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Funbag

There Is No Perfect Stat

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 21: Derek Carr #4 of the Las Vegas Raiders fumbles the ball during the fourth quarter in the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Allegiant Stadium on November 21, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

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 pissing in a bottle, grim men’s evenings, losing a baby, and more.

Before I get to the bag, Thanksgiving is two days from now which means that I have to shift into a second wave of book-pimping mode. To that end, The Night The Lights Went Out makes the perfect Christmas gift, because it’s reasonably priced and because anyone in your family who reads it will come away from it with a newly sober perspective on life and an aching desire to hold you as close to them as humanly possible, forever and ever. There are also a few laughs.

OK, time for your letters:

Ted:

Shouldn’t the TD/INT change to touchdown/turnover ratio? I don’t give a shit about how many picks you throw if you fumble 12 times a game. It’s more of a telling stat. 

I get the idea, but I have to reject it even though, like every fan, I note it whenever my own QB fumbles and hold it against him forever. Fumble recoveries are famously a matter of chance, and while certain QBs have more buttery fingers than others, your average QB fumble is the result of a strip sack that’s more the O-line’s fault. I just checked the league fumble leaders and your No. 1 fumbler is Justin Fields, which makes sense because Fields runs with the ball a lot, his line is nonexistent, and his coach belongs in a straitjacket. But do you know who the next three QBs are on the list? Dak Prescott, Derek Carr, and Kyler Murray. A TD/TO ratio isn’t gonna tell you more about those three than their current TD/INT ratios do.

Also, stats don’t HAVE to tell you everything. Every year I hear someone say that a receiver should be charged with a pick instead of a QB if the ball bounces off his chest, and I’m usually like yeah! But this is football, which means we’d still end up sweating the details even if they refined that stat. Hey, what if the QB threw the ball too hard for his wideout to catch it in time? What about the tight end stationed a few feet away when that ball bounces up in the air? Should he get charged with a pick if he doesn’t lay out to swat that ball away? Etc., etc. You’re swapping out one subjective argument for another.

Because there are no perfect stats. And I like stats. I’m not some fossil who refers to “the analytics” like they’re fucking witchcraft. Stats are good, and we’re continually striving toward more perfect forms of them, which is also good. But even the best metrics still aren’t gonna tell you everything about a player or a team. You’ll never find a God stat that definitively says this guy is better than that guy or whatever. Some things will inevitably be left to the eye of the beholder, which is ultimately a good thing. If we all agreed that certain stats are infallible, we’d have nothing to argue about. And the whole reason I WATCH sports is to argue. I certainly don’t watch them to be happy.

C:

Could you have more kids again at your age? I ask because you and I are about the same age, and my girlfriend is pushing for us to have kids. But I have a kid, from my first marriage. He’s 25 now, and just moved out of the house in the last few months. I feel like I am still recovering from a 25-year long marathon, and she’s asking me to sign up to run another one almost immediately. I don’t think I can start parenting again, but when I bring this up with her, she thinks I’ll change my mind. How did you know you were done, and what would you do if your wife asked you to have another kid?

I knew I was done having kids when a urologist dug into my scrotum, cut the vas deferens leading to each of my testicles, and then soldered them shut to leave me sterilized forever.

Apologies for being a wiseass. I got a vasectomy because my wife and I both agreed that three kids were all we were willing to tolerate, both financially and personally. Also, my youngest son’s birth was nearly catastrophic. My wife was 36 when she gave birth to him. Once a woman turns 35, she’s automatically deemed a high-risk pregnancy, which means she has to guzzle all kinds of noxious serums for blood glucose tests and is at a much higher risk for complications during delivery. After our youngest came out of the NICU, neither of us wanted my wife, or a potential fourth child, to endure that kind of horror ever again.

And neither of us wanted to endure early childrearing again. As C up above already knows, it’s a pain in the ass: diapers, bottles, sleep deprivation, all that shit. A true marathon: one that I am so, so glad to be done with. In fact, I’m already annoyed that my children will foist their babies onto my wife and me for free daycare when we’re 65. Right now I’m in the sweet spot where my kids are largely self-functional but not old enough to have kids of their own, which means I don’t have to do much of anything. I plan to stay in this spot for as long as I can. Hence, snip snip.

But I’m still married, and our reader here is not, and finds himself stuck between making his new girlfriend happy and maintaining his sanity. That’s why, even if it’s a second relationship, you probably need to agree on the having kids thing before you get married or buy a house together or whatever. Otherwise one person is gonna end up resenting the other and that resentment won’t go away. Flying headlong into a serious relationship while leaving that unsettled is like leaving a bullet wound untreated.

Keith:

I was watching a football game the other day and my daughter noticed me making hand signals. For example, when it was almost halftime I started to do the timeout signal when they needed a time out. She thought I was crazy because I clearly cannot call a timeout from my living room. Does everybody do this or am I crazy?

Everybody does that. You have to make the timeout sign when you want a timeout, and you have to yell TIMEOUT! with great volume and urgency. That’s just standard operating procedure for any fan. I make the timeout sign right when the whistle blows. If one extra second ticks off that clock before my coach makes the signal himself (and it always does), I am fucking LIVID. How am I faster on the draw than you, Coach? What, you had to trim your nails first, fucko? GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER.

The rest of my sign-calling repertoire is inconsistently applied. I’ll make the no good sign when the other team misses a field goal, but not if my team does. If sufficiently fired up, I’ll also signal for holding, pass interference, delay of game, and traveling in basketball. I will NOT make the clipping sign, even though it’s probably fun to do. But you HAVE to make the timeout sign. Why watch the game otherwise?

I’ll also pantomime throwing a flag when I want a flag, which never results in them throwing a flag.

Mike:

Prince descends from the heavens and leaves the choice to you: all songs end with a slow fadeout, or all songs end with one heavy note (hard chord and one last hit of the drums). What’s your choice?

The last one. Fadeouts are weak. You can’t even play them live. Disgraceful. I want my songs to end definitively, and LOUDLY. I want the band to completely freak the fuck out toward the end of the song. The most obvious example of this is “Paradise City,” but plenty of other songs hit the turbo boost in the final minute, because it’s the right way to do business, especially if the drummer does a whole wrap-up solo that ends with him bashing his cymbal into the next town over.

My favorite recent song ending is “ALYGATYR,” by Kasabian. Kasabian fired their original lead singer last year for assaulting his fiancée. This was the first single they released without him and with guitarist Sergio Pizzorno (great name) on vocals. It’s a fucking monster of a track specifically because it goes batshit on the final chorus, with the drums running a go route and me jacking the volume up until every dog on the block is howling in pain. Rock is dad shit now, but that just means more rock for ME.

By the way, Hüsker Dü has a track called “Ice Cold Ice” that fades out at the end, so you think it’s over. But then they come back two seconds later with the guitars going BRANNNNNGGGG and you’re like OH SHIT I DIDN’T KNOW THEY WERE GONNA ROCK MY BALLS OFF LIKE THAT. Good song.

Steve:

I’m 33 years old and have probably been to about 200 baseball games in my life. I’ve had a couple come close, but have never caught a foul ball, though I’ve always wanted to. I feel like they’re even rarer now with the extended netting in parks. Suppose I ever snag one, do I have to hand it over to the closest kid in my vicinity, or is my first foul ball mine all mine?

You keep it. If that kid wants a foul ball, they can jolly well catch one on their own. I’m not coddling that fucker by handing them a ball they didn’t earn. Get on my level, you little shit.

This is where I turn Republican. What, I catch a ball and I’m supposed to just hand it over to some little piece of shit because his parents, Sharon and Todd, will make a frowny face at me if I don’t? That family is sitting in $200 seats and probably drove a Suburban to the game. They can suck my dick.

Anyway, keep the ball. Unless you’re Zack Hample in which case go die.

Andrew:

Do you think LeBron James has made more shots than he’s missed in his entire life? Using a regulation ball with a regulation net (no crumpled paper into the garbage, no mini sets on the back of his door, etc). Factoring in practice, screwing around with friends (lots of attempted trick shots, games of HORSE etc), games (high school, NBA, international) etc. For his NBA career, he’s just a smidge over 50% FG%, 35% from 3, and 73% on free throws, so that can basically be called 50% across the board.

Well after this season, I’ll say below. HEY-OOOOOOOOOOO.

Let’s get LeBron’s actual career NBA shooting tally before I go any further. Here are the numbers as of Monday morning:

Regular-season field goals: 12,974 of 25,749
Regular-season free throws: 7,601 of 10,362
Playoff field goals: 2,725 of 5,502
Playoff free throws: 1,749 of 2364
Total: 25,049 of 43,977

That’s nearly 57 percent on all shots over the course of his professional career, and that represents the end of my actual research for this answer. After that, I have to factor in LeBron’s shooting percentage from amateur competitions, including the Olympics, all-star games, high school (his percentages there are nearly identical to his pro percentages), middle school (probably higher), his driveway (higher still), and fucking around in practice. Fuck it, let’s just put him above 50 percent because of dunks. If I were LeBron, and one day I will be, I’d spend every waking second dunking the ball. I’d dunk the ball at my own wedding.

HALFTIME!

Sam:

How should I read “grim men’s evening?” Is it a men’s evening that turned grim or is it an evening where only grim men have been invited? 

It’s just the Dudes’ Night Out sketch from Chappelle’s Show: any night that’s supposed to be “fun” because it features drinking and strippers and other designated bro shit in it, but turns out desperate instead. I watched Bachelor Party 500 times when I was a kid. This is what I was conditioned to believe good times should entail. And they WERE fun when I was like 23, but then you barf in enough stairwells and find yourself shitfaced in empty bars often enough to realize that maybe you should just go out for sushi next time instead. Not everything about being older is lamer.

Alexa:

Good morning, Goldman Sachs predicts a continuing bull market, but is that possible with the current state of our economy? Our clients manage $1 billion – $12 billion and are discussing the following:

-Impact of inflation on markets

-What a raging bull market means for the economy

-Is increased allocation to stocks the right move?

If you are looking for a source on this topic, I’d be happy to arrange a call with one or more of our clients for insights. 

Such a call won’t be necessary, ma’am. I agree with Goldman Sachs that the bull market will continue, which means INDEX FUNDS, baby. Gobble up all the index funds you can get your hands on, and then watch as an inherently corrupt market system pays off for YOU. No price will ever look inflated to you again.

Evan:

Last Thursday/Friday, my wife miscarried at six weeks. It’s been pretty rough for lots of obvious reasons. The pregnancy wasn’t entirely expected, but it was definitely wanted. We were just starting to let ourselves get excited and make plans. We told a few select people, but not many. It’s been really fucking rough for a number of obvious reasons, but one of the worst things so far is how hard it is to talk about. There’s no common language to talk about miscarriages in the context of the “miraculous joy of birth” narrative that’s normally available. It feels very lonely. I guess my question is whether or not you’ve had a similar misfortune, directly or indirectly, and also any advice about dealing with the fear of another miscarriage when we start trying again.

I know a million couples who have endured miscarriages. I also know women who have had to deliver stillborn children who had died in utero. Everyone knows somebody. According to the Mayo Clinic, 10–20 percent of all pregnancies end in a miscarriage. That means that either having a friend miscarry, or suffering one yourself, is all but a certainty. This is tragic, but it also means you are NEVER alone when you endure one. It doesn’t feel that way when you’re in the throes of grief. It feels like you and your spouse are the only people on Earth to go through what you’re going through. But snoop around the internet for a brief moment and you’ll find many, many people who have not only lost a child but written candidly about it. You can read these accounts and know for certain that there are millions of people out there with whom you can empathize and who can empathize with you. You can also ask to join a support group, because there’ll be no shortage of them if you look around your area for one.

And you and your spouse can give yourselves permission to talk about it. Not with like a bank teller, but with a wider circle of people you trust. Many couples keep miscarriage news private because they don’t wanna trigger themselves, or because they don’t wanna burden others with their grief, or because they fear how others will respond, or because they simply don’t know where to even start, or who to start with.

But again, this is a tragedy that is common across all of humanity: a natural biological phenomenon that would-be parents have little to no control over. That means there are waiting ears out there, and they’re not as hard to find as you might suppose. In fact, you might discover a close friend who’s had one, or even someone else in your family. You never know who’s had it sitting on the tip of their tongue until you share your own story and potentially free them from their silence as a result.

Meantime, I can’t guarantee that trying for another kid after a miscarriage won’t produce the same result. But having kids means committing yourself to a life of fear anyway. You fear them dying in the delivery room. You fear them dying of SIDS once they come home. You fear them dying as toddlers because they won’t stop trying to lick the electrical outlet. You fear child molesters, drunk drivers, school shooters, drug addiction, violent porn, COVID … all of it. Parenting is a lesson in abject terror in which you visualize every tragic result and then come to fear it intimately. I have not lost that terror in my 15 years of doing this, but I have learned to manage it. I also know every other parent out there is just as afraid as I am, so that helps. You invite more love into your world, you’re bound to invite more loss at some point. But it’s always worth the tradeoff.

Just don’t ask me to have a fourth kid. My testicles are closed for business permanently.

MJ:

I had my ankle repaired a month ago and still have a cast. I’m not allowed to walk on it so I have crutches and a knee scooter I can roll around on. They also gave me a bottle to pee in for the first few days so I wouldn’t have to get out of bed at night. Drew, this thing is fantastic. Just wake up, throw your legs over the side of the bed, pee into the bottle, close it, go back to sleep, and empty and wash it the next day. So good.

I hated my piss bottle in the hospital. Hated it. I didn’t wanna piss lying down. I didn’t like feeling my cock resting against the inside of a hard plastic lip. I was scared to death I’d somehow spill the piss all over my bed. I never knew who was gonna pop into my room whenever I tried to give the bottle a chance. And I missed using the toilet. The first chance I got to ditch the bottle and piss normal, I took it. I’m lazy, and I’ve tried for years to curtail my habit of getting up to piss at night. But I can’t piss in a bottle. That’s a gateway drug to washing myself with a rag on a stick.

Matt:

Why is D+ the most hilarious grade?

Because you got a D but you got the best D you could. Really solid effort on your part.

By the way, all my kids get letter grades now. When I read their report cards, I actually know what I’m looking at. I don’t channel my inner boomer and go REPORT CARDS ARE ALL DIFFERENT AND SCARY THESE DAYS! I can actually tell if my kids are smart or stupid. Very reassuring.

James:

I sit here at 38, coming back from a physical with some moderately bad news. My cholesterol is high and my sugars have just barely crossed into “pre-diabetic.” I’m a 6’3” guy that carries 238 lbs. in a way that makes people surprised that I am technically “overweight.” My wife is onboard with helping me watch my diet, which is great. I know this is a minor bit of worry but, staring down the barrel of middle-age, I can’t help but think I have hit the point where anything I do is no longer about improvement as it is maintenance and fixing the garbage I did to myself in my youth.

First of all, everyone is technically overweight at the doctor. The medical threshold for obesity is “Did you eat today?” It gets tiresome.

I’ve gone through the battery of midlife crisis blood test results. I’ve had borderline hypertension, to the point where I bought my own blood pressure monitor at the CVS and measured it on the reg. I’ve had borderline high cholesterol. I’ve had a stress test at the cardiologist, where they stick you on a treadmill and measure your heartrate as they jack up the incline and the speed to “sprinting up Everest” levels. I’m also, at 45, finally eligible for a colonscopy, so yay. The prescription is sitting on my desk right now. My asshole is ready for its closeup.

It’s very easy to go through all these tests and think to yourself Well I guess I’ll never be young and strong and handsome again, but then you get to the other side where you realize that you don’t HAVE to be any of those things anymore. I’ll never be as strong as I was when I was in my early 20s, nor as fast, nor as sexually prolific. You can spend the rest of your life trying to get back to that baseline, and a shitload of men attempt just that. Or you can realize that you’re older now, there’s no reversing it, and that you don’t have to give a shit. You can be 38 and make the best of it.

This is where I tell you that I had a physical last month and all my blood work came back CLEAN. Not even sure how I pulled it off. So I’ll never be 20-year-old Drew again, but understanding that means I’m free to be the healthiest, sexiest 45-year-old Drew I can be. If that still means I have love handles, and I do, then fuck it. No one was casting me as Helen of Troy in a movie anyway.

John:

Do you think college football will ever have an exchange program where teams from other conferences switch and play each other’s schedules? Like a team from the SEC switches with a team from the Pac-12? Each team would be allowed to play in that conferences championship game.

Well, Nebraska entered into one of those exchanges a few years ago but can’t seem to get out of it, so no.

Email of the week!

Luke:

When I was a junior in high school we had a basketball game about an hour out of town. On the way home, we stopped at a gas station to grab some snacks for the long journey ahead. About five minutes in, I experienced probably the worst stomach cramp in history. I dealt with it for about 20 minutes by rolling around in my seat in the fetal position, but then I couldn’t handle it anymore. I went up and asked the driver if there was anywhere we could possibly stop cause I was about to have an emergency. He scoffed at me and told me I could hold it until we got back.

I did my best, but about ten miles out of town I couldn’t take it anymore. I grabbed the garbage can and released Satan’s fury while my teammates laughed and took videos on their phones. We were from a very small school, so we couldn’t afford nice charter buses and they didn’t laugh very long as the stench filled the old yellow bus. As soon as the driver realized what had happened, he stopped the bus and yelled at me to get rid of it. So 16-year-old me tied off the bag, hopped out the emergency exit, and hurled the entire 33 gallon bag of garbage and shit into a cornfield, cementing my legacy.

You poor bastard.