Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Beer and football III: It’s not a diary, Norm, it’s a journal

Week one
The game: Patriots at Titans
The beer: Berkshire Saint of Circumstance Sour Mash Whiskey Barrel-Aged India Pale Ale
The result: Win, 34–13
The commentary: "What are you, a pretty boy?" Nice to see Steve Burton's lack of self-awareness already in mid-season form. No one in the room laughed at his "joke," asked of a bandaged Tom Brady during the postgame press conference. Instead you heard people's eyes rolling.

Speaking of uninformed buffoons, WBZ's online poll question during Patriots Fifth Quarter (love that) was something like "Which part of the team showed the most improvement over last year?": the passing game, the running game or the defensive line (specifically against the run). Ignoring the retarded one percent who felt it was the passing game (??), eighty-two percent incorrectly thought it was the defensive line. Eighty-two percent! They played great, sure, but the weaknesses of this defense the past few years were the pass rush and the defensive backfield. Wilfork and company had at least been decent every week. Stevan Ridley, however, was light years ahead of what BenJarvus Green-Ellis (of whom I was a fan) was even capable of the past two years. It's not the first time this season they'll introduce a poll question and I'll say "Well that's a no-brainer" before finding myself among the sub-twenty-five percent of fans who actually understand what is happening with this team. I hate people. I hate them!

It's good to have football back. Roger Goodell's hands may be stained with the blood of players killed on the field every week because the regular refs aren't out there keeping everyone safe. (Seriously though, that legal hit Mayo and Wilson put on Nate Washington was something else. He's an exciting player and I hope he bounces back alright.) Our McCourty—assuming Devin and Jason didn't switch places before last season so Jason could get a fat new contract—absolutely got away with pass interference on what might have been a first-quarter touchdown but I'm not sure the receiver could have caught it even if McCourty weren't assaulting him while looking in the complete opposite direction of the ball. To sort of make up for it, the refs later ruled that Edelman dropped a pass that would have been enough for a first down even though it's possible the ball never touched the ground—we can't know for sure because CBS didn't show a single replay. Awesome coverage there, as always. My point is that the replacement refs didn't do too badly. Around the league, of course it's silly that a crew awarded the Seahawks an extra timeout and neglected to enforce a penalty called against another team (can't remember which game that was). But come on, it's up to the opposing teams' head coaches to be engaged enough to recognize stuff like this before play is allowed to continue. That would never happen under Belichick's, Tom Coughlin's or Sean Payton's (certainly not this year, suckah!) watch. (It will probably happen to Andy Reid two or three times.) As with Billy Cundiff in the AFC championship game, players and coaches have a responsibility to be aware of the situation at every moment.

The rookies? The rookies! A. and G. were out running errands during the early part of the game so I was free to shout and inexplicably charge my television following Wilson's heads-up interception. Then Hightower Jones (how great a name would that be?) made what might be the greatest non-Wilfork-interception play this defense has made in years. They'll all fall back to Earth and have their share of bad games this season but they won't approach the ongoing nightmare of Brandon Meriweather and Sergio Brown being a last line of defense. I remain convinced the Pats lost the Super Bowl because of the defense. Call me crazy, but any one of these guys on last year's team might have been enough. Deep breaths. I'm just glad we know how to tackle again.

Some superlatives. Best flashback goes to Brady for calling the quarterback sneak shortly after getting a shin to the nose. Has he ever not gotten the first down? Worst flashback was the third-and-long conversion on the Titans' opening drive. Great throw and catch that were hard to defend, but just once I'd like third and fifteen to scare me less than third and one. Once! Best missed opportunity is Gronk's flubbed spike. By a mile. His reactions to his own spikes—for example, following the record-setting touchdown last year when the ball exploded off the turf and he had to scramble after it like Rocky chasing a chicken—are wonderful. And, yes, the worst missed opportunity was Lloyd slowing under Brady's long bomb. If he had kept running that touchdown would have been money. Cash money! His interviews might provide a glimpse into six teams in ten years. "It was an incompletion." Yikes.

The beer was intense. Much too intense for a 1:00 game, even at only six percent alcohol. It differed from last season's first offering in that it was overtly aged in whiskey barrels, whereas the earlier version was closer to the smooth, smoky dinner pairing. I appreciated it as (likely) unique from anything else I'll try in the coming months and I liked the idea of starting the 2012 season, number three in your beer-and-football series, similar to how I did the 2011 season but with a twist. Perhaps the twist at the end of this season will be a Super Bowl victory instead of a loss. Perhaps.

Last and certainly not least, check out my year-old little G. How she grows! She's in the middle of an exhaustive frenzy here, brought on by repeatedly nosediving into a pillow and assaulting her stuffed lamb April, named after the month we gave it to her. (We struggle creatively with names for the characters scattered about her room, so say Miss Kitty, Squeaky Guy and Harold.) As you can see, her fourth tooth is really coming on. And look at the curls! Those things could cure cancer. (Too bad she couldn't save Deion Branch. Yet.)

Up next: It's the home opener. Did you know the state of Arizona actually has a sizable cardinal population? I mean the bird, not the inept football player. Cheers!

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