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 my dog, travel stress, rice, new brand logos, and more.
I just drunkenly sent this text to my brother during Game 5 of the GS-DEN series: “Draymond is the modern Dennis Rodman. MJ and Pippen were great but they don’t get those rings without Rodman defending his nuts off, having attitude, and rebounding like his life depended on it. Draymond will make the HOF averaging nine fucking points a game because he’s indispensable.” Agree?
I do. I should note here that Rodman was only in Chicago for the second three-peat of Michael Jordan’s career. Horace Grant was the cleanup guy for the first run and did a brilliant, if less flamboyant, job of it. Both guys were necessary, as is Draymond.
I have hated Draymond for far too long. He loves kicking people in the nuts. He has a stupid face. His mouth is always hanging open even when he’s not speaking. And he loves to defend Tom Izzo. All eminently hateable qualities, and ones that take-havers like me will beat into the ground over and over again. But, as I said last week, I’ve come around on Draymond. This is largely because he’s one of the best passers I’ve ever seen. He’s so fucking good at passing the ball! He knows where he’s gonna pass the ball before it’s even in his hands. That I couldn’t see, or appreciate, these powers beforehand is a testament to my own personal ignorance. Draymond is, at his core, a mesmerizing on-court performer.
He fits squarely in the “you hate him if you play against him but love him if he’s on your team” cliché, and such players are almost always the worst. But the passing thing makes Draymond a breed apart from Rodman, Grant, and numerous other non-Jokic comps. There’s something deeply satisfying about a big man who can pass like Draymond can. They shouldn’t be able to do that, not with their size and not with nine other huge bodies orbiting closely around them. I don’t know how someone like Draymond works his particular brand of magic, and that mystery is what makes him so compelling to watch. I grew up trained to think it was the guards who did the passing and the big men who did the finishing. The current NBA model is often the precise opposite of that, with Draymond and the Splash Brothers as its foremost pioneers. Draymond is one of a kind, he’s not a Celtic, and he’s not even the dirtiest player in the Warriors/Grizz series! I think I love this man, and the guilt is subsiding quickly.
I’m a fairly relaxed individual. Like you, I’ve been to therapy. I have a perspective on my own foibles and do my best to minimize them. I can see when I’m being an idiot before I’ve done too much idiocy. But, for some dad-mode ingrained reason, I cannot prepare my family for travel, pack the car, travel on a deadline (getting to airport, beating traffic, etc), or otherwise run the project of getting us from Point A to Point B without my BP skyrocketing and me turning into the most unreasonable, raging prick of all time. Do you have any Dad-chill advice to help spare me and my family from my own brain?
I actually have had this exact same problem. The American travel infrastructure is designed to piss you off, regardless of which mode of transport you opt for. There’s traffic everywhere. The airlines suck. Trains are always delayed. Buses are rolling port-a-potties. Everyone else is a selfish dickhead. Frustration is baked into the model, which means that the average American tends to emotionally ready themselves to be angry the whole time.
I do. I get ornery and distracted the day before any trip. I have trouble sleeping that night. If it’s a family trip, I get EXTREMELY pissy while packing the car in the morning, especially if I’ve finished loading it up only to have my wife or kids ask from something trivial buried at the bottom of the Tetris stack (and this happens every goddamn time), or if my wife has 15 extra things, like a bag of towels, that have to be added to the back (same deal). If we’re late to leave, even if it’s just a car trip and we have no flight to catch, I get hostile. It got to the point where my wife insisted on packing the car instead of me, which improved things mightily.
I also don’t handle as much of the driving as I used to. I used to wanna drive the whole way, because I’m a secret control freak and because I didn’t want to be in charge of parenting the kids while riding shotgun. Then we’d hit traffic, I’d rant and rave like a complete asshole, and the trip would be ruined before we had even arrived. On one trip to my folks’ house, we got stuck on a stretch of I-84 in Connecticut that is always, inexplicably, at a standstill. No one fucking lives in this part of Connecticut. Why is there so much traffic? It makes want to kill. Anyway, after that trip, my wife told me that it wasn’t the kids who were a problem on long car trips. It was me.
So, and this is true, I wrote up a bunch of driving rules for myself, I now read them aloud, like an incantation, before any family road trip. Here they are.
- The second I get out of line in the car, you (my wife) are allowed to call timeout. No questions asked, I have to pull over and cede the wheel if you do.
- I’m only allowed to talk about traffic and roads in terms of information. I’m not allowed to complain about it because I can’t do anything about it. And you’re allowed to update me on traffic conditions without me testily refusing that info.
- If I myself sense that I’m not in a good frame of mind, I will politely say so and ask for help.
- If I don’t adhere to the rules above, I have to travel separately.
Since establishing these rules, I’ve kept my shit together. You might think I’d spring instantly for the “drive everywhere by myself” option, but that’s surprisingly untrue. I wanna be in the car with everyone else. I don’t wanna be under car arrest.
As for traveling alone, my therapist told me to make a packing list for all of my business trips, so that I don’t get that nagging “Did I forget something? KEVIN!” feeling anytime I hit the road. Since all of that, I’ve been a better traveler. I keep my cool when shit goes haywire, and I allow myself to be pleasantly surprised when they do not. It’s all a growing process—one slower and more painful than connecting through O’Hare. But I am improving, because I have rules I can follow and because I know now that I don’t HAVE to be a neurotic piece of shit anytime I go somewhere new.
Now that I’ve successfully traveled without causing a scene, I know I have the power to keep my shit together, and that’s a nice feeling. Makes me both happy and confident. I don’t wanna go back to Dickheadland. Lotta people think their anger is just an inherent part of their identity, one that can’t be changed in any significant way. This is wrong. You don’t HAVE to be pissed off, even when it’s superficially reasonable to be. You can be chill, and then marvel at your own chilling powers. If you set up some hard rules and routines for self-improvement, you really can make progress.
For real though, I-84 deserves to be bombed from space.
You said in a recent mailbag you’ve aged out of hats. Does this apply to everyone?!?! I’m quite bald, and thus wear a hat daily. Not so much for vanity, but rather to protect my naked dome from the elements. Rain is cold and skin cancer sucks. Am I destined to be cast as a loser clinging desperately to my youth?
Nah nah nah, I should have added a Bald Guy caveat to that answer a few weeks ago. I was like, MEW MEW HATS SMOTHER MY LUSCIOUS, THICK MANE OF HAIR DON’T YOU ALL JUST HATE IT WHEN THAT HAPPENS? If you’re bald and wanna protect your scalp from both the elements and the shallow judgment of others, by all means rock a hat. I won’t think less of you. I’ll totally know you’re bald, but who gives a shit. If the hat you wear is a Yankees cap, though? Well now you’ve opened the door to new entirely new line of scorn, one that’s all too justified.
I do know bald guys, and I was always surprised the first time I noticed they had a bald spot or a receding hairline on them. I was like, “Oh wow, he’s losing his hair!” as if this wasn’t an incredibly common occurrence among people over the age of 30. I should probably make a written list of rules for myself for how to act around bald people. If I can’t obey those rules, the bald people aren’t allowed to ride in the car with me. That’s the fair arrangement. HAVE FUN RIDING THE BUS, LARRY DAVID.
The wife and I are expecting our first child later this year. While we’re both extremely excited, I can’t help but worry about the incoming financial strain on our budget. Do you have any tips that either helped with saving money, or putting your mind at ease early in parenthood?
I have tips for the former but not the latter. I remember when my daughter was born, one of my first thoughts was, “Oh fuck, I really gotta start making money now.” That angst only went away after roughly 14 years of parenting, and only because I actually MADE money. Not everyone has that kind of luck (or, to be frank, privilege), which means not everyone gets disabused of financial pressures in life. Again, America. That goddamn America. I BET THEY DON’T HAVE THESE KIND OF PROBLEMS IN AUSTRALIA!
About the only thing you can do to soothe your financial angst, short of making a list of rules, is to remind yourself that there’s only so much you can control money-wise, and that all that matters is that your kid is happy and healthy. So long as the kid is alive, you’ve done your job. It’s a low bar, but a critical one. My kids are all presently still alive, which means we could be eating out of dumpsters behind a local Taco Bell and I’d still be satisfied with my existence. Totally. Absolutely. Wouldn’t have a care in the world. Wouldn’t even know we were poor!
As for saving money, shop at a grocery store that offers gas points. Get a decent cash back credit card. Explore the wonderful world of eBay, Poshmark, and the rest for deals on secondhand clothing, equipment, home wares, etc. Put as much of your salary into your 401k as you can stand, and then put that 401k money into an index fund, and then leave it there even when the market is dogshit (like right now). Hire an accountant, because they almost always pay for themselves. Never pay for something big at a store without checking your phone first for competing prices elsewhere. Never expect flank steak to be reasonably priced. Never get your car serviced at a dealer. NEVER use color printer toner. I think that’s all I got for the moment.
What is the funniest edited-for-TV line that makes you laugh the most? To me it’s the “find a stranger in the alps” dub from The Big Lebowski.
When I was a kid, it was the “If you stuck a lump of coal in his fist” edit from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. But essentially, TV edits are a relic of another era. No one watches movies on regular TV anymore and, even if they do, most cable networks don’t bother editing out objectionable language, because who’s gonna give a shit? They’ll cut out T&A, in the American puritan tradition. But I’ve watched movies on cable before where the bulk of swear words were either left intact or simply removed, as if airing on tape delay. This is the better way of doing things. Kids know what swear words are. They know what a boob looks like. Let them watch TV shows and movies the way they were intended to be watched. No one in my grade school thought Ferris Bueller actually said the “fist” line. They all knew the original.
What’s your opinion of The Offspring? In my mind’s eye when I think ‘Loud, cranky white Gen X liberal’ I picture you and Dexter Holland. Plus it seems like their heyday coincided with your formative years. Is this the greatest compliment or greatest insult you’ve ever received?
The latter. You go to hell. I fucking hate The Offspring.
Could you ever see yourself following Roth’s lead and becoming a turtle guy?
No. I already have three kids and a dog. That’s plenty. I don’t want any animal that requires a terrarium: turtles, hamsters, tarantulas, and what have you. You’re basically sticking a glass box of lizard shit in the center of your home when you do that. You now own a living chore. No offense to Roth, who I’m sure is a good turtle father, but these pets are expensive, smelly, and barely rise above the status of house plant in terms of the owner/master relationship. I’m not seeing much of a payoff here.
We used to have two fish. Unlike with the dog, the kids never helped with these fish. I didn’t either. My wife would dutifully change the fishes’ water, scrub their rock clean, and feed them; only for the rest of us to forget we even owned fish. That’s what happens when you have a starter pet alongside an actual pet. Fish can’t compare to a dog. They have no shot. My wife couldn’t wait for these poor fish of ours to die. All that busywork she did to take care of them was only work and nothing more. Luckily, a neighbor’s kid wanted them, so she gave them over and that kid gave those two fishies the love and attention they required. My own kids didn’t bat an eyelash when the fish left. They are clearly not fish people, nor am I. I know that a turtle, or an iguana (my preference after seeing them hanging out in the Caribbean; I love to go places where lizards are normal) requires more upkeep and perhaps offers more emotional attachment in exchange for that, but I’d still rather stick to the meticulously curated, and low maintenance, brood that I currently possess.
To that end, I need to talk about Carter for a moment. I have not always had an easy go of it with Carter. He used to bite. He’s got a bum eye that required $4,000 in surgery. He’ll be cold and dead before he ever goes to a dog park willingly. He never gives out kisses. But God, I love that little bastard. Normally, sportswriters pen long and emotional tributes to their dog right after they put the thing down. But Carter is still very much alive, and so I’m gonna say nice things about him NOW, so that he can read them.
I love Carter’s fluffy tail. I love napping on the couch with him sitting on top of the couch, acting as an extremely unofficial sentry. I love watching the rare moment when he breaks into a run. I love playing the annual summer game of, “Is he smiling, or just really hot right now?” I love taking him to the bus stop on weekday mornings. I love when I come toward him and his tail wags but no other part of him moves, his version of a sly smile. I love when he burrows into the couch to get his stink all over it. He sleeps in his crate in our bedroom, and I love all the bizarre dog sounds he makes during the night snoring, farting, barking to himself in his sleep, etc. I even love the sound of him licking himself, which sounds perverted but I swear is soothing to me in an oddly platonic way.
Carter is a rescue, and my wife and I continue to believe that he used to have another owner (he came already housebroken), and that this owner treated Carter poorly, either via abuse or neglect. As such, Carter spent the first five years of his life with us on guard at all times. If I wore a dark outfit, he’d mistake me for a threat. He avoided other adults and other dogs in equal measure. He trusted nothing and no one. He always, always, looked afraid. That’s no longer the case. Now Carter just hangs out all day and hops up into my lap when I have a good piece of cheese for him to munch on. It’s been a lot of work—WAY more work than I planned on or wanted—but Carter finally understands that we’re not going anywhere. We love him, and this is his home, and no one will ever hurt him again. He’s not afraid anymore. I wouldn’t want any other dog. Or iguana. Or fish.
Being that you used to work in advertising, I felt you’d have a good answer to this question: Why do companies change their logos? And I don’t mean shit like USAir rebranding to US Airways because of too many plane crashes, or Facebook doing whatever it is they’re doing with Meta. Giant Eagle, the major upmarket grocery store around Pittsburgh, somewhat recently changed their logo. As far as I can tell it’s the same (or very similar) shade of red as the previous logo, a not radically different font, a couple green leaves have been added but that’s it. I don’t remember it coming along with any big ad campaign. Why the fuck do companies do this like every eight years? Is it because now that I’ve noticed it the brand is clearly in my head simply by noticing the redesign? I kind of hate it and imagine there are cynical reasons but would love to hear your take.
The cynical explanation is that the marketing department at Giant Eagle needs to justify its existence, so they ginned up reasons the logo needed to change and then paid a consulting firm $5 million for the privilege. The best historic example of this was the infamous Pepsi branding PowerPoint from 2009, in which Pepsi’s ad agency redesigned the soft drink’s logo by taking inspiration from the Earth’s magnetic field. And that was the SANEST part of that deck. The rest was an ad agency deliberately confusing its job—to sell you more Pepsi—with art, so that the agency itself didn’t have to confront the fact that selling people more Pepsi is an inessential life pursuit.
The less cynical explanation is that everything gets old and stale, which means brand iconography can as well. A scant handful of logos end up being timeless, like the Nike swoosh, but the rest end up showing their age after a while. If you drive by the same pizza chain every day and the shingle never changes, that’s not a signal to your brain that some things in this crazy world can still stay the same. It signals to your brain, “Hey, there’s that ancient-ass Papa John’s again. What a fucking loser that guy is.” If they freshen up the logo, that mental rust falls off. More important, you NOTICE the rebrand. You may not care superficially when you see it, but it registers, enough to possibly factor into your decision-making later that day when you’re ordering takeout and need something cheap and awful. That’s the magic of advertising, baby.
Which current TV play-by-play or color announcer (or team) would benefit most from being allowed to curse freely on air?
Joe Buck, because I openly love Joe Buck and because he always seems like he’s on the verge of dropping a “Come the fuck ON” any second during a telecast. That’s why I loved him to begin with. Conversely, you could go the other way and pick some milquetoast shithead like Mike Tirico to punch up his delivery with an F-bomb here or there, but I’m not convinced that would do the job. Some people wear profanity well and others don’t, and you can instinctively tell one from the other. Most play-by-play guys fall into the latter category.
That’s why, as cool as a cursing announcer would be, and as much as I love to curse myself, I don’t want announcers working blue. They’d all suck even worse than they already do. I like the model as it is now, with the PBP guy giving me basic information and a color guy saying something dumb so that I can torch his sorry ass for it. That is what I’m used to. I didn’t even like the Manningcast, I’m so set in my ways. I am a sheep.
Now, Stephen A. cursing on First Take? Whole other story. THESE FUCKING SHIT-ASS NEW YORK KNICKS DISGUST ME.
What is in your top five for unappreciated food items? For me, it’s rice. Oh, rice might not put up the gaudy stats, but it’s always there when you need it. A bed for stew, the base for so many, many delicious Chinese and Japanese dishes, and it even helps out tacos and fajitas in a pinch. Rice is the mid-rotation starter who always gives you six solid innings. The offensive lineman who never takes a play off. The man off the bench who can give you a three-ball when you need it or help off kill a penalty. Also receiving votes: Onions, chicken, apples, and rye bread (great in sandwiches AND as a dipping tool!)
I fucking love rice and can eat a bucketful of it without hesitation and without remorse. It absorbs both sauce and fat more capably than I myself can. My favorite part of chicken tikka masala isn’t the chicken, but the rice after it’s sopped up all of that saucy goodness. I’m hardly alone on that. And I love the taste of the rice itself! Sometimes I’ll eat plain white rice out of the Chinese takeout carton, I’m just that much of a rice pervert.
But to call rice underappreciated is a Ringerism I won’t tolerate. It’s the most popular food on Earth. The bedrock of entire civilizations. I’d say rice is appreciated a great deal, especially by rice farmers who know exactly how backbreaking the task of harvesting rice is. So I’d be a fool to presume that rice has somehow flown under everyone’s collective radar. You want an underappreciated food item? Here’s one: turkey pepperoni. Sounds like an evil product, because it is. AND YET.
Email of the week!
Which foreign leaders do you think a majority of Americans could actually name? With the war in Ukraine, Putin and Zelenskyy are probably at the top at the moment. Only other one I think most Americans could name would be Kim Jong Un. Maybe Justin Trudeau, Xi Jinping and Boris Johnson, but that has to be the limit, right?
Wait … who are all those people?