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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 robes, drinking, Lunchables, sports songs, and more.

Your letters:

Zach:

One of my least favorite tropes in the world is liberals gloating whenever some small victory comes their way thinking that anything in this terrible world gets better. Tucker gets fired and everyone is cheering like he's going to go on sabbatical and will reflect on his ways, instead of getting some billion-dollar deal from some even farther right news org. I'm on the left myself so this isn't a GO WOKE GO BROKE LIBS ARE DUMB thing, I just have some sense of object permanence and a basic ability to recognize patterns. Am I becoming a cynical asshole or am I the only person that sees the truth?

I’m the opposite, and here is where I ride my little high horse for the final time. The thing I hate the most is my fellow liberals insisting that nothing will ever get better, no matter what the news cycle brings. Trump gets found liable for sexually abusing E. Jean Carroll? LOL he’ll never pay a dime of it. The Wisconsin Supreme Court flipped to the Democrats? LOL it doesn’t matter; the Federal Supreme Court will undo anything they do anyway. The 2022 midterms went pretty good for Democrats? LOL just wait till you see what Senate seats are up in ’24. LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL everything sucks and your children will die young LOL.

It’s hopelessness cloaked in dime-store irony, and it’s an EXHAUSTING way to look at the world. Every victory is Pyrrhic. All good news is either fake or comes with a string attached. Nothing will ever get better. Not only is this worldview a needless downer, but it demonstrates the satirical capabilities of a fourth grader. Gallows humor doesn’t work without the actual humor part. Thus, I have been broken by ironic LOLs. They are a disease on our landscape.

Do you like people who laugh at their own jokes? What if they aren’t even MAKING a joke and still do it? Stop getting your defense mechanisms all over me. Just give me it straight and wipe that fucking crying laughing emoji off your face. Irony isn’t dead; it’s taken over everything. Everyone online has replaced actual laughter with fake laughter, and when everything is “funny,” nothing is. I trade in snark for a living, so you see how this might cause me bouts of existential angst. But if people’s default public position on everything is that the world is a cancer and all they can do is insincerely laugh at it, then I’m right to hate that shit. You people aren’t helping. You're adding poison to the proceedings. Not levity, and certainly not charm. Get fucked.

I’m not will.i.am. I’m not some goody-goody who wants to force positivity down your throat every second like I’m in some deranged cult. But there’s a difference between being a realist and being a fatalist. I know about all of the bad things, and I know how intractable many of them are. I know that Tucker Carlson will never reform, and that some other pair of loafers will slide right into his post and the hate fires will keep burning. But I’m not gonna go out of my way to remind people of that while they revel in his brief demise. I’m not gonna sit here every day and be like, “None of this means anything, we should all just go die.” That’s how the bad guys win, and people should grow out of this brand of goth by the time they’re 18, anyway. Even when people are RIGHT about the state of things, and they often are, it’s still draining to absorb these takes. They’re demotivating. Pointless. Stop forcing your dour vibes on me, dickhead.

I’d rather believe that things can get better, and that I can help make them better. I’d like to believe that my kids can make the world a better place, and I do. I’d like to believe all of the corny, Mitch Albom shit because life is better that way: most people are nice, the world is an altogether beautiful place, and life is worth living. I believe all that and it keeps me hopping along from one day to the next. What would I do with all of the street cred I got for being a perpetual downer, anyway? Cash it in at the fucking bank? Let people have their moment in the sun if they want one. I’ve said my piece.

Bil:

Sitting in my robe, working on a Tuesday morning. There are Amazon boxes I need from the front porch. I can get these without disrobing and getting dressed first, right?

Of course you can. What, is a neighbor gonna call the cops and report you for indecent inexposure? Fuck that lady. Go ahead and indulge your inner Tony Soprano. Make sure you’re sipping coffee while you do it for the full Dad effect. I took out the dog one night in my robe. No one cared. I certainly didn’t. I should’ve busted out a cigar for the occasion. It’s fun to treat the world outside like a couch you put your feet up on.

Brett:

"Yea" or "Yeah"?

Yeah! I never leave the H off. Looks like a typo. Also kinda rhymes with “Shea” in my head when I see it spelled “Yea.” I need it to be “Yeah.” If “Yea” has some kind of specific regionality to it—like if it’s something that Missourians do or something—I don’t care. “Yeah” looks better. “Yeah” looks right. Imagine me tweeting FUCK YEA when something cool happens. It’d ruin the moment, and you’re counting on my tweets to deliver in that moment. That’s what Elon pays me for.

Logan:

Could you make a case for drinking, or at least for being around drunk people? I'm fed up with how central alcohol is to life at my college (especially now that all my friends are 21), and also a bit hypochondriacal about its effects.

Well I’m not gonna tell you to START drinking if you’re not inclined to. That would be irresponsible and, as a nondrinker, hypocritical on my part.

But you asked me to make the case for it, so here it is: Drinking is fun. Tastes good, feels naughty, makes you wanna hug your friends, etc. To be clear, I’ll never drink again. I know that as well as I know my own name. But I definitely have more good memories of drinking than bad. I remember my first taste of peach schnapps in a middle school parking lot. I remember the Coors Light party ball that one of my friends somehow managed to score for his house party (we were like 15). I remember the six-pack of Molson Ice that a friend smuggled into our dorm when I was in prep school. This was right at the advent of ice beer, so we knew this shit would get us good and fucked up. And it did! I remember sneaking a flask into a screening of Jerry Maguire to make the strongest Jack and Coke you’ve ever tasted, and to make Cameron Crowe’s dialogue more tolerable. And, of course, I remember meeting my wife at a bar while we were both drunk. Who knows if I even MEET my wife had alcohol never existed.

Those were all great times, and I hold them close to me. Remembering them still makes me happy. I remember the bad shit too, but my mind has a way of remembering all of THAT fondly as well. Consult your local Hold Steady song for further proof of this phenomenon. So while I can’t recommend drinking for health reasons (no responsible person ever would), I’m not gonna willfully forget all of the times it got me smiling and dancing. A cold beer takes the edge off when life is grinding you down, which is why drinking has been a rite of passage throughout all of human existence, in nearly every culture. Sometimes you have to get away from yourself. Drinking, at least at first, makes doing that quite easy. We all need vice. It’s only human.

As for being around drunk people, that depends entirely on the drunk person involved. Logan here is still in college, which features a lot of shouty drunk guys and shitfaced girls who shriek with joy when “Son Of A Preacher Man” comes on at the bar. Those are tough drunks to be around if you’re not drunk yourself. But then you graduate out into a world of functional alcoholics, and their company is a bit easier to tolerate. You can always hang with a drunk person if they have their shit together. Like me! I was a charming drunk. [turns to my wife] Wasn’t I, honey? Honey?

Aaron:

What are your thoughts on the publication of photos showing the aftermath of mass shootings? It certainly feels gross, but maybe that's the point. Two of the biggest cultural moments of the last 50 years happened because we saw the horror, brutal and in everyone's face, of the Vietnam War and of 9/11. It's not a nice thought, but if I'm shredded by an AR-15 you have my full permission to print my lifeless body on the cover of the fuckin New York Times. 

Show the bodies. None of these shootings are gonna lead to national political action so long as they’re reduced to body counts you see in a push alert on your lock screen. Same deal with the two endless wars we just fought. You always see coffins and not corpses. Other countries have news organizations that will show actual footage of shootings, bombings, and all the other bad shit. But our news comes gentrified, with Brian Williams solemnly reciting the names of victims while gentle piano music tinkles away on a loop in the background. Maybe that’s why other countries have gun control laws (which work) and why we have Marco Rubio looking like a human shrug emoji every time one of his constituents gets their brains blown out.

No one will, or even can, fault the American press for saying, “We can’t show you pictures of what happened at Bloodshed Elementary out of sensitivity to the victims’ families.” At the same time, this is how Big Gun continually gets away with all of the shit they get away with. They rely on the politeness of the media to mask the true nature of their business, and the media obliges. And how many times am I gonna have to yell into the void about how the veneer of civility does more harm than good? Show the bodies. Life is ugly, and you should ever be isolated from that ugliness, otherwise you’ll never learn how to be a person.

Jay:

I’m eating a Lunchable right now and the piece count is unbalanced, I’m missing a turkey circle. Can I ask them for a lifetime supply to compensate for their poor quality control standards?

That’s on you for eating Lunchables as a grown adult. Lunchables are evil. They were devised by the overlords at Kraft as an easy way to increase profit margins by packaging up five cents worth of food into a five-dollar product. Lunchables were designed as yet another On The Go product, taking advantage of working parents by going, “Tired of making lunch for you kids? Our product will save you time AND give your kids an absolutely perverse idea of what pizza is supposed to be!” Billions of dollars, along with millions of diabetes cases, ensued. Lunchables taste like something you’d buy on an airplane. They have zero nutritional value. And the turkey you ate was probably made from people. Don’t buy them. Make a sandwich. It doesn’t take THAT long.

HALFTIME!

Jday:

Is peanut butter sweet or salty?

Sweet. I know that’s a wrong answer if you’re talking about all-natural peanut butter, where you gotta stir it around, but I’m talking about real peanut butter, not that horrible shit. I eat a lot of earthy-crunchy foods now: almond butter, oat milk, avocado toast, etc, but when it comes to peanut butter, I remain firmly on the Bro side of the ledger. I want Skippy or Jif. I want my peanut butter to have 500 calories per tablespoon and more sugar in it than a Hawaiian cane field. That’s legit peanut butter to me, which means I likes it SWEET.

Ben:

For reasons beyond your control, all beans have been altered so that whenever anyone bites into one, it emits an audible fart sound. They do not emit a fart smell, just the sound. Would beans stop being eaten or would people shrug their shoulders and chow down?

The latter. Beans are a necessity for a lot of people, just as rice and other worldwide staples are. A little fart sound isn’t gonna stop me and Slim Pickens from chowing down on them after a hard day of cattle rustling. Wealthy folks and other assorted tight-asses might hold out, but eventually the fart beans would become universally accepted (except by our own Luis Paez-Pumar, who is a lifelong beanophobe). Naughty kids would sneak them into the teacher’s salad every April Fools' Day and what have you. It’d be a fun time.

I myself certainly wouldn’t care, because I fart—real farts, out of my butt and not from a trick bean—with impunity already. Also, because I can’t smell, I’m slowly losing my grip on public fart etiquette. I’m twice as liable to let one out in an elevator these days because I assume it can go undetected. I am lying to myself, but then I go toot-toot-toot anyway. Living my fullest life. The haters are outraged.

Mark:

I fucking love me some boiled peanuts. The Cajun ones rule. I get very excited when I get a triple and they all come out nicely. I hope you feel the same way. The best ones are inevitably from some shirtless guy in overalls on the side of a dirt road. Gas station ones are ok too.

I’ve never eaten boiled peanuts because I’m not a Southerner, which means they’ve never been prominently sold anyplace I live, and I never acquired a taste for them. But I’m willing to give them a shot. They come in a can, right? And they’re not crunchy? All of that scares me, but by God I’m gonna have a good attitude about boiled peanuts AND about life!

[tries a boiled peanut]

Oh come on, are you rednecks serious about these things? Maybe you’re into boiled potato chips, too.

David:

Is it a prerequisite for an NHL head coach to know how to skate? I'm sure assistant coaches have to be able to skate, but we're talking the head honcho.

Yes, they have to know how to skate. If it turned out that Boise Icepigs coach Daniel Hansennchuk couldn’t skate, it’d be a national scandal (the nation in question here being Canada).

Nick:

When a Walking Dead-style apocalypse happens, when do people know they don't have to show up for work anymore?

If you work in the white collar sector, right away. If you work in the blue collar sector, my people will force you right back out there to work in hospital tents and deliver Chinese food to houses in the suburbs. You’ll be tipped an extra three percent for your work and banners shouting THANK YOU FRONTLINE HEROES will adorn every mass grave.

Andrew:

There is an Orioles pitcher named Grayson Rodriguez. His nickname should be Gray Rod which would make me think of a certain retired QB every time I hear his name. 

OK but I don’t wanna be reminded of Ben Roethlisberger. Ever. For any reason. I spent two decades in Big Ben jail and I’m never going back in, you hear me? NEVER. If any of you come up to me one day and are like, “Hey Drew, remember Big Ben and how good he was?” I’ll smash you in the face with a hammer. No jury would convict.

Joe:

After almost four years stuck in China, I'm finally getting to come home to the U.S for the summer. I feel like Rip Van Winkle. What's changed? Do people use cash anymore? Do people still go to the grocery store? (In China it's always delivered; I haven't been in a grocery store in years). What should I expect?

Oh wow, Peapod is omniscient in China? The more you know. So Joe left here before the pandemic began and came back after it. Here’s my brief topline of what’s happened since you left the yard, my friend:

•People still go to the grocery store and still park their carts right in the center of the aisle.

•Trump lost the 2020 election but he’s running again next year, so you still have to see his face as a matter of routine.

•You, Joe, are no longer legally able to get an abortion in many states. But you WILL get a free case of Similac once you’ve delivered your precious baby.

•Weed is basically legal now, and there are still a lot of amusingly concerned op-eds about it. “I walked around the city last night and you could smell weed smoke everywhere!” Oh no! What a tragedy! Your children will never be the same again.

•Printed menus at restaurants are being slowly phased out of existence by online menus accessible via QR code. Expect me to write a lot of angry op-eds about that one.

•Mass shootings are back in vogue, which I don’t care for. I liked skinny jeans better.

•Thanks to the pandemic, more people are working from home. Their bosses are extremely pissy about it.

•We’re still thanking the troops even though they’re not really doing anything at the moment.

•Hollywood writers are on strike. This includes me, so you’ll just have to wait indefinitely for my Entourage prequel series to go into production. But it’ll be worth it. We’re gonna learn HOW Vinny Chase became Queens Boulevard. This show is gonna have a whole level of grittiness that the original series lacked. What’s it like to be a bunch of struggling young men who do NOT own this town? You’re gonna find out.

•DEFECTOR MEDIA WAS FOUNDED BY A BUNCH OF RAGTAG BLOGGERS AND IS THE GREATEST MEDIA STORY OF THE 21ST CENTURY THAT NOT ENOUGH PEOPLE ARE TALKING ABOUT.

I think that about covers it.

Kalyn (not Kahler):

I noticed you used the phrase “a complete 180” in the 5/2 Funbag. The phrase is bullshit. What the hell is complete about a half circle? I know this is just a phantom limb from when people were still using "complete 360" before they all were enlightened or whatever, but come on. “180” is sufficient. Maybe add the little degree symbol if you're feeling fancy. 

You’re right and, for all intensive purposes, I beg your forgiveness.

David:

I'm watching Canes/Devils, my annual tune-in to the NHL, and “Hit Somebody! (The Hockey Song)” by Warren Zevon came to mind. It had to grow on me, an avid Zevon fan, and though far from his best, it's a good song! At the very least, it's serviceable, with Zevon's signature storytelling and a catchy rhythm. If I were a hockey guy, I woulda dug it from the start. Anyway, I'm drawing a complete blank on other decent sports tunes. There have to be more, right? I'm not talking about songs like “Hurricane,” by Bob Dylan, but songs that are about the actual sport. Basketball by Curtis Blow? That counts, right? 

Oh yeah that counts, although “It Was A Good Day” strangely does not. Shaq’s anti-Kobe rap is borderline, but I must drop it here out of grudging respect:

Otherwise, it’s a pretty weak harvest for genuine sports songs out there. It’s hard for any respected artist write one without it coming off like “The Super Bowl Shuffle” or any other team-authorized fight song. Those aren’t real songs. No one listens to them for the hooks, so big-time pop artists write about breakups and other shit instead.

There are a few exceptions, but they’re scant. The only ones I can think of are “Surfin’ USA” by the Beach Boys, and “Centerfield” by John Fogerty, the latter of which will be used on baseball telecasts long after you and I have died and the Nashville Hot Chickens are 10-time World Series champs. Whenever the baseball people take to a song or movie, they keep it circulating forever. Your local drive-time sports talk radio show, Freddie & Dumptron, is about to enter Best Sports Movie Argument Season, and you better believe that “Centerfield” will be the rejoin music as both men quote from Bull Durham and Major League extensively. There’s no escaping any of that, not even if Charlie Sheen comes to your house and stabs you dead.

But I do have a favorite sports song of my own, and it’s “All Kinds Of Time,” by the immortal Fountains of Wayne. It’s a power ballad about football, and it’s pretty light on the usual FoW cheekiness, even shifting into full air guitar mode at the climax. This is easily the greatest football pop song ever recorded. It’s probably the only football pop song ever recorded, but it’s still a great song that has thankfully eluded passage into the global jock jam catalog. I think “Scrubs” used it once, but I’m gonna pretend that never happened. Adam Schlesinger, professionally speaking, was one of the greatest songwriters of his time, and his death remains the celebrity COVID loss that stings me the most.

On another note (no pun intended), I realized the other day that I couldn’t think of a single, non-Christmas song in my lifetime that was about snow. In fact, I’d argue that you CAN’T write a snow song without everyone immediately considering it a Christmas song. You can write a thousand shitty, mopey pop songs about rain, none of which I’ll cite here out of respect to your mental playlist. Snow is a trickier beast. Adam Schlesinger could’ve written a great snow song in his sleep, but alas.

Email of the week!

Jeff:

I quit a job in November 2019 without having a new gig lined up. Because I have young kids and a mortgage, and only enough savings to sustain those things for a few months without a regular paycheck, I immediately made job hunting my full-time gig. I went on a lot of bad interviews, several good ones, and finally got down to three options where the job, comp, and company all felt like good fits. I had lunch with the founder of one of the companies in December. The chat was great, but lunch was at Redstone Grill and I had one of those ginormous Caesar salads that has zero health benefit.

After the meeting, I grabbed a coffee for the ride and drove home. Along the way, my wife, a teacher, called and asked me to meet her at her middle school’s basketball game. As the game rolled on, I felt all of the Caesar dressing and parmesan crisps combining with the coffee to create some sort of hellacious bioterror weapon. I was too self-conscious to risk alleviating the situation at the school, which is also my wife's place of employment. Our nine-month-old was also acting fussy, so I offered to take him home early as an excuse to escape.

Our house is only five minutes from the school. But as I frantically buckled the baby into the back seat of my car, I knew I was doomed. The feeling in my guts was like nothing I've ever felt before or since. It sounded like a ten-year old dishwasher churning through a cycle. Frothing, liquid rage. The universe conspired to stop me at red lights at all four intersections along my route. At the third one, I just gave up. I put the car in park, briefly blacked out, and shit my chinos.

When I got home literally one minute later, I remember thinking three things: the shit was weirdly cold on my ass already, it didn't feel like that much poop, and I couldn't believe my kid has to feel this shame multiple times a day. I locked the car and left it running in the driveway with the kid still in it, furtively waddled through our yard to the side door, and managed to get to the master bathroom without making a mess along the way.

Just moments into the clean-up, my wife texted that she was coming home. I updated her on the situation as she was about to enter, and she was actually very cool and understanding about me abandoning our kid in the driveway. When I finished my handiwork a few minutes later, everyone was home and safe inside the house. My wife thrust the baby into my arms and said, "Since you have experience..." I looked down and he had shit all the way through his diaper and onesie.

I accepted the job offer the next day and still work there. It's a great gig.

LOL.

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