Illustration: Chelsea Beck (G/O Media)
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 parsing online reviews, new candy bars, battered fries, oddly named Pennsylvania burgs, and more.

Your letters!

Evan:

How does one eat a crouton? The only way I can get it on a fork is if it’s been sitting in the salad for like 20 minutes and is now semi-soft. They’re typically salty and buttery and delicious, I want them from the get go, but can’t do this unless I have an assist from my finger. Help.

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This is constant problem with salad, which is annoying in that it’s good for you AND, in an added insult, hard to eat. So yeah, you wanna get at that crouton because it’s the non-salad part of the salad and therefore the best part of it. So you can scoop it with your fork. Or you can stab it with your fork until it breaks, which sucks. Or you can do what I do and half-stab it with your fork, anchoring a tine into the crouton but not fully impaling it, then bringing the whole set to your mouth that way.

But those are all pathetic half-measures. What you really need is a spoon. A spoon is useful for scooping up loose food, and a salad is nothing BUT loose food impeded by high maintenance greens. It’s an annoying mix of fork food—lettuce—mixed with good bits that are essentially spoon food (bacon bits, croutons, hunks of cheese, tiny glazed nut clusters, beluga caviar, etc). As I’ve noted here before, that makes a salad ungainly to consume, especially if you’re like me and just want to shovel everything into your mouth at once. I don’t wanna eat gingerly. That fucking blows. I wanna eat like a pig. I want a trough of Caesar. So I say you just grab those croutons with your hands or, even better, eat the whole fucking thing with a spoon. I did this once. No one saw me. I felt free.

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We can ALL be free, too. Time to throw off the constraints of society and mandate that every salad sold on the open market should be spoon-friendly. That means Sweetgreen should chop their infant romaine into oblivion so that I can scoop it up. You know what? Just blend the lettuce into a fibrous slurry and let it dress the GOOD parts of my salad.

Dan:

Why haven’t there been any new candy bars created? I’m not talking about the new iterations of Snickers, talking about truly a new candy bar. All of your favorite candy bars (in the USA) have been around since like 1930 and everyone has just accepted our fate.

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It’s because BIG CANDY in America is basically run by two companies: M&M/Mars and Hershey’s. You can toss Nestlé into that mix if you’re feeling generous, but the point remains that we live under a candygarchy, and these few companies are like movie studios in that they’d rather reboot old shit than spend $X million in R&D crafting an entirely new candy bar named Nougfest. It’s much easier, and more lucrative, for them to roll out a new candy under an already-existing brand moniker, so that they have a head start on marketing and distribution (the latter being all that really matters; if you can get it IN a store, you can sell it, unless the candy in question is Good ’N Plenty). Also, customers are lazy. Hard to believe, but it’s true. Why risk it all on some completely new bar when you can retreat to the safety of Nestlé Crunch With Rosemary?

Candy barons pull this stunt with new products all the time. They are forever ideating new SKUs in between giving the world dibeetus. I just ate Hazelnut M&M’s the other day. I was like OOOOOH NUTELLA M&M’S! And guess what? I’d rather just have either regular M&M’s or regular Nutella. But it’s still easier for our chocolate overlords to roll those out under the M&M banner than re-christen them entirely as Nutballs, From Kobe Bryant!™. This is how you end up with Hershey’s Cookie Layer Crunch, Reese’s Fast Break, Hershey’s Gold, Hershey’s Drops (not Kisses but Drops… totally different!), Snickers Almond Butter, Kit Kat Purple, Sour Patch M&M’s, Jagermeister Twizzlers, and such and such. You will never get a truly new candy bar again, unless it’s some curious regional confectionery that ends up going national: a Reno Anise Log or what have you. Otherwise, you’ll never get a new anything. The fucking hyperloop turned out be a sewer tunnel, for Christ’s sake. The future is dead.

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If your sweet tooth is really aching for breakthroughs in the brand space—and aren’t all of ours?—I direct you to the gum aisle. There’s a new gum brand every nine seconds. It’s usually called Rush and has a $700 million ad campaign behind it, with spots directed by Guillermo del Toro. Also, it’ll be sugar free. All new gum is sugar free. I hate it.

David:

Ever since I heard Pat Shurmur use the word “finito” at a press conference I’ve been using it all the time when talking to my kids to end a discussion. “You’re eating the stems of your broccoli! Finito!” It’s great.

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The fact that Pat Shurmur actually displayed a modicum of personality in a public setting is too much for me to process. That’s not the Pat Shurmur I know. The Pat Shurmur I know never says cool words, or any words really. If he uses a cool word, he kills its appeal. It’s like any dad like me who uses capiche earnestly...

Painful shit. Will that ever stop me from saying “capiche” or “basta” or “ANDIAMO”? It will not. Again, I am a dad. It is my instinct to find trends and phrases that went out of fashion years ago and render them even MORE uncool. This is because I am bored and desperate to grab hold of any flimsy technique that makes me appear to be tougher or manlier than I actually am. And so finito will go right into my daily usage. I may even end this post with ironic Fin, just to bury it for good. VAMONOS, AMIGOS!

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Jose:

I’m reading Funbag, the question about the food you’d have with fries as the side... and then it clicked! I’m dipping the fries in onion ring batter before I fry them! Part of the beauty of the fries is betting that crust on the outside and the soft tenderness on the inside, and this should take care of that! Am I getting closer to deep-fry nirvana or am I already getting my wings burned by the hot, bright scolding light of my fryer??

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First of all, you’re stoned. Possibly stoned and drunk. That’s all good by me. Also, battered fries are a real thing, and you can find recipes for them doing a simple Google search. I doubt there’s a huge difference between onion ring batter and fry batter, but if you feel otherwise, I’m sure someone has also made that leap on your behalf.

I’ve almost certainly had battered fries before, and so have you. I’ve gotten fries at a restaurant that are, like, super extra crispy and I’ll be like, “Are these doctored with batter?” And they were. This is America. If we can batter a foodstuff and then fry it, we have. This habit can go painfully awry, like with fried butter and what not, but it’s not a habit we’re kicking anytime soon.

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I don’t think you want a fry (nor an onion ring, for that matter) that’s heavily battered. You don’t want potato tempura. The batter should form a thin shell of extra fat around the fry and go no deeper. Ever peel the batter off a jumbo onion ring—or taken a bite and had the whole bare onion part come slithering out with it—and beheld the honorary salt donut remaining? It’s nasty. It’s all white and moist on the inside. Looks like an infected toe. I want my fried foods lightly battered, so that I can say These are so light! and pretend that means I won’t die of a myocardial infarction an hour later.

Ben:

If you were on death row and were asked to pick your last meal, would you consider how difficult it might be to fuck up whatever you were ordering? Like, if you asked for a medium-rare steak and it’s served to you well-done... I’m guessing you can’t just send that shit back.

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If I’m facing the Reaper, I don’t think I’d be too picky about my last meal. I know that reads as counterintuitive, but I’d be too worried about, you know, DYING to get hung up on whether or not my last Popeye’s order will be spicy or mild. I might even be too upset to eat, though that’s never been a problem in my personal history. I would give my order to the warden, then I would open it up, find mayo on the fucking thing, and then mutter OF COURSE before throwing it in the trash. My last meal experience would basically be like every normal day for me opening up Twitter.

And again, I wouldn’t be THAT picky. No one wants to be the guy about to get a lethal injection who’s like, “I’m sorry, but this lobster bisque is simply too heavy.” Life would have already dealt me a rotten hand on death row. A botched Arby’s order would be fitting, but would still count as a brief respite.

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Ephraim:

Why not refuse to carry a punter on your roster? You put your O on notice that you finish or die, and you keep a roster spot open for whatever spot you are weak in. Who says no?

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The head coach does. I hate punting as much as you do and I wish football teams would just say FUCK IT and force the issue on fourth down more often, but I more or less align with John Urschel’s thinking on going for two when it comes to going for it on fourth down every single time. That is to say, you should punt way less, but that doesn’t mean you should not punt at all. The metrics don’t make it absolute. In fact, this article notes numbers that say, “teams should never punt when facing fourth down with less than four yards to go for the first,” nor “from inside their opponent’s forty-yard line.” I’m fine with those being hard and fast mandates, but obviously there are many fourth-down circumstances that do NOT fall within those parameters. Going for it on fourth and 20 from your own 10 is probably not gonna end well. You should only punt when it’s absolutely necessary. But sometimes it will be, especially if you’re the Jets.

I guess you could forgo a punter and train a position player—clearly the holder and backup QB—to be a situational punter when duty calls. Everyone loves a designated Tom Tupa. But you already know what would happen if a team tried that. The head coach would just trot that poor bastard out there eight times a game anyway. If you give a head coach ANY chance to revert back to shitty habits, he’ll take it.

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We’ve known forever that over-punting is bad, and yet teams still do it with impunity. Fifteen years ago, the Colts were the least punty team in the NFL, averaging 3.4 punts a game. Last year, only three teams, all of them offensive powerhouses (Rams, Saints, Chiefs), managed to sneak below that average. And the puntingest team in 2017 (Giants) punted as often as the puntingest team in 2003 (Texans). Nothing fucking changes, man. You could hand NFL head coaches a tape that proved a certain play resulted in a touchdown every time you ran it, from anywhere on the field and with any personnel. They’d still call that play only twice a year. Except Belichick. He’d run it every play and have Brady throw it to Wayne Chrebet Jr. each time. God dammit it’s too early in the year for me to get mad about football all over again.

HALFTIME!

Tyler:

As any person does these days I like to look up reviews before I buy or try something new (recipes, restaurants, Amazon products, etc) What I struggle with is which review is better: 4 outta 5 stars but has 200+ reviews or a 5 outta 5 stars but only eight reviews? Obviously I do more digging if I can but sometimes it just comes down to that star rating for me. I tend to lean to the one with more reviews but there is always a haunting uncertainty. Which do you go with?

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You should probably ignore aggregated customer reviews whenever you look up a product or a movie or a restaurant or a beaver trap online. You can’t trust what Billyjoejimbob says about that Acer laptop you’ve got your eye on. You’re better off consulting professional reviews (like the ones I do, for sure!) or taking recs from people you know and trust.

HOWEVER, I am full of shit. I peruse online reviews like anyone else. If someone bought the product in question and it turned out to be broken, I become certain that it’ll also happen to me. I eye-bang star averages like a dizzy pud, and then I automatically assign value to each product based on that average. Also, the first review I see is always the most influential one on me, whether it’s trustworthy or not. If I think it’s bunk, then I put all my eggs into the SECOND review, which is still just as shady. This is a crummy way of shopping online, not least of all because you end up reading a one-star Yelp review where some dude complains because the burger joint he visited didn’t have an American flag hanging outside of it.

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But, assuming that you and I are gonna ignore the above advice and bull forward anyway, falling ever further down the mass-reviewing sinkhole, I would go with the product that has hundreds of reviews because that’s a more reliable sample size, which means the star average is more definite. Also, more people bought the product, and since when have Americans bought shitty things en masse? Never happens. Fifty million Salad Shooter fans can’t be wrong! If only eight people buy the thing you’re looking at, there’s no telling if they’re all Dremel family members planting reviews for that Dremel rotary tool, or if they’re all leaders of the nation’s most fervent Dremel fanclub, eager to preach the gospel of very tiny circular saws, OR if they’re a bunch of naughty pranksters flooding a superficially ludicrous product with ironic praise (“This Ted Cruz autobiography made my dick hard!”). Much better to fall in with a plurality and buy Big Jim’s Xtreme Rotary Torquer instead.

In all seriousness, I believe—almost certainly in error—that you can glean some useful shit from those reviews, particularly if you see:

  • Uniformly negative reviews from hundreds of people or more
  • Multiple complaints about a defect or an unwelcome surprise when you open the box, i.e. there’s a brown recluse spider always included in the packaging
  • Critical information from someone who bought the same thing under similar circumstances to you, like if a printer isn’t compatible with your particular computer, which will be the case because all printers are SHIT
  • Everyone either wildly praising a specific dish at a restaurant or telling you to avoid it. Turns out those Days Inn fish tacos don’t live up to the hype.
  • Genuine, unassailable, important details about the product in question, like if the dildo you want does NOT comes in turquoise

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Those are instances when online review can be valuable, but they require you reading more than a few of them instead of just skimming through the first Amazon page of starred reviews. Do I have the energy to do this and make truly informed purchasing decisions? I do not. That Bed O’ Tacks brand toy looks safe enough to me.

Jacob:

Rank these real Pennsylvania town names:

Mars

Moon

Home

Eighty Four

King of Prussia

Intercourse

Jersey Shore

Thank you.

You’re welcome.

  1. Intercourse, because I am still 12 years old
  2. King of Prussia. So regal! I’m told it has a mall.
  3. Moon
  4. Jersey Shore, which is in CENTRAL Pennsylvania. I approve of such boldness. I hope weekenders from New York have gone there by accident at least once
  5. Mars
  6. Eighty Four, which badly needs a hyphen
  7. Home. Fucking stupid name. Even State College has more pizzazz to it

Dane:

Greta Van Fleet: Yay or Nay?

I don’t have a big problem with Greta Van Fleet. I grew up listening to Whitesnake and 50,000 other Zeppelin knockoffs. Ripping off Zeppelin was the default template for virtually all ’80s rock. So having a band come along to do the same shit in this century is almost a breath of fresh air for dad rock enthusiasts of my stripe. I put on “Safari Song” the first time a while back and was like a zillion other people who were like, “WOW, these guys sound EXACTLY like Zep! Uncanny!” I said the same shit about Wolfmother too, and yet it never fails to impress me on first blush. I’m just happy there are people under the age of 24 who do NOT just wanna be professional Youtubers. My bar is very low these days.

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Then again, I was TOTALLY suckered in by Pitchfork taking that band behind the woodshed and thrashing them until they were skinless. That review burrowed into my cortex enough where all I could think about hearing Greta Van Fleet after that was HEY THESE GUYS ARE FUCKIN POSERS! Never mind that I WANT more rock posers on the modern music scene. I felt uncool listening to them, and I still do. I was like OH WELL THEY DEFINITELY SUCK NOW COMPARED TO OTHER COOLER BANDS I LIKE, which means I was just retrofitting my takes in the name of self-branding, or rejecting a band more because of its audience than its actual music, which is only a fair thing to do with Bruce Springsteen. That new Greta Van Fleet album is indeed bad, just going by their standards. But I still like “Safari Song,” and I’d like it more if I just got over myself for half a second.

Ryan:

What food is most eaten while preparing a meal? I feel like I eat more Mozzarella than what makes it into whatever I’m cooking.

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Any cooked meat, especially pepperoni. I need to buy TWO bags of pepperoni for Pizza Night at my house, so that I don’t get so high on my own supply that there’s not enough meat left for the actual meal itself (this has happened). I’ll pick at sausage crumbles, rotisserie chicken, bacon bits, leftover steak slices, whole pieces of ham, you name it. The meat is all I care about, so why not get in as much as I can before everyone else gets their filthy mitts on the good shit?

Honorary mention to peanuts. I like to sprinkle crushed peanuts over noodles and curry and all that, mostly because it means I get to eat half the jar while garnishing. HEALTHY!

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Steve:

As an avid runner in the DC area, I feel lucky to have a plethora of paved trails at my disposal. With that said, I find most bicyclists that I encounter on my runs to be massive douchebags. I’ve had several recent encounters where I must have broken some unwritten biking paved trail commandment and have been bitched out while they fly by me at 35MPH. (And no, I don’t run with headphones on and I always stay well within the right lane). My buddy is a road biker and he complains about the runners clogging up the lanes, not paying attention, etc. So, who is the biggest asshole on the path? Runners or bikers? Or should we compromise and agree on Extend-O-Leash Small Dog Walkers?

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What about skateboarders? Do they count? Because skateboarders are automatically the worst people anywhere they dwell. My next answer small kids, because they don’t understand or abide by ANY unspoken trail etiquette. But I think you’ve had enough of me butting in and being like, “Here’s something a little NUTTY that kids do…”

So I’m gonna answer you like a big boy and say bikers. I know bikers are an ornery lot who are understandably pissy about motorists blowing by them at 57 mph on the road, but bikers ARE the motorists of the bike path. They get fucking LIVID if you’re in the way, ringing that goddamn tinny bell of theirs and testily grunting ON YOUR LEFT right before sideswiping you, all because they can’t possibly slow their calorie burn or arrive at the food co-op 20 seconds later than they anticipated.

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They’ll do the bell routine all the time to everyone, even people situated 20 yards OFF the trail. I want their stupid bells banned. Those bells are puke. A bike bell is the yippy baby brother to a car horn. Why not announce your passage by other means, perhaps with an artificial vapor you can shoot out from your handlebars that smells like freshly baked bread? All of the anger that bikers harbors toward rude commuters, they take it out on ME, while I’m just out trying to enjoy a stroll! It ain’t right. And triple super ultra fuck those recumbent bicyclists. JOIN A GYM LIKE A NORMAL LAZY PERSON.

Also, lotta people look at their phones while biking. This is a fucking death wish. I’d totally do it but I also sternly disapprove. Those phone bikers are sending me hate tweets as we speak.

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Jon:

I claim that Pat and Vanna have not only fucked, but they have fucked on the WoF set. My wife disagrees on both counts. But they’ve fucked right?

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I say no. I’m sure Pat has tried, but I think Vanna put on her best Television Face when he made a pass and gave him the Heisman in the most polite and impersonal way she possibly could. This is naïve on my end since everyone in Hollywood fucks one another, but I’d rather believe that Pat and Vanna can’t stand one another rather than the opposite. This Quora answerer agrees with me, and why would the Internet ever lie?

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By the way, I’ve watched Wheel recently and Pat looks so insanely bored that he might as well hop on a Windjammer barefoot cruise and never come back. The guy works five weeks a year for $15 million (Vanna makes $10 million), and he can’t even get hyped for that scant amount of piddly shit labor. Alex Trebek is over here working his way through pancreatic cancer, and fucking Sajak looks like he’d rather be working on the Mayor Pete Presidential campaign. I’d tell him to retire but he clearly already did that years ago. John Fox served out his time in Chicago with more fire than this Botoxed prick.

Andrew:

Office bathroom rule: If you are on the toilet in a non-single-occupancy bathroom and somebody else walks in, you should sniff, cough, foot shuffle or make any other noise that clearly indicates that the entrant is not alone in the room.

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Something tells me your anus will take care of that announcement for you. Besides, why not remain in stealth mode if you can? Maybe you’ll overhear the revelation of a nefarious Duke brother’s bet to have a destitute black man trade places with a prosperous white man!

Email of the week!

Haley:

A woman I used to work with was relatively high up in IT at our company (some sort of VP). She was a very nice woman who was also very eccentric, most often wearing sweat suits to work in her aforementioned high-level IT job. One day I had a frantic IM from my best friend, who was her direct report, to call him immediately.

“Maureen (name changed to protect the shitter) shit her pants.”

“What???”

“Maureen shit her pants!!!!”

“Well, what did she do?”

It turns out she went to her car, got her spare pair of sweatpants, changed into them, and went back to work.

HER SPARE PAIR OF SWEATPANTS! FOR ALL OF THE SHITTING YOURSELF AT WORK SITUATIONS! POWER. MOVE.

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I respect it. Fin.