Oh God I’m Ranking Matts Now
12:55 PM EST on January 3, 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 Matts, grief, side sleepers, nachos, and more.
Before we get to the Funbag, a big round of applause to Ashley Feinberg for guest hosting the bag last week. I was gonna text Feinberg my gratitude, but then she would have screengrabbed that text and done something weird with it. One can never be too careful in praising such dangerously talented people.
Anyway, Happy New Year! Time for your letters!
You seem to get a lot of questions from dudes named Matt. What is your personal ranking of popular Matts?
Quick disclaimer: I do, indeed, get a lot of emails from Matts. But these are not all from the same Matt. I get a lot of emails from the same Ian and the same Peter, but the Matt questions come from a wide variety of Matts. Some of them are 45 years old, others are 44. Some of them went to Northwestern, others went to Lafayette. These Matts are not a monolith, and so, in their honor, I will now rank the famous Matts as best I can. I’ll go ahead and include Matthews on this list as well, mostly so that I can accommodate a few extras:
I know I’ve left some Matt on the bone here, but I just looked at a dozen lists of famous Matts and now my eyeballs are extremely tired. The main thing you need to know here is that I like Matt Damon much, much more than I usually let on. Crypto ads aside, he’s always a welcome presence on my TV screen. I could get coffee with Matt Damon.
Speaking of Matts…
Please explain what happened to Matt Taibbi for all of us who don’t know him outside of his writing, and are just confused about how he ended up working for Elon Musk. Thank you.
Let me give you as much background as I can. Taibbi was once a star reporter—the only star reporter, really—at Rolling Stone, making a name for himself not merely for investigating fuckery within the financial sector, but for explaining it clearly to Americans who, at the time, were perhaps not up to speed on the depth and history of that fuckery. Wall Street makes a lot of things overly complicated so that their customers don’t understand it. Taibbi made those things simple. And pointed. This legendary story where he described Goldman Sachs as a “vampire squid” is probably the best illustration of his once formidable talents. I really enjoyed reading his work, so much so that when he asked me (and a handful of other writers) to help contribute to a gimmicky blog post he was compiling, I felt touched by greatness. Who wouldn’t? The guy was Michael Lewis and Anthony Bourdain all in one.
Then in 2017, Taibbi got called out for a lot of ugly shit that he (along with his partner Mark Ames) wrote and did while writing for a gonzo magazine in Russia around the turn of the century. Taibbi issued what appeared to be a sincere apology when that blowback hit him, but it clearly stung him to the point where he decided that he had been wronged by the Woke Police. After that, he left RS and booted up a Substack that enriched him via the now-familiar Free Thinker economy, profiting off the feedback cycle where nu–right wing media stars tell their readers, “I was cast out from the elite, and you might be next!”
That’s the exact same gripe that compelled Elon Musk to buy Twitter and refashion it in his own “I was the class clown you guys!” image. So you see how Musk would find Taibbi (and Bari Weiss) a mark to dump his Twitter Files, and why Taibbi would be willing to act as Musk’s sock puppet in “reporting” them. These are bros who just want the freedom to be bros again. And more important, they want money.
I’m probably giving Taibbi too much credit here (DISCLOSURE: We last corresponded in 2019, when I had quit Deadspin and was reaching out to anyone I knew in hopes of finding new employment), but I think he’s too smart of a guy to actually believe that he’s doing any kind of vital reporting for Musk. I think he knows this is all cynical horseshit, but he’s making a shitload of money in exchange for that horseshit, and that’s all he needs to justify it to himself. It’s good money, and it’s easy. That’s the nut of it.
And do you know what’s odd about the whole thing? It’s that none of these people HAD to stay canceled, if they were ever even canceled to begin with. All of them either forgot about America’s affinity for doling out second chances, or they earnestly believe that said affinity no longer exists. Matt Taibbi, along with many other self-appointed free-speech martyrs, could still be doing great investigative work today, and making a fairly handsome profit off of it. All he had to do was say the right things and then live those values. Someone would have given him a chance. He was just too much of a stubborn, lazy asshole to want it.
With checks being mostly irrelevant in 2023, what do you think is the most common way people mess up the year now?
Does homework count? Because fucking it up on my homework was a staple of my youth. Otherwise, about the only place I’ll fuck up the year in early January is with job numbers on my computer. My wife and I still write checks, mostly because there are certain fiduciary relationships that we prefer to keep off of the grid. Our goat breeder requires the utmost discretion, and now I entrust that same discretion to you. Do I ever fuck up the date on those checks? Sure. But keep in mind that I fuck up pretty much anything I have to write in longhand, including autographs inside books that I wrote:
The pen ran out of ink midway on that one. Rough sledding for the author.
When making pizza, nachos, or any other foodstuff where certain ingredients can randomly be tossed or sprinkled, do you let said ingredients fall where they may? Or do you take a more meticulous approach to ensure presentation and uniformity of taste? If I’m making a gorgonzola, spinach, bacon pizza at home, I do my best to ensure there is the potential for all three main ingredients in every bite. Perhaps I am insane…
You’re not insane, apart from putting gorgonzola on your pizza. Not a fan of that concept, but otherwise: Who doesn’t want a little bit of everything in every bite of everything (A Little Bit Of Everything In Every Bite Of Everything is actually the title of a fanfic sequel I have written to Everything Everywhere All At Once)? If I make pizza at home, I use fresh mozzarella and arrange the slices so that they cover the pizza evenly. If I see a barren stretch of tomato sauce anywhere on the pie, my domestic OCD kicks in and I fill the void. Then I sprinkle the toppings and parm as evenly as I can atop my work. That’s just good cheffing. My diners appreciate that level of detail.
Nachos are a different story. Nachos are chaos on a plate. I just drop cheese anywhere I see an opening on those bad boys. Once it goes into the oven after that, it’s in God’s hands.
Would Trump take a deal offering him immunity from all prosecution if he agrees to never run for office, stay out of the public eye, and off all social media ever again?
No. Also, such a deal will never be forthcoming. They only offer immunity to guys lower on the food chain. I know this because I watch Boardwalk Empire. When you’re at the very top of Esther Randolph’s org chart, you’re the prize. You’re why everyone below you gets an immunity deal.
Year-end music lists have me nostalgic for the mp3s of my youth, so I am considering buying a custom iPod as a means to listen to music minus the distractions of a smartphone. What’s the best retro gadget purchase you’ve ever made?
I have never purchased a retro gadget. Once an iPhone or laptop is out of date, it’s dead to me. The only thrills I get from retro gadgets come from chance encounters with old gaming consoles. My in-laws still have the NES that my brother-in-law grew up with, and my brother still has an N64 that he brings to my parents’ house for Christmastime, etc. I’ve fucked around on both those consoles and gotten the requisite hit of nostalgia, but that’s about as far as I’ve taken it. I’ve toyed with the idea of getting an original Game Boy, if only so my kids can get a rush from it. But that urge fades within seconds of closing the Amazon link.
So if you ever see me fucking with a retro gadget, it’s simply because I never upgraded to the CURRENT gadget. It’s a hard dad law to hold onto all of your old shit because, as far as you’re concerned, it still works just fine. This is why I’ll be caught dead before I ever stand in a fucking line for the newest iPhone.
What's your favorite shape?
Brett, this a good question. Someone asked me what my favorite color was for this column once, and I struggled for an answer. In fact, it was only LAST WEEK when I finally decided that blue was my favorite color. I’m 46 years old. This shouldn’t have been so laborious a process, and yet it turns out that the simplest questions often have the most elusive answers. Especially if you’re a clueless asshole.
On a related note, thanks to a visit to the Pompidou Centre in Paris last week, I also discovered my favorite shape. It’s this one.
Not in joke mode here. That’s “Dark Blue Panel,” by Ellsworth Kelly. I fucking loved it. I could’ve stared at it for six hours. I am horny for modern art and I don’t care who knows it.
Which is worse: a very cold toilet seat or a very warm one?
The cold one. I know people who sit on a warm toilet seat and are like OMG ANOTHER PERSON SHAT INTO THIS SAME TOILET, PERHAPS JUST SECONDS AGO. But I don’t care. As far as I’m concerned, that stranger did me a favor by warming up the seat for me. I’m not gonna get AIDS from putting my thighs in the same spot they put theirs. And it’s not like they shat ONTO the seat. If they had, I would’ve noticed. I know this because I walked into a bathroom at Nationals Park once where someone DID take a dump on the seat. Hard to miss. So if a foreign toilet seat is clean but warm, I’m good.
A cold seat, though? That’s an unpleasant 20 seconds to endure before your leg sweat works its magic. Especially if it’s an airport shitter. They keep those toilet seats in a meat locker between uses.
What would happen if, in the year 2022, someone offered irrefutable evidence that O.J. didn’t do it?
Nothing. What evidence is irrefutable in the digital age? I’m as good at deluding myself as any election denier out there. So if you showed me an unearthed videotape of Marcus Allen killing O.J.’s wife, the odds are that I’d be exactly like one of those assholes who writes “FAKE!” as their first comment on every piece of media that they encounter. A year after the video surfaced, I’d be like, “Look man, even if O.J. didn’t do it, he’s still a pile of shit who deserves to die.” This is a very healthy way to process information.
This isn't a fun question at all, but I am searching for anyone with advice for this. I'm upset, and writing this out will help. My dog died early on Monday morning. It was unexpected. He was healthy and happy until Saturday afternoon, and then he gradually declined until we got the call from the emergency room early Monday morning. I can't explain all the details, but he just started fading and never recovered. We were in and out of emergency vet visits Saturday night and Sunday. He got admitted to an ER on Sunday night for treatment. The vets we took him to ran tests, but found what was wrong too late. His poor little organs couldn't handle it. He died of what was basically liver failure. We went and saw him Monday morning after getting the call he was receiving CPR but was still unresponsive. He just looked so helpless. Just like he was sleeping, but he wouldn't wake up.
What do we do? He's not here anymore. All of his things are around and everything makes me think of him. We can't sleep in our bed. We can't go near his toys or his kennel. We also just sent out a Christmas card that is serving as a pregnancy announcement, and he's in the picture. We have so many people congratulating us about being pregnant, but we can't be happy. We're just coasting through days. No food sounds good, but I'm eating so I can encourage my wife to eat because she's pregnant. Everything seems empty. Christmas is coming, but who cares? My pup is gone. What do we do? How do I get through this? I don't have any major expectations of getting a good answer. I just needed to write something out. My constant companion and best friend is just gone, and I don't know what to do. I have to send this or I will keep getting misty-eyed while my Chemistry class is working on an assessment.
I’m so sorry, Kevin. I really am. Anything I tell you, including that “I’m so sorry,” is bound to sound hollow in the midst of your grief. That’s how heartbreak works. It’s indomitable. It feels like it’s never going to go away, and that you are the only person in the world forced to carry it with you. No one else understands this pain. Not the way you do. And it’s morbidly addictive, in a way. You don’t wanna do anything else but wallow in the pain, because the pain is all you have left of what you’ve lost. Within that pain lies all of your memories of your dog: the day you got him, the nights you spent with him, every funny thing he did, and the bitter three days leading up to his death. It’s hard to let that pain go because it means letting HIM go, and why would you want to do that so soon? It’s only human to keep that pain alive, because it’s a macabre way of keeping your dog alive.
You are hardly alone in suffering this way. Again, perhaps that rings hollow right now. Perhaps you want to be alone in this moment. But as the days pass, and your first child comes into the world, and perhaps you get a new dog, you’ll loosen your grip on the pain ever so slightly, you’ll hear from friends and strangers who have experienced similar losses (I’m certain that our commenters below have their own stories of losing pets they adored), and you’ll appreciate the time you had with your dog more than you’ll lament all of the potential extra time you could have had with him. A smile to your face before a tear to your eye, etc. In time, you’ll gradually become more open to what’s in front of you than what you’ve left behind. It’s such a reliable process that you can practically chart it.
But I can’t guarantee it’ll be a smooth process. No recovery, be it physical or mental, ever is. You’re gonna have hard days, but you won’t be alone in having them. More important, you’ll remember that love is always, ALWAYS, worth it. It always beats living in a vacuum, and it’s always there for the taking. When you get a pet, you know that you will likely outlive that pet. When you get married, you explicitly say, “til death do us part,” knowing that one of you will be left heartbroken when the other goes first. When you’re very young, you realize that your parents will die one day, and you wonder how that can even be possible. All of those losses are inevitable, and yet people choose to fall in love anyway, because they know that love is the only sure thing in this world: the only thing guaranteed to make people happy, no matter its ultimate cost. I don’t know if that makes you feel any better, Kevin. All I can say is that I wish you and your new family more love this year, and every year thereafter.
I am a side sleeper. Ideally, I have a ton of pillows strewn strategically about my body to keep me on my side. When it works, the sleep is good. I like to think I’m empathic toward my fellow humans, but I can’t understand what non-side sleepers do with their apparently deviant bodies after bedtime. Do back sleepers spend the whole night tucked neatly like Hansel and Gretel? What, as a back or tummy sleeper, do you do with your hands? I think about this so much. I hope everybody is sleeping ok, but I worry.
I’m gonna over-answer this question, but that’s OK because it’s 2022 … 2023, I mean … and I’m still shaking the rust off. I used to turn like a rotisserie chicken when I slept: from my back, to my side, to my tummy (which made me feel very sexy and European), to my other side, lather rinse repeat. Then my spine surgeon said that sleeping on your stomach is horrible for your back, so my career as a tummy sleeper ended there.
THEN I went deaf in my right ear. I don’t recommend going deaf, but it does afford me the privilege of turning onto my left side and having the world go completely silent. As such, I now alternate exclusively between sleeping on my left side and sleeping on my back. When I’m on my back, I fold my hands over the comforter like I’m a corpse lying in a coffin. When I’m on my side, I kinda hug my body with my left arm and slip my right hand under the pillow, instinctively giving my neck a little extra support. I also have two leg pillows for lumbar support, but I’ve grown deft at maneuvering them whenever I turn. None of this makes me a freak, but it does make me OLD. But that’s the deal with getting old, and I made peace with it a long time ago. We all grow old in freaky ways. I don’t even worry about my new sleeptime drooling habit, either.
My wife, by the way, remains perfectly still on her back from midnight to morning. I consider that a superpower. Meanwhile I wake up and the fitted sheet looks like a bunch of Australians threw a yacht party on top of it.
Do you find it irritating that major blockbuster movies like Godzilla vs. Kong and Batman vs. Superman use a third villain (Mechagodzilla and Doomsday, respectively) to "unite" the titular enemies, thus cheating the audience of the implied crowning of a winner between the two named characters? Because I do.
It doesn’t irritate me, because it’s 100 percent what I expect from any movie with that kind of title. They’re not gonna have Batman KILL Superman, because they need to A) keep dipshit fanboys arguing about hypothetical fights between people who don’t actually exist, and B) make even more shitty Superman movies. Even if one of those characters died in the title fight, they’d just magically spring back to life in a parallel multiverse or some other bullshit. That’s why franchise movies are such a tough emotional sell. I go in knowing that there won’t be anything at stake for the main characters, because those characters are just a bunch of balls that studio execs have to keep bouncing around for the sake of their jobs. Storylines never end, which means that every character’s arc ends up being a perfect circle. So when I plunk down $15 for Doctor Strange vs. Spiderman, I know that the showdown in question will happen 90 minutes in and end with both guys grudgingly respecting one another. It’s all the same shit.
Also, while I’m here: It’s OK to not care about EVERY superhero. Just because you have superpowers doesn’t mean I find you interesting. Superman is a boring goody-goody. Dr. Strange 2 is all about the melodramatic inner conflict of Scarlet Witch when I give absolutely NO fucks about Scarlet Witch. And Ironside is a thoroughly average Transformer. None of them mean a thing to me. None of them are Lemon from Bullet Train.
I love the playoffs and would not want to diminish them. I believe the league champion should be determined by the playoffs. But I also feel it would be okay if the team with the best regular season record were recognized. The Dodgers won a ton of games last season, so why couldn’t they win the Hank Aaron Trophy (or whatever) for best record? Why can’t we give the team with the best record in the NBA the Red Auerbach Cup? Teams winning those trophies wouldn’t get a parade or anything, but they would get recognition. I kind of think if you win the most games over a 162 win season, there should be some acknowledgement, even if another team got hot in a short series and knocked you out.
The NHL already does this with the Presidents' Trophy, and the NBA is following suit starting this season, with something they call the Maurice Podoloff Trophy.
The trophy features a crystal ball cut into 82 panels, sitting on a pedestal that combines the structures of the Eastern Conference posts and Western conference rings.
Absolutely no one will give a fuck about this trophy. It’ll be presented by Kevin Hart at a two-hour end-of-season award show, and the Celtics will summarily throw it into a trash chute. No fans will care. Even Stephen A. Smith won’t care, even though ESPN will pay him to pretend to. I know I don’t care. I don’t care about sample sizes. I don’t care that the “best” teams in the National League didn’t win the pennant. Blow your shot in October and you’re not the best to me anymore.
I’m a fucking American, which means that the playoffs are the ONLY thing that matters to me, regardless of sport. This is because the playoffs, no matter how bastardized their formatting, really ARE different. They’re different for the players, and for the coaches, and especially for the crowd. You know playoff energy when you encounter it. You know the difference. That leveling up makes the playoffs special, and why they’re the only games the ultimately matter. If the league champion and the regular-season champion are not one in the same, I’m more than happy to tar the latter as bunch of choking dipshits rather than “honor” them for having a super duper four months before they collapsed. The statistical quirks you see in playoffs results aren’t generated by a computer server in a warehouse. They’re generated by real human beings, performing spectacular feats to beat the curve. That’s the fun of sports. That’s the whole point. So fuck Mister Podoloff and his trophy. I wouldn’t even display that thing in my basement.
Email of the week!
Could an astronaut backflip on the moon? The suit looks pretty heavy and awkward, but there's less gravity. You look at the footage from the 60's and 70's and it doesn't look like they could, but what if we got an Olympic high jumper up there? Astronauts are crazy physical specimens in their own right, and they'd have a more intimate knowledge of what gravitational forces are working against them. But don't tell me an astronaut would bring home a medal in the high jump. There's room for improvement. Can we at least try?
You heard the man, Biden. Get up off your bony ass and let’s get some lunar backflippin’ happening.