Monday, October 31, 2016

Beer and football VII — week eight

The game: Patriots at Bills
The beer: Southern Tier Warlock Imperial Stout
The result: Win, 41–25; Broncos win, 27–19
The commentary: I have had enough of rooting for leading AFC rivals in order to advance week to week in the knockout pool. The Steelers and their injured rapist cost me twenty-five units a couple of weeks ago and the Broncos last night had me considering another thirty. Luckily it never came to that as the Chargers threw four times from the two to discover yet another way to lose a close game—try following that shit on your phone. Regardless, because "irregardless" isn't a word, had I lost I would have been unable to buy in again because the cut-off was last week. Or maybe it's this week. It's not the most clarified or transparent league—for example, I won't know until tomorrow night what teams everyone picked. Plus my wonderful and all-knowing (and coded, since it's maintained at work) Excel spreadsheet called shenanigans on a friend who mistakenly picked the Bengals for a second time last week. I had no choice but to point this out to the… commissioner?… and hope for a transcription error. It was not and so we are one fewer, not "less." He split the pot in a cowardly act last year anyway.

I'm hoping yesterday morning's London tie between the Bengals and the Redskins eliminates some more because ties are the same as losses, for the object is to "pick a winner." Indeed, I feared a Charger touchdown and a two-point conversion would send my game to a fruitless overtime and was a heroic father reading through—and quite well!—Fox in Socks without interruption when my phone vibrated, signifying either the end of the game (with the Broncos likely winning in regulation) or pure, sweet hell (the aforementioned comeback scenario). Once my tongue and I concluded with "a tweetle beetle noodle poodle bottled paddled muddled duddled fuddled wuddled fox in socks, sir"—an enviable achievement!—it was mama's turn to take over for Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! and I could not check the alert quickly enough. "We're good," I told her. For now.

The pickings going forward will be slim. Through eight weeks, the percentage of "experts" (and arbitrary rulers such as best defense, home team, etc.) I—in part—relied upon as collated at NFL Pick Watch hadn't dipped below ninety-three until yesterday, when the Broncos were determined to be the favorite by eighty-one percent. So ninety-four, ninety-four, ninety-seven, ninety-three, ninety-six, ninety-seven (wrong!), ninety-four, eighty-one. It's a real outlier—I didn't believe when I sent my pick in Thursday night that Aqib Talib would sit—and a sign of things to come since most of the league's few (loosely) elite teams are no longer available to me: Patriots/Broncos/Packers/Steelers. The Seahawks remain and are as trustworthy as anyone outside of New England and excepting injuries (to them, the Steelers and the Broncos), underwhelming quarterback play (same three) and douche karma (Packers). But are they good? Are the Falcons for real or is another series of season-crippling losses inevitable? Is it time to move past my fear of picking for or against the Cowboys with Tony Romo out of the picture? Should the Vikings really win with ninety-three-percent certainty in Chicago tonight against a horrendous Bears team that could scrape out an ugly win in support of Jay Cutler's return (nah) or in solidarity with the Cubs (realistic)? As witnessed a few years ago when the Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII and the out-of-contention Orioles refused to concede parking privileges for the following season's celebratory kickoff game in Baltimore—forcing the Ravens to play (and lose) in Denver instead—organizational pride is never to be overlooked when it comes to who is the Hot Shit Home Team. Unless you're the Browns.

In a bewildering season of subpar football one thing is (probably) true: a classic Rex Ryan nosedive, foretold by his concession of the AFC East—one can hope November 8 is so smooth following Hillary Clinton's blowout victory—and the permanent dejection that follows every loss to the Patriots (despite his "Fuck it!" bravado over the strange challenge-flag dustup following the Bills' garbage-time, dildo-free touchdown) will undo any good that came out of his team's impressive four-game winning streak that started in New England against an injured third-string rookie quarterback. "It's just ten guys playing one thing and somebody else playing something else. And even if you're not singing out of the same hymnal, it looks bad and sounds bad." The man is no poet. Whoever hires him next year will find out if he's worth the "all-in" shitstorm.

Let's discuss the beer because I haven't much this season. Warlock stout is part of the "Blackwater Series," written by Patrick Simmons and propelling the Doobie Brothers to the top of the singles charts in 1975. The label brags that it was "brewed with pumpkins" as if no one does that every Autumn. The first ten-percent-alcohol sip was delicious but the Warlocks didn't record "Heavy Bomber" for nothing—after awhile I just wanted to be done with it and find a scary movie on Netflix to fall asleep during. I awoke with a clear head so that's something.

End beer talk. Jamie Collins was traded. Drag. Go Cubs!

Up next: I will spend the entire bye weekend admiring our new fence. Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Beer and football VII — week seven

The game: Patriots at Steelers
The beer: Mayflower Daily Ration Session India Pale Ale
The result: Win, 27–16; Packers win, 26–10
The commentary: "You stink. You stink. You stink!" Brandon Bolden, the special-teams ace who knocked a punted ball from the six yard line into the end zone for a touchback, did not earn my respect by dropping a key third-down pass that my five-year-old daughter could have caught with her feet. Marcus Cannon, Jonathan Freeny, Bolden… what do they have on Belichick? And can Trey Flowers and Anthony Johnson get in on it? I just want to know if they're any good.

Had the Steelers won then Bolden's drop would have been the turning point, though Julian Edelman had a bad one as well. The Pats never had a firm grip on the game and looked iffy for three hours, magnifying how spoiled we fans are in showing concern over twenty-seven points scored. I don't care what the statistics show, I'm never comfortable when Belichick is pitted against a rookie or little-seen quarterback—the game plan against Roethlisberger would have been more sophisticated so why not stick with that against an inferior quarterback? I know nothing about football.

Commuting this week, I twice sat near someone who got on the wrong train. It happens, though somehow not to me yet. Sure, I once drunkenly mistimed my destination by one stop after a Christmas party and plain "slept" through it last September but at least I got on the right trains each time. After work every night I confirm the correct track number up to six times—six!—to ensure I'm heading home and not elsewhere: on the display at the entrance to North Station, on the big board inside the station, on another display at the door leading to the platform and, assuming Sir Lord Baltimore or Thee Oh Sees aren't blocking out the world, by listening to recorded announcements inside the station and aboard the train as well as proclamations by several conductors. If I end up in Concord or Winchester then it's my own fault.

Even so, I should never make it that far before realizing my mistake. A few minutes from departure the tracks split in all directions, particularly my line along the coast. Do I see, you know, the Atlantic Ocean? Are the Mystic River locks on the left (good) or the right (bad), or are they nowhere at all (awful)? Nighttime is difficult but the new parking garage, the wind turbine, Costco? It's all lit up! We're not in Littleton gloom.

Monday night, in the middle of the (quite lovely) conservation marshes leading up to River Works in Revere, with North Station twenty minutes behind us, the first woman only then realized her error and called some poor sucker in Haverhill (her actual destination) to pick her up in Newburyport without considering an alternative. And Wednesday, here we go again with another woman bound for the elusive Haverhill, wondering with a conductor's (lack of) help what was the most default option. I'd stick to bottled water at home, ladies.

I like to think I'm a problem solver. One of four caster snaps off the rolling clothes hamper? Wrap the bolt in plumber's tape and zip-tie the shit out of it. My daughter throws up all over the front of my jacket? Soak it in vinegar for an hour to get the smell out before washing. Renaming beer-and-football posts with Roman numerals breaks a bunch of links? Set aside a half hour here and there to comb through my blog and fix everything to keep my reader (!) happy. Got on the wrong fucking train even though a blind ape could have managed OK? Well, maybe I don't have to put anyone out. Maybe doubling back to North Station is a waste of time. Maps… taxis… Uber… maybe Melrose Highlands is only eight miles from Lynn. Maybe Malden Center is four from Chelsea. Maybe you'll catch the last ten minutes of Dynasty.

Up next: Richie Incognito blames the tablets and a lack of stomped balls after his team loses by thirty. Cheers!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Beer and football VII — week six

The game: Bengals at Patriots
The beer: Wachusett Horseshoe Ale
The result: Win, 35–17; Steelers lose, 30–15
The commentary: Hell is rooting for the Steelers and watching them lose. Fuckers. Enjoy four to six weeks of your team falling out of contention, Ben.

The good news is the Pats should cruise to victory Sunday afternoon. The bad news is I was knocked out of the pool and had to cough up another twenty-five units in order to run with the Packers tonight. I don't love the pick—Aaron Rodgers looks shaky, almost like he can no longer overinflate his footballs—but they're hosting the Bears and I need a cheap win to stay alive. I'd love a stress-free weekend.

The lesson—maybe?—is to never pick against the Dolphins after relying on them to win (barely) once before. And a second time? Gamblor does not approve. I will keep clear of the Bills this week whether or not they're due to fall to Earth.

Oh, Bengals. I wasn't feeling good early on and wondered how I would react to both the Patriots and my knockout team losing on the same day (I watched the Pats on tape delay). Then Tom Brady realized "Oh yeah" and Gronk realized "Fuck yeah" and Vontaze Burfict realized "Fuck this" and it was over. Injured Roethlisberger, struggling Broncos… it's good to be the Patriots.

Up next: Don Caballero, affectionately called "Don Cab" or "The Don" by fans, formed in Pittsburgh in the Summer of 1991. Cheers!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Beer and football VII — week five

The game: Patriots at Browns
The beer: Lagunitas Bitter Oats Ale
The result: Win, 33–13
The commentary: Ten point five percent! Who drinks so heavy a bastard during a one o'clock game? I'll admit I didn't notice until checking the bottle after my first sip—I was so caught up with the "Bitter" name that, of course, had to represent Brady's return from an unjust overreaction. You know I took the full three hours to drink it though—no sense in slurring my way through Candyland and Uno before dinner. Look for other event-themed beers in the coming weeks—what a time to be alive!

Yes, I picked the Patriots in the knockout pool this week. After five games we're down to thirteen out of twenty-eight… contestants?… and the pot has ballooned to eight hundred ten units, which is more than I won two years ago. I'm already spending the money in my head and I need to knock it off.

We're a few posts away from two hundred. Unbelievable—legitimately so once longtime readers (!) realize we'd be way beyond it without the death of quick sizzle. (It did make a bitter curtain call the following year when I referred to those behind "Biff Bang Pow," a web marketing blog, as "dirty rat cocksuckers" and critiqued their design aesthetic by wondering "Maybe I should force-justify all my post titles because that looks real sharp." That post's deletion is for the best.) I feel I need to hustle to compose and publish the Trout Mask Replica bullshit in order to salvage any remaining inter-net credibility. Like when Coltrane's Ascension was the actual one hundredth post? That was the real shit. So deserving a subject. Since said pruning it's now a basic beer-and-football affair, albeit with a contemplative four-month-old G. and some embarrassing Tim Tebow analysis. Beefheart as two hundred would be an achievement on par with a five-year-old suddenly doing the monkey bars by herself, even getting up there. She's the best. I wonder if she'll read all this one day.

Up next: The royal Bengal tiger is the national animal of both India and Bangladesh. In Indonesia it's the Komodo dragon, the largest member of the lizard family and a filthy liar. Cheers!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Beer and football VII — week four

The game: Bills at Patriots
The beer: Newburyport Melt Away India Pale Ale
The result: Loss, 16–0; Bengals win, 22–7
The commentary: It's another outtake from week one, just like two years ago after the shellacking in Kansas City. No Pink Floyd talk this time though. No playlist modification either! That surely fucked us all.

"Oh, Bills." Drag. My confidence level eclipsed even Rex Ryan's in the wake of his team's win over the Cardinals, whose loss knocked six more out of my pool. After a must-win effort his feet weren't touching the ground and the odds were good he'd forget there was another game to prepare for. And then? And then! "Rex, another thing you say a lot is you refer to yourself as an above-average coach but, you know, you look at Bill Belichick's winning percentage against everybody else and against you and it's– it's higher against you. Can those two things make sense to you, that you're an above-average coach but, you know, the record doesn't really say that?" Ptooff! My man Paul Perillo, "the Sultan of Soda" according to Mr. Lif (though I always thought it was "the Salt in the Soda," which works even better), had poked the fat bear. Ryan responded with "Yeah, well, I don't know, I guess that's the way it is… you guys would know better than me" and littered the phrase "above average" throughout the rest of his interview with New England media. Would the bitterness set in?

Fast forward to Sunday. With an afternoon birthday party a half hour away I was prepared (and OK with) recording the game and watching it later on. I'm used to it anyway and actually prefer this when a media blackout is possible—skipping through Peyton Manning commercials, etc. I had the pregame on before leaving the house and witnessed the fracas between Malcolm Mitchell and every punk-ass bitch on the Bills, which equates to ninety percent of the team. Any doubt I had over the outcome was fully eliminated at that point—if Ryan emphasized chippiness over schemes then the blowout was already in effect. I couldn't wait to watch that night.

Alas, we arrive at the party and the game is on the big screen. Oh well. But… what?? Bills up thirteen over the scoreless Patriots? This must be one of those onscreen typos. After all, the Patriots Football Weekly television show has been labeled Weeekly since last season. But no! The godforsaken Bills came to play. And the Pats' defense is even worse than I feared. At least the hosts demonstrated good taste in offering a couple of Newburyport Brewing selections. The pale ale was already covered awhile ago alongside a public television tongue-lashing, so the Melt Away became the official beer of the week. Session beer is an adult attendee's best friend at any underage party.

Jacoby Brissett seemed to do OK, excepting the baaad fumble that, along with special-teamer-running-offensive-routes-for-some-reason Brandon Bolden's horrible drop, really sealed the game. Tyrod Taylor, LeSean McCoy and Robert Woods were impressive even though they only scored sixteen points—a good team would have scored more on this day. That's why I think the Bills remain destined to win eight games, make no major changes during the offseason and then win six games next year. But hey, at least they shut out an injured third-string rookie quarterback. Around the NFL's Dan Hanzus, who knows a thing or two as a suffering Jets fan, put it best this week: "After two amazing wins [against the Cardinals and the Patriots], the Bills are gonna show up flat and get beat by a Rams team that isn't even that good." He lacks the poetry of Marc Sessler but his scorned wisdom is evident.

Here's a funny story. Walking to work the other morning, among the pushers and the urinators under Haymarket garage, I heard "Calvin's on a Bummer," a fine collaboration by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Calvin Johnson's Dub Narcotic Sound System. Up ahead, a typical undesirable—sweatpants, large Dunkins, pronounced limp, general filth—was wearing a number eighty-one Lions jersey for some reason. "Who is eighty-one?" I wondered before answering my own question and confirming it when the man turned around: JOHNSON. Retired NFL superstar Calvin Johnson! The difference between Megatron and the Olympia Croaker is simple: one smothered all comers with jaw-dropping statistics, admirable durability and oppressive skill; the other scored a shitload of touchdowns.

Up next: Tom Brady, Michigan. Cheers!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Beer and football VII — week three

The game: Texans at Patriots
The beer: Ommegang Three Philosophers Quadrupel Ale
The result: Win, 27–0; Dolphins win, 30–24
The commentary: Bronchitis sidelined A. so she drove G. and me to a sketchy old gymnastics academy in the middle of a Verizon dead zone for another child's birthday—such is the nature of kindergarten and new friendships. Naturally we drove right by the place the first time because the old brick building set back from the road in a clearing in the woods did not match the, I don't know, gigantic fitness facility we were expecting. Minimal signage was barely noticed even as we doubled back with our eyes wide open and Google Maps assuring me it was indeed down this driveway somewhere. Twists and turns, answering "This can't be right" to several of G's demands to know if we were there yet. Flashing back to Half-Life 2's Nova Prospekt and the lifeless grounds of the estate at the end of 28 Days Later. Would Dennis Hopper emerge from the trees? "It's alright! It's alll-right!" And would I believe him?

Two loops later we were at the brick building again. There were a few cars parked outside so it was this or nothing. I bravely ventured inside by myself to rule out a mutant ambush and was immediately hit with the locker-room odor that told me we'd arrived. A little late but that's OK, maybe host the thing in civilized country next time.

G. turned shy and that was OK with me because it meant I got to hang out with her instead of watching from afar. The foam pit wasn't as nice as that other one where we lost her headband a couple of years ago but she still couldn't get enough, particularly when I kept "ordering" her to come out before tossing her back in. Lo, the germs. That evening's bath added another month to the drought.

She did break away to occasionally join the party fun and that meant I could look up the Dolphins–Browns score. Refreshing… refreshing… FAILED TO LOAD. CLICK TO RETRY. Drag. To think I once vowed to never own a cellphone—mine turned me into a slave for three straight Sundays and it's not pleasant. But the pot's over seven hundred units, baby!

At some point the Earth tilted a certain angle and allowed Verizon to give me a break for a second with an update: Dolphins up by four in the third quarter. OK! Maybe I'd skate by, relying again on a team that didn't impress much. Post-party, fleeing the scene of past and future madness, G's exhaustion overtook the cake-and-ice-cream sugar injection and she passed out inside of ten minutes. It was easy to take the long way home because we got lost—of course we did—and once she was asleep we decided to hit the Stop & Shop and prolong her needed rest. Phone updates informed me during the interim that both teams were sucking it hard and a regulation-closing Browns drive stalled at the Dolphins' thirty-eight yard line. "Why didn't they kick a field goal?" I wondered before switching over to NFL Radio on Sirius and learning that they attempted and failed. Jesus Christ. A. ran into the store while an unconscious G. and I listened to both teams try to lose. And then? And then! A borderline-effective Jay Ajayi runs it in from the eleven and I silently pump my fist in victory, something I've perfected during five years of G. sleeping through football games.

Why must it be so interesting? I've mocked other knockout participants in the past for picking too many lousy teams early on and then being eliminated with the Patriots, Seahawks, Broncos, et al still available. It's like Survivor when hubris intervenes and someone with an unplayed immunity idol in his or her pocket is voted off. Still, it's hard to ignore the fact that the last time the Patriots won the Super Bowl I also won the knockout pool and, with a smaller sample size, vice versa. Bill Belichick and friends are looking pretty good so far and that means I should hold up my end of the deal by choosing only sure-fire winners from here on out. It's a deal… even though the Bengals were tempting Thursday night. Be forewarned.

Up next: Rex Ryan solidifies a game plan to mercilessly blitz presumptive Patriots quarterback Tarbash the Egyptian Magician. Oh, Bills. Cheers!