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Funbag

Taking Off Your Socks Is The Greatest Feeling On Earth

A cub scout takes off his shoes and socks before going for a paddle, circa 1955. (Photo by FPG/Hulton Archive/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 Tom Brady, plastic surgery, learning football basics, and more.

Your letters:

Aaron:

What is your favorite physical sensation, sex and masturbating not included? Sometimes my knee will lock up until I flex it a few times and it lets go with a satisfactory POP. Another favorite for me is that brief moment of respite when you’re been extremely congested, you blow your nose, and it feels like Moses is parting the mucus rivers in your sinuses. 

Oh buddy I love to crack bones, and I don’t mean that in a Hells Angels way. I love to crack my ankles late at night. I’ll get up to piss, rest the outside of my foot on the bath mat, press down every so gently, and feel a satisfying CRACK that loosens up my entire body. Same deal when I do yoga and do those light crunches where you bring your elbow to your opposite knee. My back pops when I do that, and it ALWAYS pleases me. I even checked with my PT to make sure this wasn’t damaging my spinal cord or anything. He said no, go with god. So I can crack to my heart’s content. BOOSH. A few others to add to the list:

  • Hitting a golf ball/baseball cleanly
  • Petting a dog
  • Sneezing with no one else around
  • Boarding a skiing chairlift smoothly
  • Holding anything that was designed to be held (a phone, a light dumbbell, a steering wheel, even a gun)
  • Showering when cold
  • Opening a can of beer or soda
  • Hammering a nail cleanly
  • Dicing celery

But all of those, including the bone cracks, are second place to taking off my socks. That’s the top dog, now and forever. I peel off my socks after a long day of work, after exercising, or even just to go to bed at night, and I feel like a new man. In fact, I’m so addicting to sock removal that I periodically remove my socks and put them back on all day long. I’ll leave a stray pair on the living room floor, put them back on, and then take them back off again an hour later. My kids have also picked up this habit and leave their socks lying around all over the place. My wife is not pleased with the development, but also knows she’s powerless to stop it. Taking off your socks is the fucking BEST.

By the way, I’m ruled out eating from Aaron’s question because, like orgasming, its place atop the sensation chain is self-evident.

Jeff:

As of this email, Aaron Judge has TWENTY more homers than the next guy. And we’re treating this as if it’s totally normal. Sports has taught us that if it seems too good to be true, it is. Ohtani is going to get robbed of an MVP!

Even if Judge is on roids, and that’s a safe assumption, I can’t bring myself to re-engage in every juicing argument I’ve seen since 1998. The Judge home run chase reminded olds like me that the summer of 1998 was, above all else, fun as shit. See for yourself:

Tiny-ass homer, but no matter. The steroid scandal that ensued after McGwire broke that record was like a decade-long replay review of a kick-ass touchdown catch that eventually gets overturned. It didn’t solve much of anything; all it really did was spoil the moment. So I’m just happy that I get a little bit of that magic back in my life, regardless of its provenance. If Aaron Judge injects superpowered nanobots into his ass muscles before every at-bat, so be it. If he tests positive for roids six months from now, I promise you I’ll barely pay attention to it. This time around, I’m content to let everyone else work themselves up into a needless froth over home runs and PEDs while I chill out and eat some Fritos. It’s the best way to live.

Donna:

Do you think it’s possible that Tom Brady is actually addicted to football? It’s got all of the earmarks: pursuing it to the point of wrecking his family life, risking his health, losing weight, looking haunted, ignoring the advice of others.

That’s a more dramatic way of framing a fairly basic affliction, which is that Tom Brady is probably a workaholic. It’s easy to disguise being a workaholic when your line of work is as cool as “world’s most decorated NFL player,” but you and I both know that the NFL not only thrives on work addiction at all levels, but offers it as a chief selling point. The best coaches never sleep and barely eat. The best players never leave the facility. The best executives clock 18-hour days even in May. The diligence required to win a Super Bowl is always outwardly measured by quantity of work, not quality of work. That’s what the NFL trains its employees, its broadcasters, and its fans to all expect. No different from pretty much any other company in the United States.

So it’s not a shock that football would both attract and cultivate people who take a shine to the workaholic lifestyle. It’s an appealing lifestyle, if I’m being honest. It’s why it gets romanticized in cop show, rom-coms, etc. It’s nice to ignore all the other bullshit going on in your life by retreating into your work. You can focus on that one thing AND you can justify it because it’s work. You’re doing a job. You’re putting food on the table, which is a stretch for someone as wealthy as Tom Brady to think about himself, but trust me: it’s a real easy delusion to live inside of. I’d rather work than do a whole lot of other shit. It calms me down. Sometimes it even helps distract me when I’ve got a nasty case of sciatica, or I’m worried about something else I can’t really control, or I’m at a loss for anything else to do.

This is especially true when your line of work is, as it is for Tom Brady, a dream job: something you’d do in your off time if you had another, worse job. Shit, I’m addicted to football and I don’t even play it anymore, let alone for money. So I get why Tom Brady is the way he is. Once you get into the rhythm of a workcentric life, it’s hard to divorce yourself from it, especially if you don’t want to. It’s all you know. It gives you purpose. You can read this all as very grim and a byproduct of BIG WORK conditioning American citizens to all be willing sweathogs, but lost in every “You Work Too Much!” op-ed out there is the fact that work, for a number of lucky people, is fun. Genuine fun. And I like it when work is fun. I can earn my cake and eat it, too. Would I leave my family for that cake? No. But I ain’t a seven-time Super Bowl-winning robo-stud with high cheekbones and the world in his palm now, am I?

Then again, I just watched Brady get humiliated by a Chiefs team that played like it was hellbent on doing exactly that. A gloriously rude display. I don’t know if Brady believes that un-retiring was a mistake, but everyone else might believe it a couple of months from now. I bet Brady has already offered Gronk one of his beach houses to come back.

Matt:

You’re the last person on earth, what’s the first thing you do? 

Well, cry. I’d cry pretty hard. After that, I’d get to work. I wouldn’t die by suicide. I’d keep on living, even if it was miserable. I’d hunt for shelter and food. I’d steal every car and joyride it. I’d roam about the wastelands like WALL-E, marveling at the slagheaps and the skyscrapers reclaimed by nature. And then I’d search out the nearest university bio-lab, educate myself on genetics and cloning, swab my cheek, and set about building an army of Drew and Drewettes to repopulate the earth. This new strain of Drewmanity would be extremely good-looking, neurotic but also lazy, and hate mayonnaise on principle. I will remake civilization in my image, and it shall be magnificent. Can’t wait to get started, actually. When do the rest of you all fuck off?

Ed:

No question, just wanted to say I came across this patch and it reminded me of you immediately.

K, wuv you, bye!

Well, that brought me down a notch now, didn’t it?

Craig:

Are Botox and fillers plastic surgery? I feel like these have become a convenient way for people who have work done to deny having gone under the knife.

Technically, getting Botox injections does not count as plastic surgery, because you don’t have to get knocked out and cut open, the way you would have to for surgical implants, rhinoplasty, etc. It’s a cosmetic procedure, and it’s become so lucrative and widespread that I’ve seen pamphlets for Botox at my nurse practitioner’s office. Everybody’s getting it.

I am ancient in my beliefs about plastic surgery. I grew up in an age when plastic surgery was looked down upon. It was cheating. Anyone who got multiple facelifts—Michael Jackson, Jocelyn Wildenstein, etc.—became easy, universal targets. Deep down, I still harbor some of that prejudice. I turn into my mother whenever I see a TV host appear on screen with a new nose. “Oh, he got some work done.” I watched Sandra Bullock in a movie recently and was like, “Well she doesn’t look like Sandra Bullock anymore.” I privately mock old people desperately trying to stave off the ravages of age by turning into uncanny valley versions of themselves. Why, wrinkles and jowls add CHARACTER, they do!

But that’s all extremely dated thinking. I’m focusing solely on celebrities, who need plastic surgery the least and get it the most. Meanwhile, everyday people get it because they just want to feel better about themselves, or because they’ve tried every way they can to lose weight the old fashioned way and haven‘t been able to, or because they’re transitioning. It’s not just 10 million Joan Riverses getting a cheek lift out there, although that’s an imposing visual. Plastic surgery isn’t some ghoulish harbinger of a nascent dystopia. It’s normal shit, and it’s OK to treat it as such. Now have I ever had plastic surgery? Of course not. What you see before you is 100 percent pure Drew. Science can’t improve upon perfection.

[I meekly bring up the subject with my dermatologist 10 years from now]

Brad:

To my own detriment, I refuse to start anyone on my fantasy football team who is playing my home team. I am a Patriots fan. Last season I had Tom Brady on my roster, but when the cross-conference game happened, I benched him, because I refuse to be conflicted about who I am rooting for. The members of my league, and other fans I know, mostly called me an idiot, with a select few who respected my choice. I suppose, for those who don’t really have a deep fandom and only got into football because of fantasy football, it is fine. But I would call you a fucking traitor for playing a Lion against your beloved Vikings (aside from it being an awful choice). Has fantasy football culture become so dominant that it has overridden any sense of team loyalty? Where do you stand on this?

LOL I’ve started Lions in DFS against my own team. I drafted Aaron Rodgers as my season-long fantasy QB not too long ago. It doesn’t make me less of a hometown fan because it ain’t like I’d PREFER my fantasy team excel at the expense of a real team I’ve been rooting for since 1989. I can compartmentalize. Most every fan can. My fantasy interests are wholly separate from my actual ones, and they only intersect momentarily if I’m watching my team lose and think to myself, “Well, at least Chris Olave went off against us” for a grand total of four seconds. It doesn’t make losing (or winning in the least convincing manner possible) any less painful, I assure you.

If you, like Brad, are a fanboy purist and look down upon fantasy traitors, you better be prepared to lose some money. You also better be 10 years old.

HALFTIME!

PJ:

Do you think an onside kick would be more or less successful if the ball was allowed to be thrown instead of kicked? What would your strategy be if you could throw an onside kick?

Yes, more attempts would be successful if you could throw an onside “kick” rather than kick it. You could make like a traditional onside kick and just throw a little lob 10 yards to either side of the field. Or you could spike the ball and let chaos have the final say. Or you could pooch throw it to some designated void in the kickoff coverage.

But teams won’t do any of that, because what really what you’re proposing is a fourth-and-10 situation. A team would trot its offense out there, run a passing play, and hope to complete it. That’s not much different from the fourth-and-15 onside alternative that the NFL has been mulling over for a couple of offseasons now. They’ll likely make that a new rule somewhere down the line because it makes for more comebacks, and more comebacks make for better television. That Jets-Browns game from a couple of weeks back may have delayed the vote by a year or two, but eventually someone in the league office will say “Fuck all that” and greenlight the idea.

And I support it. I’m a crank about NFL overtime rules being changed every year because some choking-ass playoff team didn’t get the ball in overtime. By extension, I should be waving my cane and screaming, “If you need two touchdowns in the final minute to win you don’t deserve to win dang nammit!” But I am both inconsistent and easily entertained. Also, I root for an average team that could use every cheat code it can get its hands on. So it’s time to abolish the onside kick and swap in the do-or-die fourth down. It’ll be so much fun that no one will complain.

Except the Browns.

Greasus:

You still haven’t answered the most important Cycle Guy question: when you fart while you are biking, are you able to resist thinking, “DEPLOY ROCKET BOOSTERS?” I can’t.

You won’t believe me but I never thought of doing that until you suggested it. I’ll work it into my repertoire immediately. No time to waste.

Todd:

What’s your gift buying philosophy when it comes to adults? My mom is always trying to buy everyone the most thoughtful gift imaginable to blow everyone out of the water, but she often misses the mark. Most of the time, I’d be way happier with something super basic like a book from my wishlist or a chunk of Cambazola or something. The best kind of gift is when you just stumble across something and know right away that it’s perfect for somebody. But come crunch time, you can’t really bank on that. Do you love finding the right thing? Do you stress about certain people’s gifts every year? Do you resent the entire process? Christmas is coming up quicker than we think. Tell me what to do, Drew.

I’m a bad person to ask because I’m in the golden parenting zone where all I have to worry about—all anyone else expects me to worry about—are presents for the kids. And my kids always know what they want, so the job is as easy as hitting the CHECKOUT button on Amazon or wherever. This cleans up the gift-buying process so dramatically that I barely worry about it anymore, especially given that my wife often assumes much of the Christmas gift-buying duties (you can ding me for that).

That said, while I’m not as enthused as I once was about fucking off to the mall to buy random Christmas gifts for people, I still like moments of gift inspiration. For example, my siblings and I just bought my dad a gift for his birthday, which was a couple of weeks ago. We had a MEETING about this gift, we were all so united on it. It was the right gift at the right time, and that kind of gift gets rarer and rarer as the recipient gets older. Sometimes I’ll get that inspiration with my wife, or my mom, or someone else, and it makes me happy. I don’t force it. I don’t have to, because the rest of my family is fairly lax about gift-giving.

Unfortunately, that means I’m VERY bad about writing those ideas down so that I remember them at crunch time. I usually A) Buy the gift when it comes to mind, even if I’m still months away from giving it, or, more likely, B) I remember what to get the person only after the celebration has passed. To that end, I’ve decided just this moment that I’m gonna start a GIFTS Note on my phone so that I don’t forget that shit anymore. Let’s get into that habit together, shall we? Because I know a gift card is a lazy-ass present, and I don’t like buying physical gifts just to buy them.

So, to formally answer Todd’s question, I love finding the right thing and being given the right thing. For my birthday last year, Defector gave me a smoked fish gift basket from Russ & Daughters in New York. Everyone on staff knew that smoked fish is my favorite thing in the world, so I was genuinely touched. Also the Gaspe Nova was the best goddamn thing I’d ever eaten. Quality beats quantity every time when you’re a grown-up.

Also, a meal out is always a perfect gift if you’re in a real bind. One exception to gift cards sucking is if you buy one from the recipient’s favorite local restaurant. I did this for my folks one Christmas. They were overjoyed, and I know when my parents are faking gratitude. This was legit.

Jed:

Of the four major sports in America, which one do you think would benefit the most from adding another permanent player on the field, and which one would it hurt the most? Obviously, for football, this would mean adding one player to both offensive and defensive sides. I’m thinking it would benefit baseball the most; you could split center either left/right or shallow/deep, or bring in left field and right field to cover the gaps, and have two players in center-left and center-right. I think it would hurt hockey the most by overcrowding the ice with players. I don’t see how it would make a difference in basketball, since positions are almost an antiquated thought, and football has too many places to put a 12th player to know the impact.

Actually, a 10th fielder would hurt baseball the most. Scoring would plummet. MLB is already outlawing the infield shift next year because of this. The shift adds another player to the defense in the portion of the field where a hitter is likely to place the ball and suppresses offense as a result. I don’t want my offenses suppressed. I want big fucking hits. I want that ball JACK’D UP. If anything, I say we take away a fielder from MLB defense. Now we’d be cooking with gas.

I don’t want extra guys in hockey or basketball either, because those sports are highly dependent on precise spacing. Football is as well, but I don’t think it would suffer from an extra guy the way those other sports would. A running QB essentially adds an extra player to the offense for defense to account for, and the on-field results are often thoroughly entertaining. So sure, add a 12th man to both sides of the line of scrimmage and see what happens. At the very least, it would make Seahawks fans all pissy.

Ben:

I’m a pretty avid sports-watcher (no surprise for a Defector subscriber), but I didn’t grow up watching football. I can grasp the beauty and joy and fun of watching baseball, basketball, soccer, tennis, even hockey (even though I don’t know anything about it). But football has always defied me. I’ve watched plenty of football over the years, and I know the rules, and I can follow the overall flow of a game. I can appreciate individual athletic performances when they show stuff on replay. I can have fun hanging out with friends, and drinking a beer while watching a game. I love nachos. But as to the game itself, I don’t know where to look. I don’t really understand what’s going on, or what either of the teams are doing. So I guess my sort of stupid question is: how do you watch football? What should I be looking for? 

Since I played the game and have known the bulk of its rules for so long, I take it for granted when other people aren’t as up to speed. Color guys and announcers are guilty of the same offense. They assume that you know what a screen pass is when, perhaps, you do not. So for Ben here, I’m gonna jot down a rough compendium of things to look for while watching any football game. I swear I’m not doing this to be pedantic. I want to help.

First off, watch the quarterback. You probably do this already, but take stock of him as the game progresses. Is he under duress? OK well that means his pass protection is lousy and he needs to get rid of the ball quickly, or his team needs to run the ball effectively to give him more cover. If the QB takes too long to pass, then the sack is his fault. If he has no time at all but you’re still throwing the ball downfield 50 times a game, that is the coach’s fault.

Next, the running back. Can he still gain yards after the first tackle attempt? Then he’s probably serviceable. If he goes down at the faintest touch, he’s ass. Also, an elusive back is useful catching passes out of the backfield on screens (in which the offensive line deliberately lets the pass rush go by them and then the QB throws over the pressure) and flare passes. If said back isn’t very good at running after catching those kinds of passes, but you still throw to them a lot, that means that the coach is shitty or that your QB is a coward. Probably both.

Next, the wideouts. When they catch the ball, are they open? That means they’re good at getting separation, which is very important. If they’re good at catching the ball even in places where it’s hard to get separation (the end zone), that’s even better. If they can’t do any of those things, they play for the Jets.

Finally on offense, the line. If your running back always faces contact at or before the line of scrimmage, that means the O-line sucks at opening holes for him. If the QB is always under siege, then they also suck at pass blocking. A mobile QB (Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson) can cover for these deficiencies using their feet, and a savvy team can use one position’s strength to cover the other’s weaknesses. That’s where strategy comes into play. Opposing football teams are always probing each other for weaknesses and then trying to exploit them. That’s the part where the color guy uses the phrase “chess match,” even if it’s a coaching matchup between Joe Judge and Joe Judge. You want your team to be good at both making the other team miserable and preventing the opposite from happening.

As for the defense, can they pressure the QB using only defensive linemen, or do they need help in the form of blitzes (that’s when a linebacker or DB leaves their usual post to charge into the backfield)? If they have to blitz, then they can leave themselves vulnerable on the back end unless their secondary is ELITE and sticks to wideouts even if they lack the manpower to double-team any of them. And does your defense tackle well, or does the first guy to the ballcarrier always miss? If it’s the latter, then you should be unhappy.

That’s all I got for now, but start from there and don’t be shy about asking people about this shit. Buy a book if you have to. The more you know, the more beautiful the game becomes. Know-it-allism is endemic to football fans but it doesn’t have to be.

Email of the week!

Hamilton:

I got stoned and went to the zoo one time when I was a borderline adult, the summer after I graduated high school or something, and was kicking it at the rhinoceros exhibit observing the huge male rhino grazing along the side of the enclosure. I remember to this day his name was “Pete,” because I thought that was a righteous name for a massive zoo rhinoceros.

Pete heard me talking about him and decided he didn’t like it. He paused his grazing and looked me directly in the eye, then lifted his leg and rifled a shocking diarrhea onto the wall next to him. It had to be least a quart of diarrhea in a tiny fraction of a second. You better believe that shut me up. Having made his point, he just went back to grazing again.

In the process of writing this, I Googled Pete out of curiosity. He apparently lived another 10+ years after this incident, and in his obituary he was described by the zookeeper as, “one of the calmest, most sweet-tempered animals I’ve ever known”. I might instead describe it as, “Pete had a very effective non-violent approach to conflict resolution,” but in any case, RIP Pete. You were a beast among beasts.

Oh let’s have a look at the fella, then.

Good rhino.