Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Beer and football V — week twelve

The game: Lions at Patriots
The beer: Lagunitas Imperial Red Ale
The result: Win, 34–9; 49ers win, 17–13
The commentary: The world will surely end if the 49ers and the Steelers meet in the Super Bowl. The last two weeks all I needed was for each of them to win a single game and, taking advantage of my being limited to "TheScore" app, I was pushed to levels of panic unrealized since that time I did a one-eighty on Storrow Drive during a snowstorm. On Sunday I felt like an addict trying to distract myself from what my body craved, and that was for the game to end. Just end! Win or lose, just end! I washed the dishes and didn't allow myself to check the fourth-quarter score until they were done. I prepped the chili ingredients for Monday's potluck and couldn't peek until everything was ready to go. Deep breaths as I measured out the ground cumin (greatest smell in the world). With six minutes remaining and the Redskins up by a field goal I went into my daughter's room for bedtime with the Redskins up by a field goal. I told A. "My team is close to losing" and she almost cried. In September I spent twenty bucks for what's turned into three months (so far) of a little extra NFL enjoyment—the substantial pot felt like it was slipping away but it wasn't our mortgage payment, G's savings. It wasn't even beer money. Is this what degenerate gamblers go through daily? How are these people still alive?

After my cue to exit—curse a man's milk-less body—I took my Steve mug of coffee into the living room to relax on the couch and refresh my phone once per minute. Once. By this time the Niners had scored and were up four points—of course they didn't make it easy and gave the Redskins two more chances in the remaining three minutes. I wasn't too worried with Griffin being forced to throw but still… Kaepernick and friends can't advance a single first down on that twenty-eight-second drive? Twenty-eight seconds! Had 'em all the way.

My workplace opponent, whom I'll call Bruno since this might go on awhile, had a much easier time of it as the Eagles soared (har! har!) past the very same Titans who pushed us (we've picked the same outcome five times out of twelve so far) to the limit nine days ago. Joke's on him though: I still have the Eagles and he still has the Niners. Despite the scare I'm leaning toward the Redskins losing again this weekend, this time in Indy to the Colts. If every stray dog's worst nightmare can get a quick lead I'll be all set. The Colts were an option against the Jaguars on Sunday—who isn't?—but I deliberately kept them in my pocket for the following week because Bruno wasted them in week three. (I had the now four-win Saints. Burn.) As I refer to my tidy spreadsheet I see he's in a bit of a tough spot: if I were in his shoes, with his options, the only team I'd be comfortable with is the somewhat shaky Ravens hosting the Chargers. Maybe the Chiefs hosting the Broncos? The Giants in Jacksonville? Yikes. This could be my week.

Until Sunday night (the Pats game was a primetime affair for me) I considered the Lions hosting the Bears on Thanksgiving. We'll be in Connecticut and the TV will be on—I insist—so why not make it interesting? Oh, the Lions are why not. Fuck Dominic Raiola. (The awkward conversation with my father-in-law about why I brought my own beer when he has skunky, year-old Sam Adams in the fridge will be interesting enough.) In lieu of sitting on a couch on a beautiful afternoon (welcome to New England) we found a lovely playground and adjoining field in Beverly where I broke out the easiest-to-fly kite ever invented. If there's a lick of wind you take one step and it's airborne—even a three-year-old can do it and then run around like a crazy person because she doesn't understand physics. "Honey, run that way! Don't run toward the kite. Or… yeah, you're OK." It was worth the eight bucks. I was surprised by how many fathers were also enjoying a Pats-less couple of hours, particularly the one wearing a mark-two number eight-four Deion Branch jersey. I'm surprised G. didn't fight him for it, as Branch was once her favorite player. I don't know who it is now. I'll have to ask.

After making chili and setting it to slow-cook for six hours I finally turned the game on around nine. Any minimal worry over a scrappy Lions team was quickly erased as the night wore on and the red ale transformed to yellow pee. I fell asleep in the middle of the fourth quarter, woke up in time for Blount's second touchdown (this benching might be the best thing that could have happened to Jonas Gray) and promptly fell asleep again. Finishing Monday night, I couldn't remember ever seeing a losing team kneel on the ball to end a game. That's what this season is becoming around here.

Up next: Yeah, some of you ever been up to Wisconsin, they got a lotta cheeeese. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Beer and football V — week eleven

The game: Patriots at Colts
The beer: Evil Twin Ashtray Heart Smoked Imperial Stout
The result: Win, 42–20; Steelers win, 27–24
The commentary: "And then there were two." So it goes as two more knock themselves out, including the Denver Cheater, who "actually" picked Baltimore last week. Right. The other lone survivor (?) also gnawed at his fingernails over a nerve-racking Steelers win in Tennessee. We downgraded our cable package to save a few bucks and no longer have ESPN as a result (what the fuck am I going to do on draft night?) so I was following along on my phone's "TheScore" app. Why is it called "TheScore"? Don't they know it gets sorted under T instead of S in the app drawer? These are the problems Android developers create for themselves.

Vibrate! Vibrate! Vibrate! all in a row during the second and third quarters signaled field goal, touchdown, touchdown for the Titans. PFW was high on Zach Mettenberger going into this year's draft and I was afraid the game was validating them with each passing minute. Did I really make myself wait until Monday so I could put my faith in a serial rapist? After San Francisco and Kansas City, two teams I considered, had won the day before? (Buffalo, Cleveland and Washington—Buffalo, Cleveland and Washington—not so much.) I was resigned to losing. A. was pissed because I'd gone undefeated so far, whereas everyone else bought back in at least once. "It isn't fair!" Two more vibrations settled the mounting tension and I showed her the three-point differential: "Final score." I fear she has already spent the money.

It's good to see Sergio Brown hasn't changed from his time in New England. For two seasons I progressively referred to him as a disappointment who celebrated accidental success, made Patrick Chung look like a superstar and teamed up with Brandon Meriweather to form an ongoing nightmare. I'll take Gronk's fifteen yards all day. And oh yeah: Jonas Gray. Four touchdowns, two hundred yards, countless "Fifty Shades of Gray" headlines and the cover of Sports Illustrated. (Sports Illustrated is still around? I will forever treasure its 1990 caption of Steffi Graf "aiming her décolletage lensward." Lensward!) Nowhere to go but up for him, right? Belichick might want to keep LeGarrette Blount's number handy.

On Saturday evening we drove up to the Anchorage by the Sea in Ogunquit after buying a Groupon voucher… for the Anchorage Inn in York. Whoops. Luckily it wasn't Bar Harbor. We made the most of our eight-mile assumptive error (A. and I have stayed at Ogunquit's Anchorage a number of times—including one weekend a few years ago when G. was likely conceived (!)—and when we saw a deal for "the Anchorage" in "Maine" we never considered there might be another. Drag. After a demoralizing conversation with the front desk we decided to continue a little farther out of our way north toward Federal Jack's again for dinner while A. looked up nearby alternatives that might satisfy a cranky three-year-old. She hit on Féile Restaurant and Pub in Wells: good reviews, impressive beer selection and a decent children's menu? Six miles closer (so, twelve) to where we were actually staying? Let's try it. Oh good, G. soaked through her pull-up.

Once that was squared away we chose the happening pub space over the lifeless proper dining room and it was the right choice. For example, did you know that Féile is Irish for "country/western theme night"? We settled into a roomy booth next to a lovely older couple who heroically tolerated/encouraged G's post-nap craziness, A. ordered a glass of wine and I got the above-mentioned stout, which was delicious despite what I suspect was a dirty tap line. My fried haddock was alright once I got through all the fried—I had to wash it down with more beer, so I ordered a Green Flash Cedar Plank Pale Ale. Another triumph! I love a beer menu that lists a bunch of stuff I've never heard of and then groups Coors Light, Michelob Ultra, etc. under the heading "The Usual Suspects." Two dudes strolled in just before we left and weren't having it when the waitress suggested Harp, a lager I've always favored. "Bud Light bottle." "Me too." Is it Friday already?

Up next: The Lions pack themselves into a 98 Olds for a pre-holiday road trip to Foxborough. Please keep Ndamukong Suh away from Brady's and Gronkowski's knees. Cheers!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Beer and football V — week ten (bye)

The beer: Samuel Smith Organic Chocolate Stout
The result: Seahawks win, 38–17
The commentary: "What can happen?" So I asked as I considered the Samuel Smith on the shelf. The stout and a six-pack of Founders Porter accompanied me to the car when it hit me that Rob Gronkowski was on the professional athlete version of Spring break and, yes, anything could happen. Would the Samuel Smith Curse (broken—temporarily?—last September) cripple the midseason MVP? Later, when I cracked it open during the Seahawks–Giants game—my Seahawks–Giants game—I realized "Oh no."

The first half did nothing to ease my anxiety but that passed once Marshawn Lynch started pulverizing the Giants' spirit in the second. I don't think they can back into the playoffs, finally turn it on and give me sleepless nights wondering "What if…" again this February. There is hope.

Controversy! It looks like someone in my knockout pool chose Denver for a second time. No. Am I the only one who maintains a detailed spreadsheet to keep track of what I pick, what everyone picks, week after week? Attention to detail, folks: my greatest contribution to mankind. Excluding this cheater/dead head (whether on purpose or not, Denver is about the least likely team to scheme "No one will notice" or assume "Probably haven't picked them yet") there are three of us remaining. Not that I have great options this weekend: Buffalo or Miami? Ugh. Cleveland? Washington? Cleveland? Washington?? Not-Chicago? Pittsburgh after last week? "I'm scared to death to pick against the Jets until they win again." Maybe I do know something about football after all. Ask me Tuesday morning.

Up next: Shit, maybe I'll just pick the Pats again. Cheers!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Beer and football V — week nine

The game: Broncos at Patriots
The beer: Port Board Meeting Brown Ale
The result: Win, 43–21; Bengals win, 33–23
The commentary: In my inaugural beer-and-football diary I brought up Peyton Manning's penchant for not removing his helmet during post-loss handshakes. I have come to admire Manning over the years and I find this to be his one evident character flaw—as a fan of a team whose coach once ran off the field during the Super Bowl before time had expired I know what a sore loser looks like. Once again, there he is out in the middle of Gillette Stadium shaking hands with Malcolm Butler while doing his best sad-LaDainian-Tomlinson impression. Can one of his dozen handlers please point this out to him sometime?

Anyone who says he saw a twenty-two-point victory coming is lying—the Broncos were favored and they should have been, even in Foxborough. But those people calling PFW in Progress afterward saying "I knew it, I told you!" without explaining how or why (as my man Paul Perillo criticized) can eat a bowl of dick up. Back in 2001, while slumming in the college publishing world, I attended a sales meeting in San Francisco before the football season started. The Pats were coming off five wins the year before (ex-Browns coach Bill Belichick's first, after Pete Carroll wasted a talented core of Patriots for three years), Drew Bledsoe was slipping into iffy territory and the local media were apoplectic that Richard Seymour was the team's first-round pick. Fan morale was low, expectations were nil and Carl Everett was probably hogging all the headlines. I was chatting with a Massachusetts colleague one morning and, as every year, he proclaimed "You watch, the Pay-tree-itz are winning the Super Bowl." Sure, man. How? The question wasn't asked because the notion was ridiculous and I probably rolled my eyes, wondering if there was a toaster around.

Given the opportunity to respond? What might a keen, informed fan have answered? "Well, Drew Bledsoe threw fifty-eight interceptions over the last three years, and if he starts slowly then Tom Brady might take over in a matter of weeks. He's a better quarterback, on paper, for Charlie Weis's system anyway." To which I, and everyone around, would have said "Who the hell is Tom Brady?" No one—media, fans, blowhards—said "Bledsoe is the only thing keeping this team from winning it all." When he went down in week two, no one said "Now's the time!" No one predicted that Brady would do well "filling in" and then Bledsoe wouldn't regain his job. No one knew the Patriots would be champions. Just like no one knew the Broncos would get blown out Sunday night. (Until halftime, at least.) The ones pretending they did are either blind homers or cynical radio personalities setting up a gleeful postmortem should the team fail to win it all for the tenth straight season.

Another top beer, another knockout-pool victory. Survive and advance. You bet your ass I was afraid to pick the Bengals but almost everyone else (four of the remaining five) did too. Five days later they let Brian Hoyer and friends do the opposite of everything the Browns have accomplished since 2010. Thank god I can't touch this team anymore.

I don't feel great about my Seahawks pick tomorrow. Historically, the Giants are one of those teams (Dolphins, Steelers, Niners, et al) that looks like it could win anywhere between six and twelve games in a season. What pushed me over the edge—beside the fact that the Eagles (hosting the Panthers: I'm too impatient to wait until Monday) and the Steelers (in Jersey against the Jets: I'm scared to death to pick against the Jets until they win again) were my only other realistic options remaining—is that the Seahawks must feel the need to prove themselves after a disappointing first half of the season. Right? Brother Eli probably feels he has to prove something too and that means hucking the ball downfield every other down—against this secondary, in Seattle, I favor the home team. It's unfortunate that I know nothing about football.

Happy Halloween! Like nine out of ten girls her age, G. went as a princess this year.

Her scepter lights up whenever it's struck against a hard surface like the couch or my skull. We trick-or-treated for a good ninety minutes and that meant the five bags of candy A. bought in a moment of lunacy went undented. My waistline and complexion will make the ultimate sacrifice. G. is pretty psyched though, especially once you pile on the bounty she took home.

After watching a retarded (inferred) pedestrian wear all black, walk out in the middle of the road and get hit by a car moving ten miles per hour, we detoured into a charming, tucked-away little neighborhood. All the residents were sitting on their front porches, greeting kids with smiles and endearing questions (one older woman couldn't get over G's curls), beaming with pride over their themed holiday displays (pictured). Polar opposite of the darkened porch at our house. By the time we got back with a half hour of official Halloween remaining we received all of two children—five pieces each, and you know they'll be back next year. Bring your friends!

Lastly, here's our rainy-day princess frolicking around some furniture at the mall. A. and I were snapping pictures as she protested "Stop looking through my window!" This was during our wait for the family bathroom to become vacant so G. could use the potty. The lone middle-aged man who eventually showed himself (after several flushes) had dropped a giant, stinking shit bomb on the entire zip code. Happy Halloween, you monster you. Let's find another bathroom.

Up next: The bye weekend marks the end of my love affair with The Wire, six years late, as I watch the closing episodes of its fifth and final season. Shiiit. Cheers!