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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 Bojangles, Bob Kraft, burnt hot dogs, and more.

Your letters:

Anthony:

My friends and I have been batting this question around, and I’m curious on your perspective as someone who’s not a huge college basketball guy. Zion Williamson is the most famous college basketball player since ____________.

Lonzo Ball, probably? Lonzo Ball was pretty goddamn famous two years ago, thanks to his insufferable old man getting his own permanent chair on The Jenny Jones Show and what not. Lonzo isn’t as good at basketball as Zion is, but fame has no such prerequisites. You can be famous without a jump shot. See now, I calculate Basketball Fame using a proprietary method in which I chart each player’s Hollywood Trade Value, then I factor in how much each player is like a character on Game of Thrones, then I multiply that by percent certainty that we think Green Book may be sneaky underrated, then I add 33 because that was Larry Bird’s number. FOOLPROOF.

In all seriousness, I have no clue how to accurately measure a college basketball player’s Q rating, especially when the tournament ratings suffer as it goes from broadcast TV to cable and when the tourney makes instant household names of guys like Steph Curry and when the age of draft entry shifts around by generation. This is old-man bias talking, but when I was growing up, college basketball players were insanely famous because they stayed in school longer and because everyone loved to hate Christian Laettner. Then Kevin Garnett jumped to the NBA right out of high school and a shitload of players followed suit, draining the college talent pool and the name recognition as a result. Then David Stern instituted his dopey one-year policy and dudes had exactly one year to get insanely famous on campus before finally hiring an agent. Now the NBA might get rid of the one-year rule, which means more players will skip college altogether once more. College players like Zion are gonna need their shoes to explode to get casual observers to notice them.

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So even though Zion is a phenomenon, I don’t know that he’s a household name any more than some pud like Lonzo was. The lesson here isn’t that college players need to stay in school longer. It’s that the COACHES are too famous. A dude like Coach K just sucks the fucking oxygen out of the fieldhouse, to the point where you need someone like Zion blocking three-pointers to divert attention away from the old man’s dye job.

The way Dickie V and others lionize these coaches, it renders the players as fungible cogs in the greater machine. This is precisely when the NCAA wants. They WANT Jim Boeheim to get a standing O when he comes back onto the court after running over a guy. If they loosened their rules and actually let players profit from merch and booster handouts, players would get more famous because they’d actually be able to promote themselves. And then the coaches would actually have their infallible status challenged.

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But the NCAA wants to smother all that, and they often succeed. They have enough of the Take Industrial Complex behind them to keep this bullshit ruse viable to the public, and to keep coaches and administrators on their little thrones indefinitely. They tell you the name on the front of the jersey matters more than the name on the back, all because they don’t want YOUR name to be worth anything. I hope Zion never comes back. Whatever modest fame college basketball can still offer him, it’s not worth it.

By the way, I was at a physical therapy appointment the other day and I overheard two people talking about the Zion knee injury and they were like, “People blamed the shoe, can you believe that?” And I chimed in and I was like, “Well the shoe exploded. For real! Nike deliberately designs their products to explode and kill unsuspecting buyers.” That’s a true story on all counts.

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Andrew:

I have wondered what punishments could possibly be effective for a man like Robert Kraft. No monetary fine would have any effect. Nor would suspension from attending games (Irsay). Short of making him sell the team, which frankly seems unlikely, what could be done? What about stripping his committee memberships - from the Finance committee, the Compensation Committee, and the Management Executive Council (Labor) committee?

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I don’t think anything like that will happen. My guess is that, since he’s an owner, Bob Kraft will get due process for his due process. Then Roger Goodell will get all frowny and stern and have an underling issue a formal slap on the wrist to Kraft for what is legally being charged as a misdemeanor. Kraft isn’t gonna, like, lose his team over this. He’s too big to fail, especially in the eyes of his rich asshole peers because they don’t want whatever fate that befalls him to potentially be a fate that befalls THEM if they get caught indulging a horny tooth in public. Kraft is already getting clowned on worldwide for being a dirty old man, and that will probably be the harshest “punishment” he endures for engaging in an activity that’s legal elsewhere and, depending upon whom you ask, ought to be legal everywhere.

I say that knowing there’s a very dark undercurrent to this story, and that Kraft deserves to get dinged for jocularly patronizing a criminal enterprise that thrives, in part, BECAUSE people treat it with such casualness. You don’t get to excuse Bob Kraft just by going DURRRRR RUB & TUGS AND FOR THE BOYS! Too much bad shit gets dismissed with those kind of bro-y excuses. In a perfect world, this whole affair shines a light on the skin trade and how it conscripts unwilling women into lives of squalor and bondage (the cops, in this case, seemed more concerned with the people running this business than with its workers and customers, and that’s the right way to go as far as I’m concerned).

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But you already know that this is not a perfect world. It is hell, and that means Roger Goodell, despite the fact that he will recuse himself from the case in the fakest and most cursory manner possible, will put on his Hero pants and be like, “We want to be LEADERS in the human trafficking space!” And then the NFL will put out a showy ad campaign about it that does nothing except enrich consultants. Meanwhile, Kraft will be welcomed back with open arms and the football culture will go right on being as stupid and it always is. How Gronk wasn’t also on that list of clients is beyond me. I’m surprised he didn’t LIVE at the Orchids of Asia parlor.

The only way Kraft suffers more than a fine and time away from the luxury box is if there’s video, and if that video shows Kraft being demeaning and/or violent. If THAT happens, then the whole thing becomes an endless legal saga that, again, does virtually nothing to assist the women who were victimized by being forced into this line of work. Idiots will still treat Kraft as some poor, horny widower whose privacy got invaded. Andy Benoit will be like, “Well if you watched the WHOLE tape like I did you’ll see that Kraft was actually really generous!” The NFL doesn’t punish you for the crime. They don’t give a shit about that. They punish you for making the league look foolish.

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By the way, one of the strangest phenomena is that whenever a big scandal breaks out online, people on Twitter immediately assume the role of volunteer lawyer and/or PR consultant. “If I’m doing PR for Kraft, here’s my gameplan everyone…” As if Robert Kraft doesn’t already have many of those people on retainer. Like one of his lawyers is gonna scroll through Twitter on the can and be like, “Oh wow, @VentedPeen here just thought of something I didn’t!” Why are you trying to advise this man? He sucks.

And have you ever done REAL legal or PR work? That sucks, too. No one should WANT to do PR work. I worked in advertising and that was close enough to PR to be harrowing on its own. If you’ve ever meet someone who enjoys working in PR, you will walk away haunted for life. Let Robert Kraft twist.

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Brad:

Made the decision over the winter to stop watching the NFL after a lifetime of Patriots fandom (I’m 47, so I’ve taken the good with the bad in about equal measure). Man, fuck those guys. Why am I putting money in their pockets? My question is, who cares? Those guys certainly don’t, and apart from my 10-year-old son (who cried when I told him, but mostly about not getting to watch TV with me for four hours every weekend) and my admittedly relieved wife, I sincerely doubt than anyone else noticed. So what’s the point? Am I just punishing myself for no good reason?

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No, not necessarily. If you end up HAPPIER without the NFL in your life, well then you’ve clearly made the right choice. You can actually, like, go outside on a fall Sunday now. Not the worst fate. If it really does feel like punishment to abstain from football, then that’s another matter. The problem is when people try to quit football on principle even though they really don’t want to do it. That’s when they end up crawling back right around the third quarter of Week 1. The past decade has been littered with showy assholes pretending to drop football from their lives. Don’t quit football because you think it’s the righteous thing to do; just do it because it’s what you really want.

And I do think the league cares if you stop watching. Not you and only you, of course. The owners don’t convene an emergency meeting and go HOW DO WE GET BRAD BACK? But if you’re part of a larger migration away from the sport, they notice. Holy shit, do they notice. Ratings went down a little in 2017 and everyone in the league reacted as if the Black Plague had returned to prominence. They would have openly sucked Trump’s dick on camera to get the ratings back up.

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Yes, your protest is but a pebble thrown in the ocean, but so are plenty of other small, individual acts. That shouldn’t dissuade you from taking a stand, because otherwise you’d never take a stand of any kind. If society doesn’t follow your lead and the NFL still barrels forward, you don’t have to look at that as a personal failure. It’s like voting. Your one vote may not statistically swing an entire election, but it still matters because it’s YOUR choice to make, and your voice being heard. No one expected you to be the Che Guevara of alternate Sunday activities. So do what you want, and then try to free yourself from the burden of worrying about how the world responds. Just because you’re relatively powerless to control the grand scheme of things doesn’t mean your actions are insignificant.

Also, fuck the Patriots.

Drew (not me):

What event has gone wrong in someone’s life that they ask the person grilling hot dogs to “give me the most burned one”? There’s always one guy at every party that points at the pitch black hunk of jerky and says, “that one, but leave it on 3 more minutes”.

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Sometimes I take the most burned one out of courtesy, because I don’t want them to throw away a hot dog, and because MMMMMM CARCINOGENS. That layer of ashen char really adds a textural element. I like to tear it away with my teeth, like it’s brontosaurus skin. Plus, hot dogs are made of hoof plasma, which means even the burned ones can stay relatively moist inside. I’ll gladly take an overdone hot dog to prove both my chivalry AND my manly ability to consume scorched meat.

As for dudes who REQUEST them burnt to a crisp, I think they’re also trying to show off their manliness. In addition, every cookout includes at least one dude who is terrified of properly cooked food and wants everything cooked into oblivion. A reasonably grilled hot dog is too girly for such men, and it could still have germs inside it. Chad won’t like that one bit. So just leave one on the grill for an extra hour, so that he can stare at the fire and become one with his ballsack.

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HALFTIME!

Earl:

There’s a war going on about Foie Gras and how it’s made. Even with knowing how all the other dairy and livestock products are made, I still find this to be particularly cruel. What say you, unabashed meat eaters, WHAT SAY YOU?

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I’ve stayed far away from foie gras arguments because it’s one of those issues where I know that I’m completely out of my depth. The latter is true of all subjects for me, but foie gras especially. According to the late Anthony Bourdain, there is a humane way of raising geese to make foie gras, but that still involves killing a goose and eating its liver. Either way, the goose still ends up on the short end of things. This doesn’t necessarily bother me, because geese are ASSHOLES. But if you think eating meat is cruel in general, you’ve got a sound argument against selling foie gras, along with any other animal byproduct.

I have eaten foie gras before, because I’m a fancy boy. It’s insultingly expensive, and I don’t necessarily know that the price or the flavor justify the unctuous practice of digging into a goose liver stuffed with cherry compote or whatever. It’s tasty, but it’s not some undiscovered solar system of flavor. You go, “Well this tastes like hot pâté.” I love meat/offal and eat it all the time, but even I realize that eating animals is probably not the most moral practice in the world. Maybe I’ll go right to hell for chowing down on that burned hot dog. If so, I hope the devil puts a good char on whatever kielbasa he’s got down there in his mess hall. MORE FOR ME!

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Anyway, this is where I tell you that both sides make salient points about foie gras and then I go bash my head into a wall. Again.

McKenzie:

Is there a worse way to phrase that you love something than saying you “have a passion for” it? I like analyzing things and finding answers - I actually do have a passion for problem-solving! But saying that sounds like I’m lying my ass off in a job interview. And it’s no better for anything else. “A passion for art” is something only Sydney Greenstreet can get away with, and saying you have “a passion for your wife” is swinger with a hint of serial killer. Is there any possible unironic usage?

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No, because brandbots and con men and other assorted jackasses have co-opted the term and rendered it meaningless. People say they’re passionate for everything now, usually boring crap at that. The dead giveaway is that people TALK about how passionate they are about the subject at hand instead of actively engaging in it. If you take Nick Saban to lunch, he’s not gonna drone on and on about how passionate he is about Bama football. He’s just gonna ditch you to go watch old film of LSU instead. You and that lunch are in his way. That’s passion in practice, folks.

This is all a shame, because passion is important. The single stupidest comment to make online about something—and there is no shortage of choices—is “meh.” Proudly displaying your LACK of passion about something is basically announcing to the world that you’re an uninteresting person. You’re wasting everyone’s time, including your own. Why don’t you go sit and do crossword puzzles silently until you die? Why bother living if you’re not gonna care about shit either way? Passion is vital, which is why it sucks that techy dingbats have taken the concept and mutilated it into a disposable bit of self-branding. The best way to show your passion for something—either loving or hating it—is to be too busy engaging with it to look up. Let others connect the dots. That’s why MY passion is telling people how much I hate their favorite NFL team.

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Craig:

Why are athletes (and seemingly football players in particular) so brashly open about their religious beliefs? In a time when it seems like large parts of society are becomingly increasingly post-religious, many athletes publicly put forth their Christian beliefs through their Twitter bios, social media posts, and public interviews.

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I used to chafe anytime a dude would win a title and immediately start yammering on about God, Tebow-style. But I’m not such a Gervaisian prick about that anymore. If you have a PASSION for the Christ, so be it. And if athletes wanna talk Jesus at all hours, that’s what they’re gonna do. If I could dunk a basketball, I’d believe in God, too. Those athletes have plenty to be thankful for, AND they’ve been told to use their platform over and over again to spread the good word. So they have.

If you want to know why so many athletes openly flaunt their religion, consider that most Americans do so as well. I see it on every fucking bumper sticker out on the road. I don’t agree with Craig that society has become post-religious. If that were the case, the government wouldn’t currently be overrun with Puritan loons hellbent on imprisoning your genitals. Also, athletes are usually forced to answer questions on TV about their best and worst moments, both on the field and off. Those are momentous personal times, where religion often comes into play. So it stands to reason that Kurt Warner would go directly to that after winning a Super Bowl, etc. It’s not the same as interviewing another famous person on some random day. You’re talking to athletes during some of the biggest moments of their lifetimes. Those moments trigger reflection, hence the Jesus-y stuff.

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This is pure cynicism, but I also think a lot of athletes also use religion as a form of cover. Ray Lewis talks about the Lord so that you’ll stop asking him about murder. Dwight Howard branded himself as an altar boy, and still does, before everyone grew wise to the fact that he’s a big horny fraud. Athletes have to face the crowd every time they play, so why not butter them up in advance by portraying yourself as one with the angels? And what better way to get reporters to roll their eyes and walk over to a different player, praying for better copy, than to ramble on about how you victory was God’s will? Religion is an easy way to distract people from the fact that you’re either a bad person or an uninteresting one. So get used to it being out there in sports. That shit ain’t going away. My smug agnosticism isn’t gonna prevent it.

Matthew:

How do you eat pistachios? Straight out of the bag (they always spill all over the place) or in a plate (and deal with constantly confusing an empty shell for an intact pistachio)?

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If I’m going all out, I get two bowls: one for uneaten pistachios, and one for the shells. Do I still end up getting fifty pounds of nut skin all over the counter? Matthew, I do. But it still makes the process easier in the long run. I could simplify everything by buying shelled pistachios, but as I’ve said before, that’s a dangerous game. I bought a bag of them once and consumed roughly 50,000 calories in two minutes. You need the tedious work of cracking the shell to burn calories and to prevent you from quickly gorging on straight nut meat.

Will:

I’ve lived in Charlotte, NC for most of my life, but not by choice, and I’m by no means a Carolina boy. A lot of the things that the locals do here still confuse me after nine years, one of them being their obsession with Bojangles. Certain regions love fast food that only they have access to even if it’s not ground-breaking, (In N Out, Whataburger, Five Guys, Taco Time, etc.) but people here in the Tar Heel state go fucking NUTS over a Bo-Box. I know a family that eats the shit every single day. Every day, Drew. Bojangles has good seasoning on their fries I guess, but the chicken is mediocre at very best and anything they sell that isn’t chicken is dogshit. Why do Carolinians like Bo so damn much??????? How do you feel about it??? Is there any alternate universe where it’s even half as good as Popeye’s??

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There’s actually a Bojangles’ in the basement of Union Station in D.C.. I ate there once and I think I enjoyed it. I don’t remember having my nuts blown off by the food or anything, certainly not more so than at Popeyes (I love Popeyes and it has the benefit of being closer to my house). But it was still fried chicken, and it was still pretty fucking good. Maybe the non-chicken offerings at Bojangles’ are dreck, but that’s on you for going to there and ordering a club sandwich with foie gras on the side. I asked our resident Carolina person Nick Martin why his people go apeshit for Bojangles’, and here is what he had to say:

Mainly bc they have good biscuits and insta-cavity sweet tea. the chicken is fine but really not as good as chickfila. my take has always been that it’s like Popeye’s for white people, basically.

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Got all that? My personal opinion is that, Bojangles’ aside, the South has the best fast food in the country, with Cook Out being the primary reason. What’s more, people from the South won’t shut the fuck up about it. The disdain that professional Southerners have for other regional food is clear and obnoxious. “Oh, y’all don’t have Bojangles’ up in Yankee country? That’s kyewte.” It’s like they think they fucking invented food. Meanwhile, these are people who butter their cereal.

So I think the reason that Carolina locals go nuts for Bojangles’ where you live is because they like it, but also because they get to be annoyingly provincial and stupid about it. They like the sense of ownership that comes with living in a tin-pot dictatorship of a state and fanboying a multi-billion dollar restaurant chain owned by a faceless private equity collective. SO MUCH PRIDE. Fucking New England people are proud of liking Dunkin Donuts, even though you can find Dunkin franchises in Ecuador. People are rubes.

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For real though, if you’re not gonna eat your Bojangles’, pass it on over to me. I’ll take it.

Email of the week!

Chris:

My grandpa - whose name was Frank but almost exclusively went by the nickname Frenchie (for reasons no one could ever actually nailed down; even polling every relative at his funeral we came up stumped) - was, as my husband once put it, an awesome and hilarious old coot - like just the best kind of old coot, where he didn’t suffer fools gladly, and loved whiskey. He once chided said husband for making his 7&7 too weak, then turned immediately back to the TV to yell at John Kitna for being a “dumbshit.” (We’re lifelong Lions victims.) He was 83 at the time.

One of my favorite memories was when, in seventh grade, my wheelchair got a flat tire and Grandpa dropped everything to come fix it. Strolling in to my classroom with tools in hand (and no knock at the door), he got down on the floor and got to work. Anytime he needed an extra hand or a tool out of reach, without even looking up he barked out a “Son...” and an order to whatever dumbass preteen boy was nearby, and as if hypnotized, EVERY SINGLE ONE OBEYED WITHOUT HESITATION. He had a small troop quietly standing at the ready by the time he was finished.

He also brought me a giant bundle of balloons to high school on my Sweet 16, and for two weeks afterward (and sporadically throughout the rest of high school) I was stopped by each and every old lady hall monitor mooning over him and asking if he was single.

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Well, was he?