Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Beer and football IV — week sixteen

The game: Patriots at Ravens
The beer: Rogue Chipotle Ale
The result: Win, 41–7
The commentary: With a name like "Chipotle Ale" it had to at least be interesting, right? Hmm. Assassination attempts are interesting. The weird police activity on my street last night was interesting. Owning too many (more than zero) reggae CDs is interesting. Beer, when "interesting," is usually of the "Well, it's certainly interesting" variety. I thought of Woody on Cheers when he was hypnotized to like vegetables and kept putting kale in everything. "You can really taste the kale!" I could really taste the peppers and/or the artificial pepper flavor. This one needs work.

But hey, if the worst beer of the season is going to pair with the best game of the season, who am I to judge? I still drank the thing so I was more invested than, say, T-Sizzle, who kept showing up on the sideline with those weird helmet welts on his forehead and then followed up his team's no-show with a stated desire to "just burn the tape." Very satisfying. He couldn't even blame the refs because everyone watching—Pats fans, Ravens fans, the refs' wives—blamed them for trying to kill football as a well paced sport. (As it stands now, though, there's a chance we see these guys in the playoffs. I want none of that action.)

G. was in rare form Sunday. No nap! She kept asking to watch the Patriots because I told her that's what we'd do together when she awoke but that means nothing when there's no sleep in the first place. So I flipped between the early games (Vikings–Bengals and Broncos–Texans; and no, I don't remember such a spectacle upon Brady setting an individual record either) to keep her happy while she colored on the wall, on the table, on the floor, on the pillow and even on her construction paper a little bit. Well done, dad. I captured—barely—a rare respite by luring her in with the front-facing camera. That's why it sort of looks like crap… sorry for the blur, internet. You see how ready she is with that crayon? "Yellow!" She's excelling in the fan department though: at one point I asked her to yell "Go Patriots!" and she complied with "Go Patriots! One more time, go Patriots!" That's not me interjecting there, she actually said "One more time" and then repeated "Go Patriots!" Her enthusiasm and wonderful warm hugs are all I need to get through any looming playoff disasters. Not that I'm pessimistic. Really.

I was never comfortable with the lead until Baltimore turned it over on downs with six and a half minutes to go. The good guys were up 20–7 and any comeback—with Joeflacco, Rice and Pitta out of sorts—seemed unlikely. Blount's second touchdown four minutes later sealed the deal and Harbaugh, with his loathable us-against-the-world eye rolling, officially threw in the towel by inserting the fastest man on Earth at quarterback. Only then did the wheels come off—immediately—with Harbaugh later blaming it on a league-wide conspiracy to schedule an away game six days before this one instead of seven. It's fewer than five hundred miles between Detroit and Baltimore as the cushy NFL charter plane flies. Satisfying indeed.

I couldn't bring myself to write about it on Sunday but the InterContinental VaGina made its annual appearance last week. Lots of free bourbon, hoo boy. A vicious snowstorm, a detour to the Hard Rock Café of all places and one missed train stop did not come at all close to getting me home at a reasonable hour. And then I barfed some. The following afternoon I gradually ate a huge burrito and took a half-hour nap in the company locker room. On that note, here's a short holiday playlist for you to listen to while drinking skunked beer with your wife's family. Stop shouting those animals!

1. The Reverend A.W. Nix – How Will You Spend Christmas Day?
"How you gonna spend your Christmas?" "My god, child, I'm not going to spend Christmas. How can I spend what I ain't got. I'm going to celebrate Christmas, and believe me I mean celebrate. Nothing worries me, glory, hallelujah." "Nice try, woman. It takes money to give presents." I love this exchange, which I've paraphrased at the end there. She thinks she's telling the reverend what he wants to hear, all "Christmas isn't about money and shopping, amen," and he comes back with "OK, maybe you're right, but you still need money." And then he hits her with this, not paraphrased: "Made in the shade and served with a spade, it was the best eggnog that ever was made." She had no chance.

2. Paul Revere & the Raiders – Rain, Sleet, Snow
We've got one of those postal collection boxes on the sidewalk out front and, without fail, when the Winter snow melts there are rubber bands everywhere from whoever drops off and/or picks up the mail. And my Christmas packages always end up in the snowiest, wettest spots on my porch. Benjamin Franklin must be rolling over in his giant Freemason grave.

3. Wailers – Christmas Spirit??
More Pacific Northwest action! Frustrated mailmen, disillusioned youth and countless covers of "Louie, Louie." What's in the holy water up there?

4. Michelle Beauchesne – What Child Is This?
I dream of G. growing up to play the cello. Beautiful.

5. The Fall – No Xmas for John Quays (live)
1978 Peel session. "Make sure the album this song is on is in your Christmas stocking." There's your holiday spirit. (Live at the Witch Trials reissued earlier this year.)

Up next: Oh, hi Bills! Competing interests are at play with the game being flexed to 4:30 and called by the Q-Team of Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Beer and football IV — weeks thirteen, fourteen and fifteen

Week thirteen
The game: Patriots at Texans
The beer: Newburyport Pale Ale
The result: Win, 34–31
The commentary: Readers (!) wondering why I comment so infrequently on game details have by now learned the truth: even in the rare week where I post before the next one is played, usually it's like Saturday night or Sunday morning and anything that might have stuck out has stuck itself back in. Old age is a bastard. Increasingly, of course (especially compared to the first season of beer and football way back in oh-ten, when I even found time to mix in love letters to monumental works of art and questionable technological directions), it's multiple games at once or nothing at all. So here's what's left in this impotent brain of mine regarding the Houston game: running backs. Stevan Ridley, dead man walking the sideline with a football in his arm. I wonder if anyone tried to knock it out of there. Then there's James Develin with his performance of "The Season's Greatest Touchdown," featuring the 2014 Number One Draft Pick Players on defense. I love that song. And that's it—go Patriots!

I finally caught the Hendrix episode of American Masters on PBS. Much of the material had already been used in other documentaries, in particular the sit-down with Chas Chandler that was featured prominently in the Classic Albums piece on Electric Ladyland, but it was still worth watching. I enjoyed the Miami Pop Festival footage and will probably download the album, since that period of the band's live sound (Spring 1968) isn't well represented. Noel Redding comes off as bitter as ever without any regard for the fact that "She's So Fine" and "Little Miss Strange" sound like they were written by the psychedelic equivalent of my two-year-old next to Hendrix's adult, progressive compositions. Lucky for him Fat Mattress went on to superstardom as the closing act at Woodstock—that cover of "Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb" segueing into "Petrol Pump Assistant" will live forever.

Unwelcome were the send-us-money interruptions that saddle so many PBS experiences. Local has-beens John Laurenti and Henry Santoro, former DJs at once-listenable WZLX, were reanimated to explain to us that Hendrix was an important musician (I might agree but doubt lingers as I consider the source). The "conversations" between a lazy-eyed Santoro and a disheveled Laurenti were the opposite of enlightening:

Laurenti: "What was your favorite song off the first album?"

Santoro: "Oh, I think 'Foxy Lady' was just it."

Jarrod: "Really?"

Laurenti: "Yeah, it made such a great impact. [Glances down at notes.] And the fact that he released three albums with the Experience and [refers to notes] one with Band of Gypsys and then did… twelve… posthumously is just amazing."

Wikipedia: "You're welcome."

Leave it to Laurenti to not know what he's talking about. I love the idea that "releasing" twelve albums since death is an accomplishment—just because Hendrix recorded everything doesn't mean People, Hell and Angels should have exposed itself. Anyway, I remain convinced that if Hendrix had survived the vomit, and then survived an evening with Ginger Baker (who, I learned in Beware of Mr. Baker, was looking for Hendrix the day he died), he either would have continued to create the slick, overproduced boogie music of his late period that I didn't much care for or, wistfully, ditched the whole scene and embraced blues music like he'd wanted to all along. I favor the latter.

The three of us drove to Connecticut for a nice Thanksgiving, and the night before (in order to avoid bottles of Sam Adams that have probably vacillated between warm and cold for years) I grabbed a canned six-pack of Newburyport Pale Ale to accompany my brain. The in-laws insisted I take the leftovers home. Sure! Cans are the rage, of course, as craft breweries "are seeing the benefits of canning beer," which I imagine translates to "cans are cheaper to produce" since suitcases of Bud Light don't come in bottles. No matter the vessel, a leftover pale ale this week might have been the best game-day beer of the year. And I earned that motherfucker because newfangled can carriers have evolved from simple fish-strangling strands of plastic to angry clutches of inertia.

Week fourteen
The game: Browns at Patriots
The beer: Rising Tide Tempest Coffee Porter
The result: Win, 27–26
The commentary: Following the Browns' first third-quarter touchdown and subsequent failed conversion I wrote "They shouldn't have gone for two." I didn't see the point (har! har!), that late in the game, of securing a two-touchdown lead. There was a lot of football left to be played (obviously, considering what went down) and this reeked of one of those seemingly aggressive but actually trepidatious moves that dooms a team. The Browns lost by one point, and even if the final might instead have been 28–27 (since the Pats would have kicked the extra point at the end instead of going for two) there was a chance to block the kick. Teams get weird when Brady and Belichick are on the opposite sideline.

I still think Ward's hit on Gronk was a cheap shot. So in order to avoid an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit the only alternative was to go for his knees? I don't buy it. And now we might be fucked. Incidentally, the way it went down I thought at first that Gronk re-broke his forearm. Flipping end over end and landing awkwardly on his left arm like that? How many times can you break the same bone before you become an accountant? Well, it wasn't his forearm. Lucky him? Some reports, including one from the ever-reliable Karen Guregian (she's clearly on the Gronkowski Family Christmas card list), indicate he could be back in time for the start of next season. We'll see about that. In the meantime, can this team win a playoff game without him?

Week fifteen
The game: Patriots at Dolphins
The beer: Blatant India Pale Ale
The result: Loss, 24–20; Tyson, 7–1–0
The commentary: What the hell, Colette Lala? This wasn't my favorite season of Survivor either and I'm equally annoyed by repeat offenders (the dream is dead, Rupert, it's dead!). But at least the right person won… on his third try… and now we have Survivor: Nashua or whatever they're calling it to look forward to in February. Here's hoping it features twenty people I've never heard of—I can't remember the last time that happened, sure, but the show is much more enjoyable with you slapping ones and zeroes on my internet. Make 2014 your year.

More internet talk: please and thank you. More people need to know how useless Dan Shaughnessy is, how representative he is of yellow journalism, cretinism and degeneracy. Bruce at BSMW kills it from all angles—media criticism, sports or otherwise, at its finest.

Music criticism at its finest: the next big thing after the MP3 is apparently the "mastered for iTunes" M4As or 96Ts or whatever "It sounds better!" bullshit Steve Jobs's corpse invented. (Or it's Spotify, because everyone knows that bandwidth-reliant digital music is of a higher audio quality than "ridiculous-sounding" locally stored digital music. Also: mashups.) This time it's called The Complete Studio Recordings The Definitive Collection The Complete Studio Albums. Tune in by, say, November 2016 for the forty-fifth anniversary of "Stairway to Heaven" and the (x) format release of Led Zeppelin: The Redundancy. It's your own fault and probably mine too.

Up next: A surging Ravens team and a holiday playlist. Cheers!