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Funbag

We’ll Never Kill The NCAA

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS - MARCH 30: NCAA president Mark Emmert attends the game between the Texas Longhorns and the South Carolina Gamecocks during the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at Alamodome on March 30, 2021 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Time for your weekly edition of the Defector Funbag. Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag. And preorder Drew’s next book, The Night The Lights Went Out, while you’re at it. Today, we’re talking about Sriracha, killer animals, Aaron Rodgers, guilty pleasure songs, and more.

You might have missed the announcement on Thursday because Senators Week at Defector consumed you entirely, as it did us, but I have a new book out this fall based on that one time my brain exploded. Now, you can WAIT to buy The Night The Lights Went Out until October 5, because you presently need that money for rent. Or food. Or medicine. Or emergency sex toys. Or you can be a selfless hero and preorder that shit RIGHT NOW. It’s what I would have wanted.

Your letters:

Brian:

How will the NCAA’s world end, with a bang or with a whimper?

Neither. Five states have already passed NIL laws, and pudding-ass Mark Emmert is on the verge of surrendering to them entirely. Obviously, we’re all sad that college athletes might end up legally entitled to a robust 2.7 percent of the money the NCAA normally makes. Former Georgia coach and big loss enthusiast Mark Richt is already SUPER sad about it:

“When I was playing college football, my priorities were girls, football and then school,” said Mark Richt, who led the football programs at Georgia and Miami before he retired from coaching in 2018. “Now it’s going to be money, girls, football, school.”

Yeah! In mah day all we cared about was pussy! Now these millennials are gonna care about MONEY and pussy! It ain’t right! Anyway, the NCAA is going along with this because they have no choice, and because preserving a slightly bastardized model of what they’ve always done is preferable to Emmert and his kind actually having to find real jobs for once.

I’ve been part of the Death To The NCAA crowd for a while now, but I know that institutions like it are adaptable creatures. They don’t like changing, but they’ll always ride in a few days (or decades) late to keep the gravy train rolling. I have zero doubt that every AD and every university president are holding emergency Zoom calls with boosters as we speak to sort the best way to fuck over players within these new rules, and then they’ll execute that plan. They don’t even have to execute it WELL, because the NCAA does nothing well. They’ll just clumsily assert that Isaiah Spiller’s face is not legally his “likeness” and then steal his mom’s house. Never underestimate the staying power of horrible people, but by all means: keep taking a public shit on them. It never hurts to tell Emmert to go fuck himself.

Sean:

We all make fun of the 1950s obsession with Jell-O molds and casseroles. In the future, what current foodie obsession do you think our grandchildren will make fun of? I don’t just mean what will seem the weirdest, but what would serve as a shorthand for the aesthetic of our era? I kind of think it will be sriracha.

Sriracha would be a good signpost for this extremely precious era of food (or, at least, the pre-COVID food era; it’s possible that dining out itself will soon become antiquated), because it’s one of those things that Americans “discovered” and then proceeded to beat into the fucking ground. If there’s a food that was cool for a heartbeat and then ended up on a fucking Wendy’s menu a year later, THAT’S the shit that Generation Delta, or whatever name they get stuck with, will laugh at. My grandkids will be like, LOL you were the people who starting calling any fried chicken Nashville hot chicken, and I’ll have no defense. Then a Seamless delivery replicant who gets paid in used toothpaste will deliver a family meal of GMO whale meat to our door and we’ll all have a laugh.

I have no idea what cultural trends will come next and which ones will die. I grew up assuming rock would live forever. Guess what? It died. My kids will turn into boomers just like I did, which means that all of the shit they like now will, at some point, become passé. Beyoncé is for old people now. Katy Perry has slid comfortably into being a has-been. My kids could half a shit about either of them. And, of course, whatever my kids think is TOTALLY what all kids think.

When you love something popular and you’re young, it seems impossible that it’ll ever go away. That’s especially true now because the media companies behind what’s popular pour billions into keeping it popular, and they suffocate the collective public imagination in the process. But it’ll all turn lame at some point anyway. TikTok’ll get replaced by some other shit. So will Marvel. So will Apple. No amount of industry lobbying and Ringer podcasts will prevent that from happening. Everything you like now will become a punchline one day. EXCEPT FOR G’N’R THEY STILL ROCK HARD AND THIS IS KNOWN.

Speaking of things dying…

Kevin:

Every year that goes by, I find myself caring about baseball less. I know less than ten players now, I’m way too familiar with the awful political opinions of the owners and players, and the games are way too long. For the last World Series, I didn’t even watch a game. Am *I* the weird one? It seems like baseball has changed a lot, but I don’t know. 

The game of baseball itself has changed dramatically, just in the past 12 months alone. They fucked with the ball to the point where no one can get a hit. They instituted seven-inning games for double headers, but won’t count no-hitters as official for them. And they still let the Houston Astros exist. Those are all things that are detrimental to baseball and to your enjoyment of it. Rob Manfred is a terrible commissioner who has seemingly made it his mission to keep WHAT’S WRONG WITH BASEBALL? an evergreen headline throughout his tenure. Mission accomplished so far.

But you’re also getting old, Kevin. You can’t give a shit about players’ opinions because then you’ll never watch ANY sports. And if you think the games are too long, well then hop on your penny farthing and go tell it to your local apothecarist. Because that’s old geezer shit. That’s you changing, and not baseball. Because for all of Manfred’s attempted fuckery, MLB’s ratings are UP. I just said that everything in pop culture dies eventually, but sports are exempted from that because gambling. And because the spring of 2020 was such a sports wasteland that I, along with millions of others, will gladly watch whatever slop is on ESPN from here to eternity. That’s why we’re stuck with Manfred, with the IOC, with the NCAA … all of it. Goody.

Jonah:

If you HAD to leave this world being eaten alive by an animal, which one would be the best (least awful) and which one would be the worst? I say being cleanly bitten in half by a killer whale or great white is best (terrifying to think) and maybe wild dogs the worst. Ants? I mean at least a crocodile has the decency to drown you before tearing you to pieces and a tiger would dispatch you rather quickly.

No ants. Fuck that. I’ve read enough books about 19th century expeditions to the Amazon where bullet ants ate their way through encampments of megalomaniacal British dudes to want any part of that.

I wanna be eaten fast. No pain. No being AWARE that there are fangs sinking into my guts. None of that. Hire a silverback to tear my fucking head off. Or find the biggest elephant on Earth and tell him to stomp me flat as a pancake. I wanna advance directly to the black and give the people a bit of theater on the way out. Don’t come at me with biting insects or lethal jellyfish or feral hogs snacking on my dick and balls. I want death, not torture. Chris Thompson knows what I’m talkin’ about.

Tim:

I got my first dose of the vax yesterday. Yay! It got me wondering though, has anyone tasted any of the vaccines? What do they taste like? Is there a difference in taste between the three that are available in the US? My guess is that they are bitter or metallic or both, but I’m curious as to what your thoughts are on the matter.

No one I know has tasted the vaccine yet, although I will again refer you to my colleague Chris Thompson and his valiant attempt to do so. There was an NBC report that said some vaccine recipients taste metal in their mouths for days afterward, something Big Junior would not appreciate. I also have not tried to drink the vaccine. I was so horny to get my first dose that I didn’t want to say or ask ANYTHING that would get in the way of it being injected into my waiting arm. God forbid I went, “Hey, can I get a little shotglass of that bad boy?” to the technician and they threw me into traffic. I waited a year for that shot. I wasn’t taking any chances.

Besides, I bet the vaccine tastes like absolute shit. For medicine to taste good, it has to be manufactured with all kinds of additives to make it go down easy. Since the vaccine isn’t administered orally, pharma companies were under no obligation to offer it in blue raspberry. All you get is the medicine, and medicine tastes like it wants to kill you.

According to the FDA, the ingredients for the Pfizer vaccine (the one I got) include “mRNA, lipids ((4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate), 2 [(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide, 1,2-Distearoyl-sn-glycero-3- phosphocholine, and cholesterol), potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate, and sucrose.” The sodium chloride (salt) and the sucrose are the only appealing parts of that list, and I guarantee you that whatever flavor they deliver to your tongue will be overpowered by all the other shit in that cocktail. The vaccine probably tastes like a can of old ammonia. If you drank it, you’d throw up every last antibody in your system and then have to call Poison Control. OH THE IRONY.

Mike:

I was talking with a friend in her 30s the other day about what we’re looking forward to most when some of these COVID restrictions end, and she said she couldn’t wait to go to a rave. The thing is, though, she’s never done a drug in her life. I’m all for people doing whatever makes them happy, but is it weird to go to a rave without SOMETHING in your system? This is coming from a guy whose #1 post-COVID wish is to get blazed and go to Home Depot to look at the light fixtures. 

Mike, you’re talking to a dude who went to multiple sober morning raves for a GQ assignment. You can go to one NEXT WEEK in New York if you feel like it. Includes a silent disco! I would honestly attend a silent disco, where everyone bops around with headphones on. It would be just like going to the gym again.

It appears that the good folks at Daybreaker have incorporated microdosing into some of their events, but to me that’s the same as hitting the club after a bottle of kombucha. There’s something in your system, but you’re not gonna end up like Mark Renton by midday, staring at a dead baby crawling along the ceiling. You’re just gonna feel mildly refreshed, the way I felt attending a Daybreaker party in The Before.

So I don’t think it’s weird for your friend to wanna go to a regular-ass rave without a Tic Tac box full of MDMA tucked into her purse. A lot of people miss being around other people. Same reason they miss concerts, full restaurants, tailgating at college football games, etc. Everybody wants to fucking party. I know there are introverts out there right now being like, “It’s OK if some of us come back at own pace,” and it is. But for some of us, we’re ready to throw down RIGHT GODDAMN NOW. If it’s under weird circumstances like you being the only choirboy at a real rave, so be it. The time has come for everyone to get fucking weird again.

HALFTIME!

Phil:

Do you ever think that there will ever be a crossover coach? I’m talking about a scenario where Gary Sheffield is coaching the Red Wings or Torry Holt manages the Marlins.

It’s possible. Even though two-sport professionals are now extinct (BOOOOOOOOOOO), there are still guys like Russell Wilson and Patrick Mahomes and even … ugh … Tim Tebow who keep a toe dipped in other sports while not necessarily playing them. Mahomes owns part of the Royals (although he’s part of a growing number of vanity celeb owners whose stake is exploited by majority ownership for maximum PR benefit). Wilson took a spring training at-bat for the Yankees just three years ago. And Tebow … uh … I dunno, other Jesus freaks just like having him around sports in general. So yeah, 20 years from now Russell Wilson could easily be hired as manager of the Marlins. He’ll tell the press, “This has always been my dream.” He will go 60-102. Ratings will be shockingly large.

Dave:

Is accidentally making eye contact with someone through that little crack around the door of the bathroom stall the worst thing in the world?

Yes, unless it’s your son in that stall and you’re just making sure he’s alive in there.

Peter:

I have several songs in my playlist that I simultaneously love and rock out to but I’m also completely ashamed of: Nickelback: Photograph, Paramore: Only Exception, Spice Girls: 2 Become 1. Which should I be most ashamed of? I feel like it’s Nickelback. I also have the Kenny G millennium mix; does that trump all of the above?

The Nickelback one is still the worst one you’ve got there, because it’s not even a good song as far as Nickelback songs go. Like, “How You Remind Me” is a perfectly good song. I remember hearing it the first time and going, “Hey I like that.” All the songs Nickelback made AFTER that are terrible, and “Photograph” is easily the shittiest of the bunch. It’s the kinda shit Kid Rock would write for a Ron DeSantis campaign ad. I think less of you for enjoying it. Never tell another soul.

As for everything else in your Guilty Pleasures catalog, they’re all defensible. Everyone I follow on Twitter somehow thinks Paramore is better than The Beatles. The Spice Girls were fun and still have a lot of camp value. And yacht rock is acceptable again, which means Kenny G gets a pass. It’s been written elsewhere, but there ARE no guilty pleasures anymore. “Guilty pleasure” is a stupid term that suggests what you like ought to be dictated by what other people like. It’s why I still listen to “Side Effects” by The Chainsmokers incessantly and without shame, despite the fact that it’s three years old and despite the fact that everyone despises The Chainsmokers, myself usually included. It’s why I still love “Cherish” by Madonna and “Cold Blood” by Kix. No one will think better of me for liking these songs, but liking them is enough. And it’s not like OTHER people have good taste, mind you. I’ve heard “Fetch The Bolt Cutters.” I ain’t impressed.

I have three kids and all of them have grown up with streaming music. Obviously, Spotify has its own radio stations, and its algorithm constantly sifts through most played tracks and thinks you’ll just ADORE Sofi Tukker if you try hard enough. But basically, there are no rules for what you listen to anymore. No MTV or relevant terrestrial radio stations dictating what you should or shouldn’t be listening to. You get to pick for yourself. It’s better that way. I’ve never had to hear a song off of Folklore, and guess what? I haven’t. KISS MY ASS, TAYTAY.

David:

What is worse for you and the rest of the NFC North: Aaron Rodgers staying and leading the Packers for four more years after he signs his extension, but after that they spend at least a decade on the garbage heap? OR: Rodgers leaves, Love is forced into being a starting QB and it turns out he is very good. Not Rodgers or Favre, or Patrick Mahomes, but let’s say good enough that the Packers still have a good chance, with Love and the draft capital they acquire from trading Rodgers, to be in contention to win the division for the next 15 years?

The former. I’m not an idiot. Like Lions and Bears fans, I don’t necessarily enjoy facing Aaron Rodgers twice a year, but that’s been the deal for over a decade now. I’m used to the angst. Also, the Packers still manage to fuck up the endgame year after year despite Rodgers balling his fucking head off. So I can survive four more years of his team shitting the bed in a very specific and public way. If you’re telling me that’s all I need to endure to return to the magical time of my youth when Green Bay was utterly fucking irrelevant, shit I’ll pay Rodgers’ contract myself to make that happen.

By contrast, why the fuck would I pick a CONTINUATION of this fat slob fanbase’s insane good luck with Jordan Love becoming a star? The Packers haven’t had a shitty QB room since before my adulthood. They’re spoiled and dumb, and this country has enough spoiled dumb people in it. Fuck that. I hope Rodgers signs his extension and then spends it burning every last bridge he can find. Look how much gossip that man has gifted us over his career:

Via Tyler Dunne’s golongtd.com

Oh yeah, that’s primo shit. Aaron Rodgers now is like if Michael Jordan spent his whole playing career without the brand mask on. He’s an absolute cock, so maybe he really CAN force the Packers to move him. Nobody stays anywhere forever, after all. And the odds of Jordan Love being worth a shit are slim, so it behooves me, as a fan of a rival team, to pray for Rodgers’s ouster. If I respect the parameters of David’s question and I also remember, often, that nothing works out for my team the way it should, I should be wary of Love’s ascension. But fuck that. Every franchise gets their turn in the barrel and the Packers are long overdue. So let’s get to it.

Also, Adam Thielen is right: Lambeau Field is a piss bucket.

Nicholas:

I am a 20-year-old volunteer with the football team at my college, haven’t played a down of it in two years, yet I still workout five times a week, do speed/agility/jumping/conditioning workouts as a way to stay athletic. My question is, at what point should I stop working out to the intensity I do? I want to be able to move so when I have kids I’m not the old man in the chair who’s joints crack with every move (sorry for calling you out), but I don’t want people watching me work out thinking I’m clinging to my playing days.

You’re 20. I think it’s okay for you to keep working out like a maniac. You have the time (college) and you have the incentive (getting laid), plus it probably helps you feel good. No one is gonna call you a pathetic has-been at that age unless your last name is O’Bannion.

Also, have you seen how hard older people work out now? Every other ad on TV features alarmingly fit moms and dads sweatin’ to the oldies on a Peloton. The main reason I hate those ads is because I’m not as hot as those people. It’s not because I’m like ACT YOUR AGE, KAREN! In fact, I’m now mad that you’re writing to me all concerned about how jacked you are. Do you think I look DIGNIFIED waddling around town with a bad back and hearing aids? Do you think people see me and are like, “That guy is super cool because he doesn’t work his lats or do dots drills every morning”? They are not. Enjoy being young and gorgeous, Nicholas, you bastard.

Amy:

What is the best compliment you have received? Is it personal or professional?

See now Amy, this is a wonderful question and I’m glad you asked it. Anyway, the answer was my urologist telling me NICE BUG TUBES YOU GOT THERE KEMOSABE before performing my vasectomy. I considered that both a personal AND professional compliment. Also my friend once told me, “No one can do what you can do,” which I’ve kept with me ever since. He didn’t even say it as a grand compliment. It was just an aside. That’s how I knew he meant it.

But enough about me, let’s talk to Eric!

Eric:

Do you think there are people out there who have the natural baseline physical ability to throw 100 mph or shoot like Steph Curry (with the thousands of hours of practice/training), but just never had the opportunity to play sports?

Sure, why not. It’s more likely to be the hidden, Sidd Finch–esque pitching demon, because baseball’s popularity is still restricted mainly to the Americas and certain parts of Asia. So I’ll bet three bucks there’s some farmer in Albania who’s got a fucking lethal arm but may not have even heard of baseball. At least, I’d like to think there is. I’d also prefer they stay incognito.

Because plenty of would-be great athletes don’t give a fuck about sports. I know that we have global scouting departments, youth sports, financial incentives, and friends going DUDE YOU SHOULD PLAY BASKETBALL out there to help weed out the stragglers. But the math alone says that there are a bunch of Ferdinands out there who just wanna smell flowers and not fight in the bullring. And I’m cool with that. No one should get to tell you how to live your life except for you. Also, I like the idea that the talent pool will never be fully explored. I don’t wanna get to the point where the President is like, “I regret to inform you that we have run out of gifted athletes. Our bad.” I like knowing there are still possibilities out there. It’s why I never tell anyone that I have the power of flight.

Gabe:

In 500 years, will the average American (or average person otherwise living in the landmass that currently constitutes America) know who Michael Jordan was? What about 1000 years? Will any of the major pro sports leagues exist in any sort of recognizable form? Sports or otherwise, which current(ish) household names will endure through the next millennium?

You live on one continent (of TWO) named after one of the least respected explorers in world history. A fraud. And you only know who King Arthur is because of myths; in reality he was just another royal inbred. That’s how unfair and arbitrary history is. So 1,000 years from now, the only name from our time that will remain in the collective consciousness is gonna be, like, the ShamWow! guy. It won’t be anyone who deserves immortality.

Email of the week!

Michael:

My grandpa (Popsie) was a genuine cowboy. Too young for WWI, and too old for WWII, he channeled all that latent masculine energy into being the manliest man I ever knew. In the 30’s he was was hired by a film producer because he was the only person they could find who knew how to handle a 14-horse hitch and they needed him to drive a team in their film about the Oklahoma Land Rush. I lived with him in the early 80’s. His cowboy days were long behind him, but he still ate bacon and eggs for breakfast every day and steak and potatoes for dinner every night. Taught me how to cheat at poker at the age of five.

But this story is about the day he actually became a grandpa. He raised his family in Arizona, way out in the boonies. He was blessed with five daughters (“a constant source of stress until they were all properly married and not my problem” as he would later tell me). His oldest daughter, Peggie, was married to another cowboy. He (the son-in-law) headed out on a cattle drive when his wife was 35 weeks pregnant. He was due back in two weeks, but unfortunately she started going into labor about three days before he was back. My Popsie (not yet a grandfather) gathered her up, and all my aunts and my grandma and put them all in the car and headed to nearest hospital, about two hours drive through the southern Arizona desert.

About an hour into the drive, a hawk slammed through the windshield. No safety glass then, so both Popsie and Grandma in the front seat had cuts all over their face from the glass. The bird, obviously wounded and dying, latched on to the nearest thing it could find: my Popsie’s right arm. It buried its talons deep, and blood squirted all over the front seat. My traumatized mother (the youngest, age six), and her in-labor sister, and her three other screaming sisters, aged 7-15, all started screaming hysterically.

My grandpa yelled at all of them to SHUT UP, then proceeded to repeatedly beat the hawk to death against the dashboard. It took a few minutes, but the raptor finally succumbed to its injuries. The death grip on Popsie’s arm remained. Everyone was silent. A dead bird latched to his arm, no windshield, covered in cuts and razor-sharp glass, Popsie proceeded to drive the remaining hour to the hospital. Nobody said a word the rest of the way, outside of the occasional grunt from my Aunt Peggie, who was far along in her delivery.

Upon arrival, he helped my aunt into the ER. The nurses and doctors rushed to take care of the obviously wounded man, covered with blood, bleeding from numerous cuts and with an ENTIRE DEAD HAWK embedded in his right arm. He bellowed “Not me, you idiots! She’s having the baby!” and refused any treatment. They finally took my aunt back, and while they were distracted he went back out to the car, pulled a set of pliers from the trunk, and one-by-one pulled the talons the dead hawk from his arm. He wrapped a dirty towel around his wounds and left the hawk lying in the parking lot.

As he was pulling the hawk’s talons from his arm, he unknowingly became a grandpa, as my aunt delivered within five minutes of arriving at the hospital. He came in to the hospital, again refused treatment, took a single look at my eldest cousin and said, “He’ll do.” Then got back in the car and drove two hours back to the ranch, then saddled a horse and rode for 10 hours to find his son-in-law and tell him he was a dad. Took over the cattle drive while my uncle rode back and drove to meet his son. I only heard this story second-hand from my mom and aunts. I had seen the scars on Popsie’s arm, but when I asked how he got them, the only thing he would say is “Oh, something stupid I reckon.