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

Your letters:

Kurt:

Penalty kicks during a match are too easy. It’s mostly chance, maybe some misdirection with your eyes or plant foot. But basically I don’t think I have significantly lower odds of completing a PK than actual players. Couple that with the disproportionate impact of making a PK (1 goal is HUGE), and PK’s are terrible. Is there a worse penalty shot in sports?

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I know a penalty kick LOOKS easy, but this World Cup has more or less proven that it’s not, right? Peru blew one. Denmark blew one. Dwarven soccer god Leo Messi blew one himself. The fact that you SHOULD make a penalty kick is what makes the pressure of it so unbearable. Why, it’s almost like trying to make a 27-yard field goal in an NFL playoff game! WHO COULD POSSIBLY MISS SUCH AN EASY KICK, I ASK YOU?

I watched that awesome Croatia/Denmark shootout and every time the goalies managed to stone a kick I yelped like a tiny dog. OMG HE STOPPED IT! HOW THE FUCK IS THAT POSSIBLE?! I was floored. In theory, you could move the spot of the kick back a few yards and give the goalie a better chance. But they’re never gonna do that because tipping the odds slightly back to the keeper would siphon off drama from the moments when he DOES manage to bat that shit away.

So I support penalty kicks as they are, even though I know they are inherently unfair to the goalkeeper. During the normal flow of play, the soccer goal is the correct size because it accounts for all the other bodies in motion nearby and the movement of the ball itself. The goalie has a better chance to anticipate things, and the offense has a much greater burden to catch him out of position. But when you freeze the game and make it a clean one-on-one shot, suddenly the goal is HUGE. That makes a penalty kick is a strange anomaly—a game that exists outside the actual game itself—which is why I think a lot of soccer purists don’t like shootouts.

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Not me, though. I’m a big stupid American who, every four years, like to barge in on soccer and offer prescriptive to a sport that does not need them (Honestly, it’s the NFL’s fault because the NFL rules are shit and change every year, so I expect other sports to tinker similarly). WHY NOT MAKE THE WHOLE GAME OUT OF PENALTY KICKS, FIFA?! I say we move the ball CLOSER. Really make that Danish hair guy work for it.

Shawn:

I’ve been taking pills that dissolve under the tongue and they rule. Why don’t all pills dissolve under the tongue? Considering taking cyanide just to get some more under tongue dissolving action.

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Because I don’t want the flavor of any pill polluting my mouth for any extended period of time. The pills you’re taking may be flavorless, but that’s not always possible with other medicines. Take aspirin, for example. Ever taste aspirin? It’s horrific. If you taste it for longer than a second, your body will set off sirens and tell your brain I AM BEING POISONED. When I take pills, I want them past my esophagus straight away. Sometimes I pop a pill too early and reach for my water glass only to realize it’s empty, and that sets off a frantic half-second journey to get water before the flavor of the pill sets in.

Even when the medicine is flavored to make it palatable, it’s still unnerving to taste. My brain sees right through the ruse, and the flavoring they use can be sickening on its own. Take Tums, for instance. Tums taste “good” for medicine, so long as you enjoy chomping down on four giant chalk pills and having the resulting slurry wash around your mouth for minutes afterward. GAHHHHHHHHHHHH. This is why I take Zantac instead.

By the way, ever have a doctor warn you about your pills? Like when the doc says, “It’s kind of a big pill,” and then you get the prescription and the shit looks like something you’d hide inside a pound of raw meat to tranquilize a rabid dog? That’s always fun.

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Steve:

Recently I helped my 5-year old put together a Lego 18-wheeler. He’s right on the border of being able to do it himself, and still needing guidance with the instructions and help snapping some pieces together. However, when it comes to the stickers, he must do them ALL HIMSELF and he doesn’t have the dexterity to really align them perfectly on Lego, and certainly not symmetrically on both sides. This drives my otherwise pretty minimal OCD off the charts. I suddenly realized nothing in this world irks me like improperly placed stickers on an otherwise well-built Lego. Is there anything that irrationally sends your need for structure/order into orbit?

I think Legos are essentially engineered to cultivate fussiness among dads like you and me. I am normally a sloppy, unmotivated person. But once I start in on some Lego kit, I turn into Alan Turing. The end reveal of The Lego Movie us all too accurate in my case. My wife will tell me to let the kids help and I will ignore her and chase my kids away from their own project because they’re too careless for my liking. If that Batman car isn’t built exactly to the guidebook’s specifications, I am livid. Every piece must be in its exact place. I think it’s because I’m not very handy, so building Lego crap is as close as I get to actual carpentry. Nick Offerman would be disgusted.

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As for the stickers, they’re fucking impossible. You’ve got .000034 sq. cm of surface area to place that flame decal on its proper panel, and only one shot at it. I’m not a damn surgeon. I always botch it. It’s the worst. I need some kind of professional sticker placement expert to finish the job properly. Why don’t the pieces just come with the stickers already on? MUST I DO EVERYTHING?!

Dylan:

Can we assume that when the waiter asks you what type of bread you want with your breakfast, said bread will be toasted? Who is to blame for the sad, untoasted white bread? Waiter or me?

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You. You gotta ask for toast. That’s why it’s called “toast.” Once the bread is toasted, it becomes an entirely different physical entity. If the waiter asks you what kind of “bread” you want, that should alert to you the fact that they plan on serving you regular-ass bread, and not toast. You gotta correct that right away or else they’ll fuck you good. You could even keep a photo of the toast on you, as Jim Nantz does. Totally normal, not-at-all psychotic behavior.

By the way, I played myself similarly just a week ago. I was at some food truck that serves reubens and shit, and half the sandwiches listed were on “griddled rye bread” and half of them weren’t. I figured they were being lazy and that ALL the bread was griddled, because who would want it un-griddled? But I was wrong. I got my sandwich and that bread was dry as a fucking bone. Meanwhile, everyone else was walking away from the truck with crisp, golden, luscious griddled sandwiches. I should have taken that menu to heart. Also, I was too much of a coward to ask them to griddle my bread after the fact, so I ate my plain sandwich and seethed like a true idiot. Never count on a restaurant, or anyone for that matter, to know precisely what you want if you’re not willing to make it clear for them.

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Alex:

LeBron has always had shitty teammates around him. Even in his stint in Miami, when they struggled in the Eastern Conference playoffs and then lost in the Championship, there were takes on your very own website about how Dwyane Wade was washed up and Chris Bosh was never actually that good in Toronto. Could LeBron’s presence actually make former All-Stars and respectable role players worse?

I don’t think that’s fair to LeBron, because other players have definitely flourished in his presence. Bosh did, obviously. Kyrie Irving did. Even lesser talents like Tristan Thompson were the beneficiaries of playing with him. I think a lot of NBA players get dinged for supposedly forcing teammates to be deferential, therefore making them worse. That was probably true of Kobe Bryant, but it’s not true of LeBron, especially given that LeBron was criticized early in his career for not being assertive enough.

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HOWEVER … I do think it’s fair to say that, even after 33 years, LeBron has yet to find the ideal teammate. He definitely makes other players better, but I don’t know that he’s found someone out there who is GOOD enough to complement him perfectly. Does that make sense? Like, Scottie Pippen was the absolute perfect teammate to Michael Jordan. Same with Rice and Montana. Those were historical partnerships; athletes with differing (but brilliant) skill sets who innately understood the other man’s ability and in-game mindset. They didn’t even need words to communicate what they wanted each other to do. Meanwhile LeBron’s gotta tell J.R. Smith the fucking score.

I don’t know if LeBron has found that one teammate brilliant enough to understand his mind and his style of play and fit precisely into it. Most of the time, he’s out there whizzing impossible cross-court passes over to some dumbfuck who either drops the pass or bricks the shot or lets the clock run out. LeBron himself is a brilliant supporting player, it would be truly awesome to see him paired with someone who GOT him, who could feed off his talents perfectly and offer him the kind of support he’s given so many other puds and losers over the years. And frankly, maybe no one’s good enough to offer him that. If they were, the Warriors would just sign them anyway. It’s gotta be enormously frustrating, playing with all these mere mortals. I’d be fucking livid.

John:

What are the 2020 presidential debates going to be like? How do you have a debate with someone who constantly lying?

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I really can’t even think that far ahead, man. The idea of reliving 2016 all over again is just … I’m audibly groaning right now thinking about it. I can barely make it day to day as it is. The specter of some clueless Democrat trying to match wits with Trump over the course of three agonizing debates, meticulously preparing all their talking points on the ISSUES, all while Trump lies his ass off and some idiot Beltway fartsniffer in charge of the proceedings pretends to maintain some semblance of decorum when Trump has no interest in it… God, just FUCK. Fuck me sideways.

Can’t we bypass all that? Can’t we have the candidates fight to the death instead? I think we’re well past the point where debates accomplish anything. Just put Kamala Harris in the octagon with Trump and toss a sack of wrenches into the middle. Let’s get real about it. My money would be on the newcomer.

Christopher:

I am a 32 years old. I have been an avid pro and college basketball fan for the past 20 years and I JUST noticed that most basketball players shave their armpit hair. How long has this been going on? Am I just dull for missing it?

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Okay, I looked into this and while there are a handful of NBA players who leave their armpits ungroomed, there are ENOUGH players who apparently shave there to blow my mind. Take a look at Dirk.

HOLY SHIT! Look at how smooth those pits are! You could eat a salad off that! And take a look at Boogie Cousins. He’s ten minutes away from a HIDEOUS razor burn. Marcin Gortat shaves his, and with electric clippers! If I shaved my pits with electric clippers, there would be blood in my pockets by noon. Clearly, there is now a market inefficiency for players with hairy pits who can back you off of the block using only the power of their terrifying manmusk. Draymond knows what I’m talking about. If I were coaching some awful team and playing the Warriors, I’d order my men to abstain from all personal grooming and showering for the week beforehand. Now that’s winning the mental game!

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One thing I also noticed in looking though a lot of free throw videos is that the networks cut to the wide angle before the player’s arms are all the way extended. This is so you can see the arc of the ball, but also perhaps so you can avoid seeing arm pubes? INVESTIGATE?!

HALFTIME!

Kevin:

I live on a corner lot in the suburbs, so my property has curb space on two sides. About a year ago, some jamoke decided he would park his Prius outside my house on a regular basis. This has made me very mad. He does not live adjacent to me in any direction nor across the street. There’s lots of parking in my neighborhood—even the houses with no driveways have an alley in the back with enough space for two cars. No one else has had the temerity to do this to me, despite the ample space. I know the street on the other side of the curb isn’t actually my property, but I feel like I’m babysitting this thing. There’s a good chance I will “accidentally” whip the paint job with the weed whacker one day. Am I a psychopath?

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No, it just means you’re a true suburbanite now. The Suburbs: where everything makes everyone mad! It’s the only way to live.

I myself have suburb brain. Like, if someone parked in front of my house day after day and didn’t live anywhere nearby, I’d be angry. Keep in mind that it’s a free country and that if it’s legal to park somewhere, anyone can rightly park there. I can go through all of that reasoning in my brain and STILL want the person who parked in front of my house killed. “He’s … he’s in my spot! How could he DO that?! WHAT IF THIS GUY IS A DRUG DEALER?! I have half a mind to write a note! Someone call the city council! Let’s make this street permit only!”

I think Suburb Brain happens to people because the suburbs are presented as an ideal way of living: friendly, peaceful, PERFECT. So when anything disrupts that ideal, people go fucking crazy. They want their homes to be flawless, which means everything in surrounding vicinity must also be flawless, even if you claim no ownership of it. It’s a form of pettiness that can manifest itself in EXTREMELY damaging social policy. It’s how you end up with redlining and overly zealous local police forces and (in a bit more welcome example) someone beating the shit out of Rand Paul with a garden rake.

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By the way, I have absolutely no advice on how to handle this situation. As a fully trained Minnesotan, I would probably just look at the guy with disapproval every time he parked in front of my house, and PRAY that makes him uncomfortable enough to leave. Failing that, I would develop a hideous drinking problem.

Paul:

What’s the coolest name to drop in casual conversation as an available contact? (“Hold on let me call my friend ___, he can hook you up”). For my money it’s Sergei/Sergey. I immediately picture a bald man with a tailored Italian suit who can either get you into the VIP orgy or have you murdered in the next hour. Maybe both.

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Any Russian name is good because it suggests you know someone mildly exotic who can help you smuggle a commando knife* into a local prison. I do not know a Sergei, or a Nikolai, or a Vlad, or a Boris, and that’s a pity. My contact list is a veritable buffet of Mikes and Matts and Toms and other dad names. I clearly need to diversify so that I can drop a biker name (“Lemme run that idea by Spider and his crew”), a Native American name (“My man Cloud Beast can get you a box of grenades by Tuesday”), a mafia goon name (“Tony Meats! Tony Meats is JUST the guy for that liquor store job!”), and a butler name (“Let me check with my assistant, Mister Bloominghouse”). Having interesting friends makes YOU interesting!

*Did you know that Russian special forces have ballistic knives that shoot OUT at people at the push of a button?! Did you know they’re illegal to sell to civilians here in America? I cannot believe knife guns are illegal here. Why do we even have an NRA if my child can’t go to the corner store and purchase a knife gun that can slash a man’s throat from 30 yards away? You call this a free country, folks?

Ross:

I just had an incredibly delicious nectarine with my lunch. I’d venture to say it was better and tastier than any peach I have ever had. So, why do peach pies and peach cobblers exist while no nectarine pies or nectarine cobblers? I think BIG PEACH somewhere in Georgia is holding the nectarine down from climbing the ladder of summer fruits, and I am not going to stand for it anymore.

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Well, a nectarine technically IS a peach. So it’s possible that a peach cobbler you buy at the local elementary school fundraiser is made from nectarines and NOT traditional peaches. I bet there are at least three people, all suburbanites, who would become angry at such a revelation.

Anyway, I’m right there with you. I like nectarines more than regular peaches. It’s a peach minus the Astroturf. WHO SAYS NO?! Yet the greater popular culture ignores the humble nectarine like an unwanted stepchild. It’s time we give more respect to the Dirk’s armpit of fruit.

By the way, here’s a racist take: I like white peaches and nectarines more than yellow ones. White peaches are fucking amazing, and I’ve also found that they have a much higher success rate than yellow ones. Your odds of getting a mealy yellow peach are at least 50/50. White peaches tend to be more reliable. And honestly, who doesn’t enjoy the taste of commercial perfume? DELICIOUS.

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Marco:

Who is the greatest Hall Of Famer (or HOF caliber athlete) to have the most depressing career? Is it Joe Thomas?

No because Joe Thomas made a fortune, never got hurt, and had everyone feel bad for him at the end. Frankly, I always thought he was kinda overrated specifically because he was the only good player on a shitass team. It’s kinda like being the hottest Redditor.

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Anyway, it will not shock you to learn that my take is misguided, given that Thomas gave up a mere 30 sacks in 11 years. So yeah, he’s probably a worthy Hall of Famer, especially given that the Hall needs more O-linemen and fewer skill position players. But the most depressing HOF career? Nah. Nah, that’s Lou Gehrig. I mean, imagine being the greatest player in the universe and then having to retire early because you contracted a disease so hideous that they’ll one day name after YOU. VERY SAD!

Jon:

Marchman once said on a Deadcast that his favorite food to eat while high is a spinach salad. To this day that take annoys the shit out of me.

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He was back in the group chat yesterday bitching about air conditioning again. Meanwhile, it’s hot enough to melt bones outside. He’s insane. We should send him to the funny farm.

Braden:

Depending on the amount of sporting events you’ve attended in your life or ever will attend in your life, what do you think the odds are that you’ll see a historic moment when you’re at said game? I’m talking at any level, too, not just pros or college. I’ve been to hundreds of sporting events in my life time and I can only think of two that could have been considered somewhat historic for the witnesses there: Colorado’s 1994 Hail Mary to beat Michigan in the Big House and an Ohio high school basketball tournament halfcourt buzzer beater. That’s it.

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Like Braden, the Colorado Hail Mary is also the only historic sporting event that I’ve attended in person. I also attended one of the games of the 1987 World Series, but I was 11 years old and the fact that I can’t remember which game it was (not Gamer Seven) tells you I don’t deserve to brag about it. Obviously, your odds of seeing history made improve significantly if you attend a postseason game. This is the reason that Super Bowl tickets cost so much, because it’s guaranteed history and you get to brag about being there even though watching the game on television is 58 times more enjoyable.

But for a regular season game in any sport, you’re basically buying a lottery ticket hoping to see one of the following:

  • No hitter/perfect game
  • Four-HR game
  • Buzzer-beater
  • Historic brawl, a la Malice at the Palace
  • Historic comeback
  • Hail Mary win
  • Record-breaking single-game performance of some sort
  • Horrifying injury featuring exposed bone
  • Player dies somehow
  • Coach does something to get fired the next day

The odds are firmly against you, especially if you happen to be as lazy and as cheap as I am and you only get out a couple of live sporting events a year, at the maximum. If you’re a more active sports fella and you have season tickets to something, those odds skyrocket, almost up to .05%! But really, if you’re going to ANY game hoping for that, you’re gonna disappoint yourself. Just go there to drink some beers and curse with friends. That way, you won’t be disappointed that you paid $75 to watch your favorite team get its ass shut out.

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Email of the week!

Daniil:

My grandmother was born in 1927 in a small village in the northern part of the Soviet Union. They had very minimal food. Most meals consisted of just some sort of bone broth. On holidays and very special occasions, they would get bread. So the 350 days out of the year that there was no bread to go with the broth, they would pretend there was. She and her 10 siblings were all taught from a young age that if they made a fist with their left hand and pretended they were holding bread in it while eating their broth, it would feel as if they were actually having bread. They would bring their closed fist to their mouth and pretended to take a bite of the imaginary bread.

I’m not sure about the psychological success of doing this, but it stuck with her for the rest of her life. She’s 91 years old now and she still does this at every meal if she’s not holding an actual piece of bread. Whenever my grandparents had guests over or went over other people’s houses, my grandfather would get angry at her for doing it because he thought it made her look crazy. I always thought it was really interesting and when I was very little I would “play along” and do the same thing. By the time I was born it was so engrained in her that she wasn’t able to not do it even if she focused on it. In 1994, when the rest of my family went to the US, she had no intentions of leaving her home in Ukraine. I Skyped with her earlier today. She’s doing as well as you can expect for a 91 year old that doesn’t have access to doctors or medicine.

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You thought this story was gonna end with the grandma pooping, didn’t you? I GOTCHA. Happy 4th!