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Funbag

What’s The Largest Squirrel You Could Beat In A Fight?

WASHINGTON: A hungry ground squirrel that looks pretty well fed hunts for food in Lafayette Park across from the White House early 10 April, 2002 as the sun starts to rise over the Washington, DC, area. AFP PHOTO Paul J. Richards (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP via Getty Images)
Paul J. Richards/AFP via Getty Images

Time for your weekly edition of the Defector Funbag. Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag. And buy Drew’s new novel while you’re at it. Today, we’re talking about Kit Kats, Jeopardy!, athlete politicians, overweight coaches, and more. Drew is off this week.

Hello, everyone. Sorry to let you down, but Drew is on vacation this week, which means I’ve been bestowed the honor of hosting the last Funbag of 2020. My name is Rohan Nadkarni, and I’m a staff writer at Sports Illustrated, where I’m known for writing immensely popular stories such as this one. Drew selected me to finish out this absolute abomination of a year after a robust selection process (we texted about it and he really wanted to take a vacation), so with that in mind, let’s get to your questions!

Luke:

The other day I smoked a joint and took the dog for a walk. At one point, I saw a squirrel sprint along the top of a fence, leap at full extension to a tiny thin branch, and do the equivalent of 10 pull-ups in about 5 seconds to before it could launch itself to a sturdier branch and scurry the rest of the way up the tree. My stoned brain was amazed and thought, wow, if that squirrel was as big as me it could absolutely beat the shit out of me. This made me think, what’s the largest squirrel I could beat in a fight? Three feet, I think I could kick it effectively. A four foot squirrel would probably be a real tough matchup. Five feet I’m definitely going down. (I’m 5’11”, 170).

Luke, as the owner of a 14-pound, Chihuahua/min-pin dog named Boba (aka Bobatino, aka Little Guy with a Big Butt, aka Brazilian soccer star Bobatinho), I’m here to say that we in general need to be more afraid of animals. If my dog decided one day to bite me as hard as he could and then run away at top speed, I would be pretty powerless. I already look like one of the old people from a Life Alert commercial when I try to wrangle Boba in the apartment and he runs to hide under the coffee table. 

What are the terms of this fight with a squirrel? Are you meeting in a ring/octagon? Is it a random encounter happening in the woods? I like your chances better inside of a human-made structure because that mitigates the squirrel’s speed. If the squirrel has home-field advantage, it merely needs to injure and scurry repeatedly and you would be in danger of a Leo in The Revenant situation. 

Another difference between you and the squirrel is that in a fight, you’re probably trying to get the squirrel to run away. However, once things get physical, make no mistake, that squirrel would like nothing more than to gnaw on a walnut over your dead body. 

Ultimately, I do think you could probably get away with kicking a three-foot squirrel enough to survive. But once that thing reaches the 3-foot-6 mark, if it still has its quickness and explosive first step, my money is on the rodent. 

Ben:

My girlfriend and I recently moved in together, and apparently I cook “too healthy” for her liking. While I eat a combo of protein and vegetables with the occasional addition of cheese or carbs, a typical day for her consists of two pieces of toast/waffles with cream cheese for breakfast, a grilled cheese for lunch, and then she’ll eat my dinners only if they contain far too much rice/pasta and ideally heaps of cheese. Plus mid-day snacks of cereal and milk. The sheer quantity of carbs triggers my PTSD of my old eating habits. I’ve tried to nicely offer advice, but then I remember she’s standing next to my large chef’s knife. I’ve also noticed that I’ve started putting on some weight again, since the number of sugary foods in my kitchen has gone up exponentially since she moved in. What’s your advice to slowly get the unhealthy stuff out of our apartment?

First of all, congratulations to your girlfriend, who is eating my dream diet. During the pandemic, I too reintroduced myself to the love of my life: cereal. After years of missed connections and charged glances at the grocery store, we both finally gave in to our passions this year. And my latest torrid affair with Golden Grahams was just as passionate as it was when I was a teenager. 

As far as your living situation, this is a little complicated. Your girlfriend is obviously in charge of her own body and what she wants to put in it. My only question about her eating habits is have they always been this way? Or did the changes start after the pandy hit? Because frankly, I especially don’t think anybody should be judged for the dietary choices they’ve made during what’s been a months-long mental health crisis. 

Now, as far as your own PTSD of eating habits goes, that’s a very real problem. As someone who once went through the trouble of losing 50 pounds, I know how difficult it can be to be around foods that make you want to spiral, so to speak. I’ve had to have awkward conversations with friends or skip out on plans entirely just to keep myself away from eating things that would throw me off track. I generally go out of my way from keeping snacks in my apartment for this exact reason. 

Instead of framing it as advice, have you told your girlfriend about your own experience with food? Have you told her about how the items in the house are affecting your own body as opposed to hers? I think that’s a much more appropriate conversation to have and one that would resonate with her more than whatever concerns you have about her diet. 

Gillian:

Last night my boyfriend opens up a KitKat and JUST TAKES A BITE OUT OF IT. He doesn’t break off a piece of that KitKat and eat it stick by stick. He bites it. He then tells me that he bites into Hershey bars too, doesn’t bother to break off the individual squares. Am I living with a sociopath? 

Gillian, by any chance are you dating Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton? 

The Hershey thing actually doesn’t bother me much; after all, the song doesn’t go “Break me off a piece of that Her-shey bar!” But as far as the Kit Kat goes, yeah, your boyfriend is an absolute pervert. This is a man who loves sex and nudity. They even make those thicc, single-bar Kit Kats for people like your boyfriend specifically so they could be part of a different Kit Kat eating society. I am typically not one to shame anyone for their eating habits (see: the above question) but 99 percent of the fun of a Kit Kat is snapping off one of the bars! There is something so deeply satisfying about getting a clean edge on your Kit Kat. Biting into one simply shows no regard for order, cleanliness, or the accepted rules of a society that admittedly may be fundamentally flawed. I hope the lease you share with this guy is month-to-month. 

Allison:

I’m a newly out trans girl and the whole transition process has got me thinking. Namely about how all the transphobic jokes and memes I used to laugh at and share back in high school are now coming back to personally bite me in the ass. Do you think cis people ever feel the real consequences of bigotry they’ve perpetuated in the past? Not in like an “Oh no now they’re coming to cancel me!” way. I mean in like a “I’m actually personally feeling the consequences of my own past ignorance” way.

Allison! First and foremost, I’m very happy you’re living your truth, and I hope you are receiving support from those around you as you go through this process. 

Your question is a great one for modern society, and if I had to answer, I would say no. Setting aside the cancellations that happen to our more famous and/or public counterparts, I would say rarely do cis people feel real consequences of bigotry they’ve perpetuated. If it does happen, it usually takes highly atypical circumstances, like this story about a high schooler who lost her spot at Tennessee after a classmate leaked a video of her using a racial slur. 

In other situations, I feel as if the average cis person is either unaware of the bigotry they’ve perpetuated, or at the other end of the spectrum, feels really guilty about it. That guilt is not nothing. Living with shame of your past actions can often drive you to be a better person. I know that in my past I’ve said things that were heinously ignorant, and I like to believe today I strive to be as inclusive a person as possible. 

The problem is that guilt doesn’t necessarily, if at all, mitigate the hurt you’ve caused. I’m a firm believer in restorative justice. I think people who’ve done horrible things still deserve a chance to be a productive member of society. The issue we have right now is bridging the gap between people who want to be better and the victims of their wrongdoings. As much as we can try to be better people, people who’ve made mistakes also have to accept that sometimes those they’ve wronged may never be the same because of the hurt they’ve caused. I don’t know what we do about that!

I wish I had a neater answer for you. The shame you feel about bigotry you may have joined in on in the past is its own consequence. But it may not be one that’s powerful enough. 

Dave:

If starting tomorrow you made it your goal to become an elected official in Maryland, what’s the highest office you think you could realistically achieve? You’re a progressive guy in one of the country’s bluest states with a bit of name recognition, so I feel like the state legislature could be possible for you. Or do you think you’d hit the ceiling at Montgomery County Council or School Board? Also, what would your campaign slogan be?

Dave, sorry to burst your bubble because this question was obviously meant for Drew. I do find it hilarious that you consider Drew, a self-described capitalist, as “progressive.” If I tried to become an elected official in either California (where I currently reside) or Florida (where I grew up), I’d probably have a decent shot at the state legislature, and I’m actually convinced I could make it to the House of Representatives. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has kind of set the blueprint for how people from everyday backgrounds can get into politics. If I got even one tweet from a member of The Squad about my brave campaign against the threat of killer squirrels and of taxing the rich, I could generate enough support as an anti-establishment candidate who is truly for the people. My campaign slogan would be “Stop biting into that Kit Kat, you sicko!”

HALFTIME!

Mark:

Given all the knowledge the average American (you, for instance) has of the technological and medical advances we enjoy in 2020, how far back in history could you go and help them make a technological/medical leap (assuming they did not burn you as a witch)?

I have an iPhone, but my explanation of an iPhone to someone in the 1980s would be “like that communicator thing on Star Trek” for all I know about how it works.

I would love to use this power to go back in time one year and explain to scientists how to make the COVID-19 vaccine, but the truth is no matter how many artfully designed graphics people in their 20s post to their Instagram story, I still have no idea how the thing works. Thank you for posting a colorful slideshow about how mRNA vaccines work, Jennifer, but I’m still clicking through that thing without reading a single word. All I know is that I’m ready to get shot in the ass while leaning over a toilet in a bathroom stall Jose Canseco–style if that’s what it takes to see my family again. I’m ready to get Juiced. 

The more I thought about this question, the more I realized many of the technological advances we enjoy in 2020 are bullshit. Do I definitely enjoy my iPhone? Also, the majority of these so-called “advancements” have really come to the benefit of a de facto ruling class, and have greatly helped in increasing income inequality.

So using my average American knowledge, in lieu of going back to the 1900s and giving those racists the internet, I would simply go back to February 2004, and instead of letting Mark Zuckerberg invent Facebook, I would take him to the nearest brothel so he could exchange money for sex instead of creating a website to spite women. Imagine a world without Facebook. Your uncle can’t send you a news story about how someone saying your name while you sleep can give you brain damage. Our elections wouldn’t be compromised. And we’d never have to see Zuckerberg’s haircut. I bet Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t even bite into his Kit Kats. He probably sucks the chocolate off, saves the wafers, and calls them his babies. 

Ed:

I took off my pants to exercise and left the belt in the loops. As I pulled the pants back on, I managed to whip the belt buckle around and hit myself squarely in the balls. It hurt like hell and I appreciate the winces from all the men in the audience, but I was wondering if I was possibly the first person to hit himself in the nuts this way? I have never heard of anyone mashing their testicles this way and I want my name next to the entry in the nut-crushing encyclopedia.

Sorry to add insult to injury, Ed, but it took only one phone call to a friend of mine to hear a similar story. I don’t think there are any novel ways to get hit in the nuts anymore. If there’s a way to inflict pain on testicles, whether on accident or purpose, man has done it. The only way left to be “hit” in the nuts is to be strapped to a chair by a supervillain with a laser slowly creeping up to your groin. Every time that has almost happened, the villain has been foiled while explaining their scheme for world domination. If you want to make the encyclopedia, you’re going to have to let Goldfinger finish the job. 

Scott:

What is your most Trumpian quality? I assume, for you, it would be the penchant for ALL CAPS HYPERBOLE. Or maybe you’re also sexually attracted to Ivanka, or you’re a Covid super-spreader. Me, I have terrible taste in food (pretty much every food conversation on the pod feels like a personal attack) and am also cursed with tiny hand syndrome. My childhood dream of being white suburban Lou Diamond Phillips in La Bamba was rapidly shattered by my diminutive digits. So, in all honesty, what characteristic of Trump’s, were he to describe it in your presence, would make you shamefully admit, “Yeah, me too.”

Drew’s most Trumpian quality is that he also loves mayonnaise. Because he is not here to defend himself, I can say ol’ Mayo Magary loves nothing more than big, honking scoops of mayo on everything he eats. Pretty sure he moisturizes with Miracle Whip.

As for me, like Trump, I genuinely love giving people nicknames. While none of mine are as angry as “Rocket Man” or “Sleepy Joe,” what I miss the most about being in an office is eventually settling on some kind of shorthand for almost every single one of my co-workers. I take pride in creating long-lasting nicknames. I started calling my friend Yoni “Yon Capone” when we were teenagers and the moniker has stuck for well over a decade. As soon as I’m allowed to see people again, I’m calling them by everything except their names. 

Will:

Has Trump ever been to a National Park? If so, which one? I personally suspect that he has not, considering they don’t generally don’t have McDonalds inside our National or State Parks. I’m pretty sure he was at Mt Rushmore to give a speech, but I don’t think National Monuments should count for this. 

He’s been, if only to see if he can build a golf course or hotel on or over the reason the space exists as a national park in the first place. Because Trump is a big baby, he definitely complained the whole way on the drive to the park, then was in awe as soon as he got there. 

David: 

I was listening to another podcast and they said The Offspring is overrated because they are a “two album wonder”.  This got me thinking, regardless of your opinion of The Offspring, can any band with two truly good albums be dismissed because the two albums are outliers?  One album I understand, but two seems like it can’t really be a fluke.

There is no such thing as a two-album fluke, especially in 2020. Two whole albums worth of good music is equivalent to like, 4,845 viral TikToks. If you can make two good albums in today’s day and age, you may not be rich, but you’re definitely not a fluke. 

Jonathan:

Now that the presidential transition is finally underway, I’m focusing my attention on the next important transition – the host of Jeopardy.  I’ve spent an almost troubling amount of time thinking about who has the correct mix of Frasier Crane-esque fanciness, likeability, culture, voice (?), and name recognition to keep post-Trebek Jeopardy essentially the same show, because i would find a little continuity comforting as the next couple wildly dangerous months unfold.

The only person that I can think of that ticks all of the boxes is Mike Rowe, the former host of Dirty Jobs.  He’s a former opera singer (check), who at least outwardly relates to other people well (check), doesn’t seem to be obnoxious (check), has a classic talk show host voice (check), is just recognizable enough (check), and is just enough of a smart ass to dump on people who give stupid answers without ruining the fun (double check).

Do you have any other ideas?  I’ll consider any potential answers except Steve Harvey and Ryan Seacrest.

You overthought this one, Jonathan. The answer is still Ken Jennings. He’s obviously smart, and his social media presence would make it appear he’d approach the proceedings with an even more biting wit than Trebek. Jennings was already announced as the interim host for the first set of post-Trebek interviews, and that’s no coincidence. I’d be pretty surprised if he didn’t get the gig.

But because there are enough white men hosting things, I’ll throw out a couple other names:

• Hasan Minhaj. South Asians are always winning quiz shows, but never hosting. So let’s turn the tables and let Minhaj host, even though he only scored a 1310 on his SATs. Bum. 

• Hilaria Baldwin. Jeopardy! could use a strong, immigrant voice to usher in a new era. 

Lisa:

We just elected another astronaut to the Senate, but we don’t currently have any notable former pro athletes in there. So who’s the next Bill Bradley/Jim Bunning type? What current professional or high-profile amateur athlete might have a successful political career? Are we doomed to be dealing with Senator Tawmmy in 10 years?

Lisa, don’t forget Ohio Rep. Anthony E. Gonzalez! Though he admittedly had a largely forgettable football career as one of Peyton Manning’s sacrificial lambs running across the middle of the field for the Colts, he’s been in the House of Representatives since 2018. 

I would love to say a great athlete will eventually enter politics. I would definitely trust LeBron as president. Or somebody like Celtics swingman Jaylen Brown, who is thoughtful, articulate, and grounded in his critiques of America. Unfortunately, that’s not the society we live in. All it takes to make it in politics is to be loud-mouthed, ignorant, and have a creepily passionate fanbase that’s willing to overlook any of your missteps. So please get yourself ready for Senator Dabo Swinney. (Shout out to my friend Ashley Fetters who named Dabo immediately when I described the kind of person who would be elected in 2020.)

Dabo is just aw-shucksy enough to get away with some of his more sinister beliefs. There’s no way he wouldn’t win a political seat in South Carolina. With his questionable actions on racism (like retaining a coach who used the N-word) or the pandemic (criticizing Florida State for canceling a game), Swinney would fit right in with the Republican party. He would be an absolute disaster of a senator, and yet somehow I still see that as a more viable option for Dabo than NFL coach. 

Jess:

I own a retail shop and we take lots of orders over the phone, with customers paying by credit card over the phone too. We get some people who read each sequence and then pause, waiting for me to affirm, others who blaze ahead with all the numbers, not pausing to get the go ahead for the next numbers. What is the right protocol? Is it on me to give an “ok” after each sequence of numbers so the customer knows I have it, or should I stay quiet unless I missed something? Seems like we need to agree as a society here. 

Please give an “OK” after each sequence of numbers! How else am I supposed to know you’ve retained the information??? This is especially important with names. Every time I spell out my last name for someone, it’s almost always the first time they’ve heard in their life. If they don’t at the very least give me the OK—or even better, repeat it back to me—I have no confidence they are getting the spelling right. So please, let’s all agree to be active listeners from this point forward. Signed, Rohan Madkami. 

Alex:

What’s your thoughts on getting behind a new sports franchise? As a Seattle resident, there’s a fair amount of Kraken gear being sported already. I understand the novelty of a shiny NHL expansion team but am I a cumurgeon for holding off until they actually play an actual game. What if they suck ass? What if the owner group/coach/team turnout to be a bunch of asswipes?

Let people be fans! Getting a new team is very exciting, and this period of hope is arguably the best time to be a fan. Expansion squads—Vegas hockey excluded—almost always suck right away. Enjoy it before the crushing despair of loss after loss takes over. Also, even if the team does eventually suck ass for decades, some people have built their entire personality over their teams sucking and/or being “dramatic.” Seahawks fans love to act like every game of theirs is torture when they’ve been overwhelmingly successful since Russell Wilson was drafted. Knicks and Mets fans wouldn’t know what to do if a good team slapped them in the face. They prefer to be performatively miserable on the internet as opposed to, you know, not watching. 

Brett:

I know we drag Marmalard for running his own Christian days camp filled with his gaggle of kids, but did you know Ryan Fitzpatrick has SEVEN kids?! I just learned this, and am frankly shocked that there’s someone else in the NFL with reproductive habits as weird as Rivers’.

Thank you for bringing up Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is currently the No. 1 enemy in my household (which consists of only me). The Dolphins finally did something right this year by drafting Tua Tagovailoa. I supported the team’s effort to tear down the roster last year. I even supported them when they didn’t start Tua right away like some other rookie quarterbacks. But what I don’t support is the team taking Tua out every time he struggles only to turn things over to a retread who has been decidedly average his entire professional career. I don’t care if Ryan Fitzpatrick gets us to the playoffs! I really don’t! This franchise will only go as far as Tua can take them, so for the love of god, please let him play.

As for Fitzpatrick, I don’t have much to say about his kids. I did find an article from last season that mentioned how all of his kids are exactly two years apart. That’s a little intense. Fitz and his wife are absolutely on top of when she’s ovulating. They are running a legit baby factory over there. Maybe he can finally fucking retire and go spend some time with all of them. 

Jim:

I live in New England in an old house in which the floors are always somehow roughly -50°C. It seems like it would be an uncomplicated simple pleasure to slip my feet into a pair of soft, fluffy slippers as go about my morning, relax in the evening, or work all day remotely in my pajamas.  And it is a simple pleasure at first!  But five minutes later, the climate in each of my slippers skyrockets to something around the boiling point of water, with roughly 200% relative humidity.  I kick them off, and thanks to evaporative cooling my feet instantly freeze solid.  (My creepy cat will then come over and bury her face in my discarded stench bags and huff like a 90’s teenager who smuggled a can of paint thinner into their bedroom, but this isn’t about kink-shaming my cat).

I have found a better solution is a nice thick pair of socks and some simple, cheap sandals (the kind without a toe thong, obviously).  This way I can put them on when I’m padding around, but when I’m sitting I enjoy the breathable and yet snuggly warmth of a nice wool sock.  And yet, 90% of the time I still opt for the slippers, because it is less work, or I’m conditioned to do this by Big Slipper.  Am I alone in this?  Or are slippers bullshit?

I don’t know if slippers are bullshit as much as Jim is lazy. You just outlined the perfect solution, then said how you eschew that option anyway. And honestly, I get it. As an adult who lives alone, oftentimes I know what the right thing to do is and opt for the lazier option anyway. That’s how I ended up with a zucchini that turned to literal dust in my vegetable drawer last week. As a Californian, I can’t claim to know the nuances of slipper wearing in cold weather. It’s possible you also just have some sweaty-ass feet. But just get into the habit of wearing those wool socks, even if it takes an extra 15 seconds, and your problem is solved. 

Jeff:

Why are some NFL head coaches (e.g., Patricia, Reid, Crennel) so horrendously out of shape? I know the hours are crazy with high stress but it’s not like they don’t have access to a gym. Other major professional sport coaches/managers have similar hours/stress levels and yet are more physically fit.

I have not done a study of the fitness of professional coaches, but I’m not sure you’re right about the cross-sport comparison. While it is funny to me when rotund coaches are asking their players to be in tip-top shape, I am in no position to judge them. My hours are not crazy and come with low stress, I too have access to a gym, and yet I have also opted for that second Snickers ice cream bar instead of a set of push-ups. Also, what fun would Andy Reid be if he was skinny? It’s way more fun to imagine him imitating the Kool-Aid Man as the Chiefs hang 50 on another defenseless opponent. 

Tyler:

Reading about storing tortilla chips in the fridge reminded me:

I dip triangular tortilla chips into salsa with the side. My wife thinks this is weird, but it never occurred to me to dip with the corner. Corners don’t hold enough salsa. What am I missing?

Do you also bite into your Kit Kats?