Random Squirreling: Politics By Other Means

most-interesting-squirrelHey, I went on a politics kick a little while back, so why wouldn’t I go off on some other tangent?  Even better, a tangent that’s almost as divisive and vitriolic as politics itself: professional sports.

What’s funny about this (at least to me) is what it is that actually gets my nerd up and going when it comes to sports: the off-season.

Yeah, yeah, I know…that’s just crazy talk.  No one gets excited about the off-season.  And, sure as hell, no sane human actually likes the off-season.

I never claimed to be all that sane.

Anyway, the off-season.

Now, with the exception of the NHL, I don’t particularly follow any sport in detail.  I don’t sit there on Sundays and watch NFL game after NFL game.  I can’t spout stats like ERA and OBP off the top of my head.  I barely know the difference between a striker and a midfielder.  And God forbid we so much as touch on golf — what the fuck is the difference between a “brassie” and a “mid-mashie” anyway?!*

*For my part, the only way to play “golf” is with a couple of frisbees and a six-pack.

link_CRUqKZKKFRGAlAFTlfPdN5TEw3cvwdL4,w1200h627But the stuff that goes on behind the scenes…the stuff of deals and trades and negotiations…even more, the stuff of hope and dreams (in the form the draft)…

Yeah, for all that announcers and fans like to talk about the tension and drama and storylines of the season, the off-season just has so much more.  Not even our own “beloved” Mordor-on-the-Potomac can match the level of back-stabbing, power-gaming ruthlessness that goes on in the off-season for the NFL…or the Premier League, or even the damned PGA.  And — God forbid! — we get into the sheer, matchless corruption of FIFA or Formula One.

I study and follow and enjoy the off-season of the major sports in the same way I study and follow and enjoy the politics and conflict that led to the transition of Rome from Republic to Principate, and then to Empire.  And, yes, you are right: I’m a politics junkie, even if I can’t stand the bullshit of the last 15(ish) years in the US.

Right now, I’m completely nerding out on the NFL…and especially on the storylines of ac079b69982d288ffaa217c0987f6a1cfree agency and draft. When a player can go, with a flick of his pen, from being “the greatest ever” to an evil son-of-a-bitch who obviously abuses old ladies and kids…well, hell, that there is the roots of a story!  Cruella Deville and her dalmation coat ain’t got nothing (apparently) on Richard Sherman if you’re a Seahawks fan…

Or take a reasonably “normal”  college kid — you know: naive, narcissistic, and completely ignorant of consequences and the wider world…just like all of us at that age — and make him a first round prospect.  All of a sudden that very normal kid is either (a) the great hope of salvation for an entire state, or (b) a complete freak who should be sterilized and exiled to a speck of rock in the South Atlantic.

I once talked about how entertaining are the folks who get themselves worked up (on both sides) about the flat-Earth thing, but they’re nothing compared to the columnists and commenters who write about the NFL draft.

Look, I could go on for hours (and pages) about sports as a microcosm for politics, and for life itself.  Could go on about the lessons and examples and warnings that come out of that concentration of wealth, privilege and complete OCD-ness, but that means I wouldn’t have time to get read one more column about a 21-year-old kid saving — or destroying — our entire society and the fabric of the universe…

Speaking of Fun With Beer…

Okay, okay…it will surprise exactly zero people to know I’m sitting in the taproom as I write this.  But I do have an excuse, this time.

It’s Beer Madness time…

Yes, you heard that right: Beer Madness.  Just like March Madness, but…well…a hell of a lot more fun.  We don’t sit and watch a bunch of players run up and down the court.

No, sir…that would remind us just how little we are able to run up and down the court.  Nope, instead, we do it right, we stick with what we are good at: beer.  Everyone chooses a beer to enter into the contest, then we have head-to-head battles until one champion reigns supreme.

You’d think this was my metier…you’d think I could dominate at this kind of thing.

You’d think, but you’d be wrong — I’ve never made it out of the first damned round.


This year, though…

This year will be different.

This year my Bourbon-Barrel-Aged Double Apricot Blonde will get me at least ONE win.  There is NO “next year,”not this time.  My beer & I are all in.  It’s full-Miracle, or nothing — hell, I can hear Herb Brooks in my mind right freaking now!

UPDATE:  Ahem.  I lost.  Again.

The Cold War Wasn’t Fun; Beer Should Be

951AE41E-D562-49ED-B8B0-B1E1911A4CBAAn American red, fighting for its life against a vestige of the Russian Empire. Rivers of the lifeblood of England, swirling and circling around as they fight with that of the Czechs. And Germany…Germany torn asunder, and clashing with itself, region by region.

The Cold War in beer.

What’s better: an American-style red ale, or a Russian Imperial stout?

Can an English brown beat a Czech pilsner?

How about a Munich helles lager, struggling against a porter from the Baltics?

We never fought with guns — let alone with the nukes most folks expected — but we DID fight with beer. Beer was a MUCH better way to solve our problems.87797B0D-966F-4C5F-9CB4-1A6FA99B9217

Look, there a million ways to guide yourself in choosing beers. Whether by style, or flavor profile, or region…take your pick. They all work, along with a dozen other methods. But…


But, you should have fun when you start exploring beers. You should, when you get right down to it, be a bit silly. Give yourself some guiding principle, some lodestone with which you can navigate — it doesn’t have to actually make sense, it just has to be fun.

You could do a great deal worse than to refight or relive the great struggles and moments of history through those beers that are “characteristic” of the players involved. Crap, what have you got to lose? Beer snobs are just as bad as wine snobs: they’re not gonna take you seriously, anyway, so have at it! Have fun!  Be silly, be stupid… Silly and stupid, by the way, are great ways to learn. Just ask any college freshman.

And, yes, I have indeed fought the Cold War in beer. The red team versus the blue. F0FF0B13-A4B5-44A3-96AF-8681BE701592We each picked a side — NATO versus the Warsaw Pact — then a country. Those countries fought, beer by beer, until the world stood under the domination of the winners. Until, when all was said and done, every palate lay under the beer-power of one side or the other.

I led a poor Czech division, I should mention, trying to use my pilsner-cannon to defeat a mighty fortress built from English brown ale. It was a hell of a fight.


The Best of Sports

Sports has its problems, I will most definitely grant you.  In spite of those problems, however, there is…something there.

When you get right down to it, sports are the ultimate expression of what makes humans human: the competitiveness, yes, but also the loyalty and commitment and urge for perfection that started us thinking, “Hey, maybe this evolution-thing ain’t so bad…”

At its worst, sports is greed and immaturity and “look at me!” entitlement.

But at its best, sports is artistry…and one of the truest meritocracies there is.  The Williams sisters are not great black athletes, nor great female athletes, they are great athletes.  Full stop.  No modifier needed.  Sports is meritocracy, and they can take their place right alongside the best to compete — alongside the Michael Jordans, and Tom Bradys, and Lionel Messis.

But this isn’t about the beauty of sport, nor the perfection of the best.  No, this about the other side of sports…the more valuable side: this is about the honesty of competition, and the random, stupid, crazy things that sometimes happen…

To compete at the highest level in any professional sport — be it the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, Premier League, what-have-you — takes a lifetime of training and commitment that doesn’t just pass common sense, it approaches monomaniacal insanity.

You certainly wouldn’t put a full-time accountant out there to play.

Until you do.dm_180330_NHL_Blackhawks_Foster_is_an_accountant

The NHL allows each team to dress two goalies for their games.  That’s it.  The team’s other goalies are playing down in the minors, not sitting on their asses watching games.

So what happens when both the starting and back-up goalies get hurt?

You suit up the damned accountant, that’s what.

A man who last played competitively fifteen years prior.  A man who works a calculator by day.  A man who plays beer league hockey for bragging rights.

My God, what a disaster!  The team will lose!  The players will quit on the game!  The fans will leave the arena faster, even, than the other team will score!

Foster-celebrationOr not.

In hockey, we have a tradition: the three best players in a game, regardless of the team, are named as the “3 Stars”.  Scott Foster, thirty-six year old accountant and beer league goalie, didn’t just win, he stopped every shot he faced.  He shut-out the best athletes and players in the world for fourteen minutes.  The fans chanted his name.  The players mobbed him.  He was the 1st Star.

And the next day he was right back to his calculator and his spreadsheets.

That is the best of sports.