Friday, January 17, 2014

Beer and football IV — playoffs, week two

The game: Colts at Patriots
The beer: Berkshire Scotch Ale
The result: Win, 43–22; Seth-Aaron, 5–0
The commentary: Quickly, here's what I loved this week.

Turnovers. The defense is trending in the right direction, even if they're still lousy. But turnovers are the great equalizer and more Brady drives can only help against Manning and friends. (So, so many friends.)

The running game? The running game! It demands respect and Brady should be capable of big production through the air against the Broncos. Blount's speed in the open field still amazes me, no matter how many times I see him break one out.

CBS's tasteful goodbye to Dan Dierdorf. Sure, the game was out of hand by then and they could afford to devote time to the man's career, but overall I think it was handled well. Gumbel was genuine and they never made it about Dierdorf the way Fox did about Tim "Ditto" McCarver, with the World Series getting in the way. It was just another football game and they cut away for a minute to give a guy a handshake. And then there was more football. I'll ignore the fact that Dierdorf still can't pronounce Hoomanawanui… starting now.

The Sound FX segment on NFL.com. I thought Dante Scarnecchia's remark to Andrew Luck about how he'll be an NFL champion one day, "I really believe that," was the definition of magnanimous. I'm not convinced Luck heard him—he was already thinking about stray dogs and the Dominators under his bed—but it was cool anyway.

The Scotch ale. It poured beautifully and tasted of victory. Oh shit, I still need a beer for Sunday!

Seth-Aaron winning Also-Rans III. Sorry I'm a week late with this. On a related note…

Having the useless anti-mentor Zanna Roberts Rassi out of my life for a few months. Those twins ought to knock her down a peg.

The phone call from my wife and daughter last week. A. told me how well G. did with breakfast and I heard her yelling "Say 'Yay me!'" in the background. She wanted me to be proud of her and tell her "Yay G!" I was and I did.

More beautiflism with Dressed to Kill. The café was playing this album at breakfast the morning of the game. "G.," I said, "they're playing Kiss." And so she leaned over to gave me a kiss. How I love her.

The songs I heard toward, at and away from my dentist appointment this morning. Here's a representative No Cavities playlist, in order, courtesy (mostly) of an itchy Sirius trigger finger.

1. Les Fleur de Lys – Circles
Superior to the Who's excellent original. The back story of this recording, as told in the liner notes of the Nuggets II boxed set, underscores how fully ridiculous the insular English pop scene (management, contracts, etc.) was in the mid sixties.

2. James Brown – Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved
Switched to Soul Town when "Circles" was followed by weak bullshit on the Underground Garage. Let's clean some teeth! Two times!

3. George Harrison – What Is Life
Heard this triple-album standout while being threatened about my flossing habits. No idea what station they had on but it was pretty good.

4. The Band – The Weight
I'm free! Classic Vinyl: on. Let's go to Starbucks and coat the inside of my mouth with sugar. It always drives me nuts when bands with great singers (Jack Bruce in Cream, Steve Marriott in the Small Faces, Roger Daultrey in the Who and Levon Helm in the Band) make a democratic process out of everything and let lesser talents (Eric Clapton, Ronnie Lane, Pete Townshend and Rick Danko) take the mic. I love the way Helm wrestles it back for the last verse here, though not without struggle.

5. Marvin Gaye – Can I Get a Witness
Sooouuul Town! "Is it right to be treated so bad when you give her everything you had?" Probably not. Is it right to slash your ex-girlfriend's tires while she's working at the hair salon? Only if you have a good lawyer.

6. Jethro Tull – To Cry You a Song
Deep Tracks for the home stretch. Not as strong as the earlier "Song for Jeffrey" but better than any flute-drenched morass that came after. The fade-out carried me into the garage. See you in six months, doc.

Up next: It's the AFC Championship for the third goddamn year in a row. Indeed, G. and I are spoiled. Cheers!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Beer and football IV — playoffs, week one (bye)

The beer: Lagunitas DogTown Pale Ale
The commentary: The bye weekend was spent redeeming $40 of iTunes gift cards and playing in the snow with my daughter. The former resulted in some after-the-fact Christmas songs (to spare me from having to buy them next December) and other non-holiday favorites from Michael Yonkers, the Fall and the Miracles. I also managed only one song more expensive than the stock 99¢ and it was Dr. Lonnie Smith's "Psychedlic Pi," clocking in at almost ten minutes. Surely worth the extra three-tenths of a dollar.

The snow? The snow! It's hard to tell exactly how much, due to intense drifting that revealed bare spots of grass, but about a foot of the light, fluffy variety fell from Thursday to Friday. Work was closed—as closed as working from home can ever be—and shoveling early Friday evening (with a can of Newburyport Pale Ale cooling in a nearby snowbank) wasn't too difficult. We were excited the next morning to take G. out in the snow for the first time (we didn't have the right clothes last year) but it was cold and not worth the risk, especially since Sunday was supposed to warm up anyway. And it did!

After eggs and muffins we bundled up and decided that a playground up the road was a good destination. It was familiar and, more important, well protected from traffic. A. stayed behind as father and daughter set off! Ten minutes of semi-shoveled sidewalk and occasional demands of "Carry me!" later we approached the southwest corner of the little league field (I have no idea if it actually is the southwest corner). Some boys were sledding down a snowbank across the field, if you can call that sledding, and G. started with "I don't want to see the boys. I don't like the boys." Wonderful philosophy. OK, let's walk up a little farther. That's where the swing set was anyway, my backup plan in case this introduction to the lifeless depths of frozen nature was a failure—during the walk she'd gone so far as to stick an eighth of an inch of three fingertips into the stuff. Hard to say how we'd make out.

It took some time but I eventually got her to walk in the packed snow on her own, and all I had to do was point her straight at the swings. She's likely old enough to be able to use the regular ones, the kind that you (!) and I use, but I still favor the "baby" ones for her because I can push as high as she wants to go while she's safely secured. Those snow pant-swollen thighs were a tight squeeze through the harness but it was worth it—we both had a blast. She wasn't ready to stop for fifteen minutes and I was aware the entire time that we were wasting the Winter day on Summer activity. Let's get familiar with this white stuff already!

I plucked her out of that swing and lost one of her boots in the process. I took advantage and carried her over to a bench, sat her down on my lap to put the boot back on and asked "Hey, do you want to walk in the snow some more??" As if it were the greatest thing. She said "No!" with such passion I'm not sure how I ever got her to do it. Those steps were really something to witness. Is anything a mystery anymore? That's sort of what I like most about being a father, just watching G. understand more and more how the world bends around her.

The photo was taken moments later, her first real steps through the deep snow. She wandered into this strange little pen, between the swings and the basketball court, that houses a stone-and-bronze monument (for some reason) and took it all in. Holy shit, this outfit. How I wish I could have made a mold of those boot prints. From here we trekked over to the playground and its large-scale multiple-slides-and-things apparatus. She climbed up the steps, ran up the ramp and darted toward the cluster of slides. This part, as the lone adult, always makes me nervous because I can rein her in at either the top of a slide or the bottom. Not both. Gravity works one way so I stayed on the ground and had faith that her choice of slide—all starting within a few feet of each other but ending as far as thirty feet apart, with the "bridge structure" in between—would be close to predictable. At thirty-nine, am I quick enough? Am I quick enough in six inches of packed snow? I would have to be. Several rides on the "funny slide" (long and steep with a gradual curve) and even more on the "crazy slide" (corkscrew; and these are her terms) soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread—old age and gravity, mean bastards both, had taken the day off. The worst part was when an evil ogre—her father—appeared to end all the fun, carrying her off kicking and screaming toward lunch and a nap. I did let her walk along the top of a low stone wall for a couple of blocks and we spotted some snowmen that made her laugh so she was in good spirits in time to see mom. I'm still beaming.

I sort of glossed over Saturday. Jumped right from Friday to Sunday! That afternoon, G. absolutely would not nap. We left her alone in her room for almost an hour (I was writing most of last week's post) and could hear that she wasn't quite asleep. Wasn't quite non-violent, either. Eventually I resigned to check on her, make sure, oh, she hadn't gotten into my closet, pulled all my neckties off the rack and piled them up in the middle of the rug so she could roll around on them. Also, to make sure, in the off chance any of this had happened, that she didn't have a diaper leak. Well…

In an effort to jumpstart a bit of rest—and, honestly, to settle parental impatience—we decided to leave early for dinner. Car rides usually do the trick so we took the scenic route to Burlington—home of the mall, some restaurants and absolutely nothing scenic. Tonight it was Tavern in the Square with friends whose son (irregular tube socks) is less than a month younger than G. (Say what you will about chain restaurants but they're overtly family-friendly. They have to be.) The steak tips and pale ale were yummy and G. settled in pretty well, opening up enough to yell "It's a blowout!" at the television when the Chiefs were achieving just that. Oops! We know nothing about football. I'm sad that tonight's game will air too late for her to watch (she's napping as I write this and, with dinner to follow, will maybe catch the end of Seahawks–Saints II). Hopefully the football-shaped balloon I got her yesterday will soften the blow. I am an excellent father.

Up next: The Colts try to hold the Patriots to fewer than fifty-nine points. The Patriots try to hold the Colts to fewer than fifty-eight. Cheers!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Beer and football IV — week seventeen

The game: Bills at Patriots
The beer: Wachusett Larry Imperial India Pale Ale
The result: Win, 34–20
The commentary: During the Browns game a few weeks ago I got into a shouting match with color man Steve Tasker. He said something critical about the Pats or their play-calling (I was bitter because Jason Campbell was beating my team) and then I turned it around on him, "You're off your case!" or something to that effect. Tasker is clinically retarded and the thing I said, whatever it was, was super clever and funny enough that I typed the exchange into Evernote to include in that week's beer-and-football breakdown. Then, like the clinical retard that I am, I overwrote the whole thing by accident. Shit happens and genius flies away like so much… shit? Oh, internet.

So in this installment of beer and media criticism (seems like more of my writing falls into this category year over year) we'll be dissecting the work of Ian (pronounced "Eye-Anne") Eagle and Dan Fouts. In short, they were (are) an embarrassment. In detail…

Second quarter, Bills facing fourth and one at the Pats' forty-five. Fouts quotes The Waterboy (more on that in a second) when explaining that the Bills should go for it and Eagle makes fun of him for it. "Shut up, Eye-Anne." "Whoa!" Lots of laughing. These are professionals. Meanwhile, the Bills are in offensive formation with no punter on the field and only after they snap it and fall two yards short does Eagle realize "They do go for it, and they're denied!" Repeat: the whistle blows and Eagle informs us "They do go for it!"

Clearly they're not even watching this game. Later on, in the middle of regaling us with some Edelman anecdote (because they sat down with Edelman the night before the game and needed us to know), Brady and the offense rush to the line in hurry-up mode and Buffalo's defense is clearly struggling to line up properly. Kyle Williams has enough and, frustrated, calls time out. Only then does Eagle announce, plainly, "Time out called." You suck. And where's the analysis? Isn't this where Fouts, as a former quarterback, should be keen to understand and communicate the defensive miscue to viewers? I can't believe I used to enjoy this guy on Monday Night Football. You suck. And Dennis Miller now thinks it's OK to shoot a bunch of schoolkids? You suck too, Dennis. But we'll always have The Bear.

At the end, with the Bills about to attempt an onside kick, Fouts seriously ponders "Why wouldn't you practice your onside kick during pregame warm-ups?" Because you're an idiot! Did the Pats practice it before the Browns game? Idiot!

As a big-picture summary, these clowns have had over a year to learn how to fucking pronounce Hoomanawanui. Why didn't you interview him Saturday night and nail it down? "You remember, Dan, when we were talking to Hooman last night, and he was all 'It sounds just the way it looks, Huh-oh-mah-nah-wah-noo-wee.' You couldn't believe it, kept saying 'Hee-ho-mah-nee-ho' in that stupid Adam Sandler voice." "Shut up, Eye-Anne." "You know I love you, big fella. Want to come over and watch The Mentalist tonight?" "Will your wife be there?" "She hasn't been for three months. My balls are blue. Oh, it looks like Dareus chopped of Brady's arm with a machete on that last play. Coach Saban, always preparing his kids for the pros. Back after this." (Their pronunciation of Sealver Siliga's last name is also fishy. It was "Silinga" for three hours, even though there is no N there. I can't necessarily blame them for this one because everyone in the local media is saying it the same—maybe it's a Samoan/Utah thing. So they get a pass… until it's proven that everyone with a microphone is an idiot and the nonexistent N really is silent.)

I'm sure there was more but these examples seal it. Wouldn't you rather hear the Waterboy story anyway?

The worst day of my life fell in March 1999 when I flew too close to the Kentucky sun on wings of vomit. I traveled to New Orleans for a conference and the entire affair was madness. Madness! The signs were present on that last night before returning home—two snapshots from dinner are the only portion of the evening captured for posterity. I call these events "The Prelude."

Clearly I was toasted and very content with how my life was progressing to that point—I must have been several snub-nosed local beers into the ether. I also had a major crush on the older woman tugging on my heartstrings beads. It's hard to tell in the scan but I think she's wearing Judith Light's blazer here.

Speaking of older women, this is a man. And that's me with money in my hands looking like I finally understood true love. I can't get over how strange I look without sideburns.

I don't remember much about what followed (those chunky white beads went a long way), but what good could come out of either of those… grins… I had on my face? Naturally, I blacked out in my hotel room without having packed and woke up the next morning (after "sleeping" through several rounds of my colleague banging on the door, since we were to ride to the airport together) to discover that, in the wee hours, I sat up in bed and projectile vomited into my suitcase. I projectile vomited into my suitcase! How does that even happen? Following a cursory clean-up (I had to leave) I chucked all my clothes into trash bags before stuffing them into the barfy suitcase and flew downstairs for a cab. "I need to be at the airport, like, now." The driver did an admirable job of getting me there like-now but it wasn't like-now enough because I missed my direct flight home. (Recycled air at thirty thousand feet for three hours? Probably for the best.)

There was a standby flight to "Cincinnati" airport (actually in northern Kentucky) where I could be put on standby for a flight to Boston. What else could I do? I made the first leg just fine—hey, maybe this was going to work out. But the Reds must have been playing at Fenway because I was shut out of the next one. Drag. They properly booked me onto a later flight… hours later. Several hours later. Well, there must be something to do in Cincinnati, right? There just must be! Maybe the Reds are in town! (Oh fuck, they're at Fenway!) Except Cincinnati the city is about fifteen miles from Cincinnati the airport. We're so goddamn spoiled in Boston, with Logan a quick cab or subway ride from downtown, and I just assumed all cities were like that. Drag.

What to do in the meantime? I probably force-fed myself something before deciding a movie was the best way to kill time. Sound thinking, actually. I jumped in a cab and asked to be taken to the closest movie theater, which felt too far on the way there but who cares, I was going to expense this shit anyway. The only showtime that lined up with my return-flight window was, yes, The Waterboy. I sat in a mostly empty theater with a handful of people who also must have missed their connecting flights to Not-Kentucky. I have no memory of the story or the characters aside from the "Oh no, we suck again!" quote that PFW in Progress slips in from time to time. When the lights came on I called a cab from a lobby pay phone—a pay phone!—and stumbled out into northern Kentucky sun. Over time I started to worry that easy Southern living was keeping the cabbie from attending to my urgency—I waited in that parking lot a long time. Eventually I was back at the gate with time to spare and—hooray!—there's a blizzard in Boston. Drag.

By this time I knew the layout of the terminal like it was the Lambda Complex. Naturally I was afraid to venture too far from the gate because I was not going to miss my flight again. I was not. So I browsed the same bookstores. I pissed in the same urinals. I wondered what my suitcase smelled like. After a spell (night time by now) and several flight status checks I bellied up to a bar for some dinner, a hockey game and, yes, a beer. Ah, the recovery of youth! I was a bit far from the gate but it was close enough for me to see, and I could probably hear the announcements. Right?

I was aware enough to pay my tab as soon as the food arrived because I was not going to miss my flight. Soon after, out of nowhere, people are running behind me. Why, and toward what could they be running? It was at this moment I realized the reason I could see my gate is that it was a straight line down the terminal from my stool. A long, straight line to the very end of the terminal. The terminal's terminal. The people were running toward my gate. And then I was running too.

Just when you thought the story could get no worse! Actually, it doesn't. I made the flight. The godforsaken airline might have lost my suitcase—my barfy suitcase—but I think I'm mixing that matter up with another trip (even that time, they eventually delivered it to my apartment). I can't say for sure but I probably slept well that night, fat on Woody's pizza (expensed), and late into the next day, which I'd already arranged to take off. Nice work by me. Better work by Dan Fouts, dredging up these memories with such detail that I could write a thousand words. I guess you're good at one thing, Dan.

Up next: We'll learn which AFC team is flying to Logan next weekend. If it's the Bengals via Kentucky then god help them. Happy new year!