Sunday, January 29, 2017

Beer and football VII — playoffs, week three
AFC Championship

The game: Steelers at Patriots
The beer: Flying Dreams Nightcrawler Dark Ale
The result: Win, 36–17
The commentary: The "watch live" plan didn't quite work out. And I think we read The Gift of Nothing, having borrowed it from Steeler defensive coordinator Keith Butler. "Coach, Brady is picking us apart. This zone shit isn't working. What adjustments can we make?" "Nothing!" "Really? There isn't anything we should change up?" "Nothing!" "Yesh!"

In between over-earnest reminders from local media that "this is special" and how we're "lucky and should appreciate" this unprecedented run of success—it is and I am—confidence levels were hard to judge. In general there wasn't so much of a buzz going into the AFC Championship, which maybe indicates that people weren't worried. I was to some extent for three obvious reasons: Brown, Bell and Roethlisberger, in that order, and then Bell went down, Pats cornerback Eric Rowe knocked every pass to the ground was bailed out by bad drops and Chris Hogan's breakout furthered the narrative of inept chaos in Buffalo—at least the Dolphins got a second-rounder for Wes Welker—as Tom Brady, lo, outplayed even his best. I await the internet's hot takes.

So it's on to Houston again. The parallels to XXXVIII are eerie but I'll not get too hung up on that before wondering if Justin Timberlake, Janet Jackson and Ricky Proehl will be snuggled under a blanket eating pizza somewhere. I also can't wait for media members in attendance to complain about the sprawl. You can set your watch to that shit. Anything can happen outside of that, though I expect something along the lines of XXXIX against the Eagles, with the Pats outplaying the Falcons for most of the game and a final score closer than it should have been. More expert analysis next week!

One post-Christmas mystery finally solved: Late last month we received a giant box from A's sister and her family. It was addressed to G. and reeked of bad taste, for the unwrapped box presented "Mēbo: Your robotic alter ego!" What in the worldwide fuck? They picked this out for her? Or re-gifted it? Didn't they see my RadioShack think piece? Also, it clearly reads "ages 8+" right on the front of the box (darling monkey is five). Is "Cyberdyne" in smaller text somewhere? What were they thinking?? Upon breaking the bad news to G. that she would not be keeping this (her wonderful response: "You never let me play with robots!"), researching where I could possibly try to exchange it (Toys R Us, of course) and wondering how we were going to break it to A's sister that we were doing so, reason triumphed and A. peeked into the box that was, all told, just a box. I don't even remember what it held but we won't be responsible for AI wars and resulting nuclear annihilation. Trump will beat all to it anyway.

Lastly, and quite by coincidence, I finished another one-thousand-piece puzzle leading up to a Super Bowl. Two years ago it was a Winter wonderland of sorts and this time, since there is less snow (global warming hoax alert!) and more books in my life, it was a library of madness where everything looked the same. ("World of Words" my ass, this was a world of railings and beams.) I knocked it off in two weeks instead of three like last time, somehow, but I did have help. No, not A., who fully avoided this round. Twas G. picked up the slack and then some, helping me complete the border (and, indeed, connecting the first several pieces) before moving on to the left-hand bookshelf, the hobby horse and the rug. From there? Jesus Christ, everything did look the same. Over the course of a couple of Falcons games (wish I'd paid more attention) and into some wee hours I determined to fill in the couch and expand from there. G. focused on locating both pieces of the mouse at the upper left and she didn't even break a sweat. She's a natural talent and I look forward to doing puzzle after puzzle with her over the years, whether or not the Pats are in the Super Bowl. She'll grow bored of it one day but she'll be back.

Up next: The Falcons dump Gatorade over Dan Quinn's head every day of the bye week in the ultimate demonstration of "just happy to be here." Cheers!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Beer and football VII — playoffs, weeks one and two

Playoffs, week one (bye)
The beer: Old Planters Crop Rotation India Pale Ale


Playoffs, week two
The game: Texans at Patriots
The beer: Mystic Hum Low-Frequency Porter
The result: Win, 34–16

The commentary: Low frequency my ass! Six straight conference championships for "those assholes"? Indeed, Mister Tomlin!

The Steelers, though, are no slouches. In re-tempting fate by bringing up past unpleasantness, a mere season removed from the doomed redux of a simple Pink Floyd excursion, the two teams' dominance remains in place in the AFC. No matter what happens Sunday, the Patriots or the Steelers will appear in ten—ten!—of the last sixteen Super Bowls. (Including the Broncos makes it twelve of sixteen. And the Colts, fourteen of sixteen. And the Ravens, sixteen of seventeen. Pity the one-trick Raiders and curse the rest, for the NFC will have put forth a more parity-friendly eleven teams over the same seventeen seasons if the Packers advance and twelve if the Falcons do—rewind a little further, though, and the parity myth asserts itself throughout the league.)

Either way it will be nice to have a real playoff game. Last week's generally regarded "double bye" wasn't quite that when a handful of boneheaded plays by the good guys kept the Texans involved into the third quarter before Will Fuller V (this trend of Roman numerals on nameplates is troubling—lo, the broken links!) dropped Brock Osweiler's best pass as a pro. This is why they play the games.

I was so unconcerned I didn't think twice about relaxing with some wine, Thai food and Project Runway during the game after G. and I picked A. up at the airport earlier Saturday evening. The Patriots were going to win handily (right?) and I have a history of avoiding spoilers—how hard is it to turn your phone off for a few hours? Excepting Antonio Brown. (Har! Har!) Sunday morning, media blackout intact, panic made a few appearances without antidote—the porter awaited Packers–Cowboys since I didn't want to serve G. her breakfast under the influence—and following Eric Rowe's idiocy and Dion Lewis's (first) fumble I wondered what kind of world existed outside my door had I peacefully slept through the unthinkable and its wake. Hysteria? Savagery? I dared not peek! Fuller's drop—can it be so classified if he barely touched the ball?—settled my stomach through to the conclusion that was closer than indicated. Survive and advance, etc.

The AFC Championship will be different. NFC too, for that matter, since I plan to watch both live, with a likely break at halftime during Patriots–Steelers in order to remember I'm a father and help get G. ready for bed, with her "pretend I haven't changed into my pajamas" this and her "pretend I didn't brush my teeth" that. Pure joy and enthusiasm. I wonder what my state of mind will be as we read Tinka or maybe the liner notes to Back From the Grave, Vol. 2. "Willie figgered hisself to be a '65 version of Brando, 'cept he had long purple hair and hung out with tough S&M biker chicks." On the topic of rough sex, how will Roethlisberger have performed by then? Is he leading the team to touchdowns instead of field goals this time? Are Malcolm Butler, Devin McCourty and Logan Ryan (coming off a career game that he cannot match against not-Osweiler) on their way to holding Brown under a hundred yards? What about Alan Branch, Dont'a Hightower and the flu, have they done their part to "neutralize" Le'Veon Bell? And Patrick Chung against whoever their white tight end is this year? Will Tomlin go for two after every touchdown and then rip out his own beating heart in a demonstration of manhood?

On offense, will Brady regain his aversion to turnovers and pick apart the Steelers' secondary once more? Will Malcolm Mitchell emerge as a legitimate weapon beyond a few impressive regular-season games? Who's it going to be: LeGarrette Blount, Dion Lewis or James White? All of the above? None? Will Nate Solder and friends prevent the UPS guy from locating James Harrison's hotel room? Can Julian Edelman just shut the fuck up already? Is Martellus Bennett capable of moving beyond this tired Undertaker act (thanks, PFW in Progress) and stand up immediately after suffering anything less than splinching, for crying out loud? Will twenty-seven points be achievable? Will twenty-seven points be enough?

Or…

Pestilence? Fallout? Is all this for naught as future generations refer to yesterday as "Before" and mark last year's as the final Sobrabüülle of the once great (already) American Empire? I hope to find out Sunday, set to another concise and adept Phil Simms soundtrack. (Locusts?)

I'll close with the wonderful Heather from Baltimore even if she agrees with Ray Lewis that "It's Called Football Brady" (title case, no comma) and that murder charges and plea deals are no big thing. During the segment of Sound Opinions where people call in to yell at Jim and Greg after the Saints likely receive no residuals for the use of their "(I'm) Stranded," Heather rang to offer up Gary Puckett & the Union Gap's "Young Girl" as a "song that gives you the creeps" for a Halloween-themed episode (I'm a bit behind). Excellent choice. She can take it from here: "When I was growing up in the eighties, the song always came on oldies radio when my mom was driving and I would beg her to turn it off. I was little, I was probably seven, when I first noticed how creepy it was but it grossed me out well into my teenage years. I have heard it in the grocery store a few times and been very upset because I don't want it near my food." Bravo. Say hi to Terrell Suggs when you see him at the two o'clock showing of Why Him? tomorrow.

Up next: Drink up, folks, for we have a new president! Cheers?

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Beer and football VII — weeks sixteen and seventeen

Week sixteen
The game: Jets at Patriots
The beer: Anchor Christmas Ale
The result: Win, 41–3


Week seventeen
The game: Patriots at Dolphins
The beer: Notch Dog and Pony Show
The result: Win, 35–14

The commentary: Why not wait until two hundred seven total posts and one hundred nineteen "beer and football" hottakez to switch things up with multi-week diaries? What can go wrong? What (captain) can (beefheart) stand (trout) in (mask) my (replica) way?

This is an attempt to combine "the commentary" into a single… narrative?… when I don't get around to finalizing game reactions before the next Sunday or Monday or Thursday Night Football on Saturday or whatever the fuck. Reader (!) feedback (!!) regarding said trial will motivate the sleeping giant that is the Lower Galactic Biffy Council to exert its will—violently so—in determining internet protocol until the death of free speech. Very unfair!

In a way it makes sense. Not that I've done much actual football writing lately—Survivor, Trump, etc.—but when I do I like to keep it in context, without the hindsight that comes with witnessing how the Patriots respond to one of fourteen wins or two losses. The self-imposed deadline of publishing ahead of the next game has led to blurred lines not seen since the Star Wars prequels (more in a minute), with backdating and inconsistent timelines and such. (The timestamps were eighty-sixed for a reason.) Clearly, if reactions to anywhere from two to an outlandish, why-bother five games were presented under a single title, then no single entry was ready to go on its own. So I'd complete them, one by one, ignoring what I might have learned about "future" games or world/reality television events. I think I did a good job. But—indeed—why bother?

Instead I'll find a common thread and relate what I already know, that a pair of wins over (swept) AFC East "rivals" the Jets and the Dolphins is the inverse of last year's double letdown. The first portion then was dominated—and well, may I say—by a callback to 2013 and a tidy bow encircling my years-long crusade against this defense. A little too tidy, for there's no way the Dolphins outcome and regular-season-ending losing streak didn't color this. The desperation! At least this still resonates: "If only there were websites dedicated to people letting you know that your favorite beer sucks." Even a Ministry joke out of nowhere. It's wonderful to make yourself laugh.

These games remain linked regardless of outcome, for they are the first of the season (and long before) of which I knew the outcome before watching the first snap. A (daytime) Christmas Eve trip to Connecticut was to get us there in time for me to park in a recliner and switch on the one o'clock kickoff but that was torpedoed when we didn't leave the house until, oh, half past twelve. We listened to Christmas music (including "All Dressed Up" a couple of times) and G. fell asleep before long, then I sheepishly asked to switch to the broadcast. By then the good guys were ahead ten zip and our soundtrack was in place for the rest of the Pike-avoiding, Spencer-touring route that saved us no time (and might have added some) but cursed us with no traffic jams. 49 South allowed for good cruising and I'll get us there another way next time.

Late arrival, sure. Fourth quarter. Oh well. I popped open Anchor's "Our Special Ale" and caught the last few minutes, letting G. know that kicking a field goal down forty-one points is for losers. Jesus Christ. Everyone else was prepping for that evening's party while, postgame, I wondered if this meant we didn't have to go to church. We didn't until Christmas morning, when the mercifully brief mass was highlighted by the following: both organists flashing each other the peace sign during the rite of peace; G. complaining of hunger and no one laughing when I likened the eucharist to a "quick snack break"; and yours truly composing a murder ballad entitled "Hang Not Your Coat on the Stations of the Cross" while trying to remember what each one signified. The road to hell is paved with sarcasm.

On New Year's Day I finally saw Rogue One and ate a huge "medium" popcorn by myself, five days after splitting one with A. during Manchester by the Sea (sans hyphens) and four after doing the same with G. during Moana. Rogue One was excellent, a straight war movie where it only made sense if everyone died. I'm glad they didn't cop out. Manchester exceeded expectations and lived up to the hype, even though Casey Affleck drove through Swampscott on his way from Quincy to Beverly and didn't insist on the regional "awnt" instead of the rest-of-American "ant" aunt. Moana was fine, stolen by Maui's tattoos and Heihei the rooster, and I can't get a straight answer from G. how she liked it. I don't blame her—it was no Tangled—after we showed up fifteen minutes late, learning only when we got to the head of the line that we wanted the cinema next door. Drag. Fortune and demigods smiled upon us, though, when we were paying for popcorn and a woman came out of theater four to complain that the movie should have started fifteen minutes ago. Innocently, I asked "Is that Moana, by any chance?" Yes! G. and I practically high-fived in her face. Hopefully Inner Workings is the last time either one of us watches a cartoon man take a leak. (Excluding Homer Simpson, of course.)

See, I'm still working on the structure here. I brought up movies because Rogue One's return to unpolished 1977 preempted the Dolphins game and I was OK with it. Recording and watching in primetime is my move anyway. After, though, as my friend and I trawled Beverly (not via Swampscott) for an open restaurant, any open restaurant, at which to meet our wives and daughters, the score presented itself during one of our we-just-closed-the-kitchen pitstops: third quarter, up thirteen. Fine. We found a place closer to home and Shea McClellin scooped up the fumble right as my Dog and Pony Show arrived. "If I was a preacher, I tell you what, I'd save a million souls. Even you." South Boston tweakers and Shellac of North America beam with pride.

Long story short, hundreds of words too late, I did still watch the games in full because I'm a fan. Things are looking up compared to this time last year when first place moved to Denver and the weaknesses—offensive line and defensive backfield, mainly—were exposed in time for real football. Today, now, the Patriots are the team to beat and even haters look forward to trolling Pats–Cowboys. I welcome and expect it, believing the defense can hold on a little longer and restrict the Steelers to fewer than four touchdowns in the AFC Championship. And the Cowboys? Their story is awfully feel-good for them to lose to the Packers and not reach a Texas-sized Super Bowl. Interesting times, these next few weeks. Unless you're Rex Ryan. Again.

Up next: I'll be rooting for Aaron Rodgers against Eli Manning tomorrow night because I'm one of Paul Perillo's "cunts" who wants no part of the Giants in February. Happy new year!