Thursday, January 29, 2009

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Sweat Pant

There are many things that are universal truths. The dirtier the men’s room, the better the rock club. The smaller the town, the crazier the people. The larger the record collection, the more socially awkward the man. And it’s always a man with a large record collection.

However, nothing is truer than this simple statement. If you wear sweat pants outside in public in anything except an athletic contest, you have “given up”. Please note, I am not talking about the equally lame “wind pant” favored by morning disc jockeys, Eastern Europeans, and guys named “Trevor”. I am also not focused on the “fashion sweat” favored by upscale Jewish women, active divorcees, or in some horrible and extreme cases, couples with matching sweats flying together to discount Caribbean resorts. I am talking about the one color cotton sweat pant with elastic waistband.

I was struck by the undeniable truth of The Tao of the Sweat Pant while driving through the heart of Cleveland’s legendary Sweat Pant District. This is located roughly at West 44th Street to West 110th Street on and around Lorain Ave for you day-trippers out there. It is there where you see many of the open mouthed, dumbfounded sweat pant army waddling around convenient stores, waiting for buses, and generally doing not much of anything.

How does it happen? One day you must be a strapping young lad participating in recreational sports. You have promise. I’ll bet you consistently wear legitimate clothing in which you could secure a table at the average Applebee’s without a fuss. Suddenly, the next day, you only wear expandable waistband pants? How does this metamorphosis occur? Is it a toll from having to always say “no” to that extra chicken wing, 16 oz Mountain Dew, or Zinger? After a point in time, you just snap and say “Fuck it, I’m gonna get that Domino’s pizza with the cheese baked into the crust. I know I’m never going to get another girl/guy. Who am I kidding? My best years are way behind me. Why keep trying? Let’s really let ‘er rip!”

Next thing you know, you are shuffling around in red sweat pants, open work boots, and a non licensed Cleveland Browns warm up jacket. (You probably also have a Bluetooth in, but that’s a previous discussion.) You cut your hair two or three times a year at whatever discount place that sends a coupon. Shaving happens bi-weekly. (Girls, this will happen even less.) Dental health is questionable. You don’t feel weird staring openly at other people with your mouth slightly agape. You had a job a few months ago, but quit because “they were a bunch of dicks”.

Many people would suggest that this fate is due to poor genetics, or the “nature” argument. You were born to the sweat pant. You will die in the sweat pant. You can no more change your fate than change your skin. You are the sweat pant, and the sweat pant is you.

I completely disagree with this assessment.

Many of you have gone toe to toe weighing arguments about other so called “tinderbox issues” like abortion, political theory, and crunchy vs. smooth peanut butter. In turn, I have devoted many hours of contemplation to this sweat pant issue. I feel very strongly this is nurture, not nature. I ask you, what is the first thing you see when you see some dope in sweats scratching their ass at the post office at 2pm on a Wednesday? That’s right. Their mother, also clad in sweats, right by their side. Look, they have to team up to handle a big job like mailing a box. This will be the biggest project the household has all week, and it was like a fucking rubix cube on acid to the pair of clowns I was standing behind two days ago. (By the way, where do elderly women find those gray/blue faded sweats that hang off their big boxy ass? They all must get them at the same place. Kohl’s maybe?)

Let me put this out to you… Is it not a parent’s responsibility to say “Hey, put some Goddamn clothes on if you are going to leave the house!”? Is it not that blue/gray sweat pant Mom that said to her mutant son “Let’s go already! We’ve got one hell of a situation to deal with at the Post Office. You look fine in those stained red sweat pants.”? Of course it is. She has taught her son that to throw in the towel is an acceptable lifestyle. It is only by not trying that he can realize the self-fulfilling prophecy of continuing the rich tradition of the Sweat Pant District. He has been nurtured into thinking it’s a Jim Dandy idea to walk around in those filthy cotton formless pants.

But where did this idea first form? Who was the Father of the Sweat Pant? I have not yet secured the data to back this up, but I believe it was Alan Hale. Hale, better known as "The Skipper" on Gilligan’s Island, was a well known fan of relaxing “in the buff” between takes on set. Producer Alan Sherwood was believed to be the first to suggest to Hale he ask wardrobe to create a “relaxation pant” to quiet the cries of the female cast members. (Ironically, actress Tina Louise that played “Ginger” was a bit of a prude and allegedly led the cast rebellion.)

Hale’s newly designed pant was such a hit that soon people involved in television production on the West Coast began to wear them at home, and later out on quick errands. From there the trend caught on, but fell out of favor quickly amongst the jet setters. However, the simple cotton pant became part of everyday life to many fans of the quirky situation comedy after photographs of Hale wearing red sweats on a TV Guide cover first appeared in 1967.

Regardless of Hale’s role in the rise of Sweat Pant Nation, I think we can all agree it is a learned behavior. We may debate if Hale is, in fact, ground zero in this phenomenon. What we cannot debate is that this is a situation that can be stopped with a combination of education, training, and awareness. So when you drive through Cleveland’s Sweat Pant District at 7 mph in a snowstorm, do not ask “Why is this guy in sweat pants when it’s 11 degrees and snowing like a motherfucker?” Ask, “What can I do to help?”

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Nurse the Hate: Hate The Mink

When the Ohio skies turn that soupy gray that is indistinguishable from the horizon line, and each drive on the highway is a new horrible experience of carnage and bad driving, a man's mind can wander. A few things I have been dwelling on...

* If we are indeed headed into another Great Depression, will there be "Hoovervilles" again? Will old slang like "aces", "The Big House" and "Pally" come back into fashion? Will it be common to say things like "Hey Pally, I heard Mickey's in the Big House! That's aces, just aces! Now let's shake a leg and give the big kiss off to that Stool Pigeon that put him in stir!"? Will life be black and white again? That would be pretty interesting. I'd like to sit at a baseball game in a suit and hat and watch the players run around the field in fast motion like those old film clips. Maybe "Little Rascals" can make a big comeback, assuming we shoot it in Orange County and give Darla breast implants. Let's monitor that situation closely...

* What do you think the people at the very back of the Inauguration gathering talked about? "Hey, if we move up another mile, maybe we still won't be able to see anything. That would be great though... We'd be up there instead of here." I can tell I am getting older when I look at that scene and immediately say "no way". Can you imagine cramming into a subway train car at 4am to go stand around in 20 degree weather for eight hours to not actually see anything? What a waste of time. I understand about "wanting to be part of it", but there comes a point when you have to realize, you're just not. If those people had a good time, then God Bless. I'm just a bit more cynical. For example, I don't think I would go see Jesus at the Quicken Loans Arena if I didn't have club seats and a parking pass.

* I regret not saying something to that giant Mexican guy that farted on me for three hours over the skies of Nevada and Texas. Why is it we all sit there like whipped mules and pretend that sort of thing isn't happening? Sure, the start of the conversation might be awkward, but next time I am getting something done about it. "Excuse me...excuse me...I know what just happened here mister, and if you want to play that game, I'm coming off three days of draft microbrew." Speak softly and carry a big stick.

* It took me about 12 years, but I finally get the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Still, I played all those clubs they did back then. Where the hell was I? I watched that documentary "Dig!" which is awesome. If you want to see a bunch of fuck up guys make the wrong decisions and self destruct, this is the movie for you. It's unbelievable. They are about to get a big label deal, so they get into a huge fistfight on stage in LA at the Label Showcase. Guys stay up for days on various hard drugs, and then drive around in a cramped van together and fight. But somehow, they make this Velvet Underground meets Donovan meets Blur melange that's really cool. I picked up a two disc compilation called "Tepid Peppermint Wonderland" that hits on most of the obvious high points. Where was I? What was I doing? I think I thought they were some kind of fuck up noise band (which I guess they were/are), but it's pretty interesting stuff. I am on board, but regret not seeing them in 97-98.

* If you hit a puddle in your car and splash someone that is walking on the sidewalk, is it your responsibility? Example: I was driving downtown and I hit a puddle on one of these battle scarred NE Ohio roads that sent a wave of water onto this guy on the sidewalk. If this had been some working stiff, he would have thought "Shit. I should have been looking for that. There is a lot of water on the road." However, this was a neighborhood guy from 30th Street in a white fur coat, smoking a swisher sweet, and probably not walking to his day job. He didn't have the same point of view I did, which he made very clear when I parked a half block away and he waited for me to walk by him.

Him: "Hey man! You splashed me with water!"

Me: "I did? Damn, these roads are terrible. I'm really sorry."

Him: "Yeah man! You got me."

Me: "I get your coat? What is that? A mink?"

Him: "Nah...You just got my pants."

Me: "That's a damn shame. A damn shame! I'm really sorry about that. Well...See ya later."

Assuming he's not waiting to kick my ass when I go to my car tonight, I'd say that went pretty well. The question is this: Should I have offered to pay to clean his clothes? I'm saying "no". This world is unfair. Sometimes you are the one in the car, sometimes you are the one with the mink. Last week some guy farted on me for three hours. This week, I'm driving instead of the one walking into the slush tsunamai. Next week, maybe that guy gets the last sheet of the toilet paper at the Speedway men's room. Meanwhile, I'll probably get an icicle in the eye. I think these things all work out in the end. Ying/yang and all that kharma crap, you know?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Nurse the Hate: San Diego Micro Brew Weekender

Is there any better way of spending the first weekend of January than making a run to San Diego to attack some of the 22 microbreweries in the immediate San Diego area? Yes, 10 inches of snow and 7-degree temperatures have their virtues (or so I am told). However, I am more of a 76 degrees and sunny kind of guy. The plan was that I would meet The Enabler at the SD Airport, after getting The Stackmaster in Houston. A little quick background on my travel companions… The Enabler is so named as he has always been to guy to show up with that one extra beer, shot, or organic material and sells in the idea of the immediate injestion of these “gifts”. This has led to certain legendary nights out including (but not limited to) the Jukebox Incident in Champaign IL, The Barfing Cowboy, and The Questionable Load Out at a club in Fayetteville AK. He is a man that knows his microbrew and the various characters we would need to get in touch with in San Diego.

The Stackmaster was so named by his tendency to wager great stacks of chips in casinos across this great land. The fact that he may not know the actual rules of the game he is playing has never been the issue. He figures he’ll get to the bottom of it as he goes along. That was not the case during one brutal session of baccarat at the Mirage, but thankfully he has a short memory. His legend was sealed when he was finishing one of the most punishing ass beatings I have ever witnessed while in Las Vegas. He lost everything he played from the second he got off the plane to about 3 minutes before he had to be escorted to the airport 3 days later. I think he may have even lost 200 bucks on that stupid wheel with cash around the rim on it that only senior citizens and Russians play. We’re talking about tremendous losses that Charles Barkley would have been shaken up about. As we got ready to drag him out of the Stratosphere he pleaded to make “one more bet before I leave Vegas”, and dropped all of his remaining chips on 33 on the roulette wheel. He hits the 33, goes to the window, counts his money, and announces, “I’m up $26 on the trip”.

The Stackmaster and I land in San Diego via Houston and discover The Enabler will be delayed for 2 hours. Stacky turns to me and says, “Let’s go to a Casino”. Normally this is the kind of decision that can send an entire weekend spiraling into madness. However, The Stackmaster is very responsible about some things, and I knew he would leave the casino to go pick up The Enabler at the Airport. At least I thought he would anyway…

The Stackmaster does a little work on “the device”, and finds the closest casino is something called “The Lucky Lady” down by the Mexican border. I take the wheel of our shitty rented Dodge Avenger and we follow the computer’s directions. The route takes us further and further into some kind of Mexican/Asian Hood until we arrive at “the casino”. I will now attempt, but fail, to do the description of “The Lucky Lady” true justice.

Imagine a weathered storefront in a really bad neighborhood. There is a parking lot to the left of the small building. The bordering building on the right is a business with bars on the windows that slightly obscure a neon sign offering “Oriental Massage”. A dirty bulletproof glass door opens into the splendor that is The Lucky Lady. There are six tables in a shabby room that seems vaguely like an abandoned Chinese restaurant. Two tables are full with a collection of men playing Texas Hold ‘Em that look like guys that lost most of their government check at the Track earlier that day, and are now hoping for a good run of cards so they can buy a few bottles of off brand liquor. The only other occupied table is overrun with tiny Asian men and women excitedly speaking in some native tongue about their ups and downs in Pai Gow poker. We may be the only people here that speak English. It’s like we walked onto a Quentin Tarrentino movie set and we’re the only ones that didn’t study our lines.

Of course, we sit down and play at the empty blackjack table.

The most difficult part of the game was figuring out the cockeyed rules they had in place. You could win in a variety of ways despite busting, but it depended on how many cards you had, how much you bet, and maybe what day of the week it was. I didn’t know what the fuck was going on. It would have helped if the dealer or “pit boss” spoke English. I was totally lost, but The Stackmaster was like a fish in water. I lost all my money in literally 14 minutes. The Stackmaster hung in there for a while, but eventually busted as well. Amazingly, I got Stacky out of there before a gunfight broke out, and we went to get The Enabler.

The plan was strong for our first day. Pick up The Enabler and immediately head out to Alesmith Brewing to taste their portfolio. Alesmith specializes in British style ales, and is not afraid to make BIG beers. The brewery itself was in a small industrial park setting next to a chiropractic supply and I think a landscaper. We’re not talking about a visit to Anheuser Busch. The brewery is about the size of your average Perkins. In the back of the place a simple tap system is set up on a wall, and a young woman is pouring sample beers for about 9 guys in their 30s. It’s like the very beginning or very end of a poorly attended graduate school keg party. I especially like their Alesmith X (which is an Extra Style Ale, whatever that means) and the Lil Devil Ale. We taste our way through about 9 different (and impressive) beers in small glasses.

It quickly became evident that the problem I was going to run into is that I have to drive The Avenger about 40 minutes back to the Westin downtown, and these are high alcohol motherfucker beers and ales. In an effort to stay in my shoes, I avoid the last 3 beers. These particular beers have things like an anvil and busted skull decorating the tap handle. I’m just guessing that if you have a beer with an anvil on it, it might have a pretty big alcohol content. This proves to be a good idea as we make the short drive to Ballast Point.

Like Alesmith, Ballast Point is in an industrial park. They are larger than Alesmith, but not by a lot. Due to some bizarre California regulations, they can pour beer in their tasting room on Friday afternoons, but only if you enter a certain door. If you went in the other door you could only be involved in their business of small batch whiskey, and clearly that would have ended in disaster. I didn’t understand the logic of any of it, but we quickly joined a small crowd of 20 or so people jammed into a room that felt like a rec room at a summer camp. We ordered a pint of their Big Eye IPA and attempted to find brew master Yousef Cherney.

Here’s the run down on Yousef. He’s a guy that probably did really well in chemistry class. I say that because being obviously detail oriented, Dude had built a still for small batch bourbon out of spare parts lying around the area. He is very focused and passionate about his beers. And I have to say; the taste is there in the end product. He was very generous with his time, and gave us all kinds of low down on the brewery and the San Diego micro brew community. We were very impressed by everything he poured us, but frankly after the sixth refill he gave us, we might have been impressed by a 16 oz Genny Pounder. The Enabler and Stackmaster flipped out over a limited run specialty beer that was a ginger infused IPA. Every sushi joint in town should pour that as their house beer. It would be absolutely perfect with an expensive plate of raw fish. I liked the Yellowtail Pale Ale made in a Kolsch style, stout and the Big Eye IPA, although there was a piney element to a pint of the Big Eye I had at another bar later that weekend. They also had an interesting specialty that was a 3.5% alcohol beer with plenty of flavor. That was perfect after knocking back the heavier part of the portfolio.

Yousef eventually split to go home, and he left us to our beers and gave us a growler of the ginger IPA and a case of Big Eye to go. We bought a bunch of Ballast Point gear as a thank you for the entire crew’s welcoming attitude towards us. Good people and really good beer at Ballast Point.

Incredibly, we made it back to the hotel.

Upon returning to the hotel, we decided to go to Karl Strauss Brewery, which was literally a block away. This is a multi location San Diego brewpub that has a lot in common with a Rock Bottom Brewery, but probably has better food. As I have finally rid myself of having to drive, I dive right into their Stargazer IPA. The Enabler then orders a pitcher of Stargazer and three glasses. These guys have had about 200 high alcohol beers by now, and I have to say I am impressed with how they are holding up. I work my way through most of the pitcher waiting for a table, and by the time we are seated the jet lag and IPAs have caught up with me. It’s time to regroup at HQ…

The next day our agenda was focused on Green Flash Brewing, and we arrive around Noon. This is my kind of place. They have a bit of a ramshackle set up in the now customary industrial park, with none of the precision of the places we visited yesterday. Rigged up tubing goes into mismatching tanks. An old pieced together bottling line sits in the middle of the small room. They serve the beers behind an old buffet table with a bowl of pretzels and a plate of homemade cookies on it. It’s like if your buddies opened up a brewery, and you discovered they knew what they were doing. Green Flash makes a slew of high-powered ales, stouts, and porters. I think the lowest alcohol beer on the board was a 5.7% red ale. The Enabler hooked us up with one of the owners Mike Hinkley. Mike was yet another one of these cool guys in the micro brew business. For some reason the craft beer business doesn’t attract a bunch of assholes like domestic car sales or securities trading. The brew must mellow them out.

The Green Flash line is all aggressively flavored, and not for the faint of heart. The Imperial India Pale Ale and the West Coast IPA might have been my favorite beers of the trip. As a disclaimer, I will add that it was about 78 degrees, and the sun was shining on me as I drank it. That doesn’t hurt the old taste test. There’s a real nice Double Stout at Green Flash too. I think I can say confidently the wheels would have come off completely if we had knocked back the Le Freak, Trippel Belgian, or the Barleywine in full pint pour. We got ourselves together and attempted to find Stone Brewing.

You probably know Stone Brewing. Their 22 oz bottles of Arrogant Bastard Ale are a staple at any good beer bar. They kick some serious marketing ass, and have good product to back it up. You could tell when speaking to other area microbreweries that there is a love/hate with Stone. They love that Stone makes high quality beer, but they hate how slickly (and to be honest, successfully) they sell their beer.

The Device told us Stone was located in some small housing development with an abandoned big wheel in the driveway, but it turned out that the facility was not located in someone’s garage. A word of caution, Stone is on Citracado Parkway, and for some reason there are 3 different Citracados in Escondido. I don’t know if this is some kind of California Mind Fuck or poor civic planning, but call the brewery for directions. You’ll know when you get there because this is the mother of all microbreweries. Taking a cue from a Napa Valley tasting room, Stone Brewing is an impressive structure with large clean stonewalls, dramatic layout, and an eternal outdoor fire pit. (They have spent enough money on this place, they may have moved JFK’s body underneath the eternal fire pit, but I cannot confirm or deny at this time. Maybe it’s Elvis…I just don’t know.)

A very expensive bistro menu and impressive 60 tap beer list await those that are seated at the old refurbished wood bar. Tours are scheduled, and end with a choreographed tasting in the gift shop with rock n roll soundtrack timed to the exit of the tour. Slick. Really slick. Maybe too slick. However, the beers are really good. To that there is no debate.

An interesting feature about the bar, they also pour plenty of other regional/world micros as well. The Enabler drank some crazy ass $12 aged porter with an alcohol content that would kill a goat, while Stacky searched for an IPA that he liked as much as the ginger IPA from Ballast Point. Some creepy divorcees checked us out, the bar tenders ignored us, and I had to keep in my shoes since I had somehow once again ended up behind the wheel of the Avenger.

The next stop was Pizza Port. Pizza Port is like a BW-3 if BW-3 brewed up serious suds and made really good quality pizza instead of fast food quality wings. The Enabler made a move to purchase some crazy beer he couldn’t get at home, and arrange shipping while I stepped into Pizza Port to check on my doomed wager on the Carolina Panthers. Seeing that Jake Delomme was single handedly destroying the dreams of all Panthers fans and recreational gamblers, I ordered a Fancy Pants Pilsner. It was OK. Stacky and The Enabler eventually showed up, but we were driven off by the sheer amount of unruly kids in the place. It’s a weird combination of microbrew/picnic tables/pizza/21 year old hangout/family joint. Whatever the combination, it works. They must be shoveling money out the back into wheelbarrows.

As we headed for the Avenger, some guy tried to jump on a rail on his skateboard and landed hard on his ass. I said, “That must have felt good.” He said “Why don’t you rub it for me.” I declined. Ah, those pesky skateboard pussy boys… So rebellious, yet so harmless….Skateboarding is not a crime Dude!

The rest of the evening consisted of finishing off the growler of Ballast Point ginger IPA and then heading out on what became a forced Bataan Death March through San Diego’s legendary Gas Lamp District. What a waste of time that was… We walked the 5-block area looking for a cool bar to grab a beer. The criterion weren’t exactly tough to fill. 1) Good beer and 2) no techno or house music. Sadly, we had a Guinness in a faux Irish bar with the worst live band I have seen since mistakenly walking into The Roundhouse in Put-In-Bay in 2007. While walking around I did see a lot of tiny Asian/Mexican girls in micro dresses and gigantic heels, and men with ill conceived Van Dyke beards and pink shirts waiting in lines to go into clubs with fog oozing out the door and throbbing bass. I didn’t like that scene when I was 19, and it hadn’t gotten any more interesting now, so we caught a cab to go to The Casbah. The Casbah was celebrating their 20th year as San Diego’s premiere live indie club venue. They had a monster 5 band bill including Deadbolt playing that night. Unfortunately, it was sold out and we couldn’t persuade the doorman to let us in. Perhaps he did not know what an important indie rock cultural figure I am… (I am, right? Right?) I’ll bet Nic Roulette or Dave Hartman would have gotten in.

I woke up at the hotel early to handicap the playoff games. After the debacle in Carolina, I needed a winner. Stacky and The Enabler snored away, and I became convinced the Chargers could pull off a win in Pittsburgh. The Stackmaster heard me clicking around the web, and sleepily asked what I was doing. After I told him, he says “Put the same thing down for me on whatever you bet. I just need some action.” Well, at 2-1 The Chargers were worth a shot anyway. After getting our action in on the Eagles and Chargers as dogs on the money line, I took my position in my bed for the weird sensation of the 10am West Coast kickoff. I had decided early on to go totally native. Today I would grab a cab; we would get fish tacos, and head to The Taproom in Pacific Beach to watch the game with The People of San Diego.

Watching a game in The Taproom has almost nothing in common with watching a game in NE Ohio. Here the crowd in the bar is fat, unattractive, and looks like they crawled out of a City Mission. There? It was 40% female, and all the girls were better looking than almost any woman within 250 miles of Browns Stadium. Every single person in the room was wearing powder blue old school Charger gear, with the exception of the Giants fans who’s dreams had just been crushed by the Eagles (winner!) and us.

The world is full of two types of people: cheetahs and gazelles. The bar had 40 local micros on tap, and like true cheetahs, we quickly stole three seats by the taps directly in line with a huge big screen HD. A retired Navy vet named “Big John” in complete gear convinced me that my wager was safe on San Diego. A season ticket holder, he put $500 on them himself. This was a lock. Clearly this would be a great day…

Within 10 minutes, it was clear that the Chargers asses would be kicked and we would be on the losing end. Unlike a Browns game (where fist fights, name calling, and dog kicking would ensue) this crowd good-naturedly took it in stride. We all hung out, felt the breeze blow in from the ocean, and met everyone around us. Why get uptight? It’s a sunny 78 degrees outside, and there are plenty of other bars down on the beach.

The Stackmaster and I made our way down to a bar that was on the beach itself that came recommended by one of the natives. The Enabler, burnt out, escaped to the hotel. The bar turned out to be little more than a trailer with permanent mooring, and beers on ice. The setting sun turned the sky burnt red, and we turned the corner into what can only be called “heroic beer drinking”. How heroic? I recall crossing a street and stumbling into a one-room shack for a carnitas burrito with two heavily tattooed guys on choppers. After careening out of there, the Stackmaster and I somehow flagged down a cab to get back to the hotel.

The end of the trip ended like so many of these things end. Groggily driving the rental car back to the well-concealed location at 5am, we managed to make our flight with moments to spare. Both Stacky and I were pretty banged up, and I felt pretty good about my future when the seat next to me appeared to be empty. Just seconds before closing the cabin door, one more passenger gets on the plane to (of course) wedge himself in next to me. The situation turned grim. I was crammed into an airplane next to a giant Mexican guy that farted on me for three hours. It was like if someone turned on a giant air conditioner that only blew out a smell like a condensed odor of the airplane bathroom. It was a long, long, long flight.

In summary, San Diego was outstanding. The return trip? Not so much.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Overthink

I just have a minute, so here's a quick post about tomorrow's action. What did we learn from last week's NFL wagering? I think it is evident that...

1) The Carolina Panthers and the rest of America has learned that you cannot win with Jake Delomme. If he's handing the ball off, all is well. If he has to throw it around the field? Catastrophe. Time for a new QB in Carolina...

2) As I face the cold harsh light of reality, I cannot deny I was caught up in the home town fervor of San Diego. You see, last weekend I was in San Diego and drank the Kool-Ade (as it were). Everyone else thought that this warm weather 9-7 team would go into Pittsburgh and win in the snow, so I jumped on board. That was really stupid.

3) The Ravens defense is not quite as good as advertised. For two straight weeks teams have moved the ball successfully on Baltimore, but the Ravens were fortunate enough to get big turnovers to dodge the bullet. Now Rolle and Suggs are hurt. That's not good. Pittsburgh will score on Baltimore tomorrow.

4) Pittsburgh keeps getting better and better every week. They have the look of a Super Bowl champion.

5) Philadelphia looks like last year's NY Giants, as they got on a roll at the right time. They've got a great D, and McNabb looks as good as he's ever looked right now. But for some reason, I think the wheels are going to come off. You don't tie the Bengals and win the NFC.

So, how do we play it this weekend? Let's not overthink this thing. Let's go with what got us here. Here's what I am going to do...

Take Pittsburgh minus the points. I cannot see how Baltimore is going to score. They have no running game at all right now, and their only receiver has an arm being held on by Krazy Glue and Spackle. Also, I can't imagine a rookie QB going into Pittsburgh in January and winning the AFC Championship game. It's been a helluva run for the Ravens, but they are too banged up and frankly, not as good as Pittsburgh.

Every single person you talk to, hear on the radio, and see on TV has already put this in the "win" column for the Eagles. When I hear that, I go the other way. I am taking the Arizona Cardinals on the money line to win outright. Even I am shocked as I write this. The Cardinals looked awful down the stretch. They didn't beat any good teams all year. However, they look as hot as Philly right now. Fitzgerald is playing out of his mind right, and Warner looks awesome. Incredibly, Arizona is playing defense too. The Cardinals are tough at home, and who doesn't love a home dog? At +160, I see no reason why not.

Quick aside...I would take an aggressive stance on Butler -3 and Wisconsin-Milwaukee +3 this afternoon. The Horizon League is something that the Miller Brothers have been following, and this looks like a great play.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Chase

It was apparent very early on that I, like the Carolina Panthers, was about to take a savage beating at the hands of quarterback Jake Delomme. It is very rare when you see one man single handedly destroy the hopes and dreams of so many. It was a performance for the ages as Delomme managed to make the 10 point underdog Cardinals look like the 1985 Bears. The guy made six turnovers for God's sake! The last time I witnessed something this horrible was when I was forced to watch "Ghost Dad" on an airplane while seated next to an extremely large and hairy Turkish man. (I had to keep my legs in a permanent ski slalom position so I could avoid having his very bushy leg hair from touching me. Long flight...)

I was so sure that the Cardinals (who I still believe are terrible) would lose that I was in an "extremely leveraged position" on Carolina. That leaves me in the unenviable position of having to chase it today with two very hard to call games. Here's how I am going to play it...

Norv Turner is the General Custer of our time. Despite having one of the greatest running backs in NFL history, he spent half of last season trying to establish the pass. This season he managed to take one of the best teams in the NFL on paper, and barely squeak into the playoffs. It's what many NFL Insiders call "The Turner Effect". Today the weather in Pittsburgh is expected to be somewhere between "shitty" and "horrible". I fully expect the Turner designed gameplan to be some sort of aerial circus with tons of long passes launched into the wind. Pittsburgh will counter with a sensible plan of conservative running, hard tackling, and creating big turnovers like they have done every year since 1974. Despite all of these obvious facts, I am going to hope for a San Diego win on the money line at 2-1. These teams are evenly matched, and San Diego is red hot right now. I think that San Diego will find a way. With a 2-1 payoff, it's worth the risk...

The Giants and Philly seem to play each other every week. That's because the Network TV coverage is so biased to the East Coast population centers that the NFC East teams are the the focus of the national broadcast every weekend. It was only recently that I discovered that the Dallas Cowboys are not headquartered in Northeast Ohio, and are not in fact my home team. By the way, did the Cowboys really miss the Playoffs this year? That happened?

I want to go on record as saying I have no idea who will win this Giants v Eagles game. Having said that, I will bet on it anyway as it is an NFL Playoff game, and to not have any action on it is an admission of some sort of lack of manhood. Normally I would take the home team in this type of game. However, since Philadelphia's fans treat their own team so horribly, playing in New York might actually be relaxing for the Eagles. I think the loss of that dumbass Plaxico Burress was key for the Giants. He was so friggin' tall and dangerous, you had to adjust your entire defensive scheme to make sure he didn't hurt you downfield. Now the Giants receiving corps is A Bunch of Guys. That offense doesn't scare anyone these days. The Eagles appear to be the latest Team of Destiny, and have looked like the best team in the NFC since Thanksgiving. I will also take the Eagles on the money line and hope they win a close one.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Nurse the Hate: Hate Face Paint

One of the most disappointing things ever must be to paint your face to go to a game, and then have your team lose in soul crushing fashion. That has to be a really long walk back to the car when your grease paint is smeared, your wig is itchy, and you traveled 2000 miles to see your team come up short in an essentially meaningless football game. The fans of the other team are giving you shit, and yet you stoically walk back to the Ford Focus rental car with your beads rustling on your shirt.

The walk into the hotel can't be any easier. Obviously the plan can't be to knock back a couple Bud Lights in the lounge before going upstairs to clean up. You certainly can't relax with your "game face" on. You have to walk straight past the inviting open doors of the bar and past the reception desk, where inevitably the overweight woman manning the night shift will ask "Did y'all win your game?". He'll mutter "no", and she'll say "Oh! Too Bad!" way too cheerfully.

There will be an awkward pause as he shuffles back and forth waiting for the elevator to come to the ground floor. Maybe an elderly couple dressed in shabby Burlington Coat Factory dress clothes will uncomfortably look down at the floor and cough to avoid making eye contact and conversation as they wait for the same elevator. As the elevator doors open, several drunk guys in their twenties pile out talking way too loud, spot the face paint and remark "Good game Dude". The laughter of the guys will drown out only when the elevator doors slowly close.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Nurse the Hate: Hate Matthew Modine

I spent the down time between Xmas and New Year’s in Puerto Vallarta Mexico. I’ve been going down there for a number of years, and have become disappointed to see the town to slide further and further into the Tourist Gentrification zone. You know you’ve walked into a tourist trap when the town has both a Hard Rock Café and a Planet Hollywood. The question that always plagues me is why anyone would take the trouble to fly to the middle of Mexico and then eat a $12.00 burger at the Hard Rock? Then again, maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about… I didn’t walk into the Hard Rock Puerto Vallarta, so maybe they’ve got real good shit tacked on the walls like Blondie drummer Clem Burke’s Speedo or KC and the Sunshine Band’s platform shoes.

I used to like walking down the ocean front sidewalk and checking out the scene. Typical Mexican families would all go there to see and be seen, and weathered men with pushcarts sold all kinds of mysterious street foods. The street vendors are still there, but now they sell cheap plastic toys to placate American Vacation Kids. The tiny restaurant where I once bought a lobster dinner for two with a bucket of six beers for $16 has been replaced with a two story discothèque blasting out of date club tunes to an empty dance floor. Progress… I decided to cut my losses in town.

That left me back at the resort where early one morning flipping through the strange TV channels I stumbled into the 2000 Italian financed/straight to video Matthew Modine movie “If…Dog…Rabbit”. It was one of those movies that seems like a made-for-TV commercial carrier to plop on USA Network for afternoon programming. Despite this not being a not very good criminal caper movie, I watched the entire thing through. The whole time I was wondering how this film came to pass. Shit, Matthew Modine was a pretty big star at one point. Sure, he was never “A list”, but he was in some really big movies. I will tell you this. It’s a long drop from being “Joker” in Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” to “Alec McCall” in “Funky Monkey”.

I was at breakfast trying to wrestle with the low budget movie I had wasted 90 minutes on when I decided to invent an exciting new game. The Matthew Modine Game would provide me with the entertainment I so sorely needed this vacation. Anyone I came across in the next few days would be a potential player. The Matthew Modine Game works like this… No matter what is going on in the conversation, take it back to Matthew Modine. I logged on to the web, armed myself with information about Mr. Modine, and let events transpire. Example… I was going up an elevator with a guy that asked me about my hat.

Him: Bears hat, huh? You from Chicago?

Me: No, I just bought it when I was there once cause my hair was out of control. I’m from Cleveland. How about you?

Him: Upstate New York

Me: Oh! Matthew Modine country! You ever run into him up there?

Him: Umm…No…

Me: Yeah, he moved up there right after he shot Pacific Heights!

Him: Oh…really? I…ah…didn’t know that…

Me: Yeah, he’s a big Knicks fan, so I wasn’t surprised to see him buy a place in New York. Big Knicks guy that Matthew Modine!

Him: Ah… I didn’t know that…I’ll…ah…see you later

You will really be impressed by the quizzical looks you get from people as they wonder “Why the hell is this guy talking so much about Matthew Modine and only Matthew Modine? Why Matthew Modine? Should I be concerned about my safety around this person?”

The great thing about The Matthew Modine Game is that you can play anywhere/anytime. Point out a red head in a crowd and say “That guy looks like Eric Stoltz, doesn’t he? You know who’s good friends with Eric Stoltz? Matthew Modine.” Watching the news and see footage of a military jet? “You know Matthew Modine turned down the role of Maverick in Top Gun?” Or even make it more general… “Hey, do you think Matthew Modine likes Mexican food? I bet he does…” All Matthew Modine all the time. My lovely female companion was ready to drown herself in the ocean by the second day of it.

I’ll tell you this though. The Matthew Modine Game is a lot more fun than water aerobics or beach volleyball. Try it and see.

Random Notes: Most people thought the Rose Bowl was boring this year. Clearly those people didn’t have multiple units on USC -9. At halftime and the score 31-7, it was back slapping and cigars. Late in the fourth quarter when the Trojans snapped the ball over their punters head deep in their own territory things got dicey. What was a laugher turned into White Knuckle City… I am feeling very good about the Baltimore Ravens this weekend in Miami. I suggest putting everything you have into that game… Is it possible all the road teams will win this week in the Wild Card playoffs? It sure seems like it. If I had to take one of the home dogs, it would be San Diego. I question if they can put enough pressure on Manning, but the Charger offense is firing pretty well right now. That should keep them close… I just read “Bad Moon Rising” about Creedence Clearwater Revival. It’s unbelievable how bad their contract was, and even after they called every heavy handed talent manager on the planet, they still couldn’t get out of it. It was so bad that it basically drove John Fogerty crazy enough he couldn’t write music for 20 years. It’s a good read… It took me a long time, but I am on board with Hank III. I listened to his last three records in order, and he really has a great sense of who he is and what he does that makes him a unique voice. Having the ultimate secret weapon of Joe Buck doesn’t hurt either. I highly recommend the “Straight To Hell” record.