Saturday, November 30, 2013

Beer and football IV — week twelve

The game: Broncos at Patriots
The beer: Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale
The result: 34–31
The commentary: Fred Kirsch on the Patriots.com live blog put it best after Blount's fumble (the team's third) when he wrote "I'm going to vomit." (In Blount's defense he appeared to be knocked out for a second. The strip sack was a great play by Von Miller. Ridley? People are nervous. Nervous. He looked like a dreidel on his fumble, his arms flailing about as he spun to the ground. Happy Chaka Khan!) And yet… it never occurred to me to change the channel or turn the TV off altogether. Tom Brady still had three quarters left (or so I underestimated at the time). And though no games are alike I remembered two others: last month's against the Saints (win) and last season's against the Niners (loss). How can you count these guys out? No way I'm not watching.

Pro Football Talk tried to have it both ways so you know it was good: "if [Brady] comes back from this one, he'll be a legend" versus "Brady spread the ball among six different receivers, averaging a pedestrian 6.9 yards per attempt." (It's not quite "Terry Bradshaw Dead?"/"Terry Bradshaw Is Fine," but what could be? I'd provide links but Florio & Co. have taken them down. It's a good thing sports journalism isn't really journalism.)

Belichick's decision to defer in overtime—prioritizing favorable wind—confused everyone, including the captains on the field. You can see Ninkovich immediately signal that the Pats would receive until Belichick must have shouted "No, chowderheads, we're kicking!" Put the ball in Manning's hands? Are you crazy? I still don't know if it was the right decision but everything turned out alright. I know nothing about football.

Welker being at fault (and most think he was) on the punt does not in any way validate Belichick replacing him with Amendola. That was and is a mistake, and it's trendy around here, in a contrarian way, to say that Amendola isn't "injury prone" just because he's always injured. I am not making this up. It's hard to say the Pats would have won more than eight of eleven games so far if Welker had still been here because that's asking a lot, but on a loss-by-loss basis it's possible that he would have made enough of a difference in any or all of them. Is he not worth six points against the Bengals? Three against the Jets (and not even that had the bullshit been avoided)? Four against the Panthers? Unless you're an editor at PFT then it's hard to bet against one more win. Or more.

Regardless, there's a good chance the Pats win out. Texans tomorrow (blowout), Browns at home (blowout), a visit to Miami for the AFC Championship, a prime-time (for now) slobberknocker against the Ravens (the biggest challenge) and a light-contact practice session against whatever shitstorm is blowing in from Buffalo. Eleven wins is a disappointing finish. Twelve is likely. Thirteen is within reason. It's good to root for the Pats, so long as the other team isn't facing third and twenty-five.

Quick media notes: Collinsworth couldn't stop talking about how he had never witnessed a team run this successfully against the Pats, which means he hadn't seen them play in four years. It must be hard to watch the all-twenty-two from way up on that Sports Emmy high horse. And Zolak. The Showpony hadn't yet removed his Burberry scarf after standing in the postgame press room for a good twenty minutes. Do cross-eyed people think plaid is a solid color?

Up next: No matter the result in Houston, here's hoping the headlines don't begin with "Field conditions mar." Cheers!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Beer and football IV — weeks nine, ten and eleven

Week nine
The game: Steelers at Patriots
The beer: Berkley Harvest Ale
The result: Win, 55–31
The commentary: Wow. Look at her! Wow… wow. Just when I think the world is too far gone a moment like this is captured. Everything, somehow, will be OK.

Fifty-five points! Despite two no-calls on back-to-back first-quarter touchdowns by Gronkowski and Bolden—Roethlisberger must have threatened to ask the ref's daughter out on a date. And just when I think the defense might finally be coming around (I'm the lone fan to have never bought into their quality early this season, even before Wilfork and Mayo went down) they let the Steelers crawl back into the game in the third, once again forcing Brady to carry the team. Luckily they were still the second-worst defense on the field tonight as the once-admired Dick LeBeau chose to implement the "Leave Gronk Alone" scheme. What in the worldwide fuck?

A. and I had a great date night the Friday before the game. G's caregiver generously offered to watch her through the evening so we stayed in the city for a wonderful meal in South Boston. On the way there we ducked into one of those hipster package stores, whatever they're called now, with the weekly wine tastings and the fridge full of craft beer. We liked most of what we sampled (South American reds) and agreed to pop back in after eating. Another bottle of red with dinner, some "Shrimp with the heat" (actual menu entrée) and an uninterrupted adult conversation later we were back among the hipsters, among the snippets of "release" and "finish" and other sexually charged sommelier terms and picked out our favorite. I then drifted over to the beer fridge toward which, tasting wine samples earlier, I'd been positioned to stare at for fifteen minutes. Needless to say (for why else would I be telling the story?) I walked out with the Berkley and a second bomber I'll save for a cold day later this season. Removed from the context of the evening, the ale wasn't as good as the memory of buying it. Glad it worked out this way and not the other.


Week ten (bye)
The beer: Samuel Adams Cream Stout
The commentary: There's nothing like a bye week to make one feel like a lousy father and husband. "The Pats aren't playing today so let's do something as a family." What a selfish asshole I am. So Saturday we met friends for lunch in the city and Sunday we ran errands all over the North Shore. Or maybe it was the other way around? These weekends, man, they just run right together and spin you around a few times. It was fun I think?

No football. (Beer? Of course.) No raking. Barely made a dent in The Dead Zone. But G. did her best Jeff Ament impression and used her blue guitar to set fire to the place. It was awesome.

And that's the bye week.

Week eleven
The game: Patriots at Panthers
The beer: Atlantic MacFoochie's Scottish Ale
The result: Loss, 24–20
The commentary: Twice now, G. and I have been in the car when an Animals song came on the radio. The other day it was "Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" and I said "G., it's the Animals." "No, it's not Animals." "But honey, it is! It's a band called 'the Animals.'" "NO!" Maybe she thought it was the Cheese again?

It should have been a sign. "Pass interference… not pass interference." "That is fucking brutal!" "So long, everyone." Of course I would never drop an F-bomb on my daughter the way Brady did to Clete Blakeman (Clete? Blakeman?) after the… drama. However, I assure you it was the fucking Animals.

I was never a fan of Mike Tirico and his philandering ways but lately I appreciate that he does a decent job compared to most. Live, I didn't notice how he and Jonny This-Guy handled the non-call—which absolutely was pass interference, and my certainty stems from the fact that if the teams were reversed I would have been thankful to get away with it—but Awful Announcing's recap and assessment is fascinating. "[Tirico] explained everything succinctly and made sure to bring in all available parties for comment and analysis. Most importantly, he knew to shut up when the cameras were tracking Brady and Blakeman as they jogged off the field." I agree wholeheartedly with that first part and it was a refreshing bit of thorough analysis from the play-by-play guy under suspect conditions. (The second part though? Who knows, maybe he was sipping his own MacFoochie's—"dark as night and sweet as love" and the best beer of the season by a mile—or a stacked ESPN intern walked by. Let's not automatically give him credit for not talking.) It was handled well, especially well when heard in hindsight and not in a blacked-out state as I was at the time. Compare it to the Greg Gumbel/Dan Dierdorf exchange, described later in the post, from earlier this season with the field goal(s) to end Patriots–Jets II. (Dierdorf, who I think is pretty good for a dry ex-player, actually comes out clean when lesser color guys would have taken the ref's incorrect explanation for gospel—I can practically hear Collinsworth ranting on some bullshit about the game not being played the right way). Announcers are there to improve the game experience and they rarely succeed, so nice job, Mike. You creepy piece of shit.

On the subject of television, here are a few things I've been meaning to write about. I'll keep it short:

The 30 for 30 on Jimmy Connors's 1991 run at the US Open was enjoyable. I was right in the tennis sweet spot (har! har!) then, beginning my senior year of high school when I was on the verge of abandoning the game because asshole coach Chip Hill, Chip Hill with the really bad teeth, only played his team favorites and I wasn't one of them. So my game regressed and I lost interest. Anyway, as a kid I sort of liked Jimmy Connors. He was funny and successful, which is a good combination in a sport of mild personalities, right? Everybody was rooting for this guy and his ridiculous racquet in '91. However… what a douchebag he was! McEnroe had his thing: he hated the umpires and linesmen and wanted them to know it. But Connors? He hated the umpires and linesmen and wanted the crowd to know it. I get the sense that tennis wasn't too important to Connors (nor was compassion, with the Aaron Krickstein fallout). It was the spectacle of competition (and not the competition itself) that kept him playing. Gamesmanship instead of athleticism, as that extended nonsense with the racquets and towels during the Krickstein match was a dead ringer for Carolina's milking of the clock, slowing the tempo down to such a crawl that I thought Daisuke Matsuzaka was playing quarterback. I never did get McEnroe for some reason, but looking back he was the player I should have liked had I been a little older: cerebral, talented and anti-authoritarian. Right on. Connors was just a gifted prick. Excellent hour of television.

Project Runway double dose! Season twelve ended as it should have with Dom the winner. No one else had a chance—the ones who embrace bold prints (and actually know what to do with them) will always win in the end. And only in the end, in Mondo's case, because the producers at Lifetime (the Network for Women and Jarrod) don't like people with the HIV. In retrospect my sleeper pick of Ken was way off the mark: that motherfucker is nuts. I won't apologize for thinking Bradon would win the whole thing though. He's obviously talented but I couldn't have known he'd wait until fashion week to unveil a color-blind-old-lady mess (the "know what to do with them" ingredient, noted above, went missing). His proposal earlier in the season annoyed me too. Was it any better than some goofball in a backwards hat doing it on the big screen at Fenway? Likely worse. Also worse: what the hell got into the usually lovely Tim Gunn during the reunion show? That was a despicable display normally reserved for Zanna Roberts Rassi. The affair was bitter and ugly all around. Excellent hour of television.

Oh, Zanna Roberts Rassi. As much as I didn't like Tim Gunn on the reunion he's picture-perfect on the show itself (though I think he and the AIDS-victim-hating producers coddled crazy Ken too much by giving him his own room and not kicking him off the show) and, as a teacher, is a genuine mentor. But Rassi on the new season of Also-Rans? She must be trying out for an off-Broadway Heathers revival. "Just show me the sketch, jerk." How I love to hate that woman. I'll keep rooting for Jeffrey even though he doesn't seem long for the show. After him I'll probably fall to Seth-Aaron, whose designs I adore (or used to, at least) even as he annoys the shit out of me—these "Look at me, I'm so outrageous!" types always do. Maybe he'll slice open Viktor the Fop on camera so we no longer have to deal with that little fan of his. That would make for an excellent hour of television.

Lastly, if you attend a Monday Night Football game and try to get on camera by spelling out its acronym, I suggest sticking to initial letters. That's why they're called initials. MOST NASTY DEFENSE most certainly does not qualify, you lazy goddaMN motherFucker. Good defense, though. I'll give you that.

Up next: It is on. Cheers!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Beer and football IV — week eight

The game: Dolphins at Patriots
The beer: Wolaver's Pumpkin Ale
The result: Win, 27–17
The commentary: Several weeks ago, the local Whole Foods teamed up with a neighboring liquor store to hold a Fall beer- and wine-tasting event in the parking lot. Needless to say the liquor store, who cleverly (admirably) provided attendees with checklists to keep track of what they liked (and competitive prices to encourage them to shop), were the clear winners, while Whole Foods's minimalist participation—I showed up about forty-five minutes before closing and sampled all of one kind of cheese—was plain embarrassing. Especially since they seemed to do all the heavy lifting in terms of promotion! Oh well, I was half drunk when I left so who cares. I enjoyed a lot of good beer but the main takeaway was a confirmation of what I already suspected: the Wolaver's Pumpkin Ale I bought a week earlier was the discovery of the season. I like a pumpkin beer to not taste like a pumpkin doughnut or a pumpkin latte—I want a nice, tight ale (or stout) with a mild pumpkin influence. Cambridge's Great Pumpkin was (and probably still is, especially on tap at the Cambridge Common) my favorite pumpkin beer. But Wolaver's came out of nowhere with that farmer and that pitchfork and—shit!—how it satisfied the September yearning. Even the Long Trail guy at the Whole Foods parking lot event had to admit that Wolaver's was the winner, and not just because Long Trail's version tastes like manure.

Also on the agenda: one New York-based wine rep who, when a woman asked him to recommend a red, responded "I don't recommend anything. I grew up in New York so we drank French wine. California wine is too fruity. Fruity!" And then he punched her, he punched her right in the mouth, and as she picked her teeth up off the pavement he opened his emasculating little backpack, those weird drawstring ones you see the kids wearing these days, and he just started chucking grapes and apples at the poor woman. "Here's your fucking fruit! Choke on it ya trash! I'm from Noo Yawk! Fraaaance!" Seconds later I looked at the handy liquore store flier and said "I'll try the fifty-dollar wine." "Well it's not wine," he said, "it's (x)," that being whatever you call an expensive version of Jägermeister. "Do you know Jägermeister?" Here I am, a man obviously (barely!) in his thirties, and I have sideburns—sideburns!—big, American sideburns, and he's asking if I know what Jägermeister is. If you're picturing him with a shaved head, black-framed glasses and about one hundred twenty pounds of near-man then, by golly, you've nailed it. Oh, and that stuff tasted like manure.

The afternoon was a bit of a bust, except for the part where I drank a bunch of free beer and wine. Our original plan had been for the three of us to meet another family of three at the event, because who doesn't want to have their underage daughter toddling around a liquor store parking lot? Unfortunately G's failure to nap—note the common theme to this football season?—meant one of us (A.) had to stay home, and by the time I got my shit together our friends were long gone. Oh well. More time to focus on tweaking uptight eggheads.

Fast forward to Halloween, when we went trick-or-treating with that same family. Their little girl (only eight days older than G.) was seriously the cutest cowgirl there ever was. The boots? The boots! They live up the street so we stuck close to home. I'd have included pictures of her if it weren't so weird to ask her parents "Hey, do you mind if I put a picture of your daughter on the internet? I write a series of blog posts about the Patriots, except I don't write much about the Patriots, it's mostly about how people should be lining up to buy my amazing—amazing!—music collection. I also compare the logo for the InterContinental Hotel to a vagina on an annual basis. Wanna buy some Hawkwind?" That arrest warrant writes itself.

Guess who dressed as a cupcake? Ever seen one balance on a stack of books? OK, so it's not completely unexpected. At least we got her a costume this year. Check out the home-grown photography in the background: of the three framed pictures, A. took the middle (the Alcatraz water tower's spiral staircase); I took the one you can't see (some beautiful trees on St. Lucia, where we honeymooned… and honestly my favorite print of the three); and neither one of us will take credit for the unfinished Bermuda church at left. We're each convinced the other snapped it. Anyway, that's our display. Bidding queue forms to the left.

The preciousness will drive you mad. Accessorize.

I promise we're not standing in the middle of the road here, it's just the end of a driveway. Anyway, if one of us was going to be hit by this passing white car it would have been me, alright? So put the phone down and stop trying to involve the authorities all the damn time.

Up next: It's always a competitive game against the Steelers, except when it's not. Cheers!