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 friends, crying, Deshaun Watson, sponges, long train rides, and more.
Before we get to the bag, let’s give a round of applause to Sabrina Imbler for guest hosting last week AND for hating ticks, because fuck ticks. I salute Imbler for their efforts in both obscure wildlife research and in hateration. Couldn’t ask for a better new friend.
What would your name and gimmick be if you were a professional wrestler? Side note: The Defector would be a good bad guy name.
The Defector is what Nikolai Volkoff should’ve gone by back when he did a face turn in 1990, but I digress. I spent the bulk of my early years thinking of a wrestling name for myself as I practiced flying elbows and figure-four leg locks out on the trampoline in our backyard. The first nickname I thought of for myself was The Devastator. My gimmick would be that I had no gimmick. I would just walk out to the ring as myself, Metallica blaring from the speakers, and then I would kick everyone’s ass. Real “I went as myself for Halloween!” levels of imagination. Then the Transformers introduced the Constructicons who, as we all know, merged into a single robot called Devastator. I was livid. I was like THEY STOLE MY NICKNAME. I should’ve copyrighted it.
Anyway, now that I’m older and wiser and not a cryer, I know exactly what my name and gimmick will be. I will be—wait for it—The Keyboard Warrior.
That’s right. The Keyboard Warrior. I will dress like David Roth on every trip to the ring. I will carry a keyboard on me and use it as a foreign object in every match. My finisher will be The Tweet, in which I flap my arms like a bird before roundhouse kicking opponents in the balls. My manager will be Barry Petchesky, and he’ll try to give me constructive notes every time I get my ass kicked, and I will ignore those notes.
On a running blog on the WWE or AEW website, I will question my opponents’ bravery and their technical prowess. Anytime they confront me about what I’ve written, I will either run away, or I will rake them across the eyes with the end of a USB charger. The more dirty tricks I pull, the more vicious I will be to opponents online. On the mic, I will get right in CM Punk’s face and say to him, “You know, I blogged last week that you were a coward, and nothing you’ve done here tonight has proven me wrong. YOU FUCKING SISSY BOY.” And then CM Punk will brain me with my own Acer monitor and the crowd will absolutely lose their shit. Truly, who says no to this gimmick? Me and The Progressive Liberal would make a fine tag team.
What is the last thing to make you cry?
It was this past weekend when I watched When Harry Met Sally with our daughter for the first time. I hadn’t seen it in decades (it’s still an excellent movie; one time in middle school I tried using a retrofitted version the end speech on a girl I liked and she didn’t care), and the end got me good. But I get choked up during every emotional movie, TV show, or ad now. That all comes standard in the Dad Package. That shouldn’t even count as real crying. That’s retail crying. Pixar has made billions off of it.
Otherwise, I don’t remember my last real cry. I think it was when I went deaf, but even then I did the thing where you choke up and tears flow, but you don’t lapse into a full-on crying jag. Sometimes I cry when I write things, especially anything relating to my past (like going deaf, for instance). Otherwise, I’ve gradually morphed into a non-cryer. I don’t like this about myself. I fucking hate guys who proudly boast, “I’m not much of a cryer,” like you win a free Chevy Blazer for holding the tears back. I used to cry a lot more. About my shortcomings. About hard times. About women. But time and damage have a way of sucking the tears dry, leaving you more hardened than you want to be. You know too much and you’ve seen too much. Also, both of my parents are from the Midwest, which means there’s some latent Illinois stoicism coursing its way through my veins. Thirty years from now, you can rip out my fingernails one by one and I wouldn’t squawk, I’ll be so old and jaded by everything. Can’t wait.
I did cry after The Minneapolis Miracle, though. I’ll do it again if it ever repeats itself.
I’m a 36-year old white man from rural Arizona. I have always been obsessed with hip hop. After work I like to smoke a little weed and listen to music and I can’t help but fantasize that at some point in my life I will be in a situation where my recitation of a Black Thought verse will go viral. Please tell me that you have a similar ridiculous desire.
Oh I still daydream about becoming a rock star. Even though I’m 45. Even though I can’t play any instruments. Even though rock stars no longer exist. Even though people who are famous (in my case, very mildly famous) who dabble in rock end up looking like James Dolan. Doesn’t matter. I still envision a future where tens of thousands of people pack into an arena to see me up on the stage. Sometimes I’ve been hired as the new lead singer of Oasis (their fans would be so pleased!). Sometimes Bob Mould invites me up on stage to sing along to “Tilted.” Sometimes I have my own band and sing original tracks that still exist only in my mind. Sometimes I have a grizzled beard because I only took up becoming a professional musician after losing my entire family in a tragic boating accident.
But no matter what, the dream still exists. And one thing I’ve learned in my life is that it’s OK if some, if not all, of your dreams remain exactly that. There’s value to be had in the dream itself. There’s value in fantasy. If I don’t actually become a rock star, or an Oscar-winning screenwriter, or People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive, that doesn’t mean that I failed, or that fantasizing about all of those things was a waste of time. All of that shit can manifest itself as inspiration back here in the real world, and it doesn’t even have to be THAT useful. It can just be fun to dream. I do it all the goddamn time, and I’ll never stop. No fun person ever would.
We still have a piano from when our daughter took lessons many years ago. I like to dabble on that piano, playing riffs I learned on YouTube. There’s still time for me to take actual lessons and master that instrument. Then I could stroll into an upscale hotel bar, take a seat at its baby grand, and start banging out “Rhapsody In Blue” as everyone turns their head in delighted surprise. That’s all still possible. Or, at least, it’s fun to imagine that it is.
Let’s say there’s some mass expansion and relocation among the major sports leagues. What’s the last state that will get a professional sports team?
There are a few obvious candidates, such as Wyoming (least populous state), Hawaii (far away), Alaska (far away and very cold), and Mississippi (is Mississippi). But I’m gonna pick one of the minor New England states instead, because all of them are already represented by the Boston teams and none of them have much of a problem with that arrangement. The Pats’ stadium is already closer to Providence than it is to Boston, so Rhode Island already has a team, as far as I’m concerned. And I don’t see, like, Vermont officials clamoring for a new basketball arena in downtown Burlington. Boston’s sports identity is the rest of those states’ sports identity. There are some more general differences between the New England states, but only people living in those states could possibly give a fuck about them. You don’t, and neither would a 64-team NFL.
I hear the appellation “big man” used regularly in stories about NBA players. I used to think that it referred to height, but I’ve also seen it used with players who are only in the 6’8″ range, so I’m wondering if it refers to position, i.e. someone who plays center. What makes an NBA player a “big man”?
It’s about position. Or, more accurately, it’s about how you play that position. You have to be a frontcourt guy, and you have to do traditional frontcourt guy duties: boxing out, rebounding, hanging around the low post all game, etc. True 90s shit. If you’re a big guy like Giannis but you can do lots of small-guy shit like bringing the ball up court and driving to the hoop, you’re not a big man. You’re just a modern, kickass NBA player. To be a big man, you have to do all of the dull cleanup work that only a big-for-the-NBA guy can do, and exactly no more than that. You have to be Roy Hibbert, essentially.
You spend a lot of time in the kitchen. What are your thoughts on the proper tools for general slop clean up around the kitchen? Do you keep a barkeep/squeegee rag around for random spills and stuff, or is that too much of a germ bomb?
We keep a sponge by the sink that we use for everything, which is funny because a sponge is its own germ bomb, so much so that my wife sticks it in the top rack of the dishwasher every night to cycle with all the dirty dishes and forks. For spills, I use way more paper towels than is necessary. For actual messes, I use a paper towel sprayed with 409 or the all-purpose cleaner of your choice. That’s for, like, chicken juice that gets on the counter. You can’t trust a sponge with chicken juice. You gotta turn to the big guns for that.
I am proposing a new rule in our fantasy league that would cause Deshaun Watson to be banned from any roster (the rule: at least four(?) separate individuals accusing a player of sexual assault, domestic violence or other equivalently bad crime = banned for life; I think that would only encompass Watson). That way nobody has to decide if they will make the smart fantasy move to draft him at a discount and root for this sack of shit. Of course it still leaves you not wanting to draft Amari Cooper.
I can’t support that rule. It reeks of Goodell drawing lines in the sand that he’ll gleefully move around and then forcibly intersect with other lines he’s drawn. Your rule also doesn’t account for the Tyreek Hills of the world. It wouldn’t even apply to Ben Roethlisberger if he unretired (and he better not or else I’ll cut his brakes).
Most important: what’s the point of playing fantasy sports if I can’t be a complete and utter sociopath about it? Every time a fantasy bro openly wonders how an NFL player doing some awful shit will affect their team, everyone else is like SIR HOW CAN YOU THINK OF YOUR FANTASY TEAM AT A TIME LIKE THIS SIR? Oh I’m sorry. Lemme change the rules of a private fantasy league to let Deshaun Watson—who’ll never learn a goddamn thing from what he’s put those women through—know that his behavior won’t be tolerated by me nor by 11 of my college friends who I never talk to outside of fantasy draft night anymore. That’ll learn him good. People complaining about fantasy is infinitely more tiresome than people talking about fantasy, and you and I live in world where the only consequences that exist for evil men are symbolic in nature and nothing more. So to Tomark, I would say keep Watson eligible in your league, and then let everyone else abuse the SHIT out of any guy who gets too clever by half and drafts him. That’s the gentlemanly way of doing business.
I am getting out of town for a few weeks in July and, with the high costs of gas and airfare, will be doing my first train trip. I’ve done quick train rides in to cities in my past, but have never done a cross-country, multi-city, multi-day rail trip before. Have you ever done one, and do you have any advice for a first-time train traveler?
I have, but that was in college when I bought a Eurail pass. I was much younger, drunker, and more flexible. I took the train from London to Paris, then to Geneva, then to Rome, then Florence, then Munich, then Lucerne, then Cannes, then Barcelona, and then back to Paris again. I didn’t have a sleeper car for any of these trips. When me and my friends tried to fall asleep on the Geneva to Rome leg—the longest one—the conductor would come by and knock our legs off of the seat. European train conductors can eat my whole ass.
Parts of the trip were gorgeous, though. I got to see whole fields of wildflowers in Southern France. I got to cruise through the Alps as the train passed through Innsbruck. And I got to clutch my passport and wallet tightly while braving every Italian train station and its myriad assortment of scammers and pickpockets. I did the second part of that trip alone, because my friends had to get back to their own abroad programs. It was just me listening to “Copper Blue” on repeat, watching Europe fly by seat. I’ll never forget any of that.
But I’m no longer young and spry and overly romantic. Thus, taking Amtrak cross-country now is right up there with cross-country drives in my mental archive of “trips that sound incredibly cool but would probably suck if I ever undertook one of them.” And I like Amtrak in small doses, mind you. I used to prefer taking the train to New York above any other mode of transport, even aircraft. The view is pleasant. The seats are comfy. The café car has plenty of alcohol, if you drink. There’s endless room in the overhead bin. And when you arrive in New York City, you arrive in Manhattan and not in the asshole of Queens. So trains have that going for them.
Then again, you still have to deal with parking your car, and trudging through Penn Station, and delays, and abusively loud conductor announcements, and insane ticket prices. A train ticket to New York can often cost more than airfare, and I no longer think the difference is anywhere close to being worth it. Now I’d rather just drive places, because I can leave whenever I feel like it. Or I can fly and have the day when I get there. Both are superior options for me now. My days of being a wannabe vagabond, like Mandy Patinkin was in The Music Of Chance, are over. I am now the sort of guy who gets antsy driving to the fucking grocery store. So, with apologies to my dad (he loves trains and used to work for the B&O), I can’t do big rail trips. I ain’t making it to California on the ground, whether it’s in an Amtrak sleeper car or my own. So my advice to Corey here is to load up on the digital entertainment, bring a lumbar pillow, take whatever sedatives you have on hand, and pray your conductor isn’t Italian. Because it’s a long-ass trip.
What movie has the best soundtrack?
Judgment Night. This answer glosses over the fact that I listened to the Fantasia soundtrack many times while in HIGH SCHOOL, but I think that’s worth ignoring.
Since you subtly dropped your lack of close male friends in a previous Funbag and attributed this to smartphone addiction I ask this: Not having close male friends is a fact of manhood for those of us who’ve moved across state lines multiple times since college. Between work and parenting, how much time can we be investing in friends and how the hell do we meet new ones?
Parenthood can ruin you for friendships, it’s true. But I don’t have that excuse anymore because all of my kids are over 10 and can handle their own business. They’re my best friends now, which is a happy development but also: you need more friends than that. I used to think I didn’t. I used to think, like Jon, that I was an old man now, and that being old means being comfortable keeping your own company (very true in my instance) and being actively irritated by anyone outside of your inner circle (true again). Socializing is tiring, I don’t wanna have to be on for people, etc. But I’m not THAT old. I’m 45. Meanwhile my folks are both nearing 80 and they go out with their friends all the time. They’ve had a better social life than I’ve had for, like, 15 years now.
So what excuse do I really have? I can complain that people where I live are unfriendly, but it’s not like I myself have made any efforts to reach out to them. Maybe that’s because I had trouble making friends when I was very young, and that awkwardness still haunts me to this day. A few years ago, my editor at GQ assigned me a story on making male friends. I was supposed to use an app called Wolfpack—a matchmaking service for bros—to get out there and make new bro friends. No one friended me on this app, and I didn’t make much of an effort to friend them, because the app was called Wolfpack. I was relieved when my boss let that assignment slide so that I could go back to asking celebrities awkward questions instead. That was where I was more comfortable. I was all too happy to live in a world where I could avoid painful small talk and just rely on my family, the internet, the dog, and weed to be my friends instead. The pandemic only cemented the arrangement.
I’m not happy with that any longer. Between that last Funbag column I did and a session with my therapist, I had something of a breakthrough. I realized that only wanted to be with my best non-family friends—all of whom live in other cities—or no friends at all. This was not healthy. It happens when you become a dad: you perform friend triage, keeping only the ones you really want around. But again, I’m not tethered to a crib anymore. I can get out there and I can make regular friends. Not best friends, but just regular-ass friends. Guys! To that end, I went out for a drink with one such friend a while back. First drink (seltzer for me) I’d had out locally since 2020, and it was fucking great. It was this whole realm of social interaction that I had ignored for ages, and it’s an incredibly necessary one.
So, with that in mind, I’m gonna do that shit more often. I’m gonna live here, in this world, as much as I can. I’m gonna up my social diet. This isn’t gonna happen instantly. I’m still gonna have moments where I’m lazy, or gunshy, or both. But I’d rather try than become a fucking houseplant.
Hi Drew Magary,
Would you be interested in an interview with Henry Calix about cannabis, cryptocurrency, and banking?
Is funding a cannabis company a high-risk move?
Sure but I live for the DANGER.
According to Calix, “Some current trends on cannabis banking are in grey areas as underwriters lend to cannabis companies who operate under different incorporations other than their DBA. Although more underwriters are going into cannabis-related companies, another trend is the high-interest rates. They condor cannabis companies as high risk for underwriting.”
Whoa man that is so FAR OUT. Can you get high off an email?! I now submit that you can.
If an interview with Henry Calix is of interest to you…
I smell a new friend!
Which of the following feats (if any) do you think would be most impressive to your children?
Triple 20 in darts
Turkey in bowling (3 strikes in a row)
Hole-in-one in mini-golf (through the windmill)
Half-court basketball shot, nothing but net
Softball home run
Running the table in billiards
This may or may not have been inspired by a recent Father’s Day outing in which my accomplishment was not suitably appreciated.
The home run. Not even a question. Maybe a hole-in-one in real golf would blow their skulls too, but I’ve made a hole-in-one in my lifetime (no one saw it and I’ll never pull one off again), and I can tell you firsthand that it’s not easy to see a hole-in-one when you make it. The green is very far away. You don’t get the TV closeup of the ball rolling in. It’s more a happy surprise than anything. A home run, even if it’s softball, is another matter. Everyone, including you, can see it. They know you hit one. They’re awed by your strength and power. The exultation is instantaneous. Every other achievement on Mike’s list feels like dumb luck by comparison. Kids don’t even know that the bullseye isn’t the most valuable piece of real estate on a dartboard, and why should they?
My wife empties the dryer lint catcher when she unloads the cloths. I empty it before I start a new load. Who is right? Full disclosure: we have never discussed this and her lack of oversight in not checking before starting a new load hasn’t caused a fire yet.
It doesn’t matter.
Email of the week!
I was managing a small group of workers around my age at a small college. As a lifetime seeker of quiet public restrooms, this college was great. Plenty of out-of-the-way and hidden bathrooms in little used buildings scattered around campus.
One day, after an Indian buffet lunch, my digestive system leapt into action and I realized I needed a bathroom NOW. I still wanted to find a private bathroom, especially knowing that I was about to ruin a bathroom for that day. I barely made it to the toilet and unloaded what sounded like an armful of rocks into the commode. I let out a huge sigh and said Jesus Christ when I heard the shuffling of feet from a stall several spots down. Dammit! Immediately a rush of blood goes to my face and I wrap things up as quickly as possible (the only thing that could make this worse would be to meet the witness to my befoulment of basically the whole building), and head back to our workshop.
A little while later a worker, let’s call him Julio, comes in and tells everyone, “Aw man, I was in the bathroom when someone rushes in the bathroom and just unloads into the toilet and was like ‘awwwww Jesus Christ’ and I had to shuffle my feet so they knew someone was in there. Man it was rough!” and so on. I was forced to laugh along and sort of eye him to see if he did know it was me, but either way he didn’t finger me as the campus shit king.
Ten years later we don’t work together and are friends, and I could not care less about having a bathroom to myself. But I am endlessly curious if Julio knew it was me. Maybe I should take this one to the grave.