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Writing Longhand Is For Suckers

High School Students Writing at Desks (Photo by �� William Gottlieb/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
William Gottlieb/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 earliest childhood memories, Elon Musk, near bell, stolen Taco Bell bells, and more.

Merry Christmas, everyone! Before I get into the Funbag, some brief housekeeping notes. First off, I’m out next week. But the Funbag will, as always, endure, as I have entrusted it to the dreaded Ashley Feinberg. If you wanna be part of the Feinbag, email this link and our friend will take your inquiries even less seriously than I do. Also, Jamboroo duties will be handled by distinguished Bengals fan Will Sennett, one of few earthbound writers who have the constitution for this vital task. Email his ass too, or else Santa Claus will put a car bomb in your stocking.

And with that out of the way … your letters! WOOHOOOOOOOOO!!!


You've mentioned you take handwritten notes, but do you ever hunker down and write by hand? Do you ever edit by hand? If so, what difference do you notice in the process?

I never write by hand, ever. My handwriting is too lousy for it, but it’s more than that. I HATE writing longhand. I just hate it. It reminds me of being in school: filling out workbooks, the pencil slipping away from my sweaty fingers, answering reading comprehension questions, and taking horrible bluebook exams. The whole reason I graduated from school was so that I’d never have to do any of that shit again.

And I don’t. I’m free.

I am writing exactly where I was meant to write: on a computer, with a keyboard that has a DELETE button. It’s a luxury that I will never, ever relinquish. This’ll make me an outcast among other writers, but I think writing anything longhand when you don’t have to is fucking deranged. We ALL have computers now. They’re good at making words legible, and they save your hands from endless cramping. Why relive the most stressful moments of your education when you don’t have to? I’d rather eat my dog’s shit.

And yet, plenty of people still adore writing by hand, apparently because they wanna feel like life is one endless cram session for a test they’ll never take. They’ll tell you that longhand writing makes you a better writer, but I don’t believe that. Better writers are thorough, but there isn’t one definitive method to being thorough. Longhand acolytes are like typewriter perverts who think that using a typewriter makes every word much more important. I think it makes correcting fuck-ups a pain in the ass.

In fact, even though I take a lot of notes by hand, I also take them on my phone. Those phone notes are both legible and easily transferrable. They also aren’t plagued by my chicken scratch or my penchant for writing the wrong letter and then clumsily writing the right letter over that mistake. I still prefer writing notes by hand, because it gives me a reason to look at something other than my phone, which is nice. Also, my notebooks will be worth millions on the collector’s market one day, just like Kurt Cobain’s. But otherwise, give me keys to punch or give me death. If you have flawless handwriting that borders on professional calligraphy and you like using it every which way, you go with God. I respect your gift. But don’t act like that’s the only way to skin a cat, Mister Fancypants.


What if Elon Musk bought the Commanders and then renamed them back to their awful racist name, to stand up against the woke mind virus? Would that just be the best thing to happen to the NFL in a long time?

In all earnestness, I’m not certain that Elon Musk can even afford an NFL team right now. He’s already rendered Twitter a distressed asset. Much more important, his car company—the thing that made him the richest man in the world—is taking on water. As of right now, Tesla’s stock is worth less than half of what it was worth at its peak just over a year ago. Their cars have been exposed as poorly made just as the big boy auto manufacturers are putting out new electric models that already make the average Tesla look like a Geo. Elon is getting his ass kicked from every side, and he’s unable to handle it with anything resembling skill, savvy, grace, or humor. He is fucked, and it’s been fun to watch him squirm. In fact, this has been a very good year to watch some of our richest fuckheads get their shit ruined: Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Dan Snyder, Trump, etc. All of them are diminished right now, and I am all the happier for it.

I’m not naïve. I know that Elon will remain obscenely rich for the rest of his life, no matter how badly he fucks everything up. But right now, his empire is a flaming shitwreck and he’s more overleveraged than you were back when you were dating the prom queen. He’s in desperate need of liquidity, just as the Commanders’ current owner is. That’s not anything the NFL wants at the moment. They want big infusions of capital and they want owners who LOOK dignified, even when they never are.

I feel like I’ve answered this question too seriously. The more fun answer is yes, it’d be very funny if the Commanders got rid of Dan Snyder only to install an even more clueless shitbag in his place.


I’ll toss my hat in the ring to request to hear your go-to near beers. There are so many now, with a wide range of quality, that I’d appreciate you mustering up your best Peter King impression with a ‘near beer of the week’ in the Jamboroo. 

I’ll never do a near beer section of the Jamboroo. This is because most people out there still drink regular beer, no matter how many times you’ve been told that the modern temperance movement is here to stay. I don’t think near beer is the punchline it once was, but that’s probably only because I drink it now. Everyone else enjoys the real deal and I have no problem with them doing so. Also, I’ve already become WAY too much like Peter King already. I must have boundaries.

But to answer Mike, my favorite near beers are Bud Zero, Untitled Art’s Italian pilsner, anything from Athletic that isn’t an IPA, and Lingo’s yuzu ale. The thing I missed the most when I quit drinking was the TASTE of alcohol, and all of those near beers replicate that taste in various ways. Bud Zero makes me feel like I’m drinking shitty beer at a keg party. UA makes me feel like I just ordered a tasty Peroni to go with my veal parmigiana. And the yuzu one indulges my shameless love of fruity beers. Those are all itches I’m happy to scratch again.

As for a decent fake whisky … I’m still looking. Not terribly optimistic.


Why haven't teams looked into the idea of a situational Monster QB? The MQB is a QB who comes into the game in specific situations: 1st-&-goal, two-pt conversions, and 4th-&-short, etc. Why? Because he (or she) is a huge monster. The ideal candidate for MQB is Shaq. Imagine a 1st-&-Goal and someone the size of Shaq comes in as QB: seven feet tall with meat on the bones. Takes the snap for a very a obvious QB sneak and stretches forward holding the ball very high. Maybe jumps slightly. 

This is a variation on the “Why don’t NHL teams just use a fat goalie?” question, which has answered itself over time. This one has as well, because NFL teams have already used situational QBs: Taysom Hill, early Kordell Stewart, etc. Those gadget quarterbacks still get the occasional goal line package, and I also just saw the Browns use Jacoby Brissett on a sneak this past weekend because he was bigger and taller than Deshaun Watson. I also once saw Brissett chuck a Hail Mary for the Colts because Philip Rivers didn’t have the arm strength for it. So Joe’s hypothetical Monster QB is already a gimmick among coaches who like to get too cute with their play-calling.

In reality, though, you’re almost always better off using your starting QB in all of those situations. A good starting QB knows how to execute a sneak, and they’ll have full command of the offense in goal-line situations. No sense in limiting your playbook if you don’t have to. Those moments are too important for a good team to trot out some speedy gadget QB who ends up fumbling the snap.


In follow-up to your recent Funbag mentioning ties, how about this: if it's still tied after 10-minute OT period, then both teams get a loss?

You picked the wrong week to ask me this, given what I just saw my own team do on Saturday. At the very, very end of the 33-0 comeback, Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell realized that his team would still win the division with a tie, and actually played for that tie at the beginning on the final possession of overtime. Kirk Cousins told the story to ESPN:

Chris O'Hara, our quarterback coach, goes, 'We're going to run it to start. A tie wins the division.' I looked at him like, 'It would have been nice to know that at least 10 minutes ago, maybe three days ago.’ I'm jogging on the field thinking, 'A tie wins the division.' You have options here.

He called the run. The second call didn't come in very quick. I'm kind of sitting there like, 'Maybe he's going for the tie.' Then he called the dropback, so I thought, 'No, he's going to go for it.'

I cannot begin to tell you how badly I did NOT want that tie. I know I’m usually in favor of them, but this stood to be the largest comeback in NFL history. I wanted that pelt, and so did O’Connell after flirting with a tie for that one running play. I don’t want ties to count as losses, even though many ties can feel like a loss (that certainly would have been the case for the Colts on Saturday). I want them to count exactly as much as they do in the standings, so that both fans and teams can calibrate their emotional reaction accordingly. But motherfucker, did I ever want that game to end with a win. And it did. I couldn’t be happier.

Also, while we’re here, I am now at the stage where if anyone badmouths this Vikings team, I earnestly want them killed. Look at the smarm from this Athletic asshole. I’ll put him through a fucking wall. My god told me that you should go fuck yourself, Robert Mays. Watch another sport if you hate statistical anomalies so much.


I’ve seen the Jennifer Coolidge Old Navy Christmas spots a million times now. With the ending of White Lotus and how her character came off at the end (SPOILERS REDACTED), I have to feel it’s likely that Coolidge and her agent knew that’s how she would look. Is that something Old Navy would be concerned with, knowing she’s in a major show and could look bad on it? The same reason we never saw James Gandolfini for Lunchables or something like that?

Nah, none of that matters. Joe Pesci had already made a name for himself by playing the world’s most psychotic mobsters when Lexus hired him to do the voiceover for this ad back in 1997. There’s also an old PSA featuring James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano re-circulating online right now (although there’s no logo at the end of the clip to make it clear that it’s an official PSA or just an indirect HBO promo). Dior still employs Johnny Depp as a spokesman and he’s an ACTUAL horrible person. And I’ve seen Paul Giamatti as Scrooge many times this Christmas—so, so, so many times—without ever thinking to myself, “I can’t believe Pig Vomit from Private Parts is trying to sell me a cell phone plan!” I doubt Verizon gave much of a shit before they greenlit his casting, either.

These are actors. Their job is to play different people, some good and some less so. I know that’s not White Lotus Jennifer Coolidge in that Old Navy ad. Everyone does, especially given that Coolidge has been a famous comic actress for the entirety of this century. When you get actors that talented, they’re pretty good at making you forget everything but they role they’re currently inhibiting. And if they have a history of being typecast (like Pesci), brands won’t give a fuck so long as they get the eyeballs they want.



I had a terrible night’s sleep and was just in a poor mental state for the night overall, so I called in sick on a Wednesday morning. Did I just figure out the ideal work week? Split it into two blocks of two days, plus the weekend. Is this ideal or would a traditional three-day weekend still be better?

Ages ago, the cliché was that doctors always took Wednesdays off to play golf. I know this because there was a joke about it in a Wizard of Id comic strip that had to be explained to me. Oh, those randy '80s doctors. What crazy Wednesday hijinks will they be up to next? Good thing I live in 2002, where my specialist has appointments one day a week in D.C. and then two more at his satellite office in Geneva.

Now, to Ethan’s question. I’d rather have a three-day weekend, because that allows for travel. My kids have a lot of Wednesdays off for the requisite “vaguely explained professional day for teachers.” The kids are always happy to play hooky, but they’d almost certainly prefer the three-day weekend, as would I. Even if we didn’t travel anywhere for a three-day weekend, we can at least pretend we’re going to. We can be like, “Let’s rent an Airbnb in Chicago!” and then say “Nah” 10 minutes later, and that’s fun all by itself. You can’t do that with a random Wednesday off. You’re still stuck in the rhythms of the workweek. The best you can do is a day trip, and day trips are enormously overrated. Ask any parent. I don’t wanna go somewhere just to have to come BACK three hours later. Fuck that shit. That’s not a getaway. That’s an extended commute.

So make it a three-day weekend, but with Friday as the off day and not Monday. I can’t party as hard on a Sunday night as I can on a Thursday night, and I don’t really care to figure out why that is.


How far back do your memories go? I’m older than you, but I still have some memories from kindergarten (which are very clear memories), which I was thinking were my oldest memories. But then I remembered some from at least a year before that at a house we lived in before I started school. One memory stood out in particular, when my dad walked me up the hill behind our house with our next door neighbor to see the neighbor’s beehive. I don’t recall being particularly afraid of the bees that day, but for whatever reason that memory has definitely stuck in my mind ever since, as well as various other tidbits about that house, a house I had my mom help me find again about five years ago because I just wanted to see it again. So what is the oldest thing you can remember?

My oldest memory is of me going up to the kitchen counter when I was three and asking my mom if I was four. She told me I that I was three, and then I disputed her answer. That’s about all I have. My mom tells me that this conversation never even happened. I dispute her on that as well.

But that’s how early memories work. They’re not distinct, because your memory skills aren’t at full capacity yet. Hence, all you have to go on are snippets of your early existence, ones that may or may not even have occurred. Grow old enough and you end your life the same way. Life begins as a hiss of barely discernible static, grows clearer, and then fades back out. Until I was the age of five, we lived in suburban Connecticut, and I only have pieces of memory from that time. That conversation with my mom. My brother saving me from drowning in our pool. My dad’s deathly hot Lincoln sedan. My dad cutting himself with an oyster knife. Our babysitter forbidding me from watching Sesame Street. The first time I ate a bagel and cream cheese at preschool. Everything got clearer when we moved to Chicago and I become a grade schooler, but somewhere deep inside of me there’s a tiny film projector that runs those clips on an endless, scratchy loop. I can see those moments, but nothing on the periphery of them. It’s like being born into a fog.


I've been getting back into watching hockey this year and one thing that's struck me is the jarring sudden proliferation of ads for sports betting apps. The other day I saw one where Wayne Gretzky, the greatest NHLer of all time, was shilling for one of these apps and my heart sank. What are your thoughts on athletes who get into the advertising game? Do you lose any respect for them? Does it depend on the product? Whether they're retired or actively playing?

I don’t care. Athletes debasing themselves for endorsement bucks has been a thing for as long as I’ve been a sports fan, like so:

We got a year of content out of this ad back at KSK

I don’t expect any athlete to turn down that money, because A) I don’t expect athletes to be all that smart or principled, and B) money is money. I don’t think less of them, regardless of the product and regardless of their standing. I can separate the artist from the art. I’ve seen Tiger Woods shill for BUICK, man. I know how low the bar is. That’s just an athlete doing what I expect them to do. The only time I ever had an ad turn me against an athlete was, predictably, a political one:

Before I saw this ad, I figured that Harrison Butker was just some random kicker. Turns out he’s a random kicker AND a complete bag of shit. If Butker (hehehe Butker) had done some big shitty ad for BetMGM, I wouldn’t have batted an eyelash. But God, something about that ad and his hair … he’s like a perfect young Republican. I hate it whenever he makes a field goal now. I bet he pictures a single mom’s face every time he kicks the ball. Terrible person.


After however many years, I was finally diagnosed with COVID. I’m fully vaccinated and boosted, so I’d been doing everything the right way and, as such, I’m largely asymptomatic. But I’ve had to quarantine myself in a hotel room and completely upend my family’s plans for this weekend (Christmas-time stuff) because they would bring us into contact with unvaccinated people/acquaintances, and I can’t in good conscience risk exposing them to COVID. It pisses me off more because my Kindergarten aged daughter doesn’t understand why we have to upend/change our plans, just that she can’t do what we said we were going to do. I know that getting COVID was pretty random, and that rationally I shouldn’t be that pissed off at unvaccinated people, but, in reality, how angry should I be?

I gave up my anger toward the unvaccinated roughly a year ago, if not longer. I wish they’d get the jab, but it is what it is. I’m gonna live my life either way, and so are they. And that means that if they happen to get COVID from me because they’re unvaccinated, then tough shit. Honestly. I know that’s a dick thing to say, but they had their chance to protect themselves and fucking blew it. So why should I give a fuck? If I’m asymptomatic and five days out from my first positive test? I’m doing Christmas. Fuck ‘em. I’ve canceled enough plans these past two years and change already. Infect me with leprosy and I’ll still go to your wedding. I don’t care.


First thing I need to admit is that I am a Giants fan, so there is definitely some bias here. But I think the Commanders should get fucked over by the refs in every game if it comes down to the wire. A team run that poorly, with so much actual crime hurting actual human lives, should never get the benefit of a close call at the end of a game. I know that goes against the integrity of the game (and really fucks over gamblers), but if you run your professional organization like a brothel for your rich friends, you do not get the PI call in the 4th quarter. Do you think a conspiracy against a team is good if the team is as evil as the Commanders?

I can’t believe I have to be a Rule Of Law Guy for this shit, but my answer is no. For one thing, athletes are essentially blameless victims in the greater machinations of the NFL/FIFA/The IOC etc. This makes them perfect meat shields for some of our most corrupt plutocrats, and yet I can’t bring myself to see them fucked over for the sins of their respective sugar daddies.

Secondly, and I’m on firmer ground here, why should I trust the NFL to conspire against people who DESERVE to be conspired against? Time and time again, they conspire in the exact opposite direction. So I can’t trust Roger Goodell to properly fuck over Dan Snyder, even though I’d love it if he were inclined to do such a thing. As it stands right now, Roger prefers to just say mildly nice things about Snyder while running out the clock on that fucker’s ownership tenure. It’s the best I can ask for.

One last thing: I don’t need an actual conspiracy when I can simply imagine that a shitty call was ordered from up on high. Bad officiating is both inevitable and random, but I much prefer to think that all of the haterz conspired to keep my team from getting what they deserved. That’s the best way to be a fan.

Email of the week!


Over Christmas break freshman year of college, when I was back at home one night, my HS friend Jim and I went out. Just the two of us, with a lot of beer in tow. I don’t remember exactly what we did earlier in the night, though it was probably going out to the various hillside spots around town where we used to use to drink.

But late that night, on our way home, we passed by a Taco Bell that had already closed for the night. We suddenly had the idea to steal the bell from the roof (this was back when all the Taco Bell’s had their very distinctive buildings with the bell at the front of the roof). We managed to climb up on the roof and were very happy to discover that all you had to do to remove the bell was remove a single nut from the bolt holding it up. This one was loose enough that we could simply unscrew it by hand. We did and then we headed home, laughing at our awesomeness the entire way.

Because we were in Jim’s car, we decided that he would be the one to keep the bell (which we will get back to in a bit) and he dropped me off at my house. Apparently, I was very drunk by this point and realized I really needed to piss. Now, at the top of the stairs the first door on the left is a bathroom, and the first door on the right is the laundry room. In my stupor, I mixed up left from right and made my way to the laundry room and proceeded to start pissing into the dryer.

Apparently I made enough noise during all this that I woke my sister up. She came out to investigate and discovered me pissing on all the clean clothes sitting in the dryer. She tried to get me to stop, but it was useless. I wouldn’t even acknowledge her. I just finished and stumbled past her to my room. She proved to be a true angel and threw all the clothes back into the washing machine and rewashed them. (I have no memory of any of this, but it was clear she wasn’t making this up when she told me the next day.)

That was that, but what about the bell?

Well, Jim’s mom discovered it in his room a day or two later. Then she took it back to the Taco Bell and returned it to them!

But that isn’t the end of the story. That summer Jim and I went back to the Taco Bell and stole it again! But this time I kept it and took it back to college with me where it became a prominent decoration in our living room.

See now, you should have pissed IN the bell.

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