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A Hater’s Guide To Iowa

A rain storm is seen over a corn field in Oskaloosa, Iowa on August 15, 2019. (Photo by Alex Edelman / AFP) (Photo credit should read ALEX EDELMAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

Time for your weekly edition of the Defector Funbag. Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag. And buy Drew’s novel, Point B, while you’re at it. Today, we're talking about Oral Roberts, odd toothpaste flavors, New York, underwear, post-COVID bowling, and more.

I am on Spring Break next week. An actual Spring Break. My family and I are actually gonna leave this fucking house for the first time since July 2020 and go to another place. Remember other places? I almost do. Anyway, we’re gonna drive to the beach and party so hard the town will set a 4 p.m. curfew to keep us from dancing on top of restaurant umbrellas while maskless. CAN’T STOP WON’T STOP.

(We will actually do absolutely nothing.)

But while I may be leaving you people for dead, the Funbag will not. Clover Hope returns to guest host the Funbag next week. Be polite and buy her book before then. As always, you will read the guest host’s column and be like, “Well this person does a WAY better job of answering questions than Drew does.” Then I’ll come back the week after, and you’ll wonder what could have been if I never had. TOUGH TITTY FOR YOU, KID. Pulling answers out of my butt is what keeps the lights on in our home.

To that end … your letters:


Since we don’t have a pro team of any sort, could you do a why your college teams/state sucks for Iowa. There's a lot to work with: Chris Doyle, the Field of Dreams, my home city has a shit movie starring Ed Helms as the title. Several garbage humans in politics (Steve King, Joni Ernst, "Covid Kim" Reynolds, etc) ...Just ruin us with your commentary. 

I actually liked that Ed Helms movie. When Cedar Rapids 2 is finally greenlit, Twitter trending topics will tell me that it was a long-anticipated sequel to a beloved cult classic. Can’t wait for that!

Anyway, you want a Hater’s Guide to Iowa? Sure. Let’s do that. I’ve been to Iowa twice, both times as a political reporter. Do I resent the fact that fucking Iowa is the ground zero for every American election cycle? You bet your ass I do. Iowa means nothing to the rest of America. It represents nothing about the rest of America. I don’t even see why Iowans should COUNT as Americans, really.

I went to Oskaloosa in 2015 to cover Trump’s presidential campaign. And then, four years later, I went to Des Moines to cover Andrew Yang’s presidential campaign, where I was probably nicer to Yang than he deserved. So I’ve seen every facet of Iowa. I’ve seen rural Iowa, and I’ve seen slightly less rural Iowa. I’ve met conservative Iowans, and I’ve met young Iowans who will become conservative 10 years from now, if not sooner.

Some Iowans are very nice, in that Midwestern way that scans as more obligatory than genuine. Many Iowans are sour old people. And many more are mustaches who spend every night jerking off to their own F-150. The nicest people I met in Iowa, by far, were Iowans who fucking HATED Iowa and were dying to leave. And really, can you blame them? Matt already noted that his state is home to some of our absolute worst politicians. But there’s even less! The most interesting thing about Des Moines is the skywalks. Iowa’s thunderstorms are nearly as violent as its slaughterhouses. The countryside is pretty, but so are the countrysides of neighboring states that have actual cities in them. The people living in Iowa actively voted to give themselves MORE rona and not less. Kirk Ferentz is not only an established criminal, but he’s not even good at coaching football. The fuck does Iowa football do besides shit out first-round picks at TE? Iowa is a place where being evil doesn’t even accomplish anything. I say we leave all of our nuclear waste there.


What outcome should I be rooting for in a tournament game like #15 Oral Roberts vs #2 Ohio State? Obviously my default is to root for the giant sports factory university to suffer a humiliating defeat against the scrappy, tiny underdog... but I feel like having the low seed be a freakshow religious school complicates things.

Yeah, Shea Serrano just got shit flung his way when he did his whole LFG routine for Oral Roberts when they beat Florida on Sunday night. Some of you aren’t old enough to remember Oral Roberts the person, who belonged to the same genre of '80s televangelists as Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, etc. But I remember ol’ Oral. The urban legend when I was a teenager was that boys and girls at his college weren’t allowed to come within six feet of one another. ORU kids were social distancing before the rest of us even knew what social distancing even WAS.

Now, I think that urban legend was just that. But the student handbook for ORU still has a WHOLE lot of Tebow vibes to it. Here are some edicts from the school’s co-ed visitation policy:

    • Rooms must be well lit, and hosts are required to keep their door open while guests are visiting.
    • Guests, of opposite gender, may not use the bathrooms on the floors in the residence halls.
    • For rooms that have individual bathrooms, residents may not shower while a guest of the opposite sex is in his/her room.

Got all that? NO showering when Brandy visits you. She might think impure thoughts about your Christhog if you do. Far too dangerous. Will it surprise you to learn that the ORU school handbook also forbids homosexuality? It will not. Both ORU and Abilene Christian are unofficial Chick-fil-A schools. They hate gays. In writing. Not by coincidence, their students are all dumber than a paint can.

Thanks to my upbringing, I have a natural reflex to despise the Oral Roberts Educational Universe. Thanks to my current state of being, I have even more reasons to. Then again, it’s not as if ORU defeated bastions of heroism en route to the Sweet 16. Ohio State’s only ethical selling point is that they aren’t Michigan State. Florida is only good at sports when they recruit future murderers. Every school in this tournament is a goddamn DISGRACE, and the NCAA itself is a cartel that Stonewall Jackson himself would give his life to defend.

ORU gets Arkansas next. I don’t recall the school that once hired Bobby Petrino being a model of collegiate leadership. If ORU beats Arkansas, they get fucking BAYLOR. At every stage of this bracket, you’re either rooting for a school that’s been milkshake-ducked, or a school that’s about to be. They’re all varying flavors of evil. The real evil at ORU is that all of their horseshit is codified by the handbook. Most every other school does it under the table, so they can present themselves as loving and tolerant when they’re all scum.

But the further Oral Roberts goes, the more our young people will learn that the school’s namesake was a typical conman in a Jesus freak’s clothing and that his school is a pyramid scheme of bigotry. So that’s an upside of sorts. My simple brain will blindly cheer for them since they’re a 15-seed, and because all of their raucous fans already gave each other the virus MONTHS ago anyway. But if ORU bows out meekly in the Sweet 16, then I’ll gladly forget they ever existed until the next time they contaminate the tourney with their specific brand of false prophet shitbaggery.


How much do you think it would take to get Skip Bayless to just go away and stop haunting our lives forever? $20 million? $30?

No amount is high enough. You could offer Skip Bayless $5 billion to fuck off and he’d turn it down. Skip is already rich, mind you. VERY rich. Skip could leave punditry forever and live in absolutely vile luxury. But he won’t, because being a moron in public is WAY too important to him.

None of it makes sense. Then again, Skip Bayless is hardly alone in treasuring his bullhorn above all else. Why is Elon Musk on Twitter when he’s a billionaire? Why the fuck did Donald Trump run for President when he could have easily lived out his life as a wealthy grifter instead? If I had a billion dollars, I tell people, I’d log off forever and go live on the beach! But you know what? No I wouldn’t. If I were a billionaire, I promise you that I’d still be doing all of the EXACT same shit. I’d still be tweeting. I’d be doing it from an infinity pool overlooking the Mediterranean, but you bet your ass I’d still be online. There are some low-profile rich people out there: buying off Congress and polluting reservoirs and doing all of their dirty sinful business on the DL. But the majority of rich people here are just like everyone else: chasing clout and dying to be noticed. I dream of hitting the jackpot one day and then becoming a quiet man of leisure, but I’m already too far gone to quit the discourse entirely.

Skip Bayless is no different in that regard. He’s on the extreme end of the prosperous troll spectrum, and whatever Fox is paying Skip ($8 million a year!) isn’t as valuable to him as the chance to get up at oh dark thirty every morning, do a bunch of burpees, eat a head of raw cauliflower for breakfast, and then go on TV to bravely inform the world that LeBron James still can’t win the big game. Skip is a relevance addict. A lot of our most prominent rich guys are. The money isn’t enough. They want the profile to match it. That they all unequivocally SUCK at trying to build such a profile is an amusing bit of low-stakes karma. When I’m shitposting from my own private Hawaiian island, be sure to remind me how much of my cushy life I’m wasting. I doubt I ever listen.


When was peak NYC? Seems like it doesn’t hold the same sway/influence it used to. Was NYC peaking during the Mad Men years? Perhaps way earlier when it was an entry point to the country? 

Did … did Bill Simmons send this email? I would tell you that the peak NYC years were back when immigrants were flooding into Ellis Island. But those immigrants were then immediately remanded to slums and treated like absolute shit in a city whose corruption back then makes our current corruption look like the New Georgia Project by comparison. I’d tell you that it was during Sinatra’s heyday, but fuck Sinatra. I’d tell you it was back in the '70s, when Scorsese was making some of his most enduring movies. But THAT New York was a shithole. I’d tell you that it was the '80s, with Wall Street and big shoulder pads and three-martini lunches at Tavern on the Green, but that New York had awful taste and even worse people.

Finally, I’d tell you that it was right before 9/11, when the food revolution was on the verge of breaking out and The Strokes got huge and all that. But THAT New York was still a wonderland of municipal racism in which Rudy Giuliani turned the NYPD into a fucking war department. There is no perfect moment in time for New York, certainly not under De Blasio and Cuomo, that’s for goddamn sure.

The truth is that New York peaks for people when they live there. I lived in New York from 1998 to 2003. If you ask me, New York back then was AMAZING. I had a desk job at a big ad firm! One time I went to Nobu Next Door! I saw Puddle of Mudd at Irving Plaza! People got absolutely trashed during the big blackout! WHAT OTHER CITY WOULD OFFER ALL THAT?!

I still love New York. Even after leaving there 17 years ago (holy shit that’s a long time), most of my friends live there. And I love the bigness, and the bustle, and the whole “If I can make it there I can make it anywhere” myth about New York that I grew up believing in because I saw Working Girl one time. But I also like living in a house that has, like, a yard and whatnot. I’m not built for New York anymore, but a lot of people still are. No matter how many awful companies and shady-ass real estate brokers and shitty mayors try to ruin New York for everyone else, the city’ll still have millions of people living there who will make it fun anyway. New York is like the ocean. It’s huge, it’s always there, and it never gives a fuck, and that’s why it’s cool.



I'm formulating a theory that mint is a morning flavor. When my girlfriend and I brush our teeth at night, we go from sleepy to wide awake right before bed. It's jarring. So here's the question: what flavor should night toothpaste be? What flavors are "sleepy" flavor and would not make a gross toothpaste? (Ex: Thanksgiving turkey). I'm thinking cinnamon is the obvious answer. Although maybe there is a market for something like green tea? 

They MAKE cinnamon toothpaste. You can buy it on Amazon right now. But think real, real hard about whether or not you wanna brush your teeth with the toothpaste equivalent of Big Red. I have never used cinnamon toothpaste. This is because I love myself. One time though, I did have cinnamon mouthwash when I was a kid. This was back when ACT first hit the market and I was blown away by the fact that you could squeeze the mouthwash into a separate chamber under the cap. It was mouthwash AND a toy, and I was entranced. Then my mom bought the cinnamon-flavored one and I learned that I actually hated ACT. Watching the little chamber fill up no longer filled me with childlike mirth. Not when I was getting a preview of what it tastes like to do shots of Fire Water in college. You don’t want cinnamon-flavored oral care.

If you don’t think BIG TOOTHPASTE has tried to make flavors besides mint happen, well then you underestimate their need for product ubiquity. When I was younger, they used to offer me different flavors of tooth polish at the dentist. They had DOZENS of them, and the hygienist had to reel them off like she was reciting the specials for the night. I tried some of the non-minty flavors. They were all horrific. Mint is the top dog for a reason.

I know that you, Max, regard mint as a morning flavor. But you’re an outlier. Mint has no caffeine in it. And they don’t put a cinnamon heart on your pillow at a hotel instead of a mint because they’re worried that mint will disrupt your sleeping patterns. There are no sleepier flavors coming through that door. You will have to live with minty Colgate and that’s that.


What’s the best thing about having Ray Ratto as a colleague?

The footrubs. They’re AMAZING.


What are the most mispronounced city/state names in the United States? I know I recently learned I’ve been saying Oregon wrong my whole life and I heard you butcher Pierre, South Dakota on a podcast a few weeks ago. 

Before you emailed, I forgot that Pierre, South Dakota, is pronounced “peer.” But I don’t consider calling it pee-air butchery. Quite the contrary. I actually think that South Dakota is simply saying it wrong. I know who your governor is, South Dakota. You can’t be trusted with much of anything.

Anyway, the answer is Nevada. A reader pointed out to me a while back that it’s NOT pronounced nuh-VAH-duh. It’s nuh-[Michigan accent]VA-duh. I’ve been pronouncing it wrong my entire life, and I’m not having an easy time switching over to the right way. This is a process that will take me years to complete. I promise I’m not alone. Also, I still pronounce Hawaii huh-WHY. I’m pretty sure that’s wrong, but everyone else I know does the same shit! Turns out Americans don’t really know anything about America.

(One last stupid thing: Until today, I did not know how to denote the short "a" when typing out a phoenetic pronunciation of a word. According to a simple Google search, the way you denote it is with this symbol: æ. Will I ever use that symbol instead of making Michigan æccent jokes? I will not.)


I enjoy boxer shorts over other underwear options, on account of the freedom they provide. In looking at my underwear drawer, most of them have some kind of pattern or graphic—whales, dogs, scorpions, pizza, etc. They’re mostly from J. Crew so not goofy, but still I wonder, am I too old for this? Should I be changing to more restrained things like stripes and plaids? When must one give up graphic boxer shorts?

I have Christmas boxers in my drawer that have little Santas all over them. I have never worn them. I never will wear them. The only reason I still keep them in the drawer is because my wife got me them for Christmas once and I don’t want her to feel bad if I throw them out. But my days of funny dad boxers are over. I tried banana-festooned MeUndies for GQ. I used to wear zany-patterned undies my mom bought me back in high school and college because I thought they made me look like I had a playful sense of humor. Girls would get a peek at my waistband poking out of my jeans and be like, “Oh that guy has sushi undies… he must a BAD BOY.”

They did not. When I got married and had kids I suddenly realized—FAR too late—that I looked stupid in all of these undergarments. And I’m a dad, mind you. I should be wearing idiot boxers with ZEAL, because that kind of clothing is its own dad joke. But I feel stupid wearing them, so I don’t. You gotta dress to feel good about yourself, even if we’re in a pandemic. I still wear track pants and a hoodie every day. But I gotta draw the line somewhere. Modern Underoos are that line. I wear plain colors or patterns instead.

No white undies, though. I’m not an imbecile.


Is there a non-zero shot that you ever bowl with a communal bowling ball again? And if not, would you ever invest in your own bowling ball for the rare occasion that a future social gathering takes form via a "bowling night?"

I all but retired from bowling well before the pandemic because bowling was murder on my back. I would roll a frame or two with my kids just to participate, but then my back would say UH UH FUCK THAT and I’d spend the rest of the afternoon eating chicken fingers instead. Now that I’ve gotten my first vaccine dose, I’m far less squeamish about all the things that made me nervous when I was NOT vaccinated: airplanes, mass gatherings, etc. I can see myself going to a bowling alley again. I wouldn’t freak out grabbing a ball and plunging my fingers into its diseases recesses. But then I’d have to put it back down and start mainlining Advil. I am not built to bowl anymore.

That said, as soon as the pandemic is over over, I’m gonna touch EVERYTHING. I thought I might need a long adjustment period to live in The After. I was wrong. I’m ready to be filthy again. Gimme all your half-eaten pizza slices. I’m not afraid.


I saw you said you’re off sugar. I’ve found some good stevia-based sweets that may not be calorie free, but low to no carb.

No, Dennis. Fuck you. Fuck stevia. I’d rather eat my own dead children than anything with stevia in it. Worst feeling in the world is getting some shit at the grocery store, taking it home, biting into it, going “hey this tastes like shit” and then seeing the word STEVIA hidden in the nutrition information. If any food has stevia in it, I want a big-ass warning label on the front of the box. I want the presence of stevia broadcast far and wide, same way they let you know if your food has been processed in a factory that has peanuts lying around.

I’m not all the way off the hard stuff. I don’t eat sugar Sunday to Thursday. And then, when Friday night comes, it’s Sugar Time. I got a little two-night window to eat whatever cookies and ice cream and cake I want. It’s a blast. Have I lost any weight using this method? No. But I haven’t GAINED any, either. So really, the plan is working. No stevia required.


I'm sorry Drew but I have to take umbrage with something from the other week’s Bag of Fun. You said you keep a Yeti thermos filled with ice water in your fridge for sipping on? I find this to be absolutely psychotic behavior. You get the Yeti or Walmart Brand Insulated Thermos because you don't need to keep it in the fridge. Are you seriously telling me you keep your cold water in a cold thermos INSIDE A COLD REFRIGERATOR? Like, you go to the fridge, pull out the Yeti, and then open it up and have a sip of ice-cold water? I'm apoplectic at this thought. You have to be the only human on earth that uses a Yeti thermos this way. I won't be able to sleep tonight. 

I’m gonna explain why to you, but it’s not gonna improve your opinion of me. When I put the water in the Yeti, it’s NOT cold. It’s just water from the spigot. So I fill up the Yeti, toss in some ice, let it get cold in the fridge, and then I take it out and sip on it as needed. I could put the water in a DIFFERENT vessel to chill it and then transfer it to the Yeti, but that’s not efficient. To avoid washing extra shit, I use the Yeti for every stage of the process. And THAT is my incredible tale.


I have compiled what I believe to be the official family vehicle of every youth sport. For reference I am in San Diego, so no hockey, and I expect some variances by region, marital status, and club/rec. On a scale of 1-10, is this list an 8 or a 9?

Soccer- Honda Odyssey

Tackle Football- 2010 Cadillac Escalade (with rims)

Flag football- Newish Ford Explorer (black)

Softball- 1998 Chevy Suburban (tan)

Baseball- 2009 Chevy Tahoe (drove over curb to park)

Basketball- 2013 BMW 7 series

Dance/Gymnastics- Tesla X 

I think the basketball one is off. But the baseball one is so painfully accurate that I wanna outlaw that sport entirely.

Email of the week!


I work in a cancer research lab and we do experiments with mice. My particular field requires analysis of gut bacteria, and the best way to do this is by collecting mouse turds. Because we need to look at individual mice and there are multiple mice in a cage, the mice have to be handled individually so we know which mouse pooped the poop. Inspired by you catching shit out of your dog's ass, I have perfected a strategy where in one hand I hold a mouse in a way that allows me to see a crowning poo, and in the other I hold the collection tube (small cylinder about the size of something that would hold three shelled peanuts and the turds are the size of a tic tac in case you’re curious). When the mouse poops I can then catch it right in the tube Randy Moss style. Last experiment had somewhere around 40 mice and lasted 6 weeks which meant I caught around 230 mouse turds in a month and a half. Livin’ the dream.

Goddamn right you are.

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