Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Beer and football II — weeks eight, nine, ten, eleven and twelve

Week eight
The game: Patriots at Steelers
The beer: Cambridge Great Pumpkin Ale
The result: Loss, 25–17
The commentary: My favorite pumpkin beer, marred by repeated long completions down the middle of the field to a wide-open tight end. Hey, that's what the Pats are supposed to do! I would love another shot at these clowns in the playoffs.

Week nine
The game: Giants at Patriots
The beer: Blue Hills Imperial Red India Pale Ale
The result: Loss, 24–20
The commentary: Hopefully the season's nadir. I always thought that word was pronounced "nade-EER" but apparently it's like Ralph Nader? That's why I don't use twenty-five-cent words when I speak. I don't remember much about this game (perhaps due to the IPA's nine percent alcohol) other than being generally uncomfortable throughout, and in retrospect it's hard to believe they lost by only four points. The following day on the train I overheard a guy say to his buddy "I hope we don't have another Donovan McNabb on our hands." I hate Patriots fans.

Week ten
The game: Patriots at Jets
The beer: Haverhill GestAlt German-Style Brown Ale
The result: Win, 37–16
The commentary: Now we're talking. I accidentally bought two GestAlts, picking it up for the second time after thinking I'd passed on it earlier. I'll admit to being afraid when I opened the bomber and it foamed all over the kitchen counter. The eighteen ounces I was able to retain tasted pretty damn good and didn't in any way jinx the outcome of the game, so I was glad to have a backup. I attributed the first-half shutout of the Giants the week before to poor execution on the Giants' part instead of stellar defensive play by the Pats. This time I think they played pretty alright. I like how, in the week leading up to this one, everyone said the release of Haynesworth meant Belichick should be tarred and feathered. I've got problems with some (most) of his recent drafting decisions but why not give Haynesworth a shot in a short offseason? Belichick's free-agent adventures haven't worked out too well lately either but, the last time I checked, "low risk/high return" doesn't equate to "inexpensive/can't fail." One hundred thirty-one players were chosen before the first pick of the fifth round this year so who gives a shit. Belichick would have traded it for two sevens anyway.

Week eleven
The game: Chiefs at Patriots
The beer: Stone Smoked Porter
The result: Win, 34–3
The commentary: Defense plays well again but it's the Chiefs. A few weeks ago A. and G. were to pick me up in Salem and they ran late, so I dropped in to the Green Land CafĂ© for a quick pint. Boy, was I pleased to discover they had the Smoked Porter on tap. I grabbed the one free seat at the bar, which was on the corner—to my left were a couple visiting from Florida to attend a Boston College football game for some reason, and to my right were an older couple I took to be local. They were speaking kitty-corner across me (I didn't mind) about local beer and Mr. Florida was drinking something he apparently enjoyed so much that he was on his iPad the whole time trying to figure out how far south it was distributed. I never learned what was giving him such a hard-on but it was pretty light-colored, and I can't think of any light-ish beer I'd get so worked up over. "This… how you say… Hi-nah-kin… is marvelous! Is it available in the American northeast?"

Week twelve
The game: Patriots at Eagles
The beer: Ipswich Oatmeal Stout
The result: Win, 38–20
The commentary: I didn't get any good pictures of G. during the game because she's three months old now and no longer content to sit still. Blurry, blurry, blurry! The Android Gingerbread update seems to have slowed down my phone's shutter a bit, in addition to causing a host of other problems that I've just barely resolved. (Aye, the drawbacks of openness and fragmentation. I'm starting to understand the enthusiasm for rooting.) So it's Chloe's time to shine this week! That's my leg she's sleeping on up there. Precious.

OK, I actually remember this game because it was only three days ago. We watched the first half (along with the second half of the brutal Bills–Jets game—yes, I want the Jets to miss the playoffs because I'm not sure it's possible for one team to defeat another three times in one season—at my uncle's house while we introduced G. to my mother's extended family. I recorded the game and watched the second half at home in the evening, mostly ignoring the fast-forward button because I haven't watched many "live" games this season and I wanted to soak it in. It was rewarding to witness Andy Reid at last—at last!—get openly criticized. Poor game-planning, poor adjustments, poor discipline, poor time management: I salute you, The Andy Reid Era.

Again, our defense was passable. Again, they looked lost in giving up way too many long passes. Again, Sergio Brown celebrated a "pass breakup" he had nothing to do with aside from never once turning around to look for the ball and possibly interfering with a receiver who still could have made the catch. But again, Tom Brady was unstoppable. Again, having two productive veterans like Welker and Branch at wideout, the best tight end in the league in Gronkowski, another top-ten tight end in Hernandez and a crew of running backs who can produce most of the time was a wonderful bunch of answers to a questionable defense. Again, it's awesome to be a Patriots fan, just like it has been for ten years.

I loved this tongue-in-cheek headline from Boston Sports Media Watch on Monday morning: "Porous Patriots Defense Allows 400 Yards to Vince Young, Still Manages Undeserved Blowout Win With Roster Full of Belichick Draft Busts." Nothing could sum up the past month any better. Unfortunately, staring blankly into the camera, I realize satire is rooted in truth: if Belichick doesn't trade his two 2012 first-round picks to move into the top ten and snag a defensive player opposing offenses need to account for—again—then I will surely die.

Elsewhere in football, I can't believe Stevie Johnson is being slain for mocking someone who once put on a pair of sweatpants, stuffed a gun into the waistband, went to a nightclub, shot his own leg, was arrested for and convicted of this crime and spent two years in prison for it. Plaxico mocks himself every day just by having survived that wound. I like James Walker's AFC East blog for ESPN but give me a break: "[Johnson's touchdown celebration] wasn't in great taste, considering Burress spent years in prison for the incident." It's not in great taste to pretend to rape someone in order to mock a person imprisoned for rape. The only victim here is Plax, Plax's leg, Plax's sweatpants and maybe the nightclub's floor. So let's relax, America. Or, if you insist on chiding Johnson, at least remind people that Plax is a moron who did something really, really stupid and is really, really lucky it wasn't worse.

Speaking of relaxing, or rather doing the opposite of relaxing and, instead, evolving into an even more smug and uptight asshole, Bob Costas needs to put on some sweatpants and go clubbing. His anti-celebration rant on Sunday Night Football was as blatant an audition tape to take over for Andy Rooney as anyone wearing a turtleneck and blazer could produce, right down to lauding old-timey white players. "All this… and an overexposed, sanctimonious prick who single-handedly tries to ruin the Olympics every two years… next on 60 Minutes." I loved it almost as much as the stout.

Up next: It's Pats–Colts in Foxborough, minus the beloved Brady-versus-Manning drama. If Peyton doesn't play this week then just put him on injured reserve already. And if the Colts somehow win then the misery of every single Patriots fan will be an early Christmas present for Michael Felger. Cheers!