Friday, November 25, 2016

Beer and football VII — week eleven

The game: Patriots at 49ers
The beer: Berkshire Hoosac Tunnel Amber Ale
The result: Win, 30–17; Giants win, 22–16
The commentary: The Pats played the late game and the Giants and Bears warmed me up on Fox before then, presenting a rare opportunity to watch my knockout contest. It was not a comfortable experience as the Bears made it too goddamn interesting. I have now entered the phase of my relationship with the Bears when, formally, I am pushing my luck. This week I considered the sub-five hundred Titans visiting Chicago but that smells of a desperation to keep the Seahawks in my pocket another week. Six remain with no losses last week so we're inevitably targeting New Year's Day and even beyond, however that would work. I was also on the Bills (five wins, five losses) over the Jaguars and the Ravens (same) over the Bengals but is that how I want to go out? A. and I enjoy Project Runway every week, in spite of an uninspiring current season, and the auf'd designers who show pride in what failed them instead of regret over unfinished/unrealized concepts are not as emotionally wrecked. If (when?) I lose, I hope my remorse stems from "There's nothing I can do about Russell Wilson having an off day" and not "I guess the Ravens still kinda suck."

I also liked the Lions and the Cowboys on Thanksgiving but I feared they would turn into the nail-biters they were and, stuck in rural New Hampshire with no cell signal, I didn't want to retire away from the family every five minutes to check the broadcast downstairs. I'm a better son, husband and father for it.

Now that organizer Leon (not his real name) is eliminated he's OK with emailing everyone's picks before Sundays because that's not shady at all. And this will be the week that was: as much as I nicknamed the Giants' Landon Collins "My Man" because he was so much a defensive star to make me hope he played on special teams as well, I will be rooting heavily against him this week. For three people chose the Giants (in New York) against the winless Browns. And not just any three people, no, but the three who possess the godforsaken "golden ticket" that I will rail against next year. Should the Giants lose, which all four Around the NFL heroes predicted—with the understanding that it's difficult to lose sixteen games and the scraping-by Giants are one of two winnable games left for the Browns—then everything changes. Such an achievement would be wonderful karmic retribution against said advantage (shit, I'd be undefeated too if the Dolphins hadn't given Roethlisberger's knee the what-for in week six) and put all of us on a level, single-elimination playing field. They'd be crazy not to buy back on five-to-one odds (Jim Morrison weeps) and the extra seventy-five units would top us off around a thousand. Nice. However, if the Giants do win, it's difficult to see myself outlasting all three at this point. Drag. (The other two picks? Aforementioned Bills and Titans. If the Seahawks win in Tampa I'll surely be thankful.)

The Hoosac Tunnel ale was a welcome break from themed this and imperial that. Last month, in the midst of a period of prolific literacy not seen since I chose a series of Stephen King novels over homework throughout high school, I worked my way down the stacks to a couple of hokey "local hauntings" collections entitled Ghost Stories of New England and Cape Encounters: Contemporary Cape Cod Ghost Stories. Here is a representative conclusion of every… anecdote?… in each: "Bob and Sandra surmised that the spirit was that of Hannah Thomas, although they had no way of confirming their suspicions." Thanks for disavowing everything for which you stand over several hundred pages. The former volume devotes five pages to the Berkshires' own Hoosac Railroad Tunnel, a.k.a. "the Bloody Pit" that claimed almost two hundred lives during its construction. "The victims died in fires, explosions, tunnel collapses and, in one case, at the hand of another worker." Compelling! Well, maybe it was murder. Can a suspected vengeful ghost be so charged? Other Hoosac tales relate a "battered and incoherent" hunter who "told of hearing voices that instructed him to enter" the tunnel. "Upon entering, he was confronted by several ghostly apparitions." The end. See what I'm talking about?

Up next: Thomas Edison, Grover Cleveland, John Fenwick, Joyce Kilmer, Clara Barton, Vince Lombardi… Walt Whitman. Cheers!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Beer and football VII — week ten

The game: Seahawks at Patriots
The beer: Heavy Seas Greater Pumpkin Imperial Ale
The result: Loss, 31–24; Cardinals win, 23–20
The commentary: More pictures of my girl, please! I didn't go black last week because the Pats lost. They didn't even play. No, I mourned another loss or, more accurately, a non-win. Maybe the minority (har! har!) of voters didn't elect Trump because they are racists and/or sexists but rather because they have no problem with casual racism and/or sexism. There's a word for that. It's called the 1950s.

Enough. We're still alive! I speak of the knockout pool, obviously, for what else is there? The Cardinals made it interesting but a three-point win is as good as anything. In other positive news the fucking Dolphins took out the Chargers in San Diego by forcing four fourth-quarter interceptions. Maybe they're for real after all. Maybe that Sunday in the Stop & Shop parking lot was a mirage. (By god, it sure wasn't.) With Philip Rivers went two other competitors and, including me, we're down to six. Three still have the godforsaken, successful-through-week-eight "golden ticket" that allows them to buy back after a loss even though we're beyond the period when the rest of us can. Drag. It's a bullshit rule when you have thirty competitors and I will campaign my ass off against it next year—I didn't need that shit when I went undefeated two years ago. Regardless, I'm watching and (shudder) rooting for the Giants against the Bears as I write this. If the Bears win I'll be out and will have been knocked out by their victory for the third (1, 2) time in four tries. "Three out of four! Yes, it's a dynasty." What's the opposite of a dynasty? Wait one presidential term and see.

"Ohhhh, Sunday niiight. Ooohhhhhhhh Sunday niiiight!" Thanks Carrie, you hack. And you NBC producers. Zero percent of viewers watch Sunday Night Football for your nonsense. Objective fans would call this a great game and they'd be right. Me? I'd call it a great game aside from Julian Edelman's killer fumble—you are not Gronk and the extra foot or so you might pick up is not worth the risk—and Belichick's defense being fully exposed for what they are: a skillful menace who deserves a long-term extension and can single-handedly affect a game's outcome (Dont'a Hightower); a legitimate talent who is not as good as his hype suggests (Malcolm Butler); a bewilderingly expensive, middle-of-the-road safety in need of more instructional videos (Devin McCourty); a living example of Pro Football Focus's lack of relevance (Logan "Fucking" Ryan); a player whose pass-rush potential is inversely proportional to the effectiveness of Jabaal Sheard, Rob Ninkovich and a fourth-generation Multiplicity copy of Chris Long (Trey Flowers); and a bunch of dudes not named Jamie Collins. Maybe he wouldn't have made a difference in this one but I still wish he were on my team. We'll see how they respond in San Francisco following a week of media scrutiny. (I've been critical for years but Patriots VP of Media Relations Stacey James has blocked the Biff! Bang! and Pow!—in all its Roman numerally busted-link glory—at Gillette. Greater good and all.)

Bears making it too goddamn interesting with two minutes remaining. I know nothing about football.

Up next: I wonder if any visiting Patriots went to Alcatraz twice in one day like I did. Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Beer and football VII — week nine (bye)

The beer: Clown Shoes Third-Party Candidate India Pale Lager
The result: Chiefs win, 19–14; Trump wins, 304–227
The commentary: This is my two hundredth post. I am close to dropping an overdue essay regarding the importance of Trout Mask Replica (currently entitled "Tight also"), having reserved its epic for a weighty round number, but it can wait.

Earlier this week, the country I call home elected as its next president a man who colored recent history with the following on-the-record remarks:

"An 'extremely credible source' has called my office and told me that Barack Obama's birth certificate is a fraud."

"[John McCain] is not a war hero. He's a war hero because he was captured? I like people who weren't captured."

"I am being proven right about massive vaccinations. The doctors lied. Save our children and their future."

"NBC News just called it 'the Great Freeze,' coldest weather in years. Is our country still spending money on the global warming hoax?”

"It's freezing and snowing in New York—we need global warming!"

"If Hillary Clinton can't satisfy her husband, what makes her think she can satisfy America?"

"You know, it really doesn't matter what the media write as long as you've got a young and beautiful piece of ass."

"I've said if Ivanka weren't my daughter, perhaps I'd be dating her."

"You could see there was blood coming out of [Megyn Kelly's] eyes. Blood coming out of her… wherever."

"[Emigrating Mexicans are] rapists. And some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they're telling us what we're getting."

"I have a great relationship with the blacks. I've always had a great relationship with the blacks."

"Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!"

"I have never seen a thin person drinking Diet Coke."
(I do like this one.)

In my head, before Tuesday, week nine's post was to begin along the lines of "Did you vote for a third-party candidate? Did you throw your vote away? Well, I didn't. But I did drink the beer." I did not vote for Gary Johnson even though Hillary Clinton was a shoe-in. Massachusetts, a.k.a. "Don't Blame Me, I'm From Massachusetts," a.k.a. "Except We Did Vote for Reagan Twice," was with her, but why risk it? I even took my five-year-old daughter into the booth with me and said, more or less, "You're helping me elect the first female president… isn't that cool?" It's a cliché but I was excited about what this meant for her and her future, even if I didn't think Clinton was much of a candidate or were to be much of a president.

Not only is none of that the crux here, I also never drank the beer. A cheeky name moderately tied to any old election was enough for me to buy the eleven-percent lager a few weeks ago with the intention of cracking it open once Clinton's victory was assured. By nine o'clock, if we were lucky! That's what the polls and analysts said, anyway, neither of which I will ever trust again. I know nothing about politics.

Instead, as CNN declared that Trump had won Florida about ninety minutes after I did (and two hours after reporting that the Clinton campaign had "increasing confidence" there), I had to keep telling a despondent A. that Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan were what mattered. When the first two went red and Michigan was looking awfully pink—about half past one at this point—it was time to go to bed. I typed "who won" into my iPad so that when I awoke in a few hours I could just hit enter and learn, formally, the bad news. Drag.

For several weeks, and this is our poor parenting judgment, we occasionally discussed with G. that candidate Donald Trump was mean, a bully and whatever euphemism I invented for a "fear-monger." Had other parents put it into their kids' heads that, I don't know, it was OK to grab kids by the pussy then we surely would have been critical: "How could you?? They're just kids, they don't get it!" But we did the same, albeit with more humanity and soul. (I would add education if you believe the polls, which I no longer do.) Does that make us bad parents? No. Did we do something we would criticize others over? Yes.

G. woke up Wednesday morning and came into the bathroom as I was about to brush my teeth. She was half asleep with thumb in mouth, the picture of innocence. "I need to tell you something, honey. Trump won. He's going to be the president." I hugged her and she almost cried. Mama was still in bed so I tucked her in there, saying everything would be OK (it's kind of my role) though not believing it. A sad start to a sad day.

The rest of Wednesday played out the same. The train ride was eerily quiet as I shoved my nose into Andrew Loog Oldham's Stoned, for the North Shore was Clinton country aside from a few outliers (both wealthy and struggling communities). I resolved to "give him a chance" because I don't have a choice. I'm not going to protest in the streets of Boston from nine to five as that seems to underscore general anti-Obama claims that unemployment is a problem. I'm not moving to Canada, as much as we love Montréal. I never believed Trump would ensure that everyone has enough guns—the modernization and/or destruction of the Second Amendment being my and A's top-priority issue, which is why I was pulling for Martin O'Malley all Winter over Clinton's wishy-washiness and Bernie Sanders's plain, upsetting indfference—or shut down Planned Parenthood. I also didn't believe that lo, these many months, he actually wanted to be president, and it's amazing how this remains a topic of conversation. Will he step down before January 20 and hand everything over to Mike Pence? It that better or worse? Worse, I say. Very much so.

At the least, it appears inevitable that Trump will let down everyone who voted for him by not killing Obamacare on day one, not nuking Iran on day two, not proudly calling someone a nigger on live television on day three and not applying ceremonial mortar to the last "Brown Brick" of a Mexico-funded wall on day four. They will turn on him and threaten everyone unlike them—Muslim, homosexual, employable. Then they'll go back to those burgundy pockets with their rusted-out dooryards and frayed American flags that stay out all night without being illuminated. Trump has both the House and the Senate but do they get along? Can all that hostility just go away in favor of common (?) big-picture goals? Will a blown-up party of Democrats reemerge as they did in 2008 and come on strong in 2018 and 2020 (under the inevitable "2020 Hindsight" campaign slogan) when, I thought, it was the Republicans who would have to start over instead? Will Massachusetts be a progressive buffer or will I and five other commuters be shot after buying coffee one morning? Is this worse than Brexit? Is America crumbling as foretold by past empires? Is my family safe?

As Ivan said Thursday night over beers before we decided to ditch the twenty-seven-dollar Helmet show, "What the fuck is going on with the Celtics?" Maybe nothing changes after all.

Up next: Fifty-one percent of fifty-five percent of Americans get on with their lives by drinking beer, watching football and maybe writing about it. For now, I'll be one of them. Cheers!