PODCAST: NBA Finals Preview!

Touchdown!

Touchdown!

Brother Dan, coming off a grueling cross-country drive, called into the Another Beer Salesman studios to discuss the NBA Finals, Lebron’s Eastern Conference vs. Magic’s Western Conference, how crucial Andrew Bogut’s health is for the Warriors’ championship run, the sad state of the Celtics, and how the Sixers are like the Avengers, but without CGI. Get ready people.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

My Pedro story on Slate

Here is my piece on Pedro Martinez that ran a few weeks ago on Slate.com.

http://www.slate.com/articles/sports/sports_nut/2015/05/pedro_book_review_pedro_martinez_s_memoir_offers_insight_into_the_boston.html

When I was 15-years-old I had a wallet that carried, outside of whatever few dollars I could wrangle from my parents, one thing: a small piece of paper torn from the pages of a Sports Illustrated. It was a quote from Pedro Martinez that appeared in a March 2000 cover story, a story I read probably a dozen times before I carefully removed a small confetti-sized block of text from the magazine and folded it neatly into my empty Velcro wallet. This is what it read:

“There are days when I first get out to the mound and it feels just like this, like the
plate is closer than it’s supposed to be. Then I know right away. It’s over. You are f—–. F—–.”

To a high school freshman in central Maine, Pedro Martinez was the baddest, coolest motherfucker on the planet. I was a freshman attending a high school a town away from the tiny K-8 I had attended, and I was usually overwhelmed with trying to fit in, trying to have an actual human conversation with girls at school, and trying to carve out some playing time on the horrible varsity baseball team I rode the bench for. I used to take that quote out of my wallet and read it, even though I had it memorized, and for a moment use Pedro’s boundless confidence to ground myself in the relentless waves of hormonal anxiety that most of us remember from those years.

Pedro was 5’10 and skinny, like me, but he dug in and made hulking, ‘roided up goliaths look silly with four filthy pitches, and not only that, but he made them back off the plate with chin music when they leaned in, and he did it while putting up some of the greatest pitching statistics ever in a period when baseball’s competitive balance was tilted further toward the hitter than any other time. Pedro Martinez, defiant, funny, fiercely intelligent and not afraid of anyone, was who I wanted to be. He was excellence multiplied by personality in way that we really haven’t seen in baseball since.

It’s over. You are f—–. F—–. What I wouldn’t have given to feel that kind of confidence, on the mound or anywhere else. Every time I read that quote I got goose bumps. I still do.

I took Spanish for the first time that year. All my assignments were signed “Pedro Keefe.”

Tagged , , , ,

Don Didn’t Learn Anything, And That’s The Point

don-draper-shrug

“Why Did Don Finally Stop Running?” a headline on Slate.com asked in the days following the final episode of Mad Men. The answer ultimately doesn’t matter, because the question is based on a false premise, one that arises naturally from the fact that show is ending and we want to believe that Don has found some measure of happiness on that cliff overlooking the Pacific ocean, chanting “om” with people who will soon be represented by avatars in a world famous Coke ad.

Here’s the thing: Don hasn’t stopped running, or, to be more accurate, he has simply called off the running for now. He reaches no new level of understanding, and his life is still, as he confesses to Peggy, broken. He just got an idea for an ad, a great one, by going on a road trip and plunging into the culture while straying far from his Manhattan ivory tower. Don didn’t gain any new insight into himself, he only obtained new insight into the consumer.

Don has no self, and never has. All his consternation about McCann, all his soul searching about finding something more than advertising, was, in the end, not part of a search for personal meaning, it was part of his creative process, which we finally realize are the same thing. “Don does this,” Stan reminds Peggy. Roger says virtually the same thing to Meredith. This is what Don does: he questions the meaning of everything, runs away from his life, seeks to find a connection with his past, and eventually comes back with a great idea for a commercial. It’s easy to assume that Don comes up with a great idea for a commercial because he has achieved some level of personal understanding, but this is reading Don’s journeys backwards. He calls off the search for understanding when he gets a good idea for an ad, having learned nothing new about himself, other than the fact that he’s still got it, which is enough to delay his existential crisis for a season or so.

It’s a great take on creativity and is more complicated than imagining that Don was only suffering from a lack of Yoga or unaligned chi. That stranger that Don hugs after a brutal monologue about failing to find love also goes so far as to imagine himself as a product in a refrigerator wanting to be selected. That might be the whole crux of the series right there, the integration of Don’s work as an ad man and his desire to be loved, the anthropomorphized Coke in the refrigerator crying out “pick me, pick me!” What this final episode says is not that Don’s professional aspirations mirror his personal desire to be loved (which is sort of what the series has implied), it’s that they are one: Don’s ability to come up with a new commercial satisfies his desire for real human connection and answers all his vague anxieties over emptiness and meaning, so much so that he can call off the search and head back to New York and create an all-time great commercial.

In the alternate reality where Mad Men continues, Don Draper will do this again. He will become disillusioned and unanchored, he will look to his past and the road for answers, he will feel terrible, and he will come up with a great idea. Rinse, wash, repeat. Don does this. This is a show that is wonderful for its ability to show how people adjusted over a tumultuous decade of rapid change, while ultimately staying the same. Joan becomes her own boss (she was always a boss), Peggy finds love (what she was looking for when she first joined Sterling Cooper) and Don is still an ad man with an empty life. He might have learned something about himself, about his desire to find connections and how that relates to his work. But in the end he’s the same as he was in 1960, an ad-man with no relationship with his children and a longing for a sense of self that doesn’t, and will never, exist.

What he gained, hopefully, was a little better understanding of his own creative process, which is ultimately, all he has. I can’t decide if that’s hopelessly sad or beautifully inspiring. I think it’s fair to say, like the series as a whole, it’s both.

Tagged , , , , ,

Pats Fans, Don’t Worry. I Figured Out Our Defense.

Look at this man. You all should be ashamed of yourselves.

Look at this man. You all should be ashamed of yourselves.

 

As a lifelong Patriots fan, I feel that having a basic understanding of what has become known as “deflategate” is sort of my duty, even though any attempt by Roger Goodell or the NFL to investigate or adjudicate anything is almost categorically doomed from the start, especially something as silly and inconsequential as whether footballs were slightly deflated. I felt that, like Spygate, this was an inconsequential bit of reckless competitive exuberance, a violation that was made horrible not from the advantage it gave the perpetrators but for the ammunition it gave their detractors. We are now talking about Tom Brady’s Legacy like it’s a stock. How will this affect his legacy? Do you expect to see his legacy dip when the market opens tomorrow? Please. Four Super Bowls are immune to market fluctuations.

All that being said, the Wells report seems to be a serious investigation, so let’s take it seriously. Before we do, let’s establish what we already know.

  1. The balls the Patriots used in the AFC championship were under inflated at halftime, a violation of league rules. The Colts’ balls were not, which would seem to rule out environmental factors as the cause of said under-inflation.
  2. Each team is responsible for providing their own game balls, thanks to a 2006 rule change that Tom Brady was instrumental in bringing about.
  3. The pressure of the balls were measured before the game by officials and were deemed legal.
  4. Tom Brady likes his balls at the low end of the pressure spectrum.
  5. Tom Brady at the time said publicly that he didn’t know anything about why the balls were underinflated. So did Bill Belichick (although Belichick sort of weirdly deflected all questions to Brady).
  6. Roger Goodell has monumentally fucked up every investigation he’s been a part of.
  7. Both Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are infallible.
  8. Indianapolis is super annoying, hates gay people, and stole Baltimore’s team.
  9. Science is still out on how air pressure works.

Proceeding from those unassailable presuppositions, let’s examine the Wells report and figure out how to serve justice based on its contents.

The Wells report reaches the conclusion, which it states near the beginning of the text (talk about starting with a conclusion and working backwards!) that:

“It is more probably than not that Jim McNally (the Officials Locker Room attendant for the Patriots) and John Jastremski (an equipment assistant for the Patriots) participated in a deliberate effort to release air from Patriots game balls after the balls were examined by the referee. Based on the evidence, it also is our view that it is more probable than not that Tom Brady (the quarterback for the Patriots) was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls.”

First of all, let’s dissect some of the legalese here. “More probable than not” is a sort of sloppy and unscientific way of saying “we have zero proof of this.” “More probable than not” would never get you a conviction in a court of law, and anybody who thinks that Roger Goodell has the legal authority to suspend someone and take away millions of dollars in pay based on “more probable than not” is out of their fucking minds. Will he try it? Maybe, he sort of has to if he wants to keep this “defender of the shield” nonsense going. After attacking the livelihoods of so many (mostly black) players with impunity, it would hurt his credibility to turn a blind eye to a supposed infraction from a white player who just so happens to be the (beautiful) face of football. It would, anyway, if Goodell had any credibility left to hurt.

The “evidence” that implicates Brady is almost exclusively limited to the texts between McNally and Jastremski. Those texts seem to indicate that Tom was pressuring McNally to keep the balls deflated and that he was giving McNally sporting goods in exchange for his off-the-books secondary job as Tom Brady’s personal ball handler (you would think that job would be its own compensation, but alas, we live in crass times).

McNally seems generally pissed at Brady. “Fuck tom” he texts to Jastremski (the report doesn’t indicate whether he was immediately struck by lightning after this was sent). In his anger at Brady for being a professional and asking him to prepare the balls according to the preferences of a four time Super Bowl champion, he seems to threaten that he will over inflate the balls, promising “watermelons,” “rugby balls” and “balloons” as retaliation.

What is clear from the text exchanges between McNally, Jastremski and Brady himself is that Brady was very particular about how he liked his balls. We know he liked them with less pressure, which is why McNally is always threatening to over inflate them and why Jastremski calls him a “Spaz” for making the same joke/threat for what we have to assume is a really annoying number of times. What there is no evidence of, however, is that Tom asked either of them to do anything illegal or against the rules. It does not take any sort of leap of faith to read the shit that Tom was giving McNally about ball pressure as a desire to keep the balls at the lowest legal point of pressure. Tom could have been giving him shoes and signed jerseys specifically for that reason, because Tom knew it was outside of the scope of McNally’s normal responsibilities and because the Patriots wouldn’t put “Tom Brady’s personal ball handler” as a payroll expense on the budget.

The Wells report tries to use one particular exchange as evidence that McNally knew he was doing something illegal and was at least jokingly threatening to go to the media with information. He texted Jestermski “jimmy needs some kicks…lets make a deal…come on help the deflator” followed by “Chill buddy im just fuckin with you ….im not going to espn……yet.” This exchange could just as easily be read as a negotiation: the employee (McNally) is trying to negotiate a better perks package at his job by threatening to take an offer of employment from ESPN. Did the Wells report people think about asking if McNally had ever applied to ESPN? Of course not.

The AFC championship game is one of the most high pressure games of the year. Everyone in the organization feels that pressure to be perfect, from Tom Brady all the way down to one James McNally. Jim McNally’s job was to deliver the balls, but maybe he was worried that the balls were not as Tom liked. Even though he wasn’t supposed to, maybe he deflated them a bit, not to push them under the legal limit, but to ensure they weren’t overinflated. After all, we know that Jastremski texted McNally that “I checked some of the balls this morn… The refs fucked us…a few of then [sic] were almost at 16.” Was it possible that McNally saw how overinflated the game balls were, and, knowing that he would be the one to hear about it if Brady was displeased with the ball pressure, decided to deflate the balls to a lower legal amount? Maybe he went too far, but that is his fault, not Brady’s.

The Wells report also makes a big deal out of the fact that Brady had many phone calls and even a meeting with Jastremski after the story broke following the AFC championship game, and uses this as some sort of evidence to implicate Tom, which is totally unfair. If Brady knew he had been pressuring Jastremski to keep the balls inflated to the lowest legal limit, wouldn’t he want to talk to him after the controversy erupted and the sky darkened under a cloud of fiery hot takes? Wouldn’t he want to get to the bottom of it? He’s a good employer, and, caring about his employee, wanted to shield him from a media shitstorm, so of course the “timing and frequency of telephone communications” was related to the scandal. That’s why he gripped the podium in terror and lied when he was asked about his ball preference: because he was trying to keep his guys out of trouble. He’s loyal to his people, maybe loyal to a fault, which is why when the NFL asked him about McNally, he pretended to not even know who he was out of loyalty. We should all be so lucky to have friends like Tom Brady, who forget we exist when times get tough.

So what, then, should happen next? What should Roger Goodell do, besides take his millions and retire to some island where he can suspend human being for sport so we never have to await his misguided judgement on situations like this ever again?

There is only one rational answer: he should make Jim McNally apologize for swearing at Tom behind his back via text. The NFL really needs to crack down on that kind of thing.

 

Tagged , , , , , , ,

What if Game of Thrones characters were…interesting?

selina

It’s almost time for the return of everybody’s favorite incestuous, nerd-gasmic TV mega-spectacle, Game of Thrones, which means it is almost time for me to suffer through an hour of meandering, incoherent, and virtually unrelated series of period mini-films with my roommate while I seethe and count the minutes till Veep starts.

(Veep is a thousand times better than GOT. If Selina Meyer was transported to whatever-the-fuck-eros, she would be queen in 15 minutes and if she had dragons she wouldn’t be a “pet mom” to them while she meandered around the desert, reenacting an even longer, more boring feminist version of Lawrence of Arabia. She’d be getting shit done while being hilarious.)

Game of Thrones is fucking boring. Why am I the only one who sees this? One, maybe two things happen a season —– and by “things happen” I mean a main character is murdered out of nowhere and then everybody talks about it for three episodes.  Yes, there is sex and nudity and violence and torture. This show has made these things boring, which is difficult to do. GOT tries to mask super dull plot exposition by having it delivered by hot naked women, which both RUINS the titillation I feel from bare breasts on the television, and makes it impossible for me to even process the tedious discussion at hand. At this point, the sex on GOT feels like a weekly sex appointment. The nudity on this show is the disinterested hand job of sex on television.

Then there is the violence and the torture, which the show deploys with little regard for its usefulness in relation to the story. Watching what’s-his-name get his dick chopped off in GOT was a lot like watching the Passion of the Christ, except if Jesus was stupid and insignificant and I was completely ambivalent about whether I wanted him to live or die, but mostly wanted him to die faster so we could get through all of this nonsense and get to Veep already.

selina2

The show is boring, and this is coming from someone who loves baseball and Mad Men. I would rather watch Don Draper smoke a cigarette and stare at the Manhattan skyline then watch another plot slowing, wet-blanket throwing “advisor” tell one of a dozen ill-defined minor characters (or not! Who knows what a minor or major character is on this show anymore?) that he should not move hastily, that the future is owned by the ones who wait for the bees to share their honey of their own accord, or some such not-at-all-deep fake folk saying. Yes, caution is better, especially when writing a show in which the creators have no idea how it will end. We are now in season 5 of a set up! Five fucking seasons of setting up a confrontation! WHEN IS THE BLONDE GIRL GOING TO MEET THE DWARF?

It’s just like Chekhov said, if you show dragons in act one, they must breathe fire at their enemies only in bonus footage in the commemorative DVD set.

I’ll admit I’ve never read the books, which I am told are absolutely amazing by lots and lots of people whose taste I do not trust at all. Even worse, when I complain about why the show is terrible, the fact that there are 35 characters who are all interminably boring and whose motivations are totally unclear, or that when the plot gets tedious, or incomprehensible (usually both) the writers’ solution seems to be to add more plot tangents, I’m told that the show actually cuts a lot out, that there are way more characters in the books, and still, still I am told with evangelical zeal that I should read the books because they are better.

The shittiness of something is not diminished by increasing the volume of said shit.

I should also admit that I liked the first season of GOT. There was real political intrigue (not just, “hey, I should be king too!”) and the characters related to one another, their individual struggles reverberating throughout the show’s universe. This was before the show’s diaspora sent all the characters into situations in which the relationships between them no longer existed and documenting their adventures started to feel like a chore, like we are on the seventh installment of the Up Series and we have to check in with everybody even though three of them haven’t said anything interesting in four movies.

Ned Stark was a great character. He had a purpose: he was unraveling a conspiracy, a conspiracy that only gained momentum as the season went on. Early Deanerys was interesting as well, her character actually grew and transformed in some really fascinating ways. Peter Dinklage as Tyrion is by far the show’s best performance and character, which is why he should be on the screen most of the time. Instead his character’s share of the story is continually supplanted by one unremarkable contender for the throne after another, which gives me the feeling of watching an early primary presidential debate on a stage filled with insane longshots, nameless faces, and idiots. Why can’t we narrow this down to Tyrion and Deanerys and Jamie? Why are the kids who insist on walking everywhere still on the stage? Where are they walking to again? WHY IS NEWT GINGRICH STILL HERE?

I understand that nobody agrees with me that GOT is poorly written and its characters boring. I understand that I sound old, cantankerous, or, even worse, like a philistine who doesn’t have the attention span to sit through a sprawling pseudo-historical epic in a layered fantasy world.

The people have clearly spoken about GOT. People LOVE this show. People look at me with a mix of shock, horror, pity and condescension when I express my doubts about the quality of what often turns out to be their favorite show.

But, as the great Selina Meyer once said, “I’ve met some people, ok. Real people. And I gotta tell ya, a lot of ‘em are fucking idiots.”

(I’m also totally aware of the possibility that I am one of those idiots.)

Tagged , , , , , ,

Complicated Game is James McMurtry’s Best

This is also McMurtry's best album cover

This is also McMurtry’s best album cover

 

James McMurtry, singer-songwriter extraordinaire and author of this site’s name, has been more or less writing the same two or three songs about the same characters for 25 years. On his newest album, the best of his career, he seems to have finally come to terms with this, doubling down on his portrayal of that restless middle-aged westerner wondering where it all went and putting aside everything else. The result is stunning.

Complicated Game, McMurtry’s first studio album in seven years, delivers what McMurtry listeners expect: fantastic wordplay, vivid depictions of country life that put contemporary spins on old country and rock troupes, laugh out loud lines (“I’m washing down my blood pressure pill with a red bull”), and that voice of restrained fury that makes every soft line feel like a strained neck muscle. But what’s different here is McMurtry’s focus on the one theme that informs his best songs: life slipping away.

On this album he relentlessly attacks you with the uncertainty of middle age, the idea that youth and life just sort of gave an Irish goodbye at some point, the fear that some unifying culture has dissolved with no replacement and the burden of unrelenting compromise that hangs over all of his characters. Where once McMurtry seemed to offer solutions in various forms: flight, anger (especially political anger), depression, violence, love, he now he seems to be saying that the fleeting feeling of helplessness we feel as our lives are constructed by someone else IS life. This affords him more opportunity to do what he does better than any song-writer on the planet: survey scenes of barely contemporary America and report back in beautiful couplets.

There’s equal measure solace and despair as it all slips away, and sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which. Nothing is easy, there are no shortcuts: even the most radio friendly song on the album, the finger-snapping, sweetly picked “She Loves Me” is about a man who is sure (or is he?) that his lover will leave the man he’s given her permission to sleep with when he does in fact return from an unspecified absence. (“He’s a parking lot attendant at a fancy restaurant/He rides his brother’s Harley, and he gives her what she wants/He knows his days are numbered, as far as she’s concerned/She’ll vote him off the island the minute I return/ Because she loves me”) Even pure love is a trade-off, a negotiation (“It was part of our agreement/I signed off on the deal/I must admit I never saw it happening for real/because she loves me”).

Lyrically, McMurtry has populated this album with about seven perfectly written songs (most of his albums give you two or three) and it’s hard not to think this is in some way related to the fact that he has unplugged the band and put away all the bells and whistles of the studio. The sound is stripped down, although to imply that McMurtry has simply made some sort of folk album would be incorrect. There’s plenty of rhythms, but there is no sign of the excess or that extra instrument too many that has resulted in a few missteps on the last couple of albums. Everything is tighter here, more live sounding, and it feels like McMurtry is more sure of himself, a little more self-aware about what he does well. And what he does very best are those long, meandering narratives that are tied to a specific time and place, that in spite of having a very clear, beginning middle, and end, just sort of end up back where they started.

“South Dakota” starts off with a soldier getting told his tour in the Middle East is up, flying into Stuttgart, then home. Nowhere here is there any political statement one way or another, it’s just a kid coming home – happily – to South Dakota after a job is completed. He meets up with his brothers (“we got way deep in our cups”) and the chorus is his brother asking him what he’s going to do next, while saying maybe he should think about going back. (“There ain’t much between the pole and South Dakota/ And barb wire won’t stop the wind/ you won’t get much here but drunk and older/ you might as well re-up again”). Nothing is resolved. “Long Island Sound” starts off with a pretty great country verse about the difference between southern states, before McMurtry breaks a temporary fourth wall and says that he “wrote that verse for the kids, but I never did sing it/ I filed it way and forgot it in time/ My old guitar sits in the back bedroom closet/ Next to the shotgun I got when I was nine” which is a pretty incredible description of how far ago things like singing cowboys seem, before he talks about having to deal with traffic on the Cross Island Parkway.

It only gets better from there, but it really is the heart of the album, the idea that things have slipped away and become domesticated (rarely does he journey as far East as NYC), but there’s no use being angry about it. The chorus is about drinking and having another round. It’s about enjoying life as it fades away.

But of course, McMurtry would never let us off easy and just end the album there. The album ends not on “Long Island Sound” but the next song, “Cutter.” It’s about somebody cutting himself in order to deal with, well, everything.

There are many ways to deal. I choose listening to James McMurtry.

 

Here are the lyrics to “Long Island Sound,” just because.

 

New Mexico’s lost on the back streets of Austin

Carolina keeps all her thoughts to herself

Tennessee’s tight, and he will not stop talking

Somebody shush him, before I have to myself

 

Wrote that verse for the kids

But I never did sing it

I filed it away and forgot it in time

My old guitar sits in the back bedroom closet

Next to the shotgun I got when I was nine

 

If I had any sense I’d be way across the Whitestone

I might as well sit here awhile for I start

Because when the 5:30 rush hits the cross island parkway

It’s not for the squeamish or the gentle of heart

 

I’d be stuck on the bridge in the right lane at sunset

Watching the boats with their snowy white sails

Watching the sun sinking over the projects

Laundry hung out off the balcony rails

 

And where are you now my long secret love?

Where have you gone in your glamorous life?

Where are you now as the moon comes arising?

Are you somebody’s love, are you somebody’s wife?

 

These are the best days, these are the best days

You all put your money away, I got the round

Here’s to all you strangers

The Mets and the Rangers

Long may we thrive on the Long Island Sound

 

I don’t know what goes on in those crumbling brick buildings

There on the same planet, in a whole ‘nother world

I got a bay boat and a 401k

Two cars in the driveway, two boys and a girl

 

It doesn’t seem that long since we came up from Tulsa

Been here six years and I reckon we’ll stay

The company’s not bad as far as companies go

I still got the health plan and they’re raising my pay

 

And the kids all play soccer like nobody’s business

 My grandmother says we’re just letting them fall though

They don’t go to church, and we’re not gonna make ‘em

They all drop their R’s like the islanders do

 

These are the best days, these are the best days

You all put your money away, I got the round

Here’s to all you strangers

The Mets and the Rangers

Long may we thrive on the Long Island Sound

 

I remember her singing from that dusty old hymnal

Smelled like tobacco from granddaddy’s pipe

That old rugged cross ‘till she shook down the shingles

You never heard such a noise in your life

 

I had a tire run low so I dug through the glovebox

I needed the manual to locate the jack

Found a couple old picks and .20 gauge shot shell

Left from a duck hunt a couple years back

 

Oh. My. God. Brilliant.

 

These are the best days, these are the best days

You all put your money away, I got the round

Here’s to all you strangers

The Mets and the Rangers

Long may we thrive on the Long Island Sound

 

 

New Mexico’s lost on the back streets of Austin

Carolina keeps all her thoughts to herself

Tagged , , , ,

Hast thou considered the Cuttlefish?

 

I traveled to Boston this weekend, where I learned some things.

1) There is a point where snow can cross a categorical line from “precipitation” into “the physical manifestation of Gaia’s desire to rid herself of the human infestation.” That line has been crossed in Boston.

2) If you bring a bottle of whiskey with you to a cool restaurant, and hand it to the waitress and say “this is for the kitchen” you will get all sorts of delicious food sent to you for free. I can’t believe I didn’t know about this before. Why was I even watching Anthony Bourdain this whole time if not for tips like that?

3) There are things called cuttlefish, and they are the most amazing creatures on the planet. I stared at one for twenty minutes at the Boston Aquarium. We communed. The video you see here is a fantastic explanation of just how awesome the Cuttlefish is, and why it would absolutely be necessary to kill all of them if they were the size of, say, a dolphin. And why we wouldn’t be able to kill them if they were the size of a killer whale. Also, there would be no killer whales.

Also, James McMurty’s new album, Complicated Game is out today. Celebrate. He is truly the cuttlefish of singer songwriters. A review will be up soon.

 

Tagged , , , ,

Super Bowl Stuff on Slate

Slate published a piece I wrote comparing the Legion of Boom to my favorite secondary ever, the Ty Law – Rodney Harrison led backfield that won back to back Super Bowls in 2003 and 2004. The thing they really have in common is the fact that the league changed (or “re-emphasized”) the rules after both teams beat up on Peyton Manning.

http://www.slate.com/articles/sports/sports_nut/2015/01/legion_of_boom_what_the_seattle_seahawks_have_in_common_with_the_last_new.html

My Name is Jonas (Gray)

jonas-gray

Happy Monday everyone. In honor of Jonas Gray’s 199 yard and 4 touchdown performance against the Colts last night, I present the following clip.

(Although If there was a Weezer song about elite offensive line play, I probably would have gone with that instead.)

Tagged , , ,

True Story Time: Randy Moss at Dave and Buster’s

I saw Randy Moss at a Dave and Buster’s in Providence, Rhode Island in March of 2013.  A good twenty percent of the clientele at D&B’s that day were wearing some kind of Patriots apparel, but nobody seemed to recognize him. Nobody, that is, except my Brother Dan.

randy on camera

Randy Moss was the subject of “Rand University,” the latest episode of the”30 for 30″ series that aired last night on ESPN. Combined with his job as an analyst on Fox Sports One, it seems that the rehabilitation of the greatest receiver I ever had the privilege to watch is nearly complete. Randy had his troubles and tantrums: some seemed like real dick moves, others were just the sort of things old white men love to complain about. He seemed misanthropic at times, joyfully exuberant at others. But now he has seemed to have slid comfortably into the part of any great athlete’s career when we appreciate him again, the part where we are just far enough away from the inglorious final years that the earth shattering prime is ripe for re-appreciation. He’s comfortable on camera, he’s funny, and he’s pretty charismatic. He still has that edge though, that slight distrust of it all. Even in a suit on a TV set, he’s still exudes a sort of independence and intelligence that most ex-players don’t. He’s still a badass, which is why we were intimidated to approach him at a Dave and Buster’s at noon on a Saturday, and why we certainly don’t have a picture to prove it (I don’t even think I had a smart phone at the time).

Myself, my cousin, and Brother Dan had converged on Providence from throughout the Northeast the previous day to see a Drive-By Truckers show at Lupo’s. After a night of drinking and crashing back at the hotel, we decided we would visit the Dave and Buster’s downtown before heading off in our separate directions. While we were there, shooting baskets at some of the many basketball games, Dan approached me and whispered in my ear.

“Dude, that’s Randy Moss.”

I turned and looked to see a black man, easily the tallest person in the room, wearing a green velour sweatsuit and a black Red Sox hat. He was standing back and watching what had to be eight or nine kids, ranging in age from four or five to sixteen or seventeen. He was the only adult with them all.

God forgive me, I denied it was him at first. “That’s not him,” I said. “Why would he be here? He just played in the Super Bowl like a month ago.”

Then I heard him speak.

“Y’all want to play over here?” he said to some of the children he was shepherding through the Dave and Buster’s. It was the same southern twang I had heard a hundred times in press conferences over the years. I could picture him saying “straight tickets, homie” when getting a stuffed animal before leaving. It was totally him.

We conferred with my cousin, frantically trying to determine what we should do. We shot baskets next to Randy to get a better look, like 12 year-olds trying to figure out a way to talk to girls at the mall. Yes, it was him, unquestionably him.

The place was packed, packed with oblivious New England fans. If we made a big deal in approaching him, it would ruin his day and his outing. We were keepers of a secret. Besides, what were we going to get from him? I’ve never understood people who see a celebrity and need to get a picture. They are like hunters who can’t just appreciate a wild animal without wanting to shoot it.

Also, it really seemed like there was zero chance Randy was letting us take a picture with him. I voted we do nothing.

“One of us has to go talk to him,” Brother Dan implored us.

“I’m telling you right now, I’m not going over there,” my cousin said.

Dan, who was 21 at the time, stood up straight and all 5’6 of him soared majestically toward the ceiling.

“I judge myself on how I respond to moments like these,” he said. “I have to say ‘hi’ to Randy Moss.”

Dan had owned a Vikings Randy Moss jersey when he was seven years old. It was the only non-Boston area jersey I ever remembered seeing in our house. Nobody was happier about Randy coming to the Patriots than Dan.

So cousin Matt came up with a plan: we would give the tickets we had earned that afternoon to one of Randy’s children. It would be a sort of offering. And in that moment, Dan would talk to Randy Moss.

I can’t explain the oceanic divide between how silly this sounds now and how important it seemed at the time, suffice to say that we were brutally hung over from the night before. Dan, unlike my cousin and I, was still young and spry.

“I’m nervous,” Dan said. “Okay.”

Randy was separated from his clan of children and was only with two girls, probably no more than seven years old, at an arcade game. There was no one else in the entire row of games. My cousin and I stood at the end of the row as Dan approached them, paper bucket of unwieldly yellow tickets in hand.

Dan, who was closer in size to the seven-year old in the pink dress than to Randy, approached. Randy stood over them, protectively, with no interest in playing the game himself. Me and my cousin were trying not to stare while straining to hear.

“Do you want my tickets?” Dan asked as he walked by, coolly turning over his shoulder to offer his tickets to the girls, as if he just thought of it, as if he was on the way to toss them in the trash and thought “oh, these girls might want these tickets, I’m sure their dad didn’t make $30 million playing professional football.”

Randy didn’t turn away from the screen of the game one of the girls was playing. He stared straight ahead.

“Say thank you,” he told one of the girls.

“Thank you,” she said.

Dan hesitated. Randy was still still fixated on the screen. He hadn’t turned his head or acknowledged Dan. Dan looked at us, and we looked back, giggling more than any two men in their late twenties should be allowed to do.

“Hey, Randy, I’m, uh, a big fan,” Dan said.

Randy’s eyes did not move off the screen. After the first moment without a response I wondered if he hadn’t heard him. Dan, to his credit, held his ground. Was he not going to respond? Was he really that much of an asshole? Another second passed, with the bells and whistles of video games making the tension even worse than it already was. Dan started to open his mouth again, then closed it. He had said it loud enough. And if it wasn’t Randy, the man in question would’ve turned to look at Dan and evaluate why he was still there, standing over his daughters, calling him Randy. Randy was looking ahead so steadfastly, so complete in his avoidance of my brother, that only a life of celebrity could have trained himself to be so intentionally oblivious to a person two feet away talking directly to him.

Dan began to turn.

And then, eyes still fixated on the screen and his daughter’s score, Randy stuck out his fist at Dan. Dan looked at it for a second, and then his eyes got big as he realized what was happening.

Randy Moss was offering a fist bump.

Dan, as nonchalantly as he could, bumped him back. Randy kept staring at the screen as he slowly put his hand back in his pocket, although I swear I saw a momentary smile crawl across his face before disappearing back into a scowl.

Dan turned and walked toward us. To this day, I don’t really care about not getting a picture with Randy (although for the purposes of this post it would have been nice). No, what I truly wish I had gotten a picture of was the moon-wide, gaping smile my brother burst into after he turned back toward us. He then quickly composed himself and we walked with him away from the aisle, not wanting to attract attention to the man who just a few months before had declared himself the greatest wide receiver of all time.

“Did you see it? Did you see the fist bump?!”

That’s how I will always remember Randy Moss. The guy who brought his kids and their friends to Dave and Buster’s in Providence, Rhode Island (why Providence?) on a Saturday afternoon a month after he played, and was barely used, in his second and last Super Bowl, and who somehow was only recognized by a 21-year-old kid, a kid he reluctantly let touch his hand.

Tagged , , ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.