Who Is Our Least Intelligible Singer?
1:44 PM EDT on June 13, 2023
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 the Orioles, a hypothetical Hitler sex tape, Rich Eisen, Staten Island, and more.
Some housecleaning: I’m headed to the beach all next week to relax and be irresponsible. Your guest host for next’s bag is my former Gawker Media colleague, boxing journalist extraordinaire, and The Internet’s Favorite Communist, Hamilton Nolan. I demand, at knifepoint, that you subscribe to HamNo’s very good newsletter, How Things Work, which is an independent source of socioeconomic analysis unaffiliated with any major oil companies. And email your questions to Ham for the bag right here. If any of you readers get Ham to answer a question about the Jaguars earnestly, I’ll give you the lone Bluesky invite code that I currently possess. That’s no lie.
And now … your letters:
Who is the least intelligible singer? My vote would be for Joe Elliott of Def Leppard. For some reason, I cannot make out some of the lyrics to their songs, even after hearing them for literally decades at this point. But a close second would be Tim Armstrong of Rancid, and Eddie Vedder would take home the bronze. Who are your picks?
It’s original Cannibal Corpse lead singer Chris Barnes, whom you can listen to here in all of his throaty, Cookie Monster glory. Cannibal Corpse was an evergreen target of parental watchdog groups right from their inception because—and you know this because they’re a holiday favorite in the Jamboroo—their lyrics are some truly vile shit. The funny thing is that you have to READ the band’s lyrics to even know how depraved those verses are. If you’re just relying on Barnes to parse them, you’re not gonna understand a thing. The guy sounded like a fucking vacuum cleaner. This is true of a whole swath of death metal bands, and it’s frankly why I don’t usually listen to them. I need actual singing.
To that end, John cited Joe Elliott as his pick and, among mainstream artists, that’s mine as well. If you ever hear me singing along to “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” you’ll be treated to some found poetry the likes of which you’ll never hear again. LIVIN’ LIKE A LOVUH WITH A RED-OWLED THONG.
My work functions mostly on MS Teams. As I am sure you know, there are group chats and you can DM someone if you need. I'm in my late thirties, and instant message was in its heyday when I was a late teen. Back then, you never needed to open up a DM with a greeting, (hi, hello, good morning, etc). You just started your message. Now, I regularly shoot people a message and just get to it. With someone I have never DM'd before, I’ll start with a greeting and intro, but with people I regularly deal with, I cut to the chase. Often, people (my age or younger even) reply back starting with a greeting, "Hi, Richard. Yes, you are an ass!" Is my etiquette off now?
People are bagging on you for that? I’m not sure I’ve ever made DM small talk with a co-worker at Defector before getting to the point. Granted, I’m very close with everyone I work with at Defector, but I also have never bothered with digital pleasantries anywhere I’ve worked (unless, as with Richard, I’m talking to someone I’ve never interacted with). You already know it’s me DMing you because my name is in the prompt. You don’t have to say HI to me because we’ve already been in on this Zoom call, or in this Slack channel, for an hour now. “Hey,” is about the only lead-in I require, and no one’s ever been like HEY FUCK YOU BUDDY in response to it. Everyone I work with does this to ME, too. So it’s not like I’m getting away with something because I’m special.
Only way I see Richard’s co-workers making a stink about this is if he is their boss, and is using DMs just to hassle other people to do shit. I’ve read enough profiles of clueless bosses to know that your boss might think he’s coming off as normal and friendly in a standard interaction when that’s not the case whatsoever. “Where are we at with the Millward Brown deck?” they might ask you out of the blue, ruining your day in just one sentence. That’s where it’s OK to get pissy. Otherwise this is foreign territory for me.
If a Hitler sex tape was unearthed, would you watch it?
Yes, but not for pleasure. I have watched other celebrity sex tapes—I won’t name which ones—very much for pleasure. But Hitler was no looker, and neither was Eva Braun. So I’m not gonna cue up some grainy 1939 footage of those two fucking in a bunker and then squint my eyes out just to get a glimpse of what might be an asscrack. I lived through the whole watching-scrambled-porn era. No need to do it again for an even worse payoff. No masturbating to Hitler for me, and you can put that on the record!
But would I watch that video as a journalistic endeavor? Yes. And I better see someone pissing on someone, because that’s where the clicks are.
At what age should parents stop being nude around their children? And, does gender matter? Is the age a Dad should stop being nude around a son different from the age he should stop being nude around a daughter? A possibly unnecessary clarifier, but I’m talking about things like showering, or using the bathroom, etc. Nothing untoward or sexual in any way.
I’m trying to remember the last time my own kids saw me naked—wow, I’m really tempting fate with some of these sentences here—and genuinely can’t remember. Also, it’s not like I would have marked the occasion. I wouldn’t have sat my kids down and been like, “Guys, I think you’re now old enough to not see my hairy penis anymore. Let’s take a photo of me nude with you to commemorate the occasion.” When you raise kids, you remember certain moments distinctly, especially if you’ve been conditioned to mark them as officially important: their birth, first steps, first day of school, etc. The rest of it is just like how your general memory operates, where certain low-profile milestones get trapped in the gauze, but other random moments remain crystal clear. I can remember my son as a baby eating peach chunks out of a little mesh bag like it was yesterday. But the last time he saw my hog remains tragically elusive.
Here’s what I do remember: Once my kids could talk and point at my ass and dick, I tried to stay covered up. Did this stop the kids from barging into the bathroom while I was trying to take a peaceful dump? Of course not. But eventually they sorted out that Dad needed his privacy, and then they sorted out when they wanted some privacy of their own. This all happened roughly between the ages of 5 and 8, and it varies from family to family. I also remember seeing armpit hair on my 14-year-old for the first time and quietly being like OH MY GOD. Did you know they do that? That’s some wild shit!
What’s the general consensus on Rich Eisen? I don’t know anything about him, but YouTube thinks I’m his ideal demo. Is he a drama-free arbiter of sports takes, or another dime-a-dozen talking head sucking up to sponsors?
I nearly profiled Eisen for GQ back when I worked there. I was gonna drive to Pittsburgh (I’ve always wanted to visit that city, and I’m not being sarcastic) to watch him cover a Steelers TNF game for NFL Network, and then ask him the usual serious questions. But it all fell apart when Eisen’s PR people were like, “Well, we’d really like you to talk with him about his radio show and his new dating app, Free Agent, which launches soon!” My GQ editor and I were like fuck that. A lot of PR people expect journalists to do their job for them. Given the existence of Semafor et al., this isn’t always a baseless assumption. But I sure as shit wasn’t interested in helping Rich Eisen become the next Craig Kilborn or whatever the fuck. We bailed. Free Agent is no longer available in the App Store.
This is a shame because I like Rich Eisen, and I think most other people do. He was a good SportsCenter anchor. He’s an excellent studio host for NFLN. If you’re expecting him to be the voice of America’s conscience when a player gets busted for sexual assault, or if you’re expecting him to rip into Roger Goodell from inside the house, you’re gonna be let down. But I don’t really expect that from Eisen (or from anyone else at NFLN, really). Some people’s job is just to be Larry King: make the viewer feel at home, schmooze with whatever war criminal they stick in front of you, and then smoothly break to the commercial. Eisen is good at all of that, but not much more. I spent a long time hoping that every studio person and play-by-play guy would magically transform into Edward R. Murrow whenever something serious happened on the field or off, but I think that you and I figured out a while back that that’s a foolish thing to hope for.
Eisen still has good catchphrases, though. Can’t ding him there.
Are there any foods that you really like or crave but know are truly bad? I have an affinity for a certain type of rectangular frozen pizza that is truly cardboardy garbage, but because I ate it as a child it still makes me happy. Same with various brands of cheese/peanut butter/chive cream cheese sandwich crackers. They're essentially molded paste but they bring joy with every bite.
Ellio’s! You’re talking about Ellio’s! You can’t fool me, Peter. I know Ellio’s well, because that’s my wife’s favorite terrible food. She lived on Ellio’s all through her senior year, so every bite of it takes her back to 1998.
As for me, the answer is grocery store kielbasa. You know the shit I’m talking about: that horseshoe-shaped link of Hillshire Farms kielbasa sitting in the basement of the hot dog case. Schaller & Weber, this is not. This is a speedball of sodium. It’s made exclusively of lips and assholes, and it will fuck you up. And yet, every time I pass by it at the store, I want it so, so badly. Grocery store kielbasa was a dinner staple of my bachelorhood, along with:
- Buitoni ravioli with jarred sauce
- Stove Top
- Chicken thighs grilled on a Foreman, and then mixed with Frank’s sauce and Stove Top
- Grocery store salmon filet I would eat raw, like sashimi. Sometimes I would fry its skin and then wrap the skin around the raw flesh. I still believe this is an innovative sushi technique that more restaurants should try.
I crave all of that shit. Much of it is still good, especially Stove Top. But I’m old and responsible now, so I avoid all of that in favor of foodstuffs that are either healthier or of better quality. For the Hillshire kielbasa, I would dunk it in a homemade mixture of Frank’s and Dijon mustard. I tried reprising this meal once when my wife was out of town and it was both good and painful.
I played high school football with a current head coach of a prominent college program whose team I loathe more than any other team regardless of sport. I have despised them for decades. However their coach, in spite of being an excellent high school player and being BMOC, has always struck me as a decent-and-down to earth guy (admittedly I haven’t seen or spoken with him in many years) and I’ve been happy he’s had such success in his career. But I’ve long felt conflicted since he began coaching this team a few seasons ago. Do I temporarily root for them and hope that he somehow takes an NFL job someday (soon), or do I continue my decades-long enmity and root for the team to fail?
You can still root for his team to fail. You’re in a perfect spot, actually. If Notre Dame—strictly a guess on my part—loses, you can be happy but then tell people aw man I’m sad for Coach Freeman though, so that you look like a good guy. And then if Notre Dame wins the national title, which AHAHAHAHAHA YEAH RIGHT, you can be like, well I still hate those fuckers but I’m happy for Coach Freeman. Either way, you still end up gratified in some respect. It’s like betting against your favorite team just so you’ll have an extra $10 if they choke. Not that I would ever do such a thing.
Back in high school, what were the three to five songs you and your homies couldn’t wait to hear on the radio? Mine:
Bad Company – Rock n’ Roll Fantasy
Boston – More Than A Feeling
Pink Floyd – Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)
Random note: I am aware with the rise of streaming this question does not work for anyone who graduated after 2010.
Don’t worry, Jamoosh: No one who graduated after 2010 reads this site.
Now, thank you for your question because it allows me to Remember Some Def Leppard in the back half on the bag as well as the front. Also, I’m gonna tweak your question to ask myself, “What songs could you not wait to see on MTV?” because I’m part of the MTV Generation. Virtually any Def Leppard song belongs on that list. They were the first band I ever truly loved. I bought all of their tapes. The Hysteria poster in my room was easily the biggest poster I had on display. I put a VHS copy of Historia as my No. 1 item on my Christmas list one year (and got it). Their concert at the Met Center was one of the very first real rock concerts I attended. I read every article I could about them in Rolling Stone, Hit Parader, Circus, or any other rock magazine. And whenever MTV was like, “The world premiere of Def Leppard’s new video, ‘Animal,’ is tonight at 8 p.m.,” I canceled all other plans (I had no other plans). Whenever they came on Dial MTV, I’d pump my fist. Whenever they were No. 1 on Dial MTV, I felt like I had personally won the World Series. I was a one-man DefLep hive. That’s how much I loved that band. And you know what? I still do.
To get more specific (you didn’t ask for that), I always got pumped whenever a favorite album cut of mine got released as a single, and then got validated with MTV/radio airplay afterward. Again, that felt like a victory somehow. My guys finally made it. So here’s my list of such tracks from back in the day:
- “Nothing Else Matters”
- “Kickstart My Heart”
- “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”
There are two other circumstances where I’d get excited to hear on song on the radio. One was if I heard a song that I was either quietly ashamed of liking (“Waiting For A Star To Fall” is way up there) or I was too cheap to buy the whole album so I could listen to it anytime I wanted to. The other was if I did not know the name of the song or who was singing it. This was a real problem in the pre-Shazam era. I could go months loving a song without knowing what the fuck it actually was, and the primary example of that in my life remains “Plowed” by Sponge. Took me months to get a name to the riff. And once I figured out what that song was, I was still too cheap to buy the album.
Should New York state and New Jersey trade Staten Island for Jersey City, straight-up? Which of those two awful area's cretins would be more upset about this actually happening?
I’m decades and kielbasa removed from being a tri-state knower, but my gut reaction was that Jersey would never make that deal. Jersey City is pretty nice, and fucking Putin wouldn’t take Staten Island off of New York’s hands right now. Barry Petchesky is as tri-state as you get and he backed me up on this, so I feel comfortable saying it. The best part of Staten Island is the ferry ride leaving it.
In 1941, when baseball was the king of the American sporting world, a mysterious neurodegenerative disease was named Lou Gehrig's Disease after it struck down one of the most famous ballplayers of the era. In 1974, when baseball was still really popular among American sports, a new type of ligament replacement surgery was named after Tommy John, the first athlete to successfully return to the field following the procedure. Today, baseball is no longer a central part of the American cultural consciousness, so my question is this: how horrifically would Shohei Ohtani need to suffer for his name to become widely associated with some bit of medical terminology?
It’s not that Ohtani would have to suffer more than other people have suffered to get his own disease or surgery, it’s that it’d have to be a new disease or surgery entirely. That’s not easy in 2023. A lot of diseases have already been identified, and what new diseases arrive will not have a single, famous person as its only known victim. This is why COVID-19 was never formally named Tom Hanks Disease, although what fun it would have been if it had.
As for surgeries, any new procedure that comes along will be patented by BIG MEDICINE, given a official brand name like StexEnt, and then advertised on billboard on the inside of your liver. If any athlete was gonna get a new surgery named after him, it would have happened already to RGIII, because that guy’s injury history included parts of the human body I’d never even heard of. The fucking Lost City Of Z might be located within RGIII, he had so many undiscovered maladies happen to him. One second he was the hottest QB in football, the next I was reading about how he’d suffered an intercardial aluvserion of the bulrax.
I don't know if you know this, but after multiple 100-loss seasons the Orioles are... good? I'm old enough to remember the decent mid-90s teams and I certainly remember the recent stretches of futility, the 2014 ALCS (yay), and the Chris Davis contract (boo). My fiancé is excited for me and the Os. Meanwhile, I approach their success with a sense of impending doom. Why is this?
Well because they’ve sucked for so long. The O’s' last title came in 1983, which makes them even more pathetic than the Commanders, another Mid-Atlantic team that subsists almost entirely on its extremely distant past. So if you’re an O’s fan now, it’s only natural to expect them to fall through a trap door after all that the Angelos family has put you through. They don’t even WANT the team to be good, so it feels wrong when they actually are.
Also, and I have firsthand experience with this, other fans are DYING for you to become a fatalist. Try saying something nice about the O’s outside of this space and see what happens. You’re gonna get 500,000 assholes spamming you with shitty gifs and telling you that you’re a gullible naïf, and a great percentage of those assholes will be O’s fans themselves. I could link this phenomenon to the greater online culture’s horniness for fatalism, but I’ve already written that little missive. The point is that everyone has pre-trolled you into doubting your own team so much that you were always bound to doubt them yourself at a point like this. However, fuck those people. Enjoy this O’s season for what it is. Don’t let what other people think of them be the entire context of how YOU view them, because if that happens then you’re bound to end up unhappy with anything other than a ring.
As for me, I fucking hate the Orioles. I hate that city, I hate their fans, I hate their continued media presence in D.C., I hate the O’s thing their fans do during the anthem, and I hope they lose every game they play in perpetuity. But again, don’t listen to me. But also, they’re gonna fucking blow it.
Hamilton (not Nolan):
I live in Denver (though am sadly not a Nuggets fan). Right before the Finals started, there was a local news story with some random anecdotes about Jokic. One was a guy who played ping pong with Jokic for a bit at a local bar and got his ass beat soundly. I was thinking, I am a good ping pong player. I could walk into any ping pong game (match?) at a bar and, without seeing the opponent play, be confident that I had an 80% chance of winning. But Jokic, man, just logistically he's like the Punch Out Mike Tyson of amateur ping pong players. Seven feet tall, vision and anticipation, impossible coordination and footwork, etc. I know exactly what my strategy would be, but still I would have no chance.
So the question is, who would be the absolute hardest professional athlete (excepting pro ping pong and tennis players) to play ping pong against? I honestly can't think of anyone scarier than Jokic. Maybe Shohei Ohtani.
You can’t go by looks for this, because every professional sports team has at least one Rajon Rondo–level psycho on it who is SERIOUS about their parlor games. They might not be the best player on the team, or even the most physically gifted. But if you beat them in Catan on the team plane, they’ll fucking murder your family. You won’t necessarily know who that player is until they get mentioned in a new-age sports trend piece like “Major League Baseball Players Are SERIOUS About Playing Twister,” but you always have to be on guard.
But here is my best answer anyway, and I’m confident about it. If I ever walk into a ping pong bar (unlikely) and saw Max Scherzer quietly waiting for a game, I’m sprinting the fuck out of there.
Email of the week!
A few years back my college buddies and I met up in the Bay Area for a long weekend to celebrate a birthday. We had only graduated a little over a year before, so it's safe to say we were still in full on party mode. One night, after a day of drinking in San Francisco that I can't quite recall the details of, we had tickets to a concert at the Greek Theater at UC Berkeley. We grabbed an early dinner at the Thai fusion place below our shoe-box AirBnB before navigating our way across the Bay via the Bart train. All I remember about that meal was that it was spicy, messy, and that most of us had trouble finishing whatever accursed, tortilla-wrapped abomination we'd ordered.
There was some grumbling among our group on the train that the meal wasn't sitting quite right in our stomachs, but we continued to pound the light beers we'd brought along undeterred, determined to maintain our buzz for the show. As we were walking through the Berkeley campus towards the show, we decided it'd be best for everyone to go pee before entering the venue. We all scattered behind trees and into corners to do our business. Just as I was finishing up, I got a call from the birthday boy. "Dude, I just shat myself, it's really bad." I ran over to find him behind a redwood desperately clutching the back of his shorts, but his efforts weren't enough to prevent a line of watery brown shit streaming down the back of his leg.
After we'd all spent a good minute or two laughing at him, another friend agreed to walk with him into town to try and find replacement clothes. I'll never forget the image of him waddling away, dripping in shit and cursing the very concept of Thai fusion. He made it into the show about halfway through the opener in much better spirits (and with new shorts and boxers), but was certainly not pleased that word of his mishap had spread amongst some new friends we'd made in the crowd.
There is nothing bros love more then selling out their fellow bros for a laugh. This is known.