Saturday, September 11, 2021

Nurse the Hate: Hate Dead and Company plus NFL Week 1


I went to see Dead and Company on Tuesday afternoon.  It comes as a shock to some people I know that I am a Deadhead, but it probably shouldn't.  The Grateful Dead simultaneously took elements of classic American music like bluegrass, country, and blues and mixed it up with jazz improvisation, psychedelic experimentation, and an overall ethos of embracing chaos.  These are all things I like, and to have them all at once in a swirling stew can be exciting, maddening, and sometimes tedious.  However, the best Grateful Dead music involves great risk taking, and failure is baked into the equation.  The band's music requires paying attention, and if you do, it can be very rewarding.

The problem with the Grateful Dead for most people is the baggage that comes along with it.  Let's face it, there's a lot of baggage there.  Twirling hippies and their half baked mysticism, parking lot vendors selling magic crystals, free range vegan grilled cheese sandwiches, patchouli, zonked out party frat boys, blind cult like devotion to the band, and the shaggy caravan of lost souls drifting around the country on the tour in their ramshackle vans and campers.  I had pretty much stopped seeing the seemingly endless Dead variations that bring their money machine tours to the outdoor shed circuit for one simple reason.  The band without Jerry Garcia isn't really that good.  It turned out I was much more of a Jerry Garcia fan than the rest of the other band members combined.  Jerry was the focal point of the band for one good reason.  He was the guy with the good ideas and sensibility that made it happen.

I decided to go last week because a couple years back I saw Dead and Company with John Mayer, and it was surprisingly good.  Mayer is a monster guitar player, though his insistence on wearing metrosexual LA action wear gives off the same vibe as when I saw Johnny Marr in leather pants playing with Modest Mouse.  "Man, that guy is really good but how the fuck did he even meet those other guys?"  It's like seeing Eddie Cochran on stage with Judas Priest or Prince jamming with the Black Crowes.  I think it's important to look at Dead and Company as a stand alone and not try to compare it with The Grateful Dead in their prime.  I mean, the Dead members are in their 70s, and Bobby Weir looks like an 1870s gold prospector, so a certain amount of latitude is necessary.   It ain't 1972. 

The incredible thing is all of the baggage of the Grateful Dead scene is exactly as it was when I left it.  There are half naked hippie girls in their 20s walking around with an acid twinkle in their eyes.  Filthy guys with dogs on rope leashes are hustling for money, drugs and tickets.  Well heeled suburbanites busted out their favorite tour shirts and escaped the office to relive their party years in all of their narcotic fueled glory.  The cottage industry of the hippie straw market is alive and well selling bootleg t-shirts, glass pipes, crystals, and food with dubious cleanliness standards.  It's all exactly the same.  It's just me and the original Dead members that got older.               

The show was OK.  The band played at slower tempo.  Mayer played his ass off, but didn't have the authority or vision of Garcia, which seemed to frustrate Weir.  Jams noodled along.  The crowd didn't care.  They loved it.  It was an oldies show, no different than a Bon Jovi tour.  Original band members on stage provided enough of a stamp of authenticity for the crowd to worship at the alter of The Grateful Dead, whatever that meant to each person individually.  It seems like the pandemic has made many people search inward, looking for meaning or sense of order.   There has been a dramatic uptick amongst people I know experimenting with yoga driven hocus pocus, daily edibles, groovy zen retreats, and organic non-GMO vegan meditation.  I know a bunch of people that technically turned into hippies but didn't even notice.  If you are going to yoga retreats, eating crackpot diets, burning sage, and believe in the restorative power of essential oils, you're a fucking hippie even if you don't listen to Phish.  It's still an odd time.  I think that many people are searching for something to believe in, to cling to after the world has turned upside down.

It doesn't have to be that difficult.  If you want something to believe in, a rock to hold onto, may I suggest Mike Zimmer.  Yes, the Vikings coach has the best against the spread winning percentage of any NFL coach, and that includes The Hoodie over Boston way.  When given the chance to take a Zimmer led team against the Bengals, a team that had rehabbing Joe Burrow throw one (1) pass in preseason, I'm taking the Vikings.  The Bengals, when faced with the undeniable need to bring in offensive line help to make sure their franchise QB doesn't get killed said "Let's draft a receiver!".  The Bengals do what the Bengals do.  I think the Vikings, who were decimated by injuries last season, are being underestimated, and Cousins plays well at 1pm.  Minnesota -3.         

I am all in on the Washington Football team, a sentence I did not expect to type this decade.  Washington managed to win the NFC East last year with Dwayne Haskins/Alex Smith/Kyle Allen and Taylor Heinicke at QB with coach Ron Rivera battling cancer.  That's not exactly a winning combination, but they somehow won enough to win the crappy NFC East.  Rivera is healthy, and they brought in Fitzmagic to play QB.  Now whatever you think of Fitz, and there is cause for concern, he is a marked improvement over any of those other 2020 QBs.  Week one they are at home against the LA Chargers, a team that has four (4) new offensive linemen.  It's very cruel that they have to play their first game against arguably the best defensive front in the NFL in Washington.  Oh, and toss in that second year QB Justin Herbert has never played an NFL road game with crowd noise and had to learn a new offense this year with the Chargers new offensive coordinator.  One more thing, the Chargers played all their games on the West Coast in preseason and this is a 1p start or 10a on their body clocks.  Washington -1. 


Sunday, September 5, 2021

Nurse the Hate: 2021 NFL Win Total Bets


I have worked in the peripheral orbit of NFL Football for many years.  Though never employed directly by the team, I have sold various Cleveland Browns media schemes like regional radio networks, game spots, event sponsorship, and more “shoulder programs” than I would care to admit.  If you are a potential advertiser that would love to have a TV commercial running in a Browns game, but just don’t have the dough, there’s a decent chance that I have come up with some combination of Pregame, Coach’s Show, or thinly linked team feature.  These NFL games are the Boardwalk of the Monopoly Board of advertising.  One is required to get creative to make it work for clients with “limited budgets”. 

I have a great affection for those commercials that run during games, especially radio, that attempt to draw a parallel between some shitty product and the listeners favorite team.  There was a guy I used to work with that was the master at writing these awful commercials for inside Indians games.  He would generally do the same outline for all of them.  Start with a flimsy supposition and then just go full bore ahead.  “Most people don’t like math, but here’s some math you WILL like!  Buy any two tires at Tire Mart and get the next two tires at 50% off!” 

Now, despite the fact that there is no real proof that “most people” don’t like basic math, he goes right in with the offer.  Sure, it would have been easier to go with 25% off all 4 tires, but you are dealing with The General Public, and let’s be honest, they’re morons.  50% off two tires sounds much better to the dopes listening than 30% off four.  Still, what does this tire offer have to do with baseball?  Here comes the part where the magic of somehow tying the product in with the team.  “So, whether you are driving in runs like The Tribe, or just driving the kids home from baseball practice, you want the best tires you can get!  Tire Mart!”.  It’s just complete shit. 

The reason clients buy these campaigns is the same reason why anyone buys anything.  It makes them feel good.  I don’t know if I ever sold a sports sponsorship to someone that wasn’t a big fan.  In most cases, the client wants to get closer to the team, get special access that their money has provided them.  As a result, I have hosted VIP Training Camp outings, tours of the locker room, trips on the team plane to away games, standing on the sidelines during warmups, meet n greets with players, or anything else you can think of.  As such, I have been able to peek behind the curtain of professional sports.  I understand how it works.  There is no going back once you see how the machine works.  It is 100% a business.  It is a cold hearted, cruel business.  It takes no prisoners, and once you have been cast out of the kingdom, you are gone forever.

I was discussing my various team win bets with my associate, and he was stunned by the news of Cam Newton’s sudden cut from the Patriots.  I don’t know why this surprised him.  The Patriots would toss screaming infants off a lifeboat once they determined the kids offered no upside on the boat.  They cold bloodedly looked at Cam, the once MVP that has had his body destroyed by the game, and moved on.  That’s the way the season win total bets need to be looked at, with a cold blooded eye that forgets the past, does not romanticize the future and can only see the present.

With that in mind, I am betting against the New Orleans Saints.  Last year was the final hurrah of Drew Brees, one of the all time greats that hung on too long, like they all do (except Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson, who had their love of the game sapped from them simply by being Lions).  The Saints had a QB competition, which is what a team does when they don’t have a guy they feel comfortable with, and will look to give the job to whoever “wins” the job until they draft someone they do like next year and dump both guys.  The Saints REALLY wanted to give the starting QB job to Taysom Hill, but Jameis Winston plain outplayed him.  Now the Saints will go into 2021 with a turnover machine at QB as opposed to the guy that can’t really play the position, ready with an itchy trigger finger to swap the players out.  (Now’s the time to omit a lukewarm “who dey” Saints fans…)

The Saints win total sits at 8.5 wins, which seems reasonable for a Playoff team, especially with 17 regular season games.  However, take this under consideration…  The schedule is unbalanced this year with the NFC playing an extra away game.  On top of that, Hurricane Ida Jane just made the Saints opener at home next week impossible, so they are playing Green Bay in the neutral site of Jacksonville, where it is likely more Packer fans will be in the stands than Saint fans.  The Saints, with a huge home game impact in the Superdome with the volume of the crowd, now only play 7 of 17 games at home.  As home teams in general win 57% of the time, this is a large disadvantage, much less for a team like New Orleans and their traditional dominance at home.  No Drew Brees, no Michael Thomas, and 13 players gone from the playoff team of last year.  I think this is a team that could win 9 if Jameis limits the turnovers, so I am going at this from another direction.  With 3 potential Playoff teams from the NFC West, a healthy Vikings team, and Rodgers locked in at Green Bay, I like the bet that the Saints miss the Playoffs.  New Orleans Saints to make Playoffs/’NO” -140.    

Jacksonville, the Toledo of Florida, is a city that shouldn’t have a franchise.  It’s the Florida panhandle.  They like SEC football.  Nobody gives a shit about the Jags.  It’s why they put a swimming pool in one of the end zones, to try and trick people into thinking it’s fun to go see the Jags play.  The franchise is a mess, yet their win total of 6.5 suggests they are a slightly below average team.  There is an odd belief that Trevor Lawrence is a can’t miss/generational talent that will bring glory to Florida with the steady hand of Urban Meyer offering up wizardry in the game plan.  The Jags won one (1) game last year.  They have an over/under set at 6.5.  I think it’s asking a bit much for Lawrence to step in and improve the team by 6 wins when QB play wasn’t exactly their only weakness.  Meyer already looks like he’s soured on this job, and it’s 50/50 if he parachutes out by Thanksgiving.  Vegas has made Jacksonville a favorite in only one (1) game in 2021 in early lines.  So, they are going to pull off 6 upsets?  Jacksonville Under 6.5 wins.      

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Nurse the Hate: Master of Wine Chase


A couple months ago I took the entrance exam for the Master of Wine program.  I had expected to take the exam last year after spending a long weekend in Dublin at an introductory seminar.  I sat next to a guy who was Scottish that lived in Germany which resulted in him having an accent that was impenetrable.  I laughed at almost all of his jokes though I can admit now that I only understood about every eighth word.  He would lean in now and again and say something like "Dah... Ehh ohh duh jah rah doh" and smile.  Frankly his enthusiasm carried it for me.  He called a Pommard something crazy like a Napa Cabernet in a blind, but he seemed pretty with it for the most part and helped close down a pub with me at the end of the weekend.  Good bloke (as they say).

In theory I would have gone to Austria to take this exam in 2020, which is a test to see if they will let you take a bunch of more tests and write a very involved paper across the next 3-5 years.  At the end of all of these impossible tests, if you somehow prove your mettle, you could become the 420th Master of Wine in the world across 31 countries.  Obviously, this is no fucking cake walk.  The problem with this subject, like most any other subjects in which one immerses themselves, is that the more you know, the more you realize you don't know.  I have passed that blissful stage when I felt like I was an expert, and despite knowing ten times as much as I did then, I have even less confidence that I know anything at all.  It makes me wonder if Picasso was at his easel after decades of transformation and thought "Fuck... I'm a fraud." or if Bob Dylan picked up a guitar in the late 1990s filled with the fear of knowing too much.  Maybe that's why rock musicians so often write their best material when they're young and don't have any idea of what they are doing.  

Covid harpooned my trip to Austria to take the exam last year.  This is a shame for two reasons.  1.  I really like Austria, and it would have been a great excuse to waltz around with purpose.  When's the last time you had an excuse to go to Austria?  2.  There can't be that many more high stakes reasons for me to fly across the earth for a winner take all sit down at a table.  Doors and options continue to shut close in the world of the aging man.  If nothing else, I have nerves of steel, and I would have liked to walk into that room for this test in a completely foreign atmosphere.  No one is more American than me in jeans and boots in an Austrian wine test.  Alas, I wound up doing that exam this year like everything is done in 2021, via an online app.     

I took the test in July.  I haven't received the result.  I open my email each morning awaiting word from the London based organization.  "Sorry chap, you're out!" or "Good day.  We are pleased to welcome you to a chance to fail sometime in the future.".  I assume, like all of Europe, they are somehow off all August, living comfortable lives in Southern France or Ibeza while I am bobbing in an anxiety pool of grim despair in the American digital work force.  Eventually someone across the pond will have a spot of tea and politely yet sternly tell me my fate.  It has to be next week sometime.  They have to eventually go back to their officially sanctioned work stations.

There are only two potential results.  If I failed, I will re-double my efforts and take it again.  If I passed, I am now on a one year beatdown where I need to immerse myself in wine facts and tedium unlike ever before.  For fuck's sake, I took a winemaking and fermentation chemistry class last winter just so I could get a better grasp of the process.  I made five gallons of Semillon in my garage.   Normally if you make booze in your garage, you're a fucking hillbilly, BUT because it is Semillon, it's possible to pass it off as an academic pursuit.  Sure, that's a goddamn lie, but it's POSSIBLE to MAKE THE ARGUMENT.  Either way, I am trying to give myself a fighting chance to pass these exams.

I am proceeding as if I have already been accepted into this program.  Every night, when you are watching Netflix or putting firecrackers in toads or whatever it is that you do, I am sitting in my windowless basement office grinding away.  I am reading about viticulture.  I don't even like to garden, and I now have opinions about rootstocks and soil compositions.  I am doing a deep dive on Spanish wine.  I'm not talking Rioja here.  I am looking at Vino de Pagos like Dehesa del Carrizal.  I am remembering names the Spanish give the winds like the Levante.  Side note, next time a massive storm blows down a tree on my asshole neighbor I will refer to it as "The Will Of The Levante".  Chew on that Jerry.  This wine shit never ends.  The more you learn, the more it becomes obvious that "mastery" of the subject is as elusive as a ghost farting in the wind.  So, what am I doing?

Ultimately, the real reward is the chase.  If I never pass these exams, I still will not have completely failed.  The exercise of gaining the knowledge is the gift.  The shiny pin at the end is only a symbol of the struggle to get to the level of knowledge necessary to pass the test that was asked of you that day.  The next day, maybe you wouldn't have known the answers or been tasting the wines well.  Still, failure is not an option.  So I grind away.  Tonight was Catalan.  Tomorrow is blind tasting.  The day after is plant disease.  And I'll keep checking my inbox for that result.  And I will keep grinding.


Friday, August 6, 2021

Nurse the Hate: The Elephant


We pulled into Rumba Café in Columbus, a part of town that has now transformed into a near parody of hipster chic.  Like most of the ring surrounding the ever expanding Ohio State footprint, it is a part of town that represents a great opportunity to get a “free range organic hemp fixed gear bike” or take a “botanical thrift store double IPA yoga class”.  Set up in the alley behind the club were a series of homemade open tents where groovy versions of 2021 hippies were selling their homemade crafts, or as most people would refer to it as “garbage”.  If you needed a dream catcher, purse made from discarded jeans, or third rate water color painting, this was the spot for you.  It was a group of well intentioned people that have smoked so much weed, they have lost some key threads of the plot.  I might be too critical.  Is there a major difference between a shirtless guy with a long beard and straw hat selling a tie dyed cloth and me selling TV spots?  Not really I guess, except he’s really high.

As soon as we pulled up Sugar exclaimed “It’s a Renaissance Faire!”.  This was an easy mistake to make as there were certainly quite a few girls in peasant dresses and even a guy in what I suppose could be called “a frock”.  There were no turkey legs to eat or pints of mead however.  Just some tents set up in the dirt by the garbage dumpsters, but it was close enough I guess.  This is when I know for sure that Sugar was going to buy something before leaving the area.   She is a sucker for homespun crafts and DIY commerce.  I also knew that Leo would be buying something as well due to his long commerce history of making all major purchase decisions to wherever his path took him.  After an afternoon of a couple beers, a couple edibles and generous hits off his trusty glass pipe one-hitter, he was a prime customer for The Unlimited Temptations Of The Renaissance Faire.     

I wandered off to write the set list and attempt to find a beer that wasn’t an IPA, Double IPA, or Imperial IPA.  I am not sure when craft beer became just another way of saying “IPA”, but that happened.  I was recently staring at a wall of 200 craft beers at a grocery store looking for a pilsner, and discovered my choices were between 194 IPA variations, 4 sours and 2 wheat beers.  I wound up getting a 20 oz can of Heineken, not my ideal choice.  That was when Leo walked into the club to ask me for the van keys, beaming at his find at The Renaissance Faire.  “Dude!  Check it out!  It’s cooool!” 

In his hands was an elephant head bust made of what looked like Raggity Ann costume remnants.  An uneven patchwork of fabric scraps covered what I think was a paper mache sculpture of the elephant, but the fabric had a shabby feel to it, like it might have been left out in the rain once and dried out on a car dashboard in the sun.  “Isn’t it awesome?”.  The blank glass eyes of the elephant head stared at me.  It was decidedly not “awesome”.     

It’s important to note that in the van only an hour earlier we had a discussion where Leo excitedly told us that he recently discovered that his “spirit animal” was an elephant.  He had recently purchased a painting of an elephant for his home and even commissioned an artist (someone that crossed his path I believe) to create an elephant painting.  Now if you’re like me, you might wonder how Leo came to learn that not only that he had a spirit animal but that this animal was an elephant, an animal I had never recalled hearing him mention at any time in the 30 years we have known each other.  Yet here he was, aggressively decorating his home in elephants as tribute to this door of perception being opened for him.  “I found out from a quiz Anne gave me from the internet.” 

As a man that is active in the creation of time wasting click bait digital content, I have my doubts on the accuracy of Leo’s claim of the elephant of being his “spirit animal”.  The internet is not always a gateway to truth.  I do think his enthusiasm for this information is 100% real however, and why steal a man’s belief system if it gives him this much joy?  “Yeah this guy owes me $100 in free tattoo work because of some work I did for him so I was thinking what would be cool if I did that multi armed elephant… Ganesh… but I would put my head on it instead of Ganesh’s!  Wouldn’t that be awesome?”.

I have my suspicions that if any of 1.2 billion Hindus on the planet saw Ganesh defaced with having his head chopped off and Leo’s put on it, there might be some hard feelings.  That being said, I am very interested in seeing how this tattoo might come off.  Would it be Leo’s face on a multi armed body sitting lotus style?  Or would it be Leo’s face with an elephant trunk?  I’m not going to interfere and just let this thing come together organically.  I just wanted to let you all know, if you see some blasphemous Ganesh tattoo on Leo, that’s what the hell happened.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Nurse the Hate: The Passing of Dusty Hill

When I heard Dusty Hill from ZZ Top died I was surprised to see he died of natural causes, or whatever ailment he was stricken with that was called "natural".  Is having some kind of tumor growing in your body "natural"?  I suppose so since it happens to so many people, and something has to finally get you.  All I know was I was happy to hear that Dusty hadn't been shot.  While reading this you might wonder why anyone would shoot Dusty Hill, and please understand I am with you in that sentiment.  The thing is I knew this guy years ago, Dave Petkovich, who used to always talk about how he wanted to shoot a member of ZZ Top.  He didn't even care which one, but when he went on about it he tended to focus on the guys with the beards, so I think the drummer would have been OK.  Dave, or as he was known, "Crazy Dave", just had this fixation with doing it as if he would become famous like John Hinkley, but as he said "Not so famous I couldn't go out to eat and stuff without being hassled for autographs."

Now I don't know why he thought that being "almost as famous as John Hinkley" was a good idea, and he sure never understood the definition of "infamous" either.  He just couldn't seem to let the idea go.  I knew that he was sort of pissed when ZZ Top did those monster records in the 1980s with all those synthesizers in them.  I think his older brothers loved the "Tres Hombres" record and when "Eliminator" came out he triumphantly put it on the record player at home and got mocked really badly for buying the "shitty ZZ Top record".  He really took it hard.  His brother's opinion meant everything to Dave.  He absolutely worshipped his brothers, probably because his Dad was such an asshole.  

His Dad was one of those guys that never parked the car in the garage and instead used it like a workshop for a bunch of bullshit projects like building birdhouses and making shutters.  If the weather was even close to being above freezing, his Dad would leave the garage door open and wait for unsuspecting neighbors to walk past so he could bend their ear on how he was getting fucked over in his taxes, or how the neighbor didn't rake his leaves the right way, or how his sons were "lazy pieces of shit".  He just never stopped talking once he got started, and all his content was a blanket of bad vibes.  That guy was a conversational spider and that garage was his web.  Everybody reflexively made the noise "Ughhhh" when they saw him walking towards them, so you could see why Crazy Dave was so focused on his brothers.  His Dad just fucking sucked.

I hadn't seen Crazy Dave in years, but one time he was sitting by himself at this crappy bar with a seaside theme.  You know those bars and restaurants that are on one of the Great Lakes but they pretend they are on the ocean and nail sailing stuff and ship's steering wheels to the wall?  There must be a big catalogue with "authentically distressed looking fishing nets and realistic looking old diving helmets" that all this stuff gets ordered from, as if people in Erie PA are going to forget that they live in Erie instead of Portland Maine where they are all employed as lobstermen.  So I walked into this place, and it was called like "The Buoy" or "Fisherman's Wharf" or something stupid like that.  I think I sat next to a wooden carving of a pelican.  There was a jukebox and this guy I was with said "Hey, I dare you to go over there and play one of those songs from ZZ Top's "Afterburner" record.".  

Now on a good day I am not going to spend a dollar to listen to ZZ Top's "Sleeping Bag", and I'm sure as shit not going to do it to "see what Crazy Dave does".  I mean, the guy's name is "Crazy Dave", so it seems like a good idea not to rile him up.  It's one of those things.  A 14 year old gets nicknamed "Crazy Dave", and it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.  At 14 years old a kid is considered "crazy" because he makes funny noises and is a little spazzy.  By the time he's 17, he's jumping off railroad trestles into creeks, and shooting roman candles out of his ass.  It's really funny when you are in high school.  It's not so funny when you are 34 and the guy has a goatee, devil tattoos and a criminal record.  I said "yeah, I'm going to pass on that", and we all laughed.  

I wound up talking to Crazy Dave when I went to the john.  This was one of those joints where they put ice in the urinal to seem retro and charming, but they really should have invested in a fan instead because it stunk like urine and had these weird little gnats flying around your head.  I never saw him coming.  I was minding my own business and Crazy Dave comes in, starts pissing right next to me, and starts chatting it up.  "Hey man!  Good to see you!  You back in town?  I heard you're doing good man!".  Frankly, he was quite friendly, though a bit too enthusiastic given the circumstances.  "We should hang out!"  I thought of saying "Well, technically we already are" in reference to our dicks being out, then I had this other thought pop into my head where I would say "Yeah man, we should go to a concert in Cleveland.  I think ZZ Top is coming next month." but I thought better of that.  The last thing I wanted was Crazy Dave going all crazy while I was standing there compromised.  Instead I just said something like "Great to see you!  Yeah, we should hang out next time I come into town!".  I tried to say it in the way people say it when they don't really mean it, and the person hearing it knows they don't mean it, but it keeps the social contract so it is a graceful exit from a meeting that wouldn't have been fruitful anyway.  See, but Dave being "Crazy Dave" didn't really see it that way as per the eagerness in his face, and he's likely pissed I never got back in touch.

That was a pretty long time ago.  I almost feel like looking him up to see what his feelings on ZZ Top are now, but the last thing I want to do is potentially get him focused on one of the other two guys in the band.  They seem like decent guys, and all they ever wanted to do was make music.  It wasn't any of their fault that Crazy Dave's brothers didn't like the synthesizers on "Eliminator", or that Crazy Dave's Dad was an asshole.  A lot of other people liked "Eliminator" and "Afterburner".  I didn't though.  I did like it more than Crazy Dave however.         

Friday, July 23, 2021

Nurse the Hate: Hate The Cleveland Guardians


Of course, the Cleveland Indians fucked up their name change.  From the moment the spooked ownership saw the winds of change blowing and feared being put in a national spotlight, they were "proactive" much in the same way a child is "proactive" running away from a barking neighborhood dog.  I had absolutely no doubt they would choose the most vanilla name possible, a name guaranteed not to excite fans or drive merchandise sales but instead to avoid even the possibility of any public relations problems.  This was not a progressive move forward from a liberal thinking organization.  It was a defensive move forged in fear.  

I'm sure there will be all sorts of accolades at the press conference for the resolute bravery of the team to change their identity.  That ignores the fact that the Dolans have owned the team for 21 years and annually try to sweep the name and mascot under the rug as they rack up some of the largest merchandise sales in the league with their smiling Wahoo.  Was it time for a new team name and image?  Yes.  It has been for decades.  I want to be clear.  I think they needed to change from the Indians after they bungled the previous PR and didn't just ditch the Wahoo and go to something sensible.  It was all in the timing.  There was no doubt how this was going to go.  When the owners felt they had no other alternative, they switched the team name.  Rather than see this as an opportunity, they saw this as a problem.  They would do whatever they had to in order to avoid any controversy.  This was always the primary objective.  

It is hard to imagine how an organization that knew they would need to fundamentally change their marketing for two decades came up with a team name, Guardians, that bears no solid attachment to the city whatsoever.  The Cleveland Guardians sounds like an arena football team.  It's the name of a team in a movie that didn't want to pay the NFL rights fees.  "Our schedule is murder coach!  Look at that schedule!  St. Louis Dragons, New York Dynamos, Miami Sun Kings and then the Cleveland Guardians!  We can never get to The Monster Bowl!".  It's a team name that a group of 12 year old boys come up with after school.  It's a team name you get when people that don't understand marketing get equal say with those that know what the fuck they are doing.

Oh, I get the sales pitch.  The city of Cleveland has adopted an identity of being "tough" and "resilient", (which I think you can successfully argue is really an identity of "losers" and "unable to change" but that is another topic).  However, the blind narrative is that Cleveland is a Rust Belt City that has dusted itself off time and time again from disappointment to stand battered to fight again.  Look at how tough we are!  That fighting spirit is what makes this city great!  This suggests that the people of NE Ohio somehow are made of stronger stuff than those damn losers in Shelbyville.  What the Indians did was take the last Browns marketing campaign, swapped out the football highlights for baseball, and pretended that they did something big.  It is rather ingenious in one respect.  To criticize the Guardians name suggests you are being dismissive of the character of Cleveland itself, and therefore a traitor.  The chosen name was the easiest defensive choice the team could have made.  It was also a failure of vision and a missed opportunity.  

The team name is the foundation of the brand.  There are plenty of dipshit 19 year old athletes that will talk about "their brand".  They don't know what the fuck they are talking about.  That is because as marketing is so invasive in our daily lives, everyone thinks they understand it and can command it.  Just because you have an iPhone, it doesn't mean you know how to effectively use that iPhone as a medium to accomplish your goals.  As someone with 30+ years marketing experience, I come in contact daily with people that are in the industry that have no idea whatsoever how it actually works.  

The team name and logo is the identity of the product, the driver of merchandise sales.  If consumers cannot feel enthusiastic about the logo, gear, and resulting attitude this projects, it will be an uphill battle for the team.  The team name should ideally have a unique link to the community.  It should also have an easily identifiable visual element to use as a mascot and logo base.  Dallas Cowboys.  Toronto Maple Leafs.  New England Patriots.  Miami Dolphins.  Pittsburgh Steelers.  It's not that hard until you realize that Cleveland doesn't have many differentiators from other regional cities other than Lake Erie and past history of baseball in Cleveland.  This is where the organization made their critical mistake.  They tried to invent a hook that just does not exist.  Guardians?  Of what?  What does a Guardian look like?  What history links "Guardians" to professional baseball in Ohio?  Wasn't there an adult in that room when the decision was made?

I kept reading how the team conducted focus group after focus group, and called in some local "tastemakers", none of which I had ever heard of and as far as I can tell are not Indians customers.  They then announced they had a list of over 1200 names in consideration.  One thousand two hundred (1200).  I challenge you to start writing names for the team and try to come up with a thousand.  You can even come up with names that a team would never use like The Cleveland Nazis or Cleveland Pedophiles and still not get to a thousand.  This gave the first indication that the team wasn't really searching for a name, but already setting the stage for the inoffensive vanilla name they would ultimately choose.  "Hey, we had 1200 possible names and this is what people liked best!"  Really?  Can I see that list and that data?  

This team name came from focus groups and sprawling corporate meetings with the goal of coming up with something The Public and The Media wouldn't give them shit about after the smoke cleared post announcement.  Nothing of creative quality has ever come from a committee.  The joke about bands is when the drummer starts to write songs you are in big trouble.  Hey, great news!  Lennon/McCartney have less songs on this record so Ringo could have a few!  "The Old Man And The Sea" was written by Hemingway, not "A Bunch Of Guys In Florida".   A group of random people sitting in a room are not going to say what they think is a good name for a team.  They are going to say what they think everyone else in that room thinks is a good name.  And here's the most important part...  None of those people understand the basic principles of marketing a team.  Who gives a fuck what they think?  When you get down to the final two names ask them, "Which one do you like?" in group and individual settings if you don't trust your judgement.

I am on record as saying if the Indians only wanted to avoid trouble while still selling merchandise, the way to go was the Cleveland Robots.   (See my earlier post in March where I correctly predicted Guardians: ).  This limp dick organization instead did what they always do, try to "not lose" while giving themselves a back door shot at maybe pulling out a limited win.  In a moment where creativity could have invigorated the city around a sputtering team with flagging payroll, instead they played it safe.  How very Indians.  I mean, you've seen the Dolans.  You think those folks are going to go balls-to-the-wall and grab for the brass ring?  They are the organization that never makes that trade the team needs to get over the top.  They DO NOT play to win.  They play to NOT LOSE.  It's why I stopped buying tickets and watching their games.  That boring Dolan guy comes out with a Robot costume with lasers shooting out his ass with hot chicks dancing to techno, I'm 100% down with the Cleveland Robots.  Instead a lifeless press conference and bored sounding Tom Hanks video voiceover are trying to convince everyone that the shitty Lorain Ave bridge is somehow iconic and rallying point for the city.  The Cleveland Guardians.  How utterly predictable.              

Friday, July 2, 2021

Nurse the Hate: The Swiss Load Out


I am all in on the Euro 2021 soccer tournament.  This is not a soccer post, so stay with me here.  I know you probably don’t give a shit about Euro soccer, but I need a moment to give you some context on how my mind drifted back to a memory.  I became mildly interested in futbol when touring over in Europe.  The people there are all-in on their national teams, unified with passion like when an American city’s team goes to the Super Bowl.  That Euro soccer tournament is even better because it is the entire nation excited, not just one city.  There is nothing like the knockout round where an entire nation’s dreams are scuttled in front of an international TV audience.  Being a vindictive surly man, I enjoy seeing the dreams of others crushed, especially on a national level.  If you think seeing a guy at an NFL football game in a rubber dog mask is looking sad to see his team lose, just wait until you see someone that has traveled across Europe to see his nation’s team get blown out by the Swiss.  Take that you fucking Frenchie!  What could be better than to see someone with a French flag painted on his face, wrapped in a cape, crying openly when his team was stunned by Switzerland on penalty kicks?  “Je ne peux pas croire que nous ayons perdu. Il n'y a plus de raison de continuer. Mon coeur est brisé.”

The Swiss advance on what is possibly their greatest national victory.  Still, I’m not feeling great about the Swiss soccer team.  I am betting against them today versus Spain with a surprising amount of enthusiasm.  It’s not like I care about Spain winning.  Sure, I like Spain in general, but I’m not emotionally invested in their success.  I just want to see Switzerland lose.  I had to take a moment of reflection.  It was really fucking New Age as I sat looking off in the distance as I searched my inner feelings.  Why do I want the Swiss to lose so badly? 

I have a long and complicated history with the Swiss.  I have had some great times in Switzerland, met some very nice people, and enjoyed fabulous hospitality.  The entire nation looks like it was built by the Disney Corporation, a giant soundstage that is so picturesque that it makes wherever you live look like a run down Detroit laundromat.  The people are attractive, fit, and the economy is always humming.  We played a show one time where after load in I asked the promoter where we should eat.  He immediately started counting out Francs to hand me so we could have a high end meal.  I didn’t want this coming out of our guarantee, so I tried to stop him.  “Here!  Take this!  Don’t worry about it.  There is always more money.  We are Swiss!”.  It was greatly appreciated, but at the same time it was like he was rubbing our noses in it.  “Ah ha!  We have it so good, this doesn’t matter!”  Was this a moment of pure generosity that I somehow skewed in my cynical brain into a diabolical power play?  Probably. 

It likely did not help that I had spent about ten days in the van at this point with Christoph, our German driver/de facto tour manager that is the very definition of “schadenfreude”, meaning “takes pleasure in the misfortune of others”.   Example:  We are playing a gig that is going unbelievably well.  The band is killing it.  The crowd is excited.  The full room has a crackling energy.  I see Christoph over by the side of the stage smiling.  Hector takes a solo and I drift over to have a quick exchange with Christoph.  He leans in towards me so only I can hear above the din.  “Enjoy this Mr. Jagger because tomorrow we go to a city where they will hate you forever!”  He smiles as I go back to the mic.  Remember, he is on our team!  There is no better way to stay grounded.  I’m sure Christoph spent his entire time in the pandemic in a dark room typing madly into his “information machine” (i.e. “computer”) reveling in the travails of the public.  I know he had a great time.   That vibe just sinks in after a while.  The tour becomes a battle against all of your imagined enemies.

So, we play this gig in Switzerland.  It was one of those charming towns that blended in with the last charming town we played the night before.  There was an opening band that was moderately competent, but I didn’t find very interesting.  They were doing some kind of grungy hard rock thing, reminding me of all of those bands from the late 90s that blend together.  I have heard of Silverchair, Trapt, Breaking Benjamin, Three Doors Down and Chevelle, but I can’t distinguish one from another.  As far as I am concerned, they are all the same band with an ever revolving cast of characters playing an angsty kind of hard rock that conceals they really don’t have anything to say.  It’s like every dude that works at Guitar Center assembled these bands to showcase new gear.  Anyway, that Swiss rock band seemed like OK guys and they played their allotted 45 minute set.  And then they kept on playing.  Then they played some more.  It just kept going.

After an hour and a half, they finished.  I would like to point out that the crowd was largely indifferent.  The one thing I can say about people that go to see us in Europe, they are very loyal to their subgenre.  It is a particular thing in Germany/Switzlerland/Belgium that you ONLY support your favorite subgenre.  Hence, the rockabilly guy isn’t allowed to go see the Flock of Seagulls reunion, and the power pop fan would be met with disdain by his clique by going to see Social Distortion.  However, I think everyone is allowed to go to the enormous metal outdoor festivals where Ozzy and Iron Maiden rule like it is still 1985.  I haven’t cracked that code yet.   Maybe old metal is seeped into everyone’s teenage years so it gets a pass.

By playing that far over their allotted time, this band made a serious breach of etiquette.  Even 15 minutes long is complete bullshit.  As an opener, your deal is that you play exactly as long as you are supposed to and then quickly clear the stage for the headliner.  It isn’t “your” show.  You are a guest on the other band’s gig, and just like you don’t shit on someone else’s living room floor, you don’t play 45 minutes long.  Part of the live gig culture is that it is understood that you adhere to these rules.  You are in, and you are out.  Immediately, and I mean “immediately” after playing, you take your gear off the stage to enable the next band to set up.  You DO NOT break down your drum kit on stage.  You take the shit off the stage and then pack it up after you vacated the space. 

These Swiss guys finished playing, and they took some high fives from their small crew of friends and girlfriends.  Then they stood around on the stage for a bit.  They didn’t even pack up a guitar case.  Nothing moved.  We stood at the back of the room, dumbfounded.  Was this some type of cultural misunderstanding?   That was when the event moved from being annoying to legendary.  The entire band walked out the side door and lit up cigarettes.  They then leisurely had a smoke and chatted in the alley with as much sense of urgency as a Sunday afternoon on vacation.  I’m not talking about guys grabbing that quick addicts type of smoke, hurrying to get nicotine back in their system.  It was like 1970s TV talk show.  These guys were sitting on the couch talking to Dick Cavett.  You wouldn’t have known they had any connection to the gig whatsoever.  Eventually they came back inside and slowly broke down every piece of gear on the stage while chatting it up.  It took forever. 

This is known as The Swiss Load Out.  This incident is forever etched in band lore and has become a code word for any scent of this type of behavior.  Example:  “Man, those guys are running long up there… How much you want to bet they pull a Swiss Load Out?” or “I swear to God I saw some lederhosen in their gig bags when they set up.  You just know they’re going to be full-on Swiss Load Out.”  I think ultimately this is at root cause of my antipathy towards the Swiss side today.     Maybe this was the excuse I had to engage my own tiny ball of hate burning inside me against these otherwise gracious people and their wonderful nation because of my own fears and shortcomings.  I don’t know, but I will tell you this…

Go Spain.