Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Beer and football II — week fifteen

The game: Patriots at Broncos
The beer: People's Pint Scotch Ale
The result: Win, 41–23; Sophie, 6–3–0
The commentary: I picked up the Scotch ale a few weeks ago out in central Mass. and thought it was a good choice for the Broncos game. Since Tebow is (was?) God's favorite quarterback, I thought I'd counter that advantage with a secular-sounding brewer in People's Pint. And it worked! I tried to go into the game (watched on lousy standard-definition delay because we were out running errands that afternoon/evening and I didn't want to take up the whole DVR drive, what with the Survivor and Dexter finales looming later on) with an open mind toward Tebow. I can get pretty worked up over just about anything but I at least try to see all sides before gripping "the correct" point of view with the ferocious death-chomp of one thousand blood-stained teeth.

All this Tebow stuff—how many people have actually watched him play? You have the religious folks who see how publicly he proclaims his faith and, of course, want to believe he's a better quarterback than a superstar who had an illegitimate child with some B actress from Longmeadow. And then you have the football fans who see him bowling over linebackers in a run-first offense and just know that he couldn't hit a wide-open receiver thirty yards down the seam. My impression is of a (very) raw athlete in the mold of a bulky, tougher Randall Cunningham—maybe he's not the best pocket passer, but just look out if you're chasing him from sideline to sideline for a few seconds and whiff on a tackle or two, because by then someone will be open. We saw a lot of that early in Sunday's game and, conversely, saw him get sacked for a loss of almost thirty yards after trying to do too much. So he lost the game but he lost it to Tom Brady, not to the Patriots' defense. I can count on one hand the number of elite quarterbacks in this league that Tebow couldn't possibly outscore on a regular basis, and that tells me he'll probably do alright. He's not a traditional quarterback—you can't compare him to John Elway or even Jake Plummer—but he has the time to develop that part of his game. It's his first meaningful season, he's got a lot of confidence and the Broncos would be nuts to go in a different direction next season. If they embrace him as their guy and approach the draft and free-agent market with his skills in mind—and if he puts the brakes on what I suspect is false humility and doesn't get too caught up in his own celebrity—he and his team will only get better, especially once his scrambling starts to result in late-hit penalties against defenders who are terrified to let him slip past. I can't believe I'm defending this guy but there you have it.

As for the game itself, the Broncos were somehow the first of fourteen teams to attempt to take Gronk out of the game and it was therefore rewarding to watch Hernandez do his yards-after-the-catch thing. I can't say enough about these guys and I look forward to what they can do in the playoffs, even as I dread the day they both take big-money deals elsewhere. In other news, the running game continues to not do a whole lot, which should be expected since they haven't had a whole lot of opportunity. That's something I'd like to see ironed out, because we've seen the past couple of years what happens when talented, determined teams figure out how to defend the passing game.

Really too bad about Andre Carter, who was put on IR yesterday. I'll miss his disruptive defensive presence but luckily we can still enjoy the weekly roundtable program where he, Alge Crumpler, Fred Taylor and Deion Branch engage in well informed discussions about leading national and international topics like the viability of an isolationist United Kingdom, the boom in Gulf Coast tourism and that guy in Maine who probably killed his daughter. At least Mark Anderson can fill his spot on the field for the rest of the season, now that the risk of him breaking an arm in a bicep-smashing sack celebration with Carter is no longer a thing to fear. I haven't heard Anderson speak a whole lot but maybe he can even sit in on the show and provide some thought-provoking insight on the record industry's potential reaction to Fugazi offering up hundreds of concert recordings for $5 a piece.

I've made it this far without complaining about the defense? You don't say! ESPN writer James Walker does a nice job on his AFC East blog—it's great to have unbiased commentary on the Jets and the two UFL teams that round out the division, as well as some outsider perspective on the Patriots. On that topic, his pitch-perfect piece about the Patriots needing to aggressively surround the newly extended Jerod Mayo with quality players was two hundred fifty words of rock-solid action. (At first I thought the post was written by ESPN Boston's informational wellspring Mike Reiss—whom I do love—and marveled for those mistaken few seconds at the fact it this was the first bit of real criticism he'd ever laid upon the team's personnel philosophy of stockpiling veteran cast-offs and undrafted rookies in order to rotate them in and out of a starting lineup every week. Then I realized it wasn't Reiss after all, and instead his role as a beat writer continues to get in the way of offering opinions other than "Patrick Chung walked through the locker room today so that's a good sign he'll play this weekend" for the sixth week in a row, followed by Chung being inactive for the sixth week in a row.) It was the kind of constructive (not just negative) analysis that is hard to find outside of PFW in Progress and Patriots Daily and I really appreciated it. Awesome job, seriously. But…

I'm all set with Walker's repeated assertion that Miami is "playing its best football late in the season" and "relishes the role of spoiler." I guess he's overlooking the stinker against the Eagles ten days ago? "Look out, NFL, the Dolphins are going to fuck up your playoff plans! Unless you're the Eagles. They will spoil that shit! Assuming again that you're one of thirty teams not based in Philadelphia. Go Fins!" What, exactly, have they spoiled? Ask me again next week.

Some minor items that I don't feel like flushing out:

Sophie won Survivor because Coach for some reason thought she would be easier to beat than that Rick guy, about whom A. and I still know nothing. If Coach had taken Albert and Rick to the final it would have been a clean sweep, though maybe none of those three could have defeated Ozzy in that last challenge? Unfortunately this season was a bit of a bore outside of Coach's eccentricity, Ozzy's unlikability, Brandon's insanity and Cochran's general awesomeness.

Few things challenge me like fastening my daughter's clothing. Why do buttons and snaps on onesies and stuff have to be so tiny? I don't appreciate proper scale at the expense of my fumbling adult-sized fingers.

The other day I went to the post office to get some stamps. (Thank-you notes, Christmas cards and those assholes who sell your name and address to The Company Store's catalog division are the post office's last hope.) I asked the guy "Do you have any holiday 'forever' stamps"? He responded "Which would you like, ornaments or baby Jesus?" He might as well have asked "How would you like to be judged, hellfire or salvation?"

I've been playing Can's "Mother Sky" two or three times a day for the past week and a half. Its quarter hour is much too brief and the "sudden" fade-out surprises me every time. A hip-hop group (probably called Tha Kanz) could sustain itself on nothing but Can beats for ten years.

Keeping with music, I heard Boss Hog's "Strawberry" this morning and realized the sound of the rhythm-keeping dot matrix printer would be a complete mystery to high school and maybe college students today. "Awesome keyboard effect, bro!" What other noises of my youth are obsolete? Dial-up modems? Jackée?

This afternoon we're having a $20 Yankee swap in which my gift is a $15 iTunes card and a $5 bottle of BBC's Coffeehouse Porter. I might open it myself. People are bringing snacks and my contribution—as a first-time baker—is a batch of peanut butter blossoms. (I just ate one to make sure it didn't taste like ass and I'm proud to report it was delicious.) Please wish me luck. [Edit: I got a pretty kick-ass orange picture frame.]

Up next: Dan Marino is not walking through that door. Cheers!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Beer and football II — week fourteen

The game: Patriots at Redskins
The beer: Berkshire Steel Rail Extra Pale Ale
The result: Win, 34–27
The commentary: I got some great pictures of G. leading up to the game but the smiley ones never come out. You can't see it here because of my stupid square-cropping syndrome but her feet were going a mile a minute in this one and they're a (stylish) green and orange blur. I love that she can maintain such a nonchalant expression while her legs are getting it done. By the way, please don't call child services on A. and me because of that gash next to her left eye. She did that herself—it is nigh on impossible to effectively trim her fingernails.

A friend and I used to drink the Steel Rail while playing pool at the Brass Cat in Easthampton when I lived out there years ago. What a great spot that was—the beers were cheap, you could always get a table and the jukebox was a killer. I never worried for a second that the bomber's color scheme exactly matched the uniforms worn by the most offensively named team in all of sports, who kept things much too close all game long. It was a refreshing ale but not as tasty as I remember. I also didn't remember that it is super-duper light in color, though an attractive blond rather than Bud or Miller's ill, pale yellow. It served its early-afternoon purpose well enough, especially considering I hadn't showered yet.

To state the obvious, if Mark Sanchez and Brian Schottenheimer were screaming at each other and had to be separated during a game then all of New England, fans and media folks alike, would rejoice in the "trainwreck" that is the New York Jets. Instead, everyone from Mike Reiss (of whom I am an enormous fan) on down uses it as an example of what a competitor Brady is. I actually do believe that but I don't think it's necessarily something to spin into a positive. Nor is it a sign that the Pats won't win another game the rest of the year. Regardless, Bill O'Brien should remember that he's Bill O'Brien and maybe keep out of his elite quarterback's face next time. Of course with those idiots running the Dolphins it's a good bet either he or Schottenheimer will be coaching that team next year.

Anyway, say what you will about Tebow but he's winning games. People seem to fall into one of two camps: his heart is large enough to overcome accuracy problems or he has no business playing the quarterback position; he is a man of strong moral and spiritual convictions or he is a self-promoting fraud; he is revolutionizing what it means to be a professional athlete or he is setting the game of football back several decades. (The Overrated Brian Urlacher even decided to chip in and called him "a real good running back," adding to his pile of head-scratching post-defeat statements that includes last year's "the Patriots are the best team in the AFC.") I'll surely have some of my own expert analysis next week but, in the meantime, it's pretty exiting to be a Broncos fan right now.

Up next: Our lowly hometown heathens travel to Denver to take on God and His armies of righteousness. We are in deep shit. Cheers!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Beer and football II — week thirteen

The game: Colts at Patriots
The beer: Just Beer Moby D American Ale
The result: Win, 31–24
The commentary: Like the Pittsburgh game, only the exact opposite, this one was nowhere near as close as the final score indicated. Brady, Welker and Gronkowski were doing every single thing against the Colts that they wanted to do.

I'm sort of glad all the "Lo, a defense e'er soaring!" talk around here can be put to rest. This is the same secondary that has sucked lemons all season long: they are not communicating better, they are not imposing their will upon horrible opposing quarterbacks, they are not talented. They are not improving. The three unanswered Colt touchdowns in the fourth quarter were killers once you consider an onside kick was a real possibility, and the one time Belichick decided against keeping his foot on the gas (disputing the "Anything can happen in this league, would you rather we kicked field goals?" speech he gives every time he's accused of running up the score) nearly came back to bite him. Sorry Hoyer, but you might not play another snap this season.

In an effort to save a little money—babies are expensive!—last week we downgraded our Fios cable television package to a lower tier. In the process we lost some channels we don't care about (couldn't tell you what they are), some that I really liked but, in retrospect, didn't watch too often (Palladia, HDNet) and some that really, really hurt (The NFL Network and Cloo). Sigh. I guess I'll survive because the only show I really watched on NFL was Sound FX and those clips are always made available on NFL.com, which isn't yet blocked at work, and that's good because (of course) Brady and Belichick were featured this week. I just watched the clip while eating my overpriced (overpriced… gak!… so long, Taylor Price, you were absolutely wasted here) sandwich and it's wonderful to see how competitive Brady is at all times, even during a bloodbath. "That's three fourth-quarter touchdowns." This wasn't a slam on his offense not keeping up—it's a sign that he might just murder McCourty and friends by the time the playoffs roll around.

G., as you can see, wasn't too good in keeping me company during the game. She asked me to put her down at halftime so she could nap during the rest of "this laugher" (her words) and that way I didn't have to awkwardly hold her and a giant beer mug at the same time. I cracked open the ale as the fourth quarter was starting (1:00 games almost feel strange now) and thought it was pretty good. I picked it up the previous weekend on the way to my uncle's. Just Beer also had a "'Not Pumpkin' Ale," an admittedly failed attempt at a pumpkin ale that turned out to be more of a pale ale. I'll remember it for next year because I'm officially stocked for the last four games of the regular season… and not beyond this time!

In 2010 I was late with a Christmas mini-playlist so I'll throw one up now with plenty of time for readers (!) to get sick of Christmas music. This is in honor of my company's holiday party at the InterContinental Hotel next week. It's right next door, and walking to work yesterday I noticed the logo resembles a giant vagina. Tell me I'm wrong.

(In other questionable signage news, the Subway restaurant attached to the convenience store a few blocks from my house has apparently gone rogue and changed its name to "Sub Day." It's a plain white and red sign that must have cost $5. Hilarious.)

1. Perry Como – CHRISTMAS
I played my family's Perry Como Sings Merry Christmas Music record to death every December during my childhood. I still love it, right down to subconsciously layering the old skips and pops onto my soulless Perry Como MP3s. I mean the MP3 format has no soul, not Perry Como. Well maybe both.

2. The Treacherous Three – Xmas Rap
"That ain't a G.I. Joe, that's a G.I. Jerk with a kung-fu grip that don't even work. So all I did was just put him away cuz my G.I. Joe looked G.I. Gay."

3. Rotary Connection – Silent Night (Chant)
Reissued Peace from 1968. The "Chant" qualification must only be there to distinguish from the "regular" and the "instrumental" versions of "Silent Night" on the album. As if there aren't enough Christmas songs to cover.

4. Beatles – Pantomime (Everywhere It's Christmas)
"No need to worry, Jasper. [Turns page.]" I thought they'd run out of paper? From their 1966 fan-club Christmas record. This and the following year's "Christmas Time (Is Here Again)" are my favorites—both are nicely produced collages that stand out against the charming novelty of the first three records and the withdrawn, sour last two. Incidentally, I always thought that was George Harrison doing a Tiny Tim impression on the '68 record but Wikipedia and other sources tell me it's really Tiny Tim. I remain unconvinced.

5. Victoria Spivey – Christmas Morning Blues
One of many highlights from the essential Blues, Blues Christmas. This compilation is repetitive and probably too long but so are the holidays, right?

Up next: The Pats travel to our nation's capital to visit museums for free and see if there's any truth to the rumor that Mike Shanahan is an overrated football coach. (He is.) Cheers!