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Funbag

I Don’t Need Everyone’s Opinion On Everything

2:48 PM EST on December 13, 2022

Roger Ebert & Gene Siskel dinning at the Brown Derby Restaurant, Walt Disney World, Florida in 1990
Walter McBride/Corbis 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 spoon rests, ties, mullets, and more.

Your letters:

Evan:

I feel like any hubbub between how critics and audience rate movies is missing the point. I don’t want those ratings to match. If I want to watch some Oscar bait critical darling I look at critic reviews; if I want something easy to enjoy, I look at audience reviews. Can we just embrace the difference as a nice way to summarize the different vibes?

Most of us already do. I don’t have one bankable source for pop culture recommendations. Sometimes I watch shit because a friend I trust recommended it. Other times it’s because everyone is talking about it and I gotta see what the hype is all about. Other times it’s because Guy Ritchie made a new movie and I’m a Guy Ritchie completist. Or maybe I loved the trailer. Or maybe it won an Oscar. Or maybe my kids wanna see it. Or maybe I’m too lazy to watch anything else. There’s no wrong way to pick out what you wanna watch, and most people instinctively know that. Critics aren’t a monolith, and audience scores are for people who take the results of the People’s Choice Awards as seriously as they would an MIT genetics study.

So the opinions of others regarding art—especially works of art that you haven’t even seen yet—are as unreliable as your own whims. You pick something to watch and then hope for the best. Afterward, you can dive into the Take-Industrial Complex and see if it agrees with you.

Or, better yet, you can avoid those takes altogether. One thing I learned about myself this year—roughly 30 years too late—is that I don’t NEED the opinions of others to validate my own tastes. Back in the day, I used to exult when my favorite band claimed the top spot on Dial MTV, or if my favorite movie made a shitload of money, or if my favorite TV show was also the most popular TV show among my classmates. Remnants of that mentality persisted in me for far too long, just as they now plague a nation of fanboys whose very existence depends on whether or not a fellow Marvel/Better Call Saul/Taylor Swift fan clapped back effectively at a hater. Last month, my old blog friend Vince Mancini wrote an essay about this very subject. It’s stuck with me ever since:

We don’t have to do this. You can embrace your caprice. You can like what you like and be annoyed by who annoys you, for the pettiest of reasons. Oh, that guy builds free houses for orphans and volunteers every weekend at the legless cat shelter? Good for him, I don’t like the way he stands. Your petty affinities and annoyances aren’t going to change the world, but they never were. They were supposed to be fun. Or interesting. The least they could do is not make you sad.

I’ve never felt that as keenly as I have this year. I just finished Severance last month and was so enraptured by it that, when it was over, I didn’t wanna read anything about it, not even anything positive. I didn’t want anything getting in the way of my relationship with that piece of art. I didn’t want to look a show that deeply impressed me—legitimately inspired me—through the standard prism of Prestige TV discourse. I just wanted to sit with Severance on my own. Same with Heat 2. Same with Boardwalk Empire, which I started watching this year (almost done) entirely because it was long out of the feedback loop. I have my own feelings about each of these pieces (and wrote about the first two, because that’s my job), and am content to leave it at that. My relationship with those works is mine alone. Unsullied by the bullshit of others.

This doesn’t mean I hate criticism, or even fanboy reactions to things. Oftentimes, it’s great to talk about art with other people. You hit the bar after you walk out of a movie because it’s fun to break it down together; to see what parts moved you, which didn’t, and how your seatmate felt about the whole thing. This is especially fun when you’re taking in reactions from friends, or lovers, or your local book club, or even critics (like Vince) whom you find consistently reliable, even when you disagree with them.

But you don’t HAVE to talk out art, or anything else really, with anyone else if you don’t want to. This is especially true with people who fucking hate whatever it is that you like and demand you defend yourself. Take me and The White Lotus, for instance. I got one episode into that show before realizing that I fucking hated it. It had so much late-'90s indie-movie energy to it that it triggered me. Like some shit that gets bought for WAY too much money at Sundance. I respect Mike White, and I understand why people might like that show. But White despises his own characters the same way Todd Solondz used to, and that’s what repels me. You’ll never get me to watch another episode, no matter how much you love it. Same way I am with David Lynch’s movies. I find the man himself terminally endearing, but his work is nails on a chalkboard to me. I hate every second of it. I feel like those people who have the gene that makes cilantro taste like hand soap. My dislike of David Lynch’s may be more of a personal defect than anything else, same as my dislike for Mike White’s show, but I'm fine with that defect. You, the WL fan, may not be as cool with it. But whatever. There’s no need for us to talk it out; we're only gonna ruin each other's day.

Because my hatred of White Lotus DOES NOT MATTER. I’m not gonna begrudge you if you salivate over it (given the presence of Aubrey Plaza in the second season, I can’t blame you), and you should be absolved of anything I have to say about it. It’s not my thing and I’m not the right person to ask. If that goes against the entire bedrock of my career as a paid hater, so be it. The point is that you and I live in a world where any argument, about anything, can continue into fucking perpetuity. And sometimes—not always, but sometimes—it’s fine if we all just go to our corners and enjoy the peace and quiet.

Now let me invalidate everything I just said by answering the rest of your questions.

Matt:

I would say you’d fall within the bell curve of looks for a middle-aged white American guy. How many people have fantasized about and/or masturbated to you in your life?

There’s no way to answer this question without either being falsely modest in an annoying way, or coming off as breathtakingly arrogant. So lemme say five. I think that’s a mature number to throw out.

But if you think I didn’t ponder this question MANY times when I was younger and hornier … if you don’t think I listened to that one Night Ranger song and thought when girls close their eyes, do they dream about me?, then you must be new to this column. Welcome. My name is Drew. If you’ve ever masturbated to me in your life, please tell my parents. They’d be very proud.

Ben:

What’s the worst thing that has been seen or done by/with one of these, do you think?

There are no reviews for the Big Ben wine yet. A pity. I checked out the rest of this website and it’s clearly slapping licensed names and brands on the label of otherwise normal wines to appeal to a broader demographic of assholes, morons, and election deniers. There’s a “Houston Astros 2022 World Champions Executive Bundle.” There’s a Warner Brothers collection, including a robust Cabernet for devotees of It: Chapter One. Or you can have a wine bottle custom-etched in the name of your company: Berkshire Hathaway, The Kansas City Paralegal Association (sure), Audi, whatever. All of it is regular wine, and probably very good wine. You just pay a big markup so that you can pretend that Big Ben drank it to celebrate the murder of an eyewitness at the bar.

David:

Why do Americans hate ties in sports? With the latest Giants-WFT tilt ending in a tie, there is a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth about how awful a tie is. The NHL screwed up during the regular season years ago with adding in the shoot-out at the end of games and the nightmare point formula that came with it. MLB would be better off with a tie than the abomination that's the ghost runnerin extra innings. In the regular season, especially in leagues that have an interminable amount of games, why can't Americans just accept that a tie is a valid outcome and move on? Look at the World Cup with group stage games ending in ties.

I used to be anti-tie. I found ties unsatisfying. I wanted a definite winner and a definite loser, because that’s how America loves to sort its population. It’s a zero-sum game of a nation. I HATED ties in college football. Just absolutely fucking hated them. Hated watching them. Hated their lack of clarity. Hated the impact they had on the national title race. Hated all of that. And soccer? The entire sport felt invalid to me because of its many draws, as if the forces in charge of soccer were too lazy to engineer a proper format to determine which team, on a game by game basis, was superior. I couldn’t tolerate a sport that viewed a 0-0 draw as an acceptable way of doing business. Your average soccer ignoramus stateside still feels that way.

I don’t feel that way anymore, likely because I work on a commune. But more likely it’s because I’ve learned to appreciate what goes into a final score more than the score itself. The journey not the destination, etc. If the USMNT’s World Cup ratings are any indication (they beat the World Series), I’m hardly alone in converting. A draw in soccer is open to so many levels of interpretation, and I mean that as a compliment. It’s a blown victory. It’s an escape from hell. It’s a fair result between two teams that played a demonstrably even match. It’s an actual win (or an actual loss) because of aggregate goals from another match. It’s a permanent indictment of the lousy officiating that was on hand. It’s thrilling. It’s boring. It’s fucking idiotic. It’s modern art with a dash in the center. The most memorable USMNT match I ever saw in my lifetime? It was a draw. USA 2, Portugal 2. No one who saw that match dismisses it because of that 2-2. Quite the contrary. I’m as exhilarated by pens as the next casual fan, but I’d much rather see a match decided before one becomes necessary, even if that means the match goes undecided. Ties are more mysterious than wins and losses, and that’s why I’ve grown to accept them.

To a point. I still prefer decisive outcomes in certain sporting events. I’m fine, giddy even, when NFL games end in a tie. But I don’t want baseball or basketball games to end in a similar fashion. And college football’s overtime is so batshit insane that I adore it. It’s an insult to both statistics and tradition, but when I see Troy State and Akron go toe to toe for 16 overtimes in a game that ends 106-104? I’m high on that action.

HALFTIME!

TJ:

Spoon rests are dumb. They give me one more thing to clean in the kitchen. I wipe down the counters anyway after I'm done cooking, and they clutter up the countertop. They're also not so dumb that I've been inspired to try and dispense with them, especially as my wife feels warmly towards them. And so they just, persist. Can I get a list of things in your kitchen that are low-grade annoying but somehow have staying power?

Before I catalog those other things, let’s talk spoon rests for a moment. Spoon rests exist in the same genre as throw pillows, i.e. shit that no bachelor owns and is confused by when his girlfriend introduces them into his life. I never owned a spoon rest before getting married. Why would I? I’m not sure I owned NAPKINS before I got married, man. I treated my apartment like it was a fucking garbage can. I never washed my dishes. I never cleaned my Foreman Grill, not even with the complimentary grooved spatula that came with it. The only garbage bags I owned were the plastic bags I bought tall boys in. I never covered my mouth when coughing. NO ONE masturbated to thoughts of me. Not ever.

Then I got married, reluctantly tolerated domesticity like your average CBS sitcom dad, and then came to embrace it. I can’t leave dirty dishes in a sink anymore. I don’t tolerate overflowing garbage cans. If a guest comes and puts the dishes away in the wrong place, my acquired OCD kicks in and I put them all back in the right spot the second that guest is out of eyesight. And I need a spoon rest. I hate cleaning the spoon rest, same as TJ here, but I can’t imagine my life without one. If I’m cooking something and the spoon rest isn’t around, I’m like well what the fuck do I do with this spoon now? I can’t just leave it on the counter like a goddamn hobo. What if someone farted on the counter when I wasn’t looking? Then I rest my spoon on a paper towel, and then that paper towel gets soaked through, and then the counter gets a dirty spot on it, and then I silently freak out all over again. You see how much I’ve GROWN since my single days? I’m a model citizen now.

Anyway, to TJ’s question. Let me run into the kitchen now and take inventory of all the shit we still have that kinda bothers me:

  • Salad forks. Gimme a real fork, dammit. Don’t hand me this dwarf-ass fork and think it’s a better way to stab at a caprese.
  • The salad spinner, which is still fun to use (LOOK AT IT SPIN WHEEEEEE!!!) but sucks to clean.
  • The big rolling pin, which never fits anywhere.
  • Cake plates we use once every four years.
  • The food processor, which works miracles when cooking but has 97 different parts to clean.
  • The blender. Same deal, but with like four fewer parts.
  • The waffle iron.
  • The potato masher.

Our kitchen is also rife with sports bottles, free souvenir cups from various pizzerias and amusement parks, and kiddie eating utensils. We don’t need these utensils anymore. Our kids aren’t toddlers anymore. We should throw them out or give them a couple with younger kids. And yet … you know, you have to throw out a lot of your children’s youth as they move on from one phase of growing up to another: toys, drawings, costumes, etc. That’s just how life goes. But some of it … some of it you keep. More for you than for them.

Jeff:

What’s a thing that people do today that people 500 years from now will be horrified/grossed out about?

Gasoline. “You mean people just … burned it? WEIRD.”

Mike:

What do I do with my Kyrie Irving Nikes? I bought them in 2021 because a) they were the right color, b) the cheapest thing at the Nike Outlet, and c) I wasn’t up enough on the NBA to recognize I still probably should have passed. Should I deface them so that I still have high tops? Donate them to goodwill? Or straight into the garbage?

Poshmark them. Some asshole out there will still want them. Or just keep them. They’re just sneakers. They don’t say DOWN WITH THE JEWISH CABAL on the tongue (NOTE: This is purely an assumption on my part, as I have not seen the shoes in question). So who’s gonna notice or care? And do you think Nike itself is a paragon of morality? Those shoes were made in factories that make the working conditions in Qatar look like the fucking Delta lounge at JFK. Americans distance themselves only from things that are easy to distance themselves from. THERE’S BLOOD ON YOUR HANDS, MIKE! BLOOD EVERYWHERE!

Sorry. I’ve gotten too whataboutist, but only because I too practice what I often preach against. We still have an old football in this house with the Commanders’ old nickname on it. This is because it’s just right for games of trampoline football. Also, I paid five bucks for it, which is a good sum of money. I’d never take this ball out in public, but somehow I’m OK with a talisman of Dan Snyder’s stubborn racism sticking around the ball bin on our shed. In an attempt to live my values, and to remain consistent with the time I threw out my replica Adrian Peterson jersey, I will now throw that ball out. Thanks a lot, MIKE.

Dan:

When you get a takeout order and they tie the plastic bag in a tight knot, do you spend the time trying to untie it, or just rip that fucker open? I tend to untie it for some reason. I suppose I find it tactilely pleasing to finally get a tight knot to surrender, but then just dispose of the bag anyway. 

Normally, I untie the plastic bag because I put all of the used takeout containers INTO that bag when I’m disposing of the meal. But if I’m really hungry, and the odds of that are quite good when my order arrives, I will tear that thing off like it’s a negligee my mistress is wearing. I want that food NOW, and nothing will stop me. Nothing!

And then the meal ends and I have no extra bag to toss six pounds of uneaten rice into. A real moment of self-defeat.

Shane:

I've been watching and attending NFL games since childhood for over 40 years, and I consider myself to be an enthusiastic yet casual fan. Like many long-time fans, I frequently make comments about plays that the announcers immediately repeat verbatim. I can tell what penalty will be called based on where and when a flag is thrown. Last season I decided to start betting on games and, over the course of the season, I doubled my bankroll.

But I never played the game, and I have no idea what things like "two-deep zone" mean (or even if that is a thing at all). I could not name any offensive or defensive formations on sight. I don't know what makes someone ineligible to be downfield. In short, I've come to realize that I am an expert on the reality television program "NFL Football" but don't know shit about the actual game of football.

So my question is whether it would be worth it, at my advanced age, to learn this stuff. Would a better understanding of the game actually enhance my enjoyment of watching the NFL? Or is it fine to just stick to casual viewing?

The deeper your understanding of anything, the more likely you are to enjoy it. That’s why I secretly listen intently when a color guy explains what happened on a given play. It’s also why I’m glad to know the difference between a 3-4 and a 4-3, and what the Tampa 2 is, and where the three-technique is on a greaseboard. You see more when you know more.

But you’re also talking to a guy who was bored to death in the film room back when he played. Even now, my eyes glaze over any film study pregame segment or column. I still don’t REALLY know how a mesh play works. I’m pretty sure it’s when two wideouts run crossing patterns toward one another, but that’s only because I’ve seen how the play is drawn up in Madden. I’ve never tolerated more than five seconds of NFL Matchup. I don’t read strategy books. My football intellect is, despite my pedigree, riddled with blind spots. Jamboroo readers have known this for over a decade now.

None of that has mitigated my enjoyment of the sport. If anything, I like being an idiot sports fan. I like believing, in my heart, that I am smarter than every coach and that a flag should be thrown in my team’s favor on every down. That scratches my primal need to be an irrational shit-for-brains. I don’t work for the NFL. I don’t have to know this shit if I don’t want to. The games are still fun either way. So you can be a casual fan and still love what you’re watching. I know even less about basketball schematics, but that doesn’t stop me from watching the NBA playoffs and convincing myself that I know the ins and outs of floor spacing.

My advice to Shane, and to all of you, is to pick up what you can. Read articles on your favorite players. Listen to color guys like Collinsworth, who really do know what they’re talking about even if they have tics that irritate you. Listen to erudite coaches like Mike McDaniel or (on rare occasions) Bill Belichick when they explain why they do what they do. You’ll glean a lot of shit by osmosis. Don’t do it as homework. Do it only when it genuinely interests you. And then leave the rest for the true dorks.

Steven:

My favorite band is finally coming to my hometown. I haven't attended many concerts in my life but my wife and I decided to try to spring for this. The problem is, they just released a new album that's complete shit. Is it worth the risk to spend a few hundred dollars and not hear them play their hits?

Oh they’ll play their hits. You might have to tolerate a few of the new tracks, but the average touring band knows what it has to do to keep selling tickets. Only a select handful of giants—Taylor Swift, etc.—have fans who WANT to hear the new shit every time it comes out. The rest have to bust out “Free Bird.” They’re not dummies.

Matt:

My vote for the best mullet euphemism is "Missouri Compromise", which I heard from Willie Nelson, and which I especially love because I'm a history teacher. What's yours? 

My friend, you just gave me the chance to Remember Some Websites. So let’s dig into archive.org and pay tribute to the now-defunct Mullets Galore, which was one of the first websites that I ever truly loved. I remember reading MG when I was an office drone back in like 2001 and dying at this list of mullet synonyms:

  • 7 (the shape of the number)
  • 10-90 (changes in numbers proportion to the amount of hair on top and in the back)
  • achy-breaky-bad-mistakey
  • ape drape
  • backpack (SASSY Krue)
  • beaver paddle
  • bi-level
  • business in the front, party in the back (whorehouse cut)
  • camaro cut
  • canadian passport
  • coupe longueuil (Canadian)
  • el-camino
  • hockey hair
  • IROC cut
  • kentucky waterfall
  • longueuil
  • manny
  • missouri compromise
  • mudflap
  • neckwarmer
  • ranchero
  • SFLB(svelbie)=Short Front, Long Back
  • STLB(stilbie)=Short Top, Long Back
  • safety cut
  • schlong (short+long)
  • sho-lo
  • shag
  • shorty-longback
  • soccer rocker
  • squirrel pelt
  • tennessee tophat
  • yep-nope

Kentucky Waterfall and Tennessee Tophat were my favorites back then, and still are to this day. RIP, Mullets Galore. You blazed new trails.

Email of the week!

Alden:

What's up with NFL quarterbacks and their sideline baseball hats? Let's run through the possibilities:

1. They're wearing their own, personal hat, which they keep track of.

2. Each NFL team has a hat guy who's in charge of getting the quarterback his personal hat in between drives.

3. There's a big pile of hats and quarterbacks grab a fresh hat after every drive.

I'm inclined to guess that three is the correct answer. Early in the season I saw Tom Brady wear two different Bucs hats on the sideline within the span of a single game. He bounced back and forth between a normal one and a cool tie-dye one. I think the tie-dye one might've been curing cancer somehow? Anyway, at least for that game, TB was wearing multiple hats. That's the only thing I will remember about Tom Brady this year: the fact that I once saw him wearing two different hats at the same game. Any insight on this important question?

It’s definitely a big pile of hats. They run through that shit like cups of Gatorade.

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