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Funbag

Mike Greenberg Is The Smelliest Turd Left In The ESPN Punchbowl

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - DECEMBER 11: Mike Greenberg of ESPN looks on during a game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Golden State Warriors at Wells Fargo Center on December 11, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Tim Nwachukwu/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 tailgate FOMO, rotten underwear, Remembering Some Brands, chatty refs, and more.

People of Earth, I bring vital news: I’m going on vacation with my family to the Caribbean next week. So while I stick my toes out of the water and luxuriate in all the tropical goodness, a talented guest host To Be Named Later will preside over the Funbag in my absence. So you guys all have fun while I fellate one virgin pina colada after another.

Now, with that out of the way, we come to your letters:

Seamus:

I came across a clip from Mike Greenberg’s new radio show. I’m not posting the title because I refuse to interact with it. Anyway, Greeny was doing his usual whining about the Sixers and the state of the NBA, as if the sport’s about to go under. He was super proud about not rooting for Harden and the Sixers, like he’s doing something. I’m not even a Harden or Sixers fan and it was the most insufferable whining crap I’ve ever heard. Has he always been this insufferable or has it just gotten worse?

He’s definitely gotten worse, but Mike Greenberg became a lost cause a very long time ago. He started out as your friendly neighborhood SportsCenter anchor. He ran down the highlights and threw it to the analysts with boilerplate professionalism. Real local news sports guy shit. I remember watching Greenberg do morning SportsCenter and finding him downright pleasant. He wasn’t Dan Patrick or Scott Van Pelt, but he wasn’t annoying. That is the full extent of my treasured Mike Greenberg memories.

Then ESPN gave Greenberg (not a chance I ever call him Greeny) a radio show with Mike Golic and that’s when he morphed into whatever the fuck this is:

“I don’t even know how to wash a dish, folks!”

Take late-stage Rick Reilly and douse him in a hogshead’s worth of bleach. HEY PRESTO! You now have the modern iteration of Mike Greenberg: an unabashed company man whose stock in trade is issuing both takes and jokes that will appeal exclusively to old people who are watching ESPN as they lie dying in a hospital bed. Mike Greenberg has never said anything funny OR interesting, and that’s quite a feat.

Motherfucker makes Jenna Bush look like John Oliver. I used to believe that Adam Schefter was the worst person in the ESPN stable. After all, Schefter is a shameless bootlicker who half-assed his way through the past year and probably only got re-upped by ESPN because Disney wants to get into the gambling business. But Schefter, to his credit(?), will gleefully embarrass himself both on TV and on Twitter so that all of us can spank his ass raw for it. I find dumping on that pile of shit to be a worthwhile pursuit. He even breaks actual news on occasion, when Mr. Editor allows.

Greenberg, by contrast, can’t even muster enough take juice to rise to being worthy of derision. He’s just there, in his irrepressible whiteness. All the time. He sits behind his desk and brays like a stuck donkey about absolutely fucking nothing. If you’re lucky, he’ll complain about his Jets (They’re always bad! So funny!) or channel a 50-year-old man from 1990 and carefully explain why anti-taunting rules are so, so important. For this, Mike Greenberg gets paid millions of dollars. I wanna throw a brick through his window, but he’s not even worth the effort. A complete waste of breath, that one. Jimmy Pitaro hopes to be able to clone Mike Greenberg in a lab one day.

Andrew:

In showbiz, has a spit take ever been pulled off where it doesn’t come off as completely staged, poorly-timed, and lame? This has to be the most overused and ineffective stunt still in existence. 

Here’s a good one:

If you’ve ever done a real-life spit take, and I have, you know that they’re extremely messy. You don’t spit out a perfect, conical aerosol of fluid when you’re caught off guard. That shit comes out of your nose, dribbles down your chin, wets your crotch somehow … all that. Most staged spit takes bypass these characteristics and opt to have a character or talk show guest spit water out like they’re the fucking Bellagio fountain. All that does is leave a mess for the poor stagehand to clean up. I don’t approve, with one very recent exception:

10/10. Otherwise, all spit takes must now be storyboarded in advance and then approved by a committee consisting of me, Sacha Baron Cohen, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, President Biden, and French clowning master Phillipe Gaulier. Applicants must also submit an essay explaining why they opted for a spit take over a devastating nut shot.

Jack:

I’ve found myself getting into watching cricket, of all things, and when they go to a video review, the umpire or official has to narrate his reactions as he’s watching it. Even to just say, “Can you rewind that, please?” Would NFL video reviews and challenges be made infinitely better or worse if the ref had to talk out loud, for everyone, as they were watching video?? I’d rather that than the TV crew’s resident ex-ref on staff give his two cents.

You get some of that audio on an NBA broadcast. It’s not terribly illuminating. It’s mostly refs speaking in ref-ese about clock shit. I’m sure NFL refs have a bit more to say as they’re watching a replay of Kyler Murray fumbling for the 97th time, but Roger Goodell isn’t letting that audio go public. He’s lidding that shit like it’s a videotape of Dan Snyder fucking a dog.

And I’m fine with keeping the refs quiet. We need to move toward LESS audible refereeing and not more of it. I don’t give a flying fuck what any official has to say. The less conspicuous they are, the better everyone is for it. Major League Baseball, as in touch as ever, has failed to recognize this:

So get ready for a full season of Joe West Jr. or whoever the fuck indulging his inner Enrico Pallazzo and regaling the crowd with a 15-minute explanation of why he gave that one runner the hitchhiker thumb. This is all a scheme to pad game length for advertising. I BET MIKE GREENBERG SPEARHEADED THE EFFORT TOO THAT YIPPY LITTLE PRICK.

Matt:

Do you prefer (1) playing sports; (2) watching sports; or (3) reading about sports? It’s #3 for me, no question. Is that weird?

Holy shit, I’ve never pondered this before. Perhaps this was a subconscious decision on my part so that I wouldn’t ever have to confront the idea that No. 3 would be my choice. In my lifetime, I have almost certainly spent more time reading about sports than actively watching them. Throw in my sports take diet in other media—TV and sports talk radio, primarily—and it’s a landslide. I fucking hated having any of my favorite sports talk radio shows preempted by, like, a baseball game. Hated it. I would silently fume at the broadcast before turning the dial. How dare they broadcast actual sports right now? In this economy?

But if you put a gun to my head and said I could do only one of those three things for the rest of my life, the answer becomes obvious. It’s watching sports. It’s obviously not PLAYING sports. That ship sailed for me back before America was discovered. But I fucking love watching sports and always have. The whole reason I read/talk/write about sports is because I love watching them so much. The discourse helps pass the time until I can watch the games again. It also psyches me up for games, helps me understand wins/losses better, and makes me feel like I have a stake in something that would still thrive with or without my eyeballs on it. All of that is fun, but none of it compares to tuning in late on Saturday night and watching Caleb Love plunge a fucking dagger into Mike Krzyzewski’s eye socket. When you watch moments like that unfold in real time, you know there’s no substitute. That’s the primo shit, and it always will be.

I still don’t have Twitter on my phone (oh, the willpower), so I had to go over to the desktop that night to drink in all of the schadenfreude-ian goodness. Easily the best day on Twitter since Aaron Rodgers got COVID. But otherwise, I don’t miss having Twitter around while I’m watching sports. I used to miss parts of game action because I just had to tweet/or read tweets while the game was still ongoing. I integrated tweeting into my fandom so seamlessly that I had a hard time imagining that I’d ever go back to watching bareback. But I have, and it’s been a thorough delight. Here now marks the end of my Twitter smarm for the week.

Ryan:

I recently realized two pairs of my underwear have a small hole in them. I’m going to keep wearing them, but how many holes is acceptable before they have to go? They are boxers, and the hole isn’t right over my junk or ass, it’s off to the side.

Depend on how old you are. If you’re 20 years old—and I know damn well that Ryan isn’t—you can wear your undies until you’ve got a lone shred of cotton covering your balls. But if you’re older than that, no more. You have to rock pristine skivvies, both for everyone else’s sake and for your own. You can’t get away with ratty old undies at my age.

In fact, there’s very little you can away with in terms of sartorial and hygienic sloth. I have to put way more upkeep into looking presentable now. I gotta shave every day (the horror), or else I look like I live in a bus station. I can’t wear my old college shirts that say IF WE’RE NOT WASTED THE DAY IS. I had to upgrade from Adidas track pants to Vuori. I didn’t even look right driving my old Kia Soul around toward the end of its tenure in my driveway (your jokes about Kia Souls in general is noted). At 45, you gotta spend more money just to keep from devolving into a quivering mound of love handles and ill-fitting jeans. This is why I immediately replace any socks or undies of mine that get holes in them. My days of thinking such garments give me a “broke aspiring rock star” sheen are long over. I have to look like an actual man now, and I frankly kinda enjoy playing the part.

[he said while typing this post in a hoodie that has dampened pits]

Michael:

I was walking today and walked past an old Circuit City store. You know, the ones with the big red rectangle sticking out? Later I was chatting with a friend about Quibi and how it failed, and realized this was essentially playing Remember A Guy: Company Edition. Can you do what it takes and expand the Remember A Guy brand to take over the listicle space? 

Alas, I cannot. We are hardly the first people to pioneer the remembering of things. Does that stop me and my friends from screaming COPYCAT at anyone on Twitter who dares to remember some random athletes without giving us a hat tip? I think you know the answer.

That said, I would very much like to expand into Remembering Things cinematic universe. Companies would fit neatly into this effort. Like remembering Fogdog. Remember THAT company? If you go to their web address in 2022, you get a 404 error. They’re just an eBay storefront now. They don’t even have a Wikipedia page. I can’t find their old ads on Youtube either. Perhaps Fogdog never existed at all. But I swear these other brands did:

  • Zima Gold
  • Infoseek
  • Vestron Video
  • Hotjobs
  • Suncheros
  • Arthur Anderson
  • Pets.com
  • British Knights
  • Republic Airlines
  • LA Gear
  • Class Act
  • The XFL

I like to remember bands as well, but I have very strict parameters about that. If you cry SKID ROW at me, well no shit. They were a multiplatinum band back in the day. Takes no effort remember that band. What I want out of the Remembering Experience is someone throwing a name at me that I haven’t thought of in YEARS, so that I go,” Oh fuck, I remember those guys!” Like Love and Rockets. Drop their name and NOW you’re pulling from deeper inside the well. That’s the kind of band remembering I can get behind.

HALFTIME!

Howard:

What is the best present for me to take my NFL fan friends when I finally go tailgating with them again (post-pandemic) in September? I can’t really take food over from the UK due to quarantine regulations, plus I travel light as I’m only there for a weekend to watch the game.

Booze, right? I don’t know what else you could possibly bring to a tailgate if you can’t bring food. It ain’t like you can bring over a pellet smoker for your friends instead.

I myself have not tailgated since my wife and I went to a Georgetown football (yes, football) game in like 2004. In fact, my personal tailgating history is utterly pathetic. I have NEVER tailgated at an NFL game. I have tailgated at two college games, two rock concerts (and one of those was for work), and that’s about it. It’s pathetic. I barely qualify as American, I’m so tailgate deprived. I watch CBS come back from the ad break during Chiefs games showing B-roll of parking lot grills and I feel both hungry and deeply remorseful. In another life, I am a contractor by day and, by night, I constantly tinker with a retrofitted oil drum smoker I call THE BEAST that I have hitched up to my pickup truck. I show up at the tailgate lot five days before every game with enough sausage links and brisket to feed 980,000 people. I can drink 50 beers a day and not feel a fucking thing. My team, as now, never wins a championship. I die of heart failure well before retirement age. It’d be a very nice existence.

What if you brought your pals something British, like a newspaper to wrap all of their fried shit in?

Mike:

I told Alexa to play some music while I was doing the dishes and she started playing some oldies hit playlist. My daughter (13) said it was too loud when I was rocking out to “Son of Preacher Man” in a wicked falsetto. My question Drew: Will oldies from the 50s and 60s be to my children be like big band music me (I’m 40), or will they have some sort of special staying power?

The former. The ’80s are now to kids what the ’60s were to me in my own youth, and the ’90s are the ’70s, and everything that came before any of that may as well be the Civil War. When I was younger, I couldn’t fathom a world that existed without rock and roll (I very much can now), and I certainly didn’t want to hear any artifacts from that era, outside of the Sinatra Christmas album. So to my kids, any boomer Woodstock music is so old that it may as well not exist. Brands can keep cramming that awful Buffalo Springfield song into every ad and movie trailer, but guess what, brands? The kids don’t give a fuck anymore. It’s all antique noise to them, and rightfully so. It has zero staying power. Not even The Beatles can survive that shit.

By the way, my 16-year-old is currently binging The O.C. and I’m still coming to grips with how old that show is now. Because it’s so, so old. It’s the oldest goddamn shit. Anything that came out after I graduated college is still “new” in my mind, but that’s very much not the case. The other night the girl told me she’s gotten to the part in that show where “Seth is kind of an asshole now.” Bail on that series, kid! The show doesn’t get any better once that goes down!

John:

If you had to present a list of 10 cities to Russia that were ok to nuke, which 10 would you give them?

I know you want me to be all Mr. Chuckles here and scream BOSTON! But the truth is that I would pick the 10 cities that are farthest from my house. That means tough shit for you, Perth, Australia.

(Another by the way: I’m fascinated by Perth and how far away it is and I wonder if I’ll ever go there one day. I bet it’s cool as shit. It has a very pretty bridge I’d like to walk on.)

Ed:

FUCKING PAPER TOWELS PULL FROM THE GODDAMN RIGHT ON A VERTICAL STAND! Lately at other people’s houses (mostly family because I don’t have many friends), I started flipping the paper towel rolls over and educating the homeowner on proper PT etiquette. There’s no question it’s the superior way to quickly & cleanly yank a towel one handed. But it has become a growing topic of discussion within several group texts and apparently making it’s rounds on Facebook (which I do not have). So, I will patiently wait for you to tell me I’m right because you’re the only person I can trust in situations like this.

Ed is right, although I’ll admit I’d never thought about the issue at all until he brought it up. It’s not unlike the checked bag debate still going on from yesterday (my take there is that you should carry your shit on instead being a pathetic sucker who waits at the claim for a bag that’ll never come out). In general, I prefer a horizontal paper towel holder. Rolled overhand, of course. But we have a vertical one in the kitchen for various reasons, and we always set that one up to pull from the right. If you’re left-handed, I can see doing it the other way. But if you’re right-handed, like everyone in my family is, and you go the other way, you may as well wear your shoes on your feet. All these people out there making extra work for themselves. Some truly shameful shit.

Jannie:

Watching season four of Drive to Survive, I remembered how perfectly it packages F1, a sport I could not care less about. It gives you cool slo mo, pretty people looking fly, speedy cars in slow motion, and enough samey cliches to be comforting. You get to watch a whole season in 10 hours, at your own pace. So what sport could benefit from this treatment, with all the money Netflix throws at F1? My vote is ice hockey, but a smaller event, like say Six Nations Rugby, would also work. 

Netflix is already expanding that franchise into golf, tennis, and the Tour de France. Any of them can work provided Netflix gets the same kind of warts-and-all access and on-site photography that they get for Formula One. My guess is that they won’t get that for golf or for tennis, because both those sports are extremely image-conscious. And that’s a shame, because PGA players are all such hilarious pricks. They would make for riveting television if the Tour was down with showing you everything that happens inside and outside of the clubhouse.

But you’ve met golf. You know how fiercely it protects itself. They’ll never let you watch Ian Poulter do six rails of coke and then take his escorts out in his Ferrari for some Dairy Queen at 3 a.m. If anything, these spinoffs will represent the gradual whitewashing of the entire Survive franchise. Access will get slowly restricted down to nothing, storylines will become plotted, and you’ll end up with an hour of Brooks Koepka staring at the camera and going, “I just need this win so bad” before they cut to footage of Bryson DeChambeau stalking the course to ominous cello music.

Any thriving sport, especially one with a large contingent of American players and handlers, is perpetually allergic to candor. If they weren’t, my first and last vote here would be college football. Not even close, really. F1 let Netflix in because it was a niche sport here in America that needed an unofficial introductory course (no pun intended) to rope in new fans, and because it isn’t plagued with the kind of PR addiction that American enterprise now all but demands. So maybe the cycling one will have teeth, because the Tour de France is more international and has been so beset by both drug scandal and lack of attention that they have no choice but to let Netflix see all the naughty bits. That’s my hope. My only hope, really.

So yeah, try it out across all of the foreign sports. Do one for Six Nations Rugby, and one for Aussie Rules football, and one for professional yacht racing. Also, let’s do one for pro surfing, strictly for the cinematography. I only watched one episode of D2S (for this piece I wrote about McLaren), but the photography was enough for me to understand why every sportswriter in America suddenly got horny for it. Good show.

Pat:

I recently fell asleep on the couch on a Saturday afternoon while half-watching Ken Burns’ Baseball. It might have been the most I’ve ever felt like a dad, and I have two kids. I need a ranking of the best dad TV to fall asleep on the couch to. I feel like a lot of people would put golf at number one but for me it’s got to be a Ken Burns doc. 

It’s the 4 p.m. NFL slate and has been ever since I was like 15.

PJ:

What city would request a trade out of its state? I’m talking about cities that just don’t “fit” with their state. I have to think Austin, TX is looking for a trade. Miami, FL as well. 

I doubt that. Austin may be a liberal oasis in Texas, but all of the people I know from there still very much enjoy the Texan parts of it: namely, the barbecue, the Driskill Hotel, the outdoor bars, H-E-B, the spacious liquor stores, etc. Transplant Austin into, like, Oklahoma, and it’s not Austin anymore. No one in Austin would be happy with that deal. In fact, I’d wager a great many native Austinites are already displeased about the number of non-Texans who have been flooding into their city, diluting its Texas-ness while increasing real estate prices, traffic, and anodyne retail developments anchored by a new Trader Joe’s. All that yuppie energy tends to ruin the rock ‘n’ roll sheen that comes with being a progressive safe haven in the middle of an Old West loony bin.

As for Miami, if you’ve ever been to South Beach, you know that it can’t be anywhere else. I shit on Florida like everyone else does, and then I go there and I’m like THIS IS SO NICE. What are you gonna do, move Miami to fucking Georgia? Even I don’t want that. Also, while Trump lost Miami-Dade County in both 2016 and 2020, his vote tally there increased by nearly 200,000 from the former to the latter. So don’t go thinking that Miami doesn’t have any Florida in it. It still has plenty of angry old people and conservative Latino wingnuts to stay loyal to Ron DeSantis’s vision of a world without women or gays.

You want a city that should move out of its state? Have a look at New York. The rest of that state is a frigid anchor dragging NYC down. I say move that New York City down to North Carolina. All the professional southerners out there would be so upset.

Email of the week!

Rob:

For years now, I’ve played this “game” where often when I hear a word/name/phrase/whatever, I need to count out the letters on my fingers based on the Scrabble point value of those letters (A=1, B=3, C=3, D=2, etc.), starting with my thumb, with the hopes of it ending on my pinky. So for example, “Defector” would be 2+1+4+1+3+1+1+1=14, which would end on my ring finger. If that happens, I have to restart counting on the finger that will make it end on my pinky, so in that case, I’d restart on my index finger. When I do this, I do it subtly and have never been called out by someone saying, “what the fuck are you doing with your fingers?” but anyone I’ve told about this thinks I’m out of my mind. So the question is, am I the only person on Earth who does this?

You might be but I’m now interested in trying it.