Me, preparing for my speech

Two weeks ago today (bah gawd, it’s already been that long), my younger brother, Kevin, and his longtime (and some would say long-suffering) girlfriend, Blair, got married. It was a wonderful day that featured the groomsmen wearing American flag socks, the groom wearing Abraham Lincoln socks, and the priest using a yoke (yes, the kind used for OXEN) as a prop during the wedding ceremony. Several people drank beer out of a plastic flamingo (not at the mass … I don’t think).

Also, I, as one of the two best men, had to give a SPEECH.

When Kevin and Blair got engaged in May 2015, I was like, “Hell yes, I get to do a speech.” But then, the Monday before the wedding, I was like, “Shit, I need to do a speech.”

I have limited experience as a public speaker. In high school, I was a lector at both my school and local church, despite my tendency to mumble all the time. I took a public speaking class in college, and my first assignment went really well, although my teacher bumped the grade from an A to a B- because I wore a Hooters T-shirt during it (even after my friend Dan assured her that it was in fact the nicest shirt I owned at the time). My second assignment in that class, about why music education should be taught at all schools, didn’t go as well because I decided to wing it and at one point started air guitaring an Eddie Van Halen solo for reasons I still don’t understand.

But for the wedding speech, there would be no winging it. I’ve been to a bunch of weddings the past few years, and I’ve seen the danger in not being prepared. Few best men or maids of honor can pull it off. A few too many drinks, plus nerves = disaster. Stories that have no payoff, past lives that should never be shared.

And I had the added pressure that the other best man was my older brother, Jim. Now, not to inflate an ego that is already inflated to max capacity, but Jim’s — excuse me, Dr. Jim’s — speech was HIGHLY ANTICIPATED. I was but the Netflix original series “Bloodline,” while he was “Game of Thrones” (this analogy makes no sense).

Jim (shirtless) post-speech.

Either way, here is the final draft of the speech I made that day. I didn’t use the original JAWS opening, since I thought it might land with a giant thud and my lovely Aunt Anne demanded/bribed me into mentioning her, with my Uncle Tim recommending that I just thank her immediately for allowing me the opportunity to speak that day (a great call). Also, I would like to recognize my former roommate Dan for literally laughing at anything I said. While mine seemed to be well received, I will also admit that Jim’s lived up to the hype/was superior (I’d include the transcript of his but he wrote it on index cards like some valedictorian from the 1990s):

“Y’all know me. Know how I earn a livin’. I’ll catch this bird for you, but it ain’t gonna be easy. Bad fish. Not like going down the pond chasin’ bluegills and tommycods. This shark, swallow you whole. Little shakin’, little tenderizin’, an’ down you go.”

You said I could just do the speech from JAWS, right? No? Well then you shouldn’t have gotten married during Shark Week.

Let’s try this again.

The Kevin-Blair nuptials, much like the Jets winning another Super Bowl, is something many in the McGrath family have been waiting for for a long time. It’s also the only one of those two scenarios that actually had a realistic chance of happening in our lifetime.

(Pause for applause)

With this couple, you have one person who is kind, courteous, gracious — some would say saintly. You also have a person who once told Conrad Michael, a customer service rep for Spirit Airlines, that “If I was your boss, I would fire you.”

I will leave it to you, the dearly beloved who are gathered here today, to figure out which one is which.

I kid, Kevin, I kid. I’ve known Kevin his whole life. Outside of the weird voice he uses when he talks to waiters, I can’t think of a negative thing about him.

Sometimes when Jim and I are out at a bar in Boston, when not discussing pro wrestling or chemtrails, we’ll mention we have a younger brother. The first reaction to that is usually, “My God, there’s another one of you out there?”  The follow-up to that is generally, “But is he like the two of you?”

And we’ll respond, “Yeahhhhh … but he’s a lot more successful. And likeable. And at one point he was clearly the most athletic … although I think the result of the rubber match of this year’s Brooklyn half-marathon — note, I won — plus Jim’s Greek god-like physique that will be on display later when he inevitably takes his shirt off, show those days are in the past.

And Blair … her first nickname in this family, courtesy of my late, great Aunt Kathy, was the Blair Witch. Now, Kathy didn’t mean anything negative by this — I think — but since then, Blair has been given a new, more fitting nickname: Saint Blair. Any woman who would date (hello, Alissa), let alone marry a McGrath is deserving of sainthood.

Besides dating Kevin all these years, she has tolerated the three McGrath brothers together — our loudness, our horrendous smell, the fact that we consider hot dogs an appetizer and not a meal — countless times, and generally with good humor. Although she did send Jim and I a text message recently that read simply: “I will murder you both.”

I love the two of you, and I wish you nothing but the best.
That’s my speech.

Brian Cougar