Illustration: Jim Cooke (GMG)
FunbagTime for your weekly edition of the Deadspin Funbag. Got something on your mind? [Email the Funbag](mailto:funbag.deadspin@gmail.com).   

Today, we’re talking about J.R.R. Tolkien, OK symbols, plastic knives, beer cans, and more.

Your letters:

Luke:

Recently my wife and I got into a spirited debate about the magnitude of severity when describing rain. In her mind, it goes Dumping > Pouring > Raining > Sprinkling > Drizzling. I think drizzling implies a much higher quantity than sprinkling. This debate has now found its way amongst our friends with no clear consensus, and I do think that I will be friends with fewer of these morons when it is all over. Which is it?

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Is it a STEADY drizzle? I need to know if my drizzle is steady, or if it’s a flaky drizzle that only happens when I decide to step outside without a jacket on.

I think a lot of your terms blend together, because this is the English language and if I want to describe the rain outside as “a gentle patter, like an impatient teacher drumming his fingers on his desk as he awaits silence from his class,” that would be my right as an insufferable prick. But you are not here for nuance. You are here for rankings to fight about, so let’s go. This is how I report degrees of precipitation to my wife as I’m about to take the dog out for a shit. This is from least rain to most rain.

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  1. “It’s nice out! Goddamn”
  2. “It’s misting.” Doesn’t feel like it’s raining, but look! There are little pinprick droplets on my jacket! This mist could be anthrax.
  3. “There’s a light sprinkle.” God is shaking out a piss on us!
  4. “It’s a steady drizzle.” It’s lightly raining, but not enough to scare me, a true man, from venturing out into the elements unprotected.
  5. “It’s raining.” Plain-old shitty rain.
  6. “It’s RAINING.” A bit more aggressive than the average rain.
  7. “It’s raining cats and dogs.” Okay, this might be one of those storms that the Weather Channel gives a fake name to. Rainstorm Dennis, etc.
  8. “It’s raining buckets.” Now the rain is just being rude.
  9. “OMG WAS THAT THUNDER?!” Thunder and lightning are the headline act. Once they show up, the intensity of the rain isn’t important anymore. I just wanna know if there’s the chance of an thunderclap that is unprecedented in its massiveness and will break my house apart.
  10. “It’s pouring out there.” I know Luke has “dumping” one level up, but that’s basically a synonym to me. When it feels like God could not possibly unload more rain upon you, it’s pouring. When walking two steps outside means you’re drenched, it’s pouring. When it’s time to settle in with a good book, and then dick around on your phone instead because that book is boring: pouring.
  11. “It’s howling!” Pouring, but with wind! Haunted house wind.
  12. “A tornado has destroyed our town.” There was a tornado warning here a few weeks ago, and I had to rouse my seven-year-old out of bed and bring him down to the basement because they had spotted a touchdown a few towns over. He was NOT pleased about being woken up. I had to scoop him out of bed and cradle him in my arms; an idea that felt very tender and Hallmark-y to me until I remembered the boy weighs 60 some-odd pounds. All of the back pain. Just brutal. I made him walk to the basement instead. We survived. Barely.

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I took my son to a soccer game this weekend and when we left, it was a classic steady drizzle. I figured I could tough it out. WRONG. As the game wore on, the rain got worse and worse, leveling up to POURING. And then the wind dropped in for a visit. I didn’t have an umbrella on me because I hate umbrellas. That was a critical error. By the second half, it was howling and my clothes were soaked through. The game wouldn’t end. I was practically dead of pneumonia by the time they blew the whistle. This is how you end up drinking hot chocolate in May. I want my money back from this spring. Rain is a hideous beast. WHAT GOOD HAS RAIN EVER DONE PEOPLE, I ASK YOU?

Jake:

This morning I was gripped by the Man City/Liverpool games that decided the EPL champion. It was fun! But also really interesting that they don’t do playoffs over there. Assuming the implementation of a points system, and an adjustment to the number of games played, which of the Big Four American sports would most benefit from a regular-season-only format?

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I’m gonna say football even though everyone here would fucking die if the NFL decided to abolish the Super Bowl. I know I would. But I watched college football for years before they finally got around to implementing a tepid playoff system, and I still enjoyed it. I hated the bowl system, but I also tacitly relished the tradition of bemoaning that system every time November rolled around. Hard to believe I would enjoy complaining about things, but it’s true.

So if the NFL did away with their playoff system, I would rage and break shit and dedicate as many column inches to the controversy as I have to the blacklisting of Colin Kaepernick. Just zillions of futile words. And then I would watch. Wouldn’t even think twice about it. They could decide the NFL champion by holding a pinball tourney after the regular season and I’d still watch all of it. I’m not giving up my DFS addiction for nothing. I put real work into that god-awful habit.

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Also, the NFL would be able to bully and/or brainwash a lot of TV dudes and other assorted water carriers into embracing their new table format to determine a champion. I was around when the Whitlocks of the world defended college football because DURRRR EVERY REGULAR SEASON GAME MATTERS DURRRR. The NFL can groom SalPal to say the exact same shit. It wouldn’t take any effort at all. Then I would bitch endlessly about all the stooges doing the league’s dirty work on its behalf, while secretly getting a kick out of rebelling against them. Football is healthy!

The other choice is baseball. Purists hate the death of pennant races. Nerdy stat nerds believe the postseason is too small of a sample size to determine a correct MLB champ. Make the regular season winner-take-all and everyone would be happy. Definitely. No complaints whatsoever.

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Aaron:

Have the racists of 4chan ruined the ‘OK’ hand gesture for all of us? Is Deadspin going to have to change its Adequate Man graphic?

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I don’t think our graphic has to change because the fact that we have a separate vertical within this website mostly just confuses readers and/or goes right past them. I’ve had relatives ask if “Adequate Man” is a separate company (it is not), and so I don’t think its logo design, which remains lovingly adequate, is a massive public concern.

I wish racists would pick a better symbol so that I can easily tell who’s racist and who isn’t, but of course that wasn’t the aim here. The aim was to co-opt a routine hand signal so that racists could effectively sneak it into public view and, more important to them, convince themselves that more people are on their side than it actually the case. That’s a big Stormfront thing, when readers there are like, “That guy said he didn’t like Kendrick Lamar. That’s code. That clearly means he’s WITH US.”

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Then you get any number of standard-grade jackasses doing the symbol just to be standard-grade jackasses. Then the whole thing devolves, as everything does now, into a big wet pile of shit. It’s impossible to tell who means what. Trump rallies aside, a lot of racists don’t want to brandish obvious and visible signs of their racism. They’d prefer to blend in. They wanna be racist but don’t want to announce it, which is how the rest of us are reduced to attempting to glean whether or not someone making that symbol is a Hitler acolyte, or if they think they’re being ironic, or if they’re just showing their approval of nachos. I don’t know. Who the fuck knows anything? I don’t wanna see some guy doing that and be like, “Oh yeah he’s totally a Nazi” when he may not even know his fingers are doing that. I’m fucking tired. If you wanna be a racist, have the temerity to show yourself so that everyone knows for certain that you suck.

By the way, given present Cubs ownership, I’m surprised they didn’t give that one fan box seats for life.

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Jim:

Is it “Toll-kin” or “Toll-keen”? I’m not the biggest J.R.R. Tolkien fan, but I’ve been aware of him through osmosis for pretty much my entire life, and the author’s name has always been pronounced “Toll-kin”. Now this new series is coming out and the voiceover in the ads says “Toll-keen”. Has my whole life been a lie, or is this some sort of cosplay inside baseball stuff?

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Wait, there are ads for it out? I don’t see any. All I see is a stupid map. I demand a trailer for this LOTR extended universe series that I almost certainly won’t watch because the movies were plenty long enough. My whole life consists of watching trailers, getting jazzed about expensive movies and TV shows, and then having that buzz fade as I await the NEXT batch of trailers for other, even more expensive shit. I’m not even being sarcastic when I tell you I enjoy this cycle. Trailers are exciting and are a minimal time commitment. They’re the ideal art form. Oh, wait: You meant ads for the Tolkien biopic starring the About A Boy kid. Yeah no, fuck that.

Now, where was I? Ah yes, your question. IN A LAND WHERE BRITISH AUTHORS HAVE CONFUSING LAST NAMES … the man himself pronounced it “toll-keen.” CNET went to “Shaun Gunner, chair of The Tolkien Society,” to verify this. Yes, that’s an actual person with that actual title at an actual society. So if you heard it as “toll-keen” in ads for that movie, and if you hear it that way in ads for the Amazon series, it’s because its creators wanted to be as faithful as possible to Tolkien, and because there’s almost certainly a subset of deranged fanboys who will burn down every house if they get the name wrong. Everything is fan service now, even using correct language.

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As for me, I’ve always pronounced it Toll-kin and I likely always will. This is because I’m lazy, and because Tolkien is too dead to protest me doing it. I’ve never heard anyone pronounce it “toll-keen” but I have, oddly, heard “toll-kine,” which must be some kind of Canadian affect. I also thought J.K. Rowling’s last name rhymed with “howling” at first. BY GOD THE RAIN IS ROWLING OUT THERE! And I thought PewDiePie’s name rhymed with “cutie pie” (it does not), and I maintain it should. I don’t care if he pronounces it otherwise. I’m sure he’s doing the white power okay symbol in a 75-minute Youtube video right now anyway. Fuck him.

Beef Thunderchest:

Is there any incontrovertible evidence that keeping some old and useless QB on an NFL as a “mentor” has really helped a young/rookie QB? Would Sam Darnold be completely lost without Josh McCown? Did Josh Rosen get ANY benefit from having Sam Bradford around? I know there’s the whole Montana/Young and Favre/Rodgers examples, but those relationships were more hostile and competitive than mentor/student. I’m ready to call bullshit on the mentor QB thing.

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Our own Dom Cosentino is way ahead of you there, amigo. It’s garbage. The whole fable of veteran “mentor” QBs is a direct result of Josh McCown being so nice to the media that they cannot help but think he’s the rising tide that lifts all boats around him. Here are some of the QBs who have fallen under McCown’s supposed tutelage in that time: Darnold, Bryce Petty, Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan, Johnny Football, Austin Davis, Mike Glennon, Caleb Hanie, endgame Jake Delhomme, JaMarcus Russell, Andrew Walter, and John Navarre. Quite a roster of pupils. Darnold is probably the best of that lot and even he had more turnovers than TDs under McCown’s mentorship.

It’s nice to think that an older professional QB would be wise and selfless enough to help groom a younger colleague. In fact, it’s such a nice idea that analysts will simply accept it as fact. Meanwhile, teams have coaches to do this exact job. Why would I leave that duty to a moonlighting Blake Bortles, or to some other pud? I honestly think it’s probably better for a younger QB to have a surly prick in the same position group: some red-assed fuck who views the newcomer as unwanted competition and tries to undercut him at every turn. Now THAT is proper sportsmanship. You’re not gonna get better just because Tom Savage made you fresh chocolate chip cookies for film study. Even Joe Flacco understands this.

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HALFTIME!

Michael:

Is there anything less useful than the standard grade plastic knife? What can a flimsy plastic knife do that a plastic spoon cannot do?

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Well, it has little teeth along the edge, so it can grab onto a piece of chicken and cut through a bit of it before the knife slips out of your hand and into a puddle of spilled Faygo. Then you’ve got a piece of half-shredded chicken you can then eat with your hands. You see? That knife set you on a path towards deliciousness.

So it’s not the most capable utensil around. But you’re not using a plastic knife to debone a lamb shank or anything. That knife is cutting through basic cookout fare. It’s a like a saw: a cheap, useless saw. You can cut up a hot dog with it. You can cut down chunks of potato salad with it. You can brace it against the bottom of a melting popsicle and slide it off the stick, then hand that de-sticked popsicle to an eager three-year-old to finish off. You can cut a fruit salad into a smaller fruit salad, sawing into a grape and then sending that grape flying into a policeman’s eye. The possibilities are endless. Okay maybe not endless, but at least they number somewhere around 11. The thing about a plastic knife is that it is unofficial permission to eat with your hands. So take it as such.

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Andy:

Last week I heard a Beatles song on the radio I’ve never heard before. I should preface this with it was on satellite radio but it was just a classic rock station not a deep cuts or a Beatles station. I’m 40, so you would think by now I would have heard all the Beatles songs that are played on the radio, right?

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WRONG. You’ve met classic rock radio, haven’t you? They have roughly eight songs in constant rotation, and three of them are by Boston. The Beatles have dozens of readily identifiable classic tracks, if not more: shit that you’d think would be on eternal rotation. But there’s no room for all of those songs on WRIF or wherever. You’re not gonna hear “A Day In The Life” in the daily mix there. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard that song played on terrestrial radio, which is fine with me because it’s not a Beatles song I like all that much.

So I think it’s fairly common for people to not have heard every big Beatles hit over the airwaves, especially now that radio is in its death throes. In fact, I went back to this Billboard list of their top 50 songs by chart position and I had never heard, at least to my knowledge, 14 of them. At all. I’m not even talking about not hearing them on the radio. The highest charting one to avoid my consciousness was “Got To Get You Into My Life,” which I’m listening to for the first time right now. Perfectly nice song. I wouldn’t bitch if that came on in the car. These four lads might have a FUTURE in this business.

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Robert:

If he was still alive today, would Chris Farley have at least one Oscar nomination under his belt?

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Oh yeah, I think so. He was talented enough to earn one, and there’s nothing Hollywood loves more than doling out prestige awards to left-field candidates. “Chris Farley? REALLY?” All it takes is the right role at the right time, with some hotshot director trying to burnish his cred by resuscitating the career of Sean Young or someone else not on the immediate award circuit radar. Then they can get the slavish showbiz press to write doe-eyed stories about X actor’s shocking climb to respectability. Farley would have been an ideal candidate for all that horseshit.

In fact, before Chris Farley died, he was trying to get studios to greenlight a biopic of Fatty Arbuckle, starring himself as the silent screen star whose movies were temporarily banned after he was tried with two other men (and acquitted) for raping and killing a fellow actress. That movie had a script written by David Mamet, back before Mamet went Full Shitbag. It would have been a movie about movies, and it would have had award-ish pedigree on its credits. It would have been nominated for 57 Oscars, even if it had sucked.

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I’m sad Farley never got to make it. Back in the day, it was still a capital-R risk for comedic actors to get all serious, as Robin Williams did with great success. Now any actor can do anything, and it would have been fucking great to see Farley thrive in that kind of environment. He’s venerated for a reason. There was so much more he could have done, and he would have done it.

David:

I have developed a new #1 pet peeve - anyone prefacing a statement with, “Now, let me be clear...” While it isn’t unique to news correspondents by any stretch, they are the biggest culprit. It’s like the ‘boy who cried wolf’ of prefaces. Am I alone in this?

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You’re not alone in noticing this tic. In fact, it’s just one of many tics floating around in The Discourse, because empty prefaces like that are a cheap way to inflate your authority before you issue a take. It’s a way of telegraphing to people that you are about to say something Important, and everyone wants to sound Important, both online and on your TV screen. “Now let me be clear: we MUST outlaw the measles vaccine if we want our children to grow up tough.”

To be frank, I use these prefaces all the time. Matter of fact, I just did. Truth be told, I’ve now done it three times! Honestly, it doesn’t matter if these are hollow pronouncements because they work on a superficial level. Prefaces are the teasers of bad takes. That’s why every wingnut on Twitter goes “Let me get this straight” and then proceeds to get NOTHING straight whatsoever. They just want an easy way to add extra oomph to whatever it is they’re saying.

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If those prefaces end up beaten into the ground as a result, so be it. I don’t think Tomi Okaysymbol is all that worried about the damage she’s doing to the English language when she farts out a “HERE’S THE DEAL…” When it comes down to it, if people think they can ratchet up counterfeit emotions by cherry-picking from these platitudes, they will. Look, it’s quite easy. I mean, quite frankly, that’s all you need. Let’s be honest: the breakdown of the average moron tweet goes like so:

1. Stock preface

2. Insanely racist opinion

3. Quick brag (“Where I come from out in country, we didn’t NEED food stamps.”)

4. Some fucking gif that’s been used 58 million times

Got all that? Good. Now go forth.

Rob:

It’s true that Twitter makes all its users the worst versions of themselves but isn’t it true that people who use emoji in their names on Twitter are even worse?

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If they’re even real people. Bonus points if you use an American flag in your handle. That’s how I know you’re a Hungarian bot farmer named Balasz Furnsk trying to swing a local alderman race in Ohio in favor of a dude who believes cancer is a false flag. And that’s the BEST case scenario when you stumble onto one of these patriots. Worst case is that you get an ACTUAL Ohioan whose avatar looks exactly like the American Chopper guy.

Kyle:

Should MLB install seatbelts or lap bars to the front row seats of any stadium that fans cannot possibly interfere with a ball in play?

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No. If you paid that much for a front-row seat, would YOU want to be physically restrained like you’re a NASCAR driver strapped into a HANS device? You would not. I only want a lap bar if I’m gonna go upside-down on a rollercoaster. MLB trusts that most fans won’t pull a Bartman and, to those fans’ credit, they rarely do. This is because everyone will laugh in your face and/or look at you like you just slit a puppy’s throat if you try. It’s not a perfect system but it does the job. Besides, I love good fan interference kerfuffle twice a season. That’s just the right amount.

If MLB really wanted to eliminate fan interference, they would put a fence in front of those seats or something. But again, people would bitch. I know I would. I rant here all the time about how rich dickheads think their earning power entitles them to every conceivable freedom wherever they spend it, but if I shelled out four figures to sit at a ballpark and there was a fucking chain link fence obstructing my view, I would pout like a baby.

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Jeffrey:

Why do lemons have so many seeds? Fuck lemons.

All I ask is that the seed count be consistent. I understand lemons need seeds to reproduce, or else we’d have to squirt grapefruit juice onto fried seafood. But I sigh a thousand sighs when I cut open a lemon and it’s ALL seeds. Just a million seeds in one stupid piece of fruit. I am not against genetically modified foods. If they want to splice Paul Anka’s DNA into a rib of celery, I’m all for it. So I demand science engineer a crop of mutant lemons that only have TWO seeds each, and that those seeds taste like bacon. I don’t see what else science has better to do.

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John:

What beer brand has the prettiest can? I’m a Hamm’s fan.

We’re talking just about mass-produced swill, right? I don’t have to get bogged down in the 78,000,000 micro-microbrews where they put more thought into the can than the actual beer within, right? I get suckered in by a fancy-looking can of Balrog’s Firewhip just like the next wannabe beer snob, but that’s not what you’re after. You’re asking for a can made by one of the big boys. Even Old Chub shouldn’t count, even though that can is as wondrous as the beer contained therein.

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So I’m gonna bypass obvious choices like the MGD can and the original Bud can (at one point in college I had the credo of that can memorized) and go with Tecate…

First the can sweats, then you do.

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Such a strong, MASCULINE can. Lets you know you’re about to get your ass kicked with cheap malt flavoring. If I was an alien and I came to Earth and dug up that can. I would think it was an idol to their chosen deity. AND IT IS.

Email of the week!

Colin:

I’ve got an explanation for the delay in Winds of Winter from George RR Martin. I think he has it written and it’s completed – he’s putting finishing touches on it now, final edits and a bunch of other writing stuff I know nothing about. Most of it has probably been done for a few years now. But the question is why did he do this? Why delay publishing his book? The answer is this: at some point he started to resent the success of the HBO show and everyone associated with it – especially Benioff and Weiss – he secretly resented the recognition that they were getting for bringing HIS world to life.

So how does he show the world what morons these two are? He stops supplying them with material, thinking to himself “write this stuff yourself!” And so he leaves Season 7 and 8 up to them, probably feeds them some good material and definitely some bad material and lets them make some terrible mistakes on all on their own. They probably wrote some of the garbage plot lines for season 7/8 and ran it by him and he enthusiastically nodded and told them something like “Big crossbows! That’s a great idea – run with it!” I’ll bet once season 8 is done and in the grave he delivers his finished book(s) and will let the public throw fits about the differences and skewer the crap writing of Benioff and Weiss.

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You’re giving the man way too much credit. He just doesn’t know how to finish the fucking thing, that’s all. He says so himself. I do like your ornate theory though. Its devious machinations remind me of something I saw on a certain HBO series. You guessed it: Big Little Lies.