Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Beer and football VIII: What is there that I can be?

Week one
The game: Chiefs at Patriots
The beer: Maine Lunch India Pale Ale
The result: Loss, 42–27; Falcons win, 23–17
The commentary: "There goes the no-hitter," as I would say—every time—in the days when I attended Red Sox games. "Patriots eat shit in front of God and everyone," says some "unionized" basement-dweller under the Deadspin banner. It happens. Check with us in January, Emma.

Losing Thursday was weird. I started the game later than I'd hoped after A. pouted a bit over Project Runway's postponement (it is pretty great so far), catching up to the broadcast at halftime and assuming Belichick would straighten everyone out in the interval. Maybe next weekend.

After a fast start by Brady that pointed to blowout city, the Chiefs outclassed the good guys in literally every way. Offense, defense, special teams, coaching, general enthusiasm. The new banner was blue, right? The Pats were wound too tight, made evident after Gronk's overturned touchdown—he appeared to have the wind knocked out of him (let's hope that's all it was) and recovered enough to never enjoy himself. No one did. The gloom stuck as Amendola and Hightower went down, various defenders got dusted like it's Tecmo Bowl and Mike Gillislee scored three touchdowns when he wasn't stuffed on fourth down(s). By quarter to midnight—this was a long game—I fought to stay awake for, I don't know, principles. I'm still paying for that. At least the undefeated talk can go away, "We're on to New Orleans" and all. I just don't know if talk of this historically bad defensive performance will disappear so quickly.

What doesn't disappear is the past. (Right, Mark Wahlberg? Manage to make it through this one?) Hours of new LI-centric television will heal all opening-week wounds, even if Edelman's shameless, douche-y plug of his children's book throughout America's Game means less screen time for the always affable LeGarrette Blount and the insightful and rightly proud Dont'a Hightower—"Duntuh" addressing Orange Is the New Black is a nice touch. A rerun of February's Turning Point (answer: Hightower's strip-sack), Top Ten highlighting an odd selection of Brady's "best wins of all time" (XLIX at number four??) and—saving the best for last—Do Your Job, Part II will keep me afloat until Sunday. It's a looong season, despite levels of panic that should be reserved for hurricanes and, you know, incompetent presidents. Patriots fans are the worst.

On the bright side, the Thursday game meant Sunday was wide open to eat away at my stomach. G. attended a fun bowling party at Market Street in Lynnfield, allowing A. and me to duck out for some adult time. And so: Starbucks! It was the first stop even though we neglected the Lululemon/Ezekiel Elliott (!) dress code. Ineffective window shades demanded indoor sunglasses as we stared in horror at preteen girls ordering Frappuccinos and wondered when G. and her friends would begin stunting their growth at the hometown coffee shop. You're in for a future of headaches, ladies, should you ever fail to get your caffeine fix before noon.

A. left a bit before one to do some shopping while I nursed my coffee and wondered why the CBS Sports app wasn't displaying anyone's picks yet. What does it take? Eventually, by the time I walked over to Kings to pick G. up, the early-game blanks were filled in and a convincing majority—thirty-six out of what ballooned to fifty-seven of us, as if this thing wasn't already dragging into next season—went with the Steelers over the Browns or the Bills over the Jets. They all had a lot less to worry about than I did, with the fragile Falcons—in a game that would have ruined their season and beyond had they blown it—keeping things interesting with my heart pounding and my palms sweating on the wheel circa four o'clock. Exiting the Trader Joe's parking lot I knew the Bears—isn't is always the Bears?—were advancing and time was expiring. I awaited Iggy proclaiming "Yeah!" out of my phone to signal either a game-tying score by the Bears (and a deciding PAT attempt to come) or the end of the game—oh, to be able to assign different ringtones to different outcomes. Iggy kindly sounded off at a red light and a peek at Android Oreo's creamy-filling notifications indicated survival, barely, prompting an apology to my family for several minutes of agitated silence. I am not cut out for this.

Houston's handful of fans were not so lucky—I've been on both ends of that. They and someone who miscalculated a Cardinals rebound represent the weekend's six losses, as my silver-lining scenario of the Pats taking people down with them never panned out. Drag. At least I already won the privacy contest since no one else chose to mistrust the inter-net and obscure his or her last name and email address. Good luck with that next credit report, losers. Otherwise, with all participants given two strikes and no buybacks, the magic number is one hundred six. Good lord.

Up next: Tom Brady improves upon his bottom-dwelling completion percentage. Cheers!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Beer and football VIII — training camp/the all-important third preseason game

The beer: Ipswich Blueberry Shandy
The commentary: I dreamed I was Julian Edelman. On the goal line leading 4–2 (!) over the Buccaneers in the Super Bowl or the opening game—there was tension beyond what the scheduled week-four matchup deserves—"Julian" went in motion behind Brady and told him "I want a touchdown!" I/he scooted past Brady before the snap as he stuck the ball forward for me, over the line of scrimmage, into the end zone, and I lunged forward to and pluck it for the score. An irate (understandably so, given the blatant false start) Bucs assistant coach bolted onto the field, got in my face and assaulted me until he either tripped and fell to the ground or I knocked him down. He was not out of options and so grabbed onto my ankle like a bear trap, refusing to let go as I taunted him with "Look at the scoreboard!" even though "we" were only up 11–2 in a dreamworld where touchdowns counted for a full seven points. Edelman is a douche even when I'm playing him in the ether.

This occurred days before he was lost for the year during the all-important Detroit layover. I'm cautiously optimistic in that Danny Amendola and Malcolm Mitchell, plus whichever rookie sticks to the roster, can fill in for him while Chris Hogan, Brandin Cooks and Gronk expand the field beyond dinks and dunks. We'll see how many of them can stay healthy. It's the preseason, sure, but Brady and company looked pretty great against the Lions' starters. It should be fun.

Training camp was a little subdued for G., my father and me this year as an overwhelming crowd obscured much of the action in a joint session with the Jaguars. I appreciated Papa's vow to appeal to Robert Kraft about moving a particular tree—passion over right and wrong, or over things in our way, runs hot in the blood. G. didn't like how "the flavor" kept seeping to the bottom of her slushie and more or less refused to have her picture taken. I managed to get a couple of keepers before a lack of balloons at Red Robin brought it to a full stop. At least 2016's Etsy dress still fits, even though we needed to bring it to a seamstress—whose workspace resembled a Hobbit hole—for repairs. Beware the internet and its shoddy stitching.

New England (the region) enjoyed a proper, old-school Summer this year and we took full advantage of a general lack of humidity, a welcome amount of rain after last year's drought and all-around excellence. The last week of June was spent around Penobscot Bay in Maine where Belfast and Rockland suited us better than an overrun Camden, though our cool lobster-boat tour did originate from there. Finding the dock took Olympic-level skill over a wrinkled pastel slalom course.

A month later I took my… butterfly mermaid?… to "Daddy Daughter Princess Night" with the Lowell Spinners, an A-level Red Sox outfit. Who doesn't love visiting Lowell? It was a fun night capped off by a costumed Princess Jasmine's bosom and a fairly spectacular fireworks display, both (all three?) of which approached a kind of danger. An earlier snafu at the box office left a bitter taste, though, as I had the audacity to request a seat next to my daughter—by the time everything was sorted I'm sure the guy behind the glass hated me as much as I did him. Good luck with your ticket-distribution career, failed hipster meathead.

Outdoor dates with Circus Smirkus and a Snow White/Alice in Wonderland mashup followed, where irresistible trees beckoned children until we were told they were imported from Japan and therefore unsuitable for climbing. Good luck with your woodland-authority career, public-theater roadie lady.

And Canobie? And Canobie! The lady behind us in line at the Ferris wheel was stroking a stuffed Moana pig and complaining that Columbus didn't discover the New World because "Cuba isn't America." You can see her and her bra straps in the other car while G. posed for a Heroes reissue.

The Dragon Coaster was in full effect this year as my six-year-old monkey embraced rides beyond the carousel and the Ferris wheel. She started a little slow with the Kiddie Canoes and said afterward that the cave was full of spiderwebs.

Eventually she perfected her horror-queen scream on the Dragon Coaster, Flower Power and Over the Rainbow before mellowing out with the Sky Ride (a favorite in my youth) and the Alpine Swing. You might be on your own on Untamed next year, kiddo.

Downtime with Rosie and her infamous vanilla leg was and is valued as well. It's not all beaches and tee-shirt cannons.

The knockout pool, you ask? It's back! In corporate form, as the organizer has outsourced management and tracking duties to the home of Silk Stalkings. How CBS Sports can get away with enabling illegal stakes is beyond me—hopefully it at least means we'll find out everyone's picks before the games are played. Other changes: instead of running several separate contests (of which I participated in one), my man is lumping everyone together. More people means more total units to win, especially with a one-time contribution of forty each instead of twenty and no buybacks this time—great, right? However. The odds of a single winner emerging by the end of the regular season are nil because everyone gets two strikes and ties now equal wins. I'm not allowing myself to get too worked up over the latter because ties are rare enough but, with fifty-three people and one hundred six strikes, we'll be lucky to have fewer than fifteen left come January. A popular vote among those who remain will supposedly decide between various split-the-pot or kick-in-more-and-keep-going scenarios that I'll worry about should I be involved. Mudhoney's fantastic The Sound and the Fury From Seattle, in the meantime, will assist in maintaining realistic expectations… excepting local football heroes, of course. "Fuck you! Keep it outta my face!"

Up next: Don't all teams have a chance at three championship titles in four years? Twice? Cheers!