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Funbag

The Upside Of Insomnia

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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 new book, The Night The Lights Went Out, while you’re at it. Today, we’re talking about guitar picks, Barstool, bread, ranking NFL team names straight-up, and more.

Your letters:

Aaron:

If a genie offered you the ability to make yourself fall asleep instantly by pushing your fingers into your eyes for three seconds like a hard shutdown on a computer, would you take the upgrade?

I would and then I’d regret it. When my wife and I aren’t talking about what to eat for dinner, we’re talking about sleep. Did we get enough sleep last night? Is there any way for us to get a better night’s sleep? Oh man remember when it rained real hard at 2:30 a.m.? That woke me up and then I couldn’t fall back asleep! This has been an ongoing discussion here since our first child was born. All sleep talk, all the time. If I disrupt my wife’s sleep, I feel shitty about it all day. If either of us has a poor night’s sleep, we go balls out to get a good one the next time around. All this sleep talk is—IRONY ALERT—a little tiring. So if I could ensure good health and eight straight hours in bed without having to get up to piss, I’m probably taking it.

And yet, sleep meds exist and I don’t take them. I won’t even take supplements. My wife tried to get me onto melatonin and I hated it. Somewhere in my mind, I very much enjoy sleeplessness. I daydream about selling millions of books and making TV shows and being invited onto Colbert even though I don’t really watch Colbert anymore. I think of shit to write. I think about football. I think about sex. I think about the dog. Sometimes I think about shit that bothers me—the Senate, for instance—but I’ve gotten more disciplined on that end. I think about the kids being vaccinated. I think about them going to college. I think about food.

I like all of that thinking. Not TOO much of it; my goal in bed really is to fall asleep, which I eventually do. I’m not a clinical insomniac, and if I were I’d take meds in an instant because I know what kind of hell that is. I am a casual insomniac, and I enjoy it more than I dislike it. Lying awake in bed is sometimes the only genuine time I have to myself. This is my fault, because I’m wedded to my phone all day long, and because if I’m home alone during the day I’m not just gonna sit there and stare. That’d be fucking weird.

But upstairs at night, there’s nothing to distract my mind (I keep the phone downstairs). It can play around a bit, and that time means a lot to me. There’ll probably come a day years from now where I have no choice but to mainline Ambien to get ANY rest. But for now, I’ll keep thinking about my new car before the sandman arrives.

Justin:

I have a question I have been struggling for a while now and want your opinion. I am both a Chicago person and Big Ten grad (both Barstool Big Cat territory). He is on Chicago radio a lot and Big Ten events. He seems to be a decent guy and I know what he does is a shtick. But his chosen involvement with Barstool leaves me in a quandary. I used to subscribe to their podcast but gave up a while ago when their whole thing got old, and I would never give a cent to Barstool now. He always seems to remain above the fray when questions of Barstool and its culture come up, but given how he has remained with them for so long has me questioning. Is it just loyalty to the guy who gave him a break, the money/fame it has provided, or is he actually involved in the culture?

It’s the latter. See for yourself. Believing that there are good actors within Barstool who don’t approve of the company and are embarrassed to be associated with Dave Portnoy is like believing that Ivanka Trump was gonna talk some sense into her old man back when he was president. Guys like Katz, a Movember joke gone wrong, and Eric Sollenberger would like you to believe they secretly hate Barstool, because it protects their own reputations. That way, they say to everyone else we’re different, and have chumps like Florio believe it. They’re not different. They all of the same mind over there.

There’s been glaring proof of this for years, but last week made it definite. Read Julia Black’s article. Read all those details, and then go back and see Katz and the rest of his colleagues be like I have known Dave Portnoy for SIX years, which is longer than most people have known their own parents, and he’s always been straight with me! The whole company and fanbase has treated last week’s story as just another opportunity to troll, and to proudly display how little they care for anyone outside of their orbit. Barstool fans once called my wife’s preschool—both the headmaster AND the minister in charge of the church where that school is located—to tell them that I was a danger to children. Neither of them bought that, and my wife continued to teach. They’ve terrorized my colleagues and their families. And now they’re rallying behind a man who has been accused of violent sex acts by three different women.

I was friends with Sollenberger for years, going back to before he joined Barstool. He and his wife even surprised me by visiting me in the hospital after I got hurt and it was very nice. I texted him that he should come visit my house. And then we never spoke again after that. I spent a long time believing that Eric was an anomaly over there. One of the good ones. He was my friend, and no one wants to think the worst of their friends. When some of my other friends said, “PFTC’s become what he made fun of,” I refused to believe it. I still thought the guy I was fond of was in there somewhere.

But now I know better. If that guy is still there, he long ago lost out to whoever Eric has chosen to be. Eric’s been quiet since the BI story broke. All of the company’s executives—Mike Kerns, Erika Nardini, and Jay Snowden—who enable Portnoy and sign his checks have also been silent. I bet if a friend or family member cornered any of these people and asked if they were really on board with Portnoy going on psychotic rants, in which he tries to smear anyone associated with the Business Insider article and inches ever closer to doxxing the women who told their stories, they might privately tsk-tsk him. But they won’t mean it. They don’t WANNA mean it. The fact that they haven’t denounced Portnoy publicly, and haven’t even bothered to release a boilerplate statement about “taking allegations seriously,” says all you need to know about who they really are.

John:

What would it be like if an NFL team was owned by Jim Harbaugh? If we had owners as passionate as Harbaugh, what would we get?

The Dallas Cowboys. Does that sound like a happy turn of events to you? All I want is an owner who never says a word and never touches a goddamn thing. I don’t even wanna know what they LOOK like. I want them to be an open bank vault and nothing more. Write the checks and then fuck off for eternity.

Barry:

What will it take for the MLB to ban the Tomahawk Chop?

If you go by what Rob Manfred said prior to the World Series (I could hear that man talk all day!), the answer is nothing. He regards the Braves situation as a closed matter and that racism down in that “market” is just good business.

So the only way anything about the Braves changes is if that suddenly turns out to NOT be the case, with local and national sponsors putting up enough of a fuss that the Braves grudgingly accede and become The Atlanta Baseball Club for two years before calling themselves the Atlanta Colonels or something stupid. And who isn’t looking forward to that round of discourse, I ask you? The point is that, just like up above, shitty people will keep acting shitty for as long as they can. I see no one in MLB, or at the broadcast networks for that matter, interested in putting a stop to the Braves, their fans, and their miserable little chant.

Growing up in 90s, I endured my fair share of both Braves and Florida State games, and lemme tell you something about the Tomahawk Chop. Not only is it nakedly racist, it’s ANNOYING. It’s so fucking annoying. It’s more overplayed than “Born To Run,” that’s how fucking annoying it is. If I were a TV director and the crowd started doing the chant, I would Autotune them into singing the opening call-and-response from “Hanging Tough” by New Kids on the Block instead. Remember when we Autotuned the fuck out of everything as a gag? I’m bringing that BACK.

Steve:

I recently got to see my bucket list concert (The Hives), got to the venue early to stand right in the front, and even caught a guitar pick! My question: Is there anything I can do with this pick besides leaving it in my sock drawer until my wife “accidentally” throws it away in 5 years? Was I supposed to give it to a kid, like a foul ball? 

No, Steve. Don’t you see? You caught that pick for a reason. You must now use it. That’s right: you must learn to play the guitar.

Take your pick and mosey on over to your local Guitar Center to choose an axe that suits it. Learn tablature. Master the fabled G chord. Learn how to play arpeggios and to fingertap. Then buy a tube amp (our own Dave McKenna has many in his garage he’d be willing to part with, but only for a substantial fee), plug in, and FULFILL YOUR DESTINY. Form a band. Hire your brother-in-law to man the bass. Put out a Craigslist ad for a drummer and find one who’s 37 years old and has been kicked out of 60 other bands for being too drunk and rude. Try out a million singers until yourself on the verge of giving up the dream. And then, one night, be drinking alone at a shitty chain restaurant when you hear the voice of an angel coming through the karaoke machine: the voice of a singer to whom you’ll bequeath the stage name Jean St. Leopard.

Rehearse every afternoon every day for two years straight. Hand out flyers for basement gigs. Move up to playing low-rent clubs. Pass your demo around to shady execs wearing hairpieces. Hide Jean’s smack habit from the rest of the band as you sign with a major, release your first album, and find The Hives opening for YOU one day. And then, take your pick to Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist and tell him, “The Beavers wouldn’t exist without this pick … without you.” And then watch in horror as Pelle takes that pick, flicks it directly into your eye, and tells you to fuck off and die.

That’s what you should do with that guitar pick.

HALFTIME!

Lars:

Is it weird that, when I travel, I still sleep solely on my side of the bed?

That’s what I do, too. And if I do it, it means it can’t possibly be weird. No way. I always sleep on the left side of the bed, whether my wife is in that bed or not. If she goes away for the night, I stay on that side. I don’t go spread eagle across the middle like I’m king of the bachelors. If I’m at hotel alone, I set up shop on that side. That’s MY side, no matter where I am.

I don’t do this to be a hopeless romantic (though, by all means, go awwwwww at my revelation). It’s just what I’m used to. I don’t wanna turn the OTHER way to look at the alarm clock, or grab my eye drops, or any of that. I’m wired for the left. If I tried getting out of the right side of bed to take a shit at 2:00 a.m., I’d probably trip and get my head stuck in the courtesy ice bucket. I’m a creature of habit in my age and it’s only gonna get more pronounced from here. When I’m 50, I’ll probably have to clip some of the dog’s hair and bring it with me on the road to feel comfortable.

Tom:

I’m reading today’s Funbag and someone wrote in saying that Washington Football Team is one of the better names in the NFL right now. I disagree – and so do you. So… what are your official rankings of NFL team names?

Oh god. Everyone’s gonna yell me at if I attempt this, but FUCK IT WE’LL DO IT LIVE. Go ahead and disregard me putting the Vikings near the top. It really IS a perfect name, but I understand if you think I’m biased here.

  1. Saints
  2. Vikings
  3. Raiders
  4. Dolphins
  5. Steelers
  6. Patriots
  7. 49ers
  8. Cowboys
  9. Colts
  10. Packers
  11. Ravens
  12. Broncos
  13. Seahawks
  14. Giants
  15. Rams
  16. Chargers
  17. Buccaneers
  18. Bengals
  19. Falcons
  20. Bears
  21. Titans
  22. Cardinals
  23. Lions
  24. Chiefs
  25. Eagles
  26. Jets
  27. Bills
  28. Browns
  29. WFT
  30. Jaguars
  31. Panthers
  32. The bus hitting you, etc.
  33. Texans

I will elaborate no further.

Dan:

I’ve noticed that Baker Mayfield has started getting the “Ben” treatment (i.e.: getting called more by his first name than his last name by broadcasters). What gives? With Ben (excuse me, Roethlisberger), at least there’s the excuse that he has an unwieldy last name that can be a mouthful for lazy announcers. But Mayfield? That’s an easy one. So why does Baker get the first-name exception?

You just made me realize that I call Baker “Baker” all the time: when I’m watching games, or talking to friends, or even texting them. I do this even though I’m not Browns fan, and even though Baker Mayfield’s last name is cooler than his first name.

But that happens with athletes. Sometimes it just feels better to call certain ones by their first names. Freshly minted ex-Brown Odell Beckham is always Odell to me. Davante Adams is Davante. Kyler Murray is Kyler. Lamar Jackson is Lamar. Kirk Cousins is Kirk, or Kurt if you’re feeling naughty. And Marshawn Lynch was ALWAYS Marshawn. Never Lynch. Sometimes it’s a matter of which name, first or last, feels better on the tongue. Other times a first name feels more personable. Like they’re closer to you, even though they definitely aren’t. I’m pretty sure everyone calls Kirk “Kirk” and “Kurt” because they hate him as much as they hate their own family. I have no good explanation for the phenomenon, just as how I’ll never have a good explanation for why I’ll always call Derrick Henry by his full name. It’s probably out of respect for the man.

Matt:

What food item, by serving size, have you eaten the most of over the course of your life? I’ve eaten some form of sandwich for lunch nearly every day for 40+ years, which means at least 2 slices and therefore 2 servings of bread per day. So, it’s bread?

I wanna knock you sideways with another choice like pasta, chips, or cereal. But yeah, it’s probably bread. Even if I fell in with the carbophobic masses for awhile in the prior decade, I’ve still eaten a lot of bread in my time. Also, I’ve made up for lost time with bread in recent years. If I bring home a pain de champagne from the local Whole Foods (recommended both strongly and without irony), I will fucking HOUSE that shit. No remorse. I could eat bread all day. A society that deprives itself of bread is hardly a society at all.

Jack:

Nobody (nobody) gets the “well he was on bad teams, but he was actually good!” stroke job like Archie Manning does. Who do you think is in second place?

The obvious answers are Barry Sanders and Megatron, who were both far better than the teams they played on. But that’s not what you meant. What you’re after is a player whose reputation was vastly overrated compared to his teammates, and often because of them; who somehow escaped blame for losses despite routinely being at the center of all of them. What you’re looking for, then … is Ichiro Suzuki.

(sprints away as fast as I can, screaming I WAS ONLY KIDDING! as everyone opens fire)

In all seriousness though the answer is Brian Urlacher.

Marcus:

Would football be better or worse if QBs just had to throw it between the uprights for a field goal or extra point after a touchdown? I’m a baseball guy and an NL guy so I guess it appeals to me to make one guy do more things rather than specialize.

Right now the extra point situation is ideal, so I’m not fucking with it. I do like the idea of forcing the QB to be your field goal “thrower,” because any guy who missed from 30 yards would be the shame of a nation. But you’d have to make a rule that the only person eligible to make that throw is the quarterback who took the last offensive snap, and not some third stringer with a cannon arm who can’t play the position for jack shit. Then your proposal might work. The Chad Penningtons of the world would find themselves ostracized, but I’m willing to take that chance.

Shane:

On slow days, I find myself opening a Defector article I commented on and gauging the reaction to my comment. I realize this is poisonous behavior that has claimed many Twitter and Facebook users. How I can be better mentally about it, even in a safe area like the Defector Comment Section? I find myself at times chasing that high due to one of my prior comments getting a lot of traffic (i.e. +1s). The simple answer would be, “Just don’t care about it.” But when the day is aggressively tedious, sometimes you feel like one of the few joys is existing through your online self. I need to work on being realistic about things.

Oh, I’m the same way. I’m a creature of the blogosphere, which means my brain is oriented around thinking of something to post online, posting it, feeling the dopamine rush, and then checking over and over again to see if A) people are reading what I wrote, B) people like me because of what I wrote, and C) people didn’t like what I wrote because they’re stupid and now I have to kill them and their families. That’s the cycle.

Is this healthy? No. But as Shane noted, it’s a sordid thrill to spiritually leave your office, or your house, or the gate area of an airport and getting OUT THERE onto the grid with millions of other fucking lunatics. Some days I find something funny or I have a great exchange with someone online and the joy is quite real. As real as any joy in the analog world. Other times, I know I’m just staring at my phone and waiting for something that will never come. I am, like Shane here, learning to live online when I was never given any education as to how, and when the rest of the Internet never behaves the way I want it to.

I have gotten better mentally about it. Like I said, I don’t bring my phone to bed at night, and I sleep a lot. That means I at least have 9-10 hours out of 24 a day where I’m not face-to-face with the world. I also restrict my comings and goings online to my Twitter feed (which, in a bit of irony, I’ve more or less purged of political content, even muting friends sometimes if I have to), to my work Slack channels, and to Defector itself, even if your comments below sometimes manage to displease me. I stick to my virtual safe spaces, as it were. Where everybody knows your naaaaa-aame… etc.

I’m much better about bad tweets than I used to be. This is because of Twitter’s quality filter (I can’t speak for anyone else on Twitter, but the filter now basically ensures I never see anything hostile in my replies, largely because it omits roughly 95% of ALL my replies), but I’ve also gotten better at letting go of anything else I see online that used to piss me off. This is because I went to a therapist and have gotten better at discarding bad feelings lingering in my mind. I know how to distract myself, either by taking a walk, petting the dog, focusing back on work, taking a nap, or eating. Mostly eating.

That way, I have an easier time appreciating the highs of my online day, and I don’t ruminate too hard on anything that bothered me. I’ve learned to deliberately take myself out of my mind if I’m ruminating, so that anything living rent free in my head eventually gets a knock on the door from the housing department. Since I started therapy, my mind has kinda coached itself to re-focus its energies if it senses a black cloud approaching. I don’t have a magical three-step plan for this, and I still get hung up on shit every now and again. But if you’re willing to put in the work, even talk to someone if you have to, you’re already headed in the right direction. The work is daunting at first, and then it gets easier. Like any other job.

Email of the week!

Andrew:

My grandfather died more or less alone in a hospice center, where none of us can visit him because of the risk of it becoming a COVID superspreader event. It fucking sucked.

We weren’t particularly close, but my grandfather was one of the most interesting people I’ve ever known: a good ol boy from the hick part of PA who served in what he consistently referred to as the “Korea gaggle” before coming back home and getting into falconry, of all things. I remember when I was in second grade he brought a fucking eagle to my class for show and tell, which was by far the coolest I ever was in school. But as a consequence of this (hobby? lifestyle?) he always had dead baby chicks on his person, and they were guaranteed to show up at the weirdest and grossest times. When he would get his wallet at a restaurant, when he was pulling out his keys, etc.

My formative years are chock full of memories of horrified waitstaff and clerks not knowing how to handle it, and him just casually scooping the corpse of a baby chicken back into his pocket like it was no big deal. He also bred the birds himself, by wearing a hat shaped like a lady bird to collect semen…in? On? I’m not totally sure, to tell you the truth. They don’t really make ‘em like that anymore. A local paper wrote about him once upon a time, and it’s pretty peak Insane Grandpa Shit.

You’ll also learn about the bird cum hat if you click that link! Thanks for the email, Andrew, and I hope ol’ Earl is having bagging parties up in the great beyond.