Monthly Archives: July 2013

It’s finally here: Presenting the inaugural Another Beer Salesman Podcast!

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You knew that your life wasn’t complete. You knew something was missing, that true happiness was impossible until you figured out what it was. You tried to listen to your heart, but your heart was being a mute mystery. You didn’t know what you needed until you saw it, perfect and apart from you. Calling. Calling.

https://anotherbeersalesman.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/podcast-1.mp3

There it is. The name you wanted to call out, but didn’t yet know. The first, the inaugural, the best. This is it. The premier of the Another Beer Salesman podcast.

https://anotherbeersalesman.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/podcast-1.mp3

Isn’t it nice to know what you’ve been missing? You know, finally, the affliction. Now just take the pill, heal, and be one with the cosmos.

https://anotherbeersalesman.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/podcast-1.mp3

In this podcast to end all podcasts, I have the incomparable Brother Dan on to discuss Smokey Robinson live in Coney Island (which we agree is the most sexual concert we’ve ever seen), whether Tommy Heinsohn has another Celtics rebuild in him, Paul Pierce’s greatest buzz beater (in Al Harrington’s face!), and the top seven (not ten!) Bruce songs.

https://anotherbeersalesman.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/podcast-1.mp3

Enjoy!

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An Invocation of the Muse for the Digital Age

MUSE Live in Hong Kong

Oh Muse! I appeal to thee, bestower of voice, granter of artistic license, whisperer of things unborn in this world, come to my aid!

Oh Muse! Of all the wonders of the world, both long dead and buried and still walking on shaky, new-born legs, tell me which to write about, deliver me a narrative, fully formed, that I may share with the world the glory of creation, the workmanship of the gods, and my humble WordPress website.

Oh Muse! Wouldst thou use your sweet sonorous voice, your melodic song of heaven’s gifts, to impart to me that which you deem worthy to share with the world? And can you do it loud in my ear, loud enough to ensure the evil sirens call of fantasy football research does not trap me with its promise of $240, maybe, if I am the best out of twelve teams come January?

Oh Muse! Help me navigate the hoary-capped and ship wrecking waters that compose the Sea of Creation, help me pass through that impossible gauntlet to the shores of new material and viral blog posts, keep my bow true and pointed there, and do not let me sway either port or starboard toward my own personal Scylla or Charybdis, or what is actually watching porn, jerking off, and taking a nap on one side, and unlimited Netflix content on the other. No! Help me stay true! Remind me with your gentle reason that Arrested Development died the first time, that neither god nor man can truly bring it back, and that, well, porn will still be there when I finish writing.

Oh Muse! Silence the city around me that I might partake of your treasures, silence its mighty roar of opportunity and happy hours, its beckoning for me to provide failed actresses and amateur fashion designers from Ohio with comfort, its breathless and irresistible promise of hole-in-the-wall sanctuaries not yet Yelped! Begone devil city!

Oh Muse! Hold my mind and spirit above the shallow preoccupations of the flesh, remind me that no food can satiate the spirit like a 1000 word blog post, gently turn my head away from drink, from summer ale, from all things Dogfish Head, from deep fried Macaroni and cheese, from the opposite as well, from the endorphin haze of a running long distances, from the devilishly deceptive satisfaction of a gym visit, all which I succumb to when I forget that the body will soon be long gone, but a Google PR1 website can live forever in the annals of history, glory, and caches!

Oh Muse! Deliver your wisdom, your story unto me! May I be worthy of you, of your godly heritage, of the many you have spoken to in the past and will continue to speak to in the future! May we bring the world the fruits of our intercourse, the creative delights that together we can use to illuminate the darkness! Oh, speaking of that, I have to buy a light bulb. I should do that now. But when I return Muse, oh Muse, we will begin reshaping the world according to your dreams and desires if you will only let me be your conduit, your vessel!

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Giving the Brain a Break: A Sensory Deprivation Tank Session

My brain works hard, not on anything particularly important, but it keeps me alive, healthy, mostly sane, and really good at bar trivia. So I wanted to reward it with some time off, which even in sleep, it never gets. I wanted to give it an hour where it could take a break from handling the overwhelming flood of sensory input it processes, sorts, and very rarely, calls my attention to everyday.  So I decided to reward it with a session in a sensory deprivation tank, or “float tank.” These are tanks, first invented by scientists in the sixties and now adopted by the spa and new-age crowd, that let you float in body temperature salt water in a dark, silent tank, completely cut off from all sensory input. My brain, and my body, would have an hour off from input and gravity.

Basically, I wanted to see what my brain does off the clock.

What happens when you unplug your brain while still awake, with nothing coming in? What would it do? What would it focus on? We know the brain is always trying to construct a reality out of whatever it’s given. What if you cut it off from the input, the raw material, what if you threw it in solitary? Would it go crazy? Or would it finally be off the clock for real and free to use its immense powers on the larger questions of reality and being, of self and awareness? Would it transcend the daily drudgery?

I had read about sensory deprivation tanks recently on Slate.com, and I had heard them discussed while listening to the surprisingly excellent, deep, and philosophical Joe Rogan Experience podcast. The discussion of the a tank session as an opportunity to have a transcendental or hallucinogenic experience  had made me want to get naked in some salt water, although maybe not while on pot brownies like Rogan suggested. At least not the first time.

This is what the inside of the float tank looks like. Notice the darkness.

This is what the inside of the float tank looks like. Notice the darkness.

I made an appointment with Sam Zeiger at Blue Tank Floatation a few weeks in advance, because business is apparently booming. I showed up at Blue Tank, which is in what appears to be Sam’s apartment in Chelsea.  Sam has been running Blue Tank since 1985 so his lengthy “orientation” speech was practiced and professional, but was delivered in a totally in-the-moment and organic way that made it feel like he was teaching me, not just rattling off info. I took in this orientation, which was all very practical advice on how to relax, how to get in and out of the tank, and gentle warnings about the technical realities of floating, like “don’t scratch your nose, because the water from your hand WILL run into your eyes because your head is tilted back way more than you think, and the water is salty and it stings” which I know was totally correct because I didn’t follow it and his prediction of ocular discomfort was stunningly accurate.

I sat on a very comfortable couch and listened to his patient description of the realities of the tank, a description that stayed away from deep existential or mystical explanations of the human consciousness in the tank environment and stayed in the physical world and its obstacles. This was taking place in a room filled with prominently displayed books on meditation, awareness, and new age philosophy, including a book I recognized by the great and incomparable Ken Wilber, whose book “A Brief History of Everything” should be required reading for everyone in spite of its grandiose title. After the orientation, which took about fifteen or twenty minutes, Sam asked me if I had any questions. I replied that I didn’t have any questions about the nuts and bolts of it, but I was curious about the general nature of the experience. How long do you go in for? I asked. He told me he used to go in for an hour or so every day, but nowadays he just does one long session a week.  He had just done a three hour session the day before. He told me that when he was doing it an hour or so a day, he actually needed far less sleep.

It must be very much like a sleep state, I said, and I began to ask him about the similarities between the way your brain operates in the tank and the way it does when you’re sleeping, when he gently and politely cut me off.

“It’s best to just experience it and see for yourself what it’s like,” he told me.

And there it was. My problem and a problem shared by a lot of people in this intensely analytical and spiritual devoid time, a time when every experience must be cataloged, photographed, documented and shared. I wanted to talk about the nature of an experience instead of actually experiencing it.

I laughed at myself, and told him let’s start, while sort of apologizing for wanting to get theoretical with it.

“Well, that’s an easy trap to fall into,” Sam said.

I really, really needed to turn off my brain. We probably all do.

After a quick shower, I stepped into the tank pre-room which felt like an air lock from a sci-fi movie. It was narrow and in the corner were all sorts of pipes that were silently waiting to do whatever filtration was necessary between sessions. I opened the door to the tank room, and slowly, as I was instructed, lay down.

When I pictured sensory deprivation tanks in the past, I pictured something like a tanning bed, a sort of tube, that I imagined being a bit claustrophobic. But the room is a large private bathtub, the tub itself being about seven feet long and three feet wide. There’s no airlock, just a hinged door that you step over the base of as you enter, so entering the tank room is just like stepping into a bath tub. What makes the bath tub special is that the highly purified water in it is filled with 1000 pounds of Epsom salt, which makes you float, in addition to opening your pores and cleaning you more than soap. It also makes you feel like you’re floating through space, and after a few minutes of floating, the salt and the temperature (94 degrees) makes it feel like you are sort of melting into some sort of body-temperature Jell-O, which as someone who has long fantasized about a swimming pool filled with Jell-O (shallow end only, to drown in Jell-O sounds like a recurring nightmare that only Bill Cosby has) this was worth the price of admission.

Once you lay down, you hit a round underwater button by your left hand that turns off the lights.  Once you do that, there is no light, no sound, and no smell, but you do have to feel the sides of the tank to stabilize yourself. Otherwise, you will float from one side of the tub to the other, since any motion at all sends you drifting, and since the tank is rather small, if you drift at all a hand, foot, or the top of your head will hit the side, thus destroying the floating-through-space effect. The key is to gently extend both arms away from your body until your pinkies both touch and anchor you to the side of the tank. Then once you are stabilized, you let your arms drift away from the side and begin to float.

The weird thing is, in spite of the fact that I was trying to relax, focus on my breath, and practice some very basic mindfulness meditation, I kept feeling like I was drifting to my left. Pretty soon, I realized that was impossible, because although I had the very real sensation of moving to the left, after a few seconds, I knew that I couldn’t have been for the simple reason that the tank was three feet wide and that if I was moving in any direction I would have hit the side of the tank within a second or two of starting to drift. I realized that my mind was playing tricks on me.

I told Sam about this after I got out of the tank and was enjoying my on-the-house herbal iced tea, and he told me that the sensation of drifting toward one side of the tub or the other was very common. He also told me that many people get the sense that they are spinning in the tank.

These are the weird things your brain does when it has no input. Some people apparently itch for the first twenty or so minutes in the tank. Like some old butler who finally gets a day off after forty years and ends up doing chores because he knows nothing else, the brain creates input or sensory sensations that don’t exist, in effect it creates work for itself to do. The easiest sense to fool and create false input for when input has been cut off from the traditional sensory sources is the sense of balance. Which is pretty weird.

After a few minutes I lost the sensation of floating to one side and found a good equilibrium. I tried performing an exercise Sam suggested called a body scan, which is just the simple process of being aware of your toes, and then your feet, and then your ankles and so on until you reach the top of your head.

This is a very simple meditative exercise, and I’ve done it plenty of times outside of a flotation tank. The idea is to just become aware of your whole body, and through that process, relax your body and mind. Although the relaxing part was not hard, I noticed my awareness constantly drifting away toward other things, which required me to direct my awareness back to the part of my body I had been scanning. This redirection of lost attention is a normal part, even the point, of any meditative practice. But this was a bit different, I found my mind was harder to control and focus, that my brain, instead of being free of distraction and therefore more easily used as a tool, was more like a dog off the leash, ready to run in any direction and pursue any idea, thought, or perception.

After the body scan, I decided to just give into the experience and let my mind wander away, which might be overestimating my own choice in the matter. As I became more relaxed and the perception of where my body ended and the primordial space goo started to blur, I found that my brain was operating very much like it does when it’s asleep. That is, my brain was making strange, nonsensical connections and it was combining fictional characters and real people I knew into imagined conversations, it was organizing reality and fantasy, memory and hope, into bizarre collages of thoughts and images that made no real sense. It wasn’t stressful in anyway, and I was wide awake, so I was able to consciously understand that this was happening and I could have wrestled myself back into some sort of intellectual analysis, however temporary, at any point. But why would I? I was having waking dreams, far more vivid than any daydream. And they were relaxing, pleasant dreams. But like real dreams, I could not repeat what any of them were even if I wanted to.

After a few minutes of this, I found that my body would occasionally twitch involuntarily, which both forced me back into the physical present by reminding me I had a body and wasn’t just a cloud of dream energy floating through the cosmos, and by creating enough motion to cause drifting (for real this time), which in turn required me to stabilize myself.

These twitches were very similar to the ones you have in your sleep, and when I asked Sam about them afterward, he again assured me that they were common. He explained that you build electrical charges throughout your body during the day, and at night part of the healing process of sleep is to get rid of these charges by firing them off. That’s what your body does in the tank; it begins the healing process that we experience every night. Except this healing process is more refreshing than sleep because you are giving your body an hour off from gravity, which is something it never gets, unless you’re an astronaut or super hero, and much of what your body is and how it operates is a function of the constant need to maintain an equilibrium against gravity.

After re-positioning myself in the middle of the tank a few times, I no longer had any charges that needed to fire off. I happily floated and watched my brain do weird dreamy things. I’ve never had a lucid dream, as far as I know, and I wouldn’t even call these lucid in the sense that I wasn’t consciously creating the content of the dream, although I was consciously aware that I was in a sort of dream state at all times. At some point, I wondered how much time had gone by. I had purchased an hour-session for $80, and I estimated that I was probably approaching the half-hour mark. When I first started floating, I thought “an hour is a long time,” but now, fully relaxed and happy to watch my brain run around off the leach, confident it would stay in sight, I was looking forward to the second half of my session.

Then the gentle music came on from the speakers at the bottom of the tank. My session was up. It had been a full hour.

I was amazed. I was sure I had been in there for thirty minutes at the very most. As a sporadic and not very committed or disciplined practitioner of meditation, I was used to thinking I was close to the fifteen minutes I had committed to meditating and then looking at my watch and seeing only seven minutes had passed. I had never experienced any sort of meditation or exercise session, or anything that required doing nothing, that flew by faster than I expected.

I began to move a bit in the water, just to see what it was like to create some gentle waves on purpose and feel my body move against the goo, instead of rest within it. It felt great. I really didn’t want to get out.

I hit the light and slowly sat up. I felt relaxed in a way I never have before. I could feel every pore. My brain had run around off the leash, and now that it was back on it my brain was calm, satisfied, and completely obedient. My head was clear. When I stood up it was like I could feel each muscle fiber gently extend and contract in unison like a group of happy factory workers from an early Disney movie whistling while they worked.

I felt great.

After rinsing off, I put my clothes on, and returned to Sam’s couch. He unhurriedly asked me about the experience, patiently answered my questions, and even, prompted by me, talked a bit about the rising popularity of flotation tanks and the increasing need people have to take the time to unplug their brains due to the ever increasing level of information the brain is battling to keep up with on a daily basis.

After leaving a thought occurred to me.

In the tank, which is dark, silent, and super comfortable I had:

1)      Twitched like I was asleep.

2)      Dreamt like I was asleep.

3)      And lost track of time, as if I had fallen asleep.

Good god, I thought. Did I just actually fall asleep in there?

Would I even know if I had?

I was sure I had stayed awake the whole time. I thought about the experience and tried to remember everything that I had contemplated in the tank as I walked through the ridiculous heat to the subway. What I had experienced, I decided, was a state very similar to sleep, but any attempts at cessation or minimization of the conscious mind would be.

I was sure, looking back, that I was awake the whole time. But I couldn’t prove it in any real sense. It’s possible that my ego wouldn’t allow me to think I spent $80 on a nap. I think it’s more possible that sleep and awake are two components on a spectrum of consciousness, and the only two components I experience in my day to day life, which meant my experience in the tank got thrown into that limiting dichotomy. We know there are many other kinds of consciousness on the spectrum of conscious states that can be experienced through meditation, drugs, or sensory deprivation tanks. I had experienced one of them.

And just like that, my brain was back on the job.

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Guru Chuck Klosterman answers questions from his Brooklyn faithful

Chuck Klosterman 2

I went to see Chuck Klosterman, critic, fiction writer, essayist, and dispenser of wisdom, speak at Bookcourt in Brooklyn on Wednesday night. The event was, ostensibly, a reading from his new book, “I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined)”. He did read a pretty amusing essay from the book about someone he hated at a middle school basketball camp who went on to become a Major League pitcher, who, much to his frustration, is generally being credited with being the first Major Leaguer to stand up and say something about steroid use.  But that reading was maybe ten minutes. The rest of the time (a little more than an hour) he answered questions, which he made it clear could be about anything. He also made it clear he was used to a certain ratio of werewolf to drug questions.

Then the crowd of a few hundred people crammed into a bookstore in a density that would have displeased any Fire Marshall, most of which was in front of me and seemingly taller than me, began to ask questions. It was fascinating in that people came, very clearly, to ask Chuck questions. And he answered them beautifully, giving long answers without ever veering into boring or long winded, he kept it funny, he was intelligent and sharp without ever being a bit condescending or preachy. I had the sense that to the over-educated, hipsterish, atheist Brooklyn crowd, this was an opportunity to speak to a Guru of our day to day religion: pop culture. People asked very intelligent and perceptive questions about meaningless things, about Dwight Howard, Tim Tebow, Aaron Hernandez, Bill Simmons and Kanye West. (There was a surprising amount of sports questions).

I love Klosterman’s writing and he was great at having a funny and intelligent conversation with 3oo people.  But he has just as much direct knowledge as all of us about the things he talked about. It was his understanding, his perception of our shared reality that people came from miles to ask him about and hear him share. He’s a guru in a very literal sense.

Like any true guru, he confirmed my faith in him. When someone asked him about Kanye’s album he gave a long and interesting description of Kanye as someone who is doing the same thing as everyone else in his field, just doing it parallel to them. He also said that he is obsessed with “Yeezus,” and noted that he is obsessed with the album in a way he hasn’t been obsessed with an album since The Hold Steady’s 2005 sophomore masterpiece,”Separation Sunday.”

Oh, wise one. How correct you are. If there was ever an album to get obsessed with, that was it.

Here’s the most fun (although maybe not the best) song off the album. Enjoy the weekend. Don’t let the cops find it in your socks.

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None of us are from here, we just live here: Happy Fourth

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It’s the Fourth of July and I’m sitting on an early morning train that is passing through sunny New England hamlets and those verdant tunnels between them and I’m struck by the balls it took to carve those towns out of the wilderness. I’m also wondering whether we still have those collective balls, or if the comforts of the age have shrunken them like Maine ocean water.

But then I listened to James McMurtry’s “I’m Not From Here” and I think we might actually be just fine.

All the grim realities of native genocide and the slave trade aside (and I know putting those things aside is a real white guy thing to do, but bear with me), what makes America unique is the fact that we are all descended from a massive genetic experiment that rewarded risk-taking and survival. My Mom’s ancestors came over on some boat shortly after the Mayflower, which means they were fucking crazy. You know how long that trip was? How bad did England have to be?

They,  like all the immigrants that followed them, had to have had a crazy sense of adventure and a belief in themselves and their ability to mold their future, otherwise they would have never even  tried to make it here. And that’s still true today, whether it’s people sneaking across the Mexican border, African immigrants working for minimum wage, Indian doctors, or Chinese engineers. These people are not timid, and do not accept the status quo they were born into. They roll the dice. That is why we need them.

(Quick aside: slavery brought people here unwillingly, but those who survived the unimaginable middle passage and had children were survivors through and through, and must have had an unbelievable resiliency. So although their journey here was not by choice they enriched the tough, adventuring aspects of the gene pool as well.)

We were a people from somewhere else, and we were on a mission to create a new world according to our desires and our hopes. Many horrible things have been done in the name of that mission but there are some beautiful things as well. But what makes us unique is not the result of our attempts at creating new society, but the basis for those attempts. We are descended from survivors, risk-takers, adventurers, and yes, crazy religious fanatics.  There were not a few idealists pushing for change. The whole society desired something new.

It is in this light that I present James McMurtry’s “I’m Not From Here” on the Fourth of July. In 2009, Ron Rosenbaum proposed on Slate.com that McMurtry’s “Choctow Bingo” should be the new national anthem, and while “Choctow Bingo” is a masterpiece of musical storytelling, it’s clear-eyed survey of the rural middle and lower classes isn’t appropriate for an anthem. An anthem should be about our best qualities, it should inspire us to be better. But it also shouldn’t be overly idealistic, sentimental, or hyperbolic.

“I’m Not From Here” reminds us of what is best about America, which is the drive toward a brighter future, a better spot to stop the wagons over the next ridge. McMurtry might be the best song writer alive not named Dylan or Cohen, and it’s a quote from his “Live in Aught Three” album that gives this website its name. He has written blistering protest songs and realist depictions of the heartland that are some of the best social commentary in any artistic field. In “I’m Not From Here” he celebrates the drive of any people (although it’s hard not to see these people as particularly American) to leave a world behind and go find another one. It’s universal and about the past, but it’s also about the present, about people who see farmland turned into parking lots and decide to move on. It’s about the locals who have “long since moved away.” It’s also about the nature of stagnation, that some people move to the next place, and then can’t really understand why other people are moving on again. It’s a celebration of people who create their own destinies by packing up and going. But it’s an ambivalent celebration at best, since he understands and acknowledges that the drive itself is the thing that is followed, that the end result doesn’t necessarily matter. He seems to wonder if the point is lost in this confusion of means and ends, of this drive that might not really have a useful function anymore in a settled country.

But isn’t that what we are as a people? Totally confused about whether freedom, wealth, and equality are means or ends? Totally confused about whether traveling, the road, and wandering is the point in and of itself,or whether, as McMurtry sings we are “off to some bright future somewhere”?

I don’t know whether my restlessness and constant motion is the means or the end.  It’s hard to tell. It’s tough when it’s bred into you, into all of us.

Here are the Lyrics to “I’m Not From Here:”

I’m not from here, I just live here

Grew up somewhere far away

Came here thinking I’d never stay long,

That I’d be going back soon someday

Been a few years since I got here

Seen em come and I seen em go

Crowds assemble, they hang out awhile

Then they melt away like an early snow

On to some bright future somewhere

Down the road to points unknown

Sending post cards when they get there

Wherever it is they think they’ll go

I’m not from here, I just live here

Can’t see that it matters much

I read the papers, I watch the nightly news

Who’s to say that I’m out of touch?

Been a few years. Yeah right

Nobody’s from here, Most of just live here

Locals long since moved away

So they played out farms for parking lots,

Went off looking for a better way

On to some bright future somewhere

Better times on down the road

Wonder if they ever got there?

Wherever it was they thought they’d go

I’m not from here

But people tell me

It’s not like it used to be

They say I shoulda been here

Back about ten years

Before it got ruined by folks like me

We can’t help it

We just keep moving

Been that way since long ago

Since the stone age

Chasing the great herds

We mostly go where we have to go

On to some bright future somewhere

Down the road to points unknown

Sending post cards when we get there

Wherever it is we think we’ll go

I’m not from here, I just live here

I’m not from here, I just live here

I’m not from here, I just live here

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The Greatest Run in Obnoxious Sports Fan History Comes to an End

It appears the greatest era of major sport dominance in American history is now coming to a close. As New England sports fans, we knew this was coming. We couldn’t be this obnoxious forever.

We’ve talked about it for years now, wondering how much longer all four Boston teams could be playing at championship levels.  For educated fans (and what fan base prides themselves on their education and knowledge more than New England fans?) we couldn’t help but notice the parallels between rooting for a truly dominant sports empire during a decade that saw our country’s preeminent geopolitical position challenged and weakened both from outside and within. We knew that nothing lasts forever, that pride goes before a fall, and that empires, like everything else in this world, are either growing or dying.

By 2010, we were talking about it openly, wondering if this was it, examining slight deviations from championship form as a sign of the coming collapse. The Celtics were old, true, but they forced the Heat to a Game 7 last year.  The Patriots secondary had starters  that Monday Night Football didn’t have pictures of a few years ago, but they still contended for a Super Bowl the last few years. The beer and chicken late season swoon gave way to the horrifying Bobby Valentine era for the Red Sox, but the fire sale to LA and John Farrell’s guidance seemed to have righted the ship.  We kept looking for signs that the pendulum was staring to swing the other way. We were aware it couldn’t last because we remembered what it was like before.

It’s easy to see New England sports fans as entitled brats spoiled by victory, and the fact that I’m writing this eulogy while the Red Sox are in first place, the Bruins are the current eastern conference champions, and Tom Brady is still the Patriots QB illustrates this point pretty clearly. But those of us who grew up in the nineties as I did are acutely aware of how precious this decade was.  I “saw” the Celtics win the 1986 Finals in only the most strict optical-neurological sense; being one year old at the time have no memory of the event.  Although, I also don’t remember Buckner’s error or the destruction of the Patriots at the hands of the Super-Bowl shuffling Chicago Bears from that same year, so that’s probably a fair trade. A Boston team didn’t win a title between 1986 and 2001, the longest stretch in Boston sports history since the drought between the Bruins Stanley cup win in 1941 and the first Celtics title in 1957. Even the long-suffering Red Sox fan of older generations had seen the Celtics dominate four decades of basketball.  That long championship-free run lined up perfectly with my youth, and as such, I was raised on sports ineptitude.

There were some moments of success between then and the beginning of the 21st century, including a trip to the Super Bowl for the Patriots and Pedro’s six hitless innings of relief in game five of the ALDS against the Indians in 1999 (a game Troy “yum-yum” O’Leary hit two home runs in, second one at 2:00:00). Those were the two highlights of my first sixteen years of sports allegiance.

So when Patriots pulled off the greatest upset in Super Bowl history in 2001, and the Red Sox pulled off the greatest comeback in sports history in 2004, it was not only shocking, it was as if God himself had smiled on us. We were no longer the lovable losers, we were the best. There were those three Super Bowls, two world series, an NBA title, and a Stanley Cup. Our teams were excellent. All the organizations were excellent.

That’s what we valued: excellence. So at some point, realizing that the cynical New England doomsday gloominess no longer befit a people so gifted by the sports gods, we decided to become excellent ourselves, nearly precisely at the moment when we realized the run was unsustainable, that our own window for excellence could not last.

We became the most excellent assholes in the history of sports fans.

No one could come close to our mix of hubris, condescension, knowledge, conviction, and volume. We were the most excellent assholes that have ever gone into a bar. I was one of them. And I was truly obnoxious not because I thought we would never have our comeuppance. On the contrary, I understood the window would inevitably shut, that such a run of championships and perennial contention was unsustainable. We knew we had a small window to be the greatest assholes in sports history, so we took up the mantle and wore it proudly.  We were obnoxious because we realized that we could be smug in a way that no fan had ever been, we could reach new levels of arrogance, we could belittle other fans in ways that no on had ever been able to do.

When destiny knocks, you open the goddamn door.

Of course, pointing out that we were the most excellent assholes in sports history is, in and of itself, a really asshole thing to do. But I am one of them. You see, a Boston fan is not just louder than you, and won’t just yell at the TV louder than any other fan at the bar. A Boston fan will yell really good points and will drunkenly slobber statistics while quoting both members of the mainstream sports media and esoteric analytics guys. They will also spill your drink on you and blame you for putting it there. This is us. This is who we are.

And when you cross us, or tell us that Boston sucks in some way, unlike Yankee fans from their era of dominance in the late 1990’s, we don’t simply have catchphrases we repeat like half-retarded plains politicians spouting talking points (1918! 27 rings! Drill baby drill!). We would sarcastically, caustically, and condescendingly remind you that you didn’t matter. We usually laughed while we did it. I remember one time being with my brother in Philadelphia after Vince Young had very incorrectly dubbed the Eagles a “dream team” and a guy in a Eagles jersey called out my brother for being in a Patriots sweatshirt during a minor league hockey game. The Philadelphia fan, in typical Philadelphia mediocre-asshole style, said simply “Pats suck!” My brother looked at him, burst out laughing and said in the manner of  the more-seasoned,  professional asshole, “good luck with that dream team!”  The guy had to be restrained by his buddies. My brother laughed at him like you would at a child threatening you if don’t provide it with cookies. How dare he even attempt to say something negative about the Patriots. Have you seen Tom Brady play? 

This attitude is hard to give up. I was in a bar in New York when the Knicks eliminated the Celtics. People were celebrating, I was heartbroken knowing that it might be the last time I got to watch the Big Three era Celtics. They had come from 3-0 down to force a game six. They were scrappy and they even made a come back in the fourth after everyone thought the game was far out of reach.

Knicks fans were celebrating. I yelled across the whole bar: “So glad New York has moved to .500 when up 3-0 against Boston teams in the 21st century! Good to break even!”

I am the worst.

People really started to not like us during the run, and absolutely justifiably so. Having lived in Philadelphia and New York over the past few years, I see people roll their eyes when they find out I follow Boston sports. It’s not just New York or Philly people either, it’s any sports fan from anywhere else in the country. People will tell me to my face “Boston fans are obnoxious.” I had a girlfriend who was born overseas and only spent two years in the U.S. before I met her. She was telling a group of mixed-company friends about me when we first started dating, and she reported back to me that the males present had all uniformly agreed that New England sports fans were assholes, and I, as such, must be one as well. I explained to her that people hate us they way people hate the U.S. They hate us because we control everything and their tiny countries don’t matter. This explanation convinced her that her friends were correct.

Here’s one of my favorite stand ups explaining just how annoying Red Sox fans are in an offensive and hilarious analogy.

But suffice to say, that era of dominance across all four sports (although the Celtics and Bruins were late to the party) seems safely behind us now after last week  ended with a shitstorm of calamity that hadn’t been seen even during the pre-Rams upset days.

First, the Bruins blew the Stanley Cup up by two goals with barely a minute left to play. Then the rumors started that Doc Rivers wanted out. This was personally deflating for me, because I had, and I am dead serious, wrote-in Doc Rivers for President in 2012 specifically because I felt betrayed by Obama. Now this? Why do all the black men I vote for placement in our highest office betray me?

(Late addition to this: just found out that Brad Stevens was hired as the Celtics new coach. Not sure Rondo is going to listen to a college coach who looks like he’s twelve. Although Rondo doesn’t listen to anybody. Fingers crossed.)

Then there was the arrest of Aaron Hernandez for MURDER which was amazing because when the story broke that a body was found near his house and he was wanted for questioning, I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. He was, according to all accounts, a “good kid.”  The transformation in my mind from “maybe Aaron Hernandez hangs out with the wrong people”  to “Aaron Hernandez has DEFINITELY murdered a bunch of dudes in cold blood” was shocking. In a few short days his case morphed from something akin to Ray Lewis hanging out with the wrong people to Marvin Harrison’s kingpin-level execution of witnesses.  This is not just bad for Hernandez and the poor people, as in plural of person, that he probably killed, it’s really bad for the Patriots. This is the organization that let the greatest receiver in franchise history walk, a move that some argued would open up the middle of the field for our two stud tight ends, one of which will most certainly never play football again, and the other of which has had five surgeries this year. (It should be noted that when you Google “how many surgeries has….” the first autofill is Joan Rivers, the second is Rob Gronkowski). It’s looking an awful lot like that gargantuan body of Gronk’s is just not meant to hold up. Professional athletes don’t have that many surgeries on unrelated issues and then come back and play a long and healthy career. The future for the Patriots is suddenly looking bleak, because the future of the Patriots is limited to the short time left in Brady’s career. (Again, look at how entitled that is. “We don’t have a team unless we have the best quarterback of all time.” I know its ridiculous. But once you have Tom Brady, no other QB will ever be able to satisfy you again).

Then Paul and KG were shipped out of town for draft picks and a heaping pile of guaranteed money owed to Gerald Wallace. I am pretty devastated that they, and especially Paul, will not retire as Celtics. I could write forever on Paul, but my man Alex at Journeymen pretty much summed up the relationship Boston fans my age have with Paul as well as anyone could. I have a lot of conflicted feelings about the trade, and a good deal of that conflict arises from the fact that I live a fifteen-minute walk from the Barclay’s Center, which means I get to watch Paul and KG play more than I would’ve if they were still in Boston. I will be scalping tickets at every home game. I will be like the guy at this Lakers game, only desperate for Paul to look at me instead of Bonner.

And something that hasn’t been mentioned much recently in the wake of all that’s happened in the past week, but remember somebody also BOMBED the most important amateur New England sporting event. It’s been a rough year.

John Liam Policastro wrote an article over at Vice.com about how the Boston’s return to (relative) sports mediocrity will be good for the city. He reminds us that the indie music and comedy scene in Boston was awesome when the sports teams sucked. Besides the real big issues with causation, correlation, and coincidence in that article, it does bring up an interesting point about what happens when a whole city gets high on its own glory. He argues that with less people asking to turn the game on in bars, there will be more bands and comics getting attention. I doubt that’s the case, although that would be nice. But what Policastro doesn’t think about, and probably fairly so as the article is about Boston specifically, is the rest of New England. New England roots for Boston teams just as much as Boston does, and as someone who grew up in Bangor, ME, and just spent time last weekend in a sports bar in Putnam, CT,  there are no “scenes” that will emerge in these places because the regional sports teams aren’t winning titles. Boston people often forget just how regional their sports teams are, and in doing so dismiss the thousands of fans that stream south from Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, and North from Connecticut and Rhode Island to fill Fenway, Gillette, and TD Garden. Don’t tell those people that their going to get more culture now that the Celtics suck. That Celtics are their culture.

But we, those from the farthest flung corners of New England, knew the end was coming as much as any Harvard or MIT student (or janitor) did. If Boston fans want to start going to hear bands instead of watching the games, let them. We New Englanders will keep watching.

After all, those Boston fans are assholes anyway.

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