tis here that truth is known

Professor Coldheart’s Keys to the Game
Ravens games don’t usually get picked up by New England stations. I could go to a sports bar and ask someone to switch a TV over, but this doesn’t always go over well. Also, it ties me to that particular bar for three hours and twenty dollars worth of drinks. Of course, this would not have been an issue this past Sunday – when the Ravens played the Patriots at GIllette Stadium – except that I would have been the only guy in the bar in a Joe Flacco jersey. Even the usual crew who I can plead to come watch a Baltimore game with me (Fraley, Hawver, Michelle) would have spurned my treachery.

Streaming Internet radio saved the day, though the only station I can reliably get online is Washington DC’s Air America affiliate. They do great game day coverage, picking up the WBAL broadcasters live: a more competent crew than four of the last five Monday Night Football lineups. So I sigh when Air America does its “roll call” every hour, running down a list of local businesses that want to advertise their progressive values. A slew of farmer’s markets, massage therapists and small law offices, announced in alternating sing-song.

My Ravens played their hearts out this past Sunday, leaving two men on the field – Jared Gaither and Brendan Oyanbedejo – and keeping it close throughout. Joe Flacco played like the Tom Brady of four years ago, going 8-for-11 on third down. And Baltimore shut down New England’s running game. Unfortunately, several bad ref calls, as well as competitive play by Brady, Maroney and Welker, cost Baltimore the game.

I still submit that the Patriots winning this game earned them less cred than the Ravens lost by losing. The Ravens are now a 3-1 team, eminently respectable with a sophomore QB and coach, and stayed within one touchdown of a well-favored team. The Patriots clawed their way to 3-1 in a close game today, still not having won by enough of a margin to reaffirm the world’s faith in Brady Christ. The power dynamics of dealing with low-status rivals plague even the canniest diplomats.

Hail, Alma Mater
I saw my first (and probably only) Boston College home game of the season this past Saturday, watching the Eagles scramble past FSU. Casey O. and I screamed in frustration at Spaziani’s prevent defense, stared at each other in shock when BC scored and tried to keep the fans around us classy.

Limited success on that front: a BC Superfan got in a shoving match with a Seminoles fan one section over. Two ambitious, collegiate pushes: both arms to the flat of the chest, no follow-up punch. Stadium security came by and summoned the cops. I didn’t hear the ensuing discussion, but I saw the Seminoles fan shaking his head. The cops left without ejecting the BC pugilist, who slumped into a seat two rows away next to his embarrassed girlfriend and stared somberly at the field for the remaining quarter and a half, his dignity shredded beyond repair.

NFL theme song

Against my better judgment, I joined another fantasy football league this season.

I dropped out of Dave L’s, having lost embarrassingly two years in a row and having no desire to continue supporting better teams’ records. But Ray needed another player to round out his league. I wonder if perhaps we have too many teams now (14-team league), but am happy to have a good pool of competitors.

But enough about that! You want to see who I drafted, don’t you? I’m certain you do.

Round One: DeAngelo Williams (Car, RB)
Round Two: Ronnie Brown (Mia, RB)
Round Three: Matt Ryan (Atl, QB). Green Bay’s starter and Tony Romo were still on the board, but I wanted to avoid touching Dallas for as long as possible and don’t like Green Bay’s chances this year.
(Comment regarding Wes Welker, who went rather early: “yes, but he’s a very attractive man. when you remove his helmet he sparkles. also he keeps saying he wants to eat Tom Brady.”)
Round Four: Bernard Berrian (Min, WR). I believe this is the year that Brett Favre’s arm finally comes out of its socket and ascends into the heavens, where it belongs. But with all the leather he’s going to be chucking up there, law of averages dictates that some will have to fall in Berrian’s hands.
(“T.O.’s going to suck balls.” “On his new show? That’s awful desperate”)
Round Five: Jamal Lewis (Cle, RB). Still love you, man!
Round Six: Matt Cassel (KC, QB). And on the bench he can stay, for now.
Round Seven: Knowshon Moreno (Den, RB). A rookie to round out the stable.
Round Eight: Devin Hester (Chi, WR)
Round Nine: John Carlson (Sea, TE)
Round Ten: Patrick Crayton (Dal, WR). So I had to draft one Cowboy.
Round Eleven: Sammy Morris (NE, RB). They let me take up to eight running backs! I just couldn’t stop!
Round Twelve: Bo Scaife (Ten, TE). The “I need a tight end” tight end.
Round Thirteen: Michael Jenkins (Atl, WR)
Round Fourteen: Mark Bradley (KC, WR)
Round Fifteen: NO Kicker
Round Sixteen: SF Defense

I’m starting pretty much just the top half (plus my kicker and D, obviously). They all play on Sunday. Wish me luck!

chasing sea foam dreams around another dirty old town

A Hyundai commercial came on late in the 3rd. “Have you heard about Hyundai’s new program?” someone asked. “If you buy a Hyundai and you lose your job, they’ll take the car back.”

“Won’t the bank do that for you already?” I asked.

Somewhere between the commercial for the G.I. Joe remake and the commercial for the Escape to Witch Mountain remake, a Super Bowl happened. It was a tense Super Bowl, don’t get me wrong. Lot of good play on both sides, and I have to credit the Cardinals for making it close in the 4th. But nothing epitomizes the Steelers more than James Harrison, hero of the 2nd quarter for running back a pick for a TD, becoming the villain of the 4th by flagrantly roughing Ben Graham. Harrison shoved the Cardinals punter down, kept him on the ground by pushing down on his shoulders, then punched him as he struggled to stand. Taking nothing away from the athleticism of Santonio Holmes and Troy Polamalu, the Steelers are as disreputable a bunch of thugs as ever donned football uniforms*

The Super Bowl was not the most brutal sporting event I saw this weekend. That honor goes to UFC 94, which I watched with Brett, Will and a bunch of other Everett kids on Saturday. In between talking about the murders that kids they went to high school got away with**, we watched a series of bizarre matches and even more bizarre judging decisions:


  • A crowd full of drunken guys in their 20s and 30s went from laughing at the one guy named “Dong” to cheering him on sincerely. He demonstrated more prowess and control in the first two rounds of his fight against Karo Parisyian than anyone we’d seen thus far. Then … he lost in a split decision. I hesitate to yell “racism,” but East Asians always fare poorly in MMA (oddly enough).

  • Winner for most bizarre entrance music: Jon “Bones” Jones, coming out to “Angry Johnny” by Poe. A refreshing change from the late 90s rap and early 00s nu-metal that most fighters find intimidating, but … really? You’re going to pump up the crowd by playing Poe? I suppose it got inside Stephen Bonnar’s head (he entered to The Who’s “Eminence Front,” FYI), since Jones won with the first unanimous decision of the night. He had some sick mule kicks.

I liked the UFC match better – fewer villains won – but I enjoyed the company at both events. If I miss anything about moving to a smaller place, it’s not being able to host a dozen or so people for a ball game or a movie night. Still wouldn’t trade back, though.

_______________
* Unlike my own Baltimore Ravens, gentlemen all.
** Not joking. Murders, dude.

this ain’t back in the day, but you don’t hear me though

I can think of few better ways to spend an autumn Sunday morning than rolling through the tony Brattle neighborhoods of Cambridge with my man Hawver, blasting Ready to Die in the Toyota’s sturdy speakers. Especially if you’re on your way to watch some football.

Fraley and Melissa welcomed us into their home, grilling up blue cheese burgers and serving us beer. We sat down to watch one of the most brutal games of football I’ve ever seen – players dropping left and right, sloppy turnovers, helmetless brawls, etc. The Patriots dragged one out of the Dolphins but they took their time doing it.

During commercials we jumped around to catch snippets of other games, like the Ravens/Eagles throwdown. JB yelled highlights at us, like Ed Reed’s 108-yard touchdown return. “Is that a record?” Fraley asked. “Yes,” I told him. “It breaks the previous record, held by … Ed Reed.”

# # #

Catching a flight to Baltimore this evening to visit the family. Wish me luck.

you’ve been thunderstruck

Sunday I got up early and drove to Target in Watertown, picking up some cheap binoculars. They came with a cord to go around my neck, a handy carrying case and a multi-tool that I’d attach to my keychain if I weren’t sure to lose it the next time I went through Logan. I then made my way to Newton, soaking up fall sunlight, to rendezvous with Fraley, Melissa and Serpico.

We made it down to Foxboro in a little over an hour and set up our space-efficient tailgate – some folding chairs, two camp tables, and Fraley’s ultra-portable grill, Ol’ Smoky. “She’s got a sweet spot right in the center,” he said, reaching under the grill with a long-necked lighter. “So you’ve got to make sure to JESUS.” Smoky belched, his apple-red lid rattling with a gout of flame.

First course: Shaw’s pizza on tinfoil. The heat didn’t distribute as evenly as we’d like (see “sweet spot” above), but I had no problem with a bit of black on my crust. Not everyone felt as daring, though, and even I had my reservations when I could still taste the char three quarters of football later.

Speaking of: Mel and Fraley seemed astonished that this was my first game at Gillette Stadium. I marveled at the suburban bazaar that is Patriots Place: movie theaters, restaurants, Puma outlets, Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works … a middle-class resort. Call me a bad libertarian, but I’m secretly glad that the casino bill this past spring failed, since there’d been some talk of Kraft backing a casino at or near Foxboro. In theory I’m in favor of putting another billion dollars a year in Robert Kraft’s pocket; in practice, I oppose it.

I hadn’t sat in the upper deck of a football stadium since watching the Ravens tussle with the Steelers in Memorial Stadium eleven years ago, and they didn’t optimize Memorial for football. My fears were out of place in Gillette, however – even in the 300s I could see the field with remarkable clarity. The binoculars I bought that morning still proved useful, as I spied out a number of close plays. The Patriots took an early lead and never relinquished it, thanks to competent ball-handling by Matt Cassel and the usual string of Belichick trick plays. The Patriots closed the first half with their infamous “slow knee” – waiting a few seconds to run down the clock before kneeling to stop the play. “Other teams hate that,” Fraley observed. “There’s this gentleman’s agreement in the NFL – you kneel the ball right after the snap, we won’t vault over the line and crush you.”

The mens’ room at Foxboro during halftime is more orderly than I would have thought – guys file in and wait behind a particular stall, rather than queuing up thirty deep and dashing for the first one free. I got in and out quickly, trying not to quietly retch at the guys who brought open cups of beer into the stalls with them. Then I remembered I’d promised Fraley a beer, and could use one myself, so I found a wandering Coors guy. He was wrapping up a transaction with a middle-aged man and his younger woman. “Checkin’ my ID,” the man was complaining. “You didn’t even look, did you? What year was I born?”

“1963,” the beer guy said.

” ’62!” the customer crowed. He took his beer while the woman handed over some bills. “Where’s the change?” she asked.

“I gave it to you,” the beer guy said, indicating the folded bills he’d just passed over.

“I mean the fifty cents.” This is another gentleman’s agreement surrounding football – if the price of beer or a dog comes out to some figure less than a whole dollar, the silver comprises part of the tip. You don’t make a man carrying a twenty-pound tray of icy beer by his trapezius muscles in winter root around in his pocket for two quarters.

“I don’t have it,” he said, turning to me.

“Two,” I asked, flashing a twenty.

“You don’t have it?” This had brought the middle-aged 46-year-old man back. “You not gonna give her that fifty cent?”

“I don’t have it. That’ll be fifteen.” That last was to me, obviously.

“Honey, get his badge number. I’m’a write his ass up.”

I slipped back into my seat a minute into the third quarter as the Patriots slowly nursed their lead. “They remind me a lot of the 2000 Ravens,” I observed to Fraley. “Slow offense built around ball control, big scoring opportunities from defense and special teams.”

“Now that the game’s all but put away,” Serpico observed, still worrying about his fantasy football team, “this’d be a great time for a Lee Evans touchdown …”

“Shut it! No one wants to hear that!”

A late Buffalo touchdown (not by Lee Evans) didn’t stop the Patriots from trouncing the Bills, 20-10. We joined the surging crowd in the long walk back to the parking fields, where we re-lit Ol’ Smokey and cracked open some chorizo and burgers. We talked about the past and watched football fans lob sloppy passes and light off fireworks. My dad texted me Ravens scores, cheering over their 41-13 slaughter of the Texans.

The gentleman in the pickup next to Fraley’s car observed us, killing time and letting traffic thin out over a flaming grill. “That’s the way to do it,” he said. I knew what he meant.

and I don’t know if you don’t know your better half don’t act right

Saturday started off early with some tumultuous and epic gaming that ran until 4:15 PM. Afterward, Serpico and I took the Red Line to Park Street. Underground, we ran into Kate C., waiting for a train of her own to whisk her off to Carmina Burana. “Did you know Bruce Campbell’s in town tonight?” she squealed. “Why didn’t anyone tell me?”

“You’re dating Ryan,” I reminded her. “I presumed you would have picked it up through osmosis.”

The Green Line and a short walk carried us to Boston College, where we found James F., Tom O’ and Casey grilling in a light downpour. I ate a rather watery slice of homemade pizza until Casey finished a new batch of kielbasa. We took turns heaping derision on Greg W., who had elected to avoid the annual football game against BC’s biggest rival because of a mild downpour. James raised Greg’s voicemail on his cell. “The weather’s fine,” he yelled, as rain caused the greasy grill to spout flames into Tom’s poncho. “You still have time to get here!”

Serpico and I wandered to Shea Field, the “elite” tailgating section, to try and find some friends of ours. Entering Shea in the first place requires you to cut through a sea of humanity and get your ticket inspected; this keeps out the riff-raff who would otherwise take the slowest train in Boston to BC, drink in a cramped corner of the parking lot, and then leave without seeing a football game. Past the security guards, we entered a sucking mudhole of humanity. Rows of parked SUVs funneled fans into tiny, filthy corridors. Our shoes squelched as we trudged through a crowd of hundreds, craning our necks desperately for our friends. I can’t imagine it’d be any better on a sunny day instead of a rainy evening: picture a crowd twice as dense with temperatures thirty degrees higher. We gave up after fifteen minutes and slogged back to campus. “I just bought these at the Saucony outlet,” Serpico said of his shoes.

We normally have a little breathing room in our excellent benches, a mere 15 rows back from the turf. But for the BC / Notre Dame game, every seat in the stadium sells and fills. We squeezed in asscheek to asscheek, surrounded by more out of town fans than usual. Tom did not slacken in his usual torrent of hatred, calling Charlie Weis a “fucking baby” about six minutes into the first quarter (for what, I can not recall). Serpico sporadically abused a lone Notre Dame fan six rows down from us, whose only crime (at the moment) was echoing the ref’s “out of bounds” gesture after a particularly bad Chris Crane pass. “What is that?” Serpico asked. “Is that a thing you do? Do you travel to other people’s stadiums and make gestures like that? Is that fun for you?”

A pair of drunk Notre Dame fans got ejected for sitting in the wrong seats. Despite teetering ominously, staring at the events staff in a drunken glaze and waving what looked like a Marine Corps ID card around, the argument did not go their way. Other than those jackasses, I tried to save my abuse for the opposing team (“nice one, Clausen!”), rather than the opposing team’s fans, who came all this way in the rain to see their team lose. I mostly succeeded. Mostly.

“If you get us in a fight,” I promised James, “I am not going to back you up. I’m throwing you all the way under that bus.”

Boston College beat Notre Dame, 17 to 0 – their sixth straight win over the Irish and the first blanking in … years? Decades? Something like that. Even though the game ended in the last four minutes, I stayed until the final strains of “Hail Alma Mater,” then followed Serpico to the Reservoir station. We took a weary train ride downtown, running into Michelle McN and her friends on the way.

he’s walking around like he’s number one

After the final Gorefest show on Friday, we disassembled the set. I sum it up in one sentence but it took a little over three hours of solid labor. Mopping up two weeks’ worth of fake blood. Striking the backdrop (I punched a hole through the canvas on a dare). Detaching the stage into component pieces and stacking it in a corner. More mopping. Wiping blood off the walls and ceiling. Hauling plywood to the dumpster. Cleaning off the seats. More mopping. Bobby sent us home at 3:00.

I gave Misch a lift to the party at Mike M’s in Somerville, since she had to meet up with her travel companions for ImprovBoston’s trip to Tokyo. The party was still going at 3:30, as Mike’s parties tend to, so I chatted with Sasha, Dave S. and a coworker of Robert’s dressed as Holly Golightly. I called it quits around 5:00, driving back to Davis to sit under a hot shower and let pink stuff stream out of my hair. I entertained brief fantasies of staying up until sunrise but passed out regardless.

Dragged myself out of bed to meet the parents at the Marriott near MIT on Saturday, 10:45 or so. We walked around Cambridge and the MIT campus, passing the MIT Football team warming up for their big game. They warm up to a mixtape of various 80s hits, including “Don’t Stop Believin’.” No joke.

The shaggy hair must make me look courteous, because several folks asked me for directions that afternoon – the last, a woman in her 40s in Clemson garb on the B Line. “Boston College,” she addressed me as, pointing to my sweatshirt, “which stop would I get off at for Mary Ann’s?” I told her (Chestnut Hill Ave; walk down the hill; make a left) and she relayed the information to peers of similar outfits and age. What half a dozen Clemson alumna/parents would be doing at Mary Ann’s except trolling for 18-year-olds, I couldn’t tell you.

My parents met most of the BC tailgating regulars outside the parking garage, where Casey hustled over some kielbasa. Talk turned to Brady Smith, an alumnus of my high school and a BC football player until very recently. “What did Brady Smith get suspended for?” I asked Casey.

A touch of the rape.”

“Right.”

BC played some heartbreaking ball on Saturday, dangling hope in our faces in a 27-21 loss to the Clemson Tigers. Defense and special teams played their hearts out – several key interceptions, a blocked punt run back for a touchdown – but the offense once again failed to deliver. I am frankly tired of Chris Crane’s shitty excuse for passing. We lingered for hot dogs and burgers after the game, then I got my parents home.