Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Beer and football II — week three

The game: Patriots at Bills
The beer: Clown Shoes Lubrication American Black Ale
The result: Loss, 34–31
The commentary: No pictures of my little girl will accompany losses, especially losses as ugly and perplexing as this. Deion Branch was invisible all day, and since he's her favorite player she will be too.

My boy Paul Perillo from Patriots Football Weekly/PFW in Progress has "the nod," which occurs at the point in the game when, to him, a Patriots victory is no longer in doubt. My equivalent of the nod came with three seconds left in the first half when I told G. the Bills were pansies for electing to kick a field goal and close the gap to 21–10. I still can't believe they didn't go for the touchdown—if it weren't for four Tom Brady interceptions (note to local media: passes that are tipped or batted down by defensive linemen are the quarterback's fault and resulting interceptions are indeed legit) the Bills would have gotten smoked. This cowardly decision should have signaled the beginning of the end of their inevitable 6–10 season, and instead the three points they "settled for" was the difference in the game (Paul's not always right either). Still, under normal circumstances against a good offensive team I don't see much difference between fourteen- and eleven-point halftime deficits. Eleven versus seven points though? You still need two touchdowns! If the Bills keep playing it safe then their hold on the AFC East won't last long.

Regarding the hometown team, this defense is scaring the hell out of me. The "new" pass rush stinks, but when the ball is thrown two seconds after the snap and Devin McCourty (what in the worldwide fuck is going on with him?) and Leigh Bodden are being dusted and racking up tackle stats then there is an inherent problem with the secondary. Patrick Chung was out and it looked like Kyle Arrington was the only one even competing, which is never a good sign when you consider he still made mistakes and, you know, is neither a first-round pick nor a big-money free agent. From what we've seen so far, and as I feared in week one, these guys are only going to stop teams from scoring by creating turnovers. Hard to do when you're so overmatched you don't even have time to turn around and look for the ball.

I have no concerns about the offense. Thirty-one points should be enough to win and I'll take a bad day by Tom Brady over a good day by ninety-five percent of the league's quarterbacks. Almost four hundred yards, sixty-seven percent completion rate, four touchdowns, zero sacks. It looks like he won't have last year's luck in terms of tipped balls hitting the turf instead of opponents' hands but that's OK. Ochocinco is deservedly on the hot seat for that dropped touchdown pass but I'm more worried about the fact that he was barely targeted even before that. Just tells me Brady doesn't have much confidence in him—drops like that will surely generate less (as we've seen before, if Brady freezes you out then you might as well skip town). In the meantime, I'll continue to wonder when Taylor Price will be activated so he can either blow everyone away with seven catches for a hundred and twenty yards or not register at all on the stat sheet and go down with another injury. One way or the other, I just want to know.

I first became aware of Clown Shoes (out of Ipswich) at one of the tastings at the shop up the street, which sadly closed down last month (or went on "hiatus" with plans to open up elsewhere in town, hopefully still walkable). Featured that day were a brown ale ("Brown Angel"), a witbier ("Clementine"), a Belgian IPA ("Tramp Stamp") (!) and an imperial amber ale ("Eagle Claw Fist"). None of them was particularly good except for the amber, which was alright, so I brought one home that day. Their labels border on poor taste, too—exceptionally cheesy ethnic-looking characters grace the Brown Angel (a winged black woman with a ripe ole ass posing as a hood ornament or something) and the Eagle Claw Fist (a homeless Indian doing calisthenics in the park). But the one that actually made a woman ask the Clown Shoes rep "Do people ever complain about your labels?" was the Tramp Stamp. He laughed it off, saying it was all in good fun. She looked close to telling him the Nazis were having fun, too. I wish she had… the Tramp Stamp wasn't that good. Months later, on an undoubtedly slow news day, a local station ran a story on how offensive their labels are. That lady must have known people.

Anyway, the shop had a clearance sale before closing and I picked up a bunch of bombers that will get me halfway through the season. One of them, for the purposes of variety, was the Lubrication. You know how craft brewers give you a few sentences describing the flavors or origins of what you're drinking? This one starts "Lube? Hey, get your mind out of the gutter!" Such is the path they have chosen, though I'm majorly impressed at the discipline they showed in characterizing an American black ale. Nonetheless, I think my biggest problem with Clown Shoes is not that their beer isn't very good or that their labels are off-putting but that they apparently incorporated the first Google image search result as their logo.

Up next: The Pats head to Oakland to see about holding a team to fewer than twenty-one points. I'm not too familiar with the Raiders and I wish I'd watched that Jets game. Insert Al Davis joke here. Cheers!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Beer and football II — week two

The game: Chargers at Patriots
The beer: Rogue Mocha Porter
The result: Win, 35–21
The commentary: "Which beer are you having?" "Do you want me to drink the Mocha Porter?" "Yes." "OK." A's re-ability to drink coincided nicely with the return of football, and I couldn't refuse her since she's been lusting after this bomber ever since I brought it home a couple of months ago. She only had a few sips but, man oh man, did she like it. I did too, right down to the Daily Worker guy on the front—don't let the teal tint fool you, that shirt is gray.

I'll keep this short because I didn't last week and because I go back to work tomorrow for the first time in three weeks. Blech. Yesterday featured a much more satisfying win over the Chargers than was last year's, which rated Total Mess on the Zero-to-Total-Mess scale. My daughter watched with me (that's her struggling to make it through the first half) and that definitely helped, especially since I've determined Deion Branch is her favorite player.

The defense was iffy again but I love two goal-line stands in two games. What I would love more though is for this team to figure out how to put some goddamn pressure on opposing goddamn quarterbacks. It's a good thing they nullified Antonio Gates because it could have gotten ugly, as Vincent Jackson almost made it so on his own. It'd be funny if after all the personnel changes and philosophical shifts the defense went through in the offseason they still survived week to week by creating turnovers and otherwise coming up big at the absolute last second they need to. They gave up huge chunks of yardage last year and won fourteen out of seventeen games. Reasonable to think that, so long as the offense keeps clicking, they can be just as good or better this year.

Quickly on Romo. I slammed him on Saturday and I stand by it. He beat the 49ers a good fifteen years after anyone should take a Cowboys–49ers game seriously.

Up next: The Pats travel to Buffalo to put out the wildfire caused by everyone's "Holy shit, can you believe the Bills?!" insanity following consecutive big-time wins over small-time teams. Still, Fitzpatrick will remain the third-best quarterback in the AFC East. Cheers!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Beer and football II: Another season-long diary

Week one
The game: Patriots at Dolphins
The beer: Berkshire Saint of Circumstance India Pale Ale
The result: Win, 38–24
The commentary: I'm calling this season "2011" even though it spills into 2012 because "2011/2012" is a little clumsy. I'm more bothered by it than you are. [Edit: How did I not yet resolve this with Roman numerals? I know nothing about football.]

So here's my little "G." Isn't she the most precious thing in all of history? Very nice of her to pose with my kicked BBC bomber, putting a tiny little baby hand up there like that. (One of the outtake photos had her pointing at her mouth with Homer Simpson's "beer goes in here" enthusiasm, but it was a little blurry.) Her mom's only reservation when I asked if I could put the bottle in with her was to "make sure it's clean." That's family.

The Monday night game marked her two-week birthday and Tom Brady & His Patriot Men really lit it up for her. Happy fortnight, daughter! The outcome was never in doubt, even after the Dolphins marched up the field on the opening drive on their way to a 7–0 lead. Before too long I was holding G. and narrating (in a soothing Tom Selleck voice, of course) a string of big Deion Branch gains to try to put her to sleep. Overall I did a good job of not yelling too loudly—neither she nor our cat Chloe was disturbed by my excitement over a number of huge Branch, Welker, Woodhead, Gronkowski and Hernandez plays. And yes, it is awesome to be able to list all those offensive weapons together.

But the defense? Mayo had another one of his is-he-even-out-there games. McCourty looked like Ellis Hobbs, in position to make too many tackles (which means too many catches allowed). The pass rush was inconsistent at best, familiar at worst (as in: nonexistent). Overall, Henne just looked too good, even if a lot of his yards came in prevent/garbage time. Hopefully Belichick makes some adjustments (not his strong suit lately) in time for an explosive Chargers team tomorrow.

(Not sure what it's like to be a Fins fan this week. The offense was decent but the defense was entirely useless. Hard to be optimistic. They'll probably finish with six or seven wins and get blown up again in the offseason—that's what happens when your most heralded player is a left tackle and the guy he's protecting is a bum.)

(Speaking of bums, how about Tony Romo? Aside from Donovan McNabb—yikes—he might be the worst quarterback in the league. That was one of the most awful individual meltdowns I've ever seen, and of course it benefited the fucking Jets. Meanwhile, Sanchez is in midseason shaky-start/stellar-finish form. Another fun year for the AFC East.)

Anyway, despite what I wrote following last year's, uh, fun AFC East playoff matchup, maybe I do know something about football. It's just the little details like wins, losses and production that get hazy. Remember my post-Super Bowl roster projection? Not bad. I'll start with the big things I got wrong, so as not to get all high on myself: I didn't think they'd cut Alge Crumpler or Gerard Warren. They brought Warren back for a few minutes in the preseason before cutting him again—the defensive line rotation was pretty good the other night so I'm not sure he'll be back again, but I can't believe another idiot Gronkowski brother is a better blocking tight end than my man Crumpler. My only guess is he's still recovering from injury (multiple surgeries) and once that's squared away he'll resume last year's role as Mr. Miyagi to Hernandez's and Gronkowski's (the real one) scatterbrain LaRusso brothers. Those two put on an offensive clinic last week and I just want to make sure they don't get all Terry Silver arrogant on us. (I watched The Karate Kid, Part III the other day. Paternity leave rules!) Since there's been no news of Crumpler retiring or working out for other teams, I figure there's some wink-wink-nudge-nudge talk between his camp and Belichick's that he'll be welcomed back. Nu-Gronk is even keeping 82 warm for him.

I also missed on Koppen still being with the team. I thought he'd be one of those role players Belichick likes to cut a year before his contract expires—little did I know he'd stay on only to miss the bulk of the season due to injury. I like the guy and he and Brady do alright together, but he's a little undersized against the physical AFC defenses we play every year (Jets, Chargers, Ravens). I hope Connolly does well at center because I like keeping him in full time, and if that carries on then I love 2012's young starters of Solder at left tackle (even Matt Light admitted the second half of the "two-year" contract he just signed is essentially make-believe), Mankins at left guard (would be the most established veteran on the line), Connolly (or a first-round draft pick) at center, a cancer-free Marcus Cannon with something to prove at right guard (fingers crossed) and "The Texan Kraut" Sebastian Vollmer (not an actual nickname) at right tackle. That group could play together through 2020.

Last but not least, James "That's a Champion Right There" Sanders was cut. No one saw that coming except for the people who knew week to week how important he was to the defensive backfield and feared week to week that he would be released. Shocking and unfortunate. I won't take as much heat on keeping Darius Butler as a fourth-stringer because I didn't think they'd draft a corner with the first pick in the second round. On that topic, how come everyone around here says that pick is essentially a late first-rounder but no one called Mankins an early second-rounder in 2005?

A gray area shows up with my man Kevin Faulk, who I thought would take the Tedy Bruschi route and retire during training camp after realizing there wasn't a place for him on the team. And that was before the team drafted running backs in the second and third rounds. I like the PUP direction though and I'm glad he's around the team (the young backs in particular) right now, and his potential return in October or November would be good for everyone. The only way that doesn't happen is if Green-Ellis and Woodhead stay healthy and rookies Ridley and Vereen are running for a hundred yards apiece every game. No way there are five active running backs week to week and I don't see a Patriot of Faulk's stature being DNPCD'd. We'll see. In other gray-area news, I'm not savvy enough to have called the defensive scheme shift or the unlikely Haynesworth (who looked pretty good) trade, though I've been hinting at Ochocino's arrival for years. Look it up!

So where did I hit? I'll keep it short: Ty Warren. Kaczur. TBC. Meriweather. You're welcome.

On to the beer then. The Saint of Circumstance is BBC's "accidental guess" at what nineteenth century English IPAs might have tasted like. It's a limited release I first tasted at last month's beer dinner at the Cambridge Common. (So limited that I was pleasantly surprised to find it locally in bottles the following week.) That evening, the co-founder explained that it was intended to be a batch of their Lost Sailor IPA (see last year's week four) except the crate of hops had to have survived a warehouse fire or something because the brewed result was milder, smokier and certainly "not Lost Sailor." I attended the dinner with two friends and we were all blown away by how good it was—undoubtedly our favorite of the six or seven beers we had that night. It was better on tap, as usual, but the bomber was an excellent opening-night option. Right on.

Up next: Bring on the Bolts. In the preseason I penciled this in as one of four losses, along with the Giants, at the Jets and either at Oakland or at Philadelphia. I'll take this one back: the Pats win because the Chargers once again forget to print out the special teams portion of their playbook. Cheers!