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Funbag

I Have It On Good Authority

1:18 PM EST on January 2, 2024

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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 car ads, stolen caviar, wet floors, rigged games, and more.

Happy New Year, everyone. Gonna do something different with the column this year. In 2024, I’m going to answer all of your questions in a Danish accent. Let’s see how it gøes! Your letters:

Stephen:

Do you ever go back and look at the predictions you made and whether you adjust any "learning" for future predictions. Or are takes so devalued that it really doesn't matter what you predict, because nobody ever goes back and checks? Would you even remember if you correctly predicted the Super Bowl before the season started? Do you go back and say that the Chargers were so much worse than you thought before the season began because you didn't take into account the fact that their coach sucked? Just curious as to whether it all just vaporizes into the ether the moment it is uttered.

When I make my annual NFL predictions, I state up front that they’re worth jack shit. Jå! Of course they are. I’m glad I had a strangely valid grip on how the AFC South would shake out this season, but that was pretty much dumb luck. I pick team records and a Super Bowl champ (the Vikings, which is working out splendidly for me) because everyone does it before the season starts, because it’s fun, and because the whole point of watching these games is to see how they’ll subvert expectations.

If I ever make an earnest prediction, I’m more up front about it, with this post being the most notorious example. I back up my prediction with a loose combination of research, statistics, and common sense. Sometimes that prediction will turn out to be wrong (see the previous link), and I have to eat shit for it. It’s my job, as a paid blowhard, to hold myself accountable when I turn out to be mistaken on important matters. Putting the Jets in the AFC title game does not count as an important matter, unless you gamble heavily and are easily suggestible.

But we live in a time when getting dunked on by the rest of the internet is a fate worse than death, and when some of our most prominent talking heads (Thomas Friedman) are supernaturally wrong all of the time. The result of this is that no one trusts authoritative voices, which is healthy, and no one wants to BE one, which is not. How many blog posts have you read where the author hedged? Probably a lot. Probably even on this website. Probably something I wrote. Sneaking in a “I could be wrong here! I’m just some random dummy!” is a defensive maneuver that allows you to speak your mind without fully investing in it. It’s a more polite form of the equivocation that the New York Times indulges in as a matter of best practice.

I know it feels more honest to hedge a bit when you write, because we all get things wrong. But on the page, it’s fucking weak to equivocate. It’s a betrayal of your own confidence. When I read another person’s shit, I want that confidence in their copy. I want to be told this is how it is, and I want to be persuaded as to why. I want to be educated, and that won’t happen if the writer on the other end is like, “But hey, what do I know?” A strong, authoritative voice is what makes an opinion piece definitive, and the value of that authority is diminished both by fartsniffers like Friedman and by people who are afraid to come off like Friedman. This is why I come across a truly brilliant opinion piece, like, three times a year. And it’s usually just a review of some movie.

But again, me predicting that the Cowboys would have a losing record this preseason doesn’t count here. You should ignore that shit.

Jeff:

What percentage of people who consume Tostitos Scoops eat them dry (no dip or salsa) 100% of the time? Not finishing out a bag or as the random sandwich side, but purchasing them solely to eat plain, as one would with Doritos or Cheetos?

Sometimes those are the only ones available at the store! I’ve had that happen, and it’s a sad snack hour when you have a Scoop with nothing to scoop. I reach for a phantom bowl of salsa on reflex; very much similar to if I’d had a leg amputated. That’s a fair analogy.

That said, who wants to eat any tortilla chip dry? Regardless of shape, you’re gonna want to dip those fuckers. Unless … you’re a kid. Many kids are picky eaters, and also don’t give a shit about decorum. So let’s say that five percent of people who eat tortilla chips, Scoops included, eat them alone. That’s enough to account for both all of the nation’s preschoolers plus Michael Kay.

Peter:

I’d like to have a signature drink for corporate events. I hate whiskey/bourbon, so Manhattan/sidecar etc are all out. I feel like anything with Coke is childish, and martinis are way too easy for me to overindulge. For a while I was doing Negronis but you pooh-poohed them in the last Williams Sonoma haters guide and I wondered if I was being a schmuck. A White Russian is too heavy and tonic drinks are boring. What else? Tom Collins? Sloe gin fizz?

Why did you let me influence your opinion of Negronis? I don’t even drink anymore. Also, I have documented weird food hang-ups of my own: hating mayo, hating olives, hating artichokes, and eating plain almond butter as a snack. Don’t listen to me about any of this shit. Go back to Negronis if you like them.

Otherwise, consider these suggestions:

  • Mules. I know the mule craze ended sometime in 2020, but that doesn’t mean they stopped tasting good. Also, drinking out of a copper tankard makes you feel like Sir Galahad.
  • Mojitos. They always hit the spot, and they have just enough of an international vibe that you’ll come off as worldly even though you’re just a suburbanite who considers tacos from a food truck to be exotic.
  • Caipirinhas. Like a mojito, but cooler! Did I drink cachaca straight from the bottle back when I was a boozehound? Reader, I did! And I loved it!
  • Dark ’n’ stormy. Like a rum and coke, but more adult-sounding.
  • Anything with grapefruit. Vodka/grapefruit used to be my go-to wedding drink in my late 20s. This was after my go-to drink was a Stoli Razz on the rocks. As you can see, taking drinking advice from me is a horrible miscalculation.

Mike:

What would have happened if the whole thing where Damar Hamlin almost died had happened on the NFL on Nickelodeon broadcast?

You gotta turn the slime graphics red for that. Also, Spongebob would walk into the shot looking scared, because Spongebob is weak-kneed loser.

In all seriousness though, they would have just cut to the network telecast and stopped doing all of the baby shit.

Kurt:

What's the success rate of car commercials actually prompting someone to buy that car? Whenever I've bought a new car I've researched it for weeks or months in advance until I'm absolutely sure of my purchase. I've never been sitting there watching TV and thought, "Holy shit that Kia SUV can drive to the top of a southwestern mesa, I must have it." Seems like way too big of a purchase to be swayed by a commercial. But there are lots of car ads so it must be working, right?

Right. A lot of car ads exist to raise awareness. That way, if you’re not looking for a car right now, you’ll remember which brands to check out once your old SUV becomes a sunk cost. You might have liked the way that one Honda looked, or you might remember that Chevy was offering $3,000 cash back on every vehicle in stock, or you might check out a Nissan because Brie Larson looked good in one. When these companies stop airing ads, their awareness dips, and then their sales follow. This is true across nearly every product in the spectrum, and research backs it up. Some ads aren’t even selling you anything. I saw countless BASF ads in the 1990s: ads that explicitly stated, “We don’t make a lot of the products you buy.” Those ads existed to court new shareholders, new corporate partners, and lobbying interests. They also called Jet Skis “water scooters,” which felt wrong to me.

If you ARE in the market for a car, then retail car ads can also be effective. There’s a difference between a national ad campaign with Denis Leary telling you that your truck with give you two additional testicles, and a local dealer ad from Vinny Fuckball Toyota that tells you 1) They’re close by, 2) They have the car you were already interested in on their lot, and 3) They’re offering X deal on it. All of that is useful information to active buyers, even if they just want to use it as leverage at another dealer. So advertising isn’t always a cause-and-effect deal. It’s more layered than that, and the objective of any one ad can vary. All I know is that I watched the Pop Tarts Bowl and have wanted a Pop Tart ever since.

John:

About four minutes before I started typing this, Chicago Bulls forward Patrick Williams slipped and possibly hurt himself shooting a three pointer. This happened at the Wells Fargo arena, which hosts the local hockey team as well as the basketball team, and presumably houses the ice under the basketball court floor. That got me thinking: is the climate crisis creating more phantom wet spots during basketball games at multipurpose arenas?

I don’t keep data on it, but it wouldn’t appear so. Certain basketball games have been outright canceled due to slippery floor conditions dating back to well before the climate tipping point of 2023. It’s logical to assume that, the more the earth warms, the warmer the groundwater will become. Thus, the harder it will be for multipurpose arenas to keep groomed ice from melting. But that doesn’t account for the fact that no one running any of these teams gives half a shit about the long-term effects of cranking up the AC to 1.21 gigawatts to keep the games going.

It also doesn’t account for teams like the Raiders using 100 percent renewable energy (or at least, so they claim) to power their stadiums and arenas. So I bet that wet floors won’t become a crisis in the NBA anytime soon, although I’m VERY excited for Draymond to use that as an excuse when he returns from suspension and “accidentally” rips out LeBron’s pubic hair after “slipping” on the court. WOW HOW DID THAT HAPPEN THAT WAS SO CRAZY YOU GUYS!

Mike:

No compost?!? Your city/municipality doesn’t do green waste?!? I’ll confess that’s only reason I’m able to compost, otherwise I wouldn’t either. That said, a good bin can be hard to find….

That’s just it. My county does do green waste and offers a free compost bin to any household that wants one. So we signed up. Mike, I spent hours trying to put this thing together and I’m telling you: the pieces didn’t fit together. This wasn’t on me, because the bin had a grand total of two pieces, and a very clear diagram as to how to join them together. They would not join. The fitted end of one piece was too large for the other. I just about tore my fucking back out trying to make it work, then I screamed FUCK many times out loud (in my driveway, where every neighbor could hear), then told my wife FUCK THIS SHIT, and then went back inside to sit in my chair. I’ve never been so irritated. And who needs Earth, anyway? Everyone here is annoying. Excited to hear all of their reasons why 2024 is already the worst year in history.

HALFTIME!

Chris:

After reading all of the dumb hot-takes on the new A24 Civil War movie, I started thinking: How long will it take for the United States to completely dissolve as a country?

[everyone still on Twitter right now] It’s gonna happen this November!

Before I give you a serious answer, I just wanna note that the Civil War trailer looked good. I’ve seen two of writer/director Alex Garland’s movies—Annihilation and Ex Machina—and really liked both of them. I didn’t watch Men, because everyone hated it. But Garland’s track record says that he makes more good movies than bad ones. So I trust that Civil War will kick ass at best and be an interesting failure at worst. If this same movie has been written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, I’d flee the country. But it’s not, so everyone can chill. Trailer evaluation is a waste of time anyway. It’s a trailer. Some of those shots aren’t even finished yet.

Now, you were asking about the end of the United States. This has been a frequent topic of conversation ever since Trump won the 2016 election, but America survived four years of that man’s administration and was still standing by the end of it. Yes, we lost millions of our countrymen to COVID as a consequence, and there are migrant parents who will never see their children again, but still: #AmericaStrong.

Because America, as presently constituted, is too big to fail. Money rules this country. It’s why the government never shuts down even when Republicans threaten to do it once every two weeks. It’s why bipartisanship suddenly materializes when investment banks are on the verge of insolvency. It’s why I can’t let Florida secede even though I’d very much like to, because doing so would make the price of orange juice skyrocket. Dissolution of the union would cost too many people, powerful or otherwise, a shitload of money. We all have a hand in each other’s pocket. That means that we’re stuck with one another, and that we greatly resent it.

While it feels like this country is on the constant verge of coming apart, and while an army of chicken littles out there would like you to believe it could happen at any second, this is still a relatively functional place. There’s a lot of awful shit in America, but we’re not being actively bombed. Crime rates are low. Food is abundant. Unemployment rates are relatively miniscule. Elections take place as scheduled. You can criticize the president and not be jailed for it. Most stoplights work. There are still tens of millions of people from other countries dying to come here for a better life. I know because I’ve had to hear about the “border crisis” every five seconds since I was 22.

So whenever a fellow American (and it’s always an American) tells you that this country isn’t long for the world, it’s because they have little concept of what living in a genuinely deteriorating nation is like. The U.S. isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It’s too fat, rich, and lazy to make the effort. And if the U.S. ever does fall apart, then whatever takes its place—The Confederacy, for example—will almost certainly be worse.

But again, I don’t see that happening in my lifetime or yours. Only way we go down is if the world itself goes down via nuclear holocaust, Yellowstone eruption, alien attack, or poor NFL officiating. Call it 2400 at the earliest.

Joe:

I hope this message finds you as high as I am right now. If animals had the capability to speak language, AND we had the capability to understand what they were saying, would that be a world you'd want to live in? 

Fuck no. Do you know how many animals would be canceled in an instant? A random dog comes up to you at the park and is like, “I WANT TO FUCK YOU. I HOPE YOU’RE BLEEDING SO THAT I CAN LICK THE WOUND.” You gonna think that dog is cute? You already deal with enough simple-brained organisms when you watch cable news. If anything, we should make it so that half the world’s human population can’t speak.

Cooper:

Can we please address the nepobabies that are infiltrating NFL coverage? Simms, Collinsworth, and Eagle are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. Not only do they get a job, but they all seem to mimicking their dads. Are we going to be subjected to generations of the same “announcers”?

Yep. It’s no different than any other industry: if your parents have connections and influence, you reap the benefits. And how many parents are REALLY gonna withhold those advantages from their own offspring? Very few.

The only way these broadcast nepo babies will fail is if they can’t make their bosses money, and the NFL is essentially bulletproof to financial adversity. That makes it the ideal place for a zero-talent like Jac Collinsworth to succeed without really trying. So expect more of these little fuckers in your future, not less. The only comfort here is that Joe Buck is a nepo baby who also happens to be among the best in the business, so maybe Brayden Herbstreit will turn out to be a keeper. Fingers crossed!

Sam:

If you wanted to give your kids all the same first name but also wanted the versatility of being able to give them nicknames, what name would you choose?

Well shit, you can give anyone any nickname for any reason. I can name all of my kids Drew, but call the third one Bruce or Mudslinger as nickname if I feel like it. Or I can call him by his middle name, Kirko. There are no restrictions on nicknaming; the entertainment industry proved that long ago. Otherwise, I’d have to reach into the British royalty hamper and pull out high permutation white person names like Richard, Charles, Elizabeth, William, Jessica, or Bartholomew. BO-RING.

Terry:

Am I wrong for thinking it's decidedly not a good thing that claims that everything is "rigged" are so prevalent nowadays? It's like Stop the Steal has invaded all facets of everyday life. In sports, the number of people claiming the results of every great game were preordained by a cabal of scriptwriters goes up every year. And yes, I know some (but for sure not all) of the people making these claims are intentionally being hyperbolic, but it still feels like conspiracy theorist-style thinking is taking over everything, and it blows.

First of all, this isn’t a recent development. People have complained about shit being rigged for centuries, only now they can find a sympathetic ear online, and us reasonable folk have to hear all about it. Think about what happened to the Lions the other night. Would Detroit fans have been more accepting of what happened on that call if social media didn’t exist? Shit no. They would have been fucking livid, and would have invited each other over to their houses to excoriate commissioner Paul Tagliabue and to eat shitty Detroit pizza. All of that griping would have been widespread, but relatively out of the public eye. The web has changed all of that, so accusations of rigging get out faster and are seen by more people, you included.

It’s only human to suspect expert-level foul play when there’s none to be had. When something bad happens, you want a tidy explanation for why, even when there’s none to be had. Screaming, “the call came in from Jersey!” gives you that explanation in a jiffy. Anna Merlan wrote a whole book on this phenomenon, if you want to know more. So if you’re tired of this kind of shit being all over the place, I’m afraid it’s gonna get worse before it gets better. Especially in an election year.

Also, and someone on Bluesky told me this, the legalization of sports gambling has made sports conspiracies even more widespread than they already were. You bet on a game, your pick loses on a shit call, and now you’re unhappy and broke. You gonna quit gambling? Fuck and no, you aren’t. You’re gonna call for Brad Allen’s head (and I won’t stop you).

Rob:

Do you wear shoes when you have people over? Like, if it's just one or two friends watching the game on your couch, it's kinda whatever, but what about if you're dusting off your 'Twas Collection tableware for a holiday dinner party? I never wear shoes around the house under normal circumstances, so it feels weird clomping around my own kitchen and tracking dirt everywhere, but last week we had a bunch of people over for our kid's birthday, and it felt even WEIRDER being the only adult in socks. Is there a line where the gathering becomes "formal" enough to demand shoes?

We’re a shoe-free house and most guests follow along without asking, save for professionals showing up at the house to fix our HVAC or give us legal advice. But my wife and I make an exception for party parties, like my 40th birthday party or hers. If the guest count includes more than a dozen adults, then it’s both unreasonable to expect every person to take off their (probably nice) shoes, and also hard to find a place to put all of those shoes. I’ve never had a fight with anyone about this, but if you hate no-shoes houses, there’s a tiresome Sebastian Maniscalco standup bit that I can direct you to.

Email of the week!

Chris:

Last Sunday I was doing my normal family shopping trip to Costco with my wife and two kids. We were cruising through the frozen food section and I was just about to grab some dino nuggets when I saw a normal looking 60ish year old guy throw something larger into the trash can. For whatever reason it piqued my interest, so I walked over to see what he threw away. I looked in the trash and found an empty blister pack of caviar, with the tin of caviar ripped out!!!!

I looked back at him and he had a basket full of normal groceries and ANOTHER package of caviar in his cart (which I'm assuming he was going to steal as well). The whole thing sort of caught me off guard. It's a very nice Costco in an upper middle class area and the dude just nonchalantly threw the evidence away in plain sight like he didn't have a care in the world. What's the right move here??? I wish I would have called his ass out because this obviously isn't the first time he's done this. Then I got to thinking, do you think his 40-year-old kids know their dad is some sort of serial caviar thief???

Listen man, just be cool about it. I love caviar, what can I say? Tell the five-O on me and you’ll be sorry.

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