Online Is What You Make Of It
2:08 PM EST on February 21, 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 All Star games, suits, rooftop parties, and more.
Is the internet a failed experiment? Not to sound like a total fartsniffer, but I think back to high school when the internet hit (I'm 42) and all the endless ways in which it could have improved our lives. And while there are certainly some great things to come from it, it seems like it has made our lives more convenient, but not necessarily better. All these amazing possibilities, and humans primarily use it to jerk off to and scream at people whose opinions differ from theirs. I can't help but think that we would have been better without it (certainly this is true for all social media).
Respectfully Brian, I don’t agree. Perhaps I’m biased given that I owe my entire career to the internet, but I don’t think I am. If you’re focusing only on the negative shit that the internet has provided to humanity (and I would strongly disagree that new innovations in jerking off are unwelcome), you’re being overly simplistic about a technology that has proven revolutionary both on a global and everyday level. Without the internet, you can’t read this website. You can’t jump into a Discord with your friends on a moment’s notice to talk about random crap. You can’t find a virtual support group for your addiction. You can’t find a decent recipe for red velvet cake in less than a minute. You can’t book travel online. You can’t find out what the name of that song is stuck in your head is by quickly googling a lyric. You can’t find out if your team is winning a game while you’re stuck in a dentist’s waiting room. You can’t watch Netflix. How many Americans have met their future spouses thanks to the internet? Their future business partners? Their best friends? The majority of friends I interact with on a day-to-day basis? I met them here. Online. My life is infinitely better for it.
Without the internet, you can’t do millions of the things you now do as a matter of routine. This is technology that enables the flow of all information to reach anyone who wants to go looking for it. That is an inherently good thing. Some of that content is wrong, and some of it is hateful. But that’s how progress works. There will always be a dark side to progress, because human beings are prone to exploiting progress for their own gain. When cold fusion is finally invented, there WILL be an Elon Musk around to take advantage of it, if not the Elon Musk. You can’t stop that from being the case. At the same time, you can’t deem this a failed experiment when we’re barely three decades into conducting it, still sorting out what parts of the digital realm are enriching our lives and which are hollow. You can’t use the worst examples of online living to paint this entire section of world history with a black paint–soaked brush. And you can’t be a fucking bummer about it, otherwise you’re not helping make the internet a better place. You’re just being an old fart, indulging in Things Aren’t As Good As They Used To Be discourse, which is the lowest form of discourse. Things were never going to be perfect on here, because the world itself is not perfect. If you expected this to be a digital utopia, you were hoping for too much. There’s a word for people who want to turn back history, and that word is “conservatives.” That’s not an ideological headspace you wanna find yourself stuck in. Stay here and help make it better instead.
My daughter is touring colleges right now(!!!), and while the entire college admissions process has changed in certain ways from back when I was a teenager, the boilerplate cliché of, “this place is what you make of it” still applies both to school AND to living online. This is a big fucking place, this internet. You don’t have to hang out in its worst neighborhoods, and in fact many people don’t. Instead, they use the internet to buy things, to find useful tips, and to connect with people they’d otherwise have no chance to connect with back in the Stone Ages. I know the damage the internet has done, and I know that I myself have perhaps caused some of that damage. But I’m not gonna sit here and tell everyone to throw the baby out with the bathwater. If you see something awful on TV, do you wish we went back to the golden age of radio? Of course not. That’d fucking suck. Same deal here. You shouldn’t want to go back, and you can’t.
As I've gotten older I've gotten and more annoyed with All-Star weekends. The games are boring to watch, the players don't want to be there, 95% of skills competitions aren't enjoyable at all and the two that are good (the dunk contest and the home run derby) aren't even surefire successes. What can we as a society do to eliminate All-Star games from the schedule, or is it something we'll just have to live with forever?
Tough shit, amigo. All of that garbage is here forever. Even when they got rid of the Pro Bowl this year, they still had a Pro Bowl–ish event that was aggressively inessential. But it filled up some TV inventory and helped the NFL generate social media content, so it stays. The money leads and everything else follows from there, always.
The important thing to remember is that all of these events are for kids. I watched the MLB All-Star Game when I was a kid. I watched large swaths of the Pro Bowl too, despite the fact that all I remember from that was the time Barry Switzer got flak for eating a hot dog while coaching it. I’ve grown to resent all of these competitions, but that’s almost certainly just because I grew. There’s some little kid out there who watched the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday and was absolutely rapt. And hey, good for that stupid little kid. I’m glad they got something from it. I myself haven’t watched any All-Star exhibition since the 1990s, but if floats another person’s boat, so be it. These games are just about the least harmful thing that ownership likes to have around.
But hey, you didn’t come here for me to be like actually this is fine as an answer to every question. So lemme get in one petty complaint while I’m here. Every All-Star game should be between conferences. The second you change the format to some shit like Team LeBron vs. Team Giannis, you may as well be televising a bowling pro-am. I know that conferences themselves are randomized to a degree, but I still like to maintain the illusion that any geographical/historical/logistical differences between them are real and important. Makes any All-Star game feel closer to real competition, as opposed to having LeBron stand on a giant Sprite cap and pretend like he gives a fuck about which player he gets to draft to his team first.
And just make it a regular game, for fuck’s sake. Don’t force me to pay attention to whatever new gimmicky rules you tossed in as a goof.
I work a finance job, and I wear a suit & tie to the office during the week. The office has a business professional dress code and for the most part people embrace it. I actually think it looks nice, but because no one else wears suits outside of people on TV I look like an asshole when I go out to eat, go to a show, or go to a game after work. It's gotten to the point where I've had to bring a gym bag to work in order to dress down for a Rangers game. The thing is, wearing a suit every day is actually kind of nice. Suits are professional, flattering, and they've become much better in the last 10 years. Will they ever make a comeback?
Everything can make a comeback. I never thought the '90s would come back, but they have. We’re like five months away from a Lilith Fair revival, the '90s are so back. And I have no fucking idea what this country, much less the world, will look like 100 years from now. Pantaloons might back around by then, for all I can predict.
But let’s go back to suits for a moment, because suits remain perfect. I have never felt bad wearing a suit that fits. You look and feel like you have your shit together. Suits have become less prevalent over the years for many reasons: relaxed office dress codes, the work-from-home revolution, cost, and the fact that, as John noted, people might think you work for The Man if you wear one, or (more accurately) you might think they’re thinking that. But none of those factors change the fact that a good suit looks absolutely terrific on a man, and you should never, ever be ashamed to look good.
I no longer own a suit that fits, and that’s not a point of pride. I feel that hole in my closet deeply. I have no need for a suit at the moment. I don’t wear them for work, and I can always get away with nice pants and a sport coat if I’m going to a formal event. But a suit (or a tux) elevates my appearance in ways that everything else in my closet can’t. The last time I wore a tux, it was the night the lights went out on me five years ago, and what I’ve never mentioned before is that I love wearing a tux. Even a rental tux felt great on my body. I love slipping into the trousers, fastening the studs/cuff links, straightening my little bowtie, and seeing those patent leather shoes shine bright on my feet. I feel like a fucking star, and there’s never any shame in that. If people assume you’re some tight-ass because you have a suit on, just spark up a fatty with it on and they’ll do a 180 instantly. Suits don’t have to come back for you to embrace them.
Does that mean I’m gonna buy a suit and wear it to my home office every day from here on out? No, but it’s fun to entertain the notion.
I love sandwiches. I love them so much that my wife makes fun of me by saying she thinks I’ve eaten a mile of sandwiches. She first made this claim around the time I was 30, and I dispute it vigorously. By my best estimate, that’s about six sandwiches per week assuming I started eating them when I was five. Have you joined the mile wide club?
Let’s play Darren Rovell here for a second and do some back-of-the-napkin math using numbers I’ve pulled out of my ass. Americans ate 300 million sandwiches a day back in 2015, which means you eat one sandwich a day, give or take (I’ll forgo longstanding debates and include hot dogs and burgers as sandwiches here), making Brandon’s “six sandwiches a week” guess fairly accurate. Now let’s say the average sandwich is six inches long. Assuming you started eating them when you started kindergarten, that would come out to 4,562 feet of sandwich by the time you hit 30. By the time you’re 35, you’re over a mile. So guess what, Brandon? Your wife was RIGHT, by God. You’ve eaten a mile-long sandwich, and so have I. Am I the kind of guy who sees a novelty-sized sub at a Super Bowl party and thinks to himself, “I’d like to eat all of that”? I am. No sandwich is too large for me.
Do you think Tom Brady had sex since he and Gisele finalized the divorce? I figure he'd at least wait to find his under-25 revenge girlfriend until after his season was over.
No guy is gonna wait that long to get laid again. Even Tom Brady, who is largely made of circuit boards and chia seeds, has a sex drive. You make the time.
Advertisers love to convey how hip you'll be if you drink their alcohol/use their cellular plan/take their medication at a rooftop party. I've seen many scenes over the years of attractive young people gathered on an urban rooftop and having a grand time as they sip Bud Light Lime or where one of them turns to the camera and confides how they can finally do this now that their plaque psoriasis is under control. I have never lived in a city. How common are rooftop parties? How common is it to even have access to a rooftop?
Oh wow you’re right, there ARE a shitload of rooftop parties in ads. And you know what else? I fall for them every time. If I see a bunch of hot yuppies in an ad gathering on a rooftop terrace and smiling wide as they drag a fat ice bucket of Corona bottles into the middle of their social circle, I’m right there. I wanna go that party. I wanna chat up those ladies. I wanna call up my buddy Turtle and have him bring over some weed. I want all of that. It would make me feel cool and sexy.
And do you know why? Because rooftop parties really DO kick ass. Due to bad weather and high rents, they weren’t terribly common when I lived in New York, which made it special anytime I got to go to one, whether it was in that city or any other. I went to one huge ad industry party at a rooftop event space back when I was like 23 and felt like the world’s biggest baller when they let me in. I used to drink on the rooftop patio at the old Gawker Media office (RIP) when visiting from D.C. and I would stare out at the neighboring skyscrapers and have a whole I’ve made it in the big-time moment to myself. Another time, I stayed at a hotel in L.A. that had a private rooftop lounge that only guests and their friends could access. That’s not common in my experience. Oftentimes, the rooftop lounge at a hotel is barely even part of a hotel. They could give half a fuck if you’re a guest or not. But at this one, guests had the run of the joint. There was a fireplace. There were outdoor beds you could lie down on. Prior to my assignment the following day, I bought a fifth of shitty bourbon, brought it up to that swank-ass lounge, and got shitfaced on one of those beds, with “Magnets” by Disclosure playing on a loop in my head the whole time. One of the better nights of my life, and it was all because of the roof. That wasn’t even a party … except in my mind.
But that was enough. I have a very mild, universal form of claustrophobia where I get uncomfortable in tight crowds. I have to get away from dense thickets of people anytime I find myself trapped in one, especially if it’s a super crowded indoor bar. A rooftop space makes all of that claustrophobia disappear. I have room to move and I have bountiful air to take in. So anytime I see a rooftop party on television, or in real life as I gaze out at surrounding buildings from a hotel room window, I immediately want that for myself. There’s a nonzero chance that Pitbull shows up and hangs with me.
Eating outside, on the ground, is an entirely different story for me. If I go to a restaurant and they ask me, “Would you like a table outside or inside?” it will take me '90 minutes to land on a decision, and I will always end up regretting it.
Do you think there will ever be a category at a major film awards show (i.e. Golden Globes) for a best short-form comedy? Like, 30 years in the future, when all the Gen Z kids are making the decisions, they are gonna let "Man Getting Hit By Football" become the first short-form comedy to win?
They already have a Short Film Academy Awards, although those Oscars tend to go to festival circuit darlings you’ve never seen and never will. They’ll never introduce a Best TikTok to that ceremony, or to any other big award show, because it won’t help ratings and because those award shows are run by people who are very snobby about what deserves to be included. They’re not gonna voluntarily cheapen the form by letting just anyone who farts out a 60-second Dude Perfect opus get an award for it. They’ve got an industry to protect, and they’re not shy about the lengths to which they’ll protect it.
So if you’re hoping for a short-form comedy award, you’re gonna have to hope that a new award show comes along. There already a handful of such awards already in place, and no one on earth could possibly give a shit about them. Take it from a three-time winner of the Weblog Awards (true story). The only awards that people pay attention to are old-ass awards that were invented by some crooked producer 100 years ago and have a longstanding national press/PR infrastructure around them. The only new show business awards that ended up getting run in my lifetime were the two MTV award shows (the VMAs and the MTV Movie Awards), and no one gives a fuck about either of them anymore. I used to care. I remember when Neil Young won Best Video one year for “This Note’s For You,” I was legitimately outraged. I was like THESE AWARDS ARE RIGGED! “ROLL WITH IT” WAS ROBBED! STOP THE STEAL! And then I probably watched a shitty All-Star game after that.
How would the Defector staff react if one of the site's most prolific and beloved commenters turned out to be, like, Newt Gingrich?
We’d all probably be like EWWWW, but we’d still take Newt’s money provided he wasn’t a shitbag down below. Speaking of which, this is a friendly reminder to our Pals in the comment section to re-acquaint yourselves with our commenting guidelines and make the interaction down there both enjoyable for others and, you know, relevant to the post above. Also: If you slander me down below, I keep a mental inventory of that. You are mute to me when you pull that shit; you’re only allowed to talk about how awesome I am.
I have read that you said you felt kind of guilty listening to Michael Jackson’s music but I have also read that you said the art is more interesting than the artist. My question is: am I allowed to enjoy stuff that’s been created by suspect people?
This is the question of our times and it’s one I’ve bandied about—both alone and with you guys—on more than a few occasions. But I think I’ve finally landed on the answer, which is that there’s no choice. If you like a piece of art, there’s a healthy chance it was made by some asshole. Never meet your heroes, etc. In that way, movies/music/TV aren’t different from many of the other products you buy. I watch the NFL even though it’s monstrous. I buy chicken at the grocery store despite knowing that the chicken industry as unspeakably evil. And I’m still on Twitter. It’s hard to participate in society without giving patronage to some of its worst people. It might, and maybe should, make you feel bad. But it doesn’t make you, yourself, evil. It just means that you’re a fucking dork who still likes Woody Allen movies. Dork.
You’re entitled to have limits, and you’re entitled to be unsure of just what constitutes those limits. But you don’t have to have those limits if you don’t want to, and there’s no sense in trying to police other people’s limits because people like what they like, and they can’t always control it. This is a long-winded way of saying that yeah, I still like to put on the Phil Spector Christmas album every year. The man was a murderer, but he could produce the fuck out of a record.
When an NFL player releases the ball, it’s a fumble. However, when it’s a response to specific brain trauma (as opposed to, like, poor grip strength or whatever) it feels like maybe it should be in a different category of play. That being said, I doubt the NFL would create a situation where the refs would have to say, “That fumble doesn’t count because the player’s brainstem was tackled into his esophagus.” Am I overthinking this?
You sure you want that to be a challengeable play? It’s football. It’s a game designed for one team to win by taking advantage of the other’s tragic misfortune. There’s no way to legislate that out of the sport; there are only shitty rules and procedures to add to make it all look nicer than it is.
Email of the week!
I was running late to court, but had to pee before we could get started. As I'm taking the piss I realize that I also have to poop, but I quash that because I definitely am running way too late to deal with any of that mess. I make it to the courtroom before the judge hits the bench, and as a lawyer that is all that matters. For the first hour or so of the hearing it seems like everything is going to be fine. A little bit after 10am though, my stomach starts rumbling. I'm really trying to focus to prepare for cross-examination, but getting increasingly distressed about the pressure building. At 10:15, the state is trying to play a video and is having technical difficulties. We usually take a break at 10:30, but I can't cope anymore. I stand up so fast my chair goes flying. My client is staring at me like I've lost my mind, and I say to the judge without pausing between my words,
The judge turns to ask the prosecutor for her thoughts on the issue. I just want to scream. As I'm standing there, I can literally feel the start of the poop pushing its way out my asshole. Luckily this isn't a wet sloppy mess like prior stories we've seen in this space, but a truly solid log that I cannot for the life of me continue to hold in. My sphincter has a mind of its own and decides it's time. I don't know what I'm going to do if the court has me sit down. The state admits the video is about an hour long, and the court agrees it doesn't make sense to start it now if we're only going to watch the first five minutes. The minute I hear the words "morning recess" I'm already out the door. Luckily the court wasn't offended and we won our motion. Client had a good laugh at my expense, and my colleague brought in a drawing that her five-year-old made for me of a man pooping on the floor. Perfect.