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What Is The Most Physically Exhausting Sport?

NEW YORK, USA, September 11: Carlos Alcaraz of Spain falls to the court at match point as he celebrates his victory against Casper Ruud of Norway in the Men's Singles Final match on Arthur Ashe Stadium during the US Open Tennis Championship 2022 at the USTA National Tennis Centre on September 11th 2022 in Flushing, Queens, New York City. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

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 losing your job, the Queen, drunk acting, and more.

Your letters:

Jack:

What is the most exhausting sport? Of course the initial thought would be the marathon, but how often have you seen runners collapse the instant they cross the finish line? Pretty much never. They usually look like they could keep on going if they needed to. Now cross-country skiing is entirely different, the racers routinely fall to the ground the moment they cross the finish line. Are they just drama queens, or are they in fact much more physically depleted at that moment? (Personally, I don’t think they are acting.) But I still think boxing must be the most exhausting sport possible.

Jack, I think the average marathoner might quibble with your initial take here. Those people are pretty tired when they’ve reached the finish line. Most people who finish a marathon could probably NOT keep going if they wanted to. I myself have never run one, but back when I lived in New York I was one of the many locals who would brunch on the Upper West Side the Sunday of the NYC marathon and gawk at the people who had just finished it. I’d dig into a smoked salmon omelet while exhausted marathoners walked by covered in protective foil wrap, looking like freshly cooked chickens. Some of them looked dazed. Some of them had period blood running down their legs. Some of them needed to be helped by a friend or a family member just to walk to the car. Meanwhile I’d be noshing on a salad nicoise at Isabella’s and being like, “Wow, they look tired! Glad I didn’t have to do that!” It was my way of showing support.

But I will agree with Jack that there may indeed be more exhausting sports out there, like the aforementioned cross-country skiing. Why you would subject yourself to cross-country skiing when downhill skiing exists is beyond me, but the world needs masochists, I guess. Let me rank these sports now, so that we can all fight and then become very tired in the process.

  1. Wrestling
  2. Water polo
  3. MMA/Boxing
  4. Triathlon
  5. XC Skiing
  6. Distance swimming
  7. Distance running
  8. Distance cycling
  9. Tennis
  10. Rugby
  11. Hockey
  12. Soccer
  13. Race car driving

That last one on the list? Not a joke. I wouldn’t last one lap in a Formula One race without dropping dead and neither would you.

Cory:

I lost my job last week after 12 years. It sucks. I’ll be ok for a few months (thank you for asking, I really appreciate it) and honestly, I feel like a weight was lifted off my chest. I really didn’t like my job and was actively looking for a different one. But, again, it sucks. At this point, the worst part is I’m going to have to quit smoking weed. However, do you have any advice? Should I stay in my industry, or try to change careers? I became a Robe Guy last year so I could say Fuck It™ and go all Big Lebowski if my wife made enough to support my bum ass. 

Seems like losing your job would be a good time to increase your weed intake and not eliminate it outright. But maybe you need to pass a drug test for some other job, in which case I will march on Washington on behalf of your rights as a man of leisure.

I can only speak from my own experience here, as well as those of people I know personally, when I tell you that the novelty of being jobless goes away about as quickly as your severance does. So I wouldn’t say Fuck It™ to job-hunting just yet, because eventually you’ll start to feel lethargic and useless. It happens to everyone on the dole. You said it yourself: Losing your job sucked. Losing any job sucks, even if you hate it, because it leaves an active void in your life—both logistical and existential—that can be difficult to fill.

That happened for me. I enjoyed my time out of the workforce for a short while, but then I wanted to feel productive again. I wanted to be valuable to other people, and I wanted something to do. You’re valuable to the world whether you have a job or not, but it sure as hell doesn’t feel that way when you’ve been unemployed for a year, every resume you’ve sent out has been met with silence, and every open listing on Indeed is one you’ve already seen 10 times over. I got bored, frustrated, and irritable. I drank more, but that got boring too.

The best part of my day when I was jobless was picking my wife up from her own office job, because I got to listen to Tony Kornheiser’s 5 p.m. spot on Steve Czaban’s local radio show while I was waiting for her in the parking lot (this was back when I liked Tony Kornheiser), and because it was a task I could fulfill successfully. Even when I wasn’t drawing a steady paycheck, I felt better when I had “jobs” like that to do. They kept me active, and they helped stave off melancholy. I enjoy doing chores now, that’s how much I value being busy. This is probably why I’ll never be able to retire without losing my goddamn mind. I don’t know how to relax. I’m not a purely Type A personality, but I have like 50 percent of one. I blame my mother.

As for changing career paths, all of that is dictated by necessity. If you need income badly, that all but ensures you’ll have to stay within your current career while laying down the foundation of a new one in your spare time (may I suggest Blogspot?). However, it’s important to know that you can dislike, or at least be indifferent to, your current line of work but also love your job. It’s true. Let’s say you’re an accountant who dreams of being a lion tamer. It’s a shame you’re not a lion tamer just yet, and there’s never a wrong time to try to enter that profession. By all means, buy a lion from an unlicensed Ohio lion breeder, grab yourself a stool and whip, and get training. You never know.

But in the meantime, let’s say you leave your old, shitty accounting firm and join one where your coworkers are all extremely smart and cool, the commute is easy, the pay and benefits kick ass, and the cafeteria has a poke bar. Suddenly you can not only live with being an accountant, you can prosper. You don’t have to be miserable just because you didn’t fulfill your ultimate dream. You can find other ways to be happy, and that’s useful to remember at a time when you need a job, but are also secretly terrified of accepting the wrong one.

I changed career paths in 2009 and it worked out for me, but my dirty little secret is that if I had stayed in advertising my entire life, I still would have been happy. I enjoyed copywriting and still do. There’s a reason I have no problem detouring into ad talk in this column, or anywhere else. I might have felt bereft at never having become a rock star, or an Oscar-winning screenwriter, or Speaker of the House instead. But I still would have been satisfied to just be an adman, even as American industry and pop culture continually insist that you should never be satisfied with anything. The odds are very low that everyone will get to have their dream job, or even that the dream job turns out to be all it’s cracked up to be. Sometimes a good job is enough, and good jobs come in many different guises. They can take a long time to find, but that search is still better than doing nothing at all. After a while, you’ll feel that nothing inside of you. It’s not pleasant.

Erik:

In terms of public perception, the Queen’s death was effectively the end of the English monarchy, would you agree? I mean, enough people looked at Elizabeth as a royal figure that it didn’t sound silly to call her “Queen.” Basically nobody is going to think of Charles or any of his descendents as an actual king. 

If the U.K. is still footing the bill to have a ceremonial monarchy—and it is—then the Queen’s death didn’t end that monarchy. It’s still there. Charles is a pud, but he comes from a rich and storied lineage of puds, drips, tight-asses, inbreds, and scumbags. It’s not like THIS is the guy who suddenly made British royalty uncool, you know. It’s always been like this, and it’ll probably stay this way for another millennium and beyond. Wish it away all you like, but it won’t do you much good. The monarchy is terribly wasteful, and it elevates the exact wrong people to the highest possible station, but everything else is like that, too.

More to the point, I think a lot of people find British royalty fun.

It’s fun to have all the pomp and circumstance. It’s fun to have all of the literal palace intrigue: to know these people have everything and yet are all still sequestered and miserable. It’s fun to imagine yourself as King or Queen, and it’s even more fun to imagine yourself as one of their heirs plotting a surreptitious overthrow. I bet Prince Harry felt fucking GREAT divorcing himself from that loony bin. I know I would have. Only the truest punks ditch the Queen and then gab about it to Oprah in Oprah’s friend’s lavish backyard.

It’s fun, especially for England, to maintain a living remnant of their time as an empire when the U.K. is now a relative bit player among global superpowers. It’s fun to know that Charles’s ascension to the throne means that millions of people are now actively hoping he dies so that his eldest son can replace him. And it’s fun to check out the Crown Jewels. I know because I did it once when I was a kid. SO SPARKLY! In that sense, it doesn’t matter WHO wears the crown, so long as someone does. It’s like a superhero movie, where the costume is the star and not the actor.

I can goof on the English all I like for their mourning of this fossilized leech of a Queen, but the monarchy is obviously a central part of their history and, as a result, a part of their national, and often personal, identity. That’s why they’re sad. It makes sense, in its own way. It’s also fun to make fun of them for being sad about it, because that makes sense, too. Either way, everyone gets some entertainment value out of the affair. These are all superficial justifications of an institution that pisses away both money and lives in equal measure, but listen: sometimes when I’m at the grocery store, I need commemorative People magazines about the Queen to break up all the other magazine covers that feature either Jennifer Aniston or a dead Kennedy. That’s important to me. You will never be rid of waste in your lifetime; might as well give that waste the sallowest complexion and worst teeth possible.

Shane:

Watching episode three of The House of the Dragon and the King is doing a kingly job of acting drunk: slurred words, droopy eyes, body relaxed. Are there any examples of great drunk acting you have seen in movies or TV?

Mad Men! The drunk acting on Mad Men was the best drunk acting I’ve ever seen on television, and that’s not just Wistful Ad Guy Drew talking. There was one scene late in the show’s run where Don Draper wins some award, gets ripshit drunk to celebrate, and then slurs to someone at the party, “Did you see the part where I won?” I know that kind of drunk. That’s a great drunk. Jon Hamm nailed it, by god.

And that show accurately showcased every kind of drunken state: triumphant drunk, functional drunk, angry drunk, horny drunk, confused drunk, messy drunk, etc. Any show where a drunk character walks around clumsily and another character sternly goes, “You’re drunk!”? That’s jayvee shit. That belongs on Disney Junior, not on a show for grown-ups.

HALFTIME!

Peter:

I get irrationally angry when I go to an Applebee’s, Chili’s, Red Lobster, etc. and the place is packed and has a one-to-two hour wait. In this situation, I’ve made the last minute decision to have mediocre food because I didn’t have the foresight to make a reservation at a nicer place and I don’t want McDonalds. What’s everyone else’s excuse????

That they genuinely like eating at those places. I would fucking KILL to eat at a Red Lobster tonight, man. The cheddar biscuits alone make the excursion worth it. People love chain restaurants for any number of reasons. They want food they already know. They want a frozen cocktail that comes in a fishbowl. They want a lot of TVs to stare at while they eat. Or they’re fucking stupid. You can’t bank on everyone else in the world to have good taste, so don’t be shocked to find them packing into restaurants that you, the discerning aesthete, would normally turn your nose up at.

I like a lot of big, shitty chain restaurants. Not all of them (went to a Chili’s once and regretted it), but some. I used to host an NFL Draft viewing party for my blog friends at the now-defunct Buffalo Billiards in downtown D.C. Downtown D.C. has a lot of excellent dining and drinking options. Buffalo Billiards was not one of them. But it had a shitload of room, it was clean, and it served pitchers of beer and large platters of average buffalo wings. Plus they had shufflepuck tables. That’s my kind of shitty restaurant. Did everyone complain about me picking it for our soiree? You better believe they did. I say YOU try showing up at Le Bernardin in a Giants jersey expecting the proper ambience to watch the fucking draft. Sometimes people want basic things.

Jeff:

You state in your August 31 SFGate article that during a visit to San Francisco, you had a burrito that is so good that it haunts you. But in your September 6 article you say that you like Chipotle. How can you like Chipotle after eating in the Mission? Those two statements are incompatible. Explain.

See the above answer. I can like something while also knowing it’s not the apex of its form.

Evan:

If you had to choose between both of them, taking USPS out of the equation, which do you pick between UPS and FedEx and why? Let’s pretend FedEx isn’t the stadium sponsor for Dan Snyder’s shitty stadium.

A cursory Google search turns up the enraging answer of, “it depends.” No one likes that answer for anything. A fucking jury doesn’t get to turn in “it depends” as a formal verdict now, do they? OR DOES THAT DEPEND?

Anyway my answer is FedEx because their drivers only go 70 through my neighborhood, whereas UPS drivers go 75. How my dog has not been killed by an oncoming package delivery truck is beyond me. Carter should be a stain in the asphalt by now, the way these companies order their drivers to drive. I see one of them barreling down my street and my first instinct is dive into a nearby shrubbery to avoid getting clipped.

Matt:

As a former lineman, can you explain why NFL teams can’t just teach all the centers on the O-line to long snap instead of using up a roster spot for the long snapper? Couldn’t that spot be better used for an extra DB or something?

No, because long snapping is its own job and you can’t, under any circumstances, fuck it up. Long snappers have to look between their legs as they’re snapping—it’s why there are special rules in place to protect them that centers don’t have—and they have to snap it at a precise distance and height. So every team signs a standalone long snapper, and then has them practice separately from the offense and defense so that the battery can get its technique both perfect and consistent. You can’t have that consistency if you decide to let Jason Kelce do that job as a moonlighting gig, and you don’t want your starting center, or even the backup, hurt because of that gig, either.

Football is a sport of organization. The teams that have their shit together usually beat the ones that don’t (cough***BRONCOS***cough). So while it may seem needlessly anal to have a single roster spot devoted to a long snapper, every team long ago figured out that it was a bad idea to do it any other way. Did I answer Matt’s question specifically because he referenced my own football career? Possibly.

Evan:

Ordering nachos by yourself is a perfect experience. You get to work your way through the pile without anyone else ruining the effort it took to get to the Perfect Pull.

OK but the average nacho platter is so big that the NFL hires a color guard to unfurl it before every game. No one man should have all those nachos, mostly because he’ll be shitting his brains out after the fact. Plus there’s no gamesmanship in ordering nachos for yourself. You don’t get to scout out the platter and then strategize how to get the best bites before your tablemates do. That’s where the action is, baby.

Now going to the movies by yourself? Entirely different matter. First time I went to the movies alone I was like I gotta do this more often. And that movie was The Blair Witch Project, so don’t even try to catch my hustle.

Andy:

What are the qualifications for being considered a “national treasure”? We hear that thrown out as sort of a hall-of-fame-level cultural icon, but it seems to me there are a very specific set of touchy-feely criteria that factor in beyond someone being “famous” or “master of their craft,” like: inherent likability and oddball charm, breadth of visibility and cross-generational appeal, self-awareness and humility, perceived authenticity and “one of us” status. What else?

There are no criteria. If enough people like you, they’ll declare you a national treasure even if you’re the fucking AT&T lady. People always talk about how the internet makes Americans more argumentative than they otherwise would be, but that rancor is really just one byproduct of everyone feeling the need to overstate everything when they’re online. They can’t just like a person. That person has to be queen (oh the irony), or a national treasure, or “my president,” etc. You won’t get attention online without hyperbole, so everything is either the end of the world (I swear to God, if someone out there utters the phrase “darkest timeline” one more goddamn time…) or it’s more vital to humanity than oxygen. All of it, frankly, is fucking infantile.

A lot of this is a natural byproduct of people’s social need to belong, and the vagaries of the internet. All natural conclusions to draw. But it’s also probably the result of the Trump years, when the news was truly awful. One way for people to cope with all of that misery was to declare every year therein the worst year ever (try living during the Inquisition, or the bubonic plague, or the Civil War, and see if that declaration holds up), or to cloak themselves in layers of protective sarcasm (we can retire the “This is fine” and “is this good” memes; they’ve gotten more than enough run), or to amplify things they liked until they took on divine standing. So everything you encounter is either god or monster. Is this good for us, as a people? Well, it depends.

Matthew:

Say you’re Joe Girardi. You got fired by the Phillies in June. Since then, they’ve been pretty good! Do you root for them to make playoff run? I mean, you know those guys and probably even like (most of) them. They were your team. Or do you root for them to fail because they fired you, so fuck ’em?

Sometimes fired managers and/or former players will hold a grudge against a specific franchise and root against it in perpetuity. It’s how freaks like Tom Brady get their rocks off. But in general, guys like Girardi probably root entirely for individuals once they’re in the business. The Phillies win the World Series (lol) and Girardi is super happy for like Kyle Schwarber, but then owner John Middleton hoists the trophy and Girardi mutters, “Fuck that piece of shit” under his breath. You can’t be a normal fan when you’ve been put in charge of running the thing you’re a fan of. The relationship gets all distorted. I have no evidence backing this up, but I feel it.

Dustin:

What percentage of NFL players do you think you are better at fantasy football than?

I’d fucking dust all of them. T.J. Watt would be like, “I’m taking Dak Prescott first overall because I played against him and he was the hardest guy I’ve ever had to bring down!” and then he’d lose to me by 78 points on opening week. That’s what T.J. gets for trying to shit where he eats.

Joe:

I remember listening to a Javier Bardem interview a few years ago and he talked about how playing Anton Chigurh in No Country For Old Men messed him up mentally during filming. It was such a dark character and he felt so alienated, he had trouble shaking it off at night. (The haircut didn’t help.)

I mention this because I wondered if writing “Why Your Team Sucks” has the same effect on you. You seem like a nice, normal guy, yet you have to spend a month coming up with the meanest, most creative insults imaginable. Do you go get Dairy Queen afterward? Do you watch reruns of Ted Lasso Season 1? Do you flash your headlights while singing along to Hooray For Everything?

I sometimes detox by writing something pretty after the fact, or if/when I get a break in between churning out all of the previews. But I don’t ALWAYS need to do that, because I really do enjoy researching every NFL team prior to the season and then reading all of the emails from their fans. The series is hateful, but it’s also funny (or, at least, I hope it is), and that latter fact alone can often provide enough of a counterbalance on its own. When it doesn’t, then I know I’ve tossed out WAY too many “I hope they’re dead!” jokes and exhausted myself creatively, not psychologically.

I remember there was a point this preseason when that happened and you guys in the comments section noticed. Then I did that thing where I was like, How dare they… eh shit they’re probably right, which is every writer’s thought process whenever they get correct feedback from people they trust. So I came correct, tried to vary up the hate as the finish line approached, and ended up extremely pleased with the results. Mostly I’m just happy to talk football with the world. I’ll never get bored of it. Fire Nathaniel Hackett.

Email of the week!

Francisco:

So one day I was home chilling, watching some game on the couch. My wife was also home, but in another room. A fart comes down and, being alone in the room, I naturally let it rip. As it turns out, I shit my pants. Now, this comes out of nowhere. I wasn’t suffering from diarrhea or anything, and the fart didn’t seem particularly dangerous. Just life humbling me, I guess. So I get up, walk gingerly to the bathroom, holding my ass crack so it would not leak all over the floor, and proceed to do the cleaning. There was a lot of shit in there, man, it wasn’t easy. Luckily, my wife doesn’t notice anything. Later, though, I end up telling her everything and she just laughs.

A couple of months later, we made a beach trip with the family. One day we were playing cards: me, my dad, my uncles, and some of the cousins. Just drinking beer and having a laugh. So my dad then tells the story of how, a couple months ago, HE went for the fart and ended up shitting HIS pants. Now, I’m instantly amazed. Could it be that we’d suffered through the exact same incident, the exact same day and hour? Father and son, miles apart, accidentally unloading on our shorts at the same time? But I don’t say anything at the table. I didn’t really remember the day my incident had occurred and I guess I was a little ashamed, or maybe afraid the family would give us nicknames. For me, the mere possibility of us sharing this magical moment together, even without knowing about each other, was enough.

Indeed it was.