and see just how FILTHY the world was back then. I’d grab a liver croissant at the Paris World Fair (in every time travel scenario, the time machine is also somehow a teleportation device), walk along the manure-lined streets, then travel one year later to the Old West to watch a gunfight from very, very, very far away.
I would NOT go back and check out the dinosaurs, because I already know I’d be let down. Dinosaurs were all just big birds, and the Earth they inhabited in their era was extremely hot and hostile toward the human body. Fuck that. If I’m going way back in time, I’m checking out the building of the Pyramids in Egypt, growing increasingly uncomfortable as I watch the slaves erect them without doing anything to help, and then leaving. Then I’d travel to the 80s/90s to spy on Childhood Drew fucking up again and again, both hating my younger self and feeling like I’ve earned my pride to come as far as I have.
But do you know what I’d do the most? I’d hike. Time travel means I could see, with my own eyes, parts of the world that were once pristine and won’t be again until mankind has been rendered extinct. Untouched woodlands, islands, mountains, and prairies. I could go to some uninhabited part of British Columbia in the 1800s and marvel at what the forests there all looked like before they got cut down. I could go to Manhattan in the 1600s, before New York City came to pass, and stroll along an island that’s 100 percent farmland. I could walk along the Pacific coast in the 500s, with nary a street or bridge impeding my progress. I could see the world in the most vivid and spiritually fulfilling sense. So that’s what I would do. I wouldn’t change history. I would bask in it. Then I’d get an arrow shot through my dome.
The only vaccine holdout in my family is my sister’s boyfriend, who can’t really articulate why he won’t get it. He’s not a stupid guy—master’s degree, occupational therapist, works in a school—but he doesn’t seem to listen to reason and has really burnt out my parents and sister. They’ve given up on him, but I haven’t. I recently read Kalyn Kahler’s piece on an MLB veteran who was allegedly paying teammates to get the vaccine, and it dawned on me that bribery is the only method my family hasn’t tried to convince my sister’s boyfriend to get the vaccine. What do you think would be the right amount of money to throw at him in order to attempt to make him get the vaccine? Do I start big and hope he thinks I’m bluffing? Do I start low and negotiate up? I’m genuinely willing to throw five figures at him over this, it’s that important to me.
If you’re the one paying, you always start low to leave yourself room to negotiate up. If you’re the one being paid, you do the opposite.
But in this case, paying him off won’t work. You just saw Nick Rolovich commit professional suicide because he didn’t want the jab: a decision that cost him millions of dollars. All the state vaccine lotteries failed. You can’t give these people anything to get the vax. You have to take things away from them. You, as the potential brother-in-law, don’t have that repo man power. Only the government, his employer, and your sister do. You’re in a shitty spot because you desperately want to influence his decision, but you ultimately can’t. These people can’t articulate their own reasons for not being vaccinated, so you have no hope of articulating TO them a reason to change their minds. They’re broken, and enjoy being so. So fuck that guy and the horse he rode in on.
Would you ever want to see the comprehensive and verified statistical record of all of your youth sports performances? Would seeing all the data be a fun trip down memory lane, or would knowing that you actually shot 1-9 with seven turnovers cloud your fond recollection of winning your middle school rec basketball league?
No because I was such an unremarkable athlete in my youth that I can remember the bulk of those stats anyway. I gave up one sack in college football (sounds impressive except that I played three snaps). I made a grand total of one basket in youth basketball. Maybe a couple rebounds. I never won a wrestling match. I never won a race at a swim meet. And I definitely never hit a home run. So I have no GOOD memories to spoil. When I caught a pass in pickup touch football, it was notable event for me. I felt like a fucking GOD. If I were ever good enough to play in the NFL, I’d spend every play being like I can’t believe I just got the ball! Just having any stat line would be an incredible feat.
Email of the week!
One summer, my family took a road-trip to meet up with Grandpa and Grandma at a camping site in Yellowstone. The grandparents liked to spend their free time traveling the country in a classic 80s dusty RV, which now seems odd to me, as they both spent every waking moment arguing and yelling at each other in a somewhat flirtatious and absolutely terrifying manner.
On that trip, I turned seven years old. The birthday was great. We boated on Yellowstone Lake, saw a bald eagle or two, hiked, ate S’mores probably. Toward sundown, as the adults were getting tired and hungry, the grandparents went off to their RV to nap for an hour or so. I wandered away to play with some kids I’d befriended at the neighboring campsite.
After a while I get called over by my parents. I’ve been given an assignment: I need to go fetch some ice for Grandpa and bring it to his RV. Feeling useful, I enlist my campground friends to help me carry the stuff over. They oblige, and when we get to the RV door we’re all chatting away. Then the door opens. Grandpa is standing there, buck naked, his old man bits just swinging in the wind.
Gramps looks down at us, glaring. “Well? What the goddamned hell are you doing?!” he says. “You have the ice or not?” I give him the bag, and he slams the door on us while we stand there slack-jawed.
I have no idea what the ice was for and I don’t think I talked to those kids much afterward. The remaining memories have been erased.