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Parental Screen Angst Is A Disease

on September 22, 2012 in Ruesselsheim, Germany.
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Time for your weekly edition of the Defector Funbag. Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag. And preorder Drew’s next book, The Night The Lights Went Out, while you’re at it. Today, we're talking about overly possessive Canadians, Simon who hates pooping, the Mariners, home urinals, and more.

I’m on vacation next week. My goal for the beach is to return home 100 pounds heavier than when I left. Given that the best ice cream parlor in town makes a point of using EXTRA butterfat in their product, I think I can pull it off. 

Meantime, your guest host a week from today will be our own crafty veteran Diana Moskovitz.  Usually it’s Diana asking questions that throw people off their game.  But now you get to turn the tables and ask her why anyone ever voluntarily uses the center bathroom stall at your office.  You can reach Diana at the Funbag hotline or at her company email.  All questions about BTS will be both appreciated and deeply considered.

Your letters:


I am 33, and I have an eight month old now, and my wife and I are legitimately looking forward to when our kid can enjoy staring at a screen to just burn some time during the day. We recently had breakfast outdoors in the real world, and a little kid on the table next to ours zoned into an iPhone screen for a few minutes, just long enough for the parents to focus on eggs and coffee. Our little one was doing great, but we both had that "hand the screen over and free ourselves momentarily" thought. Is it feasible to even assume that kids growing as babies now will be able to extract themselves from phone/tablet/TV time, or do we just love the big brother and assume the screens are going to be a totally acceptable nanny in a few years? 

You may as well accept, sooner rather than later, that screens will rule your children’s lives.  You may as well also accept all of the Screen Panic that will come along with that surrender.  My kids are much older than your kid is, and yet there’ll still be a rainy day where my kids do NOTHING except stare at a fucking iAnything and then my wife and I look at each other with equal parts despair and self-loathing.  Like we failed them, and ourselves. 

Never mind that every generation freaks out that the next generation is having its collective mind warped by some new entertainment technology: TV, video games, phones, bitchin’ Judas Priest albums, etc. etc.  And never mind that, during the pandemic, screens were the only way for many kids, including my own, to have anything resembling a social life.  My wife and I still have all of the screen guilt that a lot of new parents have, along with all of the same screen fears.  What if my kid sees PORN?  What if they fall in with Nazis in the Youtube comment section?  What if they see Goatse before they’re ready to see Goatse?  They’ll be ruined for LIFE.

Superficially, these are all very fair and reasonable concerns.  No one is gonna deliberately show Goatse to a 6-year-old.  But like George Carlin said, you have to let kids grow up.  You’re not gonna be able to monitor every single fucking thing they see or hear or do, and you won’t want to because you deserve to have a life of your own.  Kids are gonna see some horrible shit, like Caillou.  No sense in BOTH of you suffering through it. 

So I try to put all that 21st century copter parent angst aside and just be a useful resource for my kids rather than a 24/7 screen monitor.  We have some rules in place because they make sense. They're relatively easy to implement if you stay consistent. In our case, screens go off at 8 p.m. on school nights.  No screens at the table (this also means when we eat out).  Mom and Dad can do a random phone audit and look at all their shit if we feel like it’s warranted.  And we try to plan activities on weekends that don’t involve screens, before we get frustrated trying to plan those activities and then just let them dick around on screens instead.  Short of going Full Amish, that’s the best we’re gonna do.  And so far, none of our kids have murdered anyone.  Now that’s what I call GETTING RESULTS.


Our first child is due in a few weeks and lately I’ve been reading a lot of true crime books. Now I’m concerned my kid will become a psychopath. How do I prevent my kid from becoming the next Golden State Killer?

You just saw the screen limits I set for my kids, right?  FOOLPROOF.


Longtime sports radio listener here in Seattle, where the local baseball club has sucked for decades. For years and years, I've listened to hosts and retired players suggest that the team's struggles at the plate could be fixed with "more professional at-bats" and "having the right approach at the plate" and "not trying to do too much/taking what the pitcher gives you."  Do those terms actually mean anything, or is it just what people are supposed to say when they talk about a crappy baseball team?  I think it might be a scam.  Is it a scam?

That’s not a scam.  That’s just everyone yelling at the Mariners to take more walks.  Let’s look at the team’s history and see if those complaints are based in anything close to reality.  I’m guessing not.  Here is how the Mariners have ranked in walks every year for the past 10 years:

    • 2021: 15th
    • 2020: 12th
    • 2019: 6th
    • 2018: 26th
    • 2017: 23rd
    • 2016: 14th
    • 2015: 13th
    • 2014: 29th
    • 2013: 9th
    • 2012: 20th

On average, the Mariners have been near the middle of the pack in terms of walks over that period.  When they ranked their highest in walks in 2019, they went 68-94.  When they ranked their lowest in 2014, they went 87-75.  I can’t BELIEVE that people calling into sports talk radio are misguided as to their team’s shortcomings.  Truly mind-blowing shit.

In this case though, those callers are at least partially informed.  Moneyball is now 18 years old, but its revelation—that getting a free base from a pitcher thanks to a walk is the best value in the game—remains as true today as it was back then, if not truer now that hitters can’t even make contact.  As I write this, the top nine teams in terms of walks this season ALL have winning records.  So it makes sense for fans to be like, “Hey, the M’s need to have a good eye like all these other kick-ass teams.” 

The problem is that the Mariners are so shitty, all the time, by design, that it doesn’t matter at all if they get more patient at the plate.  They’re still gonna suck absolute shit. 

If they were a competent baseball franchise, then their walk rate would matter.  It should matter.  This is professional sports.  Everyone here is REALLY fucking good at what they do.  At this level of play, the only differences between teams should only be a matter of fractional degrees.  It’s why every sports cliché is normally true.  It’s a game of inches, you look for any edge you can find, etc. 

As in the early 2000s, racking up a shitload of BBs is still extremely useful, but now, since every club knows that walks are good and that outs are bad, that value only reveals itself if your team is as nominally talented as everyone else.  However, if you’re like the Mariners, and you can’t hit a fucking dead fly with a two-by-four, you need more than an edge here and an edge there.  You need an extra $200 million in payroll, a tanker truck full of Advanced Spider Tack, and an owner that actually gives a rat’s ass.  Get all that and THEN we can talk about why Ty France doesn’t belong in the cleanup spot.


At the end of a close hockey game, the team that is losing will pull their goalie to have an extra attacker. But what if a team went the other way: in an effort to save their win, they pull the left winger off the ice and put in the back-up goalie so there are two fully padded guys in the crease? Since no one has done this yet I assume there must be a rule against it, but I ask you, would this make hockey better or worse?

There is, indeed, a rule against it (“Each team shall be allowed one goalkeeper on the ice at one time”).  If this rule didn’t exist, hockey would be infinitely worse.  Unless you’re one of those ACTUALLY I APPRECIATE GOOD DEFENSE fans that no one likes, you’re not gonna enjoy teams stationing multiple goalies in front of the net from the opening puck drop, with every regular-season game ending in a shootout after a 0-0 tie, and every playoff game being suspended after going 98 overtimes without a single recorded goal. That would be bad. 

Also, it would take away from the enjoyment of watching a singular goalie play out of his fucking mind when the time calls for it.  We’re talking about those saves where you watch in slow-motion and the save makes even LESS sense than when you watched it at full speed.  I don’t want anything getting in the way of that sensation.  I don’t want extra goalies.  I don’t want the mythical Fat Goalie, with celluloid pseudopods that cover every open space between the net and the outside world.  I just want one poor bastard back there, pulling every muscle attached to his dick as he attempts to stop live bullets fired at him for three straight hours.  I wanna scream DANCE FOR ME at Marc-Andre Fleury and then laugh manically as he makes a save using nothing but his own tongue. 

In fact, fuck it. Let’s add a SEVENTH man to the ice in the final minute of any game.


Not sure if you have watched the NBA much this year, but I think the coaches should ditch the suits once we get all the way back to the normal. They don’t look unprofessional at all and look more relaxed overall. Even Thibodeau! Thoughts!

Yeah I’m in favor of NBA coaches going back down to business casual.  It’s been a longass time since Pat Riley and Rick Pitino busted out suits and every other coach was like HEY I SHOULD LOOK LIKE GORDON GEKKO FOR 48 MINUTES, TOO.  That little sartorial trick was enough to make every basketball coach appear smarter and 500% more business savvy than all of them are, and it made them a good amount of money.

But the illusion has worn off ever since Phil Jackson died in a tragic incense factory explosion over 10 years ago.  If you suck at coaching, and at leadership in general, no one gives a fuck anymore if you’re wearing a tie, especially when every NBA player is so much better dressed than coaches are off the court.  When a coach is wearing warm-up pants and an unflattering polo shirt on the sideline instead, then I know they mean REAL business.  They’re not worried about getting a fat speaking gig, or projecting the authority of Lee Iacocca or whatever.  They’re there to yell at the refs, to frantically draw up shit on a white board, to squat in apprehension at the end of any game, and to sweat into correct fabrics.  That’s how a true professional should look and comport himself.  It also will help make Mike Budenholzer look a little bit less like a haughty chump when he gets fired a week from now.

By the way, I now have the opposite take with stand-up comedians.  My sons are both wild about John Mulaney, who wears a crisp suit in all of his Netflix specials.  Every comic at The Improv back in the '80s wore a suit.  None of them do anymore because it makes the average modern comic look like a relic and a tight-ass.  Instead, most of them walk onto the stage looking like shit, which makes them five percent more relatable.  But Mulaney, in his suit, looks like he has his shit TOGETHER.  Doesn’t even matter if that’s true in real life (by now, you know that it isn’t).  On stage, he looks extremely prepared and rehearsed, which makes it even funnier when he screams out NO! in the Mick Jagger voice.  I’m all right with comics going back to suits if they’ve got the chops for it.



I hate shitting.  Maybe I've been doing it wrong all these years, but as soon as I start I can't wait for it to be over.  Afterwards I don't even feel relieved; in fact, I have to wait a few minutes before I can even sit down comfortably.  If you could make it so that there's one totally normal bodily function you never had to do again for the rest of your life, with no negative health consequences, what would it be?

Again we have a case of the reader using their actual question to distract from the main issue at hand.  Because I’ve answered the IF YOU NEVER HAD TO VOMIT AGAIN WOULD YOU TAKE THAT DEAL FROM SATAN question before (I would take the deal).  Of much greater interest to me is that Simon abhors shitting.  The established stance of this column, and of Defector in general, is that shitting is fun.  You get to sit.  You get to be alone … maybe check out what’s going on over on Twitter.  You feel the sweet, sweet relief of a whale-sized bolus slipping out of your body and plopping down into a lukewarm cistern below.  You get to mark your territory via deathly rectal odors, so that anyone who follows you into that bathroom knows that’s YOUR toilet they’re intruding upon.  All of that is good.  Taking a good dump is arguably our chief reason to live.

But Simon here finds shitting to be deeply uncomfortable.  This is only true for me if I’ve just eaten 50 pounds of Korean food and had it come storming out of my anus like a loosed bull.  THAT’S when a post-dump sitdown has real, physical consequences.  If that’s happening for Simon literally every time he shits, I think that merits a visit to the doctor.  Will his doctor jam a finger up your ass to probe around for a diagnosis, thus furthering his discomfort?  Yes.  But I think Simon needs to know if there’s a parasitic alien living inside his body. There’s only one way of ascertaining, and treating, such things.

The problem could also be in Simon’s head.  You should enjoy shitting.  You should be grateful for it.  If you’re not, it’s possible that you’re a PGA Tour player, but it’s also possible that shitting triggers some sort of deep-seated anxiety within your mind.  And your butt.  Before I got treatment for all my exciting psychological problems, I used to be scared shitless of any problem with me that might be all in my head.  That struck me as harder to treat than anything I could simply fix via a pill.  I know that isn’t necessarily true anymore.  I don’t fear head problems the way I used to. 

I wish that I hadn’t had to fucking die that one time to experience this little epiphany.  But that’s how life works.  Sometimes you literally get some sense knocked into you.  Anyway, maybe Simon had a ruthless babysitter who yelled at him while he was on the can as an infant, and when he shits NOW, that stress returns to him. Or maybe he just needs to take a fiber supplement.  Probably that.  Either way Simon, I hope you find a way to shit happy one day.


If you were a rich guy and space, time, cleaning, etc. weren't issues, would you install home urinals? I think I would, but I'm not sure why exactly.

Home urinals are the stock dream of every bro out there.  I myself once imagined making a fortune and then spending half of it on Old Town Bar urinals next to my mancave, all of them filled with fresh crushed ice to piss on.  I can see my piping hot urine eating through that ice right now.  Mmmm … melted piss ice.

I have much more practical dreams these days, such as replacing my 2012 Kia Soul with a car that has a much better suspension.  But I also outed myself as a Material Boy just last week, so of course I’d spring for the home urinal if I had a billion dollars.  Like Bob, I don’t know why.  I don’t drink anymore, so I wouldn’t even get to enjoy a good late-night beer piss.  Then again, we’re talking about spending money on something related to servicing my own dick, so I think I DO know why the dream persists.

Laura (not Wagner):

I am turning into a gigantic asshole about the use of “pre-” as a preposition when it’s not needed. This was triggered by my being exhorted to “preorder” your latest book. Why not just “order”? “Pre-drilled holes”? You mean “holes”? “Pre-baked” anything. Help.

In the last two cases, “pre-” really means “semi-.”  The bread is partially baked.  The holes are partially drilled.  This is advertised as a convenience to you, the paying customer.  It’s like being sold half a pair of jeans.  “These jeans are already 50 percent done!  We didn’t stitch the inseam, but just toss it under your sewing machine for a few minutes and you’re good to go!  Tastes much fresher than already completed jeans!”  This is one of those semantic farts that’s so widespread I never even bothered to notice it until Laura pointed it out.  Now, of course, I’m very angry about it, and I will cut anyone who dares to use “pre-” to my face ever again.

UNLESS they use the term “pre-order,” which is standard across the publishing industry and really quite an accurate term to use when you’re endeavoring to purchase a book prior to its official publication date.  Like MY book, The Night The Lights Went Out, which is available October 5th, but is available to pre-order right now wherever fine books are pre-sold!  And once you’ve decided to pre-order, you’ve actually already pre-pre-ordered, because your purchase is now preo-rdained.  I’d say that’s a PREtty good use of both your time and your money!


It doesn't bother me to see all the new food trends like plant-based foods and whatnot. What does bother me is that all this food is mislabeled. The ingredients in the food give them their name. There is no such thing as a "plant-based burger" or "chickpea pasta." Those are burger-shaped plants and pasta shaped chickpeas. It's why we don't call cookies burgers. Just because it's flat and round doesn't make it a burger. It's what's INSIDE the flat round item that determines whether or not it's a burger. Therefore, if your "burger" is made out of "plants," it is not a burger and these new and trendy foods should be renamed.

No putting that cat back into the bag, amigo.  As a matter of fact, I learned from my old GQ colleague Brett Martin last week that Impossible Foods has taken to calling their plant-based meat just “meat.”  Does that align with the current dictionary definition of the word meat, or the common conception of what meat is?  No.  Do I give a shit?  Not really.  I’ve eaten enough Impossible Burgers to be sold on them.  Call it a burger.  Call it meat.  Call it a fucking sandwich for all I care.  All I know is that I’m not turning one down if you give it to me.  The product is spiritually meant to be consumed as regular meats and burgers are, and it lives up to the billing.  So as far as I’m concerned, Impossible Burgers have earned their way into that part of the lexicon. 

Also, if society collectively redefines meat to allow for non-mammal forms of it, it could probably help wean more people off of red meat.  I feel like a Michael Stipe award show t-shirt when I say that, but it’s true.  Your average meat aficionado isn’t gonna run screaming at a veggie burger if they grow up believing that vegetables CAN be meat if prepared correctly.

As for the chickpea pasta … it’s fucking awful.  It’s worse than fake coffee.  We bought that shit because one of our kids only eats pasta so we had to find some way to furnish his insides with actual vitamins and what not.  But I would NEVER buy it for any other reason.  I’m fine to send a team of Italian strongmen to Barilla headquarters and blow up the Protein Plus extruders using C-4.  That shit’s application for official Pasta Status is DENIED.  You have to be good to make the cut.


I was watching The Replacements (for who knows what reason) and during a game scene, on comes "Rock and Roll pt 2" by Gary Glitter. My wife looks over and remarks how it shouldn't be in the movie because that's the Hockey song, which seemed odd to me but some googling has kind of backed her up. I think I missed this cultural point as I'm a relatively recent import to the US.  My question is... are there other songs that are so associated with a sport that if you heard them in other contexts just sound kind of weird? I think “Seven Nation Army” and European football are pretty much there.

Wait, what?  Hockey people think they OWN the molester song?  That’s fucking ludicrous.  Fuck them and their little sport.  Google backs up nothing.  Every sport uses the molester song.  Every DEPARTMENT STORE plays the fucking thing.  There is no public space in the world where I have not heard the molester song.  It’s just like hockey fans to think they invented that shit, and for them to claim dominion over the most widespread, common thing to ever exist.  “Hey! Dose Americans over dere are eatin’ lunch! That’s OUR thing!” 

And I don’t give a rat’s ass if the entire nation of Canada exists inside an igloo where news of the song’s global spread has yet to reach precious Canuck ears, or whatever Canadians call ears.  “Well you know I’ve got a little ache in the ol’ hearies there ya see.”  We’ll play the molester song anywhere we want to, Canada.  Even in shitty Keanu Reeves movies that deserve to be forgotten but are propped up forever by the Sports Movie Podcast Industrial Complex.  Fucking try to stop us.

That goes for “Seven Nation Army” too, by the way.  I’ve heard that bassline everywhere.  Probably drives Jack White out of his mind to hear it anytime he’s watching pro cornhole.  Good.  I don’t like it when Jack White is happy.


In a situation where a fan of a team of that sucks can't even watch the games without spending 200 bucks a month on cable, can that fan switch allegiances?  I've been an Anaheim Ducks fan for about 15 years. I live less than five miles from the Pond. However, the abomination that is Bally Sports prevents me from actually watching the games unless I start paying hundreds of dollars for cable. Also, the Ducks are terrible with no prospects. The Vegas Knights are fun and good, and I'd like to be a fan. I'll even switch to the Kraken just for the branding. 

If it’s the Ducks, you sure can.  Who’s gonna notice?  Not anyone in Anaheim, that’s for goddamn sure. 

This is gonna be a thing going forward, by the way.  The Ducks are hardly the only team to make watching games difficult for fans.  There are already many teams relegating their own product to impossible-to-find RSNs.  And then there’s this:

So I can’t blame you for bailing on your team if the simple act of following them becomes untenable. It’s only a matter of time before the World Series comes around and you can’t watch it because MLB sold the rights to Vudu and Vudu is blacked out on your Roku box.  Somehow baseball’s profit margins will increase 600 percent from this arrangement.

Email of the week!


My paternal Grandpa was a pleasant man when I knew him at the end of his life. Apparently, he had mellowed considerably in his old age. He was a carpenter by trade, flooring in particular. Purportedly, he could pound a subfloor nail flush through 1 inch oak into a pine beam with a tap and a full swing - he had the real grandpa strength. Fast forward to my Dad's childhood - It was yet another sweltering summer heat wave in an unrelentingly hot and humid Cincinnati summer. Grandpa had a few extra bucks so he went to Sears-Roebuck and got a window unit air conditioner for the family. This was in the 60's, so those fuckers were huge and weighed about 400 pounds. Grandpa gets home and humps the behemoth upstairs to install it. About 20 minutes after Grandpa had returned from Sears, my Dad and Uncle hear a very loud noise from the side yard, it sounded like a car crash. Before they could run over to see what the commotion is about, the young boys hear a violent torrent of unintelligible profanity coming from the upstairs window that stopped them in their tracks. They peek around the corner of the house and decide it was best to go to a friends house for the remainder of the afternoon and lay low to avoid their old man. When they get back to the house for dinner, Grandpa appeared to be calmly sitting in his recliner, drinking a beer, and eating some cheese. In a bold move, my father asked as innocently as he could "Hey Dad, is the air conditioner all hooked up?" There was a short pause before my Grandfather, his gaze never leaving the television, tersely replied "what air conditioner?" and with that, the conversation was over an no one ever spoke about the air conditioner in front of Grandpa again. The busted up air conditioner carcass remained rusting on the ground next to the house for about 5 years. They just mowed around it.

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