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Police Merch Is Its Own Horrible Little Fiefdom

An open sign in the window of a gift shop is seen in Times Square on August 16, 2020 in New York. Five months after New York City shut down to combat the coronavirus, the tourism industry remains flat. Business leaders and City officials are trying to devise plans to revive the tourism industry that has in years past brought in $45 billion annually and supported 300,000 jobs. (Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP) (Photo by BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images)
Bryan R. Smith/AFP via 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 CEOs, weed, sleeping bags, beached sharks, and more.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Why Your Team Sucks begins today, which means that I’ll be in the hate lab for the next month and change: doing scholarly research, scribbling madly on windows, and formulating the exact right way to tell America that Aaron Rodgers can get fucked with his own mouthguard.

As such, I’ll have little time to spare for other matters. But many hands make light work, and two of my Defector colleagues have volunteered to captain the Funbag as I tend to my dirty sinful football business. Your guest host next week is already legendary Defectern Abigail Segel. The week after, it’s supervising producer, Normal Gossip co-creator, and excellent blogger Alex Sujong Laughlin. Email those two brilliant minds your questions right here, marvel at their answers, and then groan in exasperation when I return in three weeks to spew all of my usual horseshit.

Until then, your letters:


On a recent trip to New York while passing my hundredth NYC gift shop, I wondered if any other police or fire departments have as much available merch as the NY departments do. I've never seen anyone repping the London PD or the Tokyo FD. Of all the merch in the world for police and fire departments, what percentage does New York take up? Well over 50%, right?

This is actually an interesting story within the cop-industrial complex. Right after 9/11, sales of NYPD and FDNY merch skyrocketed, with the fire department telling the New York Times that its official merch store was clearing $200,000 a week after the attacks. Just about 10 years after that, the city bragged that its licensing revenues, which included NYPD merch, was over $24 million a year.

So forget about what percentage of worldwide cop merch is NYPD, because I would just pull some answer out of my ass and it wouldn’t matter. What’s more interesting here is that thanks to 9/11, and thanks to the NYPD’s outsized presence in film and television, the department now generates significant revenue for a city that it has long kept under its powdered sugar-covered thumb. That gives cops even more license to tout their importance to the city, it gives them even more leverage over City Hall (which is now currently run by a cop), and it gives them incentive to shut down and gleefully assault street vendors and gift shop operators who dare sell counterfeit NYPD merchandise.

With that in mind, if your little boy or girl asks you for an NYPD hoodie this Christmas, what are you going to do? That’s right: you’re going beat them with a Maglite to teach little Johnny a lesson about lionizing the oppressor. Fucking fascist.


I’m 38 and losing my hearing due to a lifetime of metal concerts (first one was Pantera with Type O Negative in 1993; it rocked ass) and playing drums and never wearing earplugs like a dumbshit. My wife and daughter have made no adjustments whatsoever in their mumbly soft speaking voices, so I am constantly asking them to speak up or telling them I can’t hear them, and it’s infuriating. As a man who is down an ear, have you experienced a similar problem? If so, what have you done to deal?

Going deaf has helped my wife and I get a head start into becoming my parents. Every conversation my parents have is along the lines of, “He said he was coming over at four!” followed by “What?” followed by that same exchange eight more times, at increasing volume. All day long, every old couple plays a game of telephone with each other. That’s me and my wife now, and far too early. And you should hear my dad and I try to talk sometime. It’s like two broken Alexas squaring off. The whole room clears out.

This is one of the foremost negative effects of hearing loss: communicating not only becomes difficult, but frustrating for all parties involved. Loved ones of the deaf get annoyed that they have to keep repeating themselves, and those of us who can’t hear get annoyed that they don’t remember to speak up, and often forget we’re deaf to begin with. This is all quite funny from a distance, but can grow into genuine enmity if left unaddressed.

I’ve discovered a few solutions to this problem over the past five years. The first one, obviously, was to get hearing aids (do likewise, Justin). The second one is that I’ve trained myself, likely thanks to therapy, to not get angry when I can’t hear people anymore. I just tap my ear and politely ask my wife, “Say it again?” or “Sorry?” and that usually does the trick. If I don’t hear her that second time, I usually say, “I still didn’t get it, but that’s OK,” and then we move on. She knows the deal and doesn’t wanna get exasperated either.

In a dash of irony, my loved ones, especially my dad, give ME shit for mumbling and/or enunciating my words too casually. They think I’m a lazy speaker. And I’m always like MOTHERFUCKER I HAVE A PODCAST. I KNOW HOW TO SPEAK ENGLISH, GOD DAMMIT. So that’s where the bulk of tension in my familial interactions comes from. Everyone expects me to talk like a fucking butler. Move to France if you don’t like it.

I’d also like to go back to Justin noting that he didn’t wear earplugs at loud concerts and now regrets it. You will too if you don’t give in to BIG FOAM and use them at any show. I just used them when I saw The Struts two nights ago. The band was incredible, and I didn’t become any deafer as a result of it. Everyone wins.

(Of course, there was a moment during the show when I realized that I’d stuck one earplug too far into my left ear, so I ducked into a bathroom to pry it out using a cocktail pick. Should you EVER attempt to do this when you have something stuck in your ear? No. You’ll end up in a New Year’s Petchesky post that way. But, in an upset, I still managed to pull it out, put it back in with a little less mustard, and enjoy the rest of the show. Related: When I wear earplugs at a concert, I can hear myself singing along way more than I care to. The other night I demoted myself to lip syncing along. A low moment for the former choirboy.)


How many people think Mark Zuckerberg is fucking awesome? Elon Musk is loathsome, but his cult of personality is undeniable. Between the Tesla stans, 85% of the people paying for Twitter, and a good portion of the tech execs who spend most of their time receiving blood transplants from Bay Area twinks, the man definitely has people who worship the group he walks on. Who, if anyone, fulfills the same role for Zuck?

The people who make money off of him: his lieutenants, his libertarian pals, his shareholders when things are going well, etc. That’s how loyalty works now. It’s a commodity. That’s why there’s a whole strain of Linda Yaccarino/Jason Wright/Erika Nardini types out there who not only ascend the corporate ladder by blindly defending the money, but they can stay at the top for a long time by doing it. There are millions of these people in the white-collar sector, because true loyalty is no longer necessary. It’s for suckers, even. Even Musk fanboys have ulterior motives. They’re wedging into his burly shadow so that they can co-opt his politics, his money, and his supposedly inquisitive mind. They make his identity part of their own, and then they profit from there, either in money or in clout. Some of these benefits are strictly psychosomatic, but many of these acolytes are too stupid to realize it.

In my opinion, this is all Steve Jobs’s fault. Remember when people used to put Apple stickers on their fucking cars, like that made them Renaissance men and shit? That’s because of Jobs. Jobs made tech worship its own sect. As sects tend to do, his has grown and metastasized into something even more harmful and vacuous than its original incarnation. Customers invest their own visions of the future into men like Jobs, and then keep the faith even when that future either fails to materialize or turns out buggy. To admit these men are flawed is to admit that the world is flawed, and too many of these people can’t handle that idea. Thus … BRO REBRANDING TWITTER AS X IS SO HARDCORE, BRO.

Zuck, despite his numerous shortcomings, offers a similar relationship to anyone foolish enough to worship him from afar. His may not be as visible as other fanboys, but that’s for the best. Because no CEO should have fans. I shouldn’t even know who any of these fuckers ARE, let alone have a rooting interest in them. Jobs’s innovations really did change the world (not necessarily for the better), enough to create a cottage industry of tech CEO worship that persists long after his death. Meanwhile, his company remains immensely profitable but largely uninspiring, and every other CEO to follow has come believe that they can also change the world not by being as talented as Jobs, but by being as much of a fucking bastard as he was. They have spawned a great many little bastards in their wake.

Thus, if you find yourself extolling the virtues of any CEO for any reason—even if it’s a cool CEO, like Donald Trump!—you need to find a girlfriend.


I have almost no experience with weed, which is now legal in our fine state for recreational purposes. Where do I begin? Vaping, smoking, edibles, tinctures? Which strains? I feel like I need a Ph.D. in Cannabis Studies to begin to understand this stuff, and I am relying on your vast experience with the Devil's lettuce to guide me. I wouldn't mind getting high, but what I really want is pain relief from all these darned surgeries I've had in my shoulders and hips over the years. My drug of choice is alcohol and, as you well know, it is not an easy one to use responsibly.

I have to keep my answer short here because—true story—my mom doesn’t like me writing about weed, and I don’t want my mom mad at me. So, very quickly: I started off smoking it, then switched to vaping because it didn’t leave as much of an odor trail. However, vaping exacerbated my acid reflux (PAR-TAY!), and almost certainly has other yet-to-be-discovered health drawbacks. As a result, I switched to edibles, which I had long resisted due to one bad pot brownie too many. What I found was that gummies are now fucking glorious. The ones I get work fast, and they’re so discreet that they should almost be illegal (that’s a joke). Also, you know your dosage with gummies, so you can find the right level and then stay there. Smoking/vaping is more of a moving target in that regard, so it’s hard to keep your shit even. My advice is to start with light dosage gummies and work up from there.

One little PSA: I have rarely, if ever, had weed work for me as a painkiller. Never got rid of my sciatica or any of that shit. I might be in the minority on that, but I just want you to temper your expectations if you put all of your eggs into that particular bowl.


Just to lightly be on Team Lou's Wife, but eating raw or undercooked snails and slugs is a bad idea: Becoming an infectious disease doctor has both been wonderful and ruined many wonderful things for me.

Well NOW you tell me. Thanks a lot, buddy!

By the way, I had legit escargot in France last Christmas and they were worth the risk.



Baby Driver was awesome, and everybody should love it. But it came out two seconds before we all realized Kevin Spacey should be sent to live on Fire Ant Island. Similarly, Payback is great, but Mel Gibson isn't. What are your favorite movies that were ruined by a generally unsavory actor?

There was sizable contingent of people, Anthony Bourdain chief among them, who hated Baby Driver and wanted Edgar Wright run over by a Subaru WRX for having the gall to make it. So be careful with any mandate forcing Baby Driver love on others. As for me, I enjoyed Baby Driver, even with Kevin Spacey’s presence in it. Did Lily Collins have a great deal to do with this? Possibly, let’s focus on the serious issues here. I can separate art from artist easily in that instance, if only because Spacey was such a talented actor. Good art can make you like it despite yourself, and that’s hardly a new phenomenon. Shit, I can even watch old James Woods movies and do all right, and James Woods is an awful man.

So the only time I bail on an unsavory actor/actress is when I already don’t like them. I never need to see Woody Allen on a screen again, and do you know why? Because he’s fucking annoying. The fact that he’s a diddler just gives me a bonus excuse to ghost him from my to-see list. Otherwise, I hate approvalism, where critics grade a work solely on whether or not it passes some squishy moral litmus test they keep in their breast pocket. That’s real 2014 shit. If you limit your artistic intake to a handful of choice angels, you’re gonna end up being a pretty boring person.

Also, Payback IS a good movie.


My best friend has and I have birthdays about 10 days apart. I was planning to get him a gift card to a vinyl record store. He said that’s is what he wants and thinks it is a great gift. In fact, he thinks it is such a great gift that he got ME a gift card to the same store. Now, I appreciate the gift, but my record player broke a few months ago and I have yet to replace it. So, any vinyl I procure w/this card would be unusable until I replace the player. Can I just return the gift card back to my friend as his gift in lieu of buying a SECOND gift card from the same store?

This is your best friend? Then yes. If it was just some random friend, I would have told you to re-gift that card to some other poor schmuck, in accordance with suburban tradition. But you can level with your best friend. That’s the point of best friends. You get to treat them like family. That is, you get to be openly rude to them. So you can say to say to your best friend, “Hey man, I can’t actually use this since my record player broke, but you can keep it for yourself you fucking hipster-ass nerd.” And he should be fine with that. Unless he’s Jack White, in which case you are fucking DEAD to him and he’ll never speak to you again. You’re probably better off.


A great white shark is dropped into your bedroom. Do you think you could survive in there with it until it died?

I’m walking into a trap here if I say yes. This is like asking me if the best college shark could defeat the worst pro shark, I swear. The average great white shark is 10–16 feet long, which more or less occupies my entire bedroom. If you drop it into that bedroom, it’ll begin to suffocate right away, thrashing around with terrifying force and likely knocking the lamp off of my nightstand (dude!). How do I avoid the shark while it’s going mad like this? I can barely avoid my dog when goes the full silly goose and starts thrashing around on the couch to get his stink all over it, so my odds of skillfully evading the spastic movements of the world’s most fearsome predator for even five seconds is a tall order. One stray fin to the dome and I’m a goner.

Plus, and this is very important, I would be scared SHITLESS. It’s not like I’d find a shark in my bedroom and coolly say to my wife, “Well now, we’ve got ourselves quite the situation!” My brain would shut down on the spot. I wouldn’t be able to process any of it, and what I could glean would have me thinking RUN in 98-point font. I’m not Ethan Hunt. I don’t stay cool under fire. When the wifi goes haywire in this house I shit my pants. So shark management is well out of my purview. I’d panic, hide in the shark’s mouth, and then be eaten.


God forgive me, I might be a mayo guy now. For years and years, I've agreed with you that mayo is disgusting and wholly unnecessary to any recipe that calls for it. But this one mayo blew my mind. Only four ingredients: eggs from hens that they were bred specially (and cruelty free), olive oil from special trees in Italy that are five times as old as we are, just a hint of lemon, and the oils from its rind. Oh my God compared to Hellmann's, this shit rocks off. Here is my two point question:

1) Would you try this despite your hatred for mayo?

2) Would my subscription price go up due to owning up to this mortal sin?

I’d try that, sure. But I would need to see it made in front of me, does that make sense? If you bring that legit mayo to me already smeared all over my bread, and you tell me oh we just made that from scratch in the back, I won’t believe you. In fact, that’ll only make me angrier. This is how the aioli lobby has come to dominate all of our mid-priced restaurant chains. They WANT you to think you’re eating something beyond mayo when all they did was mix some Hellmann’s with red pepper juice. I’m so used to that scam that I rightly suspect any mayo bully telling me oh but this mayo is different. I’ve read that room before.

But make it by hand in front of me and then serve it to me? OK, I’m game. Not to deliberately bring him up a second time, but I remember a Parts Unknown episode where Bourdain went to France and had Aïoli Provençal made right in front of him. That looked good. That I could fuck with. Anything lower than that on the totem pole and you get the fist.


Is Biden a boxers or briefs guy? More importantly, has any president worn an adult diaper, even if just for an instance or two, while serving as President? 

Biden is 100 percent a briefs grandpa. I can picture him in his tighty whities right now. Doesn’t even bother me, it’s such a natural image. He’s padding into the White House kitchen to grab some milk, with just a hint of asscrack peeking over his waistband. Feels very homey to me.

As for Mike’s second question, Ronald Reagan was president for eight years and out to lunch for like six of them. The man had to wear diapers over his diapers. I’m surprised he didn’t eat his own shit while giving a State of the Union address.


Are there basic household tasks that you struggle with that seem easy for everyone else? I cannot for the life of me manage the hoses at my house. Screwing them on and off correctly requires my wife’s help. And don't get me started on winding them back up into a perfect coil.

Any hose hookup alongside my house oxidizes within six seconds of attaching the nozzle, so you’re not alone on that one, kiddo. And yes, my wife and I have considered buying the slinky hose that never gets tangled, but we haven’t done so because I don’t know why. Anyway, here are some other basic tasks that I fuck up as a matter of routine:

  • Affixing a stamp neatly, and right side up, to an envelope
  • Folding any dress shirt to pack into a suitcase
  • Putting a sleeping bag away

That last one … that one is the worst. The only advance in sleeping bag technology that I’ve seen in my lifetime has been the invention of the air mattress. But if my 11-year-old is going to a good old-fashioned slumber party at a friend’s house, I gotta drag that fucking Coleman sleeping bag out of the closet and then tear every muscle in my body trying to wedge it into the little handbag it came in. A fool’s errand. I’d have an easier time sleeping next to a beached great white shark in my bedroom. I’ve also tried rolling up the bag and then cinching it with the little string-and-hook setup hanging from the ends, but I’ll understand advanced calculus because I figure that out. Maybe they sell an ultralight one at REI that’s easy to pack and costs $300, but I don’t own it, so it may as well not exist. In summary, fuck sleeping bags.


I was talking with my girlfriend the other day and the band The National came up. I contend that they're going to be one of those "generational" type bands; like when people think of 2000-2020 rock, they'll be one of the two or three bands that people think about and remember fondly. I could see them ending up on the soundtrack of whatever the 2045 version of The Bear is. And if they're not dead, they'd sell quite a show at a decent sized performing arts center. She fucking hates The National and thinks they'll basically be relegated to the remainder bin of history. She thinks that if they're remembered at all, it will be for being the backing band for Taylor Swift on those albums from a couple years ago. They're not my favorite band, but she's pretty fired up about this and is adamant that they're going to be forgotten in 20 years. She bet me a trip to Europe on it. Who will win? 

I really wish you readers would simply go to counseling instead of asking me if your wife is wrong about shit or not. Also, I’m with Mike’s wife on this one. This is where I disclose that I’m indifferent to The National. I couldn’t even hum one of their songs to you if you asked me to. I have a mental list of important bands from this century, but the majority of them—Radiohead, QOTSA, The Strokes, Mastodon—didn’t even form in the 2000s. That makes me a generation behind those of you who venerate The Killers, My Chemical Romance, The National, and such and such. So your generational band isn’t gonna be mine.

We’re also leaving butt rock out of this conversation, and more people are gonna remember Nickelback fondly than I and the woke mob would care to acknowledge. We’re also assuming that people in the future will think about 2000–2020s rock at all. I've tried to keep that fire burning, but there’s only so much I can do. Enjoy Europe, kiddo.

Email of the week!


It bothers me a great deal that so many people call things "taxpayer dollars" when the much better phrase "public funds" is right there. We can vote and, by varying degrees of influence, determine the tax structure (wealth tax plz!). Calling them taxpayer dollars offers undue influence to the wealthy who pay a higher marginal tax rate and is therefore bullshit.

You were waiting for the part where Cody has to take a shit in an alleyway, weren’t you? Surprise!

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