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Funbag

There’s No “Best” Time To Quit Drinking

Custom official destroys seized bottles of liquor, previously smuggled into Pakistan during an ceremony organized by customs to destroy seized alcohol and drugs smuggled into Pakistan, on the outskirts of Quetta on December 15, 2020.   (Photo by Banaras KHAN / AFP) (Photo by BANARAS KHAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Banaras Khan/AFP via Getty Images

Time for your weekly edition of the Defector Funbag. Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag. Need a Christmas present that doesn’t suck? Defector gift subscriptions are now LIVE. And buy your loved ones Drew’s novel, Point B, while you’re at it. Today, we’re talking about soccer, BIG POPCORN, uniform numbers, bad looking good foods, and more.

Your letters:

Tyler:

I’d like to go sober for a month (booze and weed) to reset my baseline tolerance levels and confirm I don’t have a problem. What’s the best month to pick? January seems like an obvious choice in connection with a New Year’s Resolution but January is too shitty of a month to survive sober. What say you?

The Dryuary fad is cruel because January is always such a brutal month unless you live in, like, Australia. There’s nothing to do and nowhere to go, especially this particular January, which makes drinking one of the better options for passing the time. I have no idea how I would have gotten through Januarys in college, in the dead zone of Maine, without routine alcohol poisoning.

That said … well now, there’s no GOOD time to stop drinking now, is there? In my adult life, I have lived through two dry Januarys, although not as part of some self-imposed mini-Lent. MY first sober January came in 2010. I had been arrested for DUI the July prior. I didn’t drink for eight months after that arrest because of a court order. I had settled into a decent groove with my sobriety during that streak, although I knew in my heart that I would eventually step off the wagon. Easier to stay sober when you know that it’s not gonna be forever.

One night in March 2010, a storm knocked the power out all through the neighborhood. Our neighbor, who lived alone, came over with a bottle of wine. My wife uncorked it and offered me a glass.

“I don’t know,” I told her.

“I think it’s OK.” My wife is my diametric opposite when it comes to moderation. Two beers in one night is a fucking rager for her. For me, two beers used to represent the time between 5:00 p.m. and 5:35 p.m. But we were stuck in a dark house, in the bitter cold, and I had fulfilled all of my obligations to the judicial system. Given that alcohol had long served as a binding agent between us (we were both drunk the night we met), and given that I had proven myself responsible with my sobriety after my arrest (I have never driven drunk since I got tagged; hook my ass up to a polygraph to see if I’m lying), she figured I was ready to give booze another shot. So I drank the wine that night. It was fucking great. It was like drinking again for the first time. All the initial warmth and silliness of the first drink I had ever had came rushing back to me. I could do this again. I could do it right.

You’ve heard boozers tell that lie before. So I got back to drankin’ and then my brain exploded eight years later. That brings me to my second Dryuary “celebration” in 2019, in which I was too busy recovering from a hemorrhage, and too shaken up from it, to process my rehab solely as an abstinence exercise. I was more interested in, like, learning to walk again. Anyway, since that fateful night, I have now experienced sobriety through every month of the calendar twice over. All of those months feature convenient excuses to get loaded. There’s no avoiding them. That makes Dryuary a little more understandable, even with the NFL playoffs factor working against people like me.

If you wanna take weed out of the equation, and let’s do that for Tyler’s sake, then I’ve been an honorary Mormon every month of the year except for May, June, and July. The sober winter months can be difficult because of the seclusion. Spring is a little bit easier because you can at least go outside and be active (NOTE: I count walking the dog for more than one block as “active”). And then there’s fall, which is easy in some respects because it’s busy, but then you’ve got the holidays lurking. And Christmas 2020 will be the drunkenest holiday America has had this century. Everyone is drunk and on drugs right now.

Not a lot of easy months in there, yeah? But that’s the point. You’re doing something that’s hard for you personally. No time of year is gonna make the core of your mission any LESS difficult. I’d pick April to answer your question, but it really doesn’t matter. You’re not gonna trick your ol’ brain into forgetting that it’s on the wagon just because girls outside are dressing hot again. It’s still gonna feel like a slog at the beginning, then hopefully it’ll get easier and easier as you adjust to living without booze. That’s all of life: you keep on adjusting so that you can keep on going.

So the best month to give it a shot is right now. Get that shit out of the way, especially before the vaccine hits. Once the vaccine is widespread, everyone’s gonna get naked.

Steve:

What time and day combination makes the best nap? Is it the lazy Sunday put the Jets game on and fall asleep? Is it the post Friday sleep-off-work nap? I love a good nap during the baseball game personally. Generally you wake up right when something important happens.

I’m glad you asked that, Steve, because I’ve been feverishly experimenting in the napping space ever since quarantine began. Some people get excited for sex. Me? I get excited to nap. I’ve napped in every room in this house and in every conceivable position. I even nap in front of the kids. SO TABOO. I’ve plotted out my naps so that they don’t fuck with my actual nighttime sleep. I’ve started off nap attempts in the recliner, only to step up my game and take things over to the couch. I’ve napped with the hood on my hoodie up, which really amplifies the feeling of being back in utero. I’ve napped after work. I’ve napped during work (don’t tell bossman Tom Ley this). I’ve napped during football, of course. I’ve even dared the mid-morning nap and had it pay off. Just as there’s no good time to quit drinking, there’s no BAD time to nap, save for the notorious devil’s nap between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.

But lemme take you through my ideal napping circumstances. I’m at home on a weekend. There’s nothing to do. I just ate a really good-ass lunch. I retire to my beloved recliner to chill the fuck out and put on a game. WHOA HEY GUESS WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. One thing leads to another and suddenly I’m gone for 40–60 minutes. And I don’t have to piss when I wake up. And the dog is on my lap. And someone who is not me has made fresh cookies. There you go. Perfect nap. Can’t believe I’m awake right now, like a TOTAL LOSER.

Oh, and you know what I did the other day while napping? DOUBLE BLANKET. That’s right. I broke the seal on a signature grandma move. I could’ve slept through a nuke attack.

Michael:

What’s the etiquette on grocery store curbside delivery during the winter? I live in a Midwestern state governed by a Republican who has refused to issue any sort of mask mandate or stay at home order. This also means that very soon the average windchill will drop to below zero, plus ice and snow. I don’t want to go into grocery stores right now because I live in a county Trump won by 50 points, so mask compliance has never been great, but I also don’t want to risk the teenage grocery store employee getting frostbite or slipping on ice while putting my groceries in the car. What’s the best way to go about this?

My apologies to you for living in what is CLEARLY South Dakota. Can you get Peapod or some other grocery delivery service where you are? That’s what we did at the beginning of the pandemic. They charge an annoying fee for every order but we spent so little money elsewhere during the shutdown that we figured we could eat the cost. Every time the order arrived, we celebrated like castaways spotting a steamship in the distance. Then we wiped down every fucking bag of pretzels and carton of milk that arrived, and we checked the receipt to see what items they actually didn’t have in stock (toilet paper) and which they had switched out for what they considered to be acceptable substitutes (instead of real potato chips, Munchos!). It was not the ideal way of procuring basic sundries, but it did the job for a couple of months before we decided it was safe to go to the store in person again.

So you could order grocery delivery, leave a fat tip, and keep your driveway/front walk pristine. That’s about as considerate as you can get while keeping yourself isolated from all the deranged virus truthers in your state. I can go to the store where I live because everyone here does masks. The one time I went into a store and NO ONE had masks on—it was a gas station mart somewhere in New Hampshire—I turned right around and fled as fast as I could. Not a fucking chance I walk into any indoor space right now if people aren’t wearing masks. So that means you gotta do delivery or, if curbside is the only option, do that and tip the ever-living fuck out of the person bringing them out. They’ll get cold because you live somewhere cold. It’s not like you can post a heat lamp outside of your Camry to make their life easier. The elements are what they are. So long as you treat the store’s employees like actual human beings and not your indentured servants, you’re all good.

Shane:

What’s the longest meeting you’ve been in? Meetings shouldn’t last longer than 30 minutes. Why do some meetings/training sessions have to go near the two-hour mark?

I’ve been in all-day meetings, but those come in a variety of flavors. I’ve been stuck in all-day focus groups, which are as miserable as you imagine them to be. I’ve sat through all-day PRESENTATIONS at an off-site. Before smartphones were invented. Those were painful, but at least I could sneak off to the bathroom 87 times an hour. And then I’ve been in all-day creative meetings. I did this in advertising, sitting in a room all day to workshop taglines for Roy Rogers and what have you. I also worked on Norm MacDonald’s TV show for exactly one week. These tend to be loosely structured meetings, where all the writers sit around a conference room all day fucking around for the first six hours before they finally start bandying around actual ideas. You can bail for a few minutes to get a can of seltzer (they’re free!), or to flesh out an idea that has potential, and then you come back in and keep at it.

These are “fun” meetings from an external glance. In reality, they have no definitive beginning or end. If you write for any TV show out in L.A., your job is one continuous meeting, with breaks only for sleeping and doing cocaine. That’s why your average TV writer is an alcoholic misanthrope who’s allergic to sunlight. It’s not the healthiest way to live your life.

I’ve read plenty about how the pandemic has forced bosses around the country to reconsider the utility of holding endless meetings. They’re inefficient, expensive, and annoying. I’d like to think that, once we hit The After, those same bosses will keep the meeting tally down and do more business virtually, just like they claim they will. But I know how much these people need to feel important, and I know that half of this country went back to “normal” without even bothering to address the whole “let’s stop mass death” thing. So the meetings will continue until morale improves.

HALFTIME!

Andy:

A few English coworkers have convinced me to follow the Premier League. How should I go about speaking with them about the games? Do I use natural terms (e.g. soccer, field, standings) but sound like a slovenly Yank, or go with the proper terminology (e.g. football, pitch, table) but sound like a pretentious douche? 

I’m a casual EPL fan as you’re about to be, so I’ll tell you my approach. (Whether or not I come across as a total dipshit using this approach is a matter of taste, but I’ll let you judge.) First of all, I still call the sport “soccer,” and not “football.” It’s not because I think the rest of the world is calling soccer by the wrong name. This is strictly so that I don’t cause any confusion between soccer and American football when I’m talking. Apart from that, I’ve gradually adopted proper terminology for everything else. So I say “pitch,” “nil,” “match,” and “table.” I think American soccer fanboys, who can get REALLY fucking annoying, have a similar approach. I can’t argue with it, even if I can argue with al the other bullshit they pull.

Sometimes I slip and call a match a game, or a keeper a goalie (that one was the toughest adjustment), but I forgive myself. I say all the proper terms in my normal American accent. I don’t affect a Cockney brogue and cry out right lads ‘ere come our pool boys onto the pitch! Brilliant! THAT is what’ll set off dipshit alarms if you’ve got company around. I accept that I’m a Yankee interloper to the sport, but I try my best to talk about the sport the way other fans like to talk about it. If some pasty-ass limey sailed over here and insisted on using his own glossary every time he watched the NFL with you, you would murder that guy, yeah? Same deal. If you let the diehards know you care enough to use the right words, then that’s good enough.

Also, youth soccer where I am uses all the proper language, so my 11-year-old uses it regularly, without it sounding all that labored. More Americans are learning how to talk soccer every year. Will this result in the USMNT ever winning a fucking thing? No. But it’s progress.

Taylor:

This summer we bought a Costco-sized box of Outshine Fruit Bars. Every time I went to grab one from the freezer, I couldn’t help myself from singing (either in my head, or out loud if no one was around) the chorus of “Outshined” by Soundgarden. This got me thinking about all of the random words or phrases (either brand names or just common sayings) that I regularly encounter in a non-music context that always elicit an impromptu rockstar performance from me. Some of the ones I think/sing without fail are:

– R.E.M. – “Orange Crush”

– Bob Seger – “Turn the Page” (followed by wailing sax sound effect)

– Beatles – “Yesterday”

My strangest music reflex is that anytime I go swimming in the ocean, “My Wave” by Soundgarden starts playing on a loop in my head. I haven’t even listened to that song in 20 fucking years, man. But then I see a literal wave and BOOM! There it is. And it gets worse. Once my mind has gotten tired of that song in the ocean, it queues up “Big Wave” by Pearl Jam, which I also haven’t heard in over a decade, because it’s not all that good of a song. That’s my spontaneous ocean playlist. Two songs. About waves. My imagination is nowhere near as expansive as my résumé would suggest.

One more. When I was in college, my roommate used to put on “Now And Forever” by Vanilla Ice for laughs. Vanilla Ice wrote(?) this song during his Fuck It I’m A Gangsta Rapper Now phase, which you do not remember. Here is a sample of the lyrics just for you:

I need a woman that’s sexy
Straight up and erotic
I gotta have her
Yes a beautiful sex goddess
The kind of girl who rocks my world
Doin’ those crazy things
With whipped cream an’ ice cream

I’ve ironically listened to that song enough times that it’s now firmly lodged in my cortex, so much so that it autoplays whenever I buy a can of fucking Reddi-Wip at the Giant. Everyone else at the store is going about their mundane and useless lives, fondling cabbages and checking expiration dates. Meanwhile, I’m privately invited to a yacht orgy with Vanilla Ice featuring women who are sexy, straight up, and erotic. Real big disconnect.

Steve:

What is the worst-looking, yet best-tasting food? I really enjoy a good corned beef hash. However it does look quite a bit like dog food. Calamari is pretty gross looking too but tastes fantastic. What ya got?

Chili is the obvious choice here. I could make the best chili in the world (and I do), but any photo I take of it will be greeted with BRO THAT’S DIARRHEA BRO the second I make it public. The fact that I put corn in my chili only exacerbates the problem. May as well toss some little peanut bits in there while I’m at it.

Lots of stews fail the initial eye test. I made lentils the other night. No one on Earth has gazed upon lentils for the first time and said, “Oh yeah that looks terrific.” Any food that’s mushed or gruel-like in nature is gonna have presentation issues.

Connor:

I don’t watch college football often, but I did the other day and I saw a cornerback wearing number 3. I watch NFL games and if I saw a cornerback wearing a number in single digits, I would lose my crap. That being said, what numbers are appropriate to wear for each position in the NFL?

The NFL actually relaxed their number rules a while ago. Before 2004, wideouts had to wear an 80s number. When Randy Moss was drafted in 1998, he wore #18 in training camp, but that wasn’t gonna fly once the regular season started, so he switched to #84. Then the league, in all its benevolence, decided that wideouts could rock numbers in the 10s as well. They made a few more adjustments after that, but otherwise the guidelines are still pretty limiting.

I fucking hate them. I have to disagree with Connor here on uniform number purity. I wish NFL players could wear any goddamn number they wanted. If I saw a college corner wearing No. 3 out there, I wouldn’t lose my shit at all. I would feel only the deepest yearning. Jadeveon Clowney was No. 7 at South Carolina. Look how fucking cool he looked in that number, man. LaVar Arrington was No. 11 at Penn State. ALSO bad-ass. I know that there’s a rationale behind the way the NFL handles numbers, mostly so that the refs can keep track of which players are supposed to be lined up where. But fuck all that. LET’S GET CRAZY WITH THESE DIGITS.

Brady:

Do you ever think a movie has been struck down by BIG POPCORN? Like, a lead character’s gimmick was that he despised popcorn and Orville Redenbacher called up Warner Bros himself and was like “No, fuck YOU! Make him hate cashews.”

I wanna laugh and say no, but … well now, indulging in petty horseshit is the current hobby of EVERY American industrial baron. There are probably a million Godfather-quality scripts sitting in a dumpster right now, all because they contained a baldness joke that made Jeff Bezos mad or something.

Kyle:

As a Kentuckian, is there some protocol for having a favorite pro team when your home state doesn’t host any? If the choice is based on nearby franchises, I posit Kentucky as one of the worst places in terms of teams: Bengals, Browns, Colts, Titans, Reds, Cardinals, Pacers, Cavs, Bobcats, Blue Jackets. The Grizzlies and Predators are the only decent ones that come to mind. The reason I ask is because I’m 41, and the only professional team I’ve consistently rooted for since childhood is the Atlanta Falcons. This is purely because my drunk barfly of an uncle in Atlanta once met Chris Miller.

There’s no protocol at all. YOU’RE FREE, KYLE. You’re not bound to some horseshit local team, and you’re certainly not obligated to root for the nearest team within a 500-mile radius. Do you REALLY want to root for Ohio teams? No. Of course not. No one does. Take advantage of your free agency. Force teams to wine you and dine you. Have football coaches visit your mom so that she can give them a firmly arched eyebrow and ask them how they’re gonna help make her boy into a MAN. Stage a Signing Day for yourself. DEMAND THE STRUNK FAMILY SEND YOU ALL THE DRUGS YOU CAN EAT.

Or better yet, choose no team at all. Why ask for your nuts to be punched like that? Stay casual and enjoy whatever teams and players you see fit as they flit in and out of the sport. No one’s gonna hold it against you if you’re from Kentucky. Or don’t watch sports at all. Sports are garbage.

Email of the week!

Josh:

As a grad student, I worked part time as a bartender at a brewpub/restaurant. I mostly worked nights, but occasionally I was scheduled to work lunch service. One December morning after a late night of raucous drinking, I showed up hungover at 10:00 to set up the bar. My guts were feeling unwell from the previous night, and I made the risky decision to let out a big fart in the empty bar, pre-customer arrival. Unfortunately, I got a lot more than I had bargained for. My leg was covered in liquid Pabst shit. I rushed to the bathroom and cleaned up as best I could, and quickly realized that I was doomed: my pants had foul-smelling wet spots down the back of the legs that couldn’t be cleaned or hidden. So I collected myself, found the general manager, and told him I had food poisoning and I had just thrown up in the bathroom. My sweaty forehead and the panic in my eyes probably helped sell it – with a look of genuine concern and sympathy, he told me to go home and feel better soon.  

At the time, I was living about 2 miles from the bar, and I commuted by bike most days to avoid downtown parking fees. I had ridden to work that morning, and now faced a very uncomfortable, squishy ride home. But as the boss sent me home, a thought occurred to him: “how are you getting home? You can’t ride in your condition. Let me drive you!” I protested, but he wasn’t hearing it. A minute later, we’re getting into his brand new Nissan Z. We climbed the ramp out of the building’s parking garage, and onto the street, where heavy snow was falling.

We head toward my house, him still under the assumption that I had food poisoning and had merely thrown up. A minute later, as the smell wafted through the car, the truth hit him. As realization crossed over his face, his hand reached over to the window controls, and he rolled them all the way down despite the frigid air and falling snow. 


From then on the GM and I held the Secret of the Pants-Shitting between us. I knew that he knew, and that was OK. I still feel bad about those new leather seats, I hope he was able to get the smell out.

That’s good bossing. That’s what John Harbaugh would do for Lamar Jackson.