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I Have To Know Why You Died!

TUNIS, TUNISIA - JULY 26 : A man reads a newspaper with the death of Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi (92) on the headline in the country in Tunis, Tunisia on July 26, 2019. (Photo by Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency 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 space fire, Deadspin, socialism, turntables, wanting to bone Lauren Boebert, and more.

Your letters:


In an article about a young-ish person dying, if the cause of death is ignored, I assume either suicide or drug OD. Then I scan the article so I can immediately judge the person, no matter how great that person was. Should there be a rule that, in any article about a person's death, either the cause of death or the fact that the cause of death has not been released be stated in the first paragraph?

Yes, but I didn’t even realize this was a bone of contention until Prince died eight years ago. They didn’t announce his cause of death immediately, and I really wanted to know. Not even to be judgmental, just out of basic human curiosity. Then a friend of mine was like, “I don’t wanna know. I never wanna know how someone died,” and I was floored. How can you not wanna know that shit? It’s Prince! YOU SHOULD WANT ANSWERS. Not only to be nosy, but because that information can sometimes prove quite valuable.

In the case of Prince, a fentanyl overdose was the culprit. Ditto Tom Petty. Both overdoses were ruled accidental, but both men were also addicted to prescription opioids, which meant that an overdose was all too likely. In this century, over half a million Americans have died from opioid overdose. It always helps to put faces to the numbers, especially if those faces belong to two of the most widely beloved musicians in history. It gives you a personal connection to the problem if you didn’t have one before, and thus makes it your problem. So I’m glad I know how both of those men perished, and I hope the Sackler family roasts on a spit in hell.

(I understand that families of the deceased often want privacy when something like this happens, but it’s the internet age now. If you're even slightly notable, that shit’s gonna come out one way or another, so you may as well get ahead of it before Barstool Reddit tells everyone that you suffered a brain hemorrhage as a result of getting drunk and crashing your car.)


What’s the ideal number of episodes in a season of prestige TV? I enjoyed the new season of True Detective but felt it suffered down the stretch from only having six episodes. Eight to ten episodes seems to be the perfect range. I don’t have the time or patience to handle the old network formula of twenty plus episodes per season.

Yeah, True Detective 4 felt a bit rushed toward the end there, didn’t it? I still enjoyed myself, mostly because you could have had that cast read traffic court transcripts and I’d still have been riveted. But otherwise, a six-episode arc exists in an uneasy limbo between being a movie and a properly unfolding season of television. Some shows—usually ones made in Europe—can pull off truncated seasons like the one TD just had. Otherwise, my number is 10. That’s just enough episodes to have the story move briskly from one hour to the next while still feeling expansive. Sometimes you can stretch that arc to 12, but otherwise 10 is just right.

(I’m talking almost exclusively about dramas here, by the way. Sitcoms can go on for a million episodes because, unlike dramas, their core characters/setup remain the same from episode to episode. You don’t really need to know what happened on the last episode of So Help Me Todd to get the gist.)

This is no small matter in Hollywood, where both writers and actors went on strike in part because streaming services pay them so much less than the broadcast networks do. If you made a hit show on ABC/CBS/NBC/Fox, you were automatically rich, because those series charged bigger ad rates and got orders of 22 episodes per season. But a season of Stranger Things, or any other streaming hit, only has to run half that length if it feels like it. That’s good for the audience, because it means that episodes will have far less padding. It also means half the work for actors, for a much smaller audience, which is how you end up with writers for The Bear, one of the most-talked about shows in years, not being able to pay their rent.

The deal that the WGA struck with the studios included fat bonuses for any show that draws a wide audience on streaming, so my hope is that this part of the deal helps solve the conundrum. I want shorter seasons, but I also don’t want the people in charge of mapping out those seasons to have to take a side gig at Del Taco to make ends meet.


I'm the commenter you called a "pile of shit" last week. I've been thinking about it for a few days, and I can't understand how my remarks deserved that kind of response. Any insights would be appreciated. That was maybe my fourth or fifth comment in 3.5 years of being a subscriber.

Lemme give everyone else some background here. The other week, a reader asked the Funbag if there was any personal rancor between Defector staffers, and I answered as best I could. Sometimes I very much get annoyed at my colleagues, even if it’s over petty shit (and it almost always is).

I checked the comments after I wrote that column, because sometimes I read the comments until I see something that annoys me and close the tab. In this case, Peter commented, “I wish Drew hadn’t evaded the question.” He wrote a lot more after that sentence, but did I read any of it? Nope. No, I just read the “evaded the question” line and my old Twitter reflexes suddenly kicked in. I didn’t evade that question! I really WAS pissed that some of my co-workers didn’t like Spinal Tap! I legitimately stewed about it for DAYS. I take that shit personal, so I took Peter’s comment personally, too. I called him a pile of shit (in a column where I lamented that mere disagreement online becomes grounds for war) and then went on about my day. Standard internet drive-by behavior.

Did Peter deserve that? Of course not. The rest of his comment was an earnest attempt to ask if any of us disagreed on much more fundamental issues: religion, politics, etc. I consider the unimpeachable timelessness of Spinal Tap to be a fundamental issue, but your mileage may vary there. Regardless, I violated my personal rule of Never Beef Online to go shit in Peter’s coffee, and I was entirely in the wrong for it. Peter, I’m sorry. Please comment again. I will be nicer. Unless you talk shit about Bob Mould.


To my chagrin I was gifted a turntable for Christmas and have become a record guy. Do you, Drew, have a turntable? If you wander into a record store, what’s on your shopping list?

I don’t own a turntable, and used to goof on hipsters who did. But I went on vacation a couple of weeks ago and the rental house we stayed in had a bitchin’ Sonos system. It sounded light-years better than the little Wonderboom speaker I always use to rock out around the house, so that gave me a slight itch to upgrade. And vinyl does sound better than mp3s, so hipsters aren’t in the wrong for gravitating to it.

My dad was a hi-fi junkie back in the day. After dinner, he’d go down to the basement with a glass of wine and blast Bruckner symphonies on his system. At 47, I’ve turned into that exact kind of dad myself, only if you swap out Bruckner for White Reaper and you mix in some PlayStation. I should upgrade my system not only to honor his legacy (he’s still very much alive, I should clarify), but also because I’m deaf. I should make a concerted effort to make what I can hear sound as good as possible.

That likely will just involve better speakers, though. Listening to vinyl would mean getting up from my chair to put the record on, which is WAYYYYY too much effort.


I can't hold it in anymore: I find both Krysten Sinema and Lauren Boebert physically attractive. I am as left as they come: pro-union, trans rights are human rights, tax the rich then eat them, etc. But why would I gladly do the nasty with these women? I think it's more concerning in Boebert's case, as Sinema is more benign (comparatively anyway). I am fully aware Boebert is a walking dumpster, but I can't help what I can help. Any wisdom or insight you can provide? Any persons you are ashamed to admit you find attractive, but are objectively garbage people?

Richard, it sounds to me like you have a terminal case of being a straight guy. Penises have no politics. If they did, the world’s population would be cut in half. And physically attractive people are attractive. I’d like to be enlightened and say that I find another person’s MIND to be the sexiest thing about them, but then I see a hot woman and my brain goes OWOOOGA. Can’t be helped. Perhaps some men have more primal willpower than that, but I certainly don’t because I too think Lauren Boebert is hot. The fact that she dresses like the first 40 seconds of a porn clip and will grab your package in the middle of a crowded theater only adds to the appeal. She’s an awful human being, but I’ve slept with awful human beings before. The number of people out there who are like, “I can’t believe I fucked that asshole!” reaches well into the billions. So you shouldn’t feel all alone in wanting a taste of spoiled fruit.

I can’t ride with you on Sinema, though. She looks like Kim Mulkey after a trip to Supercuts.


I have a kid who enjoys some of the same things I do, including sports, but I cannot for the life of me get him to read anything. Sending him any article is an immediate way to get ignored. Any advice? How can I get him to appreciate the written word, especially if it's full of dick jokes and poop stories?

You can’t force it. I’ve texted interesting articles to my kids, but you and I both know what it’s like to get a forward from your parents. You can only be so interested. If your kid already likes sports, it stands to reason that they’ll eventually like sportswriting as well. Thanks to the internet and podcasts, it’s not gonna take on the same trajectory as your own history of getting into this sacred craft, but it’ll eventually take root all the same. Sports fans always want more sports.

My older son is insane about soccer. We’ve bought him young adult novels about the game, and I’ve forwarded him a handful of articles. But I never lingered over his shoulder for any of that. Then, a few months ago, he told me he wanted to be a sportswriter. For Defector. I was shocked, and also incredibly touched. Now I just have to explain to the boy that he can’t actually work here because that would be nepotism, but I’m gonna table that conversation for a decade or two. The point is, let your kids discover things on their own. All you can do is give them the map.



My wife grew up under socialism, real socialism, and has nothing but withering scorn for pampered American socialists: those fartsniffing revolutionaries with their iPhones and their Prime memberships. You've periodically described yourself as a "pinko," and I would bet my house that Defector's staff is well-represented by fellow travellers. My question for you and your staff: have you ever talked with somebody who's actually had to deal with no-kidding for-real socialism? Just as one example, socialism is a disaster for the environment. When nobody owns anything, everything turns into the boys' restroom in my hallway at 2:45. Just observe China's environmental sensitivity. Capitalism is the best bad option we have. Let's deal with it; try to make it better. You're a persuasive man, and I know you're at least partially sympathetic to what I'm saying. Can you help?

Matt, I’m halfway kidding anytime I refer to myself as a commie. I am almost certainly the most unabashed capitalist on the Defector staff. I love money, which makes me Trump compared to a lot of my colleagues. I’m also a Cold War kid, which means that I have a very good idea—although not firsthand—of how socialism can go off the rails. This is how American conservatives are able to effectively campaign against socialistic programs favored by the far left. Do you REALLY want us to turn into Soviet Russia?, they ask. Because socialism will leave you standing in line for toilet paper and unable to ever speak your mind! That kind of panicky rhetoric is often more than enough to turn boomers off from good ideas like Medicare For All. They saw what happened to Russia under Soviet rule and to Cuba under Castro’s rule, and they know exactly what’s happening in China under Xi.

However, I’ve also lived long enough to know that authoritarianism can come in virtually any governmental disguise. Present-day Russia is a “constitutional republic,” although you and I both know that it’s an oligarchy-cum-dictatorship. Saudi Arabia is a dictatorship in the form of a monarchy, Iran is a theocracy, and the United States is run almost exclusively by moneyed interests, with periodic elections tossed in to keep up appearances.

So I don’t agree with the shopworn talking point that capitalism is the best we can do. When you say that, and you’re not accounting for all of the ways in which capitalism can be used, and is being used, to oppress massive numbers of people. Slavery was a capitalist pursuit and remains so. So is warfare. So is worker exploitation. And on and on and on. No matter what system of government you have, it’s vulnerable to bad actors if a country’s people let their guard down, or—and there are plenty of historical examples to be made here—if they’re whipped into a furor that leaves them convinced that dictatorship is actually pretty sweet. Guess which category you might fit into if you think capitalism is the only viable answer to running things?

No matter what kind of government you live under, you have to always endeavor to make sure that government is doing what it says on the label. This is why I’m a Democratic Socialist. I support M4A, but I also want to make a billion dollars. It’s the best of all worlds! Don’t even try to dispute me in the comments on this or I’ll be mean to you!


As a Nuggets fan I realized I don't really like their current uniforms. But because NBA teams seem to have an endless supply of alternate uniforms and throwbacks, it ultimately doesn't matter (winning a title helps too). It seems like your team has always had the same uniform. Do you like that, or would you prefer they had a lot of different uniforms to choose from? BTW I live in China and my Chinese mother in-law would raise hell if I tried cooking rice before washing it.

I’d love a gold Vikings helmet and/or gold jerseys once in a while, but otherwise I’m fine with how they look on a week-to-week basis. I don’t like home whites in the NFL, but not to the degree that I hate road grays in baseball.

Here is where I stand on all of this shit: I love alternate unis and mixing and matching, so long as I can still identify your team as your team. In the Premier League, color schemes mean NOTHING. I have no idea what, like, Liverpool is gonna look like from one match to the next. That’s also somewhat true in the NBA, where teams like the Bucks will eschew their usual colors entirely and wear some light blue shit as a tribute to their time as the Hartford Employers back in 19-aught-6 or whatever the fuck. This is a pain in the ass. I just wanna know who the fuck I’m watching play. That’s a low bar to clear, even if Fanatics is making your uniforms. So put me down for liking change in uniforms, but not too much change. Can you tell I’m a middle-aged suburbanite?


Now that Zombie Deadspin is dead, any final thoughts?

No, because it was inevitable. I feel lousy that another round of journalists got laid off, but I feel nothing for Deadspin itself anymore. That site died in 2019 as far as I’m concerned, and it was obvious that G/O Media CEO Jim Spanfeller had no interest in making the resuscitated Deadspin—or any of the old Gawker Media sites he snatched up—into anything interesting or relevant. Quite the contrary. He wanted those sites to be housecats: to just sit there and never make a fuss. That goes against the nature of both journalism and rude blogging, which meant that G/O Media’s implosion was always a foregone conclusion. I’m just happy I never had to meet that sack of shit face-to-face. He can eat a school bus.


Are people who whistle the day away psychopaths, or just trying their damndest to make other people think they're cool? Because it's not cool, right? Like why not just hum the damn song?

Sounds like someone never enjoyed whistling the Old Spice jingle while smelling fresh as a daisy. Anyway, people who whistle regularly are not psychopaths. The word “psychopath” has lost all meaning due to people online using it to describe whistlers, bad drivers, and people who order their bagels scooped out. People who whistle are just bored and are whistling out of mindless habit. That makes them harmless, but also deeply annoying.

The good news is that you’re allowed to tell them to shut up. No really. Anytime I start whistling, my wife tells me to can it within three seconds. Anyone within earshot does. Do I challenge all of these naysayers to a knife fight? I don’t. I think to myself, “Oh right, I’m whistling, like a true dipshit,” and then I stop. That’s just basic law.


Flames always reach upward. Match, candle, bonfire, whatever, they always reach upward. But what if there is no up or down, like in space? Assuming it was safe for someone in the space station to light a match, what would the flame look like?

Before I answer you, it’s worth noting that it is EXTREMELY unsafe to light a match inside the ISS. Zero gravity fires are so unpredictably dangerous that astronauts aboard the ISS aren’t even allowed to fart. That’s a true story.

However, if you were to guzzle a bottle of Thunderbird and spark up a bowl while aboard, the resulting flame would, according to this very detailed article, reach in all directions and make a beautiful ovoid shape before it killed you all. The more you know…


Is there an ethical side of advertising? Like the ad agency that developed the FTX Super Bowl ads and people lost billions of dollars? They obviously didn’t know, but what about ad agency for Marlboro? I mean your directive is probably, “do whatever you can to take focus away from the notice that this product kills people.” But how does someone then in good conscience come up with, “Come to where flavor lives?”

Because that was back when a great number of Americans didn’t know that cigarettes were as deadly as they were (or they simply loved smoking too much to believe it). Big Tobacco systematically covered up the toxicity of their products in order to sell them to as many people as they could, and they made a fortune doing so. So did their ad agencies, and pretty much every ad agency would massacre 100 lion cubs in order to keep a huge client in the fold. Was this ethical? No, but money and ethics have been sworn enemies since the dawn of capitalism.

I remember back when I was an ad guy (a topic I never bring up) that my philosophy was the same as a defense lawyers. My job was to rep the client; whether or not they were guilty was beside the point. I never worked on cigarette ads (they had long since been banned), but I did work on ads for candy, cars, and Roy Rogers. All of those products are lousy for the world. In fact, cars might very well kill the world. But I needed the money, and I wanted to put together a good portfolio or work. So I built my ethos around my needs. Again, standard operating procedure in American industry.

Now while we’re on the subject, lemme give you a quick story about my dad. My dad was in charge of marketing at Northwest Airlines in the 1980s when his department decided to ban smoking on all domestic flights. Big Tobacco got wind of what the airline was planning, and tried to get my dad fired. He hung on, the ban took effect, and every other airline soon followed suit. The FAA would outlaw smoking on planes entirely in 1990. So when you fly today and take in all of that fresh, super-clean air back in coach class, be sure to thank Poppa Magary for it.

I remember Dad went on TV when it all went down. He was a guest on This Week with David Brinkley. Brinkley had also invited a tobacco exec onto the show that morning, and this man told both Brinkley and my dad that he planned on starting his own all-smoking airline to compete with Northwest. Dad smiled and told the man, “Well, I wish you good luck on that.”

Email of the week!


Back when baseball was first getting started in the 2nd half of the 1800s, most fabric dyes were way more expensive than the standard white/gray/black/brown, and with a lot of teams just starting out/not having the money they do today, dyeing an entire team's worth of jerseys and/or pants was usually cost-prohibitive, and colors were relegated to the smaller elements like the hats or numbers/letters on the jersey. The reason gray eventually became the standard as the road look was because when traveling, teams didn't always have access to a laundering facility or know of a good dry cleaners in a road city, so gray was thought to hide dirt and grass stains better than the fresh white look that homes teams went with; which were a lot easier to clean at a moment's notice because they were familiar with who was available to help clean them immediately, or their stadium had a laundering facility that only they had access to.

There's something respectable, or even romantic, about baseball wanting to hold onto its traditions moreso than other sports/leagues, with notable exceptions (like, say, barring black people from playing for the first century-ish of its existence). Gray uniforms are drab and boring, for sure, but the history behind why they exist in baseball and no other sports league is certainly fascinating, and that the tradition persists even today is equally fascinating, at least to me.

That said, I am ready to have them retired across MLB, but with a small caveat to the solution you presented: I would have the home team wear white most of the team (or a colored jersey with the team name or primary logo on it) and white pants, and have the road team wear a colored jersey with the CITY name on it with GRAY pants. That way, if a game ends up being color vs color, without zooming in on either of the teams to see the wordmark/logo, you are still able to look at the pants to know quickly who's at home and who's on the road. And then the gray can live on in SOME capacity without eliminating that history completely.

I bet you were expecting poop to show up in this email. Tricked you into learning stuff!

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