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Funbag

Recency Bias Is Boring

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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 levels of laundry, coaches playing Madden, hiring standup comics for your wedding, and more.

Your letters:

Brian:

What is more likely? Babe Ruth hitting higher than .200 in 2022 MLB game or Aaron Judge hitting 100 home runs in 1927 MLB?

The former. I’m with the Defector staff in believing that old-timey athletes would get crushed today, but Babe Ruth is an exception to that take. And you know what? There are receipts. Ruth’s contemporaries were so far behind him in terms of dingers (according to the WaPo link, “In 1920, Ruth hit 54 homers when his closest pursuer, George Sisler, managed only 19”) that he may as well have come from the future to play against them. And who’s to say that Ruth wouldn’t avail himself of modern training techniques (steroids)? The man was legendary for his appetites, after all.

More important, I don’t want to live in a world where EVERY myth ends up debunked. It’s not fun. Who the fuck wants to be the guy at the party who’s like, “Sure Babe Ruth was good back in the pre-integration days, but I’d like to see him try to get a hit off of Chris Bassitt!” You’d send everyone running to the chip bowl with that kind of know-it-all horseshit. And who says a know-it-all is always right about something that’s inherently unprovable? Who says there weren’t extraordinary people before your own generation came into being? Joe DiMaggio’s hit streak has never been broken. Jim Brown remains the only NFL running back to average over 100 yards a game for his entire career. The men’s triple jump record hasn’t been broken since 1995. Wayne Gretzky played against more than a few chumps, but when he set the single-season goals record in 1981–82, the next dude on the list (Mike Bossy) scored 28 fewer goals than he did. These were special talents. You don’t have to be a fucking World War II veteran to agree with that.

And those special talents are allowed their own context. You don’t have to mentally force old athletes to time travel to now so that they have to prove themselves all over again. They played when they played, and they earned the awe. Let history be history. It gets dumb when some asshole like Charles Barkley is like, “Steph Curry wouldn’ta lasted a week in my time because I woulda elbowed him really hard!” That’s when the boomerism goes too far, and when it’s fun to counter Chuck with LEBRON WOULD HANG 80 ON YOUR FAT ASS LOL. But you can go too far in the other direction and live entirely within your own recency bias. That’s not good, either. You can admire both new and old things, and the Mets would choke against Babe Ruth no matter the year.

Nick:

How important is it, really, to preheat the oven? (This is not a euphemism for anything.) I get that I need to let the broiler broil for a good while before searing a steak, but I’m not ruining my Tombstone pizza if I slide it in at 300 degrees, right?

You are not. I also struggle to wait out the preheat. This is mostly because I’m hungry, but also because certain foods don’t need you to sit there with your thumb up your ass waiting for the oven to give you permission to put food inside of it. Like if you’re reheating shit and don’t want it to taste like the microwave? Throw that right in. Those leftovers will get nice and warm before the preheating is even finished. For other foods, I won’t put them in a cold oven, but if I’m 50–100 degrees away, that’s good enough. I’ll do that with roasted chicken, or single-dish pastas, or even slice-and-bake cookies. Most homemade baked goods require some level of precision, but pre-made Pillsbury school bus cookies made of 20 percent candle wax do not.

No two ovens are alike. All of them are calibrated to have accurate temperature readings, but each one still has hot spots, and temperature can also vary based on rack placement. If you use your own oven a lot, you eventually learn all of its idiosyncrasies and how best to exploit them. And when my own oven’s mysteries still manage to elude me, I can at least keep the oven light on so that I can monitor that shit like a rent-a-cop. By watching the oven at work, I can learn shit for the next time I make a homemade pizza. So waiting for the preheat is never a BAD idea, but you don’t have to always treat it as settled law.

Albert (not Burneko):

I’m a couple of weeks into fatherhood and the transition has been a lot better than expected. But at the same time I feel like I’m not in the thick of it yet as my child basically just eats, sleeps, and shits every day. What’s one thing that you dreaded about being a father that turned out to be a non-issue, and what’s one thing that you ended up being unprepared for?

I dreaded my kids being online. Every Gen-X parent does. We lived through the advent of the internet and saw what it did to people. To America. So you understand my innate dread that the internet would turn my own children into insta-Nazis texting pictures of their asscrack to other kids. That has yet to occur. Everyone uses the internet now, and an uncovered majority of them use it normally. My kids are in that majority. But did I expect them to grow old enough to Remember Some Youtubers together while I was still in the room? I did not. That was a less pleasant discovery. I already got the rest of the Internet going YOU WON’T BELIEVE HOW OLD YOU ARE TODAY. Don’t need my own offspring indirectly doing the same thing.

There were some baby-care issues I wasn’t prepared for. Everyone warns you about diapers and colic a million times, but never burping and boogers. I only knew about burping babies from Bugs Bunny cartoons, where Bugs would slap a bonnet on Elmer Fudd, burp him, and then shove off him off a mountaintop. In reality, burping my kids was an incredible pain in the ass. I’d pat their back until the fucking district attorney showed up. Babies have to burp, especially if they have reflux, and getting one out of them can take forever. And then, when they do burp, they spit up a quart of formula down your shoulder. The nerve of these people.

Also, you have to pick your baby’s nose for them, and that was way grosser than any poopy diaper I had to clean up. Babies make a lot of mucus, and it’s your job to wipe it off and suck it out with a bulb syringe. One night I went into the nursery—I don’t remember which kid it was, because this was many years ago—and I turned on the light. The baby in the crib had a full crust of boogers on their upper lip. Deep, deep brown. Looked like an apple crisp from hell. I nearly threw up, and I’ve got a strong stomach. My own boogers are a fascinating delight. Other people’s boogers are more frightening to me than raw plutonium. So those were my unhappy parenting surprises. And getting the first one to nap was harder than passing quality gun laws.

To fully answer Albert’s question though, the biggest non-issue for me was parenthood itself. People, especially guys, are conditioned to fear parenting: the expense, the lack of sleep, the end of your sex life, etc. All of that has been worth it, and well beyond. All of the bad shit eventually becomes a non-issue, even if it started out being the opposite. Nothing will truly prepare you for your own kids, but that’s the point. They’ll surprise you in ways you never expected, and they’ll do it nearly every day. That’s the pleasant turn of events. The less pleasant news is how fucking BORED you get during early parenthood. I never wanna see a Candy Land board ever again.

Kevin:

I know you’re green and sober now, but which drink signifies alcoholism/problematic drinking most to you? I vacillate between a screwdriver (mixing booze and OJ, so you can drink in the morning) and Jack & Coke (gross booze and caffeine so you can keep drinking). As a former bartender, both drinks always really depressed me when I made them (NOTE: it’s been almost 20 years since I was a bartender so I might be out of date).

Hey man how dare you slag Jack and Cokes. Loved me a Jack/rum and Coke back in the day. I drank that shit for the flavor, baby. Also to get drunk, but also the flavor agreed with my discerning palate. A warm Jack and Coke tastes like sadness, but ice cold? That’s as refreshing as a bottle of Gatorade, Kevin. NO ONE DENIES THIS.

But Kevin and I do both mentally affiliate brunch-time drinks (screwdriver, bloody mary, mimosa) with alcoholism. I was the sort of boozer who would look down on people drinking in airport bars in the early morning. To this day, I don’t believe that the majority those people, if any of them, are drinking to ease their fear of flying. I know that kind of excuse inside and out, amigo. Johnny Pickup Truck and his old lady in a Punisher logo t-shirt ain’t throwing down pints at the O’Hare Chili’s at 8 am. because of nerves. I can practice mental health awareness while still keeping one eye open, nuh mean?

Every alcoholic has their own poison, though. No one drink is a giveaway. The telltale sign of my own alcoholism was sneaking swigs of liquor straight from the bottle when no one was looking. If you enjoy bareback liquor and you don’t care about any of the accoutrements—mixers, ice, a glass made of actual glass—that’s as good a signifier of the affliction as a pre-flight vodka tonic, or Miss Francine refilling her glass of Chablis every 10 minutes at the baby shower. You drink enough, you learn ways to make your drinking look more normal than it actually is. Or you go for it and order a boilermaker right when the clock strikes five. I didn’t like to waste time.

Jeff:

As Americans, we have a duty to despise teams that enjoy long-term success (Pats, Yankees, Braves, Bama, etc.). But the Dodgers appear to have struck upon some alchemy in which they are both good and likeable. The Dodgers employ Trevor fucking Bauer, and yet it honestly has no effect on my ability to find them likeable. The only other team I can think of that has come close to achieving this combo is the Warriors, but we all enjoyed a hearty chuckle when they blew that 3-1 Finals lead to LeBron and the Gang, right? How are the Dodgers getting away with this?

They are not. Justin Halpern is from San Diego but lives in L.A. and will tell you, firsthand, that Dodgers fans are some of them most obnoxious scum he’s ever encountered. He despises them so much that I have nearly absorbed that hate by sheer osmosis. Also, we all have blind spots in our fandom. When I think of shitty fanbases, where do I start first? The East Coast, of course. I work my way down the Northeast Corridor, never bothering to look west of the Mississippi for worthy targets. I’m not alone on that one.

And I always start off thinking of shitty WHITE fan archetypes, too! Not only do I fail to account for West Coast fans, but also many of the black and Asian and Latinx fans within fanbases that are ALSO really fucking annoying. There are nefarious institutional forces driving this prejudice, but I also have to take some personal accountability for it. Am I, a professional hater, hating EVERY fan I can? Every team? Every city? Or have I restricted myself to easy targets like Boston and Philly (God, Philly fans are the fucking worst) and missed out on entire chunks of humanity that deserve to mocked into oblivion? These are questions that every fan needs to ask themselves before hucking a battery at an old lady in a fit of rage. Who else deserved to have their eyesight permanently damaged? I think you’ll find a great and pleasantly diverse pool of alternative candidates.

HALFTIME!

Michael:

Where do you put worn clothing that isn’t ready for the wash, like sweatpants that have only been worn for evening lounging or jeans that have a few days on them but are still in good shape? Putting them back in the drawer with the fresh clothes seems wrong, but so does leaving them in a pile somewhere in the corner of the room.

A chair! I keep a clothing chair right in the bedroom. As I write this, there is a pair of jeans (already worn) and my shearling hoodie (same deal) both lollygagging on top of it, and that’s a light day for The Chair. Sometimes it’s lucky enough to have a pair of already-worn sweatpants on it, in addition to a polo shirt I wore once but am saving for the next time company comes over. The Chair acts as the floor might once might have, when I was single and left all my shit everywhere all the time. But I’m a grown man now: patriarch to a burgeoning Magary family dynasty. As such, I have elevated, quite literally, my temporary clothing storage headquarters from the floor to The Chair. When a shirt is on The Chair, it’s not mere dirty laundry. I have plans for that shirt, even if they are unbeknownst to me in the moment. The Chair reminds me of the shirt’s presence. It forces my hand, albeit slowly. I have never sat in The Chair, and neither has anyone else.

My wife periodically tells me to clean up The Chair, and I do, but those requests have become less frequent over the years. If you’ve been married for as long as I have (20 years), you eventually cede certain matters regarding your spouse as facts of life. The Chair is one such fact. Sometimes I’ll fold a lightly used shirt and put it back in the closet, but my folding game is weak and my “putting clothing back on top of a stack” game is somehow even more slipshod. Over the span of weeks, all of my once-orderly drawers and shelves eventually become a free-for-all in which the newest shirt comes out, again quite literally, on top. The Chair obviates all of that. It’s the perfect compromise for anyone, man or woman, who subscribes to Peter Venkman’s “many subtle levels” of sartorial cleanliness. If you have the means, I highly recommend having a The Chair of your own.

JD:

I used to really enjoy Bill Simmons. Read his column every week and chuckled along. That time is over, but one thing I still respect is how he called out the sports journalists who were “in” with the teams and athletes they were currently covering. “We had dinner with Brett Favre last night and he regaled us with his tales of being able to call an audible while thinking of how he was going steal millions from the poorest of his home state, what a night.” Simmons pointed out that it kinda skews the perspective a bit. What do you think of an NPR or ESPN journalist being all “BFF” with their subject without disclosure? 

That’s actually something I’ve thought about for the bulk of my career, and still do. I’m one of many, many bloggers who built their reputation on the fact that they do NOT have access, and are therefore freer to criticize the subject than those with access are. Simmons did likewise, which made it even funnier when he capped off his basketball book, which I never read in full, with a fawning story about meeting Isiah Thomas: a guy he never hesitated to tear apart in print. From Tommy Craggs’s section in a group review of that book:

Simmons had long made a sport of busting on Isiah in his ESPN.com column, to the point that Isiah finally responded by threatening “trouble.” Then, one day, the two of them find themselves poolside in Vegas. They decide they are both, at heart, entertainers; armistice is declared; and Zeke thereupon drops some Zen (spoiler alert!):

“The secret of basketball is that it’s not about basketball.”

That’s it. That’s The Secret. A hopelessly banal point about chemistry and sacrifice and folks getting along. Basketball is … people. This is not a secret.

Now I reveled in that teardown from Craggs, just as I revel in any Simmons teardown. The second my man got access, he turned into a bootlicker, with nary a love tap required.

But there are reporters out there—many of them—who are close with their subject but still able to be critical. Good local sports columnists used to do this, back when such people existed. Even now, beat guys like Matthew Paras and others are still able to maintain relationships with those they cover while still covering them fairly. That’s extremely hard to do, and it involves cultivating mutual respect between two parties who have different, and often opposing, goals in mind. These journalists, perhaps rightfully, think of guys like me as cowards for refusing to proverbially say it to X’s face. The times when I have criticized a subject I’ve met in person, it’s almost always been for a one-off profile, where I know I’ll never have to meet that person again. Or it’s a subject that I’ve known for many years and have already established a comfortable personal rapport with. Sometimes I dread what a subject will think of what I wrote, because I liked them personally when we met. I don’t knowingly tailor my writing to please them, but who’s to say if I’m the best judge of whether or not I really didn’t? And who’s to say my day job as a hater is justified? Perhaps I really AM a coward. Perhaps ripping people from a distance is an easy shortcut that the rest of the internet has long since taken up, to deleterious effect on the world at large. Perhaps I’m no better than any of them.

Case in point: GQ sent me to Oakland to profile Stephen A. Smith during the 2019 NBA Finals. I had to follow Stephen A. around and pepper him with questions while he covered the NBA Finals. No trouble there. Stephen A., who himself was once a beat guy who had to summon up the kind of courage I explained in the above paragraph, answered all of my questions willingly, and we got along fine. But when he went to the media area of the Oracle for Game 3 to watch the second half, Mike Wilbon came over to greet him.

Now I fucking HATE Mike Wilbon, and have written as much many, many times. But if I had stuck to Stephen A.’s side during that exchange, there was a real danger that Wilbon would say to Stephen A., “Do you know who that piece of shit is?” and then I never would have gotten another word of copy out of the latter. So I went over to a catering table and discreetly ate some snacks, waiting for Wilbon to blow over and not notice me. It worked, and I ended up getting my copy. (Stephen A. ended up liking the profile, which probably means I wasn’t mean enough to him.) But I never confronted Wilbon face-to-face. Deliberately AVOIDED it in that moment, to protect my story but also because perhaps I was timid at best and afraid at worst.

So I can brag about being unbeholden and not being a shameless kiss-ass all I like, but you are then free to bring up the above story and call me out for being a sniveling keyboard warrior who refuses to do battle in the octagon. Simmons, who I did meet once briefly (we drunkenly shook hands while he was leaving a bar and I was entering), had a good point about access back in his heyday. But he was only half right. The world needs bloggers, but it needs the shoe leather guys, too. Deep down, I know which job is harder.

All that said, fuck Maggie Haberman.

Aaron:

There is a near zero percent chance anyone who plays Madden on a regular basis would mismanage the clock as poorly as Nathaniel Hackett has for the Broncos this year. Do you think NFL coaches would benefit from playing Madden regularly? It’s the exact same game, only faster!

Speaking of keyboard cowboys lol. I’m not gonna defend Nate Hackett, because he sucks and because it’s not fun to defend people who suck. But I dare say there’s a marked difference between managing the clock in a game of Madden, while you are drunk at home and fully relaxed, and doing it in a real NFL game with every soul alive watching and waiting for you to fuck it all up. Apples and oranges. Put me in charge of the Broncos and I promise you I’d manage the clock even worse than Hackett has. I’d freeze up. The waterboy would have to assume head coaching duties for me because I’d be standing there with my mouth agape, like I’d just looked Medusa right in the fucking eyes.

So no, I don’t think Madden is a very effective coaching simulator. But it’s fun to think it can be. Why else play it?

Steven:

Why don’t people hire comedians for weddings? Instead of your third funniest friend giving a public speaking 101 intro, hire a comedian! They could deliver both speeches, and do a 15-minute set as an intermission. Am I about to disrupt the wedding industry?

Steven, you are not. Ever get a professional wedding DJ or emcee who thinks they’re funny? It’s a game show from hell. Two hundred people end the night on the verge of outright homicide. The only three things that anyone wants to hear at any wedding are “I do,” “The bar is now open,” and “September,” by Earth, Wind & Fire. Everything else gets in the way.

Email of the week!

Joe:

Way back when, my wife would ask me what I was chuckling at and I’d say, “This guy, Drew Magary, writes dumb crap for a sports site I read. This article is about proper fajita construction.” Every couple months afterward, I would have to reintroduce Drew’s work to her, again and again. “This guy, Drew Magary, writes dumb crap for a sports site I read. This article is about how to clean baby poop off ceiling fan blades.” 

Once, she opened my phone up to a Funbag article with headline and illustration featuring anal beads. So again I said, “Oh, that’s this guy Drew Magary who writes dumb crap for a sports site I read. This article is about anal beads or some shit.” That finally put Drew in her head, and he has been Anal Beads ever since. Here are some things that were said in the house:

Her: “I didn’t know that Anal Beads did the send-up of the Williams Sonoma Christmas Catalog.”

Me” “Anal Beads got really hurt, I’m pretty worried about him”

Me, “Anal Beads is on Chopped.”

Me: “All the people at Anal Beads’ site up and quit; it’s on!”

Her: “I saw that Anal Beads wrote a book about his brain injury.”

I should ask a question. Am I allowed to use the leftover bones from the 60 chicken wings I made for my son’s eighth birthday party to make stock? I mean it’s not a “pristine toilet sandwich” situation since they’d be boiled for, like, hours. 

Did other filthy kids eat those wings? Then Anal Beads says no.