Tuesday, October 28, 2014
I could wax poetically about the sun rising on a new kind of Massachusetts that day, but I'll skip all that. We had finally won the World Series, and it was a completely new kind of feeling as a sports fan.
In retrospect, we Red Sox fans had spent years torturing ourselves, in a Calvinistic hope (give credit to Dan Shauhgnessy for the comparison between Sox fans, and the predestination believing religious folks who colonized Massachusetts centuries earlier) that with each painful experience, we would somehow be rewarded with greater amounts of joy if, AND ONLY IF, our team ever won. The more pain we went through on Earth, the greater joy Heaven would bring. That was the hope.
I'll come back to that torture/reward thing later. Returning to October 28, 2004...
I got home just as the morning commute was peaking. The Sox were the only story on the local news. The plane carrying the newly minted Champions landed at Logan. There were videos of grown men in business suits with briefcases, running alongside the team bus on its way to Fenway, jumping up and down for joy. There was a massive parade and I took the first Red Line train into Boston to get a good spot for it.
That unadulterated release of joy was something that had been building inside of us fans for years, even decades. And with each heartbreak, with each close call, with each Bucky Dent and Aaron Boone, the frustration built up. As the frustration and need for release increased, so did the feeling of gratification and joy that would be felt if we ever attained that release. In other words, we Sox fans had a terrible case of Blue Balls.
2004 was the epic release of that frustration, and also that joy. No sports moment will ever feel like that again.
That's why we no longer live and die with each pitch. That's why Red Sox fans went from religious zealots, to the people who only go to Church at Christmas and Easter.
John Henry, Larry Lucchino, and the Fenway Sports Group didn't help. Continuing the religious metaphor, imagine being the Pope the year after Jesus Christ came back to Earth. How would you get people fired up about anything?
You'd probably renovate the Vatican, and hire a bunch of high-priced Bishops and Cardinals (Renteria, Drew) to get people's attention.
I'll give Fenway Sports Group all the credit in the world for breaking The Curse. I'll also criticize them for not understanding what Sox fans were feeling, and still now not understanding how regular fans feel about this team. We couldn't have the same cultish devotion to the Sox after all our prayers had been answered. Henry and FSG didn't get that.
They didn't get a lot of things.
The same owners who hired The Epstein also chased him out of town. Twice. The same owners who hired Terry Francona also hired Bobby Valentine. The same owners who renovated Fenway Park also lied about sellouts and we still can't figure out why. Every 2 years they seem to acknowledge their mistakes and change their philosophy, and yet somehow they maintain a smug arrogance as though everything they do is right.
And perhaps most vexing of all, they kept Jerry Remy but dumped Jenny Dell. Giggly analyst who enabled his woman-beating son vs. attractive sideline fluff reporter who still had more interesting things to say than Remy.
Seriously? NESN and the Red Sox decided to take her off the TV screen. Good call, guys.
Everything changed after the Red Sox won the World Series. Red Sox fans changed. We went from anxiously anticipating an overdue release, to being normal fans of a normal big-market baseball team. Ownership didn't want our fandom to change, though. They wanted the same rapt attention, the same hopeful highs and desperate lows. It's like we fans were bipolar before the Sox cured us by winning the World Series. Yet the owners still wanted to prescribe us Prozac and Paxil.
We didn't want that after 2004. We just wanted a baseball team. And that's all I want now. We don't need to have owners and GMs who spend on JD Drew but skimp on Jon Lester. We don't need lavish ceremonies where lions are released and someone pulls the string on Kevin Millar's back so he says something country.
We just want a baseball team. Please.
Jim Davis/Boston Globe
Thursday, October 16, 2014
Thursday Night Football doesn't fit in. And it double-screws fans who go to the game, since they can't properly tailgate without leaving work early, and can't get properly lubed up without taking Friday off.
If you're going to play this drinking game, it will do more than throw you off your rhythm. It will incapacitate you 60+ hours, until the remainder of the NFL games are played Sunday afternoon.
Anytime a commentator says:
"Rain" or anything weather related = 1 drink of beer
"Thursday" = 1 drink
"New" = 1 drink
"Divisiona(al)" = 1 drink
"Rival(ry)" = 1 drink
"East" = 1 drink
"Rex" = 1 drink
"Line" = 1 drink
"Coach" = 1 drink
"Dante" = 1 drink
"Logan" = 1 drink
"Revis" = 1 drink
"Island" = 1 drink, preferably something tropical
"Injury" = 1 drink
"ACL" and/or "MCL" = 1 drink
"Hoomanawanui" or any variation of it = 1 drink
Anytime this is on screen:
Puddles or running water = 1 drink
Someone in a raincoat or poncho = 1 drink per coat
Foliage = 1 drink for every color of leaf you can see
A pumpkin = 1 drink. If drinking a pumpkin flavored beer, you must finish it
A graphic with pictures of Rex Ryan and Bill Belichick = drink the entire time the graphic is on screen
A graphic with quotes = drink the entire time the graphic is on screen
A Patriot player getting injured, live or on film = 1 shot of liquor
Bob Kraft = 1 drink
Kraft talking to someone = drink for as long as he's talking
Bill Belichick = 1 drink
Rex Ryan = 1 drink, plus a goddamn snack
Belichick and Ryan on split screen = half a beer
Ryan and Belichick shaking hands = 1 shot
Danny Amendola = finish your beer
Anytime this happens:
A penalty flag = 1 drink
A bad penalty flag = 1 shot
Touchback = 1 drink
Kickoff return = drink for the duration of the return. For bonus points, drink 1 second for every yard the return gained
Matthew Slater makes a special teams tackle = half a beer
Michael Vick = no drinks, but if you have a dog, give it a good belly rub and pat yourself on the back that you're a good pet owner
You're mesmerized by how white Rex Ryan's teeth are = 1 drink, then swallow a shot of Listerine
Josh McDaniels gets too cute with play-calling = 1 shot
Chandler Jones makes a big play = 1 drink
The Patriots go no huddle = 1 drink per snap
Brady points out the "mic" = 1 drink
Brady says "Alpha Milk" = 1 drink, bonus points if drinking a White Russian
Brady and a receiver aren't on the same page = 1 drink
You're worried that Edelman is hurt = 1 drink
You're worried that Gronk is hurt = 1 drink
Brady throws to someone not named Julian or Rob = 1 drink
That person catches the ball = another drink
Brady gets hurried = 1 drink
Brady gets hit = 1 drink, 1 shot
Brady gets sacked = 1 drink, 1 shot, snort a line of painkillers
Vince Wilfork makes a big play = 1 drink
Wilfork forces and/or recovers a turnover = 1 drink, 1 shot
Wilfork returns a turnover for a TD = 1 drink, 1 shot, eat a turkey leg
You realize that the Kansas City Royals are in the World Series, and it's the first time that's happened since the Super Bowl Shuffle = drink something that's 29 years old, or drink 29 ounces of something heavily alcoholic
Get lubed up responsibly, stay dry, and enjoy the game
Monday, October 13, 2014
What really pisses me off about Columbus getting his own day is that his historic significance is a result of his colossal, towering stupidity.
In 1492 most educated people knew the world was round. The Greeks had figured it out centuries earlier, and had even accurately calculated the size of the Earth. Columbus dramatically misinterpreted those calculations, and thought Japan was much farther away from China, which was based more on hope than on science.
Columbus convinced himself that his voyage from Spain to Japan would be 2,300 miles. It would have been 12,200. And no ship built in 1492 could carry enough food and water for such a long journey. Had Columbus not bumped into the New World, he and his men would have starved. They probably would have resorted to cannibalism, and the voyage of 1492 would go down in history as a horror story, alongside the Donner Party. Christopher Cannibalumbus.
Even after Columbus' great discovery, he was too much of a close-minded fool to admit he'd found a new continent, and never acknowledged that the Americas weren't part of Asia. That's like Neil Armstrong telling people he'd landed on the North Pole. This great discoverer didn't even know he had discovered something.
And as far as genocidal European conquerors go, Columbus wasn't very good at his job. He ruled his new colony as a bloody tyrant, brutally punishing both Natives and Europeans alike, even for just speaking against him or his family. For this Columbus was removed as governor of the West Indies. He was fired for brutality by the people who were running the Spanish Inquisition.
So he was a bad but lucky navigator/explorer. He was too stupid to realize his own discovery. He was a bad governor. And his own people hated him. Yet we here in America have a day for him. Doesn't make sense.
Instead of honoring Columbus, we should honor Vikings. Let's change this holiday to Viking Day! And here's why:
Vikings were the first Europeans to make the trip, and they did it 500 years before Columbus.
Vikings were honest about their pillaging. They didn't justify it by claiming they were spreading religion. Columbus saw himself as spreading his religion as he had people tortured and killed. Funny, that's how ISIS see themselves these days. Columbus=ISIS. ColumbISIS.
Fewer protests and arguments. Obviously Native American groups and the legions of white celebrities and grad students who think they speak on their behalf, would have less to complain about. And I don't think Viking-Americans would get offended. Furthermore, if your ancestry is Scandinavian, British, French, Irish, Russian, you probably have some Viking ancestry too. They even went to Spain, Sicily, Turkey, all over Europe. You can be racially offensive about your own race and/or the race of the majority. Those are the rules.
Finally, Viking Day would be more fun. We could all dress up as Vikings. Adults could drink heavily in large drinking halls, or prowl the coastline in longboat booze cruises. Children could "pillage" their houses for toys and treats hidden by their parents. It would be a Nordic St. Patrick's Day. So much better than the boring Columbus Days we have now, which are just an extra 24 hours to rake leaves.
So let's do some exploring and discover Viking Day!
Tuesday, October 07, 2014
Patriot fans do need to keep calm. They need to keep calm about embarrassing defeats. They need to keep calm about inspiring triumphs. This team is going to be wildly inconsistent. They will look amazing in one game, one quarter, one drive, for one play. Then they'll look awful for a game, a quarter, a drive.
And with the right attitude, inconsistency becomes drama. It becomes something that can be enjoyed as entertainment.
But Pats fans seem so joyless. Even when the team wins, unless it's a flawless victory, the fans worry and fret, troubling themselves Monday through Saturday. They then spend their Sunday (or Monday night) yelling at the TV. That's no way to go through life.
Pats fans need to have more emotional maturity about this team. As do pundits and writers and sports radio morons. I was expecting the radio yesterday to be full of cautious optimism. "This was a great game, but it's just one game," type of sentiments. Instead everyone was either drooling over this game, or they were being defensive about their histrionics from the previous week, which they spent dismantling the Patriots and speculating that Brady would be benched because Belichick had "Lost the quarterback."
People in the media rallied around Trent Green, who berated the Patriots for not spending money (a just criticism, but Trent didn't do much criticizing of his Baltimore Ravens for how they handled the Ray Rice situation, in fact Trent praised them_.
The truth lies somewhere between the "Brady and Belichick are at war" camp, and those who think that "everything is awesome."
The truth is that this team is good but flawed. This team has talent and holes. They're entertaining to watch, if you let yourself be entertained.
There's at least a sliver of hope for this team. It's not a big sliver. They have many issues, and they match up poorly against a number of teams. There are greater tragedies in life than seeing your favorite football team win ONLY 3 championships.
The hope, and the entertainment value that Pats fans are choosing not to enjoy, are the envy of a number of NFL cities. I'm not saying you should be satisfied with losing. I am saying you should at least enjoy exciting football games.
And if you can't find a way to enjoy watching a team that has a chance to win, a team that can make exciting plays, a team that plays dramatic games. Then I don't know why you watch sports.
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
The offensive line sucks. Exacerbating the problem is an unwillingness by Belichick, McDaniels, and Brady to accept and adjust to this reality. The plays are forced. The throws are forced. Brady throws into coverage. He throws to the same two guys. He ignores or doesn't see open receivers.
The Patriots are not running the right plays for their offense. Julian Edelman, a 5' 10" receiver, is being used as a downfield threat. The Pats run the ball with tomfoolery and trickery, instead of just attacking their opponent. Routes take too long to develop. Brady doesn't throw to anyone but Edelman and Gronkowski. He doesn't even seem to consider throwing to anyone else.
The Patriots dressed 3 WRs Monday Night, then used the run only sparingly. What the hell is the logic behind that?
I know Brady is uncomfortable in the pocket. In the past, we've mocked Peyton Manning for crumbling under such pressure. We focused on him, and made fun of him for letting the pressure get to him. So do we laugh and point at Manning for those collapses, then defend Brady for making bad decisions and making bad throws?
The line sucks. Brady has also sucked.
Both sides of the ball need to be simpler. Bring it back to basics. Be primal and ATTACK. Don't think, just go after the ball, after the opponent, after the yards. Instead the offense runs sweep plays to the outside on 3rd and 2. Instead, Darrelle Revis is playing off to prevent big plays.
I don't know what this team is trying to do on either side of the ball. They seem to base their offense on what the opponent does. Their gameplan is reactionary, not proactive.
The sky isn't falling though, all you Chicken Littles out there. This was an awful night. A painful night. To borrow a quote from the movie Wall Street: "We sure went down the toilet on that ugly bitch." Thankfully it was just one night. Hopefully it's rock bottom, and not a sign of things to come.
Right now the Patriots have to work to make this game an aberration. If the Patriots can improve, in the numerous areas they need improvement, then this game becomes just one game. But if something isn't done, in a number of areas, then this game becomes something defining.
The Patriots have a lot of things to work on. Thankfully they have plenty of time to work on them.
Photo Credit: John Rieger/USA TODAY Sports
Monday, September 29, 2014
Anytime a commentator says:
"City" = take 1 drink from a beer
"Brady" = 1 drink
"No huddle" = 1 drink
"Crowd noise" = 1 drink
"Weapons" = 1 drink
"Revis" = 1 drink
"Island" = 1 drink
"Hoomanawanui" or a variation = 1 drink
"Offensive line" = 1 drink
Anytime Jon Gruden...
Says "this guy" = 1 drink
Gives a player a nickname (e.g. "the sheriff") = 1 drink
Laughs = 1 drink
Makes the other commentator(s) laugh = 1 drink
Gushes about a player's body parts = 1 drink
Forces you to mute the TV = finish your beer
Anytime this is on screen:
Andy Reid as Eagles head coach = drink the entire time he's on screen
Tom Brady on the ground (live or in highlights) = take 1 shot of hard liquor
Robert Kraft = drink entire time he's on screen
Kraft talking to someone = drink an extra 15 seconds
A player or coach using a tablet = 1 drink
Danny Amendola = finish your beer
Anytime this happens:
Penalty flag = 1 drink
Touchback = 1 drink
A kickoff return = drink during entire return
Peyton Manning commercial = 1 drink the first commercial, 2 the second, and so on
Brady points out the "Mike" = 1 drink
You can actually hear Brady's cadence = 1 drink
Brady looks angry = 1 drink
Stevan Ridley runs the ball and doesn't fumble = 1 drink
Ridley fumbles = finish your beer
You actually see Danny Amendola = 1 drink
Brady throws to Amendola = half a beer
Amendola catches a pass = full beer
You're worried that Julian Edelman is hurt = 1 drink
Chandler Jones makes a big play = 1 drink
Vince Wilfork sacks the QB = 1 drink
Wilfork forces a fumble or intercepts the ball = 1 drink, 1 turkey leg, shot of gravy
Wilfork returns a turnover for a TD = full beer, full turkey dinner with all the trimmings, 12 ounces of gravy
You realize KC has a better baseball team than we do = full beer, 3 shots
Get lubed up responsibly.
Friday, September 26, 2014
He'll probably be cheered. But how cool would it be if he got booed? I think booing him would be the greatest tribute Sox fans could give to him. Not a boo with any malice behind it, more of a funny boo. Like how Fenway fans applauded Mariano Rivera in 2005 when the Sox were getting their World Series rings.
One last boo from Boston for their respected nemesis.
I have a Derek Jeter story to share. It was the early 2000s, I don't remember the exact year. It was during that painful stretch when the Yankees were relentlessly superior to the Sox every season. They were rolling to the World Series every year, our team was feebly reaching for the Wild Card, and annually falling short.
I was in high school. I went to Fenway for the first Yankees series of the year. That was a tradition of mine. Back then it wasn't absurdly expensive, because back then Fenway still had the feel of a 90-year old dump built on top of a swamp. Fenway was not the cool place to go, it was a cold place to go. It wasn't family friendly, it wasn't fan friendly. The building itself and all the staff seemed to not want people to come to the game. Everyone was angry, miserable, drunk, rowdy. Comparing Fenway in 2000 to Fenway in 2014 is like comparing the Wild West of the 1800s to a strip mall in modern Glendale, Arizona. Same place, different people, more amenities in the present, more "character" in the past.
The Yankees were taking batting practice. I was standing behind the first base dugout. Derek Jeter took his swings. After a barrage of low opposite field line drives, he trotted down to first. He stood on the bag, and practiced his standing leads and running leads, going through a baserunner's routine of leads and retreats to the bag.
Maybe I had a few drinks working through my system, maybe I didn't. Maybe it was those possible drinks, or maybe it was seeing his overly confident trot to first base, or a combination of both. Something stirred in me. I felt a buzz of hatred, of jealousy, of a whole jumble of emotions all at once.
And I started to yell. I can't remember what exactly I said. But it was loud, and sarcastic. Then I went into the "Nomah's Bettah!" chant.
Keep in mind, this was back when Nomar was still on the Red Sox, and back when there was still a legitimate argument about who was the best short-stop in baseball. In Boston, there was no argument.
At the top of my lungs I screamed "NOMAH'S BETTAH!" clap, clap, clap clap clap. Others around started to clap along with me.
Jeter stopped his routine on first base, and looked at me.
"NOMAH'S BETTAH!" clap, clap, clap clap clap. And Jeter clapped along with me.
I had no idea what to do then. I was baffled. Looking back it was an ingenious response to a heckler.
I yelled out a promise to him, that because he clapped along with me, I wouldn't boo him that night. And I didn't. And if memory serves he got an RBI or two in the game. And I couldn't boo him. The next night I booed him as hard as I could.
And that's my Derek Jeter story.
Photo Credit: Charles Krupa/AP Photo
Monday, September 22, 2014
Patriots finally have a playmaking, game-changing defense, and everyone is obsessed with the offense
However, the defense is finally making plays and winning games. Yet the people that have been very vocally pining for such a playmaking defense, are now the ones ignoring how well they've played.
The Patriots didn't allow a touchdown Sunday. They held Oakland to 241 yards of offense, only 174 in the air and 67 on the ground. The Raiders only converted 5 of 13 3rd downs. They were 0 for 2 in the red zone. When the defense committed penalties, they weren't horrible for the situation, such as interfering with a receiver who was probably about to catch a touchdown.
Chandler Jones tipped two passes at the line of scrimmage. Logan Ryan, Kyle Arrington, and Patrick Chung all got their hands on the ball. Vince Wilfork's interception was the result of a fortuitous bounce, but when a defense gets their hands on the ball as often as the Pats did on Sunday, turnovers are bound to happen.
And even though Darrelle Revis didn't have a great game, his presence allows guys like Ryan and Arrington to be in better matchups. Revis often assumes the tougher assignments, allowing Arrington and Ryan to make plays against lower level receivers. Which is similar to what Vince Wilfork has done on the d-line, assuming tough blocks, giving other guys a chance to make plays. Ironically, Revis had a Wilfork-like game, and with the game-ending pick, Wilfork had a Revis-like game.
26.7. That was Oakland's average yards per drive. Three 3 and outs, 2 of them in the 4th quarter. The defense was great.
I'm focusing on the defense because it's been so long since we've seen a game-winning defense in New England. With the growth of Chandler Jones, the return of steady players like Wilfork and Mayo, and the relative depth in the backfield, this defense has potential to be one of the best in the NFL.
Of course, the offense was awful. The line allowed Brady to get hit too often. Brady missed throws too often. The running game got stuffed too often. Stupid penalties were committed too often, frequently at the worst possible time, such as a false start on 3rd and 10. The offense relied too heavily on Gronkowski in the red zone and on Edelman between the 20s.
When the Pats were winning Super Bowls, they found ways to win. They'd win one week with offense, the next with defense, the next with a big turnover, the next with a big special teams play. In their 21-game win streak, they beat the Browns 9-3 then a few weeks later beat the Colts 38-34. They found ways to win all kinds of games.
Time will tell if this Patriots team can win different kinds of games in different ways. At least we've seen that the defense can do it. Albeit against weaker competition and for a small sample size. It's almost as if it's still September, and having any opinion cheerfully high or bitterly low on this Patriots team based on such a small sample, would be moronic.
Photo Credit: Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports
Monday, September 15, 2014
The weather was nicer, the opposing team was without their best player, and Chandler Jones. Those were the three biggest reasons that week 2 was so much more enjoyable for the Patriots than week 1.
The Patriots are 35-4 in their last 39 games after a loss. That's 90%. That's just stupid.
Chandler Jones was clearly the player of the game Sunday. Could he BE any more of a playmaker? The defense looked shaky on the first series and Jones made the only good play, shedding his blocker and blowing up a reverse. He finished the day with a pair of sacks and a blocked field goal that he returned for a touchdown.
The timing of the block was especially crucial. Instead of a 17-10 game going into the half, it was 24-7. And the Pats would be getting the ball back after the break. Any momentum the Vikings had built was knocked down by Chandler Jones, just like he knocked down the ball.
It's been years since the Patriots have featured a playmaker in their front 7. They've had DBs who could make plays, they've had solid guys like Wilfork and Mayo up the middle. I'd say Mike Vrabel was the last true playmaker up front.
This is a big year for Jones. It's time for him to form his NFL identity. We've seen the athleticism, we see he can make plays that change the game. The question is, how regularly will we see that?
The offense wasn't very good. Granted, they did not need to be good against Matt Cassel and a Peterson-less Vikings offense. The Pats were 5 of 14 on 3rd downs. They went 3 and out three times. Apart from one or two drives, there was no rhythm.
Brady looked more comfortable. He stepped around inside the pocket more, so perhaps his calf is better. In week 1 he didn't move at all after his drop. In the past we've seen him take a step to the sides or forward to avoid pressure. He didn't do that in week 1, just dropped back and planted.
Offensively, this performance was reminiscent of the early 2000s. Brady only threw 22 passes (compared to 56 in week 1) for 149 yards. Only one QB in the NFL (Ryan Fitzpatrick, 139) threw for fewer yards than Brady in week 2.
The running game was efficient. Ridley ran for 101 on 25 carries. Not a bad day, but I still question his being used as a short yardage back. Right now the Pats don't seem to have anyone for short yardage situations. Vereen added 40 yards and the team ran for 150.
Julian Edelman was the key to the offense. He caught 6 passes for 81 yards and a TD. He's Brady's favorite target for short passes as well as deep ones. Including punt returns, Edelman was responsible for 156 total yards.
The Vikings aren't a good team. So the impressive nature of this win doesn't leave an impression that will last longer than a few hours. It's premature to say they've "addressed" the issues that undermined them in Miami. The Vikings didn't offer the challenges that the Dolphins did with their rushing game or their outside pass rush.
The Pats are 1-1, time to move on. Starting Sunday against Oakland, they begin a stretch with 5 of 7 at home.
All wins are good wins (Bill Belichick now has 200 of them). And this win was necessary. Starting off 0-2 in September makes life in November and December very hard. This is the time to collect wins, secure a good playoff position, and work on your weaknesses. Winter is coming.
Photo Credit: Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press
Wednesday, September 03, 2014
As a Patriots fan, I'm not going to judge Wes Welker. There have been plenty of Pats players who have taken PEDs. There have been plenty of Pats players who have taken recreational drugs. There have been plenty of Pats players who have made bad life decisions.
However, I will call Wes Welker an idiot. And a bit of a tool.
I don't care what other people put into their body. If you want to smoke weed, snort coke, inject heroin into your veins, go right ahead. But if you want to go to the Kentucky Derby and make a spectacle of yourself handing out $100 bills, and you decide to take some Molly while doing it, you're leaving yourself open for ridicule, and worse.
Welker taking MDMA isn't the crux of the story here. Not for me at least. What's truly giving me a sense of Schadenfreude is that he was lionized by a small but vocal group of sports writers, pundits, and fans. He was the David in the David vs. Goliath narrative that unfolds whenever a player "stands up" against the cruel and stingy Patriots.
Welker became a hero to these critics and cynics. Just like Richard Seymour, Asante Samuel, and Logan Mankins. When players hold out or refuse to restructure their contracts or play hardball with the Patriots, these critics love it, and become their biggest fans. The players turn into Bob Cratchit asking Scrooge for a raise. Or Oliver Twist saying "Please, sir, I want some more."
Welker is no saint. He's no hero. He's just a guy. He seems like a bit of a douche, which isn't uncommon for athletes. He seems like a bit of an idiot, which isn't uncommon for people in general.