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Funbag

It’s Your Rays Week Funbag, Featuring An Email From A Ray

COLMA, CA - FEBRUARY 1: A man wearing a hazardous materials suit walks through a decontamination shower during a weapons of mass destruction training workshop February 1, 2005 in Colma, California. Representatives from several San Mateo County police and fire departments took part in the one day training to prepare for a chemical or biological attack. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Justin Sullivan/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 steroids, Toni Collette, waiting on hold, foods that suck to cook, and more.

Your letters:

Ray (not Ratto):

The other day I was riding the Metro into work and there was an elementary/middle school aged kid with his dad a couple seats away from me. All of the sudden the kid just starts puking on the floor. Since it’s not one of the cars with the carpet, it just dribbles and slides across the floor. Thankfully, I was far enough away not to be in the Splash Zone. The dad just lets his kid barf until they get off at the next stop. It was nasty and a bad start to the morning, but got me thinking: are there worse bodily functions, or things in general, to witness on the Metro? Like puking might be worse than urinating/defecting imo. This is disregarding murders (a la Bernie Goetz) or violent crime. 

I can think of worse things. Like if a busker hopped into my car and started singing Billy Joel songs as loud as possible. This never happens on the D.C. Metro, which is policed like a military prison, but it happens on plenty of other municipal transit systems. I’d much rather watch a kid unload a quart of used oatmeal onto the floor than endure that. Given that I have three kids of my own, watching other people barf/piss/poop/drool has zero effect on me now. I’ve been in the jungle. I’ve had shit on my hands, piss on my laundry, and my children’s spit-up inside my own mouth (not on purpose). I’ve also shit in a hospital bed. Many times! Seen it all, done it all. None of your bodily fluids scare me, not even in a pandemic. One time I saw a guy taking a shit in a park. I just kept walking. Didn’t think about it for another second. You gotta do what you gotta do.

If anything, it now brings me secret joy to watch new parents deal with their own barf hydrant children in public. This is because I don’t have to worry about that happening to me anymore, because my kids are past that stage of development. I also never have to install a fucking car seat again, and there’s no more winning feeling than that. But also, seeing new parents struggle out in the wild brings back fond memories. I’ll never parent a young child again—until my kids force my wife and me to provide free day care once they have kids of their own—so the only way I can relive those times is by watching some poor mom on an airplane wrestle a shrieking 3-year-old into their seat while everyone stares. I’m glad I don’t have to do that anymore, but I’m strangely glad that I got to do it when I had to.

Sean:

Let’s say there was an Olympics for clean athletes and a separate Olympics for ones who openly acknowledged they were doped up, which one would you be more likely to watch?

I know exactly what I’d do. I’d start off watching the Organic Olympics and be all proud of myself for eschewing the All-Drug Games. Then I’d get bored watching the clean athletes run the 100-meter dash in five minutes and do gymnastics floor exercises that consist of nothing but somersaults. Then I’d flip over to the steroid games the rest of the way. Thanks to growing up with doping scandals, I have evolved into a peculiar moral creature. I don’t care about performance-enhancing drugs, I just don’t wanna know about them. [Mike Francesa voice] I just don’t want it in my face, you know what I mean? That way, I can still trick myself into believing that I myself could do all of the cool shit I’m watching those athletes do. That makes no sense on any level, but very little about sports fandom makes sense anyway.

All I know is that I played football for 10 years and was shockingly isolated from steroid use that entire time. I never saw a teammate do ‘roids. Granted, I played at Colby College, which isn’t exactly minting NFL players every year. But you don’t have to be a pro talent to want steroids or to do them. Yet my biggest dilemma as a college football player was whether or not to take creatine, and I didn’t even have the (withered) balls to do that. Creatine was legal, but I was still like, “It must have steroids hidden inside of it, and then I won’t be able to make babies!” If someone had offered me steroids (they never did; no starter was gonna offer part of his stash to a third-stringer who couldn’t run a sub-5.5 40), I probably would freaked out and called the FBI or something. That’s just how many after-school specials and alarmist Sports Illustrated articles I consumed back then. I didn’t want any part of steroids, and I’m still privately scandalized whenever I find out a famous person is on them. Sylvester Stallone does steroids? But he looks so natural and vigorous!

So I still wanna have my cake and eat it, too. I wanna watch athletes do insane shit but labor under the proven delusion that none of it is dirty. That’s why I’d patronize the Organic Olympics before realizing what a prudish dipshit I’ve been all these years. Still kinda curious what HGH would do for me, to be honest. Maybe that’d help get off these 15 pounds I’ve been trying to lose for so long.

Matt:

I was recently holding for an agent on the phone for about three hours with an airline while trying to rebook a flight, and it got me thinking… how much of your life do you think you have spent on hold or waiting to be helped on the phone? 

Probably a couple of days, but not more than that. I was too impatient to stay on hold when I was younger, unless I was calling a phone sex hotline. And these days, I can just use live chat support now when I need help with anything, or I’ll luck into a business that offers to call you back once they have an agent ready. I still never email my problem to a company, because I know they just throw that email right into the trash, but at least I now have a few viable alternatives to waiting on hold like a chump.

My 30s and very early 40s represented the only time where I needed customer service badly enough that I was willing to wait on hold for it. Calling was my only recourse back then. I spent time on hold with airlines, banks, and, of course, health insurers. All of it sucked, and I was the exact right age to indulge in the sunken cost fallacy of being on hold, where the longer you wait, the more determined you are to STAY on hold until a live person answers the phone. Then the music cuts off and you think someone is about to get on the line, then you get an automated message saying DID YOU KNOW YOU COULD VISIT OUR WEBSITE?, then you wait another hour, then you get someone in the wrong department, then they put you on hold to transfer you to the right department, and then the call drops out. I endured all of that shit.

But I’m wilier in my middle age, and I know my options. Also, I go to the airport. I’ve wasted my life in many ways: drinking, watching shitty football games, boning your mom, etc. But I’ve gotten much better at not being stuck on hold for a million years. I am free. Imagine what I can do with all this extra time!

[goes right to playing another round of Yahtzee on my phone]

Paul:

If Radiohead really has broken up, then who becomes the de facto “biggest band in rock”? For anyone under the age of 50 (and above the age of 25 since no one under 25 listens to rock anymore) Radiohead has basically been THE biggest band in the world since about 1998 when OK Computer took over the world. So, now with rock on the wane, if Radiohead is truly done, who would be the next biggest band? Frankly I have zero good contenders.

Nor I. The names that come to mind are old guys like Metallica or bands like Coldplay that barely qualify as “rock” anymore, if they ever did. That leaves, like, Nickelback. In other words, there’s no heir apparent to Radiohead in the offing and likely never will be. They were the last band, which isn’t fun to contemplate until you remember that there are artists out there like Phoebe Bridgers and Mitski who aren’t afraid to rock out when the occasion suits them. That’ll have to be good enough.

And it is. I accepted, long ago, that rock has been reduced to a niche genre. I used to freak out about it—WHY DOESN’T EVERYONE LIKE WHAT I LIKE?—until I realized that I can still find plenty of great rock out there, like The Amazons, if I care to look. And when I do find those bands, I can usually see them at smaller venues at a good price. I don’t have to jump through hoops to pay $120 to watch Bob Mould play Nationals Park. I can just go see him anytime he plays the 9:30 Club. And I won’t need binoculars to see him on the stage or anything. It’s fucking great. I can deal.

By the way, don’t count out rock making a comeback sometime in the future. I’m not sitting on my front stoop, waiting for it to pull up to the curb. But if mom jeans can come back, there’s no reason why rock bands can’t. My daughter just discovered Wilco and was HAPPY about it. You never know, man.

Ben:

Could you go an entire week without swearing or cursing? Not just speaking, but writing as well, so yelling at Barry in Slack because he wanted you to change two words is forbidden. The week of non-cursing/swearing would occur when there are no major events on the NFL calendar because if it was during the season, you’d lose your shit two minutes into the Vikings game. You would be monitored 24/7, if you successfully completed the week you get $300,000. Could you do it?

Just a week? Yes. I know you don’t believe me, because I’ve built my entire career on profanity. Not only do I swear all the time, but I’m REALLY good at it. I am professional vulgarian with the resume to prove it. You will not out-curse me. Many have tried. Save for AJ Daulerio, all have failed. But I can still put on a choirboy face when I need to, especially if there’s $300,000 in it for me. I didn’t swear around my kids for YEARS. Took some restraint at first. I’d catch myself going FU— and then audible to FREAKIN’ at the last second, like I was meeting the Pope for the first time. But then I got used to it and settled into being Clean Drew around my kids, until they all discovered stand-up comedy and I could drop the façade.

But I still have that tool in my box. Also, I don’t swear everywhere I go in life. When I buy groceries, I don’t ask the stocking clerk, “Say man, can you tell me where the fuckin’ cake mixes are?” I keep my interactions clean and even. So keeping it up for a week would be nothing, even if online counted. I work for a website in SFGate that bleeps out all of my fucks anyway, and I don’t hang out in Defector Slack anywhere as much as I used to, because I was growing way too dependent on it for all of my personal interactions. Now I’m getting annoyed that Ben didn’t make this offer for real so that I could snatch up all of his money. I feel $300,000 poorer. Unfair.

The good news for me is that, since Ben kept that offer hypothetical, I don’t have to work clean for anyone right now. SHIT PISS CUM MOTHERFUCK. Hell yes to all that.

HALFTIME!

Ryan:

Has “Bobby Bonilla Day” become one of the hackiest sports days online now? Bret Saberhagen has a pretty awful Mets deal too. Is there an equally bad or more hacky sports day online than Bobby Bonilla Day?

Every day online is a hacky sports day but yes, the Bobby Bonilla Day discourse got old just as quickly as April Fool’s Day online did. This is especially true after I did some cursory research and found out that, money-wise, the deal was essentially a wash for Bonilla in the long run. So now every Bobby Bonilla Day passes and my only reaction is deep annoyance that I do not also receive $1.2 million a year every year. You know how fucking tight that would be? I’d never be like OH BOO HOO I WISH I’D GOTTEN IT ALL UP FRONT SO I WOULDN’T BE AT THE MERCY OF INFLATION. I’d just be elated. The check would come in the mail and I’d be like, “Oh right! I get another $1.2 million! Let’s go rent a mansion on the beach in Dubrovnik for a month.” My troubles would disappear for good, and so would I. All of the problems in this world are caused by the fact that rich people have none of them.

This year, I get the final installment of my advance money, which will not be $1.2 million, when The Night The Lights Went Out comes out in paperback in the fall. That’s as close as I get to the Bobby Bonilla Day feeling. Four years ago I died. Now I’ll get to open the mail one day in October and get money for a book I finished writing two years ago. I will nap like a god on that day. The Supreme Court won’t be able to overturn it.

Geno:

What’s the most delicious thing to eat while being the absolute worst to cook/prepare?

Anything fried. Frying foods BLOWS. You have use 17 different dishes. You have to dredge things multiple times over. Boiling oil spatters all over you, like you just attempted to breach Helm’s Deep. And you’re left with a goddamn mess of dishes. I know some of you swear by deep fryers and air fryers, but I’m fine to leave all of the frying duties to my neighborhood Popeye’s, thank you very much.

I also refuse to make a recipe that mandates any of the following:

  • Frying
  • Extensive kneading
  • Handling sticky dough
  • Extensive rolling
  • Straining anything through a cheesecloth
  • Double boilers
  • Making patterns using frosting and/or fondant

This is why I never watch baking competitions. It’s also why I’ll never make my own bread again. I’m more than happy to leave that to the pros. I made pasta this past weekend, which is also a pain in the ass, but I have a hand-cranked pasta machine to take care of the rolling part, so I don’t mind it much. I get to feel like a craftsman churning out sheets of eggy noodles, and then I get to eat those noodles. Big win for Drewbear. Every other involved form of cooking can suck my dick. 

Tom:

Every other television show or movie my wife has watched recently stars Toni Collette. We are watching The Staircase at the moment. In the past year we’ve streamed Velvet Buzzsaw, Knives Out and Hereditary and she has popped up randomly in various other things we have watched. Each time I say, “Hey, it’s that woman from Muriel’s Wedding.” Considering I saw that movie in the theater in 1994 and have never rewatched it, and that her filmography is longer than my arm, at what point do I just say “Toni Collette” or at least “Hey, it’s that woman from The Staircase“?

If you haven’t by now, you never will. Luckily for me, I never saw Muriel’s Wedding (my wife hated it), so Toni Collette has always been a name brand actress for me and not a That Lady actress. Let’s get her an Oscar already, dammit.

That said, I still absolutely define actors, actresses, politicians, and entire colleges exclusively by shit they did when I was in my formative years. Colorado is still Kordell Stewart to me. Vin Diesel is still Carparzo from Saving Private Ryan (he’s so good in it). Kaley Cuoco is still the girl from that one John Ritter show. It’s hard to shake first impressions. Christ, I sounded like a Head & Shoulders ad just there.

Joshua:

If you were to be a referee (or umpire, linesman, etc.) in any professional league, which sport would you choose and why? 

Oh, a chair ump in tennis. No hesitation. You get to literally look down on players while they cattily plead their case to you and deduct points when they smash a racket. You get to shush the crowd when they’re eating strawberries and cream too loudly. You get to tastefully intone “JUICE” when a game hits Deuce. You don’t have to run. You don’t even have to get up. All of that sounds terrific. You probably get a free Rolex in addition to your tournament fee. It’s like lifeguarding, but with more to do. You even get an umbrella!

You might’ve thought I’d pick being a home plate ump in baseball so that I could yell STEE!!!! at the top of my lungs, and so that I could eject, on a whim, players and managers who displease me. The full Enrico Pallazzo. But I’ve seen what umps have to wear every game. The mask. The charcoal slacks. The saddlebags containing extra baseballs. You think I wanna wear all that shit for four hours a day in August? THEY DON’T EVEN GIVE YOU AN UMBRELLA. Fuck that.

By the way, as much as I complain about NFL refs, you better believe I love to make those hand signals while watching any game. I mimed throwing a penalty flag once while watching a SOCCER game. Wasn’t even being ironic when I did it. Just pure instinct kicking in.

Matt:

The first few seasons of Stranger Things have generally strayed away from killing most of the main characters. I’m emailing to get your predictions now: which of the main characters dies in Season Five? Hopper has to be like +100 at worst, I’d also put El and Steve fairly high up there, probably +200. The rest of the kids and Joyce would have much worse odds of dying. What do you think?

Before I answer this, lemme just go ahead and throw in a SPOILER WARNING for anyone who hasn’t watched Season Four yet. It’s also important to remember that Stranger Things is the only thing Netflix has going for it at the moment, which is why they’re about to blow it out into like 50 different spin-off shows and graphic novels and Broadway musicals. So even if they kill off a main character in Season Five, there’s a very good chance that death ends up being a cheap fakeout. They already killed Hopper and Eleven and brought both of them back, so I have no faith that any dead main character in the STCU will remain dead.

With that out of the way, let’s play oddsmaker:

  • Max 1/2 (unless you don’t count her as a main character because she only appeared in later seasons. Those latecomers are the characters who usually end up dead)
  • Will 2/1
  • Hopper 2/1
  • Jonathan 3/1
  • Robin 3/1 (same caveat as Max)
  • Dr. Owens 3/1
  • Nancy 5/1
  • Steve 6/1
  • Mrs. Wheeler 6/1
  • Murray 10/1 (also gets the Max caveat)
  • Eleven 25/1
  • Mike 30/1
  • Lucas 50/1
  • Joyce 50/1
  • Erica 100/1
  • Mr. Wheeler 200/1
  • Dustin 500/1

Is Mr. Wheeler my favorite character on that show? You better believe he is. Clueless and mildly agitated to the bitter end. This man GETS fatherhood innately. He’s my hero.

By the way, I thought there was a very good chance that Dustin was gonna die in the finale, especially when he went back into the Upside Down to help a doomed Eddie. I’m relieved that never happened. You kill off Dustin and America will take to the streets.

Bryan:

Has anyone created a ‘Home Runs adjusted for juiced ball level’ stat? I think if the MLB used that stat then they could have an excuse to vote in the steroid era hitters: Bonds, etc.

I sent Bryan’s ideas over to Defector intern Kathryn Xu, because she’s more qualified to answer it than I am. Her reply:

“It’s a fun question, but I don’t think I can do much with it. Plus stats (OPS+, etc.) and WAR all account for overall league environment, which includes if the ball is juiced/deadened and the steroid era, though I’d imagine it’s slightly less perfect with steroids because not everyone was juiced up to the gills. Main thing is, even adjusting for the era, you can’t know how many homers Bonds would’ve hit in 2001 if he hadn’t used steroids (unless you had, like, Statcast and a shit-ton of biomechanical data back then) because he did use them. You can only compare his performance to the rest of the league that year. His was, uh, pretty good. So the steroid era hitters debate will probably continue until the heat death of the universe! Joyous days, etc. etc.”

Turns out math can’t solve every problem, which I find disappointing.

Speaking of being unable to prove a negative…

Sean:

If you were in your youth in the time of dating apps, how do you think Young Drew would have fared? Would he have had any cool lines/a good profile?

My best friend didn’t get married until he was in his 40s, so I was always jealous he got to use Tinder while I had to spend all of my pre-marriage years asking girls on analog dates and sending them mixtapes like a complete dipshit. You can’t bat worse than .000, so I always figured I would have fared better back then if I had had a digital game to supplement my ground game.

Of course, this line of magical thinking assumes that Teenage Me would have been able to close the deal upon meeting a girl face-to-face. It also assumes that Online Teenage Me wouldn’t have sounded exactly like every Barstool dipshit you’ve ever met. Both assumptions are misplaced. I still would have fucked everything up. Also, I didn’t smoke weed with Snoop Dogg until I was in my 30s, which means I couldn’t have used this as my profile pic.

NOTE: I’m the one on the left

Would’ve at least gotten a foot in the door with this photo. After that, same old disaster.

Chris:

I’ve been watching the Lakers show on HBO and was actually pretty impressed with some of the basketball scenes. Is basketball the only sport that it’s possible to make look realistic on film? Football, boxing, and baseball are all notoriously terrible.

I feel the same about bad sports mechanics in movies as I do about bad accents in movies: I don’t give a shit. I know that’s an actor on the screen and not Lamar Jackson. I don’t expect him to play like it. I suspend my disbelief. Guys who complain about poor form on the silver screen are just trying to bolster their jock cred. Who gives a fuck if Cuba Gooding’s jab isn’t as good as Roy Jones’s? I’m sure he did his best, but there’s only so much you can do if you’re NOT Roy Jones. If you wanna see sports depicted accurately, just watch real sports. Now lemme tell you why I find the current state of special effects in movies today so bothersome…

Email of the week!

Evan:

Why are saxophones so damn jammin’? No one goes wild for a trombone solo. Trumpet solos are cool and all. But a sax going in is irresistible. Tell me why.

Because you never see it coming. That’s why.