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Funbag

It’s Time I Started Wearing Other Teams’ Shit

It's Drew
Image by Dan McQuade

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 soccer, eating poop, Tom Brady, spatulas, and more.

Your letters:

Mark:

I don’t see myself as a jersey guy. I’m 34 and older than virtually any contemporary athlete whose jersey I’d consider wearing. But I have no problem wearing jerseys of guys I grew up watching. I just bought a vintage Puma Bills #80 Eric Moulds. I wear old NHL jerseys to games. Does this make sense?

It does. I bought a Justin Jefferson jersey prior to this season (did you know that game jerseys aren’t mesh anymore? WILD!!!) and while it fits me well, I’m still pretty out of date in both mind and body for it. I don’t look the part walking around in the jersey of one of the most exciting young players in the entire NFL. Meanwhile, I have a Pat Williams jersey and a Kevin Williams jersey in the bullpen, and those work on me because both of those players are retired and in their 40s. I’m in my 40s, and many Defector readers will tell you that I’m all but retired as well. We’re the same, me and the Williams Wall. Makes perfect sense for me to wear their shit. A retro jersey works best when you yourself were there for that player’s heyday. It’s one of the upsides to being an old fart.

With that in mind, I’ve been thinking lately about whether I should restrict myself solely to my own team’s merchandise. I have a great deal of Vikings swag. I have Vikings jerseys, t-shirts, license plate frames, neckties, ball caps, winter hats, car seat headrest covers, and socks. I even own a Vikings Mr. Potato Head, which I keep on my desk. These are all tokens of my fandom, but also evidence that I am extremely antiquated in that fandom. I look down on fans who switch allegiances. I also don’t believe their heart is in it when they do it. I don’t wear any other team merch because I either believe I’m not spiritually allowed to, or because I don’t wanna be seen as a bandwagon fan. Like when Justin Bieber owns every jersey of every goddamn NBA team? What a dipshit. PICK A TEAM AND STICK WITH IT, YOU CHILD. THIS IS WAR.

And yet, as I was watching the Mariners bow out to the Astros in 682 innings over the weekend, I saw a shitload of vintage M’s jerseys in the stands and thought to myself, “I’d like one of those.” I’m a lapsed Twins fan who never bothered to keep up that relationship after 1991. In theory, I can now root for any baseball team I like. I was very happy when the Nats won it all in 2019. And yet, I never dared buy a hat of theirs because I still thought of myself as a Twins fan anyway: one who didn’t practice such acts of sports bigamy, and still doesn’t.

I wasn’t always like this. The first NFL jersey I ever owned wasn’t a Vikings jersey at all. It was a Phil Simms Giants jersey. I also owned a Nebraska hat AND a Nebraska jacket, despite having no ties to Nebraska of any kind. When I got a souvenir Mariners ice cream helmet at a Twins game in 1987, I kept that in my room as well. I didn’t deny myself those pleasures back when I was a kid, so why am I doing so now?

I can’t find bright colors to wear at a clothing store. The only colors that Uniqlo offers to men are Dark and Wan, and no other major clothing manufacturer is much better when it comes to my gender and the color palate. I have more blue and gray in my closet than an old college football all-star game. If you want actually bright colors on your person, sports team merch is damn near the only place you can get it. But, thanks to self-imposed fan code or whatever, I’ve restricted myself to not just one color, but a monstrously unflattering one. When I buy Vikings apparel, I have to make the choice between wearing either full purple regalia, or gray/white/black/mustard shit that has purple accents. I love wearing it all, but I’m under no impression that I look GOOD.

Meanwhile, there’s always a cavalcade of canary yellows and electric greens and sky blues available on the retro market. And no proper hypebeast out there even CARES what team they’re repping when they wear their merch. All I gotta do to flesh out my wardrobe is summon the nerve (and, uh, the money) to add some other teams into the portfolio. When I took over the Atlanta Hawks’ Twitter feed eight years ago for Deadspin, team management let me loot their merch store as recompense. This was not journalistically ethical on my part, but I did snatch up a Hawks tee that I still love to this day. I could give half a fuck about the Hawks, but that shirt and I are cool. I think it’s time I chased that high a few times more. It’s time I freed myself.

No Packers swag, though. There are certain lines I will never cross.

Jared:

When it's time for me to use a spatula to flip something I'm making, I get the yips. I hesitate right as I'm about to do it, get into my own head, and at least half the time, make a complete mess out of it. It looks like Charles Barkley's golf swing. Do you have any advice for how I can stop Chuck Knoblauching my pancakes and grilled cheeses?

Is it a specific spatula? Because I had an episode with one spatula of ours. Every time I used it to flip something important—pancakes, omelets, etc—the food would slide off this spatula and then be all fucked up. I got so pissed at this spatula one time that I spiked it off the floor. My wife told me that I was the problem, and not the spatula. She was right. But also, we got another spatula that’s WAY fucking better. Shit never falls off of it. So my little anger management failure was, at least partially, due to the equipment I had on hand. For a long time, I thought all spatulas were alike. They aren’t. Some are crap.

But if you’re having the yips with multiple spatulas, I’d make like our Albert Burneko and ditch spatulas entirely in favor of the wrist flip. Instead of flipping a pancake with a tool, you do what the pros do and flip it by harnessing the power of PHYSICS, tilting the pan and then deftly giving it a little shake so that the food slides to the far edge of the pan, gathers up a bit of speed, slides up the edge, and then naturally does a flip in midair. When I pull this move off, I feel like the toppest of top chefs. When I fail, a smattering of sautéed onions flies overboard and gets eaten alive by the flames of the gas burner. I regret nothing.

You can also use tongs. You can never have enough tongs. I’d eat with tongs if it were socially acceptable.

Todd:

Does soccer ever reach the pantheon of being considered the fifth major sport? For that matter, does the MLS ever overtake, say, MLB? The question isn't wish fulfillment. I'm just generally curious about what you think. 

As far as I’m concerned, that’s already happened. Regular-season EPL games in the U.S. now get more viewers than the average NHL game does. That you can watch EPL games in the U.S. at all is a testament to how much soccer has grown here since I grew up a casual fan of the NASL’s Minnesota Strikers.

MLS will never matter globally, and it’ll never be as popular as its North American counterpart leagues in football, basketball, etc. But casual American fans like me long ago figured out that America doesn’t need a prestigious soccer league of its own for us to become habitual TV viewers of the sport. That fantastical domestic league has always been the white whale for both local newspaper columnists and certain (insufferable) homegrown soccer advocates, but who needs that shit when EPL, La Liga, Serie A, the Champions League, and all these other excellent leagues already exist? ESPN never covered ANY of those leagues when I was a teenager. The closest I got to the four-letter caring about the sport was when the U.S. hosted the World Cup in 1994. I remember Bob Ley getting very excited about Bolivia.

That’s all different now. You can watch a panoply of soccer games on American TV (including the dreaded Peacock), because those games make for quality live sports inventory. A big soccer game abroad will lead off ESPN’s homepage. If you ask the average American sports fan to name a famous soccer player, they don’t freak out for a couple of seconds before reflexively shouting out PELE because they can’t think of anyone else. Soccer is big shit in 2022 America. It’s not consolidated into one tidy league at home, but one thing I accepted far too late in life is that no one sport HAS to be organized that way. I’ve watched college football my whole life and yet somehow I had a beef with soccer for being a disparate mess. I know better now, as do millions of other people.

But the USMNT will still never win a goddamn thing.

Earl:

I have NFL Redzone and have also watched most of the season, but I was kind of expecting more red carpet sendoff's for our boy Tom Brady. I guess maybe he's not as beloved as... (checks notes)... Derek Jeter? 

That’s because no one actually knows if this really is Brady’s last season. I know that Ian Rapoport said a few weeks ago that it would be, but what is report that worth to you? Exactly. Brady was full of shit the first time he retired, so everyone else right now is in Fool Me Twice Mode with him, as they should be. If/when Brady ever says outright, “This is my last season and I actually just signed a binding agreement that Roger Goodell can murder my parents if I renege on the deal,” then I promise you that Brady will get the Re12ect tour that you, and the rest of the free world, has been eminently dreading. Big Ben got the works when he retired, and everybody fucking hated that guy. Brady will get all of that pageantry and then some.

And frankly, it won’t bother me when he does. I made my peace with Tom Brady long ago, which I’m sure has brought him great joy. Brady’s earned the adulation, I enjoy watching him play, I’d prefer there be more good quarterbacks in the NFL than less, and he doesn’t have the stink of Boston all over him anymore. Also, as much as I resented Brady for colonizing my Sundays every year this century, it’s not fun to watch him go out like THIS: quarterbacking a middling team while his marriage collapses. This was never gonna end gracefully. Few, if any, great athletes get the end they deserve. But I would have liked Brady’s story to end in any other way: a final title, a busted pelvis, murdered by Antonio Brown in his own home, etc. I didn’t want the PG version of Tiger Woods’s divorce to be his endgame. I wanted something better. Judging by this past weekend, so did Brady.

Now Aaron Rodgers? THAT’S been a perfect ending for him so far. 10/10. No notes. I hope he manifests a tree up his own ass.

HALFTIME!

Paul:

With all the advanced stats today, why don't fantasy teams draft individual offensive linemen? They may be the dirtiest cheaters in football (I'm a former DIII d-lineman, so I would know) but they ought to have their due in fantasy. Thanks.

The advanced stats for O-line play tend to evaluate the entire offensive line, and not just individual linemen. You can go to PFF for rankings of the latter, but those are based on play-by-play grades assigned by a PFF analyst, and those grades have room for subjectivity. There are still no real, fun stats for offensive linemen outside of pancake blocks, which are both rare and not always an indicator of superior play. Sometimes you catch a defender out of position and BOOM! Onto the ground he goes. Then he gets back up and sacks your quarterback four times on four straight drives.

You need box score stats to make fantasy work. The second you get into the mire of stats that are more accurate but harder to parse, fans run screaming in the other direction. I know I do. I’ve been playing fantasy football for a million years now, and IDP fantasy has always been an option at my disposal throughout. I’ve never used it. That’s too many players. Too much work. Too much poring over Twitter on a Sunday morning to see if Rashan Gary is active or not. I need this shit to be simple, and I only want to focus on people who have the ball. Everyone else, fantasy-wise, is a waste of my time. A nuisance. That includes kickers. DraftKings has never offered kickers in its classic format DFS. The reason why is the same reason that O-linemen and individual defenders are invisible to the casual fantasy community. Don’t make me watch more tape (one hour a week) than I already do.

Max:

My friend told us his fiancé’s family has this tradition on Christmas morning where only one person is allowed to open a gift at a time, and then must sit there talking about it while everyone else sits quietly and watches. As in, you have to sit there praising and thanking whoever there got the gift for them and must talk about how you will use it or something. Each gift takes five minutes to get through, and he said one year they were opening presents for over three hours. This is a crazy practice, right? I'd rather be waterboarded.

“Crazy” is the wrong word there. I’d prefer “boring,” or “stupid,” or “outright painful.” It’s Christmas, not a fucking baby shower. Everyone gets to open their shit on their own time, and I get to tell my kids SLOW DOWN every two minutes while they ignore that request and finish unwrapping everything before I’ve even made coffee. That’s how Christmas oughtta work.

My wife and I once diverged on this. Since my mother-in-law is German, my wife grew up with the German tradition of opening all of your presents no Christmas Eve, rather than Christmas morning. I couldn’t abide it. In my opinion, the kids HAD to wait out the night for Santa Claus, and then open all of their shit in the morning. Tinsel sharpens tinsel. Somehow I won that battle and we now open everything on Christmas Day. I doubt I’ve won any other disagreement with her since.

John:

Did the people at Progressive create the character Jamie so that people would be less annoyed with Flo?

If they did, they failed. I hate that fucker, too. Looks like a snitch. Just gimme the Dr. Rick jokes and retire all the other wacky characters, Progressive. I actually have Progressive car insurance, so you’re legally obligated to listen to me.

Jonathan:

If you had to eat a plate of poop, which species' poop would you select? Portion size can't be a factor here, you have to eat the same amount no matter what animal you pick. I think horse poop is a strong contender because it seems like it's just disgustingly processed grass.

I would NOT choose horseshit if I had to eat a plate of shit. I rode horses at summer camp (cantering is a blast), and that smell has stayed with my psyche ever since. Even though I can’t smell anymore, the sight of horse dung still triggers a phantom olfactory repulsion in me. Like Richard Pryor once said, “Flies don’t even fuck with horseshit.” So that’s out.

But what’s in? Well, I remember all the way back in 2015 when I covered the advent of civet coffee, in which the beans are passed through the digestive tract of an Asian palm civet before they’re cleaned and roasted. Let’s have a look at this nefarious beast.

[Folgers theme music] The best part of waking up... is coffee from his butt!

I was not nearly as into coffee back in 2015 as I am now. Back then, the poop coffee disgusted me. Now? I would drink the FUCK out it. It currently retails for just under $200, which I would not pay myself. But if someone else did? Sure: fill my cup with pure Looney Tunes peyote, and then serve me a side of real-deal civet turds to pair it with. I won’t blink. My mouth has been in dirtier places.

Nicholas:

I just pulled on my comfiest sweatpants to settle in for football, but as I got a leg halfway in, a pressing need to use the facilities presented itself. I finished putting the other leg on, but only to the level of the other leg and waddled to the throne. Is this correct? I didn't want to waste time pulling down freshly put on pants.

I’ve done that before. You probably waste more time waddling—which reduces foot speed—than you do taking the extra nanosecond to hike those pants up. But a lazy man works twice as hard, and I’m very proud of the work I’ve accomplished in that arena over these many years.

And you might be saying, “Just go to the head without any pants on,” but I remain firmly against ever wearing a top and no bottom, even on the shitter. Too exposed. Too distressing to potential onlookers.

Dustin:

Am I just an old man yelling at clouds, but do cell phones at concerts suck! I went to an outdoor show last night and the number of people recording on their phones blew me away. They were even recording with the camera light on. Why do this? It is inconsiderate of the people behind you. Everyone hates your concert footage and you'll delete it off your phone anyway. Should we ban cell phones at concerts? 

Some artists do just that: Jack White, Bob Dylan, pretty much every major stand-up comedian. They do it to protect their IP, and also as a form of crude insurance against cancelation. But most artists also have purer motives at hand. They don’t want you distracted, and they don’t want you distracting others in the crowd with your tedious phone bullshit. I understand all of that, and I used to rage the fuck out whenever I saw people holding up phones at concerts. I went to an Ash concert at a club a decade ago and came back moaning THE PHONE PEOPLE RUINED THE WHOLE NIGHT!

But that rage subsided soon thereafter. I’ve lived in a phone-addled society for so long that none of that shit bothers me anymore. I only get pissed when people watch/listen to something in a public space without using headphones. Those people can all die. Everything else, as far as I’m concerned, if fair game. I’ve recorded sloppy concert footage, mostly for my own memory and not to post to the web. One time I went to see The Struts and frontman Luke Spiller ordered the technician to cut all of the lights, then asked everyone in the crowd to turn on their phone flashlights and aim them at the stage for their rendition of “Mary Go Round.” Rather than banning phones from the show, Spiller incorporated them into the band’s act instead. It was a marvelous bit of stagecraft, and The Struts are hardly the only artists around to adapt to new audience habits that’ll never abate. So I respect artists who ban phones, but I’m not ride-or-die about it. Trying to stop time is always a fool’s errand.

Aaron:

In the Sunday Night Football game vs. the Bucs, the Chiefs pulled off a peak Andy Reid TE sneak. This play involved a little trickery from Mahomes, but why don't more teams put a TE under center when they need one yard? Why risk your QB’s health and instead put your second string TE (who is presumably a large man) under center?

Likely because of risk mitigation. The QB is used to taking snap from under center. A tight end usually isn’t, even if he practices that particular play during the week. The average head coach isn’t gonna risk a fumble in that kind of moment.

I get that, but what I don’t get is how many teams still SUCK at running the QB sneak, if they ever elect to run it at all. I’ve seen so many shotgun formations on short yardage this season that I want to plunge a bastard sword into my TV set every time I see one. Tom Brady has given a 20-year clinic in how and when to run the sneak, and yet barely any other team has adopted the practice. That baffles and enrages me in equal measure. It’s not fucking rocket science. You take the snap, you wait a beat, you see which of your interior linemen has gotten the best push, and then either you tuck in behind them or slip into any crevice you spot in the scrum. DONE. It doesn’t have to be any more complex than that, and yet here I am watching fucking Justin Herbert run a draw from the gun on every other fourth down. Not every phase of this sport has to be reinvented, you know.

Ryan:

As a newly minted Bike Guy, what's your position on drafting? Today I bit off a bit more than I could chew on my ride: only a little under 30 miles roundtrip but a lot more climbing than I'd expected. By the last few miles on my way home, my legs were shot. I caught up behind another biker on a dedicated path and decided to have myself a little rest by sticking to their back wheel. They definitely caught on though, and I think it annoyed them. Is drafting behind strangers okay or not?

I’ve never done that and doubt I ever would. I’m still learning bike guy etiquette , but if someone did that to me, I’d run them off the trail, Fury Road–style. If you want to draft, you really need a riding partner for it. Otherwise, tailgating is a dick move with any mode of transport, even when you feel like you have no other recourse.

Braden:

Which is worse? Eating something cold that was supposed to be warm, or eating something warm that was supposed to be cold? It's gotta be the latter, right? Eating a cold pizza is good, but trying to choke down a warm veggie tray that's been sitting out is nasty. 

I’m the opposite. I get sad when my hot food is merely WARM, and if it’s cold then that’s like someone forced my taste buds to take a cold shower. Pure cruelty. Meanwhile I’ll eat Chinese takeout right out of the fridge, as every other winning American does. Also, the end of the milkshake is my favorite part of the milkshake. I’m at the age where I need a shawl when it’s like 50 out, so warm beats cold every time in my world.

Email of the week!

Mike:

We all know that the best sport to watch while high is baseball, but what are the best sports to PLAY while high?

We don’t all know that baseball is the best sport to watch on weed. Don't put takes like that in my mouth. But what we DO know is that the X Games exist specifically to answer the second part of that question.

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