Illustration by Sam Woolley

Time for your weekly edition of the Deadspin Funbag. Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag. Today, we’re covering the Chargers, Christmas gifts, seasonal porn, and more.

Before we get into the Funbag, some basic housecleaning: There will NOT be a Funbag next week. Go watch a movie, or take a road trip, or eat the entire caramel section of one of those big popcorn tins instead. I’ll be back in the New Year. Also, if Santa doesn’t get you The Hike for Christmas, tell him to go rot in a sewer.

Time for your letters!

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Richard:

Are Christmas trees bullshit?

In general, no. They are lovely and festive. However, this is the first year that my wife and I bought a fake tree, and I’m gonna tell you why: because my wife’s friend cut down a tree last year and didn’t realize there was a nest of spiders in it until she had taken it inside. (Supposedly, you should leave the tree outside in the cold for at least one night to kill any bugs still living in it, otherwise they thrive at room temperature.)

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One night, THOUSANDS of spiders busted out of the thing, and her husband had to spend the rest of Christmas vacuuming them up. That’s all true. I swear. I am not passing that on from Snopes. “Then her grandma ate Coke and Pop Rocks and EXPLODED.” When my wife heard the story and then saw a fake tree floor model on sale at Target, we made the switch.

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For four decades, I have stood against fake trees on principle, because they are fake, and because I have always clung to the more romantic motions of the tree-buying ritual. You drive out to the country. You pay $20 more than you wanna pay to some farmer—who’s probably not a farmer but rather an associate of some huge Christmas tree conglomerate—to let you chop a tree down on his property with a rusty bow saw. You get down in the snow and ruin your gloves cutting the fucker down. Then you bring it to some teenager out front and watch in nervous terror and he very casually trims the lower branches and stump with a chainsaw, then nets the whole thing up.

Then you secure the tree to the top of the car, ruining the paint job, and drive it home, terrified it’ll fall off and impale a baby in the car behind you. But now the fun has only just begun, because now you gotta attach the stand, making sure the trunk fits in the collar, and then saw off stray knobs when it doesn’t (god dammit), and then screw the bolts into the trunk to keep it secure, and then unscrew them and re-screw them AGAIN because the tree is crooked. Then you gotta bring the tree inside and drop a thousand needles all over the floor.

Then you gotta stand the tree up and find the good side of it, only now there doesn’t seem to be a good side because you’re finally looking at the thing in proper light. Then you gotta string the lights and fight with your old lady about it (one year when I was a teenager, my parents made my sister and I string the lights, and then cackled with glee as we argued for hours about that shit). Then you gotta wash 50 pounds of pine resin off your hands. Add kids to this entire process and it quintuples both time and effort. And yet I remained pro-real tree the whole time because they smell nice, and because I am irrationally devoted to the ritual.

I am no longer 100 percent pro-real tree.

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This thing came pre-lit. And none of the needles fall. And I didn’t have to drive out to some goddamn Christmas Tree Farm that was an apple farm just five weeks earlier to get it. We bought a pine-scented candle to smell up the joint and that seems to do the trick just fine. There are only two big problems with a fake tree, which is A) You need to have space to store it, and B) Decent ones are expensive, i.e. hundreds of dollars. But if you buy one AFTER Christmas at a discount, the thing should pay for itself after a few seasons. I’m a convert. I never have to worry about a surprise spider infestation again.

(By the way, I polled the rest of the staff and they preferred real trees by a margin of 8-1. Marchman abstained because he never puts up a tree of any kind. He probably hangs a fucking oatmeal can from the ceiling or something.)

Ryan:

Since the move to LA for the Chargers seems all but a given, rumors have appeared suggesting Spanos wants to re-brand in LA. I mean, this team won’t have any support either way, and as a lifelong San Diego Chargers fan who is beyond disgusted with Spanos, I couldn’t give a shit if they kept the name or not. So with that out of the way, let’s start guessing the best names for the new LA team. Names like the LA Traffic or LA Quakes are lazy and obviously bad. What are your top ten names for the new LA Football Team?

I thought it was strange for that rumor to pop up given that A) The Chargers already played their inaugural season as a franchise in L.A., and B) Part of their reasoning for moving to L.A. was that San Diego fans would still make the drive. I know they wildly underestimated fan resentment regarding the latter, but still: if the Chargers become a whole new franchise in L.A., and they play in the same stadium as the stupid Rams, who’s gonna give a shit about them?

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This isn’t like the Jets and Giants, who started off playing in different areas of town before joining forces to live in a fucking swamp. With the Rams and the rebranded Chargers playing in the same joint from the very beginning, there’s practically nothing to differentiate them, especially to younger fans. They both suck. They’re both run by whiny assholes. And they’re both gonna play next to the fucking airport. You’re basically flipping a coin to decide which L.A. team is gonna be the one you like, if you decide to like one at all (and you won’t).

I still think is all doomed to fail, no matter what kind of half-assed rebranding effort they trot out. That’s still Dean Spanos owning the team, with Marmalard cranking out babies and ducking oncoming pass rushers like he’s stuck in a World War I battle trench. You can’t plaster over all that with a new nickname, especially when pro sports owners are notoriously awful at coining them (fuck you, Vegas Golden Knights).

So, with that air of futility in mind, here are my initial suggestions. Please note these are earnest suggestions. I fucking hate jokey ones. The L.A. Tired Sequels! LOL. 

  • Flashes
  • Confidentials
  • Stallions
  • Mission
  • Wildfires
  • Diehards
  • Stars
  • Producers
  • Stuntmen
  • Caballeros
  • Choppers
  • Lowriders
  • Nightcrawlers
  • Pipelines
  • West Coast Chargers

I guarantee you they pick none of those. They’re gonna be called the Cougars or something equally generic and pointless.

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Jeremy:

I was wondering what the appropriate ages are these days to get your kid his first devices (tablet, phone, laptop, xBox, etc)? My boy is six. He gets to use our phones and tablets from time to time, but is asking more and more for a phone. He claims kids at school have them, but admits he’s never actually seen them. He’s also starting to ask about a laptop and I figure the xBox request isn’t too far away. My wife is really anti-device and I’m mildly anti-device, but I’m starting to come around to the idea as he’s in first grade and I accept that the time will come.

I can give you the right age for all of these devices (HINT: It’s 38), but it won’t be any use to you, because the kid WILL get his hands on something before you’re really ready for him to have it. I see toddlers dicking around with phones and tablets all the time. And it’s not like those parents all WANT to have a two-year-old staring at a phone (although you’d be surprised, even now, to discover how many parents are fucking clueless about this shit), but they relent because the kid is screaming, and they’re busy filling out a bank account application, and so they use the phone to hush the child. And once the kid HAS the screen, they never want to give it back. The seal is broken. It’s all over.

So my only advice is to hold out for as many devices for as long as you can. Hold your ground. Let them piss and moan for a phone all they like. My oldest kid is 10 and we don’t have a video game console of any kind, and she doesn’t have a phone. She has an iPod she bought in part with money that grandma gave her (God dammit, mom), and I got her a Chromebook last year because it was on sale (under $100!) and because it was good for doing homework (so much homework is now web-based that it’s virtually unavoidable). That’s two screens. That’s plenty. I’m gonna keep holding out on a phone for as long as I can. Once she has that phone, I’m never seeing her again.

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We have a tablet that the boys like messing with, along with TVs in the house (how quaint). In general, I think it’s better to have shared devices, even though the kids end up opening 784 browser tabs at once and fucking up my Spotify recs because they won’t stop playing Parry Gripp.

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Tom:

At a salad bar, are you ever ashamed for other people to see what you’ve created? I start with a bed of spinach, but that’s it for veggies. I pile up bacon, eggs, cheese, dressings, croutons... I feel like people are judging me.

I’ve felt shame at the breakfast buffet because I almost always load up on bacon. The bacon is the only dependable thing at a free hotel breakfast bar, and I justify it all as necessary protein. But that doesn’t stop Old Lady Mildred in Room 304 from eyeballing the 10 strips I’ve got on my plate. MIND YOUR OWN BUISNESS, YOU SOUR OLD BIDDY. I’m getting my money’s worth.

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Trevor:

Of all the penalty terms in the NFL, one stands out to me- “too many men on the field”. Isn’t it a little strange that every other infraction has its own term instead of just being called its own description? We don’t say “moving before the snap on the offense”, we call it a false start. Shouldn’t “too many men on the field” be called crowding or something?

No, because any team that has too many men on the field (usually the Vikings) deserves to be openly shamed for it. I don’t want that penalty couched in euphemistic terms like “illegal formation”. I want the whole world to know exactly how stupid my team was being.

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Mike:

You’re making a quick run into the grocery store. Not a full shop, just getting some stuff for tonight and maybe tomorrow. What is the acceptable amount of time to give your spouse to reply to a text asking, “Is there anything else you need me to pick up?” I say you shoot the text once you pull in your parking space, do your lap around the store, and check your phone before you check out. If there’s no response, you’re free to go and say “too late” if the reply comes after without guilt.

I send the “Do you need anything?” text well before I pull into the parking lot, because there’s always a lag time between when I send my text and when my wife answers. It’s like she’s been abducted by aliens for an hour.

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Anyway, I agree with the rest of your approach. I check my phone twice at the store, first when I’m in the produce section (because I don’t wanna go back), and second at checkout. If she needs something that’s easy to grab (i.e. NOT in the produce aisle), then I go grab it. Once I’ve checked out, that’s it. The train has left the station. I’m not going back for Junior’s insulin.

Of course, none of this matters because I never get the text in time. Never. It’s not until I’m safely back in the car and driving home that my wife has freed herself from being trapped under a rock and reminded me that we’re out of milk.

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HALFTIME!

Marc:

Which holiday has the best porn associated with it? Top three for me has got to be Valentine’s Day, Christmas, then Halloween.

I have zero need for seasonal porn. I remember one of the first porn movies I saw was some old gross ‘70s one (I think it was The Devil in Miss Jones) where a dude in a Santa suit is getting a blowjob. Completely fucked me up. Get that shit out of my porn movie. I bet they have nativity porn out there, too. Blargh. Just because I wanna watch two people debase each other on camera doesn’t mean I’m a FREAK. Christmas porn is for weirdoes and John Waters fanboys.

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By the way, isn’t ALL porn spiritually associated with Valentine’s Day? I mean, those actors are all fucking each other on camera for love, right? Right? No? OH MY GOD.

Luke:

I have two young boys, and both of them used to do this thing while they sat in my lap to read books. They would occasionally bend over and then quickly flail back, swinging their head right into my face. Once or twice they hit so hard I saw stars. Do you think any adult has been knocked out by an infant or toddler?

Yes! They do this! NO ONE TELLS YOU THAT KIDS DO THIS. I wish someone had told me, “Hey yeah, you’re gonna read to the kid and you’re gonna think it’s a nice bonding moment, until they use their head as a fucking wrecking ball for no reason.” Why do kids do this? They have NO head awareness of any kind. I swear I’ve been playing with my youngest kid and he’ll just whip his head back and bash into the wall for no damn reason. Stop doing that, boy! You only get one of those things! I need you to practice Heads Up Storytime.

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I have never been knocked out cold by my kids, but my dad once did have his cornea scratched out by my brother when he was an infant. And just this week, I was horsing around with my seven-year-old when he rammed the crown of his head into my hip. It’s still bruised. Looks like I was trying to block Vontaze Burfict. Do you know they step on your leg hair? It’s true. I’m sitting there and somehow they find a way crawl up and step on my leg and trap my hair between their foot and the chair/couch, ripping it clean off. Children are nothing but pure, violent chaos.

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Michael:

While eating a bag of Skittles, I noticed my wife was eating them one at a time, while I pour some into my hand and eat them all at once. When I questioned her on this eating strategy, she said she does this to enjoy each flavor individually. While I see her point, this isn’t the proper way to eat Skittles right?

No, the proper way to eat Skittles is to grab and handful and stuff them in your mouth and then chew them down into a giant, grainy sugar wad, and then nurse that wad until it’s time for the next handful. I’m eating shitty candy here. There’s no reason to practice moderation, or to savor them individually. “Ooooh, I really get the grape notes of this purple one!” Eating Skittles or M&Ms one at a time is strictly for crazy people. If I were your old lady, I’d sit at a crowded airport with a bowl of them and eat them with chopsticks, just to see how shocked people are.

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Tylan:

Everyone has their list of favorite Christmas songs that we listen to every year. What I want is a comprehensive list of the worst Christmas songs of all time. I’m thinking “The First Noel,” “Angels We Have Heard On High,” and “Little Drummer Boy.” I swear I’m Christian.

I actually don’t mind the first two you mentioned, but ”Little Drummer Boy” is sheer misery and I can honestly say that I don’t know anyone who likes it. That’s one of those songs that your local Christmas music station (“Hot 93.9! All Amy Grant, all the time!”) brainlessly keeps in the rotation. Every year, the people at BIG RADIO need to convene and refresh the big board of Christmas standards. That means getting rid of the following songs:

  • “Little Drummer Boy”
  • “Happy Christmas”
  • “Wonderful Christmastime”
  • “Silver Bells.” God, I hate this song.
  • “Santa Baby”
  • “Home for the Holidays”
  • “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer”
  • “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth”
  • Anything by Johnny Mathis

I’m gonna explain that last proposal for a moment, because Johnny Mathis is a legitimately fascinating dude (he was nearly an Olympic high jumper!), and I bear him no ill will. But I’ve had enough, man. I can’t take it. Mathis dominates Christmas radio every year and it’s the most dated sounding shit ever. They gotta ease up on the Mathis. It’s not 1952 anymore. Listening to Johnny Mathis is like listening to an insane chorus teacher lead you through warm-up exercises. “Make sure you kids all sing it KRISSSS MISSS!” No more.

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Also, I spent three seconds watching the Pentatonix (aka the a cappella Black Eyed Peas) Christmas special the other night, and they’re trying to make that one Leonard Cohen song a Christmas song now. Fuck you, Pentatonix. I’ve heard that song enough. I don’t need a new reason to be subjected to it.

Jeff:

My coworker lives with his girlfriend and wants to give her a thermostat for Christmas. It’s a Nest, which I guess is nice as far at thermostats go, but it’s still a thermostat. I tried to talk him out of it and it turned into a shockingly divisive issue in the office. Please weigh in.

I’m the worst person to ask because I once got my wife towels for Christmas. One day, she was like, “We need new towels,” and I was like, AHA! Mental note! Then I snuck out and got some towels and wrapped them up, thinking it was a really good and thoughtful gift. Then she opened them and was like, the fuck, Drew? She was really thrown by the big package, too. She thought it was gonna be a new jacket or something.

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In theory, you shouldn’t get someone a gift that is an item you would essentially purchase as an errand, like shampoo. But what the fuck else was I supposed to do? Christmas shopping is a bitch because your gift is supposed to be some luxury item the other person wants but would be surprised to actually receive. It has to be desirable, but not ostentatious; thoughtful, but also impulsive; nice, but not over-the-top. Fuck all that. I’m too old and tired to go searching for the Holy Grail here. If the girl asked for a thermostat, your man should get her a stupid thermostat.

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Danish:

Idea for dramatic tie-breaker in NFL games: soccer style penalty kicks. Each kicker takes alternating shots from 50 yards out. Each coach gets one timeout to try and ice an attempt. I can imagine some poor coach calling timeout right before what would have been a miss or a block, then the kicker makes the real attempt. Hot takes would be amazing.

I think you would start closer in—like at the 30—and then move the kickers back five yards on each successive attempt. If they both miss from a certain distance, they stay there until someone makes it. And no timeouts. I never want to see a kicker get iced ever again.

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I’m on record as saying that ties are fine during the regular season. If two teams can’t manage to score during overtime (or they trade limp field goals), they deserve to have that weird vestigial organ attached to their record. BUT… forcing them into a field goal shootout after 15 extra minutes would also be a hilarious way to end it. I’d pop some popcorn for that. People would shit bricks.

Matthew:

Will Belichick ever trade Brady? Obviously this would never happen because Robert Kraft would shut it down. But Belichick seems to get a distinct pleasure in trading away key players who arguably still have time left in their primes, i.e. Jamie Collins, Chandler Jones and Logan Mankins.

He would absolutely trade Brady and Brady has even openly mused about the idea, because the Pats’ success is predicated on getting maximum value out of players for the minimum amount. Belichick would rather cut a guy than overpay him by five bucks, and he never deviates from that rule. So yeah, he would trade Brady in a second if he thought it was the right move. And I don’t think Kraft would fight him on it.

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BUT… I don’t think he ever will, because Brady is still playing well, and willingly takes less money to stick around, and even though he says he wants to play until he’s 45, he’d probably just retire and fuck off back to California before he played a snap for the Browns. There’s a reason that Belichick keeps getting rid of Brady’s understudies and not Brady. The two share a certain bloodless understanding of how shit works. The fuckers.

Email of the week!

David:

About 5 years ago I caught a ride with a few friends to meet some other friends down at the lake. I made us about 45 minutes late, partly due to my oversleeping like an asshole, and partly due to me forcing the car to pullover so that I could let out some massive hangover diarrhea. Like, coming out of my ass before my butt even hit the seat, splashing everywhere diarrhea. When we finally met up with our other friends at the dock, about 10 guys/girls, they were all fairly unhappy with me and made me do twenty pushups before I could get on the boat (fair enough).

Just as I got in the boat, one of them, unaware of the diarrhea, suggested that I should have to show my ass, too. I was already so red faced and eager to show how contrite I was that without thinking I just went ahead and pulled my swim shorts down to show my ass. I immediately regretted it as I heard ten people simultaneously go, “OHHHH FUCK”, followed by one of the dudes going, “Who taught you how to wipe!?” Now, I’m usually pretty anal (pun intended) about wiping clean, but I’m guessing between all the splashing and my unbelievably hairy ass being like a briar patch for dingleberries I must’ve underestimated the situation.

I had a great time drinking and boating that day despite the rough start, but that’s why I haven’t been invited to any other events by these people since then, right?

Right.