Just Keep The Name Commanders And Be Done With It
1:54 PM EDT on May 2, 2023
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 food disgust, the draft, booing, and more.
The impending sale of the Commanders got me thinking: the new owners are going to want to make a lot of changes. And, while it’s at least not racist, the new name is barely less generic than the interim Football Team name. So what's stopping them from pulling an early era "Presidents of the USA" approach and using a different name each season until something takes off?
That’s sort of what The Daily Show is doing right now, apparently opting for a permanent rotation of guests hosts instead of hiring a definitive replacement for Trevor Noah. Not only is it cheaper to do the show this way, it’s also gotten better ratings than when Noah was still hosting it. So yeah, incoming Commanders minority owner Magic Johnson could look at that example and tell incoming majority owner Josh Harris, “I really like the idea of alternating nicknames for the Washington football team, much like The Daily Show is doing to replace their former host, Trevor Noah!”
But they won’t do that, because it’s a pain in the ass for an NFL team to change signage/merch/TV graphics every goddamn year. My guess is that they stick with Commanders and that we all just get used to it. I’ve spent so many years riding the Change The Name bandwagon with that team that I don’t have the energy to do it all over again. “Commanders” is stupid but it’s not my team, so I don’t give a shit. They deserve to be that generic after all they’ve done. Plus I can’t digest a whole ‘nother round of nickname gags from hack America. “Just go back to R*****s but it’s a potato lol!” Stop trying to make that joke happen. It’s deader than Dan Snyder’s reputation.
I assume nearly all men of our age list an ear/nose hair trimmer as essential equipment. My question to you is: Do you have a preference which area you take care of first when using an ear/nose hair trimmer?
I have one of those trimmers. My wife got it for me as an unironic present and I received it with unironic gratitude. I might’ve even asked for it, I think. I never use it. This isn’t because I crossed some wonderful aging rubicon where the process begins to reverse itself. It’s just that I can get at nose hairs easier with a pair of snub nose scissors, or by plucking them and then sneezing so hard that nearby fault lines rupture. And then I clean up my ear hair with a dry razor as needed.
Hence, I don’t need that little trimmer. I don’t need to worry about recharging it. I don’t need to worry about it shearing off the top layer of my interior nostril tissue. All of the old-fashioned equipment does the job more capably. Electric nose-hair trimmers belong firmly in the genre of products aimed at middle-aged suburbanites that sound like godsends but are ultimately redundant: nose trimmers, breadmakers, private schools, etc.
Downstairs grooming is another story. That requires horsepower.
What's your theoretical limit for the length of time you'd be willing to spend mowing your lawn before you either, 1) Buy a better/faster lawn mower or 2) Hire someone to do it?
I lasted until my second back surgery, which means age 30 was my tidy little demarcation line for that particular chore. We’ve had to use a lawn service ever since, which costs no small amount but still costs less than a spinal fusion.
My wife and I have brainstormed alternative solutions. Last year we toyed with buying a lawnmower and making our two sons (14, 11) do the job. Shit, I thought to myself, they might even start a neighborhood lawn care service and become entrepreneurs in the process. After all, how many asshole millionaire profiles start with some story about Richard Whitforth being a teenage landscaper before he became a real-estate magnate? I’ll tell you how many: all of them. My boys could be just like that guy! Cutting the neighbor’s lawn is the early teenager’s lemonade stand.
We never made the purchase, mostly because we’re lazy. We probably spent that money on a nose trimmer instead. So that means I’m gonna keep paying our lawn guys to do the job, or I’m gonna go big and finally become a Riding Mower Guy. You know Riding Mower Guy. He has a whole separate garage for his John Deere. He’s dialed in hard when cutting, like it’s the most important job he’s ever had. And he mows his lawn constantly, as if a fucking rainforest will sprout up the second he neglects his agrarian duties. Live next to a Riding Mower Guy and you’ll never be able to enjoy a Sunday afternoon nap. This is why gas-powered mower and blower bans are becoming more widespread. Everyone hates the sound of these fucking things. Except for Riding Mower Guy. He’s got soundproof headphones and no shirt on and he’s living his manliest life.
In a recent mailbag you said you couldn't get into “White Lotus” because Mike White “despises” his characters. What does a creator hating their own characters look like to you? Do you hate any of your own characters?
A creator hates their own characters when there’s no indication that they identify with them in any way. Go over to Succession for a second, because I work in media which means that I like to bring up Succession any chance I get. Every tweet and writeup of Succession is like oh these kids are so dumb and horrible and it’s funny to watch them fail to even backstab one another correctly; that is SO capitalism. But no one I know watches that show to hate-watch it. It’s because they find it riveting, even if this most recent episode was uneven by its own standards. The reason they find it riveting is because see themselves in those same characters—their ambition, their loneliness, their neediness, their greed—even when they don’t wanna admit it. I watch that show and I know that its creator, Jesse Armstrong, understands the Roy family and can empathize with them, even in their worst moments. Especially in their worst moments. It’s the same way any other good villain is compelling. I don’t WANT Heath Ledger’s Joker to blow up a hospital, by at least he did it with some panache. I’d like to think that’s how I would’ve blown up a hospital.
With White Lotus, I got none of that. I just got, Look at all the weird, gross people. Am I making you uncomfortable by forcing you to watch them? I bet I am! Like I said before, it’s real Todd Solondz shit, created by someone who thinks that “upsetting the squares” is still a viable creative direction in 2023. You have to get me to care about your characters, and that’s hard when I don’t think that YOU do. Now, Mike White clearly put a shitload of work in that show, and I’ve only watched one episode of it, so you can call this judgment unfair and I won’t fight back. But I don’t wanna keep watching to find out if he turned that corner. Nothing about the White Lotus premiere gave me faith that he wanted to. He just wants everyone to squirm. It’s a trolljob.
To answer the second question, I don’t hate any of the fictional characters I’ve created, no. I have to live with those characters in my head, so I’d rather find them interesting, if not always sympathetic. Then again Mike White has a shelf full of Emmys and I don’t, so who’s really doing this right?
The final result says that, “Your food disgust is low (36.75%).” As with any other test, there’s a lot of wiggle room in these questions. My answers would vary based on how well I know the other people in the proposed scenarios, or how sick any of us might be, or how discolored the flesh of an apple is. If there’s a single brown spot on an apple? I don’t give a shit. Just slice it off. But if half the apple is brown and mushy, of course I chuck it. It’s an apple. It cost 30 cents. I can find another.
Another prompt is, “I would lose my appetite if I found a little snail in my salad.” Do they mean that literally? Like, I won’t be able to eat my lunch at all if I see that shit? GTFO. Nothing outside of chemo would make me lose my appetite. You could kill my best friend in front of me (sorry Howard) and I’d still have it in me to choke down a burger later that day. So this test is less about disgust and more about how fastidious you are. Hard to believe an internet poll would have design flaws, but it’s true. Watch them use the results of this survey to make one of those bullshit state maps.
Have you ever been to the draft live, and is it worth it?
I have never been to the draft live. The closest I got was going to a pre-draft cocktail reception in New York in 1999, where I got loaded and then told a confused Daunte Culpepper, “I hope my team drafts you,” and then they did. W.
But otherwise, I’ve never been there for the official calling of the names. This past weekend was the first time that the idea actually appealed to me, because Day Three featured B-roll of fans just hanging out on a big-ass park lawn in front of Union Station in Kansas City. Very sparse crowd in that part of the event. You could bring a picnic and some cold beers, maybe toss a Frisbee. I’d be down with that. Going on Day One and getting compressed on all sides by local Chiefs fans, Eric Stonestreet included? No. But Day Three, yes.
By the way, I spent this past weekend wondering what it cost Kansas City to host the draft this year, and the answer turned out to be $3 million. That’s nothing. The Ginger Hammer is full of shit when he says that draft brought “$224 million” (that number is so specific, it must be accurate!) to the city’s economy, but still: it’s clearly a better deal for a city to host a draft than a Super Bowl, the Olympics, or a national political convention. If I were a mayor, I’d bid on that shit before that $3 million figure starts to balloon—and you know it will—as the draft roadshow grows and grows. Roger Goodell will form a Draft City Selection Committee, staff it with his 37 favorite war criminals, demand host cities build the NFL a new convention center just for the event, and then demand another $500 million to divert all freeways to that convention center. Once the NFL smells money, they chase it like a fucking dog. So get in on the bargain now … Cincinnati!
They've both been discontinued for a while, but I still see a few Saturns and Oldsmobiles driving around. Saturn closed up shop more recently, but it seems like the late-stage Olds sedans might have more longevity in them. Which brand do you think is going to stay on the road longer?
Oldsmobile, out of sheer volume. Oldsmobile made cars for 100 years, Saturn for just 20. Oldsmobile manufactured over 35 million vehicles in its lifespan; Saturn just a fraction of that. The funny thing is that if I’m driving on the highway, I will absolutely notice a Saturn before I notice an Olds. No Olds in history has ever turned heads. At least a Saturn has kitsch on its side, and I love to Remember Some Car Models out on the road, especially if those cars came and went during my lifetime. So if there’s a Saturn Vue/Nissan Xterra/Isuzu Trooper out there, my nostalgia brain will spot it right away. I’ll turn to the kids and say, “You know I rented a Saturn once and actually liked it quite bit!” They’ll say nothing, because they have Airpods in and never hear anything I say. And here I thought I was the deaf one.
Booing doesn’t work unless you’re booing your own team. What should we as fans do instead of booing the opposing team to get them off their game? Laugh? Yell “Baba Booey”?
Nothing. Nothing else you do short of blinding them with a laser pointer (this is banned) is gonna rattle the other team when they play in front of hostile crowds dozens of times a year, every year. Anything you do besides boo is gonna come right out of the Cameron Crazies playbook, and I’ll never tolerate stooping to such tactics. The only proven crowd tactic in existence is to be loud, either by screaming or booing. That’s it. If you’re so fucking loud that the other team can’t hear/communicate and the refs swallow their whistles, then you’ve done your job as a fan. You’re not gonna get LeBron to suddenly have a nervous breakdown just because you held up a sign with Space Jam 2’s Rotten Tomatoes score on it. Even Bill Simmons realized this while composing one of his dumber tweets (he still tweeted it anyway).
Also, it’s perfectly fine to admit that you, as a fan, can only do so much. It’s hard to remember that in the heat of the moment. You bought your ticket, you painted your face, you drank 30 beers in the parking lot, and you told your buddies WE GOTTA GET IN GEORGIA’S HEAD TONIGHT. Like you were fucking paid to be there and not the other way around. I’m a sports fan because I enjoy indulging in my own fondest delusions, and that’s one of the more enjoyable delusions of them all: to walk into any game thinking that you have some measure of control over it. That you really are the 12th man.
Then Georgia goes and beats your team by two touchdowns anyway. Was it because you merely booed? Was it because you failed to overhaul your cheering mechanics? No, it’s because you had nothing to do with it. How many times have you read some shit about how fans are powerless and leagues don’t care about them? Those takes are older than my taste in music, but then you go and conveniently forget all of that because you don’t want the $100 you spent on your ticket to pay for merely just the ticket. I’ve gone through that process myself many times, but then I accept reality afterwards. I don’t go into the Chant Lab in a frantic attempt to reinvent the boo. I admit I’m powerless, say to myself, “I still had a fun time,” and then I pet my dog.
By the way, I did a complete 180 on Stuart Scott late in his life because I realized that my early dislike for him was entirely the result of my own prejudices. But the ONE Stu Scott moment I still hold in quiet contempt is a scripted monologue on SportsCenter that he did one night, pleading with the audience to never boo athletes. Fuck that shit. Boo them. It’s nothing they haven’t heard before.
My dad was a single father of five children, and I remember him referring to taking a dump as one of his only moments of peace and quiet. He got especially irritated when said dumps were interrupted. This perplexed young me. Poops smelled bad and were something you finished as soon as possible so you could get back to playing NFL GameDay 97. Well I'm 33 now with a two year old daughter, and I get it. Mind you this is nowhere near the scale of what he was dealing with, but I still find my position just as valid.
Oh, dude. DUDE. This is my most inconvenient truth. All I want it to take a dump in peace, and I haven’t done so in 17 years. The second I sit down to drop anchor, children begin screaming. The doorbell rings. Something in the kitchen makes a loud BANG. My doctor calls to give me my test results. My wife brings the dog to the door and tells me that I have to take him out right now, this instant. The city busses in drunken bros from Nats Stadium to knock on my door and ask me when I’m finished. A mariachi band starts playing. Rioters storm the Capitol. FIRE. A FUCKING FIRE BREAKS OUT. And when I come out of the bathroom and tell everybody, “I just wanted to take a dump in peace,” they look at me like I’m the asshole! This is bullshit. The greatest injustice in American history. How dare you all interrupt my butt time like that.
One of these days I’m gonna buy an outhouse. Not a summer house. Not a ski lodge. An outhouse. No one else will know I bought it, and they won’t know where it’s located. And then I’ll drive to my outhouse every day and shit for three hours. I have a lot of lost time to make up for, and I intend to do so. As for the rest of you: don’t fuck with me when I’m shitting, or else I’ll plunge your asshole.
I don’t care for EDGE. Bring back DE or OLB. [old man yells at cloud meme]
But it’s the same position. That’s why the NFL media adopted EDGE as a catch-all term for it: because there’s no marked difference between Matthew Judon (listed as an outside linebacker) and Nick Bosa (listed as an end). Both of those men will drop into coverage on a handful of occasions, but that’s not why they get paid. They get paid to rip the quarterback’s lungs out, so why bother pretending they play a different spot?
It’s weird that EDGE is listed in all caps—I keep thinking it stands for something, like Every Down Get Evil or something—but it’s a reflection of how amorphous NFL defenses have become over the course of this century. No defense is a set 3-4 or 4-3, teams will play in nickel for entire games, etc. etc. As the game evolves, so does its lexicon. It’s easy to look at the adaptation of EDGE, along with more specified coaching positions that didn’t exist a few years ago (passing game coordinator, run game coordinator) and come away thinking that the NFL is fucking with these titles out of sheer boredom, but all of this shit is genuine. Pro football really IS that complex. It really is that intensely studied by those who play it, coach it, and analyze it. So they didn’t christen that position EDGE just to give Ron Jaworski a hard-on.
If the worst NFL team in any one season were to be given EVERY first round pick in that year’s draft, would they instantly be a legit Super Bowl contender the next season?
That appears to be what the Houston Texans are banking on, which is all the information you need to know that the answer there is no.
What is the possible point of the avalanche of “draft grades” stories that are churned out by the NFL media immediately after the draft (even Adam Schefter wannabes are now also excreting them). I was graded at the end of the semester, not when I signed up for the course. What gives?
It’s just content. You issue draft grades because fans like me will read all of that shit, even when it gets redundant. Plus, analysts get rewarded for getting their grades wrong, because then everyone re-clicks on their initial grade post five years after they gave the Bills a D for drafting Josh Allen. Pro athletes and fans alike need disrespect more than they need Gatorade, and these insta-grades do the job capably. I won’t forget the people who dinged the Vikings for reaching on Mekhi Blackmon, no I will not.
(Also a lot of draft grades contain useful scouting tidbits, but if I get too serious about football in this space you might start mistaking me for Andy Benoit, which would be less than ideal.)
You and some commenters have dumped on Bill Simmons many times. As a former fan of his, I would be interested in hearing your (and their) case against him articulated. For me, we just grew apart, if that’s possible in a parasocial relationship. I liked him when I first encountered him in the mid-oughts writing on ESPN’s Page2. It helped that I was living in Boston at the time, but I thought he was funny; there was a mailbag column, which is apparently a thing I like, etc. I read The Ringer for a bit, even when it turned into nothing but Game of Thrones content. I now haven’t encountered an original Bill Simmons piece of content in years and only really think about him when I hear people make fun of him. Was he always bad? Are people just snarky snobs?
I and my cohorts have articulated the case against Simmons so many times that we have a tag for it. He’s a fucking brat. The world’s foremost case study for Only Child Syndrome. He still finds his homerism charming. He knows dick about football. His pop culture canon stops at 1995. His writing never evolved, to the point where he stopped writing altogether just to be a rich guy who schmoozes with other rich guys on a podcast. He was shitty to people at ESPN and left a lot of Grantland people in the lurch when he started up The Ringer, and then he fucked over a lot of Ringer people after that. He will one day own an NBA team and be horrible at it. Lather, rinse, repeat. There’s no point in me rehashing all of that. We’ve said it before, and this site needs more young readers, not more 46-year-old ones.
But to his credit, Simmons was the perfect blogger who came along at the perfect time for it. There was no one else like him when he got big. No one. I used to read Simmons religiously, same way Graham up there did. I used to toy with the dates in his URLs see if I could read his latest column before it appeared on the main page. And, of course, I was influenced by his writing voice in ways that are evident in this very column. I look back on his old writing, usually to mock it, and I think, “Oh God, this is all shit. I should have never liked this.” But that’s selling both Simmons and me short. He was great at blogging before blogging even became a thing, and I enjoyed reading him. I shouldn’t be hard on myself for evolving to a place where I like different things and leave my old favorite things behind. All of Simmons's shit has aged horribly, but I got plenty out of it back in the day. I don’t regret that. I just changed, as everyone does. Just as the culture does. That’s how life works.
Also, look at me. I’m the byproduct of a New England liberal arts education. I left a major media site to start my own thing. I do a podcast where I’m often poorly informed about the topic at hand. I know about vital cultural issues but am completely isolated from them. I write about the Vikings all the time. I grouse constantly about people online who are only happy when it rains. And I’m white as hell and have money. I’m no different from that fucker.
Except … I’m so much better-looking than Bill Simmons. It’s not even close. Also I’m a published novelist and he’s not. SUCK ON ALL THAT, BILLY BOY.
Email of the week!
The Distraction convo around the way the NCAA tournament is run hit me in the right spot, as a very stupid college kid who helped run two tournaments a decade ago. Dan McQuade called out how well those things are run (I’m with him in not wanting to give the NCAA too much credit), and I’m amazed it actually happens given the “hosts” are usually a few underpaid SIDs and a team of unpaid college students.
I worked the 2009 tournament in Boise, and the 2010 tournament in Spokane for school credit, and a lot of time was spent out on the town drinking then attempting to wrangle pissy coaches during press conferences. It was extremely kickass for a 20-year-old, honestly. My first year I was the host for Xavier, coordinating their press conferences and media availability. I remember Sean Miller getting extremely pissed off because reporters kept asking him about the volume of Big East teams in the tournament that year.
Sean Miller! Now there’s a Guy.